It was an eye-opener.
As I walked around with Adam, the orange-haired Muslim puppet from the Adam’s World video series, at the ISNA Convention on the 2014 Labor Day weekend in Detroit, MI, I was awed and humbled by what I witnessed.
It wasn’t only the children, the target audience of Adam’s World, that Adam attracted. Interestingly, it was the young adults, the second generation American and Canadian Muslims, flocking to Adam in numbers to take a selfie and or do a high five with Adam.
As we struggled to navigate the busy ISNA Convention bazaar aisles, one after another teenagers and young married couples would approach Adam with very similar expressions and comments.
Almost every person seeing Adam would smile or chuckle; some would be awe-struck and take a moment to figure out how to react; many would whisper to a friend, “Oh my God! Can’t believe this is Adam!”
What amazed me was what Adam really meant to a lot of these young adults: Their first teacher of Islam! The most common reaction I heard was, “I grew up on Adam!”
When I was first told by my senior colleague at Sound Vision, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, the executive producer of Adam’s World, “Sound Vision has helped about 1.9 million children, women and men around the world learn to pray and read the Quran,” frankly, I had some trouble understanding what he exactly meant.
It’s not until recently, as I was escorting Adam and helping people line up to take photos, that I truly realized the impact of Adam’s World on the spiritual education of hundreds and thousands of young Muslims born and raised in North America.
A parent encouraged her teenage daughter to say Salam to Adam saying, “Go, meet Adam. Remember, he first taught you the Arabic alphabet,” referring to the bestseller episode of Adam’s World, Alif for Allah.
While Adam was distributing balloons to kids, I spotted a shy young man in mid-twenties whispering something to his wife. I realized he wasn’t sure if he was too old to snap a photo with Adam. When his wife pushed him to stand beside Adam, he said, “Hey Adam, let me hug you! I learned to pray from you!”
Perhaps the following incidents left the most profound impression on me.
“Show me the DVD that teaches kids the Arabic alphabet,” requested a mother in her 30’s with two kids after they waited in line to meet Adam. I quickly pulled out Alif for Allah. She turned the DVD case over and pointed to the photo of the old, gentle teacher featured in this episode, Br. Adnan Srajeldin, who taught kids Arabic letters with his melodious songs. “You know who he is?” I told her, “Of course, I know him very well. He is a great Nashid artist from my city, Toronto, Canada.” Then she revealed to me with a big smile, “He is my father and the grandfather of these children!” What an honour to meet the two generations of a teacher who taught countless young Muslims the letters of Quran through his creative talent.
After a mother of two boys ran to greet Adam and took a photo along with her kids, her mom shared with me the following, very humbly: “You know, my daughter, now the mother of two, was the little girl in white Hijab featured in your first ever episode, Let’s Pray, teachings kids how to pray. And my son was the one who was leading the Salah.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. Subhan Allah. How many multitudes of Muslims, including children and converts, have discovered Salah for the first time through the participation of these two young siblings from Chicago about twenty years ago! Now Allah has blessed the sister with two beautiful children of her own. God-willing their future generations will reap the benefits and blessings of this creative educational effort.
As I was standing by the Sound Vision booth at a quieter time in the bazaar, a young university student passed by and suddenly stopped in front of the Adam’s World DVD display. He stared at the videos for a while with pensive eyes as if his memory was suddenly jogged. Then he turns to me, “Wow! I remember Adam and Aneesah teaching me Islam for the first time.” With teary eyes he continued, “Thank you so much for leaving such a deep impact on my life and my Islam! Adam laid the foundation of my Islamic identity.” I was left speechless, struggling to respond to his emotions.
I can go on sharing more reactions and comments about such a positive, life-long contribution of Adam’s World series on the Islamic education of generations of young Muslims.
However, I would like to share a few points of reflection and take-aways for us as a community of concerned educators of our children and youth:
- Our community needs to go beyond building brick and mortar institutions and focus on building strong believers, who are faithful to their tradition and grounded in the culture they live in. Although Sound Vision was launched over 25 years ago with the aim of providing creative Islamic education through multimedia, there are still only a handful Islamic media organization focused on producing quality Islamic videos for children. This is unfortunate.
- Children and young Muslims are craving for high-quality creative and entertaining Islamic productions for their spiritual education and development.
- Children need characters and role models like Adam and Aneesah, whom they can relate to; who are caring; who teach with wisdom; who make mistakes; and who mentor.
- Although some images of earlier Adam’s World videos are dated now, their content is timeless and potential is stronger than ever.
- There are newer generations of Muslims who are not aware of Adam’s World and have never experienced its power of educating them about the basics of Islamic practice and manners.
- There is a dire need to produce more quality videos for the ever-growing and ever-young Ummah.
- More young Muslims need to discover and express their creative talent to share Islam with others in engaging ways.
- There is even a greater need to financially support Muslim media organizations and production companies so they can sustain and enhance their quality productions.
As I returned from the ISNA Convention this year, I am left more excited and concerned at the same time. I am excited and humbled to witness the outpouring of love and gratitude that Adam and Adam’s World received from hundreds of children and young Muslims; hence, the incredible potential to produce more creative educational programs for the young Ummah. I am concerned that with limited resources that creative people and media organizations have in our community, a couple of generations of Muslims would miss out on entertaining programs that educate and engage to produce confident, caring, and contributing Muslim citizens and leaders.