Cold, sitting on a wet rock, he would wait outside his teacher's door for hours, waiting for him to come out so he could ask him a question. That was imām Malik as a child, whose hunger for learning kept him there and respect for his shaykh deterred him from knocking on his door lest he disturbed him. That was a time when teachers of Qurʾān were held in such high esteem. Unfortunately now the roles are reversed and we find teachers chasing students, calling them and waiting while they find their hijab, make wuḍūʼ or drag their feet to Qurʾān class. They get the eye roll when the students are stopped if making a mistake. The empty stares, moms bribing kids to read one more page, mushafs are left in the car only to be hastily looked at for a few minutes before class. The same mistakes of madd, over and over again.
“The best of you are those who learn the Qurʾān and teach it to others.”
Despite this hadith being so familiar to most of us, I can not tell you how many times I have heard a Qurʾān teacher being referred to in derogatory terms – in some Muslim countries they are treated like servants, worse that the children's nanny. If you don't respect them personally than please respect the Kalam of Allāh that they teach and give them honor based solely on the majesty of what they teach: the Qurʾān.
The following is advice that Amir Al-Mu'mineen, Ali bin Abi Talib, may Allāh be pleased with him, gave: “From the rights of the learned over you is that you do not ask too many questions, you do not divulge his secrets, you do not backbite about him to anyone, you do not look for error in him, if he made a mistake you accept his excuse. It is incumbent upon you to respect and magnify him as long as he keeps Allāh's orders; you should not sit in front of him; if he has a need the people should race to serve him.”
In a hadith related by At-Tirmithi the Messenger of Allāh, (saw) said, “He is not of us who does not respect our elderly, is merciful to our youth, and knows the rights of those who teach us.”
Qurʾān lessons are a combination of effort on behalf of the children, the teachers and the parents. Many of us have played one of these roles, I have played all three. I feel many times the teacher, the child or the parent want to say the following things to each other but don't out of humility, cultural taboos, or just can't be bothered. Hope this will spark some very important conversations.
What a Qurʾān teacher wishes s/he could say to the parents:
- We are human beings and your child's teachers, please accord us more respect or at least the same that you would give to you child's secular teachers.
- If you are paying us, please treat it like any other bill and pay us promptly – we would not charge for this noble cause unless our homes did not run on this money.
- Please be punctual – value our time, especially when we teach without payment as it is usually time we take away from our own families.
- Inform us in advance if you are canceling the class.
- Have the students use the bathroom and make wuḍūʼ before lesson time as valuable time is wasted.
- Have your child dress appropriately for Qurʾān class – the adab is head/satr covered, no faces or bad language on clothing.
- Please teach your children to respect us – if you call us names at home they will internalize this attitude, too.
- Revise the lesson at home especially if your child only comes a few times a week.
- If we have moved them back from one lesson to another it is usually because they haven't completely learned the skills in that particular lesson.
- Don't be offended or take it personally if your child is not performing well and we talk to you about it – we have their best interests at heart.
- If you are unhappy about anything please talk to us without your child present – it weakens our authority when your child knows that you do not respect us.
- Many parents question why the child is spending so much time on the “Qaidah” or “Yassarnal Qurʾān.” Let the teacher spend the time required to learn the foundations, if the makharij are messed up then it takes a lot of work to fix them at a later stage.
Since I am not a hifidh teacher, I asked what one would say to parents: These are thoughts of a hifdh teacher:
- Please don't tell me how to do my job…Memorizing a few surahs is not the same as memorizing the whole Qurʾān.
- I am a teacher, not a miracle worker.
- Don't enforce your selfish expectations on your children. Accept them for who they are and I guarantee they will perform better.
- Please do this for the sake of Allāh and not as a status symbol. You're affecting your child's education in ways you do not know.
- Your child will not die because he has the sniffles…Don't make him miss days unnecessarily.
- If you don't make sure they learn their lesson at night…..you can't expect them to become hafidh.
- Do not make long term plans, they do not work…make short term realistic plans.
- Please do exactly as I tell you, or else don't blame me when things are not going well.
- I love my students very much and we have a very deep bond…that is why I am hard on them; not because I have a bad temper.
- Please do not hit me if I do not know my lesson.
- Smell good it is hard to learn when the teacher doesn't smell good.
- Tell me if I did a good job – it motivates me.
- Please do not humiliate me in front of the whole class.
- Urge me to read more even if I am being lazy, sometimes I just need an extra push.
- Please do not take me back all the way to the beginning of the Qaidah or Qurʾān if I have already done it – it is so discouraging – maybe you can review the past lessons AND give me new lessons too.
- Tell me your rules upfront because every teacher is different and sometimes I may do something because my previous teachers let me.
To be fair and since I am a parent, I realize that there are all sorts of teachers – some good, some great and some…let's not go there. When looking for a person to teach Qurʾān to your child check and make sure the teacher has proper tajweed. A good Qurʾān teacher will not mind if you ask them to recite some verses to you or to someone who knows proper qiraat before choosing your child's teacher. This shows that you are serious about your child's learning. Ask for references especially from parents in the locality. Ask if they teach individually or in a class format.
What a parent wishes the Qurʾān teacher knew:
- Please do not hit my child to enforce a lesson – they will start hating coming to your class and in turn have horrible memories associated with learning the beautiful book of Allāh.
- Please give my child proper attention and inculcate the love of Allāh's Book by being kind and gentle with them.
- Keep us in the loop – let me know if my child is being rude or not performing properly.
- As a parent I know my child better – please listen to our input about their learning styles or issues.
- Encourage my child and reward him/her with positive feedback especially when they did well or learnt their lesson properly.
- Let us know in advance if you are canceling a class.
- Please be sincere and do not treat this like a money-making scheme.
We would like to make a resource for our brothers and sisters looking for qualified Qurʾān teachers for thier children. So if you have had a great teacher and would like to pay homage to them or refer a wonderful Qurʾān teacher please leave their name or their school's name contact # ( with their permission) and location. May Allāh (SWT) make it a sadaqah jahriah for you.