Lesson 2: Exploring Religious Presence in Arabic Fiction
About this Lesson:
In this lesson, students read Arabic fiction to explore the role of religion in the Arab world. In the selected short stories, religion is present in some form, though not necessarily the subject of the text. The examination of fiction that includes religion, but does not specifically focus on it, allows students to consider the range of ways in which religion can influence experience and shape cultural landscape. As students analyze particular traditions in depth later in the unit, this framing lesson establishes that within a diverse region, there are many levels of engagement with faith across communities and the individuals who inhabit them. The stories included in this lesson are as follows:
- “The Highway Robber,” by Marun ‘Aboud
- “In Search of an Address,” by Ibrahim Aslan and translated by Sharif Elmusa and Christopher Tingley
- “Layla,” by Wadad ‘Abd al-Latif al-Kawwari and translated by May Jayyusi and Christopher Tingley
- “Night of the Festival,” by Fawzi Abdel Kadarel-Milady
- “Zinah”, by Mubarak Bari’ and translated by Aida Bamya and Naomi Shihab Nye
In this lesson, students will:
- read two Arabic short stories in translation.
- write an essay comparing the presence of religion in two short stories.
- Arabs practice a number of religions through widely varied traditions, and some Arabs do not practice a faith at all.
Curriculum Framing Questions
- How is religious faith and practice present in the Arab world?
- What can we learn about religion in the Arab world from its presence in literature and film?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- compare depictions of religion by reading Arabic short stories in translation.
- identify religious language and its influence on plot and message.
- demonstrate similarities and differences in how religion is used in Arabic literature.
Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning:
- Complete the worksheet, Exploring Religious Presence in Arabic Fiction, based on reading an Arabic short story
- Engage in class discussion
- Write a short essay comparing two Arabic short stories and how their authors represent the presence of religion
Curriculum Standards Information
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
History / Social Studies
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6 Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
History / Social Studies
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Materials Needed in Class:
Click here to download PDF version
Divide the class into 5 groups and distribute a different short story to each group along with a copy of the Exploring Religious Presence in Arabic Fiction handout. Allow the groups time to read their story and complete the following:
- Summarize the plot and main idea of their short story (to be shared with the entire class).
- Highlight any references to religion, religious practice, and religious affiliation in the text.
Tell students to consider the following questions on the handout as they read:
- Can you determine the religion(s) of the characters from the text? Why or why not?
- Is faith and/or religious tradition portrayed positively, negatively, or neutrally?
- Is the plot impacted by the presence of religion in this story? How?
- How would you characterize the role of religion in your story?
When students have finished, come together as a class. Distribute the Religion in Arabic Fiction: Shared Note Handout to each student. Have each group share the title, author, and a summary of their story as well as other relevant information needed to complete the note sheet. Consider and discuss the following question with the remaining time:
- What patterns, if any, do you see about religion in the Arab world?