Lessons of Bravery from Asma Bint Yazid (ra)

flowerwoodChoice of Friends

Asma (ra) was much older than the Mother of the Believers Aisha (ra), yet she would visit her often to seek knowledge. Their relationship was based on mutual love and truthfulness. Their conversations were generally about issues of jurisprudence, and not gossips about the community.

Lessons to draw: Raise the standard of your friends. Genuinely reach out for people who are better than you in Deen. Respect and benefit from their knowledge. Knowing our time is precious, we must not waste it in Laghw (futile); but rather, look for opportunities to benefit ourselves and others. We must actively seek opportunities that will raise our scales in the hereafter. We should also polish our skills and be a productive member of the society.

Raise the standard of your friends. Genuinely reach out for people who are better than you in Deen.

Blessing in Food

Asma (ra) had a small place for prayer in her courtyard. Sometimes, the Prophet (sa) would go there to pray. One day when he arrived, Asma (ra) presented him food. The Prophet (sa) instructed his accompanying Companions (ra) to join him in the dinner. The Prophet (sa), the Companions (ra) and the family ate from the meal, and much was left over. There must have been forty people who shared the meal together.

The Prophet (sa) then got up and drank water from the leather flask. Asma (ra) preserved that flask and would use it when someone in the family fell ill. When a sick person would be served water from it, he would be cured. It was all because of the blessings of the Prophet (sa).

Lessons to draw: We might not have the Prophet (sa) among us anymore, but we learn that sharing our provision with others always brings more. We must be generous in sharing our food, our skills, our time and our knowledge with others- especially those who need it the most.

To increase the blessing in one’s provision one must also learn and follow the etiquette that our Prophet (sa) taught. Among them some are: it should be Halal (permissible) and Tayyab (pure). Therefore, purify your source of income and thoughts. Do not be greedy and selfish. Have concern for others too. Start every good deed and daily habits such as eating or sleeping with the name of Allah (swt).

We must be generous in sharing our food, our skills, our time and our knowledge with others- especially those who need it the most.

Narrator of Hadeeth

Being a regular student of the gatherings of the Prophet (sa) and Aisha (ra), Asma (ra) attained the honour of being a Hadeeth narrator. Around eighty one Ahadeeth have been narrated from her.

Lessons to draw: We cannot be a Hadeeth narrator, but how many Ahadeeth do we know by our hearts? Let us set up a Hadeeth memorising goal and memorise some.

Participation in Battles

Asma (ra) dedicated the early years of her marriage in tending to her home. When the children grew up and became independent, she used her skills and time for Allah (swt). She participated with the men in the battles. Not only as a nurse attending to the wounded, and supporting the men, but also as a warrior.  She had no weapons of her own and no means to procure one. She took the pole of her tent and killed nine enemy soldiers in the Battle of Uhud.

Around eighty one Ahadeeth have been narrated from her.

She lived up to a ripe age and later moved to Damascus where she died. She was one of the women promised Paradise.

Lessons to draw: We see in the life of Asma (ra) many roles. She was a student, a teacher, Hadeeth narrator, and a warrior. She performed all those roles, while efficiently performing her domestic duties. She felt no humiliation in doing house chores. At one point in her life, she was divorced. But, she continued to benefit herself and others. She did not allow anything to put a blockade in her determination to gather Hasanahs (good deeds) for herself.

Asma (ra) teaches us to raise our scales. She teaches us to prioritise our duties and bring a balance in them. She teaches us to keep moving, despite the challenges that we encounter.

(Adapted from the book: Seerat e Sahabiyat k Darakshan Pehlu by Mehmood Ahmad Ghazanfar and the lectures of Dr. Farhat Hashmi: Seerat e Sahabiyat)

Legendary Muslimah Success Secrets (Unveiled) – Umm Fadl (ra)

flowerinsnowThe daughter of Harith ibn Hazan and Hind bint Awf, Umm Fadl was the wife of the Prophet’s (sa) uncle Abbas ibn Abdul Muttalib (ra). Her sisters Maimoona, Salma and Asma bint Umays (ra) were all married in the Prophet’s (sa) family as well.

Today, when raising one or two children has become troublesome for some women, Umm Fadl birthed seven. Her motherhood skills can be best assessed by looking at her children. Her son Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra) is one of the greatest scholars of Islam, an authentic Hadeeth narrator, and also the Quran translator. Her son Ubaidullah was a jurist. She is also the foster mother of the Prophet’s grandson Hasan (ra).

Her real name was Lubaba bint Harith, but the birth of her first son Fadl gave her the title of Umm Fadl. She is also the narrator of approximately thirty Ahadeeth.

She did not wait for others to tell her what she must do. She did not worry about what people are going to say.

The Lady of Goodness

Umm Fadl (ra) was the leader of the women of her tribe. She enjoyed great status and honour. When she heard the message of Islam, she readily accepted it. By this virtue, she became the second woman after Khadijah (ra), who embraced Islam. This shows the goodness of her character. She did not wait for others to tell her what she must do. She did not worry about what people are going to say. She followed her heart and accepted the path that Allah (swt) called her towards.

Lessons to draw:

The forerunners are distinctively mentioned in the Quran. They are those who rush to do the good deeds. They are few in number and appear strange to others. But, they do not worry about the people. They are only concerned with pleasing Allah (swt). We too should let go of our procrastination and laziness and hasten towards the path of goodness.

Strength, Courage and Physical Energy

Conversion to Islam brought along many hardships upon her and her family. They belonged to the weakest and the most helpless segment of their society. Gifted by Allah (swt) in valour and physical energy, Umm Fadl used these characteristics for the service of Islam and the defence of the Prophet (sa). She would stand up against Abu Lahb and his wife Umm Jameel, the ferocious enemies of the Prophet (sa).

We can begin by helping out our domestic helps and giving them a direction in life.

Her servant Abu Rafeh narrates an incident after the conquest of Badr. He was sitting in his den making bowls, when Abu Lahb came strolling. Someone shouted, “Abu Sufyan,” and Abu Lahb signalled him to come and share the news of Badr. Abu Sufyan began by telling, how the Muslims overcame them. He shared how horsemen dressed in white would not let anything stand in their way. Hearing this, Abu Rafeh jumped and screamed in joy, “By Allah! They were angels.” Abu Lahb slapped him violently. He got on top of him and started beating. Abu Rafeh, a feeble man, could not fight back. Umm Fadl, who was also sitting in the den, got up and hit Abu Lahb on the head. She said, “Did you consider him weak? Did you attack him because his owner is not here?” Badly bruised and humiliated, Abu Lahb left for home.

Lessons to draw:

We learn that women should reflect on what skills and traits Allah (swt) has blessed them with, and how best they can use them for the sake of Allah (swt). We also learn one must stand up and defend the weak and the oppressed. We can begin by helping out our domestic helps and giving them a direction in life, Insha‘Allah.

(Adapted from the book: Seerat e Sahabiyat k Darakshan Pehlu by and the lectures of Dr. Farhat Hashmi: Seerat e Sahabiyat)

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.


Need for Meaningful Activities for Youth

runSixteen-year-old Ahmed has great inspiration and passion for writing stories, drawing cartoons and making landscape. “That’s what I love to do!” he says, while making a sketch of a village life. He expresses his feelings in form of art and story writing. He engages himself in such activities to make his life exciting and meaningful.

Meaningful activities are often done for enjoyment, pleasure and fun. Simultaneously, it is imperative that these leisure time activities must be meaningful and enjoyable. The scholars of Islam have emphasized the importance of lawful recreation to the healthy development of a person’s character. Al-Ghazali writes:

If the child is forbidden to engage in play and forced to spend his time in perpetual study, this will result in his heart dying, his intelligence waning and his manner of living becoming so wretched that he will seek from it any escape he can find.”

“After completing his bookwork, a child should be allowed to play in a nice manner, so that he can relax from the fatigue of his studies. His play should not tire him out. If the child is forbidden to engage in play and forced to spend his time in perpetual study, this will result in his heart dying, his intelligence waning and his manner of living becoming so wretched that he will seek from it any escape he can find.”

Our youth is lagging behind in knowledge, enterprise and productivity. Teenagers are not making fruitful use of their time – due to unproductive habits, they are suffering from such psychological disorders as anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear, anger and aggression. These anti- social behaviours compel a frustrated person either to commit suicide or engage in violent acts.  Furthermore, the increasing immorality and vulgarity of youth is pushing them towards anarchy and darkness.

The question is: how can a frustrated person relieve his stress? What kind of activities will facilitate mental and physical health and improving the quality of life?

Engaging in recreational activities not only helps in staying healthy but also relieves psychological stress and develops a bright and healthy personality.

Effective and Revitalizing Activities:

  • Morning walk and exercise help to relax, give a soothing effect to nerves and reduce stress. These are the best activities which refresh one’s senses and make one feel light again.
  • Good reading habits include reading newspapers, magazines and books. Reading an interesting book motivates a teenager to develop reading habit and enhances their learning and vocabulary.
  • Through writing articles, stories and diary entries, one can convey his emotions and sentiments.
  • Both indoor and outdoor games and sports, such as swimming, skating, cricket, football, hockey, volleyball, squash, tennis and badminton, help to maintain physical health as well as emotional and psychological stability of an individual.                      In the Sunnah, we see the companions of Prophet Muhammad (sa) participating in many different forms of activities. They engaged in such sports as running races, horse racing, wrestling and archery. They spent time in telling jokes and enjoyed lighthearted conversations. This helps to build up an active, positive personality and improve interpersonal relations.
  • Many teenagers are engaged in arts and crafts activities. Hobbies, such as drawing, sketching, painting, knitting, making artificial jewelry and other items from clay, are excellent for utilizing time effectively. Arts and crafts activities also enhance the self-confidence of a young person.
  • Teenagers in emotional distress should take an adult education class or a course at any institution. Participation in education classes motivates and inspires them to be optimistic and to adopt a positive way of thinking. These types of social gatherings give them opportunities to relieve stress and build new relationships.
  • Young people can engage in long and short term training for honing their skills. They will not only learn but also gain motivation for utilizing their skills.
  • Gardening has many benefits – it can ease stress for people, who have been diagnosed with depression and persistent low mood. Being surrounded by fresh flowers and plants helps in achieving peace of mind.

There is a dire need for young people to stop engaging in unproductive habits, which waste their time. Engaging in recreational activities not only helps in staying healthy but also relieves psychological stress and develops a bright and healthy personality.

Review: Get Fluent in Arabic

book1Being multilingual in today’s world is not only an asset but a necessity. The world has shrunk, bilingualism is commonplace, and as people scramble to gain an edge over others, adding a third or fourth language to one’s credentials is desirable.

Moniur Rohman’s book, “Get Fluent in Arabic” is basically a self-help motivational genre. He takes the reader along for his personal struggle in learning Arabic, with anecdotes and experiences that at times detract from the message. ‘Get Fluent…” is divided into four parts titled:-

  1. The Four Basic Skills
  2. How to Approach Learning Arabic
  3. Tools
  4. Going Abroad

In Part One, Rohman explains to the reader that there are two types of skills required when embarking on the language journey – Receptive and Productive Skills. The language student must train all four of these skills (reading, writing, listening & speaking) to attain fluency. He talks about the benefits of each skill. This is common knowledge to any person who has learned any language, even his mother tongue.

The book, in Part Two introduces the reader to popular language accusation methods used by teachers all over the world. He denounces the Grammar-Translation method and advocates the Direct Method, using language immersion – the author moves to Egypt to study Arabic. I like his tip about not knowing ‘difficult’ words in Arabic, so he uses simpler words to describe what he wants, still using Arabic. For example, if you want to say, “The car has four wheels.” However, do not know the word for wheels, say, “The car has four circles,” but do not under any circumstances switch to your first language.

The book gives valuable advice to a novice seeking to learn Arabic, and for seasoned veterans I like his list of resources and self-check milestones scattered throughout the book.

Part Three, talks about the various ways he tried, failed at and succeeded in. Mostly it is about his experience living and studying at an Institute in Egypt. Rohman mentions the difference between Fusha (classical) and Ammiyah (vernacular), but does not dwell on it. To understand Quran you need Fusha, but to carry on a conversation with a native speaker you use Ammiyah. This part is by far the most useful; I found his analysis of the various opportunities including pros and cons very practical and informative.

In my opinion, Part Four is really common sense and didn’t need to be in the book. It talks about the pitfalls of staying in a less developed country that anyone can just Google in this day and age.

The book gives valuable advice to a novice seeking to learn Arabic, and for seasoned veterans I like his list of resources and self-check milestones scattered throughout the book. I feel his personal incidents in the Introduction detract from the value of the book as resource for Arabic Learning. My favorite parts in the book were Rohman’s summaries at the end of each chapter in Part One, his website resource list and advice on Arabic books and dictionaries.

Class of Today – Parliament of Tomorrow


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.