Marmar is playing at being a pirate with her parrot Zenan, her brother Basil is flying a kite, and their friend Malik is playing on his tablet when a storm picks up Basil’s kite and him with it. Grabbing onto him to try to stop him being carried away, the three children are whisked away to a magical island, filled with lush exotic and tropical plants and wild animals such as giraffes, deer and herons ambling around. At the centre of the island lies a fantastical house built in the roots of a huge and ancient millennial tree and a beautiful white mosque.
On the island they meet Grandpa Nur and Grandma Ihsan, who take care of them while they work out how to get them back home, and educate them about the importance of verses from the Quran, hadith and Islamic prayers in our everyday lives. Boasting quirky and likeable characters and an aesthetic reminiscent of Pixar’s feature film Up, the series is set against a soundscape of birdsong and the babble of the shimmering river, and imparts religious wisdom in an interesting and relevant way through stories about the children’s time on the island.
Grandpa Nur and Grandma Ihsan are wise, spiritual and kind presences on the island, and guide the children in thinking about how they act, and the appropriate way to behave in different situations in a gentle and loving way, with each episode focusing on a teaching from the Islamic tradition. The storyline evokes enough wonder and curiosity to keep viewers interested in what happens next, and the delivery of Quranic quotes and hadith is not too dry or sermon-like, being woven into the storyline in an entertaining, connected story.
Transported to the island by Basil’s kite in the storm, the children decide to explore and soon find the house built at the roots of a huge tree. They see Grandpa Nur, who is saying the wind prayer “Dear God I ask you for its goodness and the goodness it carries, and I seek refuge in you from its evil and the evil it carries.” After meeting him, the children start to argue. Grandpa Nur shows them the tree with its firm roots and branches high in the sky, and tells them that they should speak to each other with good words, discussing the comparison of a good word to a good tree from the Quran with them.
Grandpa Nur tells them that he has been living on the island for years caring for a precious treasure – the “ethics treasure” which he keeps in a box. Later in the series a pirate lands on the island seeking this treasure he has heard of. Meanwhile Grandpa Nur teaches the children about how to pray, and how to act around others who are praying, for example not running in front of them or talking to them while they are in prayer. The children tell Grandpa Nur what they know about the prayer and he encourages them and tells them more about it. They look for their kite to get home and find it is broken and must be repaired. The importance of cooperation is highlighted with the children saving Basil from under a tree trunk and Grandpa Nur congratulating them on working together, and telling them a hadith about cooperation.
The children are introduced to Grandma Ihsan and they help save a cat who is trapped, learning about kindness to animals in the Islamic tradition. They are also taught about the importance of cleanliness and being environmentally friendly. Marmar is the youngest of the children and is very homesick, missing her mum and wondering whether they will ever get home. Grandpa Nur encourages her to expect good from Allah and tells her “I know how you feel my dear, but God is generous and merciful. We have to trust His wisdom, feel reassured by it and hope for the best.”
Despite the somewhat stilted dialogue and unidiomatic English, The Journey is an absorbing and enjoyable way to learn about Islamic ethics and morals, with lovable and wise characters, a gorgeous setting that kids will be curious to explore, and captivating storylines that teach and guide them to understand Quranic verses, hadith and Islamic ethics through practical examples while providing engaging viewing.