Islamic Online University

44 iou interview

Q1. How did Islamic Online University start its journey? Tell us a little about the initial days.

Alhumdulillah, the Islamic Online University (IOU) began its journey in 2001. Unfortunately, the programme ran into technical difficulties and had to shut down; however, the material developed for its courses was used to establish a department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Preston University, Ajman, UAE, and three years later, the department had its first batch of BA graduates. In 2007, IOU made a comeback with completely free diploma courses., and in 2010, the degree programme was launched and the first batch of Bachelor’s degree students began their journey of seeking authentic Islamic knowledge in a structured manner.

Q3. Where are the headquarters of the university? Are there any onsite campuses?

The IOU headquarters are located in Gambia, where we offer locally the Intensive English Course, which is also available offline in two other countries. Insha’Allah, we will also be launching Bachelor of Education offline in Gambia.

Q4. Tell us about the teaching staff: who are they and what is the criterion for their recruitment?

The IOU teaching staff is divided into instructors and tutorial assistants. Instructors explain lessons to the best of their abilities through recorded lectures. A minimum requirement to teach at the Bachelor’s level is Master’s degree in the respective field and higher, and Master’s or Ph.D. and higher for the IOU’s Master’s level. Most of our instructors hold either Master’s or Ph.D. degrees.

IOU tutorial assistants guide and help students during their semester. Each subject has its designated and highly qualified tutorial assistant, who is available to students through emails, various forums, Skype, or telephone. They have also recorded supplementary sessions to review and further explain given material. All IOU tutorial assistants must have at least Bachelor’s degree.

Q5. The IOU is a huge project comprising of so many faculties – how is everything organized and managed? Please shed some light on the efforts of the non-teaching staff too.

From across the globe, we have more than 100 administrative staff spread over different departments such as Registrar’s Office, Academic Coordination and Development Department, Promotions, IT, Human Resources, Chat/Info/Help Desk, and individual contributors, who form the admin infrastructure of IOU and work tirelessly in the backend to support the structure in its daily operations to ensure a smooth and comfortable study environment for IOU students. Alhumdulillah, we are glad to say that over the past years, we have gained a certain extent of expertise in global online staff management.

Q6. The concept of seeking Islamic knowledge online is a rather new one. How is the Muslim world taking it, especially with reference to IOU?

Alhumdulillah, Muslims are taking advantage of the Internet and participating in various educational activities that IOU offers. Word about the quality, authentic, and affordable education is spreading. The number of enrolled and graduate students is increasing with each semester. Alhumdulillah, the global IOU student body is comprised of 200,000+ registered students and 5000+ degree students from 228 different countries.

Q8. The university was founded with the vision “changing the nation through education” – do you now see this vision manifested?

The IOU students and graduates are probably our greatest assets and flag-bearers of changing the nation through education. Our students are involved in various activities that benefit their local or online communities.

Q9. What feedback have you received from IOU graduates? What are the major accomplishments of the university in terms of human capital?

Alhumdulillah, we have recently launched the M.A. in Islamic Studies programme, and most of our graduates have enrolled and continue their studies with us. Some of our students have started a second Bachelor’s programme at IOU. In addition, some students joined our administration team or faculty as tutorial assistants. This in itself shows that they are satisfied with IOU and the quality of education we offer, as they are continuing their journey with us. Moreover, we have received positive feedback from our students and alumni, who further recommend and present IOU to their local and online communities.

Q10. The university often arranges innovative programmes and workshops for youth, such as YL360 and Empowered Muslimah. What is their impact?

Our special workshops, such as the YL360 and Empowered Muslimah, have been a success primarily because these courses were aimed at helping the youth inculcate a sense of belonging, a sense of pride in our rich history, which is very much lacking in today’s generation. During one of the sessions of YL360 programme, students were taught to start a community project. Many sisters have even starting teaching the Empowered Muslimah course locally in their communities for the sisters, who do not have any Internet facility.

Q11. Your message for the Islamic world, especially Muslim families.

Acquisition of knowledge should be given a high priority. The only way to overcome the problem of Muslims getting radicalized is by educating the Muslim community about Islam. As Dr. Bilal Philips says: “Islam is not about kissing the Quran and keeping it on a shelf. It is about seeking knowledge by reading, understanding, and reflecting.”

Q12. What are the aspirations of the IOU team?

A new course packed with seven powerful sessions covering topics from improving one’s communication skills to acquiring the skills of working efficiently in a team called “The Seven Gems” will be introduced shortly. This new course is aimed at helping the youth out of the shackles that prevent them from achieving success, personally and professionally. With Allah’s (swt) help, more interesting and beneficial programmes will be coming soon.

The Ashab-e-Kahf For Today’s Youth

Ashab e Kahf

Transcribed for hiba by Asma Imran

I would like to highlight some lessons from the story of the Ashab-e-Kahf (People of the Cave) which I feel are significantly missing in Muslim discourse especially those related to our youth.

Withdrawal from Mainstream Culture

The first thing I want to talk about is the cultural onslaught. The People of the Cave drew themselves away from the dominant culture when they observed that it was overwhelmingly evil. Actually, a verdict was passed against them according to which they were to be executed as a result of their faith; so they pulled themselves out.

One of the most important lessons to draw from this is that until our lives are in danger, we have to engage with the society. As Muslims, we cannot have the attitude that we are not going to mingle in the society because everything outside is a Fitnah from which we have to protect and shelter ourselves, and the only way we are going to preserve our faith is by totally shutting ourselves out from the outside world. This means that we’ve already accepted defeat. It says that everybody else is attacking us, and we’ve got to save ourselves by pulling back and staying strong within our fort.

However, the entire idea of Islam and the imagery that Allah (swt) presents of Islam is that of truth being hurled against falsehood. Allah (swt) gives the image of truth being like a weapon and falsehood being the victim and running away. Thus, the truth is attacking falsehood, and falsehood is on the run. So who’s on the offense and who’s on the defence? Who’s actually questioning the wrong happening in our society and engaging with it and saying: “We are here to change things?” That’s the truth. And who’s actually supposed to go into hiding? That’s supposed to be falsehood.

To read the rest of this article, and more, subscribe to Hiba Magazine.

Top Three Reasons Why Children Fail

gradesFear

What are kids scared of in school? They are afraid to let down the anxious adults around them namely their teachers and parents. This nerve-wrecking fear hovers over their head like a dark cloud, chasing them to failure. What else is scaring the living daylights out of them? It’s the humiliation these children feel when they cannot learn well enough and are targeted by their fellow classmates, who mock them and turn them into a laughing stock. It’s the hurtful comparisons their own parents make to their other siblings or other friends cruising ahead in school.

The greatest gift a parent or teacher can give to a child is their confidence and faith in his ability to reach his potential. 

Fear is the greatest hurdle in the way of learning. A genius cannot live under the constant scare of defeat and the pressure of not disappointing others. For this very reason, inventors like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein failed so miserably in formal schooling. Yet the minute they were pulled out of the pressure and allowed to create something of value, they rose from mediocrity to excellence.

Kids are also afraid to make mistakes because the grown-ups in their lives generally have little or zero tolerance for it. Whether it is a simple case of spilling milk on the table, a wrong answer to a math problem, or a misspelt word, children are taken to task for any error they make. It makes me wonder about the number of times Anas (rtam) must have blundered while serving our Prophet Muhammad (sa) as a child, and yet, in his own words as evidence, Anas (rtam) states: “Not once in nine years of my service was I ever rebuked by the Messenger (sa).” Muhammad (sa) understood and respected the tender nature of children, and he allowed them room to learn and make mistakes fearlessly.

Boredom

John Holt states: “Except for a handful, who may or may not be good students, they fail to develop more than a tiny part of the tremendous capacity for learning, understanding and creating with which they were born and of which they made full use during the first two or three years of their lives. Why do they fail?”

A child does not need to be a jack of all trades. He will fare better if he becomes the master of one. 

They fail because the race to finish off school curriculum is on every teacher and parent’s mind in general. The stuff kids are expected to do in classrooms is dull and boring. It does not challenge their intelligence. So they desperately try to sail along, sometimes swimming and other times drowning.

Confusion

What confuses children? It’s the contradiction between what they learn in their classroom and what the real world presents to them. It makes little or no sense at all. To dodge this, kids adapt many strategies to survive school too. At times, they will mumble an answer. At other times, they will stay silent. Some will give the most outrageously incorrect answer mainly so that they are left alone. Others will try to read the teacher’s face for clues and may get lucky.

The greatest gift a parent or teacher can give to a child is their confidence and faith in his ability to reach his potential. Allah’s (swt) creation is never faulty. Every child comes with his set of skills. Unfortunately, our schools and educational system has very little room to recognize and let that talent grow. A child does not need to be a jack of all trades. He will fare better if he becomes the master of one. This means the report card may show low grades in some places and a clear winner in the area of the kid’s interest and passion. Let that be!

Adapted from “How Children Fail” by John Holt

For the Unwed Muslimah: Single is Serene

Photo credit: TexasEagle / Foter / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: TexasEagle / Foter / CC BY-NC

  1. Everything is decreed

The only sober way to change your perspective is to know that you are where you were destined to be. Allah (swt) is Al-Muqtadir (The perfect in ability) and He is the Creator of the Divine Qadr. Your destiny was written by Him even before you came into existence. Customarily, we find people pinning blame or ill-omens to single women for being single. Nothing can be more ignorant and farther from the truth. If you are single right now, you are living out what has been written for you and the rest shall come to pass too- if that includes a husband and a family then rejoice; if it doesn’t, then rejoice some more. It is your Creator’s (swt) wise plan.

Ask any married individual and he/she mopes about having no time for self-growth and development.

  1. Marriage – a non-mandatory blessing

Our lives, our time, the air we breathe are some blessings that have been granted to us by our Lord. But, who said that a spouse is included in the deal for all? Each and every one of us enjoy a different set of bounties when it comes to our share of family, friends, Rizq, intelligence, talent, beauty and opportunities etc. You are not bound to have a relationship; so stop thinking that you are deprived. Your Creator is Al-Wahab (The liberal Bestower). You may have what many other married couples do not have. If being single was unfortunate, then Allah (swt) would not have destined Maryam (as) and prophets like Yahya (as) to live and die as single.

  1. Comparison is the thief of joy

Everyone is in a different chapter of his/her life story. If you decide to compare your life to that happily married cousin or the very wealthy and pampered friend, you will self-sabotage your own life. Understand that Allah (swt) has created every person and his circumstances unique. Any kind of comparison is the greatest insult one can do to that uniqueness in creativity. When we compare our life to others, we are always comparing apples to oranges. Regretfully, social media with couples flaunting their joy adds to the trigger of emotions; and single people often feel insecure, under-achieved and deprived. There is so much to life. A spouse may be a cherry on the cake, but not the cake itself. The cake is your relationship with Allah (swt); the rest is just the icing.

  1. Fasting ensures chastity and contentment

For many Muslimahs, marriage is simply a means to satisfy their natural intimate desire- as Islam disallows adultery. They are not mentally mature to handle a relationship; and neither they are committed and trained to bear and raise kids. If physical attraction would have been such a strong means to keep couples together, then we would not have seen spiralling divorces. Sexual need is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. The prophetic means to curb is to fast regularly. Also occupy yourself with something productive; refrain from viewing soft pornography and seductive imagery on media; try to hang around with friends and family members who are serious about developing their own talents, skills and pursuing community and welfare services.

  1. Self-appreciation and education

Marriage is a serious business. It comes with a set of heavy duty responsibilities that occupies your entire day and time for many years. Ask any married individual and he/she mopes about having no time for self-growth and development. If Allah (swt) has destined you to be single, then avail this opportunity to grow- educate yourself, develop a skill, pursue a hobby and take care of your health. We often hear comments like: “I need to lose weight so that I can get married.” The only reason one should maintain good health and care is so that he/she is able to worship and obey Allah (swt) effectively. Your self-esteem will rise automatically. Your looks and your decisions should not be fashioned to win a spouse; rather to keep Allah (swt) pleased with you.

May Allah (swt) bless us all with understanding of His Deen and contentment. Ameen

Bring Life to Learning and Learning to Life

education_researchChildren are naturally inventive. They do not need to be told to be creative. Perhaps, they need guidance, motivation and inspiration to boost up their creativity. Research, design and evaluation provide the opportunity to young children to enhance their intellectual learning. The concept of research development is not yet accepted as fundamental to educational change by our educational institutions. Many schools still believe in traditional teaching methodologies. However, educational research culture should be adopted for an improved educational system in our country.

Educational research defined

It is a field of inquiry, the systematic generation of new knowledge, development of new ideas and experimenting with new techniques. Clear and open-minded questions call for real research and thinking and furnish ways for evaluating answers. It aims at advancing knowledge of education and learning processes, while simultaneously developing the human resource.

Teachers’ professional development – a crisis or negative teaching culture?

Teachers’ learning and professional development is not much valued in Pakistan. They are merely trained as classroom teachers. The research-based teacher training culture is hardly seen in Pakistani schools. Research culture has made its way into higher educational institutions but not in schools. School heads and principals expect teachers to teach their students but not lead them. Teachers are required to teach the syllabus prescribed by the school. They are not encouraged to experiment with new innovative approaches of teaching. Anyone, who shares a new idea from a book or design creative activities for students, is criticized. In such schools, positive views of professional learning are counter cultural. Due to negative and unsupportive attitude of the school management, teachers do not bother to take interest in research and are compelled to use the age old traditional teaching methods.  Thus, negative teaching culture has seriously impaired learning skills of teachers.

To respond to these challenges, many educationists face confusion and constraints in their minds as to how can they make schools research oriented.  What goals and strategies should be adopted to create research learning environment in the schools?

 Action research strategy

Today, many schools are using research culture in their schools; however, they are not aware that their teaching methodologies are based on research. The teaching strategy used in classrooms is action research strategy.

Action research involves three forms of research:

  1. Exploratory
  2. Evaluative
  3. Experimental

The teacher uses research element in developing the curriculum, content and activities. To make the classroom climate interactive, teacher uses teaching methods that include group discussion, individual presentation, searching information from the library or internet and creative writing tasks. The research projects introduced in classroom help to explore student’s learning strategy and also strengthen student-teacher relationship.

School – a teacher’s hub

To promote teacher as a researcher and a proactive learner, work place learning such as school is considered as an essential element in enhancing the professional development of teachers. The work place must provide continuous learning opportunities for teachers and encourage them to reflect and practice new ideas or new skills in classroom. Many teachers believe that they learn most effectively from the judgment and perception of their students in the classroom.

Collaborative learning

Another important source of learning for teachers is co-operative learning in which teachers share their new ideas and introduce modern teaching methods to their colleagues.

Some schools are following observation and assessment approach which is also beneficial for enhancing teacher professional development. This includes peer coaching and teacher evaluation which encourage teachers to improve their professional competencies. The teacher, as a person and learner, has to develop skills, qualities and attitudes such as commitment, confidence, flexibility and passion for learning, analytic and conceptual thinking to enhance his professional skills respectively.

Importance of research-based learning

The sole purpose of stimulating educational research in children is to give them an insight of what they learn. The curriculum, modes of instruction, assessments and learning opportunities should be clearly linked with natural environment and developed to cater the needs and interests of the students. The firsthand experience in a child’s education comes from nature. Dienes (1969) suggests that children need to build or construct their own concepts from within rather than having those concepts imposed upon them. This means that children at a very young age are inquisitive about their surroundings and have a desire to explore them. It is the responsibility of teachers to let children explore, think and question. The questions formed in the mind enhance learning and intellectual capabilities of young children.

Let the wind of change blow!

The present scenario implies that in order to bring a cultural change in schools, the teachers, students and communities should collectively work together for a unified goal. Research and development has great significance in shaping developing communities. The first step to raise awareness among teachers and parents to bring a meaningful change in our education system is the collective acceptance of re-thinking schooling. Workshops, seminar and other training sessions provide a platform to teachers and educationists to collectively think about redefining their goals and objectives. Having the same vision in mind, an educational institution organized a seminar which focused on enhancing research culture in schools. The guest speakers in the seminar talked about the significance of research in teaching and learning; and pondered over various reasons that are causing hindrance in increasing research skills among teachers and students.

The focal point of that seminar was to emphasize upon a radical change in education system. The change has been centered to the need for schools to create an environment which is conducive to promoting research skills in teachers and students. We need to provide the learners with a fundamental precept of Islamic education integrated with Islamic Tarbiyah. An eminent Muslim political thinker Al-Mauwardi in his book entitled “The Leadership and Politics” writes that the essential characteristic for a Muslim educator is to have knowledge, perception, intellect, intuition and revelation which enhances research skills in teachers and students. Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah said: “To gain knowledge and research in children, an educator must encourage children to be creative, inquisitive and ask questions. Children should remain quiet and listen attentively and understand well. And lastly act upon the knowledge being gained.

The seminar outlined the fact there is a general consensus that schools need to adopt research teaching approaches. But this process of change is still a big challenge for various schools who still believe in unreflective and conventional teaching methods. Radical change in education is impossible unless education leaders critically analyze and understand the goals and objectives of research in educational development. Research element reveals that transmission of knowledge, values and beliefs into classroom practices offers multiple opportunities for students and teachers to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.

 

The Story of Orange Tree

orange treeWhen you do something solely to please the Lord, you don’t keep a count or tabs or wonder about success. You just keep on doing what you are doing, hoping He accepts it. This may be one of the reasons why I never wrote about the Orange Tree Foundation or got worried about its publicity or growing in numbers or size.

But living so far away from it, I feel it’s time I introduce the world to this baby of ours and talk about it and give it the recognition it deserves. Normally, when someone asks me, “So what exactly is Orange Tree?” My typical answer is the one I had learnt by heart over the years…” It’s a mother and child education program starting from the Montessori level. It provides equal educational opportunities to students. We give the students Montessori for a year along with regular classes to mothers for a year; after which they get admitted into mainstream schools of Karachi and the Orange Tree sponsors their education as well as provides them with reinforcement classes of what they are studying in school.”

It’s a mother and child education program starting from the Montessori level. It provides equal educational opportunities to students.

But today, I’d like to share a bit more than what I used to explain as to who we are to people. If I rewind everything back to 2011, there used to be a very small organization run by a few college students known as Jaag Meray Taalib e Ilm. They weren’t much of Taalibe Ilms since they spent most of their time in protests or in student empowering conferences or events that would just somehow help them feel that they are contributing towards the betterment of Pakistan, towards fighting the education emergency in the country. They used to call themselves ‘the crazy ones…who change things.’

They were looking for something long term, something definite and something that would contribute as a solution rather than a short term band-aid for this problem called education crisis in Pakistan. But they had no money in their pockets and no plan in mind. It was in the summer of 2011 that they met Omer Mateen Allahwala, the current General Secretary of Orange Tree Foundation. He questioned them about their aims, asked them what they wished to do and perhaps might have seen a few twinkling eyes who really thought they could change the world with their grand ideas about changing the country in a prosperous manner. He explained to them that they needed a proper plan and since they seem determined he was willing to join hands with them and help them find what they really want to do. He only insisted on one thing: whether it is improving one life or one hundred lives, you need to know who you are pleasing, your ego or your God.

After a few meetings cum mentoring sessions with him, he introduced them to the power house of a woman called Sabina Khatri (founder of the Kiran School System). It took her two hours talking about her school in Lyari and the problems she faced there to move that particular group to jitters and goose bumps. Something had to be done. She challenged those college kids if they really were determined enough to go to Lyari with her then and there and see for themselves to get a bit more inspired or see the picture clearly. It was decided that a few classes would have to be bunked for that day and off they went in a car driven by Sabina Khatri to Lyari and that day was probably a decisive day for all the members of the Orange Tree who went with her. “We are opening a similar school system…just need a name and place and teachers and a lot of other things that we had not even started to sort out in our heads.”

Three years down the road, we now have 48-forty eight students and their mothers; two apartments in the same building and countless fundraisers and exhibitions of our mothers’ handicrafts around the city;

The name Orange Tree was decided via a vote on a BBM group and then started the hunt for an apartment. It was decided that it would be in Khadda Market, close to the accommodations of most of the team members since safety of the team could not be compromised by the elders on the team. And it was easier to get volunteers to come to that side instead of an area far away.  Within a month a beautiful 2-two room apartment was taken on rent; painting and setting up started. Every team member did their bit, some got a stove, some got their mother’s old crockery, some got their own mothers to teach and some raised donations to buy paint, furniture and what not. We were definitely opening a school.

Our first round of admissions was extremely difficult for us, for we did not know how to shortlist. Saying no to any parent was just impossible for us. Eventually we decided upon the kind of families we needed in order to support a student for a long term program. We also approached a lot of big factory/company owners to spread the word among their employees.

The criterion was simple:

Parents need to be passionate and committed to the cause of education

The student’s family should be Karachi based

The father must be employed and earning a minimum of Rs. 10,000

Both parents should have primary education

The child must be between 2.5-3 years of age at the time of admission

We needed committed parents who would not run off in the middle of the program at the smallest of problems. And we aimed at white collar employees who knew the worth of good education since they saw their employers achieve success with it but could not afford to put their children in good schools.

We admitted 12-twelve students in the first year; again we were not going for numbers, just aiming to do the best for these children. With a few family friends and mentors helping us out, we began our journey. Some of us quit our full time jobs, some adjusted Orange Tree timings with their work timings and some gave up their careers altogether to give time to Orange Tree. With regular classes for mothers which included subjects like Grooming, Art, Computers, English, Quran, Hadeeth, Hygiene and General Knowledge; the mothers were tested on their classes every month and had exams twice a year. Two of our team members enrolled into the London Montessori Institute to become better teachers and were guided by a Montessori Directress with twelve years of experience. The first batch was admitted into various schools in Karachi including St. Michael’s, Reflections, DHA Public School and Army Public School.

Three years down the road, we now have 48-forty eight students and their mothers; two apartments in the same building and countless fundraisers and exhibitions of our mothers’ handicrafts around the city; putting in efforts to improve the registered non-profit organization called Orange Tree Foundation. Our mission statement speaks of enabling moral, spiritual and intellectual enlightenment and of creating opportunities to improve the quality of life. With the vision to please the One and Only, we hope we can do justice with our work at this school and bring the best of opportunities for the students studying there.

For those who wish to help us, we are open for admissions and are always looking for volunteers. With limited seats each year, we need to make sure that the parents of our admitted students stay committed for at least 16 years (the child’s graduation). Parents who are committed to the cause of their child’s education and determined to strive for the best- are the ones who can face the fierce competition; let alone the adjustment that they will have to do once their children are admitted into mainstream schools.

For those who wish to help us, we are open for admissions and are always looking for volunteers.

We would appreciate if we could get help in identifying such families for admission. Hence we request you on this platform to come forward and help us find such families. Alhamdulillah, we also have a Mufti on board who is qualified from Dar ul Ifta, Darul Uloom Karachi to assist us in selecting families who are eligible for Sadaqah and Zakat.

We also accept donations, both Zakat and Sadaqah. Both accounts are separately maintained and audited. We can be contacted on teamorangetree@gmail.com or 03312325828 or find us on Facebook.

Account details are as follows:

Orange Tree Foundation

Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan Limited

26th Street Branch (025)

Swift Code for international transfers: DUIBPKKA

Account No: 0167172002-Sadaqah

Account No: 0167172003-Zakat

Finding Fatimah

18

The world has known many Fatimahs, the most famous and revered one in the Muslim Ummah being Fatimah, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (sa), whom we meet in the books of Seerah.

Recently, I came across one more exemplary Fatimah, who was born to a Tunisian businessman in the year 800 AD. Fatimah bint Mohammad al-Fihri is known as the founder of the oldest university in the world.

Along with her sister, Maryam, Fatimah al-Fihri left her city of birth in order to help their father expand his business. Rather like today, changing homes back in the ninth century was no easy task. But the bustling city of Fes soon became a friend to the family as the two sisters helped Mohammad al-Fihri settle in Morocco.

Their newfound happiness did not last for as long as they may have hoped. Mohammad al-Fihri passed away, leaving the girls without any close family member. However, he left for the girls a respectable amount of money in his will, a clear message that he trusted his daughters to build for themselves a place in this world. Fatimah and Maryam had previously lived comfortably and money matters were mostly left to the discretion of their father. After his death, however, the sisters took bold yet noble decisions about what to do with the money that was now theirs.

Living in the cultural and spiritual centre of ninth century Morocco, Fatimah was deeply inspired by the study of art, religion, history, and architectural design. She gravitated towards this vibrant community and the values it upheld, to which she was no longer a stranger. For the al-Fihri sisters, nothing could reduce the pain of losing their father better than giving back to their community. Hence, they decided to invest in the society around them. The money they had inherited was used to lay the foundations of what were initially two Masajid: Al-Andalus and Al-Qarawiyyin. The constructions of both were supervised by Maryam and Fatimah respectively.

In 869 AD, Fatimah decided it was time to expand the mosque into a Madrassah, which went on to be recognized as a state university in 1963. In his book “Madrasah and University in the Middle Ages”, George Makdisi writes: “…back in the Middle Ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.”

During the course of Islamic history, Al-Qarawiyyin became more than a university that housed a Masjid; it soon began housing the greatest minds of the European Middle Ages. Many notable scholars of the time either studied or taught at Al-Qarawiyyin, including Ibn Khaldun, Leo Africanus, and Ibn al-Arabi. The university gained fame among the scholars from all over the world, such as Maimonides (Ibn Maimun) and Muhammad al-Idris, a cartographer, whose maps were widely used during the Renaissance, especially in European quests to explore uncharted lands.

The university expanded very rapidly. With additional construction done in the twelfth century, Al-Qarawiyyin came to be regarded as the largest mosque in North Africa. That was the time when the Masjid gained its current structure, which can now accommodate around twenty-two thousand worshippers.

In a brutal attempt to massacre Muslim civilization during the Spanish Inquisition, many Muslims and scholars were expelled from Spain. They found a refuge in Fes, where they shared their wisdom and their cultural insights about arts and sciences. While the Spanish Inquisition of the thirteenth century was a dark and difficult time for Muslim scholars, al-Fihri’s institution became a much-needed symbol of hope for the devastated Muslim academia.

In his book “Islamic Education in Europe” (2009), Ednan Aslan writes how the Muslim community “maintained, favoured, and organized the institutions for higher education that became the new centres for the diffusion of Islamic knowledge.” This resulted in the centres becoming “places where teachers and students of that time would meet” and “where all intellectuals would gather and take part in extremely important scientific debates.” He writes that in the ninth century, it is not to be taken as a coincidence that the establishment of the Qarawiyyin University in Fes was followed by Az-Zaytuna in Tunis and Al-Azhar in Cairo. Aslan writes: “The university model, which in the West was widespread starting only from the twelfth century, had an extraordinary fortune and was spread throughout the Muslim world at least until the colonial period.”

Before her death in 880 AD, Fatimah al-Fihri was titled Umme Banin, the Mother of the Children. She was remembered to have stood true to her oath to keep fasting till the construction of the Masjid was completed. She prayed in the Masjid for the first time as an act of gratitude to Allah (swt). The city of Kairouan was no longer a stranger to the two sisters, Fatimah and Maryam, both of whom had made wise and important choices in their youth.

As a Muslimah, the world I live in asks me to stop looking into the past; however, it is there that I find hope for the future. Perhaps there is a Fatimah al-Fihri out there reading my words. If she is, we must help her in her quest to create a space, where learning takes place for all the seekers of knowledge.

 

“Sina” – Health, Education and Welfare Trust

sina1) Can you tell us more about your projects, especially the clinics in slum areas, reconstructing homes in Sujawal and formal schooling?

“Sina” Health, Education & Welfare Trust is a not-for-profit organization, focusing on providing primary healthcare in to less-privileged communities. Our vision is that quality healthcare should be accessible for all. To achieve this, we build clinics in the heart of deserving communities and provide both curative and preventive care. “Sina” was founded in 2007, and as of 2013, “Sina” has seven clinics in the urban slums of Karachi. Over 80% of “Sina’s” patients are women and children who benefit from quality healthcare provided at their doorstep at a very affordable cost of Rs 350+ per patient, a fee of Rs 5-30 per patient with free medicines, test and follow up care.

2) Why was “Sina” born? What was your basic aim and vision?

Named after Ibn Sina (Avicenna), we started our first clinic in 1998, when Dr. Asif Imam returned to Pakistan, after practicing medicine in the USA for over two decades. The vision guiding this beginning was simple – to provide quality primary healthcare to those in need, regardless of financial means available. The clinics gradually grew with “Sina” Trust formally coming into being in 2007.

3) How is it different from similar work that others are doing in the same field (healthcare and education)?

Whilst we have achieved a key milestone of treating 100,000+ patients last year, “Sina’s”s greatest asset is its quality management system. This system is unique, as it has adapted quality international healthcare protocols, used in developed healthcare systems for application in low-income settings. Simply put, this is the foundation, on which we believe a scalable quality primary healthcare system can be created for catering to the needs of less-privileged communities across Pakistan. Our aim, therefore, is to take this system of quality primary healthcare across Pakistan. We are embarking on this journey of growth to play our part in bringing quality healthcare to deserving communities across Pakistan.

4) Can you tell us about your team members?

The “Sina” Board of Trustees include highly committed professionals, who have joined hands to provide quality healthcare to those in need. Our trustees include Dr. Asif Imam (Allergist & Immunologist), Dr. Naseeruddin Mahmood (Pediatrician), Mohammad Fazil Bharucha (Lawyer), Sohail Ahmed (Industrialist) and Jalauddin Idrus (Educationist/ Social Worker). Our CEO Riaz Ahmed Kamlani has held positions of Chief Operating Officer and Vice President at The Citizens Foundation prior to joining “Sina”.

5) How can others help you in your work? Would you need human resource or financial assistance?

Our focus is to help save children from critical illness and help women look after their health. It costs only Rs. 350 to treat one patient and that is our greatest need. A majority of our patients are Zakaat eligible, based on Zakaat eligibility evaluation conducted under the guidance of our Shariah Advisor. We, therefore, encourage individuals to help treat as many patients as they can through Zakat and other contributions.

Our future aim is to take this system of quality primary healthcare across Pakistan, Insha’Allah. For this, we would continue to be in need of both financial and volunteer time contributions. We would, therefore, invite you to support us in bringing quality healthcare to those in need.

6) Would you like to share with us any of “Sina’s” success stories?

Two-year-old Sahil was born blind because of bilateral congenital cataracts. While being treated for the flu at “Sina” clinic, he was diagnosed and referred to an ophthalmology hospital and recommended for surgery. With a diagnoses of severe anemia combined with an intolerance for oral iron supplements, our experts initiated a blood transfusion process prior to surgery which was successful. Today, for the first time, Sahil can experience the joy of seeing with both eyes.

—————————————–

Name of Organization: “Sina Health, Education & Welfare Trust”

Drive: Zakat Collection

Contact person / phone number / email address: Anita Shaikh (Manager Resource Development & Marketing at “Sina Health, Education & Welfare Trust”)

03008287620/ anita.shaikh@sina.pk

The Zakat funds are used to treat Zakat eligible patients at the SINA clinics. About 70% of our patients are Zakat eligible, as we build clinics in the heart of deserving communities.

Treatment includes:

  • Consultation – qualified, registered and trained physicians
  • Medicines – in-house pharmacy at every clinic
  • Investigations – blood tests & urine tests, etc., through a collection unit located within every clinic
  • Treatments – stitching, wound dressing, nebulization, IV maintenance, etc.
  • Referral – specialists through SINA’s network

The cost of this whole treatment is Rs. 300 and we charge our Zakat patients Rs. 5 – the rest of the deficit is covered via donations.

AlKauthar Institute – Spreading Enlightenment through Education

logoBy Alana Owais

AlKauthar Institute came from humble beginnings in Australia with an inventive approach to Islamic education. A flagship project of Mercy Mission, AlKauthar aims at providing an enriched Islamic instruction through the English medium and modern technology. It intends to attract today’s bright and eager Muslims, who are pursuing traditional Islamic values and want to cater to the needs of the Ummah. AlKauthar also hopes to achieve a resonance of academic excellency amongst the ‘model Muslim citizens’ to expand its reach of philanthropy and Islamic values within local communities. These efforts will hopefully lead AlKauthar to become a household name globally and contribute to its network of sister projects and partners for an even larger impact across the globe, Insha’Allah.

Thanks to the efforts of Shaykh Tawfique Chowdhury, CEO and Chairman of Mercy Mission, a dedicated front has been made through AlKauthar Institute, laying a strong foundation of Mercy Mission in Pakistan. Mercy Mission is the umbrella organization that surveys the various Dawah projects such as AlKauthar, to advance its vision of academically empowering Muslims transcending past idle knowledge and using it in peaceful action.

AlK made its debut in Karachi during June of 2013 and since then has organized three courses in total. It launched with ‘Heart Therapy’, which focused on the spiritual core of human beings: the soul. This course prepared and equipped students with the tools to identify and cleanse the heart and soul of its diseases, such as corruption, ostentation, and hatred. The course content of ‘Heart Therapy’ was most intriguing because it prescribed practical solutions for Muslims who wish to deal with these typical ailments.

Similarly, each and every course of AlK has been specialized for this purpose: to provide the modern Muslim with practical solutions in Deen and therefore, in life as well. Alhumdulillah. One brother from the AlK community says: “We live in a time where it often becomes easy to get distracted from our true purpose in life. Every now and then we need a nudge in the right direction; that is the AlKauthar experience: the nudge to get you back on track.” Another amazing aspect of AlK is the diversity it brings. Its course conductors are from across the globe with multi-talented backgrounds of Islamic and secular education and experience. As students listen to them, they are given a summary guide to those scholars’ entire life’s research. One local medical student who attended AlK says: “The courses are brilliantly designed and conducted by highly qualified, professional, and dedicated Islamic Instructors who have empowered me with the true teachings of Islam. These courses have not only instilled immense knowledge but have also been a driving force for me to put this knowledge into action!”

AlKauthar Institute is a non-profit organization, but there is a fee associated with the registration to any AlK course. The fee is used to fund the resources for each event. If you register for a class and pay the fees, you can expect well-prepared course materials like complete course manuals and audio files of the entire course, two days of lunch and refreshments, a mother’s room for mothers with young children, and online registration to a vast network of Islamic resources. Plus, the fees cover the expense costs of the speakers travelling from all over the world just to come and share their research-based information with you. The remaining sum goes to financial assistance programmes for students who really want to attend but cannot afford it.

The next course of AlK will take place on April 19th and 20th, Insha’Allah! Titled, ‘The Worst of the Worst,’ this is a unique course designed to interpret the characters of the Quran’s historical villainous figures such as Satan, Pharaoh, and Dajjal and derive lessons of life while separating fact from fiction.

In the words of Chairman and CEO Shaykh Tawfique Chowdhury, “Worst of the Worst is an attempt to educate people about the worst of creation – Dajjal, Pharoh, Iblees – so that we don’t follow their path and steer clear of them.” This course will be taught by Sheikh Furqan Jabbar who was born in Melbourne, Australia and has been a student of Islamic studies in various schools from Karachi to the King Saud University in Riyadh.

For more information on the upcoming events of AlKauthar or ways to contribute to Mercy Mission, please visit the Facebook page or the website. Email: karachi@alkauthar.org.

A Life Transforming Experience

villages-of-punjab-pakistan-2It was late in July when I came across a vision so touching in its splendour. It was indeed, a pleasurable morning with stillness all round, the sun was smiling gently down upon us, sounds of chirping birds were also gratifying to my ear, and the weather was as calm as sea in the fresh atmosphere.

My dad was sitting in his chair reading the newspaper while my mom was busy in the kitchen as she was preparing breakfast for us. My younger sister Sadia came rushing down stairs, shouting,’’ Dad, dad!’’ I asked if something was wrong but that little fellow just wanted the attention of her father. She went to him and said in a whining tone, “another month has gone and we have not yet been to a picnic.’’ Our dad never turned down a request from his daughter. He replied,’’ Well, you are right about that, but where to go?’’ My father moved into deep thought and said after a moment with excitement in his voice, ‘’ Oh yes, we can go to my friend who lives in a village!’’ I did not know much about villages so I thought it would be something new and I along with my mother and sister happily agreed.
Few days later, we were packing our bags; my mom and younger sister were putting on their jewellery and make up while my younger brother and dad together with me were waiting for them in the car. We prepared for the journey with great enthusiasm. Our cheeks flushed, boots were shining and excitement seemed to fill our body. My family was looking forward to a thrilling, sizzling and stimulating new adventure!

It was Monday so the roads were busy but my father smoothly drove to the village. After an hour or two, the car had reached its destination safely by the grace of the Almighty Allah. As we stepped out of the car, we saw a vast plain area. There were small houses of bricks, mud or clay. The people were not delighted to see us; we looked alien to them. I said in amazement,’’ Where are we?’’ My dad was not surprised and he called a pedestrian and asked if he could tell us about the residence of Hayyat Mohammad, the man replied, “right there,’’ pointing this finger towards a mansion. That was not far away but we had to cover that small distance on foot. After a walk, we were standing at the gate of the huge dwelling house which was a trendy flavour of structural design.

Extreme poverty was there, such that even their vessels were cracked. This made me realize that people work really hard for things that we take for granted.

At first the guards did not allow us in but as soon as our names were approved they were no more a hurdle for us. I walked into the mansion, observing the tallest ceiling ever, I could also see the wonderful garden that was covering a large area and the beautiful flowers there were also a fascination.

We waited for my dad’s friend in a luxurious room. He did not take much time and appeared just after five minutes. A tall middle-aged man with a broad chest, his beard was mostly black, with a few grey hairs sprinkled in it. My father saw him and stood up and embraced him warmly, he came to meet me too with his hand stretched out in welcome. We returned the greetings and got settled in the sofa which was quite comfortable. It was a perfect drawing room with a beautiful centre table, a book shelve in the corner along with a big TV that had two units on each side. Afterwards, that tall man served us coffee, biscuits and other snacks. Perhaps he was a rich land lord of the village that could afford such an arrangement of top class. Eventually, he turned his face towards me and said, ‘’in which school do you study?’’ I replied, “I am a student of ninth class in Beacon Light Academy that is in Karachi.’’ He was glad to know of it and further inquired about my studies which made him happier. He said to my father, “Your children are in good hands.’’ For a moment, silence had dominated the room when Mr. Hayyat looked at his watch and said, ”I will have to leave but my servant would lead you to your rooms.’’ The room was very well kept and it was a consolation for us. After a while all of my family members had fallen asleep except me because restlessness existed in my nature. I decided to visit the village.

I moved outside the mansion as curiosity forced me to explore the village life, although I was dead tired. Stepping outside the mansion was like leaving a bed of roses and welcoming a bed of nails. The common men of the village were leading a miserable life! They had dressed themselves very simply; most of their children were wearing ragged clothes living in small houses of clay that had insufficient space for the expanded families with empty stomachs. I was surprised, I never knew of people with such a pathetic life style. I felt blue and felt sorry for them, drowning in a sea of grief maybe because I was not at all familiar with that.  Only a cold blooded could pass by calmly. Extreme poverty was there, such that even their vessels were cracked. This made me realize that people work really hard for things that we take for granted.

On that day I made a promise to myself that I would not let a single morsel of food or a single drop of water go in vain because these are precious. Moreover, instead of whining, I would always be grateful to my Lord who has bestowed upon me so many uncountable blessings. I saw their elders working with their fingers to the bone in their farms yet they were unable to make enough money. ‘Why is that so?’ I asked myself. Perhaps it was education, I thought. Maybe education could have made their situation better.

On that day I made a promise to myself that I would not let a single morsel of food or a single drop of water go in vain because these are precious. Moreover, instead of whining, I would always be grateful to my Lord who has bestowed upon me so many uncountable blessings.

I found myself as empty as a lake without water. I did not pay much attention towards my studies although my school and teachers were very good. At that instant, I had recognized the significance of knowledge. I became even more acquainted with the importance of knowledge when I noticed a baby crying and her mother was preparing medicine for the child. The mother could not read and this is why she did not perceive the expire date on the label, I told her that it had expired and would rather be harmful but she refused to obey saying that she did not have enough money to get another one. I came to know of why we say that ‘knowledge is power’. It is because knowledge is a light that comes from the lighthouse in order to guide the ships when it is dark. My heart was sinking and I made a pledge to myself once again that from now on wards I will put my heart in gaining knowledge. Furthermore, I will try to spread the light of knowledge as much as I can. I said to the villagers that time would heal all their wounds but that was a cold comfort to them.

All that I had observed and pondered over turned me into a new leaf. It had transformed me into a careful and mature young man from a reckless and stubborn teenager.Whatever I saw had a noteworthy optimistic effect on me!

Parental Pressure – Tips for Teenaged Girls

life

  • Are your parents planning to get you married off to someone you DON’T like?
  • Are they planning to stop you from acquiring further education?
  • Are they planning to stop you from working?

Listen up, girls!

It’s not necessary to get into a fight with your family members, or depressed over their decisions. They will always want the best for you!

Speak up
There’s no harm in doing so, but be wise. Use your words carefully. Be gentle, and lay out your reasons on the table clearer than a logarithmic table! (You know it looks ugly when girls start shouting, and getting angry).

Be patient
“Oh you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere.” (Al-Baqarah 2:153)

Keep praying!
Sometimes, no matter how much we speak, it doesn’t work. Always remember only Allah (swt) can change people’s minds! Don’t ever undermine the power of Duas, and pour your heart out to Allah (swt).

May Allah (swt) give us what’s best for us! Ameen!

Class of Today – Parliament of Tomorrow

class

In this fast paced and ever-changing world, we do not even know where 70% of today’s nursery kids would apply for jobs. According to a study, a child in nursery is going to enter a professional field that does not even exist right now.

A Common Assumption

It is believed that schools and classrooms are places where our children learn all their subject related skills – they are taught to solve math problems and hone their literary skills. Here, they are being prepared to become future engineers, creative writers, successful bankers and excellent doctors. As such, in these early years, many intellectual foundations are laid for our children to become superior professionals. However, the reality is that schools and classrooms are so much more. Educationists now see that the role of a school extends beyond just scholastic development.

Parents often say: “My child has learned it at school.” A student once asked her mom to cover her hair just like her teacher. When asked to think, before they answer a question, my children would say “nummm, nummm, nummm” – a sound their teacher made, while pondering over something. There are also instances, when children become agitated, if parents throw wrappers out of the car’s window or breach a traffic signal. These are a few of the innumerable examples of what children learn at school.

Yet another dimension is the behaviour patterns that children learn from school friends and even from the supporting staff. In short, children absorb the school environment as a whole. Considering this further, children are actually learning much more than what is written down in the syllabus. This is the “uncatalogued” or unwritten curriculum of the school or the hidden curriculum. This is the curriculum, which would actually help the next generation learn to fish instead of waiting for being given one.

Role of an Effective Teacher

A teacher has to be a reflective person, who understands the diversity among the students and is able to evaluate their overt and covert behaviours. She would then sift through these actions to keep the good ones and discard the not so constructive ones, before they became part of her students’ lifestyles. The best practice for an engaged teacher is to inculcate in her students the core values of a moral society. This is the reason why Prophet Muhammad (sa) held teaching in high esteem: “Whomsoever Allah (swt) intends to do good, He gives right understanding of religion, and knowledge is maintained only through teaching.” (Bukhari)

For Bringing a Real Change

The need of the time is an engaged discussion on the hidden and obscure dynamics of classrooms. We should re-evaluate our schools’ rituals and normal routines as promptness, neatness, adult authority, docility and even such seemingly small things as making cues.

Bullying and counterproductive behaviour must also be taken into serious consideration. We can see their effects on our society even with half an eye. Then, speaking in native language and celebrating culturally relevant events is something that helps children to honour their existence and feel happy about their identity.

Implementing Sunnah in Today’s Classrooms (Final Part)

classroom

26) Turn the attention of the questioner towards a more important issue.

Sometime it is better to turn the attention of the questioner to a more important issue. Once a person asked the Messenger (sa) when the Day of Judgement would come. Instead of replying, the Prophet (sa) asked him: “What have you prepared for it?” The man said that he hadn’t done much in terms of praying, fasting and charity, but he did love Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa). The Messenger (sa) said: “You will be with whom you love.” (Bukhari)

The question that the person asked was out of genuine curiosity, but the answer was neither revealed to the Messenger (sa), nor did he consider his preparation for it. So he turned the attention of the questioner towards a more important and pressing issue, i.e., his deeds.

If the teacher doesn’t know the answer to a question, or thinks there are other more important things to be taught, s/he should not snub the student but rather divert him/her to what s/he thinks needs to be learnt first.

27) It doesn’t matter, if you are a bit inconvenienced.

A Bedouin approached the Messenger (sa), while the latter was on a journey. The person took hold of the reins of the Prophet’s (sa) camel and then said: “O Messenger of Allah! Inform me of what will draw me closer to paradise and take me away from (hell) fire.” The Prophet (sa) said: “He has certainly been blessed or guided.” The Messenger (sa) then addressed the person saying: “What did you say?” The person then repeated his question. The Messenger (sa) replied: “You should worship Allah (swt) and not ascribe any partners to Him. You should establish Salah, give Zakah and maintain good relationships with your kith and kin. You may now leave my camel.” (An-Nasai)

Note: Even if you are in a hurry, give attention to the seekers of knowledge. A little inconvenience for the teacher may result in a huge benefit for the student.

28) Don’t criticize directly.

Many a time, the Prophet (sa) would observe a person committing a wrong deed. He would immediately take action, but not necessarily point out the wrongdoer. He would stand and address the people saying that ‘some people do so and so’, so that the individual would not be embarrassed before everyone.

Not only does this method protect a student’s self-esteem, it also teaches others about the incorrect action. At the same time, it strengthens the bond between the teacher and the student.

29) Use humour.

A person asked the Prophet (sa) to give him a camel, so that he may carry his goods on it. So the Messenger (sa) said to him: “I will give you the offspring of a she-camel.” The man said: “O Messenger (sa)! What can I do with the offspring of a she-camel?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “Is it not so that camels only give birth to camels?” (Abu Dawood)

The Messenger (sa) used to joke and jest with his companions on certain occasions. However, he spoke nothing but the truth. His humor did not hurt, offend or insult anyone. The companions asked him: “O Messenger (sa)! You joke with us?” He replied: “I speak nothing but the truth.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) used to teach many things through joking and humour. In the above Hadeeth, he teaches analytical thinking and deduction, at the same time lightening the atmosphere of the assembly. A classroom tends to get stuffy at times. A light hearted joke or anecdote blows away the clouds of stiffness and perks up the atmosphere.

30) Show interest in children’s hobbies.

Abu Umayr (rtam) was a young boy who had a pet bird. The Messenger (sa) was aware of this fact. One day, the bird died. When the Prophet (sa) came to visit them, he saw that Abu Umayr was sad. So he asked: “What has happened to him?” The people of the house said: “His bird has died.” The Prophet (sa) said to him: “O Abu Umayr! What has happened to the Nughayr (small bird)?” (Abu Dawood)

This shows the Messenger’s (sa) affection and compassion for the young child, whose bird had died, leaving him heartbroken. Upon seeing the sad look on the child’s face, the Prophet (sa) immediately enquired about the matter and consoled him with words of comfort. I would like to add here that the Messenger (sa) was an exceptionally busy man, assigned the greatest and most difficult task in the history of mankind – yet, he was not too busy to inquire about the happiness of a small child. Such acts develop a strong bond between the teacher and his students, one that is pivotal in successful learning.

31) Be open to suggestions.

When the companions reached the battlefield of Badr with the Messenger (sa), he chose a certain position for pitching the tents of the army. One of the companions, Hubab bin Munzir (rtam), who was a seasoned war strategist, approached him and said: “Has this place been chosen by Allah (swt) or is it your own decision?” The Prophet (sa) replied that it wasn’t a revelation from Allah (swt); rather, he had chosen it by himself. Hubab (rtam) then requested him to consider his decision, because there was another spot at a better location for the battle. The Messenger (sa) readily accepted this proposal and changed the location of the base camp.

If the Messenger (sa) is open to suggestions at all times, the teacher too should feel happy to have students who are able to reflect and suggest ideas to him. This does not make the teacher bound to ‘obey’ a suggestion , but s/he is bound to allow students to make them.

32) Leniency in punishments.

The Messenger (sa) said: “Allah loves that one should be kind and lenient in all matters.” (Bukhari)

The Messenger (sa) himself disliked awarding a physical punishment to people and encouraged mildness in all matters. The way of the Messengers (sa) was one of love and affection. Those around him obeyed him, because they loved him and feared his disobedience, because they knew their sins upset him, not because they would be beaten.

The anger of the teacher should be feared, because it might banish someone from his/her good books, not because of corporal punishment.

Anas bin Malik (rtam) narrates: “I served the Prophet (sa) for ten years, and he never said to me, ‘Uff’ (a minor harsh word denoting impatience) and never blamed me by saying, ‘Why did you do so or why didn’t you do so?’” (Bukhari)

The Messenger (sa) did not, however, ban physical punishment. He said: “Teach the child to pray, when he is seven years old, and smack him, if he does not pray, when he is ten.”

Firstly, keep in mind that a Muslim child ought to see his parents and those around him involved in prayer from the time s/he is born. Growing up in such a household would automatically result in him/her engaging in Salah from a very young age. The Messenger (sa) has asked us to encourage a child to offer Salah regularly at the age of seven and to ensure that s/he does so by the age of ten. This means that the next three years should be spent teaching and training him. And when all this fails, then he has suggested physical punishment. There are certain things to be noted. A ten-year-old child, having spent his/her entire life watching people offer Salah, would not abstain from it. In case s/he does so, there might be some special reason behind it, which must be attended to. And before someone starts beating up their children, remember that the Messenger (sa) forbade striking anyone on the face, hitting so hard as to leave a mark on the body and beating excessively. Also, remember the purpose of physical punishment is not to injure a child but to scare him/her from an evil deed, nor should the punishment serve as a vent of frustration, when the teacher fails in his/her own duty.

A piece of advice: do not use your hands to inflict a blow; whenever your hands reach out to the child, it should always be for affection. Also remember that the fear of physical punishment should be used more often than the punishment itself. Another thing is that physical punishment does not necessarily have to be hitting, but it could also be strenuous exercise or banishment from an enjoyable task.

Adapted (with permission) from “How the Messenger of Allah (sa) Taught his Students” written by Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud (jahangir@ser.com.pk).

Published and distributed by M/s Al-Misbah, 16 Urdu Bazar, Lahore.

Phone: +92 42 371224656. Email: info@almisbah.biz

All rights reserved with the publishers.

Heart-to-Heart on the Highway

Highway

Every morning, you can see children gaping vacuously at the passing landscape, as they travel to school. One wonders if this routine interval can be transformed into a healthy and productive period.  Following is a list of five noteworthy areas for conversation, which can be talked about along the way.

  1. The signs of Allah (swt). Contemplation, in reality, is a habit that parents can help form in their children. A scurrying squirrel, changing weathers and the beautiful symmetry of nature are all prompts for initiating insightful discussions about the Creator and His attributes. This observation, as mentioned in Quran, is a quality of true believers and develops profound love and awe for our Creator. Parents or teachers can also point to the attributes of Allah (swt), as they are being reflected in the surroundings, for example, a close encounter with an accident reminds of the attribute Al-Muhaymin (The Protector and The Overseer).
  2. Bounties and blessings. Point to the crumbling slums, beggars looking cravingly at food and little children rummaging in the garbage and have kids count the blessings that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon them. Make them notice those less privileged and teach them to be grateful for all that they have. Important structures and landmarks can be observed, too. Ask them who is the Creator of these edifices? Is it the architect or Allah (swt)? Isn’t it true that intelligence and ideas are all blessings from our Lord (swt), the Ultimate and Flawless Creator? He inspires people to build; they, in turn, invent and create things.
  3. School and family. This may be an apt time to listen to your child without interfering, or disrespecting his/her thoughts. Suspend your own judgement. Let him/her talk. Observe intently his thoughts and beliefs. Reviewing the times tables, solving problems concerning friends and teachers and discussing ideal school behaviour can also be done while driving to school. Sibling rivalries and other school and family related issues can be spoken about as well.
  4. History and current affairs. A severed nation is cut off from its past. Our curriculum does not do justice to Islamic history and even history in general. Hence, parents must supplement children in this field. Use these valuable minutes to revise concise lessons from history through audio lectures or passages from books. Discuss the glorious past of the Muslims and ponder over the current affairs; think about how to gain what we have lost. Go over the daily news, the situation of our country and Ummah, and talk about how they can contribute. Remember, kids will think and talk big, if they’re taught how to, by actively engaging them.
  5. Memorizing. Many a children have memorized portions from the Quran that were played in their cars. When not in a mood to chatter, put on recordings of short Quranic Surahs, Duas and Azkar (words of remembrance), and automatically they’ll be transmitted to the tongues of your young ones. Even if they don’t reproduce, it is all going in and settling in their minds. If practiced daily, no doubt, children and even parents will have memorized large portions of the Quran by the time they’re out of school!

Don’t undervalue the importance of time. Take advantage of every minute that you have to raise the leaders that you are entrusted with.

Sina – Health, Education and Welfare Trust

Sina

Hiba got in touch with Sina, a team of committed, educated and privileged experts who have chosen to reach out to the slums of Karachi to offer relief

1) Why was Sina born? What was your basic aim and vision?

SINA is named after Ibn Sīnā/Avicenna (980-1037), the Persian polymath who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects. His The Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical text at many universities until as late as 1650, provides a complete system of medicine. With our inspiration coming from this pioneer in the field of medicine, we started our first clinic in 1998 when Dr. Asif Imam returned to Pakistan after practicing medicine in the USA for over two decades. The vision guiding this beginning was simple – to provide quality primary healthcare to those in need regardless of financial means available. The Clinics gradually grew with SINA Trust formally coming into being in 2007.

2) How is Sina different from similar work that others are doing in the field of healthcare?

What differentiates us is our focus and our quality system. We are focused exclusively on primary healthcare delivered by building clinics in the heart of urban slums. On quality, Sina’s greatest asset is its quality management system. This system is unique, as it has adapted quality international healthcare protocols, used in developed healthcare systems for application in low-income settings. Simply put, this is the foundation, on which we believe a scalable quality primary healthcare system can be created for catering to the needs of less-privileged communities across Pakistan. Our aim, therefore, is to take this system of quality primary healthcare across Pakistan.

3) Can you tell us about your team members?

The Sina Board of Trustees include highly committed professionals, who have joined hands to provide quality healthcare to those in need. Our trustees include Dr. Asif Imam (Allergist & Immunologist), Dr. Naseeruddin Mahmood (Pediatrician), Mohammad Fazil Bharucha (Lawyer), Sohail Ahmed (Industrialist) and Jalauddin Idrus (Educationist/ Social Worker). Our CEO Riaz Ahmed Kamlani has held positions of Chief Operating Officer and Vice President at The Citizens Foundation prior to joining Sina.

4) How can others help you in your work? Would you need human resource or financial assistance?

Our key focus is to help save children from critical illness and help women look after their health, who constitute 80% of our patients. A majority of our patients are Zakah eligible, based on Zakah eligibility evaluation conducted under the guidance of our Shariah Advisor. Our greatest need is to fund the cost of treatment which is Rs. 350 per patient. We, therefore, encourage individuals to help treat as many patients as they can through Zakah and other contributions.

Our future aim is to take this system of quality primary healthcare across Pakistan, Insha’Allah. For this, we would continue to be in need of both financial and volunteer time contributions for eg. from female doctors who have not been able to consistently practice given family commitments, but are keen to contribute to our cause. We would, therefore, invite you to support us in bringing quality healthcare to those in need.

5) Can you tell us more about your projects in slum areas?

Sina is a not-for-profit organization, focusing on providing primary healthcare in less-privileged communities. Our vision is that quality healthcare should be accessible for all. To achieve this, we build clinics in the heart of deserving communities and provide both curative and preventive care. As of 2013, Sina has seven clinics in the urban slums of Karachi, in areas including Baldia Colony, Ittehad Colony, Machar Colony and Old Sabzimandi. Over 80% of Sina’s patients are women and children who benefit from quality healthcare provided at their doorstep. This costs us Rs 350+ per patient whilst the fee from patients is Rs 5-30 with free medicines, test and follow up care.

6) Would you like to share with us any of “Sina’s” success stories?

Two-year-old Sahil was born blind because of bilateral congenital cataracts. While being treated for the flu at Sina clinic, he was diagnosed and referred to an ophthalmology hospital and recommended for surgery. With a diagnosis of severe anemia combined with intolerance for oral iron supplements, our experts initiated a blood transfusion process prior to surgery, which was successful. Today, for the first time, Sahil can experience the joy of seeing with both eyes.

We pray to Allah (swt) to grant Barakah and life to “Sina” as a critically needed project for the forgotten and less-privileged segment of our society. Individuals who can add any value to their mission can reach Sina at:

F-3/3, Block 2, Clifton, Karachi.
Website: www.sina.pk Email: info@sina.pk
Tel:  +92 21 35861320 / +92 21 35861331

The Blue Coat

Untitled

It was the first time our eyes met. The morning was quite and cold though it is already February in this part of the world. Thanks to the heavy showers the previous night, the day looked more like the pre-dawn of a day in December.

In the courtyard, stood a boy, tall with an enchanting air around him. Dancing in his large eyes was sheer mischief. His complexion the blend of golden yellow and pink. It was love at first sight for myself and him. “What is your name sweetheart?” He spellbound me with a shy glimpse while his fingers were busy twisting a corner of his T-shirt.

I had joined this preschool as a teacher, just two months ago. I was battling to understand the minds of these tiny creatures. The Child Psychology theories I have learnt confused me and left me to despair in my own quarters. I had begun to wander between the gaps of the ideals and the realities.

As the day broke, I would catch a glimpse of children as they entered the class room just like pretty rose buds tumbling down from a basket. Some days I would hold a child by the shoulder and whisper with all smiles, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

We all love children because children are the mirrors from which we see our past- a time which cannot be seen.

Children change the way you look at the world at large. They are the softer side of great blunders. A child’s smile can send bouquets of love even when the earth is hit by thousands of earth quakes.

The boundless love for children gave room for a stern policy to stem out in me, not to thrash any child ever in my life.

That was the time when my family was busily engrossed in finding me a counterpart – Mr. Right.

Whenever my feelings got wounded, my abode of consolation were my school children. Leaving home and family behind, I was lost in the world of shades and fragrance for hours and hours of infinite time.

At the school, we had twenty small wonders. Each one was a separate universe, yet Ahmad was exceptional.

Witty and quick to grasp, he was way ahead of others. He kept all the others under him exactly like an efficient politician who manages his mob. I liked Ahmad a lot yet I was so careful not to show my soft spot for him in open. I treated him like I would care for any child in school.

When the children fought, making every minute of my life miserable, sometimes made me despair why this not be my last day at school. Many a time, the cause of conflict would be half an eaten eraser or a faded wrapper of a chocolate. I would smile exhaustingly within, thinking about the fights waiting in the future when these children grow into adulthood.

At times Ahmad would show hostile and antagonistic behaviour when he was emotionally disturbed. He would be called ‘Ahmaaaaaaaaad…..’ Sometimes sweetly by a voice with the blend of love, occasionally in a more firm tone followed by a stern look. He would calm down.

Some days, Ahmad would bring me blossoms of fresh and fragrant Jasmine buds which were yet to open eyes. Half eaten Guavas, old perfume bottles, broken toy cars something or other would adorn my table at least a day or two in a week. During meal time, a piece of sandwich bitten on all sides or a handful of noodles would be forced into my mouth by little fingers.

That day still lives in me. It was drizzling and the sky was purplish…time for creative skills. The classroom walls smelt of a new aroma. Walls stood elite with the new turquoise blue paint.

‘Now look here …..Sweethearts, I am going to give you all crayons and white paper. What are you going to draw?’ I was encouraging the little wonders to give shape and colours to their dreams.

‘Miss, I will draw my home’

‘Miss I am going to Draw Aero plane’

‘Shall I draw my Daddy’?

‘Miss my hand is hurting Miss  …’

I was listening to each and every child. ‘wow, very good, beautiful…

Okay, just wait a second and draw, then your hand won’t ache.’

I was becoming a little exhausted and worn out.

The numb headache I was having from the morning was getting onto my nerves. That evening was scheduled for one of the most eligible bachelors coming to see me and I was stressed beyond words. I came out of the class room to the adjoining hall in the intention of having two pain killers.

Suddenly I saw a shadowy little creature standing by the wall absorbed in something. My eyes grew large and I stepped closer. Oh my God. Ahmad was scribbling something on the freshly painted wall.

‘You little rascal, what are you doing? Wait I will teach you a good lesson!’

A monster within me ripped open and dragged Ahmad by his shoulder. It slapped him across his cheeks. Twisted were his pinkish earlobes. It got hold of his ears and dragged him and made him sit on a chair. As the momentum grew meek, suddenly I realized his eyes did not shed even a single teardrop.

Was I acting brutish? I thought for a second and then I started to feel guilty and was blue. Ahmad stood there still like a shadow of a tree in the noon. I felt that he was more hurt by the embarrassment caused in front of the class than anything else. I could plainly see his terribly knocked ego.

Ahmad did not raise his head afterwards. Next day…The whole week…. Children greeted me every morning. I was waiting, clad in my blue attire, Ahmad did not turn up nor his jasmine buds. The urge was pushing me to visit him. I walked towards his home that weekend. Padlocked was the gate and a neighbour came to my rescue. He told in a voice that was edgy, that Ahmad was admitted to the hospital.

I hurried to the hospital to spot Ahmad as beaming as ever in the children’s ward. ‘Miss, do not give my colour box to anyone… I am going to draw this Doctor Uncle now‘… Ahmad raised his hand stuck to a cannula. He was bubbling with little talks endless and infinite as his dreams.

‘Ahmad talks nothing but about you and his school’. Ahmad’s mother stopped for a while to converse. He was infected with Dengue and according to his mother; fortunately he was out of the danger and would be discharged within a day or two. As I kept the teddy bear next to him and his favourite chocolate in his hand, I did not have even a stroke of thought that it was the last time I am seeing him all alive.

The news broke on a day in mild summer, while I was demonstrating to children how to crush the tissue into small purple balls and then to paste them on the drawn brinjal.

‘Little Ahmad passed away’ Innalillah (We all return to God). Ahmad had left us for good. I was unconsciously drawn to the walls where Ahmed carved his last scribble. I ran my fingers over the painting with my heart becoming heavy. A scribble of a person. I could not make out whether it is a woman or a man. But the person was wearing something in blue- a blue coat. Smiling was a crooked heart next to it, scribbled in red. I could not take it any more.

I collapsed down, with every bit of my heart broken. Within my heart a sparrow fell right down from the sky, dead. ‘Ahmad, will you ever forgive me?‘

I broke sobbing, drops of tears drenching my blue coat…