When the companions of the Prophet Muhammad asked Aisha which supplication the Prophet recited most often, she replied,
“Our Lord, give us good in this world and good in the hereafter and save us from the punishment of the Hellfire.”
This dua, found in verse 21 of Surah Baqarah, contains many lessons for both educators and parents alike.
When reciting this supplication, there are three things being requested from God; however, the component that has been defined as success in the Quran is mentioned last:
“So whoever has escaped the Hellfire and entered Paradise, he has verily succeeded” (3:185).
This dua teaches us the power of positive thinking and the need to accentuate the positive. Thus, the one supplicating is asking God for the tools to save himself from Hell by asking for good in this world and in the hereafter. In fact, this principle is found in many supplications. Believers are constantly encouraged to ask for good and then complete their request by seeking protection and emancipation from the fire.
Yet, within our schools we often see the approach of our teachers contradict this wisdom. Many classes are taught in such a way where fear is the primary method through which submission is encouraged. Thus, students often leave their Islamic school experience feeling that fear is the underlying characteristic and emotion that governs how we submit.
An Abundance of Material
In the field of education today, there is no dearth of materials or resources. The amount of curricula, books, videos, multimedia presentations, programs on DVD, lectures on YouTube and phone applications provide multiple avenues for enrichment. To understand why our students may feel that full-time and part-time Islamic schools are burdensome, it is necessary to examine how students learn.
According to psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser, the developer of choice and reality therapy, student learning can be categorized as the following:
10 percent results from reading
30 percent results from sight
50 percent results from what is seen and heard
70 percent results from discussion
80 percent results from experience
95 percent results from what you teach others
The Approach of the Prophet
When examining the life of the Prophet, it becomes readily apparent that he implemented every effective style of teaching.Many hadith begin with the companions saying, “I heard the Prophet say” or “I saw the Prophet do.” Furthermore, everything the Prophet said, he also did, acting out his commands to establish clarity for future generations. Subsequently, the companions discussed what he taught. On many occasions the Prophet would ask his companions questions or reply to their inquiries with a question of his own. Although the Prophet was already aware of the answer—and on most occasions the companions would respond by saying that God and His Messenger knew best—he displayed the importance of the topic by having the companions mull over what he was asking.
Finally, the Prophet asked the companions to relate and teach what they learned from him, even if it was only one verse.Thus, when examining Glasser’s statements, it appears to be a formalized version of the approach of the Prophet. Such an approach to learning could be adopted in Islamic Studies classes, rather than the traditional choice of lecture-style learning.
Practical Application in the Classroom
How we teach children to make wudu provides an example as to how we can teach the Deen thorough positive means. We can tell our children that, if they leave any of the required parts dry while making wudu, their prayer will not count and those parts can potentially burn in the hellfire. Alternatively, we can take the positive approach and tell our children that every part of the body that has water poured over it will have sins wash away with that water and attain a glow in the hereafter.In both scenarios, the goal is to encourage our children to perform wudu properly, but in the former fear is used as a tactic, whereas in the latter approach positive reinforcement is used.
The same can also be applied when teaching children the benefit of sleeping, according to the sunnah. One approach is to inform our students and children that if they sleep without reciting the surahs Ikhlas, Falaq and Naas, sleep on their stomach or left side, and if they face their feet toward the Qiblah, then they may be susceptible to bad dreams, God’s displeasure, and be vulnerable to evil throughout the night.By using positive reinforcement, we can explain the rewards and protection granted through reading the prescribed supplication before going to sleep, the benefits of sleeping on the right side, the power and aide provided by making wudu prior to sleeping and explain how all of these help make every moment of sleep an act of worship, allowing perpetual reward to be showered on them throughout the night. The same idea can be applied to any and all acts, be it using the restroom, changing clothing, or even eating.
For most children, there is a practical disconnect that needs to be alleviated. Children will attest to the fact that their food tasted just as good and their bodies felt just as nourished without saying “Bismillah” before eating. They also notice that they did not get hurt by walking into the mosque with their left foot first. Thus, if we are always scarring them about what can potentially go wrong, and they do not see any harm or detriment by not doing what they were taught, eventually they will begin to only see these supplications and practices as superstitions.
But if we instill in them the fact that there is an unending reward for doing actions consciously and in a manner that is pleasing to their Lord, they will be more likely to be open to new ways to improve themselves.
Teaching and Practicing
Teachers are not all-knowing beings. When they do not know an answer to a question, teachers might utilize that moment as an opportunity to show their humanity and explain that they may not know the answer, but would appreciate it if the student could research and return back to class the next day with an answer. It can even become a class-wide assignment. This also is a great opportunity to encourage our students to seek out scholars and open the door of communication between them. Teachers can even initiate the process by asking a scholar to come into the class as guest and answer some difficult yet pressing issues.
There may even be times when the question seems completely preposterous. The Prophet handled all questions with great sensitivity. Even in the case of a young man seeking permission to commit fornication, the Prophet turned the question back to him and asked him if he would accept it if someone committed fornication with the female relatives in his family. When he immediately said no, the Prophet then reminded him that, indeed, the person whom he wanted to commit fornication with was someone’s sister, mother, wife or daughter. This interaction, followed by the Prophet supplicating for the young man, helped remove this illicit desire from him.
Our schools should also take the time to implement the spirit behind the faith. Islamic Studies classes could regularly schedule field trips to soup kitchens, retirement homes, and any other form of community service that can help them practically implement the spirit of what they are learning. It is important that students learn the fact that the character and benevolent nature of the Prophet did not exist in a bubble. He was described as the walking Quran, because he implemented the rulings and principles of the Quran. By engaging such activities we can demonstrate to our students and communities the practicality and beauty of Islam.
It is not easy to try to teach religion in today’s time. However, much of our fears can be quelled if we merely look back at the approach of the Prophet and begin to act positively within our classrooms and homes. Although this list is not all-inclusive, it is a start for how we can begin to reshape our Islamic Studies programs and our future generations.
Habeeb Quadri is the principal of Mcc Full Time School and an educational consultant. He has co-authored three books: “War Within our Hearts: Struggles of the Muslim Youth,” “parenting: Who Said it Was Easy,” and “Wisdom of the Wise: luqman’s Advice to His Son.” This article is previously published in Islamic Horizon Magazine.