Islamic Education

ITEP C103K: Module 2 – Teaching in an Islamic School

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Assalamualaikum WBT. Alhamdulillah, Solatan wa salaman ‘ala Rasulillah. Amma ba’du.Alhamdulillah, like everyone else, I benefited a lot from watching Sheikh Ramzy Ajem’s lecture, plus the handbook on Islamic Pedagogy which after its completion and perhaps made available into public, will definitely fill the current vacuum in Islamic Education.

From Sheikh Ramzy’s lecture, he outlined 4 important characters that we should considered when dealing with the Prophetic method in teaching:

1. Muhammad PBUH is a Messenger and he also introduced himself as a teacher.

“The Messenger of Allah came out of one of his apartments one day and entered the mosque, where he saw two circles, one reciting Qur’ân and supplicating to Allah, and the other learning and teaching. The Prophet SAW said: ‘Both of them are good. These people are reciting Qur’ân and supplicating to Allah, and if He wills He will give them, and if He wills He will withhold from them. And these people are learning and teaching. Verily I have been sent as a teacher.’ Then he sat down with them.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Book of Sunnah, Hadith no 229, Classified as Daeef By Allama Albani)

Teaching is noble. Associating teaching with the Prophethood is essential to develop a good esteem among teachers teaching in Islamic Schools, especially in dealing with underpaid issue. Teaching is perceived as not only a profession but a jihad which ‘unfortunately’ requires  the person to live in modest.

2. The Prophet PBUH has the quality of fatanah.

Fatanah is defined in arabic (al-Mu’jam al-Wasith) as the (قوَّة استعداد الذِّهْن لإدراك ما يَرِدُ عليه) which means the strong readiness of thinking in its ability to see a subject or problem foresight.

It is a high form of intellectuality which teachers should possess to make them proactive in detecting the needs and deciding the appropriate responses. Perhaps countries like Finland took an action aligned with this requirement, when putting a very high benchmark for a candidate to apply the teaching post in primary schools.

A Muslim teacher is a smart teacher who is proactively always in a standby mode.

3. Unspoken pedagogy contains a spiritual barakah that will last.

The element of barakah is not easy to be quantified, but obviously seen in quality. The word barakah itself means (الخير الكثير) ‘the infinite goodness’. Barakah is the sign that Allah is with us. The Prophet PBUH did not say or do anything from his own lust or desire, but from Allah’s revelation. Following the Prophet’s path in teaching means, we are intended to have Allah along our teaching path.

4. Tremendous amount of narrations, resourceful pedagogy

Every single detail of the Prophet’s life (PBUH) is available through the traditions (al-Sunnah). This huge resource gives a 360 degree access for us to understand the complete picture of what Prophetic pedagogy is all about. This is a unique character characterising us as Muslims. We should not abandon the treasure.

QUESTION: How should Islamic school teachers be introduced the approach and nuance of teaching in an Islamic School?

Islamic Schools need a research and development unit to continuously work on developing the teachers training. It could be part of the school itself of like in my school, the R&D unit is under the Khalifah Education Foundation who owns the school.

I like the framework suggested by Lee Jenkins that a transformation in a school must take place in a form of “from systems thinking to systemic action”. It means that, the transformation must not be done in random and patchy but should be harmonized in a system. (Lee Jenkins; From Systems Thinking to Systemic Action: 48 Key Questions to Guide the Journey).

My suggestion is, the first think that we need to tackle in terms of introducing the Islamic School teachers to the Prophetic approach, is to build a good understanding and faith in Islamic Worldview. Without the ‘world view’, a Muslim teacher might silently have a secular mind and a materialistic value which will fundamentally contradict with the Islamic pedagogy derived from the Prophet’s tradition.

Secondly, the routine in teaching among teachers is dangerous. I recently read a PhD dissertation wrote by Kimberly E. Matier titled, “A Systems Thinking Approach to Educational Reform: Addressing Issues Surrounding Teacher Burnout Through Comprehensive School Change” (Oregon State University). I am worried with the high turnover rate among teachers in Islamic Schools, which makes any form of transformation nearly impossible. So, we need to keep our teachers in high spirit. In our humble school, we allocate Friday as a non academic day, which students will have their halaqah among themselves (the seniors lead the halaqah) and teachers will have our weekly halaqah. So far, almost every week, I share the ITEP contents I learnt with our teachers to make sure they are always in a constant learning process. The knowledge must also be perceived as ‘rizq’, apart of the salary.

By having an Islamic worldview, the teachers will become auto navigators who always check their teaching and learning if they are following the right path or not. The contemporary ideas on pedagogy will also help the teachers to sense and identify the silent pedagogy in a hadith. We cannot see what is not in our mind. So we need to instill the pedagogical senses in our mind.

For example:

Narrated Malik bin Huwairth: I came to the Prophet with some men from my tribe and stayed with him for twenty nights. He was kind and merciful to us. When he realized our longing for our families, he said to us, “Go back and stay with your families and teach them the religion, and offer the prayer and one of you should pronounce the Adhan for the prayer when its time is due and the oldest one amongst you should lead the prayer.”  [al-Bukhari]

This hadith is common to be found when we discuss about Fiqh of Salat regarding who is more preferred to become the Imam. But when we look from the pedagogical point of view, we will see how Rasulullah PBUH being kind and merciful, alerted with the decline of attention among his ‘students’ due to their longing for family. He did not accuse them for being chinless or weak. He acknowledged their emotional conditioned and opted the learning to be switched into practice, at home. I always remember Dale Carnagie’s How To Win Friends when reading this hadith.

Wallahu a’lam