Can you write an essay for me?

By Hafsa Ahsan

Anam Ali, a 19-year-old university student, had just started working on a very difficult assignment, when her 12-year-old neighbour arrived.

“We’ve been given a really important assignment. I have to write a whole paper on, whether tuitions are a surefire guarantee of good grades. It’s 2000 words, and I need to give it in the day after tomorrow. Can you write it for me?” she said and then looked expectantly at Anam.

Anam was speechless.

“Firstly, I have to do my own assignments. Secondly, why can’t you write it yourself?”

“I don’t have time. We have so much homework. And I am not very good at writing either,” insisted the neighbour. “Well, alright, I’ll ask one of my cousins to write it instead.”

This scenario is, unfortunately, more common than one would like to believe. There are quite a few students, usually in their school-going age, who think that it is perfectly normal to get someone else to do their school assignments or extra curricular work. In fact, the phrase ‘do your own work’ seems quite alien to them.

In cases like these, when school-going children hand out their assignments to anyone, who is willing to do it for them, it is very important to distinguish between two things – helping someone to do a task and doing the whole task for someone else. The former, of course, is the more desirable action. And it is precisely the action, which is rarely taken.

There are many different tasks, which students delegate to others, believing themselves to be incapable of doing them. Some of these tasks include:

  • making charts,
  • making diagrams for science/ computer subjects,
  • solving mathematics sums,
  • writing essays,
  • writing speeches.

Why Students Resort to Overhelping

Even though there are quite a few students, who ask to do their work for them simply because they are too lazy to do it themselves, there are also others, for whom the reasons go beyond laziness.

The main culprit here is a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. Many students just do not believe in themselves or their abilities. If they have a cousin, who is exceptionally good at artwork, they prefer to get their science diagrams drawn by him or her. If someone is good at mathematics, then it is always handy to get them to solve the problems and get the correct answers.

Another culprit is deeply rooted in our education system – the overemphasis on marks and grades. Thus, if the artistic cousin or a math genius neighbour can produce remarkable results, the student will end up with higher marks, higher grades and, of course, loads of positive comments from the teacher. The spirit of competitiveness combined with a lack of confidence in one’s abilities easily explain, why many students are unwilling to do their own work or put their own abilities to test. They simply do not believe they can get the required result, if they work on their own.

Yet one more culprit behind this phenomenon is again a factor characteristic of the education system in general – the emphasis on too much homework. There are many schools, where teachers give out so many homework assignments that it becomes really hard for a student to finish them on time. One can argue that this is a good way of learning time management skills. But, unfortunately, too much homework becomes a really good excuse to give out one’s work to others and get them to finish it quickly and efficiently.

Shortcomings of Overhelping

Although the end result of the work done by others may be better, there are two good reasons, why elder students, neighbours, cousins and parents should concentrate on helping their young wards without doing everything themselves or getting someone else to do it.

The first reason is to prevent a shortcut mindset. If a student knows that a cousin or a neighbour is going to write an essay for him or draw some diagrams in the science journal, it is quite likely that the student will not even try to do the same task himself. The student will be more willing just to delegate the task, irrespective of whether or not he actually has a lot of work to do.

The second reason is that such overhelping can stifle the inherent talent and abilities of the student. Maybe a student has wonderful creative writing skills. But he is consistently getting a cousin to write all his essays and papers. Meanwhile, the student also convinces himself that writing is not his forte. If the parents or siblings were helping out this young student instead of encouraging him to engage someone who would ‘write better’, it would help polish the student’s skills in that area.

Dealing with Overhelping

There are quite a few things parents can do to curb the phenomena of overhelping. A more active role of parents will go a long way in helping the students overcome the urge to get someone else to do their work.

Encourage your child to do his work by himself. Give your child the confidence that he is able to do the work by himself.

Instill in your child the value of doing his own work. Teach your child that asking someone else to do his work and then passing it off as his own is not ethical.

If the tasks are difficult, sit with your child, see what your child is doing wrong, point out the mistakes, suggest improvements and give positive feedback on successful work.

Instill time management skills in your child. If the homework pile is huge, work out how to manage it within the stipulated time and show your child how it is done.

Yes, this is a very long and tedious task, but parents have to step in and play their role, if they want their children to get out of the shortcut-taking mindset. However, if parents themselves feel it is better to get someone else to do their children’s work, then here is a friendly reminder for them: they are doing a grave disservice to their children. Such scenario is inhibiting their process of learning and unconsciously teaching them, how to dump their work on someone else. In the long-term, this mindset will have negative effects not just on their personal lives but also on their professional careers. The last thing this country needs is a bunch of people, who are incapable of doing their own work.

Women at Work – Part 2

Vol 5 - Issue 3 Women at Work 2

That women are allowed to work should now come as no surprise to readers of the first part of this article. However, once a woman chooses to work, the decision and its realization are no less than a hurdle race. Let’s take a look at some of the common problems and their solutions in the light of the Quran and the Sunnah.

Giving up career to get married?

A common job interview question for women is whether they are single. It appears, as if career and marriage cannot coexist. Should women give up their careers in order to get married?

For a Muslim woman, family should come before her personal career. That does not mean, however, that a career is unimportant; in fact, the order of priority is a guideline of how to deal with the diverse roles a Muslim woman can and should play in society. In Islamic history, we find married Muslim women taking an active part in politics, farming, business and even in the field of war. The fact that they did not put career before marriage is proven by the excellent generation of Muslims they raised.

For example, we find Asma Bint Abu Bakr (rta) working on a farm and transporting the produce herself. She mentions that when she got married to Zubair (rta), they did not have wealth. Therefore, the Prophet (sa) gave them some land about two miles away from their home. Her son Abdullah Ibn Zubair (rta) became well known for his devotion to the cause of Islam.

In the battlefield, we hear of Umm Ammara (rta), who participated in wars and even lost her hand in the Battle of Yamamah. In the Battle of Uhud, she struck down a man, who had hurt her son. We also find Umm Sulaym (rta) carrying a dagger and tending to the wounded in the Battle of Uhud. One of her sons, Anas Ibn Malik (rta), became a renowned companion of the Prophet (sa).

Following Islamic guidance to prevent harassment

One of the criteria that women should fulfill in order to work is to dress modestly in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. They should also select professions that do not involve a lot of interaction with the opposite gender. If, however, the job requires a lot of interaction, one must take care to act with caution, care and poise. Interaction should be work-related and seclusion must be avoided. The Prophet (sa) said that whenever a man is alone with a woman, the Devil makes a third. (Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet’s (sa) wives were addressed by Allah (swt) and were told not to be soft in speech: “O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honourable manner.” (Al-Ahzab 33:32)

If one follows the above guidelines, any chances of unwanted attention or harassment would decrease to a large extent.

Debate on travelling alone resolved

A lot of debate has ensued over whether women can travel alone. The European Council for Fatwah and Research states that travelling alone is primarily unlawful, as we know from a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa): “A woman, who believes in Allah and the Hereafter, shall not travel for (a period of) a day and a night, unless accompanied by a Mahram of hers.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Council goes on to say that: “other scholars stipulate that her travel is permissible in the company of a trustworthy group of men or men and women… Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) allowed the Prophet’s wives to travel for Hajj with a group of believers and sent with them Usman Ibn Affan (rta) and Abdul-Rahman Ibn Auf (rta).

“In the Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) to Adiy Ibn Hatim, we read: ‘If you live long, you will see the woman travel from Hirah (a city in Iraq) to circumambulate the Kabah, fearing none but Allah.’ (Bukhari)

“This confirms that the cause (of the prohibition) is fear (of insecurity). If security is guaranteed and fear is no more present, a woman may travel, particularly nowadays, when travel has become easy, whether by air, train or coach. In all these means of transportation, company is available and security is realized for the Muslim woman.”

Despite the above permission, the woman should ask herself what makes her feel safer – travelling alone or with a group of women / a Mahram relative. If a woman is competent, organization will make concessions for her to comply with the Islamic condition on travelling accompanied with a female colleague and will not see this as a hindrance in her employment.

Sharing household expenses is not mandatory

In Islam, the financial responsibility of the household rests with the man. Allah (swt) states: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means.” (An-Nisa 4:34)

On the other hand, such scholars as Dr. Rifat Fawzi (Professor of Shariah, Cairo University) and Sheikh Ahmed Kutty (Islamic Institute of Toronto) hold the view that women should contribute to the household expenses. In his Fatwah, Sheikh Kutty says: “If a wife gives her husband from her salary voluntarily, it is totally permissible for the husband to make use of it. But because of the fact that the wife’s working takes its toll on the husband, the wife should be fair enough to contribute something towards the maintenance of the house and the family.”

Nevertheless, a man cannot coerce his wife to work and share in the household expenses; neither can he forcibly take away her money. According to late Sheikh Muhammad Al-Bahyy (former dean of the Faculty of Theology at Al-Azhar University), “the wives’ right to the entire ownership of their Mahr (dower), which is given to them by their husbands, indicates their financial independence. It is not lawful for a man to take the Mahr, or a part of it, back from his wife except in two cases: if the wife remits it voluntarily, or if she gives it back to him in return for divorce from him (An-Nisa 4:4, Al-Baqarah 2:229).”

He further goes on to say: “As it is the case with Mahr, the wife has full ownership of her other sources of wealth, such as her salary. It is not lawful for the husband to take part or all of his wife’s salary, unless she gives it to him voluntarily.”

Women’s rights have not been imported

To conclude, I would like to quote Fatima Mernissi: “We, Muslim women, can walk into the modern world with pride, knowing that the quest for dignity, democracy and human rights, for full participation in the political and social affairs of our country, stems from no imported Western values, but is a true part of Muslim tradition.”