Textbook Development Update
Assalāmu ʿalaykum wa raḥmatullāhi wa barakātuhu
The Safar Publications team began working on Textbook 8 from our Learn about Islām Series in early 2018. In addition to the broader changes in the secondary syllabus, Textbook 8 taps into the changing needs of students heading into adulthood and thus, includes more advanced content. For example, content on belief in the existence of God, Ḥajj and ʿUmrah, issues related to personal health and money, an introduction to Islamic law and its development, issues related to modernity, and more developed advice for everyday teenage life. This has resulted in our (small and humble) team having to work with more complex content and ensure that the subject matter is still delivered in an age-appropriate and engaging manner, relevant to the learners of today. Also, as our Textbook 7 has been, we are sure the book will be very popular with adult learners as well.
We are often asked how we achieve this (as well as why our books take so long!). So, here’s a brief outline of the process. We hope it’s a small window into the world behind the pages of our widely acclaimed books, as well as a very small indication of the countless amount of goodwill, effort and duas that make Safar what it is today, alhamdulillah.
- To begin with, broad concepts that may feature in a lesson and unit are discussed as a team with our editor-in-chief, Shaykh Hasan Ali. These brainstorming sessions (often more than a few) consider much more than the text, learning objectives and outcomes. The discussions can straddle contemporary culture, philosophy, ethics, current affairs & politics, new research in academia and shifts in the educational landscape. It also involves considering the feedback we receive from teachers, imams and parents, not least, information and suggestions Shaykh Hasan picks up through his discussions in different parts of the UK and abroad. [Here, we must say a special thank you to brothers and ʿulama in the northern parts of UK who do more than their share in helping shape our books – you know who you are!]
- Taking lead from our planning discussions, the next stage involves conducting preliminary research, drafting a skeleton of a chapter and then, preparing a few early drafts. This stage involves checking primary Islamic sources, consulting and translating classical texts, and can often require original research into a subject matter. It is also at this stage that we truly appreciate that we stand on the shoulders of specialists and scholars, past and present: their intellectual efforts and works continue to provide us with a deep ocean of material to work with.
- The first-cut of the chapter then goes back and forth between the author, editing team, editor-in-chief as well as any external specialists we need to consult. This stage of drafting and editing often results in 12-15 versions of a single chapter; the more complex the content, the more versions we end up with. Also, this is something we have seen on the increase as we head into higher levels of our textbooks. Furthermore, not to forget: our Art Director is given an early seat at the table here to give his creative input into the visual elements of the content.
- Once we finalise a manuscript draft – the result of three to four months worth of work – it first goes to internal editors for proofing, fact-checking and ensuring the language matches the average literacy level of the target age group. However, we also like to ensure each chapter has enough language and academic complexity to really push our learners to achieve their best.
- The draft manuscript is then finalised and submitted to an external editor and, subsequently, the designer to begin design work.
- The designer works with the illustrator completing multiple iterations. They take the chapter through the following stages: concept, idea board, text layout, first sketches, draft hand-drawn imagery, full illustrations, colouring, as well as final design touches on the text and imagery. The design process itself takes a good 4-6 weeks of work on a single chapter.
- Finally, when the chapter is ready, it goes back to our internal editors for checking before being sent to a professional sub-editor to be proofed and given a thorough line-by-line check.
And all that just about ensures we end up with a chapter that meets our exacting expectations! We hope the above gives you a window into the process (and costs) a project entails before we release the first editions. All in, a textbook takes over two years of work to ensure we have a product that is one of the best available for teachers, students and parents. Even then, it is never perfect, for perfection belongs to Allāh (swt) alone.
Before you go, we have included some images of the forthcoming Textbook 8 below, as well as an outline chapter list. We shall update you on the release of the book closer to completion, in shāʾ Allāh. So until then, please continue your duʿāʾs and support in bringing this project to your classrooms and homes.
Islamic Studies Development Team