Islamic Education: Organisation

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

We thank and praise Allah SWT, the Compassionate, the Wise. We bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah — who loves us so much that He has made the heavens and the earth subservient unto us.

We bear witness that our Nabi Muhammad SAWS is the true Messenger of Allah, who enjoined us to explore the far corners of the heavens and the earth to know Allah’s creation and worship Allah with understanding. O Allah, shower Thy choicest blessings on him, his friends and relatives — all those who enjoined what is right and forbade what is wrong. Allah SWT reminds us in the Holy Qur’an:

“Let there arise from among you a band of people inviting to all that is good: enjoining what is right and forbidding what is evil. They are the ones to attain felicity.”

My dear Brothers and Sisters

Let us, for a moment pause to consider the wisdom and guidance contained in this very short ayah: Allah SWT advises us: “Let there arise from among you a band of people”. Such a band could possibly be a group of teachers in a school or madrassah, a group of concerned parents serving on a school’s PTA, or a group of men or women who organise themselves and set out to combat ignorance, such as fighting drug abuse or reminding the Ummah of their religious duties (e.g. the Tableeghi groups). These people do not wait to be asked, or to be elected or employed, they arise out of love for their fellowmen. They see the problems in the Ummah and accept responsibility for doing something about it. We are further advised HOW to set about the task of teaching them: the ayah continues: “inviting to all that is good”. Allah reminds us to go out and “invite”, not to intimidate or to humiliate, not to hurt or abuse those whom we wish to guide, but to encourage, to inspire, to comfort and to stimulate them to do good. Let those of us who are teachers or parents take note. We can do so much more with kindness and love than with insults and abuse. Goodness, in fact all knowledge, can only be taught with goodness. At the same time Allah SWT reminds us to “enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil”. We are required to stand up firmly for truth and to condemn any form of evil. On this we do not compromise. At the end of the ayah those of us who are involved are promised our just reward.

Education like feeding or clothing the child is the responsibility of the parents, with the Ummah (or the State) through its agencies providing the facilities and ensuring that we can afford it. At first it is the mother who, in the quiet moments while she is alone with her little baby, teaches him or her, later on the father and the whole family become his teacher. But he needs to socialise, to learn to play and ultimately to live with other people. Hence we send him to school and madrassah. Can we as mother and father now sit back and say to the new teachers: “I’m handing my child over to you. It is now YOUR responsibility!” In other words, are we as parents absolved from all responsibility for our children’s education when they go to school ? Of course not. We can enlist the help of as many teachers or aids, but the responsibility for educating our child remains ours.

This gives rise to the question of involvement and participating meaningfully in the child’s education. Why is it necessary for us to become involved in our child’s education outside of the home ? Will the madrassah or school not see it as interference in their affairs ? In our area there are so few Islam-oriented primary schools and we are forced to send our children to schools run by the State. The officials who draft the syllabuses are non-Muslim and choose subject-matter which would fulfil their cultural and religious needs. Often the learning material is not only un-Islamic, but blatantly anti-Islamic. This is more than enough reason for us to become actively involved in the organisation of the school or at least the teaching of our own children. Our Nabi Muhammad SAWS laid much emphasis on need-related education, that is, giving the child knowledge which he can USE. On one occasion he said:

“The best of men is the learned believer who, if he is needed, he will be useful; and if dispensed with, he will be self-sufficient.”

Our duty is to ensure that our children feel physically as well as ideologically comfortable, that they are not subjected to values which are foreign to Islam. Secondly, that the values with which they come to school are respected by the teacher and considered in his teaching. Thirdly, that the “school work” is discussed at home where it is re-interpreted from the Islamic perspective so that it becomes relevant and meaningful in terms of our culture and beliefs. For example, the child was given a science lesson on the flower and the functions of its parts. He knows the names of all the parts, from the corolla to the stamens and he even knows what work each one does or where such a flower grows. This information is not un-Islamic, the child learns about Allah’s creation, but does this information bring him any closer to Allah? In other words is this kind of teaching education as Muslims see it ? No, the child is presented with cold, theoretical data rather than meaningful knowledge. The learner must become so involved to the extent that he appreciates that he is part of the flower’s world, the flower, like him, is part of Allah’s creation. In this lesson the teacher failed to direct his pupils towards Allah. He has given them new information, but he has not educated them ! Education is a movement towards Allah! We as parents can re-direct our children’s attention to the flower as one of Allah’s most colourful creations. With them we marvel at Allah’s great Wisdom to create colours so pleasing to our eyes. What about those small parts which work so closely with each other to produce little seeds and ensure that more and more flowers and food is produced. Let them consider how dependent it is on the other bodies in creation, such as the sun, the soil, the animals. Allah must surely love us and all creation to be so merciful to us and even to the little bee in search of nectar. The lesson becomes more than a science lesson, it becomes part of the study of Taugheed so beautifully described in the Holy Qur’an:

“Behold! In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth; in the alternation of the Night and the Day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;– Here indeed are Signs for a people that are Wise.”

(Q.II: 164)

If we are sufficiently involved in our children’s education, we may bring about far-reaching changes in the school’s organisation and the teaching programme. We can help to change the school’s uniform so that it caters for the needs of the Muslim girl; we can demand that children should be allowed to perform Jumu’ah and even Thuhr salaah (if there are facilities at school); where there is a Muslim teacher available, the Muslim children may even get special Islamic religious education. In fact, if we work closely with the school, we may even influence the principal to work in collaboration with local Muslim organisations and make the education far more relevant to us as Muslims.

We are duty-bound to become involved in our children’s education. We cannot surrender and forfeit our right to our children to a foreign agency! How can we become involved ? The onus is on us to introduce ourselves to the teachers as the parents and express our willingness to assist the child at home or offer our co-operation. The teacher who is sincerely interested in the wellbeing of the child, would welcome this offer, for he knows that he needs the full participation of the parents if he is to become a successful educator. He does not know the child as well as the parents and need their feedback. The next stage is to participate actively on the school’s Parent-teachers Association and making ourselves available for election to the school committee. At these meetings we must not be afraid to lobby among our fellow-Muslim brothers and sisters to bring about changes in the interest of our children. We must also study the progress reports of each class as they are tabled and voice our approval or disappointment. The school principal would soon become aware of our presence and needs, and if he is a fair-minded person, he would try to meet as many of our demands as possible.

What is our attitude with regard to the Madrassah or Islam- oriented primary schools? We should be no less vigilant of the actual teaching given to our children at these institutions than our involvement in the primary schools. While we are ever-watchful of malpractices or ineffective teaching methods used, we must also adopt a positive attitude to them. What the Madrassah strives to do is a form of complementary education. That is, they try to fill the gaps left by the so-called secular schools and the homes. Unfortunately there is little or no communication between the secular school and madrassah and each goes along its own path believing that its learning content is superior to the other or that it holds the key to the child eventually reaching Jannah! It is up to us, the parents, to bridge this gap between the two: if we cannot bring the Madrassah and the secular teachers to talk to each other, then we have to find a way to reconcile the two “systems” of education. Admittedly, this is no easy task. Muslim educationists throughout the world are meeting regularly to find common ground between the two. In fact, in this very week some of our young educationists are meeting at the University of Cape Town to discuss this and related problems.

As we re-interpreted the school work to make it relevant and meaningful to our children, so too, we may have to do likewise with the Madrassah work. Let us remember that our children may be far too young to understand the highly abstract and philosophical concepts that we take for granted, for example, Taugheed, or the various kalimas. And we may have to explain these in terms of their experiences and limited understanding. Let us also remember that knowledge of the practical daily practices of a Muslim, moral values and etiquette must be reinforced with the REAL thing. There are no theories in Islamic knowledge. Thus Allah SWT warns us in the Holy Qur’an:

“Do you enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget to practise it ourselves, and yet you study the Scripture ? Will you not understand ?

(Q. II: 44)

Most of our madaris are community-based and rely heavily on subscriptions and donations to pay for the teachers, maintain the buildings and provide equipment for effective teaching. We must try to serve on their committees and help bring about an efficient organisation so that the time of the teacher is spent teaching our children rather than organising fund-raising efforts.

In this Khutbah we have considered ways of making our children’s education relevant and meaningful and we have come to realise that it is necessary for us as mother and father of that child entrusted to our care, to become fully involved in the school or madrassah. In our next Khutbah, we hope, Insha-Allah to look at the duties of the teacher and student for successful teaching to take place.

In conclusion, let us be guided in our search for effective education by the Hadeeth of our Nabi Muhammad SAWS:

“Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “The likeness of learning from which no benefit is derived is as the likeness of a hoarded wealth of which nothing is spent in the way of Allah.” — Ahmad, Darimi.

Ameen! Aqeemus salaah!

* This khutbas was delivered in Cape Town, South Africa.