Building Up Quranic Imagery From Memory

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Building Up Quranic Imagery From Memory

Postby dralmenoar2006 » Tue Oct 27, 2009 9:50 am

ABSTRACT

Selected verses from Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s English language translation of the meaning of the Quran have been used as a literary text to teach both descriptive and figurative imagery (including similes, metaphors and symbols) to students at the undergraduate level in an Islamic institution. The technique-Building up from Memory for teaching imagery has been selected to accommodate the text. The group of students was taught imagery using one technique covering 2 class sessions. Assignments were given to derive data for the evaluation of the level of understanding of the lessons on imagery. An analysis of the data from the assignments shows a high level of understanding of the lessons on imagery by the students.

INTRODUCTION

Images when projected, appeal to one’s senses. A Quranic image, like other images, may be visual (pertaining to the eye), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), auditory (hearing), or gustatory (taste). Quranic images of Heaven and Hell are appropriate vehicles for teaching imagery because these images are presented vividly in the Quran. The passages referring to Heaven and Hell usually appear one after another in the Quran. These Quranic images of Heaven and Hell are presented in close proximity in the Quran so that the intensity of the contrast between Heaven, which is an unsurpassable and unimaginable state of happiness in life after death, and Hell, which is the unimaginable state of suffering that life after death may entail for wrongdoers, can be easily discerned.
Literary devices, such as similes, metaphors, symbols, etc. are found in abundance in the Quran. The translators of the English language translations of the meaning of the Quran strive to produce as close an approximation of the Quran as possible. As a result, similes, metaphors, symbols, etc., are also apparent in the translated versions of the Quran in English although it is realized by all translators, scholars and authors that no one has yet been able to convey or translate the exact meaning of the Quran.
A judgement sample of verses was taken from a few different surah. Two index categorization books were used for this selection: Tafsil Ayat AlQuran AlHakim by Jol Labom (Labom,1963) and AlMustadrak by Edward Montet (Montet,1963). Both these books were translated by Mohamed Fouad Abdul Baqui and have a systematic listing of Quranic verses according to topics (eg. Heaven, Hell, Justice, etc.). Under Heaven, there are altogether 258 verses mentioned in 58 surah. Under Hell, there are altogether 144 verses mentioned in 35 surah.
The verse to be dealt with in this paper are:
XLVII Surah Muhammad, verse 15 from Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s English language translation of the meaning of the Quran. This paper first provides a brief explanation and discussion of the verse to familiarize the reader with the basic meaning of the verse. The technique and the exemplary Quranic images (text) will then be presented in this paper:
Technique: Building up from Memory
Source: The Inward Ear by Alan Duff and Alan Maley (Duff and Maley,1989)
Text: Verse 15 of Surah Muhammad
Source: The Holy Quran by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Abdullah,1983)

THE DISCUSSION OF SELECTED QURANIC IMAGES

In Verse 15 of Surah Muhammad, something very special awaits the believers:
15. Here is a Parable
Of the Garden which
The righteous are promised:
In it are rivers
Of water incorruptible;
Rivers of milk
Of which the taste
Never changes; rivers
Of wine, a joy
To those who drink;
And rivers of honey
Pure and clear. In it
There are for them
All kinds of fruits:

Abdullah Yusuf Ali explains that this verse contains mention of four symbolic drinks and the summing up of all spiritual delight in the
“Grace from their Lord” (1381).

Lines 3-5 of Verse 15 tell us that the righteous are promised rivers, but not the ordinary rivers, often polluted, that we are so familiar with. The former contain clear, pure, unspoiled forms of liquids. On earth many people are currently concerned about filtering water that they consume so as to consume water that is as clean and pure as possible. Thus, readers can imagine the delight of tasting the first type of drink which is, “water incorruptible”. This water is also symbolic of a state of spiritual purity experienced in Heaven.
In lines 6-8, we are told of the second type of drink. When we think of milk, we are reminded of the soothing effect of its taste but we also know that milk on earth can turn sour, especially without refrigeration. In Heaven, we are promised rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; these “rivers” will provide good, fresh milk forever. These “rivers of milk” are symbolic of the endless pure spiritual nourishment one will receive in Heaven.
The third type of drink is wine, mentioned in lines 9-10. Muslims are not allowed to consume wine on earth because of its intoxicating effects. But again, for the believers, rivers of wine will be at their disposal and will only bring good and joy to those who drink from them. This gives the reader a feeling of satisfaction that he/she will be compensated in the after-life. This drink will be forever a joy to taste, drink and experience. Rivers of wine are symbolic of the spiritual joy granted to the righteous in Heaven.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali says that
this heavenly wine is not like any wine on earth because it brings the one who drink only well-being, that is, no head-aches, and causes no intoxication which is a kind of madness or poison, but is ever a joy to drink (1381).

The fourth type of drink is honey with fruits. In lines 10-13, the readers can almost taste the sweetness of the honey in this river and almost see the colourful fruits floating in the clear honey and smell their aroma. What a lovely, vivid picture! The “rivers of honey” are symbolic of the spiritual sweetness one will experience in Heaven.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali sums up the effects that these drinks give;
they will cool the spirit, feed the heart, warm the affections and sweeten life (1381).
Rivers are symbolic of the fact that there is an abundance of spiritual purity, nourishment, joy and sweetness in the Heavenly Garden.
The senses that are affected are the visual, tactile, gustatory and olfactory.
The continuation of Verse 15 of Surah Muhammad tells us in contrast what wrongdoers have to drink in Hell where they will dwell forever:
15. And Grace from their Lord
(Can those in such bliss)
Be compared to such as
Shall dwell forever
In the Fire, and be given
To drink, boiling water,
So that it cuts up
Their bowels (to pieces)?

Lines 19-22 tell the readers that wrongdoers will be forced to drink boiling water which is so intense in heat that when they gulp it down, this water destroys and shatters the sinners’ intestines. What an intensely painful image this is. There is also a noticeable shift here from the figurative language of the previous verses that fully stimulates our imagination to a purely descriptive image of a hard, inescapable Reality. Also the image of Hell as a hot place continues to be emphasized.
These lines affect our visual and tactile senses.

THE INTRODUCTORY LESSON ON IMAGERY

There is a need for an introductory lesson on imagery since there are certain aspects of imagery that the students need to know and understand before they can fully participate in class discussions or attempt any of the written assignments. A teacher can devise his/her own introductory lesson on imagery according to the level of language competence of his/her group of students.
Thus, for this case study, it must be kept in mind that the group of participants is of the intermediate English proficiency level. Careful selection of a suitable technique and level of difficulty of the text must be done. Consequently, activities that help to enhance the four language skills are also thought of.
A suggested written assignment after an introductory lesson on imagery is: Make sentences using the three literary devices and explain how and why the simile, metaphor and symbol are used. State the senses that are affected by each image.
The written assignment will be used as basis for gauging whether or not the students have understood the lesson.

LESSON PLAN ON IMAGERY

Technique: Building up from Memory
Text: Verse 15 Surah Muhammad
Level: Intermediate (undergraduate)
Duration: One Hour
Objectives: Develop in students the ability to:
1) Identify and/or locate the images in the verse.
2) Recognize and distinguish between the 2 types of imagery :
i) Descriptive imagery
ii) Figurative imagery and the literary devices used
3) State which senses are affected
4) Memorize as much of the verse as possible
5) Create their own images
6) Use the four skills:
i) Speaking: Done in pair, group and class discussions.
ii) Listening: Done in pair and group information providing and retrieval activity.
iii) Writing: Done in written assignment and in noting down frag¬ments of the verse that they can remember.
iv) Reading : Done in comparing their own notes with each other's notes.
The teacher can start the lesson by recapitulating the (previous) introductory lesson on imagery. Allow 15 minutes for this.
In the technique, Building Up from Memory, remembering is the focus. This technique shows that students are able to remem¬ber better when they understand and picture the verses, that is, have images in their minds. The students are expected to piece together the verses fragment by fragment from memory. The level of suitability for this technique would be intermediate level English language students (undergraduate) at an Islamic institution.
The original text used for this technique was replaced with Quranic images of Heaven selected from Abdullah Yusuf Ali's English language translation of the meaning of the Quran: Verse 15 of Surah Muhammad.
No copies of the text will be distributed for this technique. The teacher informs the students that the verse that they are about to study is a verse from Abdullah Yusuf Ali's English language translation of the meaning of the Quran, specifically, Verse 15 of Surah Muhammad. The teacher tells the students that this verse is about Heaven.
The teacher begins by reading the verse:
15. Here is a Parable
Of the Garden which
The righteous are promised :
In it are rivers
Of water incorruptible :
Rivers of milk
Of which the taste
Never changes, rivers
Of wine, a joy
To those who drink;
And rivers of honey
Pure and clear. In it
There are for them
All kinds of fruits.

After reading the verse twice, the teacher asks the class to call out any words or fragments of the verse they can remember. The teacher writes these on the board, allowing for disagreement or uncertainty.
Then the teacher reads the verse again. This time, working in pairs, the students write down as much as they can remember of the verse together. When they are finished, they join another pair and help each other to fill in the gaps. They are grouped in fours now.
The teacher moves around the classroom monitoring each group. After about 5 minutes, he/she calls for a round-up ses¬sion in which the whole class tries to build up the verse line-by-line. Slowly but surely, the teacher corrects and writes the whole verse on the board, using another colour of chalk or marker on the board. In this way, the whole class can easily see how good they are at remembering correctly.
The teacher now has the whole verse written on the board, after which He/she asks the students to focus on the several images that are projected in this verse.
In Verse 15, line 1: Parable - a short narrative devised so as to give a clear (but not necessarily explicit) demonstration of a moral or lesson.
Verse 15 lines 4-5:
In it are rivers
Of water incorruptible

What type of imagery? Figurative imagery using a literary device: symbol.
The image tells us this water is not like earthly water; it is a different kind of water: cool, pure and uncontaminated.
Senses: visual, gustatory, tactile.
It makes one imagine what this "water" looks like or how it tastes or feels.
Verse 15, lines 6-8:
Rivers of milk
Of which the taste
Never changes

What type of imagery? Figurative imagery using a literary device: symbol.
Again, unlike the earthly milk which can turn sour without refrigeration, this "milk" in Heaven tastes forever fresh. This "milk" can be found in the form of rivers-- in abundance.
Sense: visual, gustatory, tactile, olfactory.
This image makes one imagine whether this "milk" looks like that consumed on earth; how delicious it must taste, and cool it must feel, and fresh it must smell.
Verse 15, lines 8-10:
Of wine, a joy
To those who drink

What type of imagery? Figurative imagery using a literary device: symbol.
Again, different from earthly wine, this "wine" does not have intoxicating effects. This "wine" of Heaven is ever a joy to drink and it can be found in abundance.
Senses: visual, gustatory, olfactory.
This image makes one imagine whether this "wine" looks like the wine on earth, smells like it or tastes like it.
Verse 15, line 11-14:
And rivers of honey
Pure and clear. In it
There are for them
All kinds of fruits.

What type of imagery? Figurative imagery using a literary device: symbol.
The "honey" is pure and clear in Heaven and floating in the "honey" are fruits. Needless to say, it is not earthly "honey" which certainly cannot be found in the form of rivers with fruits floating in it.
Sense: visual, gustatory, tactile, olfactory.
It makes one imagine the "honey with fruits"; how it must look, taste, smell, feel.
The teacher can then give a written assignment :
Create your own images of a river and give this collection of images a title.
Example : Lonely river
A slow flowing river with cloudy, contaminated water which is covered with brown leaves and twigs.
Sense: visual.
If the students are able to complete the written assignment within the remainder of the class time, these assignments can be collected at the end of the period. If not, these assignments will be collected at the begin¬ning of the next lesson. The written assignment will be the basis for gauging whether or not the students have understood the lesson.

A CASE STUDY

Two lessons were taught to a group of students at the undergraduate level in an Islamic institution. This class is an English language –Intermediate level class. The students were taught for one hour of the introductory lesson on imagery and one hour of the above lesson plan using the technique-Building up from Memory with Quranic images. Observatory comments were taken and reproduced in this paper. The breakdown of the marking scheme for the two written assignments after each lesson was taught, is dealt with.

EVALUATION OF ASSIGNMENTS

The Introductory Lesson on Imagery
Assignment: Write a simile, metaphor and symbol, stating the senses that are affected.
For simile: Total - 5 marks.
4 marks for correct answers
(-) 1 mark for spelling error, (+) 1 mark for creativity, (-) 1 mark for grammatical error
For metaphor: Total - 5 marks
4 marks for correct answers
(-) 1 mark for spelling error, (+) 1 mark for creativity, (-) 1 mark for grammatical error For symbol: Total - 5 marks
2 marks for each part of the symbol
(-) 1 mark for spelling error, (+) 1 mark for creativity, (-) 1 mark for grammatical error

Maximum Possible Score: 15 marks
No. of Participants 1 7 6 1 2 2
Scores 15 14 13 12 11 10


Comments
The majority of the student participants did well except for five students. These students lost marks mainly due to the fact that they could not write a symbol effectively because of the serious grammatical flaws in their sentences.

The Lesson on Imagery using Quranic images and the technique-Building up from Memory.
Assignment: Write your own images of a river and give this collection of images a title.
Total marks - 15 marks
7 marks for doing the assignment adequately.
Spelling error -1
Creativity +3
Grammatical error -3
Effective vocabulary +3
Title +2

Maximum Possible Score:15 marks
No. of Participants 1 1 10 5 2
Scores 15 14 13 12 11

Comments
The majority of the participating students scored 13 out of 15 marks which is very good indeed. Those who scored below 13 marks did so mainly because of grammatical errors and lack of effec¬tive vocabulary. The two participants who scored above 13 marks surpassed their classmates with original ideas and more effective vocabulary. For this technique, the students enjoyed testing their own memory when they called out fragments of the verse. To their happy amaze¬ment, they found that they could remember almost all the lines of the verse.

CONCLUSION

The focus of this technique (Building up from Memory) is of course, the teaching of imagery. At the same time, however, the teacher can point out new vocabulary and correct grammatical mistakes. For this intermediate group of participants, the classroom activity was task-based, remembering and contributing fragments of verses as a class.
This technique, Building Up from Memory, text of Quranic imagery and the suitable activities carried out in the classroom, each plays its own role in a teacher’s successful teaching session. They are an integrative part of the whole teaching session.
Basically, the following are the main objectives of a teacher teaching imagery:
Objectives: Develop in students the ability to:
1) Distinguish the 2 types of imagery :
i) Descriptive imagery
ii) Figurative imagery
2) Distinguish the 3 literary devices usually used in figura¬tive imagery:
i) Simile ii) Metaphor iii) Symbol
3) Recognize and use the literary terms for the five senses that can be affected through imagery:
i) see--visual ii) hear--auditory
iii) touch--tactile iv) smell--olfactory
v) taste--gustatory
4) Write their own similes, metaphors and symbols, stating the senses that are affected.
5) Use the four skills:
i) Listening
ii) Speaking
iii) Reading
iv) Writing
With the use of Quranic images, it is possible to generate a discussion on an aspect of Islam. This is an added advantage, especially at Islamic institutions. Both descriptive and figurative imagery, in particular, metaphors, similes, symbols, can be taught through Quranic images.

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