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Islamic Pedagogy and Critical Thinking: Does Islamic Pedagogy Want Critical Thinkers?

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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[dropcap size=big]R[/dropcap]ecent discussions about the critical thinking skills of students who graduate from Islamic religious institutions have brought to question the aims of an Islamic pedagogy and the capacity for religious institutions in general to instill critical thinking abilities in students. Can an institute which makes knowledge sacred truly create critical thinkers? Critical thinking defined by McPeck (1981) is “the propensity and skill to engage in an activity with reflective skepticism” (Fahim & Masouleh, 2012). While others tend to show a more positive meaning to critical thinking, “a probing inquisitiveness, a keenness of mind, a zealous dedication to reason, and a hunger or eagerness for reliable information” (Facione, 1990, p. 10). The question still remains, how did the Islamic pedagogical system synthesize the sacred and skepticism? Can an Islamic pedagogical system offer insight into the goals of education in general and perhaps bring to question the idea that critical thinking is the final objective of education? Al-Sharaf (2013) and Altunya (2014) are both of the opinion that Islamic pedagogical outlook is based in engineering critical thinkers.

The role of education and learning from the Islamic tradition is seen as the method for preserving religious values and belief (Diallo, 2012) (Al-Sharaf, 2013). In fact, Halstead (2004) said regarding an Islamic pedagogical system, “religion must be at the heart of all education, acting as the glue which holds together the entire curriculum into an integrated whole.” Gunther (2006) explains that the Islamic ideal of piety underlies the concept of education. He explains that this ideal is due to the emphasis placed on Learning by God in the Quran and by the Prophet Muhammad in the collections of his sayings, such as, “Seek knowledge from the day of your birth to the day of your death” or “seek knowledge even if it be in China”, all demonstrate the importance of learning and education in shaping the ideal Muslim society (Al-Sharaf, 2013). Due to the fact that science is seen in the Quran as the method to recognize and identify the divine, Islamic educational pedagogies were never historically restricted to “religious” knowledge but was broadened to incorporate secular disciplines (Al-Sharaf, 2013).

The unification of religious knowledge and secular knowledge is fundamental for one attempting to understand the similarities and differences between western pedagogies and Islamic pedagogies. Others have pointed out that the centrality of education to the Islamic tradition should be traced back to the beginning of the Prophetic mission of Muhammad. The first verses revealed upon Muhammad through the angel Gabriel were, “Read! In the name of your lord.”(Quran). Can it be suggested that this verse is the primary inspiration for the oldest continually operating university founded in 859, Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco and all western scholasticism (Sabkia, 2013)? George Makdisi (1989) believes so,

“Two major intellectual movements, which we have long considered as of exclusively Western origin, have their roots deep down in Islamic soil. The first movement, appropriately called scholasticism, is that of the school guilds in the middle ages; the second is that of humanism in the Italian Renaissance”

According to Makdisi the term doctorate was called licentia docendi in medieval Latin. This term however, is a “word for word translation of the original Arabic term, ijazah attadris” This license, in classical Islam was a license to teach religious law exclusively. As Makdisi points out the doctorate bestowed triple status; (1) he was a master of law, (2) he was a professor of legal opinions, (3) he was a doctor or “teacher” of law. The Latin equivalents of which were magister, professor, and doctor. If Makdisi is correct regarding the origins of western scholasticism, why do we see a split between the secular from religious? Diallo (2012) places the differences between the two educational systems not in their origin but rather in the social and cultural shifts that took place in Europe after the 18th century philosophers such as Descartes, Kant, and Durkheim and the appearance of academia who gained credibility for the newly formed universities. This shift is described, accurately as a push for “the primacy of secular reason and knowledge over the reason and knowledge within religious framework. The Enlightenment eliminated the realm of the sacred and there remained no authority that could not be challenged. As Diallo (2012) emphasizes, “western pedagogy and epistemology was freed from religious control”. The Islamic academic tradition responded different than its Christian counterpart, in that it never divorced religious knowledge from scientific or secular knowledge. But rather married the two (Al-Sharaf, 2013).

Looking at early Islamic scholarly works on education shows that from the beginning there was unification of all sciences under religion. Al-Jahiz an eight century Muslim scholar outlined an Islamic pedagogical system that unified all fields. Al-Jahiz (800cc) enumerated the topics a student should be taught and the sequence in which they should be taught. Al-Jahiz (800cc) wrote that that a student should be taught: writing, arithmetic, law, the pillars of religion, the Quran, grammar, prosody, and poetry. Al-Jahiz’s breakdown shows the interconnectedness of what some would call secular fields and religious.

Makdisi (1989) explains why Islamic scholarship did not face the same crisis that the Christian world faced. The Islamic doctorate, which was referred to earlier, was only restricted to field of law alone. Meaning that one did not need a license to teach other sciences. When the doctorate was introduced it consisted of two elements: (1) competence i.e. knowledge and skill as a scholar of law, and (2) authority i.e. “the exclusive autonomous right… to issue opinions having the value of orthodox (Makdisi, 1989). However, in the Christian West there was already another authority in place i.e. the church. This appearance of authority from other than the church marks the beginning of the struggle between the church and the university and thus religion and science. “There was therefore the prospect of duality of authorities in Christian West” Makdisi points out.

St. Thomas Aquinas had already recognized this problem and made a distinction between the two magisterial; the teaching authority of the pastor and the authority of the professor of theology. The first possessed jurisdictional authority, while the second possessed, the competence that belongs to a master in a given field of knowledge. Makdisi explains it very clearly, “the competence of the professor was subordinate to the authority of the pastor”. One has to wonder how it was perceived that a growing community of educated parishioner would continual overlook the possible incompetence of the pastors? It wasn’t long before the Faculty of Theology in Paris in 1387 assumed the power of passing final judgements on religious doctrine (Makdisi, 1989). What this means is that the authority of the professor could not help but clash with the authority of the pastors. The pastors gained their authority from the church i.e. the Pope and the academia gained authority from the University i.e. academic pursuit and verification. This forces one to question the origins of atheist trends among academia.

Islamic pedagogical systems simply didn’t create a struggle for power between academia and “the church”, because there was never a centralized body that assumed the authority to issue rulings. Religious scholarship in the Islamic tradition has always been decentralized. The licensing to teach always remained restricted to religious law and was open to anyone. Essentially the theological professors became the pastors. Science and other fields where never controlled by the religious scholarship. Thus avoiding conflict between areas where freedom of thought ideally should be allowed unchecked i.e. sciences, and other areas where freedom of thought would first have to licensed and regulated i.e. religious law.

Medieval Muslim scholars did of course make a distinction between the two types of knowledge. The “traditionally transmitted” sciences included Quran, Hadith (the traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), Law, and principles of jurisprudence. And the “rational” sciences logic, philosophy, math, astronomy, etc. (Zaman, 1999). The religious institutions were the primary centers for learning both sciences. Zaman (1999) describes the breakdown of knowledges in two broader categories. The Primary sciences i.e. that which was “sought for its own sake” and the auxiliary sciences i.e. that which was sought “to aid” the primary sciences. These auxiliary sciences were never static and adjusted throughout the ages according to the threats to Islamic society.

The question that naturally should be asked after looking at the “sacred” nature of knowledge and the presumption that reverence is needed for learning true knowledge is, “Is there any room for critical thought in Islamic pedagogical systems?” Halstead (2004) claims, that in Islamic educational systems’ “knowledge must be approached reverently and in humility, for there cannot be any ‘true’ knowledge that is in conflict with religion and divine revelation, only ignorance” (Halstead, 2004). But is it plausible to assume that a civilization which placed so much emphasis on education, did not construct a critical thinking pedagogy? According to Gunther (2006) there are multiple examples of the Islamic religiously based educational system emphasizing critical thought in students. In fact, Gunther (2006) speaks in detail about the numerous medieval Arabic works devoted to “pedagogical and didactic issues”. These works focus on teaching methods and ideals for learning and touch upon the moral aspect of learning and organization and content learning as well as curriculum and how to create a student capable of thinking critically. In addition, Gunther (2006) offers two observations about medieval Islamic education. Firstly, Arab culture and Greco-Hellenistic heritage were both adapted and incorporated into Islamic educational theory. Secondly, “from the eighth century to the sixteenth, there was a continuous tradition of Arabic-Islamic scholarship dealing with pedagogical and didactic issues…”.

Dr. Al-Sharaf (2013), places the source of critical thought in the primary sources of Islam i.e. the Quran and Prophetic traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “contemplate everything, but do not contemplate over the nature of God”. This concept of questioning everything which is encouraged in this saying of Muhammad is the very same idea behind critical thinking pedagogies. As explained by Fahim and Masouleh, “To Critical Thinking, the critical person is something like a critical consumer of information; he or she is driven to seek reasons and evidence.” (Fahim & Masouleh, 2012) The Prophetic tradition mentioned above clearly encourages analysis of everything, while however placing a limit to what can be contemplated i.e. god.

A sixteenth century scholar Ahmed ibn Lutfullah also referred to as Muneccimbasi wrote an entire book on the method of perusing books, which he titled adabul-mutala (the art of reading). He explained that critical thinking wasn’t a skill that students naturally possessed but rather a skill that was slowly learned and mastered (Muneccimbasi, 1660).

Indicating a need for instruction in the area critical thinking, and that critical thinking and analysis was a desired objective of religious education. Ḥāmid ibn Burhān ibn Abī Dharr al-Ghifārī wrote, Risālah fī ādāb al-muṭālaʻah (Treaties in the method of Studying) in the fourteenth century. This books primary focus as explained by the author is the explanation and guide for students and researchers (Ghaffari, 869). Al-Ghifari (869) states in his introduction, “Everything that one reads will be either a statement or a propositional claim. The reader must consider if the requirements of a definition are met, if the definition is adequate, is it circular…”. Al-Ghifari’s work is significant because of the profound influence he had on seventeenth century Ottoman scholarly culture. (ElRouayheb, 2015) In fact El-Rouayheb’s research clearly displays a shift in the type of literature written regarding the method of study. This shift focused on the methods of verification and critique rather than the ethical aspect of learning. Al-Ghifari (869) writes in his final advice to his readers,

“And be careful that you don’t restrict yourself to merely rote memorization of words without understanding the inner meanings of those words. This can create stupidity and mental lethargy; in fact, such memorization has the propensity to complete take away one ability to understand deeply”

According to Diallo (2010) and Gunther (2006) and the majority of Islamic educationalist, memorization of Quran and prophetic traditions is the base of the Islamic educational system. The focus and attention placed on memorization of traditional sources of knowledge has caused, in Diallo’s (2010) understanding assumptions about the Islamic educational system. For example, the idea that such as pedagogy impedes on the learner’s creativity and critical thinking skills and that this memorization based pedagogy creates passive learners. These mentioned assumptions regarding the effects of a memorization based educational system are then placed in juxtaposition with the western pedagogy based in critical thinking development where students actively participate in the knowledge building process.

A curriculum development manual was written as early as ninth-century, by Muhammad ibn Sahnun, titled Rules of Conduct for Teachers (Adab al-Muallimun) (Gunther, 2006). This treatise deals with issues that an elementary school teacher might face when teaching. He discusses aspects of curriculum development, examination, appointment and payment of teachers, organization of teaching, supervision of pupils at school, supervision of pupils on their way home, discipline of pupils and conflict resolution and final graduation of students. (Gunther, 2006)

Ibn Sahnun’s treatise also sticks with the Islamic norm of placing Quran memorization as the base for educational pursuits. Interestingly however is Ibn Sahnun’s instruction to teachers to challenge the mind of the pupils.

Gunther (2006) also presents another medieval Islamic scholar who wrote about pedagogical issues, Al-Jahiz. Al-Jahiz (869) penned his treaties, The Book of Teachers (Kitab al-Muallimin) in the eight-century. His book focuses heavily in issues and questions regarding learning and education at a more advanced level. Al-Jahiz places school teachers as the champions of society and the best of all educators. This is an appreciation which according to Gunther is not evident in our society. Al-Jahiz also makes an interesting correlation between the advancement of civilization and the skills of writing and calculation. Which according to Al-Jahiz displays the value of school teachers. Al-Jahiz (869) also brings to light the problems of a memorization based pedagogy. According to Al-Jahiz (869) a good memory is needed and valuable for the learning process. However, he believes, “Memorization inhibits the intellect”. He further explains the “memorization is mere imitation whereas deductive reasoning brings one to certainty and great confidence” (Gunther, 2006).

Al-Jahiz suggest a reasonable balance, he feels that a student that doesn’t exercise the rational reflection than ideas won’t come quickly to him, and if he doesn’t exercise his memorization and retention skills his ideas won’t stay. (Jāḥiẓ, 869)

How can we understand the different approach of Ibn Sahnun and the majority of Islamic educationalist and Al-Jahiz (869) and others who exhibit an abhorrence for memorization based pedagogy? One possible approach for understanding the Islamic pedagogical relationship between memorization and critical thinking is to apply Blooms Taxonomy of learning objectives.

As explained by Qader Vazifeh Damirchi, Mir Seyyedi and Gholamreza Rahimi (2012), “Bloom’s taxonomy is a framework for analyzing and testing levels of knowledge achievements”. This approach may give insight into the deeper workings of the Islamic memorization based pedagogy. The base level of Bloom’s taxonomy are the knowledge objectives. Stated clearly by Bloom himself, the knowledge objective primarily emphasizes the psychological process of remembering. (Bloom, 1956) The second level of the of Bloom’s taxonomy are the comprehension objectives, which represent the lowest level of understanding, an individual must not only have knowledge, but must also understand what he/she knows (Damirchi, Seyyedi, & Rahimi, 2012)

Thereafter Bloom’s taxonomy places the application objective. Which according to Bloom is the use of abstractions in particular and concrete situations (Bloom, 1956). Fourth is the analysis objectives, which is according to Bloom the breakdown of material into its consistent elements. Fifthly, the synthesis objective which is “the putting together of the elements and parts so as to form a whole” (Bloom, 1956). The last of the objectives according to Bloom (1956) is the evaluation objective which is defined as making judgements about the whole. This is the original taxonomy, which has since its creation been revised. David R. Krathwohl (2002) has pointed out that the original taxonomy is ordered from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract (Krathwohl, 2002). Forty-five years after its creation however Bloom’s well accepted taxonomy was revised. The revised Taxonomy maintained its six categories however the names of the categories were changed and rearranged: (1) Remember, (2) Understand, (3) Apply, (4) Analyze, (5) Evaluate, (6) Create (Krathwohl, 2002). Bloom’s taxonomy be it the original or the revised, highlights the importance of building a base of knowledge. Critical thinking is clearly a skill which is developed after a student has obtained some fundamental level of information. In fact, a pedagogy which places over emphasis on critical can run the risk of destroying a student’s ability to learn. If critique comes before acquisition. Hayes (2015) explains, “By critical thinking we mean thinking for one’s self as opposed to just accepting what authorities of various kinds tell us to think”. Is it actually possible to ever begin the learning process without blind acceptance for what authorities say? Hayes (2015) explains that ordinary students normally begin “without comprehension of a text or work of art”. Hayes (2015) explains that a critical thinking based pedagogy teaches a student to reject everything until further investigation. Yet it fails to explain how the student who rejects authoritative knowledge should verify claims about fields which they have no prior knowledge. Hayes (2015) also explains how developing comprehension takes time and is dependent on conversation. Critical thinking undermines meaning-receiving. Meaning-receiving is the act of trying to find meaning in what I am saying. It is both ethical and cognitive as Haynes explains. Interestingly Hayes (2015) explains that this is an act of charity on the part of the listener because,

“you have to reach out to me with charity, to make an effort to construe me as sense-making rather than nonsensical”.

The charity involved is that you establish that I deserve to be listened to before I can prove that what I am saying makes sense. It is an effort to find sense in what the other person is saying. This ethical effort is undermined from the critical thinking orientation, which assumes that belief is easy and challenging is hard. However, as Hayes points out when dealing with the ideas and thoughts of others searching for plausibility may in fact be more challenging than thought processes based in skepticism. Thus according to Hayes the real challenge of today’s classroom is to try in take up the position of interest rather than the position of disinterest.

Al-Ghifari (1868) seems to agree that critical thinking comes after having initially attempted meaning- receiving. He writes in his Treaties on the Method of Studying, “And be careful that you do not restrict yourself to a general reading without following up that reading with close analyzation and deeper investigation. Because this i.e. a topical reading will lead to being deprived of the ability to read deeply and cause of stupidity”. This clearly shows that this eighteenth century Islamic scholar understood the method and approach which Bloom invented. Sidiq ibn Hasan al-Qanuji (1889), wrote an encyclopedic work on learning and teaching, which he titled Abjad al-ulum (the simple truths of knowledge) in the eighteenth century. AlQanuji (1889) quotes the words from another book which his lost today written by Alimullah ibn Abdul al-Razaq. He writes;

“…Studying is a science which teaches one how to learn the meaning of a writer…when you wish to begin studying a work, look at the work from start to finish in a way that extract the meaning from it. If you are successful in extracting the meaning the first time well be it…After extracting the meaning examine every conceptual aspect very closely for any deficiency…” (al-Qanuji, 1889)

It appears that this source which predates al-Qanuji (1889) understands the importance of meaning-receiving before critical analysis.

Both the Western Critical thinking based pedagogy and an Islamic pedagogy have religious roots. And while the Western pedagogy has for the most part divorced religion, the Islamic pedagogy has remained deeply spiritual and religion orientated. With Memorization as a key stepping stone in the process of acquisition of knowledge, it is not seen as an obstruction to learning until it is made the objective of educational pursuits in either of the pedagogical systems. There also seems to remain questions regarding how a critical thinking pedagogy effects acquisition of knowledge meaning-receiving. Questions regarding the ability of Islamic seminaries to actually achieve their critical thinking objective still needs to be discussed.

References

Alexander, P., Murphy, P. K., B. S., D. K., & Parker, D. (1997). College instruction and concomitant changes in students’ knowledge . Contemporary Education Psychology, 125-146. al-Qanuji, S. i. (1889). Abjad al-uloom. manshurrat wa wazarah al-thuqafa. Al-Sharaf, A. (2013). Developing Scientific Thinking Methods And Application In Islamic Education. Education, Vol 133 No.3 272-282. Bloom, B. S. (1956).

Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals . Essex: Longman Group. Damirchi, Q. V., Seyyedi, M. H., & Rahimi, G. (2012).

Evaluation of knowledge and critical thinking at Islamic Azad University. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 213-221. Diallo, I. (2012). Introduction: The Interface between Islamic and Western pedagogies and Epistemologies . International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning , 7(3): 175-179. El-Rouayheb, K. (2015).

The Rise of “Deep Reading”. In K. El-Rouayheb, Islamic intellectual history in the seventeenth century (pp. 97-128). New York: Cambridge University Press. Ghaffari, H. (869). Risalah fi Adab al-Mutalah. Harvard University . MS Arab SM4335–39, fols. 1v–6v. Gunther, S. (2006).

Be Masters in That You Teach and Continue to Learn:. Comparative Education Review, 367-388. Halstead, J. (2004).

An Islamic Concept of Education. Comparative Education, Vol. 40, No.4, pp. 517-529. Hayes, D. (2015). Against critical thinking pedagogy. Arts & Humanities in Higher Education , 14(4) 318–328. Hussien, S. (2007).

Critical Pedagogy, Islamisation of Knowledge and Muslim EDucation. Intellectual Discourse, Vol 15, 85-104. Jāḥiẓ. (869). Kitābān lil-Jāhiẓ : Kitāb al-muʻallimīn wa-Kitāb fī al-radd ʻalá al-mushabbahah. TelAviv : Universiṭat Tel-Aviv, ha-Ḥug li-śefat ṿe-sifrut ʻIvrit, 1980. Krathwohl, D. R. (2002).

A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory and Practice, 212-218. Makdisi, G. (1989). Scholaticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West. Journal of the American Oriental Society , Vol. 109, No. 2, pp175-182. Muneccimbasi, A. L. (1660). Fayd al-Haram fi Adab al-Mutala. Laleli , Istanbul : MS, Istanbul, Suleymaniye Kutuphanesi. Sabkia, A. a. (2013).

The madrasah concept of Islamic pedagogy. Educational Review, Vol. 65, No. 3, 342-356. Zaman, M. Q. (1999). Religious Education and the Rhetoric of Reform. Comparitive Studies in Society and History, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 294-323.

Imam Mikaeel Ahmed Smith (Michael V Smith) is an Islamic scholar, writer, and activist striving to meet the educational needs of communities at the Qalam Institute in Texas. He served as the Islamic & Quran Coordinator and Islamic Studies Teacher for the Tarbiyah Academy. Imam Mikaeel previously served as a resident scholar at the Islamic Society of Annapolis and the Islamic Society of Baltimore. At the age of 18, he embraced Islam after reading the Qur’an and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Within a year after his shahadah, Imam Mikaeel enrolled at the Dar ul-Uloom al-Madania in Buffalo, NY, where he learned to read Arabic and memorized the Qur’an. In 2008, he traveled overseas to study Arabic at the Jami’a Abu Noor in Damascus, Syria. Imam Mikaeel is passionate about meeting the needs of students of knowledge, building Islamic literacy, working with youth, and striving for social justice.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Chiquita Williams

    May 13, 2016 at 3:07 AM

    Bismillah…all knowledge is sacred knowledge because it stems from Allah SWT alone. There really is no difference between the religious and the secular.

    • Avatar

      J L Fuller

      May 21, 2016 at 3:33 PM

      An interesting concept. As a Christian, (A Mormon one at that) what you say seems right. Everything we see around us had a beginning. As a beleiver, one has to accept that someone was in charge of it all whether He created Creation with the aid of others or some other method. In the end, it all comes back to what God did. His methodology is a deep dark secret however – unless one gets into scientific study of what we see. That is when we discover nutrinos, quarks, molecules, the universe and mysteries of all sort. Scientific study does not seem to deny us knowledge about God. It provides us deeper understanding of Him.

    • Avatar

      Zara Robertson

      July 15, 2016 at 6:43 AM

      This is an interesting article but does not convey quite properly the critical pedagogy embedded at the educational self-understanding in Islam.
      For a comprehensive treatment of the subject see “Islam’s Heritage of Critical Education: The Missing Catalyst in Addressing the Crisis Informing Modern Muslim Presence” by A Sahin at https://www.academia.edu/25528161/Islams_Heritage_of_Critical_Education_The_Missing_Catalyst_in_Addressing_the_Crisis_Informing_Modern_Muslim_Presence

  2. Avatar

    Umm Jehan

    May 13, 2016 at 7:12 AM

    Criticism and difference of opinion are two completely different things. Our deen does not need any critical analysis by anyone. Why would the students of Islamic institutions want to critise any aspect of their deen, which was divenly revealed by Allah(swt) on His beloved Prophet (pbuh) and Rasoolallah (pbuh) explained and acted upon every aspect of this deen. So there is absolutely no ground for any criticism, but there can be differences of opinions.

    • Avatar

      Mustafa A Kawooya

      October 29, 2016 at 3:39 PM

      I think you, Ms Umm Jehan, appear to confuse criticising and critiquing. You are also assuming that evry aspect of Islamic life is explicitly covered by devine revealation. You would be aware that while all Muslims agree it’s way outside of anyone’s capacity to critique divine revelation like all of the Quranic content, and so the Prophet (SAW)’s guidance, the manner and means of reporting and transmitting Hadith is not outside the boundaries of critical analysis. So are the remaining two sourses of Ijtihad and Qiyas.

      In summary, the way I understand it is critical thought is not outside of what can, if not should, be inculcated in Islamic caricullum and within Muslims’ day to day learning and practicing of their faith.

  3. Avatar

    MalikSaabSays

    May 14, 2016 at 12:16 AM

    I’ve been involved with pedagogical & andragogical paradigms lately. Reading your article gave me great insight into the history of it. The way these concepts are interconnected and how despite the different timelines and the labels with which they were described, the basic concepts remain the same.

    To me its interesting that we stay stuck on the first rung i.e
    remembering (memorization), often not moving beyond that.
    Questioning, critical thinking & reasoning are a basic requirement of being ‘Muslim’ towards Allah Most High, as He says about His verses & signs and stories of the Quran, that it is guidance for those who ponder & contemplate/reflect over it and use reason (23:68, 2:242, 8:22, 30:28).

    Amazing it is.

  4. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    May 14, 2016 at 2:36 AM

    without an actual degree in Islamic studies, but from the few classes I have sat in on, I can say we have to understand that any study is a discipline that usually entails some memorization. We understand 1+1 = 2, not through analysis, but through memorization. God is one is a basic axiom in Islam. If you are “skeptical” about the Oneness of God, then your reflections and skepticism become open displays of an untrained mind. The internet is an example. If you are using the internet, yet working within the basic thought guidelines on any subject, it’s a powerful useful too. When get people who say, they are using the internet to study Islam and then decide that hadeeths are not for the modern world, that all religion is the same or that there is a messenger after Muhammad, then that is what happens to an untrained mind that tries to engage in critical thinking. Memorization is a training of the mind. Muslims are critical thinkers. After we are given our axioms, we then proceed to learn how important it is to be critical thinkers about the material world that surrounds us. We know we are passing through a temporal phenomenon, so our critical thinking is we don’t get too happy or sad at any momentary material development. Our final outcome lies with Allah. This is skepticism at its highest level. We are not skeptical about God the way most people are not skeptical about 1+1, but that in no way means Muslims aren’t taught to think in a critically. Properly viewed, Islam is the science which teaches healthy skepticism..

  5. Avatar

    Al Muntadhar

    May 14, 2016 at 5:55 AM

    As i think to my self, I come to the conclusion that i was by Allah sent as a Mercy to Mankind, But most people do not know. They wanderer blindly in darkness, So they do not see Allah’s signs, They do not hear the call of the messengers of Allah, And they do not understand that this life is Merely a delusion through the false promises of Satan and the enjoyment of evil last only for a brief moment for the wicked. The Truth i Eternal, so is Allah’s promise of his severe punishment or the excellent reward of paradise. Then will they not reason, but most of them are defiantly disobedient. They will have no helpers against Allah and they will not be aided and their punishment shall not be lightened. But as for those who believe and do righteous deeds and endure patiently with their trust in Allah, They shall have the greatest of rewards and have an eternal abode of peace in the pretense of their Lord. Then ask you self in truth with Allah as your witness, WHO is more honorable then the humble servant of Allah among the people, Who strive with might and power for Allah’s Cause with the small provision Allah have provided for him but with the great blessings of Faith, Righteousness, and a pure Heart. O People of Allah, Do not be among the first to doubt and do not be impressed by the widespread corruption on Earth. And remember what was the end of the corrupter’s from before our time. How many city’s and people have Allah Al Mighty not destroyed with a complete destruction, And brought new generations after that. Allah is not unaware of what you do!
    Then o you who have believed, Do fear Allah so you might be successfully, and fear only him so you do succeed.

  6. Avatar

    Omer Riaz

    May 17, 2016 at 7:07 AM

    As the world has moved into a more digital age since the dawn of the 21st century, many aspects of life have also evolved, one of them being education techniques. With the wide scale implementation of the internet, online education has become widespread and significantly popular enough that many universities and colleges that have been operating for hundreds of years now have broken their old shackles and traditions and started offering online programs for those who are interested. Similarly many Islamic centers and institutes have made use of this new technique of technology and started online schools where people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike from all over the world can learn how to recite Quran online and enroll into courses such as online Quran qaida classes and online Quran Tafseer classes. It is generally prescribed to people who wish to learn the Quran and to those parents who wish to have their children memorize the Quran to start at an early age.

    • Avatar

      Notheist

      June 5, 2016 at 5:34 PM

      In the upcoming age of technology and loss of traditional “work” it will be the ability to think critically and creativity that will come to be valued, they will be the things that will be most difficult to replicate.

  7. Avatar

    Irfan

    May 17, 2016 at 4:44 PM

    studying some Islamic subjects, perhaps fiqh, aqidah, etc can be likened to how it was at school… you can get an A grade in chemistry by memorising the whole textbook but actually understanding very little. However, if you actually understand the concepts you may only need memorise a small amount to get your A grade.

  8. Avatar

    Mohammad

    May 19, 2016 at 5:44 AM

    The main goal of education should not be to produce critical thinkers but person with high morals, ethics and values based on the divine revelations. Since, every society at every age has certain set of morals, ethics and values which can be debatable by the change in innovations, discoveries or perspective arises due to the introduction of new technology, we must resort to the divine revelation for our morals, ethics and values which is the ultimate standard for mankind. When we set the goal of education to produce critical thinkers, then in actuality we produce people with doubts, questions and confusions as critical thinking inherently based on the questioning of the life style, social customs, practices and beliefs. So “critical thinkers” term is very problematic; may be we can say we want to produce person with deep thinking and understanding guided by the morals, ethics and values set by the divine revelation. Allah knows the best.

  9. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    May 20, 2016 at 12:00 PM

    Critical thinking requires moral traits which Islam inculcates: intellectual patience, intellectual courage, intellectual honesty, intellectual empathy, and intellectual clarity. All these are reflected in Islamic teaching. Critical thinking for Islamic pedagogy is the ability to see MORE in Islam, not less – the ability of Islam to expand for our needs and aims. This requires a belief in the wisdom of Allah and trust in Allah. Otherwise, you commit intellectual treachery and the secrets of Islam are closed off to you.

    “Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better.”
    ― Richard W. Paul

    Changing *how* we think can help us find new wisdoms in our deen. Ibn Abbas’ sayings and wisdom are a good example of this, for example how he determines Laylatul Qadr is 27th of Ramadhan via his tafsir of Surah al-Qadr.

    Critical thinking is also important in how we see patterns in the creation or “Sunnatullah” and how we can gain yaqin in our deen. When we struggle, and do mujahada, in thinking about our deen’s wisdom and the Qur’an there is a reward for that, if we have the correct niyyah. There are hadith that speak also of wisdom being in the hands of angels and being given to us when we are humble and taken away when arrogant.

    So spirituality and intellectuality are connected symbiotically in Islam; our spirituality and intellectuality feed off each other. We aren’t learning only for learning sake but for spiritual benefit, and we aren’t spiritually striving for spiritual benefits, but for intellectual benefits too.

    di.

  10. Avatar

    Muzzi Rahman

    May 20, 2016 at 12:28 PM

    I really love Islam . Islam teaches all about life . Only Islam religion evolved over the centuries. I love Allah and Rasulullah. Great post

  11. Avatar

    umroh bekasi

    May 22, 2016 at 8:32 PM

    Islam is the best, i wanna life and die with Islam

  12. Avatar

    Sir Magpie De Crow

    May 24, 2016 at 1:20 AM

    “The unification of religious knowledge and secular knowledge is fundamental for one attempting to understand the similarities and differences between western pedagogies and Islamic pedagogies”.

    Interesting comment.

    But I have to imagine that those who desire a increasingly pure religiosity like the Salafists of Boko Haram would be disinterested in such a noble pursuit. And to be frank, the Salafists of that strain are not just found in great numbers in Nigeria. I once years ago in New York City encountered a group of them preaching about the endless evils of a secular existence on a street corner. They had the stench of that corrosive/Saudi form of religiosity that was presented in a faux African-American package of 1960’s militancy. It was a grotesque spectacle that hopefully did not ensnare a large number of impressionable youth.

    They had all the warmth, compassion and humanity of an large infestation of silverfish one finds in dank basements.
    The critical thinking that is essential to keeping the world from sinking into the pit of prophetic irrationality, ignorance and religiously sanctioned cruelty is historically considered the enemy of the respected community “clerics”. Perhaps now more than ever.

    This is something I have seen time and time again with my own eyes.

  13. Avatar

    Noble Peace

    May 28, 2016 at 6:27 AM

    sallam alaikom,

    sorry i am going over board but if the mass migration to the Holy land was taken up, but may i suggest that if with in the muslim convoys that mobiles be switched off so that we can shun shaytan as much as possible.

    forgive me again and peace and blessings of the One the Only Allah the GREATEST, GREATER than any puny satanic minion, whether king queen president or prime minister. can you hear mr canditate , yes you are right, speech is not too great! :)

    Zakaria the second please if you wish ….

    from the madman hahahahahahhaha

    peace unto those who follow the guidnace of the Lord!

    • Avatar

      Noble Peace

      August 2, 2016 at 1:42 AM

      bismillah w salat w sallam ala khair al khulq sayidna Muhammed,

      apologies…just a little clear up…..bells and dogs…

      also, just to re-instate and re-iterate..Allah the GREATEST…GREATER than the above mentioned..GREATER than me and you..GREATER than the one they claim they worship.i.e..the man Jesus son of Mary…Also GREATER than..Muhammed /Moses/ Abraham too…and may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them…..straight to the point…ALLAH GREATER than all HE created…i.e. everything!

      zackaryia..was it here or there..past/present…..albeit bigger bro has got a new flow ( I do not even know why I mentioned that – but hawa is sometimes cruel to one self- I suppose )..so now I say yahya the second please too….

      sorry I am just an original nutter…I know I am not alone…neither is Syria too…..with that said, satan will pay for the latter too..and who ever owes their relative anything better start paying up before it gets too late too…..(Arrogance and power are addictive aren’t they??)……may we all learn to fight our nafs..if it is the eternal abode of true success and happiness that we truly crave…..well we all crave it——but perhaps we all go about it in all the wrong ways………..!

      p.s. verily some speech is a form of magic – I am definetly not eloquently spoken..etc, but just a reminder to switch off and if not like me at least sometimes….at least be deliberate in what we hear and see…….they say what goes up must come down..so just another reminder for me and you what comes in goes out…i.e. the eyes and ears = the windows to the heart….God forgive us.

      peace

      • Avatar

        Noble Peace

        August 2, 2016 at 1:52 AM

        over there….fix yourself and home unit first…and I tell myself that first….you do know where the solution is do you not?…..unfortunately..mimics are given..us the people do not really know who anybody is…..so we can not even save our selves..let alone any body else…..where there is a will there is a way….yet ultimately, it is Allah’s will all the way……………..

  14. Avatar

    Rome caput mundi

    May 29, 2016 at 1:47 PM

    Charles Darwin rules!!!!!

  15. Avatar

    Munazzah

    May 30, 2016 at 11:28 AM

    I am currently studying Islamic pedagogy via ITEP the Islamic teacher education program: a well organized course with lots to reflect upon.
    It would be helpful to know the context of this article. Was it for a certain course or assignment?
    Looking forward to reading it more carefully in sha Allah.
    In the mean time, here is the link for ITEP if anyone else is interested:
    http://islamicteachereducation.com/

  16. Avatar

    Hamid J

    June 2, 2016 at 12:35 PM

    Lets see some interesting islamic news here: http://islamicsorcery.com/

    • Avatar

      Into the Light

      June 13, 2016 at 3:49 AM

      May Allah destroy the will of Shaitan as it is weak, he has no power over man. Moderators should delete this blatant advert for worshiping the devil and dabbling in magic.

      May Allah guide you and your like from the clutches of darkness and bring you into the light.

  17. Avatar

    Noble Peace

    August 2, 2016 at 1:55 AM

    sallam alaikom…..

    excuse my madness…..look back and research…seek n find..education is the key

    peace

    • Avatar

      Noble Peace

      August 2, 2016 at 2:06 AM

      first man made from mud!…conserve and preserve the future…or is it the past??…uplifting or elevation……tulteef and patience..but do not be wrongly mistaken!!

      al-aakiba lil mutaqeen..may I be form among them and all of you too..

      a peaceful zealous essene

  18. Avatar

    Narayan Murthy

    August 5, 2016 at 8:48 AM

    WATCH – Mr. Deep Trivedi’s fitting reply to Mr. Zakir Naik on https://youtu.be/VRZI_TGAalc

  19. Avatar

    i was thinking ...emmm...oh i forgot too

    October 18, 2016 at 5:33 PM

    salaam alaikom

    According to Al-Jahiz (869) a good memory is needed and valuable for the learning process. However, he believes, “Memorization inhibits the intellect”. He further explains the “memorization is mere imitation whereas deductive reasoning brings one to certainty and great confidence” (Gunther, 2006).

    reminds of Omar RA and how he and the other sahaba would memorize an ayah or two at a time. Subhan Allah. Also what our beloved (p.b.u.h) said about verses and lost or untied camels, one way or the other, could also be mentioned.

    may Allah gives us all tawfiq dunyia and akhira.ameen.

    peace

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir

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charity
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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#Islam

He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Merium Khan, Guest Contributor

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Tawakkul- a leaf falling
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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#Life

So You Are The Wali, Now What?

Dr Shadee Elmasry

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

The way most Muslims (as well as conservative Christians and Jews) live, a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage from the father.

The father is not just a turnstile who has to say yes. He is a “wali” or protector and guardian of his daughter’s rights. So he will be asking some serious questions that would be awkward if the woman had to ask them.

Furthermore, in the Muslim community today esp. in the West, there are many converts that seek out a wali because they have no male relative who is Muslim. In this post, I share some guidelines aimed at the wali in his new role and stories that are useful.

Being a wali is not an honorary role. You’re not just throwing out the first pitch. You’re actually trying to throw curveballs to see whether the proposal checks out or has issues.

Here are some questions and demands a wali should make:

Background check: Call and meet at least four people that were close to the man who has proposed and interview them. There’s no husn al-zann (good opinion) in marriage. As a potential suitor, you are rejected until you prove yourself, much like an application for employment. These days, most people’s background can be found on their social media, so the wali has to spend time scrolling down. Keep scrolling, read the comments, look at the pictures, click on who’s tagged in those pictures. Get a good idea. You are a private investigator *before* the problem happens, not after. 

Check financials:  You need to see the financials to make sure they are not in some ridiculous debt or have bad credit such that they can’t even rent an apartment or cover basic needs. You want some evidence that he can fulfill the obligation of maintenance.

Check the educational background or skill set: This is a given. If it’s solid, then it can outweigh lack of funds at this moment.

Check medical records: If this is a stranger, the wali needs medical records. There was once a wealthy, handsome young man that was suave and a seemingly amazing prospect who proposed for a girl who was comparatively of average looks and from a family of very modest means. The mother and daughter were head over heels, but the dad had enough common sense to know something was up.

“Why would he come knocking on our door?,” he asked.

So the father demanded medical records. The guy never produced them. When the dad pressed him, the man admitted, he had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and that’s why he couldn’t find anyone else to marry him.

Now note, there are legitimate cases where people have a past when they have made mistakes. This happens to the best of us, and the door for tawbah (repentance) is open. In those cases, there are organizations that match-make for Muslims with STDs. People should act in a responsible manner and not damage the lives of other humans beings.

Lifestyle: It is your job to check if the two parties have agreed on life essentials such as religious beliefs, where to live, how to school kids, etc?

In-laws: Have you at least met the family of the suitor and spent some time with them to make sure there’s nothing alarming?

Engagement: Contrary to popular understanding, there is such a thing as engagement in Islam. It’s an announcement of a future commitment to marriage. Nothing changes between the fiancees, but nobody is allowed to propose anymore. The purpose of engagement is to give time for both parties to get ready. For example, the groom may want to save up some money, or the girl may be finishing up college. Also, it’s easy to put on a face during the get-to-know process, but it’s hard to fake it over an eight or nine-month period. I remember a story where a young woman was engaged, and four months into the engagement they discovered the young man was still getting to know other women. He basically reserved the girl and then went to check for better options. Needless to say, he was dumped on the spot. Engagements are commonly a few months. I think more than a year is too much.

Legal/Civil:  The marriage should be legal/civil in the country where you will settle. If you accept a Shariah marriage but not a civil one, know that you’re asking for legal complications, especially if a child enters the picture. (Ed. Note- we realize that some countries do not allow legal registration of more than one marriage- if that is a consideration please look at all options to protect your ward. There are ways to get insurance that can be set up.)

Mahr: Get 50% of the dowry upfront (or some decent amount) and whatever is scheduled to be paid later should be written and signed. I’ve seen too many cases where a really nice dowry is “promised” but never produced.

The dowry should be commensurate to current standards depending on the man’s job. For example in our area in America 5, 7, or 10k is a common range.

In sum, there are very few things in life that are as bad as misery in marriage. The wali’s job is to eliminate the bad things that could have been avoided. If that means he has to be demanding and hated for a few months, it’s worth the cost.

It’s preventative medicine.

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