A thirst for knowledge like Ibn Taymiyyah

A346B42C-AECE-4854-AFFC-2D3BAE5A7C35.pngWhen you hear the name Imam Ibn Taymiyyah, you may know he was that kind of person that has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a deep faith. If we travel back in time and imagine him seeing studying for hours and hours, teaching and being active in the society, it will motivate us to study more. We will get encouraged to develop in our children a drive to study and achieve. The work of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah is a wealth of inspiration especially under the circumstances he lived, he can show us to be resilient and to persevere. 

 

Confusing times

Ibn Taymiyyah was born in 662 A.H. During those days a lot of different schools were deviated from the straight path by allowing all kind of lowly practices to mix with divine ones. It was for example common that an intellectual Sufi leader would cast magicals spells and was influencing the masses with these disastrous tricks. It needed a courageous man to shake up the Muslim world with truth and sincerity.

 

A refugee child

As a child Imam Ibn Taymiyyah had experienced chilling times under the Tartar oppression. He had to flee from Herran, his hometown in Iraq. As a 15 year old he did saw though the example of a strong and pious leader ruling Egypt and Syria; Al Malik al Zahir Baibers. Even under several decades of religious leaders, Islamically many injustices were done to lower classes. Large numbers of converting Tartars did stick to the pillars of Islam, but followed in all other matters still their Mongol traditions and laws. The free mixing of converted Tartars with Arabs led to integrating a lot of un Islamic beliefs, so those who were concerned about these developments, were quite rigid and inflexible which didn’t support creative thinking.

 

Revivor of the religion with intellect 

It was Imam Ibn Taymiyyah, who lived under these circumstances and caused a genuine revival of religion. His deep study and intelligence allowed him to win over those who attacked the religion with clarity in explaining the faith principles which made even his most severe opponents grunge in despair. He surpassed scholars even on their specialised topics. It was when his father died in 682 A.H. that Ibn Taymiyyah took his father’s place among the leading scholars of Syria. His explanations left no choice to those who were intellectually misguided and they were overwhelmed to accept the true faith by his masterly convincing manners of criticising their deviant philosophical thinking. When in 699 A.H. The Tartars are about to invade the city of Damascus, Ibn Taymiyyah and other ulama decided to meet the Tartarian leader Ghazan and sue for peace. Ibn Taymiyyah made a astounding impression on him and made him understand conquering with violence would be unjust.

 

Courageousness and patience

Ibn Taymiyyah’s had encyclopedic knowledge and mastered fields of sciences that contemporary and succeeding scholars named him as ‘The Crown of scholars’ and The Master Spirit of the age and other exceptional names. Like in scholarly disputes, Ibn Taymiyyah was exemplary in courage and patience as well in the battlefields, but made therefore many enemies as well as he challenged their comfortable positions. Undoubtedly has above all his inquiring mind led him to untangle scholarly messes and guide people with his coherent thinking and supported them with clear course of explanations. Ibn Taymiyyah did not let him stop enquiring within the limits set by leading scholars. He dared to go beyond their ruling red lines and feared only Allah SWT which made him rise above the four leading orthodox juristic schools. His works were all based on the Quran, Hadith and the practice of the sahabah. His sincerity pushed his mind tirelessly to search for truth. His independent mind combined with anxiety to state that which is true, made him a man like no other. His literary works are of immense value for today’s religious issues. His works are for Muslims today extremely useful. His works are appealing by being excessively detailed, eloquent and brilliantly informative, but require from the students of knowledge elaborative efforts. He wrote to scholarly describe and abolish the fals practises of saint and tomb worshiping, dignity of prophets and misguided rituals as tomb pilgrimages. He reformed with his writings those who were gone astray and educated them with his extensive writings and lectures on opening the understanding of the Quran and sunnah. He tackled intercessions which was widespread in many forms to ban once again superstition out of the lives of Muslims by explaining with certainty the Words of Allah SubhanAllah wa ta Ala and His Last Prophet Salahu alahi wa salaam.

 

Enlightened mind

Ibn Taymiyyah could with his enlightened mind and deep study overcome the extreme influential Greek philosophers by concise explanatory writing and exposing their works as being filled with opinions based upon incomplete information and ideas taken to be true, but in fact they are just adopted false analyses. Ibn Taymiyyah points out their wrong thinking extremely powerful which shows their ignorance. Ibn Taymiyyah also refuted Ibn Sina, a chief aristotelianism philosopher who claimed that one of potentialities of the soul is prophethood. He wrote about the mistakes in Ibn Sina’s thinking which was based on philosophical principles and had no idea of the true nature and reality of Prophethood.

 

Methodological approach

Ibn Taymiyyah writes in An Nubuwwat about the dialecticians who did defend Islam, but used philosophical methods to explain them which he criticised by pointing out that the Quran and Hadith are the best to convince and bring clarity in one’s thinking and beliefs. He also points out that their course of explanations is complicated while many fundamentals are easy for man to understand as Allah Subhana wa ta Ala says in the Quran:

And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember?   Quran 53:17

Ibn Taymiyyah writes: “Knowledge of the reasons advanced by the Quran as well as the self-evident marks and signs adduced in support of the existence of God, His sustentation of the world, His Oneness, His Knowledge and power and the possibility of resurrection and retribution in the Hereafter is essential for acquiring the noblest human qualities.

 

Determination defines his character

His vast work are an immense treasure of knowledge for Muslims today to benefit from and help the ummah. At the first place to build our character with courage and determination to pursue a path of knowledge and character training. His trials (childhood refugee, imprisonment, status, abstention from desires and worldly life and the many intellectual opposers of the truth he had to face, are for us a way to motivate us. His works are for us learn, connect and understand the Quran and sunnah and its application fully and resort to them at all times. May Allah SWT forgive his and our shortcomings and reward us according to our efforts.

 

Hidden curriculum

3A6EADB5-693D-407B-A529-7F271E22C4CDMost schools teach according to the national curriculum of their country. A curriculum entails much more though than just an overview of academic content and targets. It communicates hidden messages to influence the student’s mind.

If you look at different curricula you will identify within the lesson plans  particular ideologies that are as important as the academic objective. You will see how subtle ideology is integrated into text and workbooks, instruction scripts and video materials. This is also called hidden curriculum. Why should we be concerned about what is communicated between the lines?

 

Values

In teaching materials you will identify certain values. Implicit academic, social and cultural messages are communicated.  Those values are mostly not described as objectives in the lesson plans. The content of the materials teach children indirectly how to think about for example different races, groups or classes of people. If you look at this textbook page, which values are communicated?

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Although there is nothing wrong with being a domestic cleaner, the example is stereotypical; a British person is a teacher and a Filipino woman is a domestic helper. These values are passed on to children who read the content of text books. They might not get it taught explicitly, but it is indirectly a message how to view different people.

Perspective

Another example is found on a very popular website called Twinkle. Many UK school teachers download daily here worksheets and other resources for classroom use. The following booklet to print out shows a clear perspective of the educators. Their point of view is that a gay family with children is accepted and their frame of mind shows even more that a particular type of girl can might bully you for being part of such a family. 

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Promotion of ideas

So the author of this booklet and posters promotes the idea to normalise gay/lesbian thought in chidlren’s lives. They publish this kind of materials to nurture such moral values in school children. Also the designer has deliberately chosen for a “traditional” looking Muslim girl to be the bully in this context which is not something to overlook.

 

Perception

Perception is the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses and the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted. So, how does a Muslim child that grows up in an educational environment where conflicting values with Islam are taught and trained, perceive all these contradicting messages? Well, especially young children cannot understand the implicit messages and values that are communicated, it basically just absorbs all new information and teachings. A child needs to be older to identify hidden messages and classify them as false if his knowledge of the Deen has been established to a certain level. Young children are not able to understand different perspectives. Young children need an uncompromised Islamic perspective. As children grow older and can understand more complex or abstract issues it becomes important to introduce them to other worldviews. Still they need a strong Muslim instructor though to guide them and make them understand the spiritual and intellectual teachings of the society they live in and what the Islamic perspective is. So from a certain age you can expose children more towards other world views, but under adequate guidance of a Muslim teacher.

We can offer students a diverse view of the world, but it is not the goal of education. Introducing students to various perspectives in order to evaluate them in the light of the revealed Quran and sunnah and to become a more effective ambassador for Islam might be one of our educational goals.

 

Implicit messages

Parents who have children in secular schools, must not underestimate the impact of teachers in those schools. Teachers show and tell about the world according to their worldview and this effects children’s feeling and thinking. Teachers want children to accept their truths and to see society through their eyes. Parents need to be critical and look into the school text book/resources as they are powerful educational tools. Just to give you an idea: A pupil is estimated to read more than 32,000 pages of textbooks /worksheets from elementary to high school levels, research shows. Around 75% of the class work and 90% of the homework is done from them, as well as a large proportion of teachers’ planning. Access to the internet has given a huge boast to share resources, so the content is now more quickly updated according to the moral values of this time then ever before. More then ever it is time to think about solutions and guide our children towards that where Allah SWT is pleased with. If secular or non Islamic schools are not supporting a child’s growth in Islam, then we need to look as an ummah into other solutions. Striving for the benefit of our ummah’s youth is a noble goal: support Islamic knowledge among young people, so they can build sound families and make the ummah stronger.

The prophet Muhammad said:

If Allah wants something good for a person, He makes him understand the religion.”

What is the best way then to help Muslim children learn and understand Islam and practice it? How do we teach them in the best way? We need to find those answers in the Quran and sunnah.

And fear Allah, And Allah teaches you. And Allah is knowing of all things. Quran 2:282 

Allah SWT says in the above aya that if you fear Allah, He teaches you. We need to fear Allah SWT and take the responsibility upon us that our children are receiving the correct training. That we do whatever we can to protect their religion and teach them the religion. We need to make choices that will support the growth of eemaan in children. They need a clear idea what their religion is and what it is not.

 

5 qualities of a Muslim teacher

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Nobody ever said: “Teaching is a piece of cake!” and you will probably never ever hear it either. Working day in day out, with a group of 20-30 kids from all different backgrounds and abilities, is for sure a challenge! But there is something about teaching and those who are real teachers know it. They know they make a difference in children’s lives. Teachers’ daily struggles are real, but their impact is too!

A Muslim teacher is even more privileged.    Here are five qualities of a Muslim teacher that will motivate or remind you about your blessed position and to simply keep going.

He cares for a child as if it is his own child

A Muslim teacher goes to school and interacts with children as if they are his own. He respects them for who they are, he has high expectations and he celebrates with them their successes. He genuinely wants to go out of his way to help them progress and succeed. He is stable and calm under all circumstances and he is merciful.

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْمُثَنَّى، حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ سَعِيدٍ، عَنْ هِشَامٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي أَبِي، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَضَعَ صَبِيًّا فِي حِجْرِهِ يُحَنِّكُهُ، فَبَالَ عَلَيْهِ، فَدَعَا بِمَاءٍ فَأَتْبَعَهُ‏.‏

Narrated by ‘Aisha ra:” The Prophet (ﷺ) took a child in his lap for Tahnik (i.e. he chewed a date in his mouth and put its juice in the mouth of the child). The child urinated on him, so he asked for water and poured it over the place of the urine. Bukhari 

He connects children with Allah SWT

The Muslim teacher will take every opportunity to connect his students with Allah SWT. His love for Allah SWT and the Deen, lets him recite naturally a relevant aya of the Quran during lessons. He just brings Islamic teachings into the lesson and it totally makes sense to the children.  In this way he nurtures their eemaan , because they discover even more about Islam throughout the day. The Muslim teacher loves Allah SWT and His Book, so he makes spontaneously connections between Islamic teachings and every day life in class. He also makes sure that whatever he teaches never contradicts with Islam. His teaching is a form of his worship based on the following aya:

Say it Allah whom I worship, making my submission exclusive to Him. Quran 39:14

 

Perserveres because he counts his reward  with Allah SWT

As we already said teaching is demanding and we cannot expect appreciation. If we expect praise for all that we do, we would not be able to continue this work. Even if parents, colleagues or children don’t understand or appreciate the Muslim teacher’s efforts, he is content. He replenishes his energy levels with Quran and Hadith that remind him of the rewards awaiting for him in shaa Allah and he is happy to be of those who knows about and invites to Islam.

Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma‘roof (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful” Quran 3:104

He motivates children to think and be active 

Truly, the worst of all creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf,
the dumb, those who do not use their reason/think. Quran 8:22

This verse of the Quran, but there are many verses actually where Allah SWT instructs us to reflect and this should be the mindset of the Muslim. He must think about himself, about his environment and the next life to make his belief firm. Allah SWT gave us instincts ánd intellect. Also Allah SWT warns us that when we know, we must act according to our knowledge.

O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? Quran 61:2

The Muslim teacher encourages curiosity and enquiry to help children develop into critical thinkers who can contribute to the ummah.

The Muslim teacher is a role model for his students 

The Muslim teacher knows that his own development is crucial to be a role model for his students. He needs to keep learning, improve, change, and get inspired to keep the teaching quality and desire high. He shows and shares with the children that he keeps studying and learning. He is a teacher, but always a student too. He enjoys it to keep learning for his lifetime as the prophet SAW did himself and instructed the Muslims to do so:

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

طَلَبُ الْعِلْمِ فَرِيضَةٌ عَلَى كُلِّ مُسْلِمٍ

Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim. Ibn Majah 224 Sahih 

To summarise: Being a Muslim teacher is just great and our ummah needs you. The ummah needs your love, dedication, compassion and inspiration!

Should children pray at school?

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From the age of seven children are being taught to pray as the Hadith instructs us to do:

Abu Dawood (459) and Ahmad (6650) narrated from ‘Amr ibn Shu’ayb from his father that his grandfather said: The Messenger of Allaah (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) said: “Teach your children to pray when they are seven years old, and smack them (lightly) if they do not pray when they are 10 years old, and separate them in their beds.” Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Irwa’ (247).

For this reason, most Islamic schools organise the salah, which is a great thing to do and important. Unfortunately the salah is not always done correctly. I am not talking about the technical parts of prayer, but about the setting and the quality of the prayer. I have witnessed yelling and running children in corridors, wudu areas transforming into a complete mess and the chaotic and stressful forming of lines before even the salah had started. While the time was ticking away…

Most problematic was actually the salah itself. As many children arrived late and in a hurry, they joined the salah that had already started. During salah I saw hardly any child in peace or showing much concentration. It was for the teachers and I believe for many children as well, a stressful time instead of a moment of tranquility and reconnection. It was difficult to see how the salah had become downgraded to a ritual with no meaning. Looking away from the issue and just get it done and go back to teaching is a short time solution and not helping anyone. Actually not doing anything about it, is doing more harm than good.

I believe that there are a few underlying causes of this problem. First of all there is no real peace in schools. During the day and week, I have seen that the children were not much calm and involved in real  learning activities. Most lessons consisted of instruction, reading and writing. The lack of flexibility, own planning, collaboration, suppresses children’s energy and creativity. So, at the moment they feel some space- getting ready for prayer and going to the washrooms with many children at the same time- they start acting out! As if you release the pressure of a balloon…which is totally understandable. Only then they will be yelled at, criticised for not taking salah seriously, but is it really their fault?

As teachers we need to look what happens day in day out. How peaceful is the school environment? Does it promote good manners, taking responsibility and does it provid adequate care for all children?

Interesting is the fact that the prophet Muhammad SAW, had even much younger children joining the prayer voluntary. The children loved him, because he was gentle and kind with them. He, SAW, was genuinely interested in them and asked about their wellbeing, even if it was a small thing.

It was narrated that Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “The prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, would visit us. I had a younger brother nicknamed abu ‘umayr who had a nughayr (a kind of bird) with which he would play. His bird died and one day the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, came to us and found him sad. then he asked: ‘Why is abu ‘umayr so sad?’ people replied, ‘his bird with which he used to play died, o messenger of Allah. then the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: ‘O Abu ‘umayr! what did the nughayr do?’” [al-bukhaari and muslim]

The prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was the most compassionate person towards children. He gave them special and careful consideration and considered whatever may be beneficial for them. It was narrated that Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than the messenger of allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.” muslim

So, my conclusion is that we should continue to facilitate prayers at school, but we need to review our ways HOW the prayer should actually take place. To establish peaceful prayers in schools, requires that we meet the conditions of children’s emotional and intellectual well being.  They will become more disciplined naturally, if we meet their intellectual, spiritual and emotional needs. Our provision should give enough time and space to explore and spark curiosity. Children need to listened to and seen for who they are and what they can be. They need productive play and also time to relax with the support of a professional team of teachers and carers. The sunnah is full of examples to improve our teaching environment and especially how we interact if children on a daily basis should be excellent, if we expect excellent results.

Allah says in the Quran:

And indeed, you are of a great moral character. Quran 68:4

Divine education about fresh & organic school lunches

IMG_3134.PNGA few years back I watched a couple of episodes of a series by Jamie Oliver. He was traveling across the globe to visit schools and examined school lunch provisions. He is very passionate about his goal to meet school staff and educate and train them about their important role in helping children to eat more healthy. Some of the schools were open to learn and made great changes for the best, but some were reluctant and not ready to change their menus at all.

I wonder that with the teachings of the Quran and sunnah, Islamic schools can take a leading role in the school food revolution. With the divine guidance from the Quran and sunnah, they can even reach higher. So let’s have a critical and creative closer look at how we can improve Islamic school dinner settings and collaborate in this with parents to promote a healthy organic way of eating.

Healthy eating classes

To educate our children about the importance of our habits regarding food comsumption, we must give time and specific attention to what the sunnah teaches us about the different kind of benefits of food and how to consume food. It is for a Muslim child crucial to become knowledgable about the prophet Muhammad’s SAW way of eating. Also the fact that particular foods can be used easily  as a medicine or daily supplement to prevent diseases. There are countless examples and we cannot discuss them all here, but it needs to be an important part of the curriculum.

Nurturing Islamic manners & gratitude around dinner time 

Usually teachers don’t sit with the children while it is a very important teaching moment in the day. If teachers sit and eat with the children, they can observe and intervene. For example if a child criticises the food, the teacher can explain that the prophet Muhammad SAW would not criticise the food on the condition that it is halal food.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) never criticized any food. If he liked it he would eat it and if he did not like it he would leave it. (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3370; Muslim, 2046)

Al-Nawawi said: Part of the confirmed etiquette of food is not to criticize it such as saying it is too salty, or too sour, or not salty enough, or thick, or thin, or not well-cooked, etc. Ibn Battaal said: This is part of good manners, because a person may not like food that others like, but there is nothing wrong with eating anything that is permitted in sharee’ah.

Also the teacher can show the manners of the prophet Muhammad SAW and be a role model by saying dua.

It was narrated from ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Jubayr that a man who served the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) for eight years told him that he used to hear the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saying, when food was brought near him, “Bismillaah.” And when he had finished eating he would say, “Allaahumma at’amta wa asqayta wa hadayta wa ahyayta, fa laka’l-hamd ‘ala ma a’tayta (O Allaah, You have fed, given to drink, guided and brought to life, so praise be to You for what You have given).” Narrated by Ahmad, 16159; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 1/111

It is very effective to provide a structured environment where they see the sunnah of eating in action and promoted. An example is to let the children eat from one plate and share the food instead of serving them all their own plate. The prophet SAW has said:

“O Young boy, if you are about to eat, then say Bismillah, eat with your right hand, and eat from what is closest (or from what is next) to you.” Bukhari 611

It is a way of eating that allows the individual to stop eating when they want and not to feel pushed to overeat. It is also practical to clean one plate and it saves time and resources to clean them.

Great sunnah routines 

Ka’b ibn Malik (ra) reported: “I saw the Messenger of Allâh (saws) eating with three fingers (i.e., the thumb, the index adn the middle finger) and licking them after having finished the food.” Muslim

Children who have learned a good routine as eating with the three fingers, will find theses practises normal and will do them automatically. For example licking the fingers is a sunnah that is very beneficial.

Ibn Abbas ra reported that the Prophet SAW said: “When one of you eats, then let him not wipe his hand until he licks it or has licked it.” Muslim 2031

There are many more benefits of eating with the hand. Eating with the hand makes you eat with more attention, it supports digestion due to healthy bacteria on the hand and it controls better how much you eat. When children understand and get the chance to eat the Islamic way, they will love to stick to those routines.

Preparing and serving meals

A practical way is to involve children in preparing the meals. They will experience that it takes time and effort to serve a healthy meal. They will also learn to handle different kinds of produce to make a healthy and tasty meal. Preparing and serving in itself is a very good way to learn practical skills as cleaning, cutting, peeling, cooking, cleaning and serving.

Grow fruit and vegetables 

If it is in any way possible to design a school garden, it would be a great opportunity for children to learn about gardening and how to care for the plants. Also will they develop a sensitivity for the whole process from seed to the veggies or fruits we eat daily. The planting, grooming and harvesting are stages of the process with lots of practical skills to learn as well. A school garden would be a wonderful and meaningful adventure with so many learning opportunities. Even a small market run by students could be an option to learn weighing, counting and selling in a perfect setting.

 

The Journey Begins

IMG_3039Thanks for joining me! I have started this blog to write, post, talk, discuss, exchange ideas about Islamised Education. I have recently begun my journey at the Islamic Online University!  Alhamdulilah, I fully enjoy the lectures of the bachelor program of Psychology and the lectures are amazing! All content is explained professionally and thoroughly, but what makes it just phenomenal is the Islamic perspective integrated in all explanations. It has once again inspired me to dedicate some of my time towards promotion of the islamisation of education. Stay tuned!

There is no gift a father gives his child more virtuous than good manners.’ (Tirmidhi Hadith No.4977).