This Muharram, the kids and I hosted a group of children (their cousins!) to do an Escape Room! The children were aged between 14 and 6, and the older ones guided the younger ones where needed.
Here are all the details if you would like to recreate it in your homes – most of the objects used should be available around the house, or not too expensive to buy if needed.
We started off by setting the scene: Mukhtar had paid homage to Muslim ibn Aqeel in Kufa and then gone to his tribe to gather more people for the army. It was on his way back that he heard of the unrest and then the eventual killing of Muslim. Mukhtar was arrested upon return to Kufa for his support of Muslim among other things, and was imprisoned along with several thousand Shias. YOU are one of those Shias. You know that Mukhtar plans to get revenge for the events of Ashura which occur while he is in prison, and you want to help him. He is released upon the intervention of his brother-in-law and an influential man, Abdullah ibn Umar, and ordered to leave Kufa. You want to escape and go join him but don’t know how! Luckily, one of the guards is a lover of the Ahlul Bayt. He can’t openly help you escape, but he has set things up so you can find the clues and do so yourself. Can you find the key to escape and help Mukhtar?
A wonderful group of mums held this mini-walk in their neighbourhood and were happy to share their resources in case anyone would like to use them! Their Arbaeen walk was a route around the neighbourhood, and the Mawkebs were at their houses which were on the route.
Here is a folder with all the resources used, including tickets for the walk, a letter to the neighbours to explain what was going on and a scavenger hunt that the children had to do on the walk:
The children started at Najaf International Airport / the shrine of Imam Ali:
They stopped at many Mawqebs along the way and picked up a lot of tabarruk!:
One of the Mawkebs gave out a little craft folder too!:
One of the things to sight was Wadi-us-Salaam:
Finally they arrived at Kerbala, in Bayn-ul-Haramain, where they said their Salaams and gave some sadaqah:
All in all, a lovely recreation of the walk for young ones. Labayk Ya Husayn!
Over October half-term, the Children’s Islamic Library held a Najaf to Kerbala ‘walk’ for children ages 4 to 10. It was a beautiful few hours and the buzz in the hall was noticeable as children made their way from ‘Najaf’ to different mawkebs and finally arrived at ‘Kerbala’ in a moving procession. Below are the details!
Najaf: To set the children of on their journey towards Kerbala we got the children to visualise Najaf while gazing at a large poster (A1) of the golden dome of Imam Ali. We discussed who Imam was and why we would aspire to be like him. With that in mind, the children were encouraged to think about one good deed they could do regularly in honour of their walk. They left the city of Najaf in their groups taking out Sadaqa (which they were asked to bring with them) for their onward and upward journey.
Each group was assigned a ‘group leader’ (older children who were helpers for the day!), who helped guide them from mawkeb to mawkeb. The group leaders also talked to them about the walk, asking them if they were tired, and pointing out the various posters showing the distance to Kerbala, and psyching them up for their arrival to Imam… all in all, making the children feel like they were truly on the walk.
Flag Making Mawkeb: The children made flags for Imam Hussein using black card and bamboo sticks. With flourescent markers they wrote Ya Husayn on it, and decorated it with different crafty materials. They were encouraged to raise their flags high during their walk to symbolize their love and alliance with our Imam.
Taboot Making Mawkeb: Here the children learn what a taboot was, and how it was a symbol and a representation meant to be an emotional symbol it was. The children then all had a chance to actually make the taboot themselves.
Massage Mawkeb: Here, the children learnt how people beg to give zawwaar a massage to help their weary bodies.They learnt how to give of themselves unconditionally, just like the people in Iraq, who treat their guests with immense hospitality. The children had a lot of fun learning how to give themselves and others, a massage as well as the importance of resting and supporting others, in order to help themselves and others’ progress further. They were taught about pressure points and how to give a good massage, and then were encouraged to give each other a massage. Those that didn’t want to, gave themselves a massage instead!
Marsiya Mawkeb: At this mawkeb, the children took a break from all their ‘walking’ and sat down to remember Imam Husayn (as) through marsiyas. Books were on hand and the mawkeb leader helped them choose familiar marsiyas so that they could all take part.
Date Making Mawkeb: After melting blocks of pitted dates in a microwave, each child was given a small amount of dates and cornflakes to mix with their hands and roll into balls. As they did so, we talked about how dates are mentioned 20 times in the Holy Qur’an, and the different scientific benefits of dates! The children were so quick to volunteer their own thoughts and experiences about eating dates: “They make you strong” “Dates give you energy” “I love dates!” “My dada eats dates everyday” “My mummy and papa eat dates in Ramadhan”.
All the chatting, squeezing, squashing and rolling date balls worked up a good appetite and made for a brilliant sensory experience! We remembered to give thanks to Allah for the food we have and started with ‘Bismillah’. Most of the children were really keen to eat their date balls and all was quiet as they enjoyed the fruits of their hard work. Others immediately said ‘I don’t like dates’ but were brave and had a little taste anyway mashaAllah! Some of the little zawwaar took their date balls home to share with mums and dads.
Sherbet Making Mawkeb: The zawwar were welcomed and it was explained to them that they would be making sherbet, an energising drink made from milk and rose syrup (for those allergic to milk, oat milk was provided as an alternative). We briefly touched upon the benefits of drinking milk. While the children were mixing their drinks, they were asked to recite surahs on it, and just before drinking their sherbet they were encouraged to say Bismillah and make the intention for Allah to help and give them the energy to complete their walk towards Imam Hussain.
Rest Mawkeb: Here the children were encouraged to take a break and rest their weary legs. They were told how it is an honour for people to provide a resting place for the zawwaar. We had lots of books on Kerbala, Imam Husayn (as), etc for them to peruse as they rested.
Maatam Mawkeb: At this mawkeb, the children recited maatams and remembered Imam Husayn (as) through their azadari. Children took turns to wave a flag as they all recited. Their maatam filled the hall with the remembrance of Aba Abdillah!
First Aid Mawkeb: Here, we treated all the Zawwars with contemporary medicine as well the all important Quranic Medicine. During our research we were AMAZED to find out how many common illnesses could be cured by the different Suras from the H.Quran. There are also Asmaul Husna that can be recited, but we focused on the Suras this time. Download the sheet of illnesses/cures here.
All Zawwars were given some yummy skittles as pain killers which they accepted without hesitation, except the really good ones who said they weren’t allowed by their mummies. Please find the cheat sheet we used. Please visit www.QFatima.com for lots of inspiration and resource.
Kerbala: After all the stations were completed, we gathered the children together and got them ready to raise their flags and walk together as they entered ‘Kerbala’, while listening to a maatam. As they entered, they faced a poster of Kerbala and spent a moment reflecting how it is Allah who gave them the energy and ability to witness this beauty. To Him belongs all praise and thanks and with this in mind, they all went into sajde e shukr.
Before taking their final few steps towards Aba Abdillah, they discussed how when we love someone, we want to be like them. If we love Aba Abdillah, how can we be like him? Can I be the first to say salaam, can I forgive when someone makes a mistake, can I lend a helping hand? The children took a moment to reflect and wrote their own personal pledges (examples were given to them below) to Imam on a little slip with the magic ink of their fingers.
With our pledges in one hand and our flags in the other, we recited a ziyarah and then we completed our walk towards the shrine (the poster) with chants of labbayk ya husayn! Labayk Ya Husayn!
Finally: The children then got a chance to reflect and write down one thing they loved most about doing the Najaf to Kerbala walk!