What is the perfect learning system of education?
Should we emphasize more on core subjects or the Islamic sciences?
Can we have the best of both?
Can we integrate the two so they are not mutually exclusive?
Of course, these are all vital questions because a balanced and holistic education is paramount to ensure that our children grow up graciously as slaves of Allah who love learning and strive to benefit the Ummah as a whole.
So, how do we achieve this ideal education and make Islam a way of life and raise Muslims upon Ihsan, (excellence)?
When I first started my homeschooling journey, I was on a mission to find the perfect curriculum. I was really disappointed to see so many secular curricula available but none that incorporated Islamic ideology. Secular education and Islamic education have pretty much been mutually exclusive – even in Islamic schools.
Was there a way to integrate the two and come up with a holistic and practical curriculum? It was important that it should be totally hands on, encourage good morals and manners, appeal to both boys and girls and most importantly – it needed to be FUN!
So, with the help of fellow home educators and teachers, we came up with a checklist for a productive education that instills God consciousness, in sha Allah. Here are 7 essential tips to remember.
1. Correct your intention
Remember that Allah says,
“And I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Qur’an: Chapter 51, Verse 56]
Educate with the intention of pleasing Allah . Reading, learning and contemplating about the signs of Allah have been emphasized in the Qur’an and hadith. The first command to the Prophet Muhammad was to ‘Read!’ [Qur’an: Chapter 96, Verse 1]. Intend to teach them so they grow up to be Muslims who are true slaves of Allah and who use their education to spread good and give back to the Ummah.
When your intentions are true, your work will be blessed.
2. Be a learner
You cannot teach someone something if you don’t have enough knowledge about it. You have to remain in touch with your subject constantly and stay updated. Read the Qur’an regularly, learn and revise tafsir and hadith. The peculiarity of the Qur’an is that each time it blesses us with a new aspect to discover and ponder over. This is a great motivation for children as they find what they have understood is infinitesimal in front of what they have yet to be learned.
Learn child and educational psychology
Even if they are our own children who grow up in front of our eyes, there is still a lot to learn about them, their behavior, their attitude, their interests, and their brain. There are plenty of books and free online courses available for self-study. Also, you can learn more about Islamic psychology which tells us, for example, we should not punish a child until s/he reaches the age of 10.
Stay updated with what happens in the world of knowledge
When you homeschool your children you need to be aware of what is happening in the outside world – what’s happening in the world of biology, do the archeologists discover a new historical site, does NASA have anything to amaze you… Subscribe to the academic and research newsletters, follow the blogs and research magazines, and always search for the ‘news’. Also, follow Muslim scholars on academic sites like Academia and professional social networking sites.
3. Make it Allah – Centered
To achieve an education system where the Greatness of Allah and His attributes and laws are clear, try to make references to verses from the Qur’an that relate to a particular learning objective and cover the tafsir (exegesis) of those verses. Suppose if the topic is how do birds fly, you can include
“Do they not see the birds suspended in mid-air up in the sky? None holds them up except Allah. There are certainly signs in that for people who have faith.” [Qur’an: Chapter 16, Verse 79]
and move on to explain how the structure of birds – the way Allah has created them – help them fly in the sky.
When the children are to be taught the history of man, help them to relate the punishments mentioned in the Qur’an and the way some civilizations ceased to exist.
“… so proceed throughout the earth and observe how was the end of those who denied.” [Qur’an: Chapter 3, Verse 137]
Make the Qur’an relevant to their lives. When they come across a dilemma in life, let them reference the Qur’an for an answer. Let the Qur’an become a constant reference, an integral part of their studies. Guide them to question ‘What does Allah say about this topic?’
Make learning the tafsir together a follow-up activity or having a discussion on it a learning activity. There are some wonderful child-friendly resources for the explanation of the Qur’an like the Mini Tafseer series by Ad Duha Institute which you can use.
Include learning the attributes of Allah alongside normal learning objectives and make correlations whenever appropriate. Make the categories of tawhid – Tawhid Ar Ruboobiyyah (Unity of Allah’s Lordship) and Tawhid Al Uloohiyyah (Oneness of Allah ) the essence of the curriculum.
Remember Him in every instance – see His Greatness in everything.
4. Emphasize on interactive learning
There is a famous quote by US President Benjamin Franklin that is truly inspiring: ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.’
Teach through engaging and relevant hands-on activities that will stimulate the students’ senses and help them understand and retain that information. Studies show that children learn the best through play and observation for at least the first seven years of their lives. Teach age appropriate activities and topics. Encourage child-led learning and teach them concepts that relate to their experiences. Islamically, teaching your children to learn to pray from that age has great importance in showing us the age when children are ready for structured learning.
Teaching children through play has been proven to be more effective like the Montessori or Steiner method of education. Giving them time to take a breather from routine and opportunity for unstructured play encourages creativity and stimulates the brain to be more inquisitive and inspire enquiry-based learning. Let them ask the questions! Facilitate an environment that encourages investigation and experimentation. Give them the freedom to explore and make mistakes. This will give them the confidence to take risks and be innovative. Praise effort and encourage an open mindset that will help them continuously improve themselves. Encourage outdoor learning through educational visits, educational and fun outdoor activities and experiments. Always encourage them to connect back to their Creator and be more mindful.
Finnish schools have shot to the top of international rankings for education systems. A close look at their system reveals the following:
- There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school.
- There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions.
- They have a fifteen-minute break between lessons so children can play and refresh and they have fewer school hours.
- Compulsory schooling starts at the age of seven.
This proves that less structured learning and more play helps student’s performance.
5. Teach them to contemplate
Contemplation is a lost ibadah. Time and time again, Allah commands us to contemplate and reflect upon the Qur’an. All knowledge is from Him and the knowledge of the physical universe that we perceive with our senses allows for exploration, examination, inductive reasoning and decision making. When delving into the knowledge and understanding of the world, there is every opportunity to study the signs of Allah and to contemplate on them. Allah says,
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 164]
In this day and age of constant distractions – social media applications have literally become weapons of mass distraction. We are a generation of people who have forgotten the art of reading and contemplating. When was the last time you picked up a good book and read it from cover to cover? With the guise of ‘no time’ and ‘being busy’ – how much of this precious commodity – the gift of time – do we waste away on social media? When do we then have time for contemplation on the signs of Allah ? We need to bring back to life this great ibadah and the command of Allah .
How do we teach our children to contemplate? Let them ponder over the verses of the Qur’an as they learn literature and English. Make them love nature and spend time just appreciating the beautiful signs of Allah as they learn their science. Ask them to think, infer and conclude rather than constantly feeding them with facts. And, let them jot down their observations and findings in their idea logs.
6. Facilitate Project-based learning (PBL)
PBL is a student-centered pedagogy which helps students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge. Choose a topic or central theme that is relevant to our deen and put together a unit study that will enable them to understand their learning objectives in the context of that topic. For example, you can choose a certain life instance of the Prophet where he faced an issue or was asked to judge between people. You can ask them what they would have done if they were in a similar situation or can ask if such situations exist in the present world or anywhere else in the history.
When a topic is covered, wherever possible, highlight with example and a chance to actively use that knowledge to fulfill their duties first as slaves of Allah and then to fellow members of the community. Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk! Teach by example and actively participate positively in the community, help those in need and do good in public and private.
7. Instill the love for the Prophet Muhammad
Role model the practices of the Prophet in various aspects of daily life. Delve into the seerah (life of the Prophet ) as you learn about different concepts like the best health practices for body and mind, how to balance different roles in your life, how to interact and use the best speech with others, how to manage your time and money… The reference to hadith and the ways of RasuluAllah can be easily integrated into every subject.
Study the manners of the Prophet and try to inculcate the lessons from hadith as an activity. For instance, you can study a hadith each week and try to find ways to implement it during the week. Let them write the hadith out as copy-work or make a poster for Arts and be creative. Re-iterate the same hadith every day for the entire week before your lessons. Ask them to take turns in teaching the hadith as well!
As a parent, you can supplement your children’s learning with activities and curricula that follow these guidelines if your children go to school. If you are a home educator, take advantage of the freedom to tailor-make your child’s curriculum and learning experience to ensure a holistic learning experience.
Research about the teaching methods of the Prophet and his behavior towards children and emulate him by being merciful, forbearing, lenient and encouraging. Treat your children with respect as you teach them and remember that they learn best through imitation. You are their role model and that is a HUGE responsibility.
Alhamdulillah, there are numerous resources available on the internet that can allow you to teach in the way that has been outlined in this article. Home educating mothers around the globe have put their resources and thoughts on their blogs that are available – mostly for free – for those who wish to use them.
As a home educator and founder of the Taqwa Curriculum, I especially recommend the following websites and blogs, a list that is not exhaustible, alhamdulillah.
- Iman’s Home-School
- Creative Motivations
- A Muslim Child Grows Up!
- A Muslim Child is Born
- A Muslim Homeschool
- Educating the Muslim Child
- Umm Maimoonah’s Journal
- TJ Homeschooling
If you have come across beneficial websites that also follow the Qur’an and sunnah, please share them with us in the comments section below. Also, please tell us what are your ideas of a productive education for your chidren.