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

Recent 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”

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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.

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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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#Culture

Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas | Book Review

In the second decade of the 21st century in America, Muslims consider themselves “as American as apple pie,” don American-flag hijabs, and consider their presence and participation in American politics as a crowning achievement. There is little to no resemblance between the majority of the American Muslim population today, and the very first Muslims who landed in America – not as privileged individuals, but as enslaved people at the hands of vicious white colonizers who had already decimated the Indigenous population and who had no qualms about destroying the lives of their slaves. Dr Sylviane A. Diouf’s book “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas” tracks the journeys and experiences of African Muslims who found themselves shipped aboard slave-trafficking vessels and taken to the other side of their known world. From their induction into the Transatlantic slave trade, to their determination to uphold the five pillars of Islam – regardless of their circumstances – to the structure of the enslaved Muslim community, their prized (and dangerous) literacy, and their never-ending resistance against slavery, Diouf illustrates in incredible detail the powerful and painful experiences of enslaved African Muslims, and the legacy that they left behind in the Americas.

This review of “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas” will focus on the unique qualities and formidable faith of the very first Muslims in the Americas, and the legacy that they left for Muslims in the Americas today.

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In Chapter One, Diouf begins by answering the very first question that arises when considering the path of enslaved African Muslims: how did they end up enslaved in the first place? Slavery already existed as an institution in Africa, though vastly different from the horrifying standards of the European slavers. Between the existing slave trade, military conflicts that created prisoners-of-wars who were then sold as slaves, and the European propensity for kidnapping innocent people, many Muslims found themselves swept into the Transatlantic slave trade. These same Muslims were the ones who provided us with much of the knowledge that we have today regarding the American slave experience. Most African Muslims were literate, due to the religious and cultural importance of education; of those enslaved, many were religious scholars or students of knowledge. They described how they were captured, the torturous journey of the slave caravans across the continent, and the even more horrific experience of the slave ships themselves. These men also documented their lives as slaves, and indirectly, provided deep insight into their own inner nature. 

Despite the intense pressure and demands on African enslaved people to renounce their ‘heathen faith’ and be inducted as Christians, African Muslims demonstrated a commitment to Islam that should cause modern Muslims today to feel deeply ashamed in comparison. The very first words that Job ben Solomon (Ayuba Suleyman Diallo) uttered, after running away and then being discovered in Pennsylvania, were the shahaadah; Omar ibn Sa’id wrote numerous Arabic manuscripts, in which the shahaadah was always found (Diouf, 2013, p. 72-73). When Catholic priests tried hard to educate slaves about Christianity as part of the conversion process, the African Muslims were both resistant and unimpressed; they were already familiar with many Biblical stories, thanks to their Qur’anic education. Of those who seemed to have accepted Christianity, many did so only outwardly, while confirming their belief in Allah and His Messenger in every aspect of their lives. Indeed, in Brazil and other areas where there were large concentrations of Muslim slaves, the Muslims established underground madaaris to maintain and pass on their Islamic knowledge and education. Muhammad Kaba Saghanughu was a man whom the missionaries had thought was successfully converted when he provided all the right answers to their pre-baptismal questions – eleven years later, in a Baptist Missionary Society notebook, he wrote a 50-page fiqh manual in Arabic that encompassed the rulings of salaah, marriage, and other topics. 

Slavery did not stop the African Muslims from maintaining their salaah in whatever manner they could manage, considering their circumstances. Some did so in secret, while others insisted on upholding their salaah in public, to the extent that these incidents were recorded by the descendants of slaves and slaveholders alike. In Brazil, the African Muslim community – both enslaved and freed – held together so strongly that they were able to secretly establish Salatul Jumu’ah and attend gatherings of dhikr, even in the face of intense scrutiny (Diouf, 2013, p. 88-89). 

Perhaps one of the most greatly moving examples of enslaved African Muslims’ dedication to their Islam was that even in the midst of the utter poverty of slavery, they found a way to uphold zakaah, sawm, and Hajj. In Brazil, it was recorded that the Muslims would end Ramadan with the exchanging of gifts, no matter how simple they were; in truth, these gifts were zakaatul fitr and zakaatul maal.

In other areas, the descendants of Muslim slaves recalled that their parents and grandparents would make rice cakes called saraka at least once a year – saraka was a corruption of the Arabic word sadaqah, and the rice cakes were a Jumu’ah tradition in West Africa. (Diouf, 2013, p. 92-94) In Ramadan, many Muslims sought to fast; indeed, despite the incredible hardship and lack of nutritious food that the slaves already endured, there were those who fasted voluntarily outside of Ramadan as well, often by pretending to be ill. They knew that their situation meant that fasting – in Ramadan and outside of it – was not obligatory on them, and yet, to them, no circumstance was bad enough to warrant not even attempting to observe Ramadan. Hajj was another pillar of Islam that was both impossible and no longer obligatory on the enslaved Muslims; yet in Brazil, in a house that was used as a masjid, there were illustrated depictions of the Ka’bah – demonstrating the emotional bond that the African Muslims had with the Sacred House. 

Throughout Diouf’s book, the overwhelming theme that arises is the fierce commitment that enslaved African Muslims had to Islam. It was not superficial, shallow, or easily shrugged away in the face of difficulty. Instead, the African Muslims held onto their belief in Allah and their daily, lived practise of Islam, even when they had every excuse to relax their obligations. They upheld their Islamic and cultural dress code, not just at its minimum standard of modesty, but in a way that clearly demonstrated their religious identity (Diouf, 2013, p. 101-110). They found ways to make prayer mats and dhikr beads; they gave their children Muslim names in secret, when they were expected to present themselves as Christians; they even strove to observe whatever they could of the Islamic dietary code, by refusing to drink alcohol or eat pork – Ayuba Diallo went so far as to only eat dhabiha meat that he himself slaughtered (Diouf, 2013, p. 119-122). The enslaved African Muslims valued their Islamic identity above all. Even in slavery, they knew that their ‘izzah came from their Deen – and so did those around them, who noted their unique bearing in the face of the horrors of slavery. 

The story of the African Muslims who were enslaved and brought to the Americas is not merely a history lesson, or a token homage in honour of Black History Month. It is a story that echoes the persecution of the earliest Muslims in Makkah, and applicable to Muslims today. Muslim minorities in the West are often all too eager to complain of our difficulties and to seek religious exemptions for our minor inconveniences. Yet who are we in comparison to the earliest African-American Muslims, who endurable the unspeakable? Who are we, with our privileges, with our very freedom, in comparison to those Muslims who were stripped of everything and everyone they knew and loved, and who still held ever tighter to the Rope of Allah? One may say that it is unfair to compare us and them; that to recognize their struggles should not mean invalidating the challenges we face today. Certainly, we face numerous different fitan that are very different from what they experienced, but the truth is that we should compare our attitudes with those of our predecessors. We should be ashamed of our own weaknesses in times of privilege compared to their strength in times of oppression. More importantly, we must learn from them what it means to have such a relationship with our Creator and our Deen that we are capable of surviving and thriving in even the worst of circumstances. 

May Allah have mercy on the enslaved African Muslims who endured one of this Ummah’s historic tragedies, and may He make us of those who demonstrate their strength of love for Him through every tragedy of our own.

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#Islam

Remembering Mufti Naeem (Jamia Binoria)

Guest post from Areeba Baig

Sometimes you are so busy with life you don’t think much of where it all started, how you became who you are, the journeys you took and the people who helped you along them. And then something happens which forces you to pause. Only then you remember there were people who played a major role in shaping you to the person you are today, in turning your dreams which you thought would remain dreams forever into a reality.

I’m remembering now.

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I was just one of his thousands of students. Not one of the best, not even close to accomplished. I’ll admit I wasn’t even someone who was considerate enough to keep much contact, keep him updated, despite how much he had advised us to. As the years went by, the relationship, even memories, faded away.

And yet I haven’t been able to focus on anything else all week long. Not surprising, of course, considering the influence he had and the role he played in enabling me to study. It’s surprising, rather, how I took his presence granted for all of these years.

I wasn’t sure whether I’d share this initially. I was writing this to sort my own mind and thoughts. Then I remembered he would tell us that he hoped we’d remember him with goodness all our lives, and share his words when we teach in the future, the same way he’d always quote his own teachers and mention them by name when he taught. A legacy through ‘ilm. Sadaqah jariyah. That is all he ever worked for.

Apart from the final year Bukhari class, I didn’t have much direct encounter with him, but my entire stay in Pakistan was due to him and under his care. It was his invitation and his hospitality that brought me ther,e so everything about my stay in Pakistan is intrinsically linked to him and his family.

When I went to Pakistan to study back in 2006, there were few, if any, quality Alimiyyah programs in America for girls. I chose Pakistan because I had family there. But, really, I chose it because of his school. There are many seminaries in Pakistan, but it was only his that really accommodated foreigners.

He would go out of his way to encourage and allow foreign students in and accommodated every request or need along the way. Although he had many other responsibilities, foreign students were his personal guests. He understood that traveling so far and studying in a land where everything was different was a big adjustment and sacrifice, so he did his best to make it easier. He also understood the stakes here; if these students could successfully study and go back to their lands, the benefit they could have in their communities was critical.

This treatment wasn’t just for western students. This is how he treated every student who came from afar. Students from Thailand and Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Tajikistan, Russia and Fiji; students from remote villages in Sindh and Baluchistan and other parts of Pakistan all called his madrasa their home. And that’s one of the biggest things that sets him apart.

As Mufti Rafi said, “His service to foreign students can never be forgotten. There is no similar example in any other madrasa.”

When I last visited Pakistan two years ago, a classmate of mine and now a teacher at the madrasa for the past decade asked me “We don’t get many students from America anymore the way we used to before. Why? You guys aren’t encouraging kids to study anymore?”

It dawned upon me then that his dream to spread this knowledge worldwide had already begun to be realized. I told her there were now so many programs and schools and teachers in America that students didn’t need to go abroad the way they did before.

Thousands of his students, male and female, are teaching across the world. He’d proudly tell us of his students starting madrasas in remote villages in Baluchistan and Sindh. “These girls are educating their entire villages and communities, people didn’t even know how to say the Kalima before. People come from miles away to learn from our students.”

It is this that really gave him joy and fulfillment.

At a time when the political climate in Pakistan made it difficult for foreign students, he took responsibility for all of them. He promised them he would take care of them. He fought for their right to study. He built relationships with ambassadors of other countries. He opened his doors to both foreigners and anyone else who wanted to see what a madrasa is like. He invited the media to come and see a madrasa from the inside, to show them that far from being places of extremism and violence, they were places of learning and teaching sacred knowledge. He so earnestly believed that madrasas could and should exist in the modern world, and he knew it wouldn’t be possible without building links with the outside world, something that many madrasas were hesitant to do then.

His efforts and attitude enabled so many to come and study the words of Allah and the Prophet ﷺ. Even those who didn’t attend his institute benefited from his presence, knowing that he was there to stand up for them if anything was to happen. He didn’t discriminate when it came to helping others. Any foreign student of any institute was welcome at his place.

There are so many stories of entire families traveling to Pakistan to study at his seminary. And many more of them entrusting their children to him completely. He fulfilled that trust.

There was a girl in my class from Tanzania. When she was about 9 her uncle came to Pakistan for Tabligh, and upon visiting the seminary he was impressed with the opportunities here for girls. Mufti Naeem invited him to send his children, and he went back and brought four of his daughters and nieces to study. The girls grew up there. They first memorized the Qur’an, then started the alim course. He came back eight years later at the graduation ceremony of the oldest girl and decided to take all the girls back because the separation had been too long. He brought home with him four hafizas of the Qur’an, one who had completed the alima course, and another who had nearly completed it. Her uncle’s plan was that the oldest girls would tutor the rest in their studies and then they’d all teach together in their city in Tanzania. We had laughed then at the idea of her and her cousin teaching the younger cousins books like Mishkat, but we missed the bigger point, that this was how knowledge is shared and spread.

There was another girl in my class from Sri Lanka. Her entire family moved to Pakistan and both parents and all three siblings enrolled. They first memorized the Qur’an, and then completed the course before returning to Sri Lanka.

These are just some of the hundreds of stories of people studying at his seminary, who otherwise wouldn’t have that chance, and then going back to benefit others. This was his constant emphasis. Study and teach those who don’t have access. Always be involved in teaching, he told us in one of our final lessons. Even if you have no formal teaching opportunity, just invite people to your home to learn.

His concern for girls’ Islamic education in particular is especially noteworthy. Of course, there are many seminaries and institutes of Islamic knowledge for girls in Pakistan, and many people who support them. But he was one of the influential people who was an outspoken proponent from the beginning and truly believed in the potential. He was also one of the few who accommodated female foreign students, especially those who were there without family.

Before I went to Pakistan to study, my father consulted other scholars. Some discouraged him. Doing an Alima course isn’t that important they said, especially with all the difficulties and risks of going far from home. It’s not fard to study the deen at that level. Karachi was going through a very unstable period back then so they did have a point. We also inquired with other girls madrasas in Karachi, that were closer to where my extended family lived (Jamia Binoria was in the outskirts of Karachi). But they all said they don’t allow girls over the age of 13 and they don’t encourage Americans to attend.

Mufti Naeem, rahimahullah, was the only one who really encouraged it. He’s the one who understood the value and need, who was willing to take responsibility for it all, despite the risks. He’s the one who kept inviting my father, and reassured him everything will be taken care of, that there would be nothing to worry about. He accommodated all our requests and needs, to the point of welcoming my grandmother into the madrasa community and allowing her to spend her day there whenever she liked. He assured us that my only worry should be to study. Everything else will be taken care of.

While many other girls madrasas in Pakistan suffice with the standardized curriculum for girls, which back then (it has since changed a bit) was an abridged version of the regular curriculum and especially subpar when it came to subjects like Arabic. Jamia Binoria had its own curriculum, which included a very strong Arabic curriculum. Many other teachers including my late teacher, the principal of the girls division, Maulana Masood Baig rahimahullah, had a role in this but it was also something Mufti Naeem would take pride in and mention. It’s something I took for granted initially and only much later did I learn that most madrasas in Pakistan, and perhaps even worldwide do not have a strong Arabic program for girls, which makes it very difficult for them to pursue independent research and further studies after graduation.

Jamia Binoria was also one of the few madrasas in Pakistan then that had an ifta (mufti) course for women. In my final year, at least once a week he’d encourage us to enroll in it the next year. He’d tell us how important doing takhassus fil ifta was, how if he was to have it his way he would make ifta a requirement for all students. He would emphasize how much there is a need for female mufti(a)s, how there are already thousands of male Muftis, but they can never replace the role a female one can have.

He’d talk about how proud he was of all the female ifta students, how every time he looks at their work he’s so impressed. “They’re better than our male students,” he’d say. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t become a mufti. If a woman can become a surgeon or engineer why can’t she become a mufti?”

As a teacher he was always encouraging, appreciative of the smallest of achievements, and ready to praise and make du’a for his students. The term “mushfiq” is what everyone is using to describe him, because that is what he was. Loving, caring, encouraging.

In Pakistan, teachers don’t really praise students; the tendency (both in schools/colleges and madrasas) is to put students down. And yes, too much praise can be dangerous, but a little bit of encouragement and upliftment is needed. He wouldn’t withhold this.

There was a curtain in our classroom, separating the male teachers from the students. This was the standard system of all girls madrasas in Pakistan, preserving religious guidance and cultural sensitivities regarding modesty and hijab while still enabling students to communicate with and build a positive relationship with male teachers. Hadith classes usually involve a student reading the Arabic text, with the teacher interrupting every now and then to explain. He would make it a point to ask the name of the person who read and praise them and make du’a for them.

It’s these little things that would encourage us all to work harder to succeed. He would often call my father and keep him updated and congratulate him on mine and my sister’s progress. Knowing that despite being in charge of 5000+ students and a host of other responsibilities, he was personally invested in our success always helped drive us to work hard.

He taught Bukhari with passion, you could sense the love for the Prophet ﷺ in his words. The Bukhari class was more than just facts and technical explanation. There was always a practical lesson. He strongly emphasized that knowledge must lead to action and he always made his classes reflect that. He would say, my goal is to teach you in a way you’ll never forget, that you still hear my voice when you read these hadiths the way that I hear my teacher’s voice when I read them, and that you carry these lessons with you lifelong the way my teachers enabled me to.

Now I hear his voice, not just in those hadiths but in every hadith or ayah I read. Everything has a connection with him for it is in his madrasa that I studied everything. It is in his madrasa, and through him, that Allah allowed the doors of knowledge to be opened for me, and for that I am forever indebted.

Hospitality is another word that defines him. Anyone that has visited him can testify to his boundless hospitality. This is something he practiced with both words and actions. It’s something he strived to build in his students and family too. I remember him going off on a tangent once in Bukhari. In a hadith in Kitab al-Nikah, the topic of guests came. He talked about how guests are a blessing, how we should always honor guests, how we should never complain about guests. “Many people complain about the work involved in hosting. They complain when they have family that constantly visits. Guests are a blessing from Allah. When you go to your homes remember this. Don’t ever complain about guests.”

I’ve always remembered this when someone is coming over.

My friend tells me that after his passing, as people crowded his house for ta’ziyah for his family, something that of course was more challenging and complicated with covid-19, his wife mentioned, “He would always tell us to honor guests. So what can I possibly do now?”

Thankfully others intervened and told people that it is best to show sympathy by genuinely doing what’s best for grieving family, which in these circumstances means not visiting so as not to afflict them with more worries and difficulties.

His hospitality meant that the doors of madrasa were always open to those who needed help. Beyond hospitality, he took care of those around him. Orphans, widows, converts to Islam. The madrasa was a shelter for so many who didn’t have a shelter. There would always be some girls sheltering there. He’d take care of their expenses and education and even get them married when they were ready if needed.

Once, he was hosting the wedding of a convert girl. This girl had spent quite some time at madrasa so everyone was excited. Obviously it wasn’t logistically possible to invite all of the students to the wedding but my classmates decided to try to get an invite anyway. When he came in to teach Bukhari the day before the wedding, they broached the subject of the upcoming event, knowing he would be excited to talk about it. He took the bait and started talking about the wedding plans and arrangements. “But we aren’t invited,” they said.

“You aren’t? Why didn’t anyone invite you? I am inviting you all. You all can come as my special guests.” He replied.

His wife wasn’t too pleased with us, “You have no shame in asking for an invitation, in taking advantage of the softheartedness of your teacher like that?”

But that’s how he was. Always rushing to take care of everyone around him. Solving problems, fixing things.

No problem was too small for him to address personally. He told us once about a former student who lives abroad who called him and asked if he could add photos of the girls’ campus to the website. The website had photos of the boys campus but not the girls. She missed the madrasa and wanted to see it again. He had photos taken and put up right away.

That’s the type of person he was. People would go to him for anything big or small and he’d oblige.

I remember when his own father passed away, he came a day later to teach his class. We asked about his father and he broke into tears. He shared the story of his father, the last moments, highlighting how his father was continuously reciting Qur’an until the end.

It is people like him who bring barakah to institutions, he said. Madrasas run through spirituality, not through money. Make dua this institution continues to run. He was worried about fulfilling his responsibilities after his father passed. He cited that with the passing of each scholar, degeneration follows.

Now we’ve lost another link to the previous generation.

He was a simple man. Whatever he did he did for the institution, for all madaris, for the deen. No personal benefit or enjoyment. No fun vacations. No days off. Just working for the people.

He didn’t care what people thought. It wasn’t glamorous work. Being under the spotlight meant there would always be people out there to criticize. But that didn’t bother him. He just went out of his way to serve the people, to do things that nobody else was doing, that many didn’t even see the point of doing.

Mentioning him won’t be complete without also mentioning his family, especially his wife. If he was the father figure of all students, his wife was/is the mother, especially of the girls. They were a team. She’d be with him on many of his travels. She was also the head in charge of the girls school, his representative at madrasa. Always looking out for the girls affairs, always ready to address issues that needed care, always extending hospitality. She took care of the girls as if they were her own daughters, especially those who had no family nearby. Because of her active involvement with the madrasa, he also was always an integral part of it, always accessible, always concerned about the girls. The madrasa was a family effort, and his entire family served it day in and day out.

May Allah always protect her and allow her to continue.

Although one the most defining thing about him is his service to others, which he spent his life doing, it never came in the way of worshipping Allah. He was a man who was always reciting the Qur’an, following the footsteps of his own father. A man who never left tahajjud. A man who always finished a recitation of the Qur’an in taraweeh independently every year. A man who always prayed in congregation. Even on his last day, though he was feeling unwell the whole day, he prayed at the masjid. He came home from Maghrib, rested for a while, felt more unwell. They took him to the hospital and he passed away on the way, before Isha.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.

It is examples of my teachers like him and others which have given me the energy to carry on teaching even when life is busy, and balancing everything is difficult. Remembering their advices and their constant urging that teaching is a right that knowledge upon us, has always reminded me that it is not optional, that it is not a favor we do upon anyone, but rather an honor and trust Allah has given us.

What I feel now is a renewed purpose to continue this work and to internalize all the lessons from his own life.

I learned from him that the road less traveled may be difficult to take, but it is a necessary road to take to cause lasting good, and that sometimes the most benefit is in doing things that others are not doing.

I learned from him what it means to be the people about whom Allah says, “La yakhafun fillahi lawmata laim.” They do not fear the blame of the blamers. I learn that it is only Allah who we should work to please, because it is to Allah we will return, and as long as we are sincere and on the right path, there is no need to worry about what others say.

I learned from him to think beyond my own benefit and to think of the benefit of those around me. To think beyond the needs of the present, and consider the needs of the future generations as well.

I learned from him that while you should dream big and work hard, small efforts should never be underestimated. It is small efforts that grow into the big things that help fulfill those big dreams. No dream is too big if Allah’s help is with us and no action too small for Allah’s reward.

I learned from him what it means to be a hafidh of the Qur’an. That more than just memorizing the words, it means to fill one’s life with the Qur’an, and to regularly and always recite it, and to understand and implement it.

I learned from him that no matter how busy a person may be, it is always possible to have time for the Qur’an if a person wills it. The ability to recite the Qur’an is an issue of devotion and priorities, not an issue of the availability of time.

I learned from him that our character and our dealings with people speak much louder than any other words, that a student is more likely to remember and feel inspired by a kind word than a long lecture.

I learned from him what it means to be hospitable and generous with one’s time, and that this is the first step of dawah and teaching. I learned what it means to serve others for the sake of Allah. By lowering ourselves in front of others for the sake of Allah, we are only raised in rank by Allah.

But most of all, I learned that knowledge increases and multiplies as it is shared. I learned that the benefit of knowledge is not limited to the teacher and student, but rather it flows to the entire community. I see from his example how just one person of knowledge can have the ability to change the lives of hundreds of thousands, if Allah so wills it. And I learned that the legacy of sacred knowledge is the most valuable legacy to leave.

May Allah accept his efforts, overlook his shortcomings, raise him to the highest levels of Jannah, and increase his sadaqah jariyah.

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 15: Fruit Out of Season

Now that we have learnt about making our intentions big, let’s now talk about fruit out of season.

Who can tell me who Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is

Yes, she was the mother of ‘Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), and also the best woman to ever live. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an that He chose her over all the women in the world.

Question: Do you know that she was also the niece to a Prophet? Does anyone know her uncle’s name? 

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His name is Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), good job! Do you know that Prophet Zakariya  'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)  was actually inspired by something he saw in Maryam’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) room? It’s unusual for adults to admit that they learn from younger people, but we actually do, all the time! 

One day, Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) went inside Maryam’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) room and he saw fruit that was out of season. 

Question: Can anyone tell me what fruit would be out of season in the spring, but we love to eat it in the summertime? Can we get that same fruit in the wintertime?

Well, Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) would get fruit that was supposed to only grow in the summer during the wintertime too! This was a gift that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would give her. Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was so amazed by this! He asked Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) how she came upon the fruit and she replied:

 هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

“It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without measure.” [Surat Ali ‘Imran; 37] 

Now, by this time, Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was very old. And when you get to be very old, it is very unusual to have any more children. Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his wife never had any children at all. But, he was so inspired by what his niece said that he raised his hands in dua’ and asked Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a child. Even though having a child seemed  impossible because it was “out of season” for Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) he asks anyway knowing that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) can grant us anything- even if it is not “in season!”

Question: Can we get that same fruit in the wintertime?Did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) answer Prophet Zakariya’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) dua’? 

Yes! Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was blessed with Yahya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), who too became a Prophet and was the cousin of Prophet ‘Isa  'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)!

This shows us that it’s never too late or too early to ask for what our heart desires. Maybe Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will grant you something that is out of season too!

 

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