Speaking from a student’s perspective, Hafsa Ahsan humbly offers the teachers of Islamiat practical suggestions for improving the quality of lectures
I stifled a yawn and glanced around the class. Two of my classmates were reading a Danielle Steel novel under their desks. Behind me, a group of my classmates were chatting merrily. At the first read, you may think the teacher was not present in the class. But no, there was a full fledge lecture going on. This was a typical scenario of our Islamiat class, and some of the ways my classmates designed for breaking the monotony.
I feel really bad writing this, but the Islamiat classes were the most-dreaded ones. It was not so much the curriculum itself, as it was the way it was actually taught. I will be frank: the only reason I attended this class was because proxy attendances were against my principles.
Whether we talk about the British system of education or our Pakistani one, the curriculum is generally the same. Whether we studied the subject one semester or two years, not many of us actually remembered, what we had been taught. Most of the ‘study’ was comprised of a rush to make notes or open the textbook in the last month before exams, cram up as much as possible, and reproduce whatever we can in the exam paper. End of story.
The question, which generally arises, is – how should Islamiat be taught? It is a compulsory subject, after all. Its theoretical nature makes it difficult to fit Islamiat under the standards of science and commerce subjects, where concepts are understood through graphical, statistical, and logical means. However, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Using Audio Visual aids
I yet have to come across a teacher, who would actually use the blackboard, or any kind of Audio Visual aids, while teaching Islamiat. The ‘lecture’ in the truest sense of the word does not really hold the attention of students. If delivering the lecture in a form of an attractive presentation is too time-consuming, a good use of the blackboard would definitely make the class interesting. Mind maps showing the relations between different concepts are the most relevant diagrams, considering that we are talking about a theoretical subject.
Relating the subject to everyday life
In case of a simple topic like ablution, the teacher can go beyond the basic methodology of ablution and ask students questions like ‘what would they do if they have to pray at school and want to do ablution with their socks on?’ There are many such issues in our daily lives, for which we need to refer to Islamiat. Think about it: if we are not able to concentrate on our prayers, does not the need arise to remember the meaning of what we recite? Someone asks us to give Zakat to a charity organization, and we wonder, whether or not a charity donation actually counts as Zakat. There are many similar occasions, where we need to apply Islamiat.
Relating the subject to important scientific concepts
A couple of months ago, my sister showed me a physics formula, which illustrated, how at the time of Mairaj, Prophet Muhammad (sa) explored the seven skies and came back within a night. The formula had some values, which gave the value of time to be infinity. Now, if the Islamiat teacher is well up to date with the latest scientific research, he/she can relate similar connections in the class, which would definitely fascinate the students. Another example is the burning of the seas on the Day of Judgment. The teacher can show how, if the covalent bonds between hydrogen and oxygen break, one gas will burn and the other will make it burn -that is how the seas will be ignited.
Asking ‘how’ not ‘what’
Most of the Islamiat questions I saw in my school days began with ‘what’. Or still worse, there were such questions as ‘Write a note on Salah’. For the life of me, I have never understood the logic of the word ‘note’. Most students have come to translate this word as ‘Write everything you know about…’ And that is precisely what students do. On the contrary, such questions as ‘Why do you think Salah is not excused under any conditions?’ or ‘How do you think we practice Jihad-bin-Nafs in our daily lives?’ are more interesting and stimulate students to think. Such questions also ensure that the students do not rote-learn every chapter of the book. And from a student’s perspective, learning actually becomes a more fulfilling activity.
Encouraging class discussions and prompting students to ask ‘why’
One-way lectures on Islamiat just add to the drowsiness factor. If teachers would encourage students to ask questions, the class would become more exciting. An interesting discussion developed in one of my Islamiat classes – why do we believe the Ahadeeth to be authentic, when they were formally compiled after the death of the Prophet (sa)?
Engaging students in interesting activities
Research-based tasks, in which students have to consult sources other than the textbooks, are also a good option. The teacher can design activities that would require students to go online for looking up information, which would complement that of the textbook. Making small, attractive flash cards for different supplications, designing a Zakat calculator, and exploring online means of Dawah are some of the activities, which the teacher can assign students to make the subject livelier.
The above are some of my humble suggestions to Islamiat teachers. There is a widespread belief that ‘Islamiat is for exam’s sake only’, and it is up to the teachers to work towards eliminating it.