Quarterly: Issue No 45
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EFFECTIVE ISLAMIC EDUCATION
Islamic society is founded on the principles of belief and righteous conduct. This connection between values and practice lies at the very heart of the Islamic way of life. To be a Muslim requires that one’s faith be reflected in one’s practice and daily moral conduct with other people. We have the beautiful teachings of the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah, and we have many masaajid, Islamic schools and organizations. Yet many Muslims today do not live in accord with the principles and values of their faith. What is the root of the problem? The problem is that Islamic religious instruction, in recent centuries, has been taught primarily as a body of information, rather than as a body of experiences. For many Muslim children today, Islam does not inspire, and seems meaningless and irrelevant to their personal lives and experiences.
The “Islamic values” education curriculum should focus on personality and character development of children, close attention to the real needs and concerns of students, and preparation of students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to function successfully as Muslims in a multi-cultural society. If we hope to succeed in our goal to raise our children Islamically, Muslim educators and parents must start to develop a better understanding of how children grow and learn; we must understand the processes of moral development and the methods of effective teaching and learning. Our children will not become moral individuals simply because we want or tell them to do so. They will become moral individuals by cultivating their minds and hearts, and by having opportunities to actually see and apply Islamic values in practice. The pervasive influence of secular materialism and its value system seriously challenges religious-minded individuals and communities. To a large extent, the future will depend on how well we educate our children today and to what extent we are successful in transferring to them the sacred vision of life we have as Muslims. What is at stake is nothing less than the moral and spiritual survival of our children and our communities as Muslims. Without a proper understanding of the Islamic value system, there is little hope that the true goals (maqaasid) of Islamic education can be achieved. Islamic schools have a crucial role to play in providing concrete solutions and programs that will foster this understanding among students and in promoting the role and responsibility of the family in the process of Islamic upbringing (tarbiyyah).
Fortunately, a sense of renewal is in the air today and enlightened Muslims are eager to find real solutions to the problems and challenges facing the Muslim, including re-examination of both how and what we teach our children about Islam. Muslim educators must restructure the Islamic Studies curriculum - both what is taught and how it is taught - if our children are to develop the spiritual survival skills needed to survive as Muslims in the twenty-first century. Let us examine some outlines of a new vision of Islamic education which will be capable of producing Muslim youth with a level of understanding, commitment and social responsibility that will both motivate and enable them to serve Islam and humanity effectively, insha Allah. Islamic education must be able to produce Muslim youth that are able to identify, understand and then work cooperatively to solve the problems that face their community and the world in which they live and for which they are responsible. To us, this should be the most effective form of Islamic da’wah.
This vision is not a "new vision" but rather a "renewed vision" of Islamic education. It is a call for the return to the classical - though not traditional or conventional - vision of Islamic education. In the lifetime of our beloved Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) Islamic education was both practical and very relevant. The Prophetic model of Islamic education drew its substance from the everyday experiences and day-today problems of the early Muslim community. Although Islamic education will undoubtedly draw much of its content from the foundational disciplines of Islamic Studies (such as Aqeedah, Tafseer, Fiqh, etc.), it must be done in a way that links this content to the natural concerns of students as well as the larger issues facing the world in which they live. This is the challenge of modern-day Islamic education.
This vision of Islamic education makes a fundamental distinction between teaching about "Islam" and teaching about "being Muslim". As mentioned earlier, Muslim educators, for the most part, have been content to teach "facts about Islam," since this is an easier and less demanding approach. We have not met the challenge of developing a systematic program to teach our children about "being Muslim" - which requires a more subtle and profound understanding of both the nature of children and Islam itself. The goal of Islamic education is not to fill our children’s minds with information about Islam, but rather to teach them about being Muslims.
Islamic education, first and foremost, must focus on teaching values and emphasize issues of identity and self-esteem. It must address the real concerns of students and emphasize and provide for training in leadership. Also very important in the achievement of the goals of Islamic education, it is essential to gain the active involvement of parents. In developing our approach, we should not be shy to benefit from recent educational research worldwide. This research suggests that several factors are essential for effective teaching and learning to occur. These factors are summarized in the statement that teaching and learning are effective when they are meaningful, integrative, value-based, challenging and active. These factors should also apply to Islamic education as well and Muslim educators must become better aware of the important role these factors play in effective learning. It is suggested that future programs in Islamic education must be evaluated in light of these basic factors. These factors are briefly discussed below.
Effective Islamic teaching and learning must be meaningful. Students should feel that the content of their curriculum is worth learning, because it is meaningful and relevant to their lives. When learning is meaningful and relevant, students are intrinsically motivated to learn. Furthermore, students must be led to discover the larger connections between the knowledge and skills they are learning - rather than memorizing isolated bits of information. Especially as Muslims, our children must be trained always to keep their eye on the whole picture, or a macro-view, whenever studying. This, in part, is the meaning of tawheed. Islamic teaching and learning must therefore focus on examining major themes and important topics, rather than superficial coverage of many different topics. This approach advocates that the Islamic Studies curriculum be structured coherently around the concept of powerful ideas.
Effective Islamic teaching and learning must also be integrated. It must encompass and engage the whole child, spiritually, emotionally, socially, intellectually and physically. In addition, Islamic teaching and learning should be integrative across a broad range of topics and in its treatment of these topics. It should be integrative across time and place as well as being integrative across the curriculum. It must integrate knowledge, beliefs and values with action and application. These integrative aspects have the far-reaching potential of enhancing the power of Islamic studies teaching and learning.
Most important of all, effective Islamic teaching and learning must be value-based. By focusing on values and by considering the ethical dimensions of topics, Islamic education becomes a powerful vehicle for character and moral development, thus achieving its real purpose. Educators must realize that every aspect of the teaching-learning experience conveys values to students and provides opportunities for them to learn about values. From the selection of content, materials and activities, to the arrangement of the classroom, to class rules and management style, students are exposed to and learn values. Teachers must therefore develop a better awareness of their own values and how those values influence their behaviour as role-models and what students ultimately learn from these experiences about themselves, about others and about Islam.
Effective Islamic teaching and learning must also be challenging. Students must be challenged to thoughtfully examine the topics they are studying, to participate assertively in group discussions, to work productively in cooperative learning activities, and to come to grips with controversial issues. Such activities and experiences will help foster the skills needed to produce competent Muslims who are capable of presenting and defending their beliefs and principles effectively.
Finally, effective Islamic teaching and learning must be active. Islamic studies should demand a great deal from both the teacher and students. The teacher must be actively and genuinely engaged in the teaching process - making plans, choices and curriculum adjustments as needed. The effective teacher of Islamic education must be prepared to continuously update his or her knowledge base, adjust goals and content to students’ needs, take advantage of unfolding events and teachable moments, and to develop examples that relate directly to students. Moreover, learning must be active by emphasizing hands-on and minds-on activities that call for students to react to what they are learning and to use it in their lives in some meaningful way.
The above are key factors for effective Islamic teaching and learning. This vision of effective Islamic teaching and learning is based on a dynamic rather than static view of Islam and Islamic education. This view is rooted in the belief that the mission of Islam is to positively affect and transform the world, and that the purpose of Islamic education is to prepare young men and women who are capable of carrying out this mission—emotionally, morally, and intellectually.
May Allah grant us all the realization of a greater aims and objectives of Islamic education! Ameen!
LET US LIVE OUR LIVES BY THE NOBLE QUR’AN
Some of the lessons learnt from the Noble Quran that we as “Believers” must apply to our general lifestyle:
1. Respect and honour all human beings irrespective of their religion, colour, race, sex, language, status, property, birth, profession, job and so on. [17/70] i.e. [Chapter 17/ Verse70]
2. Talk straight to the point, without any ambiguity or deception. [33/70]
3. Choose best words to speak and say them in the best possible way. [17/53, 2/83]
4. Do not shout and talk. Speak politely
keeping your voice low. [31/19]
5. Always speak the truth. Shun words that are deceitful and ostentatious. [22/30]
6. Do not mix truth with falsehood. [2/42]
7. Say with your mouth what is in your heart. [3/167]
8. When you voice an opinion be just, even if it is against a near relative. [6/152]
9. Do not talk, listen or do anything vain. [23/3, 28/55]
10. Do not verge upon any immodesty or lewdness (shameful sins) whether openly or secretly. [6/151].
11. Do not be contemptuous or arrogant with people. [31/18]
12. Do not walk proudly or with conceit. [17/37, 31/18]
13. Keep your gazes lowered from looking at forbidden things. [24/30-31, 40/19].
14. If you do not have complete knowledge about anything, better keep quiet. You might think that speaking about something without full knowledge is a trivial matter. But it might have grave consequences. [24/15-16]
15. When you hear something malicious about someone, keep a favourable view about him/her until you attain full knowledge about the matter. Consider others innocent until they are proven guilty with solid and truthful evidence. [24/12-13]
16. Ascertain the truth of any news, lest you smite someone in ignorance and afterwards repent of what you did. [49/6]
17. Do not follow blindly any information of which you have no direct knowledge. (Using your faculties of perception and conception) you must verify it for yourself. In the Court of your Lord, you will be held accountable for your hearing, sight, and the faculty of reasoning. [17/36].
18. Never think that you have reached the final stage of knowledge and nobody knows more than yourself. Remember! Above everyone endowed with knowledge is another endowed with more knowledge. [12/76]. Even the Prophet (SAW) was asked to keep praying, "O My Lord! Advance me in knowledge." [20:114]
19. The believers are but a single Brotherhood. Live like members of one family, brothers and sisters unto one another. [49/10]
20. Do not make mockery of others or ridicule others. [49/11]
21. Do not defame others. [49/11]
22. Do not insult others by nicknames. [49/11]
23. Avoid suspicion and guesswork. Suspicion and guesswork might deplete your communal energy. [49/12]
24. Spy not upon one another. [49/12]
25. Do not backbite one another. [49/12]
26. Do not be jealous of those who are blessed. [4/54]
27. Fulfil your promises and commitments. [17/34]
28. Do no try
to impress people on account of self-proclaimed virtues. [53/32]
29. You should enjoin right conduct on others but mend your own ways first. Actions speak louder than words. You must first practice good deeds yourself, then preach. [2/44]
30. Sit not in the company of those who ridicule Divine Law unless they engage in some other conversation. [4/140]
31. Do not follow up what you have given to others to afflict them with reminders of your generosity [2/262]
32. Eat and drink (what is lawful) in moderation [7/31]
I request your humble du'aas.
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Umhlanga Rocks, KZN