The Other Side of the Crusades: The Muslims

Over the last few weeks the children have been learning about Islam, the primary religion (and way of life) that made up the other side of the Crusades.  This has taken much longer than I anticipated and we still have not quite finished.  This post is primarily about the Islamic religion.

I wanted to attempt to give a balanced view of the Crusades, not just our Western, Christianised version.  This attempt will begin with Islam.  Obviously I could not do justice to one of the largest religions in the world in just a few short weeks, but I was going to give it my best shot!  Being an Abrahamic religion there are some parallels to our own Christian faith.  The children, having been brought up as Christians  understand the personal importance of prayer, a Holy book and an unquestionable faith in a higher being.  I was looking forward to teaching them more, knowing that T11 has always been interested in reading the Koran.

The children read the following books:


In addition to these they also read, over the weekend, the relevant chapters in this ebook:

This is an easy to read book, which has a couple of chapters on Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam.  It includes study questions which we chatted about, over a cup of Arabic coffee and some Almond pancakes.  The recipe is found in the above ebook, but we used fresh Arabic coffee and watered down the pancake recipe to make a sort of crepe which we filled with the cardamom, sugar and almond mixture.  It was scrumyum!

Arabic coffee warmed with Cardamon pods and cloves; served with pancakes with a cardamom, sugar and crushed almond filling
Arabic coffee warmed with cardamom pods and cloves; served with pancakes with a cardamom, sugar and crushed almond filling

We used the following book on Mecca and explored the topic in a more hands on, fun way:


I wanted them to build a model of a Mosque and to use it as a means of displaying all the information they had learnt about the following topics:

  • Position of Mecca
  • Five pillars of Islam
  • Muhammad and the Koran
  • Madinah
  • The Great Mosque
  • Hajj
  • Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock

First the children made a standard mosque, which they really enjoyed doing:

With all the bits
With all the bits
Attaching the minerets
Attaching the minarets
Adding the Viking helmet as the dome
Adding the Viking helmet as the dome
They then covered everything in plaster strips
They then covered everything in plaster strips
Close up of the dome
Close up of the dome
All covered with some cones added at the top of the minerets
All covered with some cones added at the top of the minarets
Next they painted it
Next they painted it
And here is the end result
And here is the end result

Then we discussed the first point of inclusion – Mecca’s whereabouts.  I asked the question ‘How are you going to use the mosque to represent Mecca’s position in the world?’  They chose to use a table-cloth (paper and previously used!) to draw a map showing Mecca within Saudi Arabia.  As they would also need to show Jerusalem their map encompassed a large region surrounding Saudi Arabia:


On this map they placed their mosque roundabout where Mecca was situated (remember, this was a representation and not meant to be accurate to the nth degree):


The next point to include was the five pillars of Islam.  They couldn’t remember what these were, so I sent them off to use whatever means available to find out.  This they did.  T11 suggested we represent the five pillars by labelling the minarets of our homemade mosque.  Problem was there were only four.  This was easily solved when T11 sneakily added a fifth one when we weren’t looking.  C11 wanted to label them in Arabic, but I wanted them to be sure that however they did label them, they needed to know and be able to remember what each stood for, as one of them would be using the model in their presentation on the crusades.  We compromised with one label in Arabic and one in English, which C11 did beautifully:

Mosque with labels of the five pillars of faith
Mosque with labels of the five pillars of faith
And a close up
And a close up

Next up was Muhammad.  I had a lovely Demi book for me to read aloud to them:


And they mentally made notes of key facts about him.  It was these key facts that they needed to represent somehow in their model.  Between us we agreed to use the rock at which he stayed in the desert as the starting point, which we wrote on with approximate Arabic(!) and also stuck some parchment with Muhammad’s name and the sentence ‘Peace be unto him’ afterwards to remind us that is what Muslims do, always, as a sign of respect.  The children added an angel, a playmobil figure as Mohammad and some photocopied sheets of the Koran.  This represented Mohammad’s journey into the desert, where he was met by an angel who gave him some cloth with the start of the Koran written on it:

The cave, Mohammed and the angel, with pages of the Koran
The cave, Mohammed and the angel, with pages of the Koran
With the reminder that 'peace be unto him' follows Muhammad's name always
With the reminder that ‘peace be upon him’ follows Muhammad’s name always
And here it is added to the map
And here it is added to the map

L11 came up with a great idea to make a stamp in the shape of a footprint and make a footprint trail from Mecca to Madinah, where he preached the Koran:

You can see the footsteps travelling between Mecca and Medhina
You can see the footsteps travelling between Mecca and Madinah to represent Muhammad’s own steps

I also wanted them to display some facts about the Great Mosque and mosques in general.  The children had already made a mosque which contained the dome in the middle and the minarets.  Around the courtyard of The Great Mosque the children used some wooden play bricks to build up a wall around it:


And right in the middle of the court-yard they placed a box, which they had painted black and decorated with gold.  This was the Ka’bah:


Last but not least they dressed playmobil men in white kitchen paper to represent the pilgrims on the Hajj.  The pilgrims dress in white to show that, rich or poor,  they are all equal before Allah.  These figures were placed around the Ka’bah:


Here is our representation of Islam in its totality:


It is my hope that when we set this up again for the children’s presentation early next year, their memories will be jogged by everything we have included in the model.

    Homegrown Learners