Whole (Kamil) is the person who has fitrat al-salimah and aql salim which can only be gained by holding firm to the path shown by the prophet of Allah (peace be upon him); that is the sirat mustaqim. The heart and mind have contracted vices which in turn has lead us away from the straight path. Knowledge and good character are required to bring us back in realignment and it is these two traits that the Madrasah aims (قل لا إله إلا الله ثم استقم). The goal is one but approaches differ. Allm. Yusuf Binnori1 - may Allah almighty have mercy upon him - gives us a starting point by suggesting areas of consideration and gives practical guidelines to those that may have a say. He writes,
- The method of a teacher’s teaching should be as follows:
- The difficult areas of the book should be resolved in simple words and manner
- Explanation should be given in a good and enjoyable manner
- The teacher should be absolutely stringent in resolving the book
- After resolving the book, the important areas of the book should be outlined
- If there is an exponent who has explained a difficult issue well, they should be referenced and made available so that the more able can advance further
- Long lectures on issues of little or no use, and asking students to further research that topic is a great pitfall in teaching. This should be eradicated
- In regards to finishing of a book. There should be consistency between the beginnings to the end. Full concentration must be given to the books which must be finished - no topics should be missed. Examinations should not be taken until the book is not finished rather the book should be completed [first] and [as such] this should be strenuously planned. It should not be that on the first month or two the lectures be long and at the end merely pages are turned (as is the case with Hidayah, Mishkat, and the books of the eighth year2). Consequently [this practice] has broken the back of knowledge.
- Whichever teacher for whatever book, special care should be taken in terms of their suitability, capability and personal interest in the allocation of books.
- Be strict in the results in the first two years of studies. One who has failed should most definitely not be passed due to consideration. In the middle and final years this may be tolerated if a valid excuse exists but absolutely not in the beginning part of their education.
- The beginning education should be handed over to good and experienced teachers who have the capacity to teach in a high and beneficial manner. The point being, in regards to quality and firm foundation, great focus should be placed in the initial education. If talented teachers are given any lesson in the beginning classes their will be a lot of benefits and impact.
- Teachers should be given only so many lessons for which they can adequately prepare and fulfil the right of teaching. Generally this is estimated as follows. Teachers for the beginning years should at most have five lessons, for the middle years have four lessons and for the final years have three lessons.
- All teachers should be full time. It should not be that they only have association for three hours or are employed elsewhere. This is a very important issue and considerable matter in terms of the impact on the Madarasah.
- The following criteria should be considered in selecting a teacher: ikhlas, taqwa, competence and high aptitude, expertise with their subject, familiarity with the madrasah system, motivation to increasing the education and spiritual levels, and enthusiasm to teach. These are all very important - even if one [quality] is missing work will be lacking.
- Teachers should refer to the prominent works in the field so as to provide quality information to the student. The point being research and hard work is required; one should not merely seek ease or simply rely upon past knowledge. In order to create high standard within the students it is necessary that the teachers be of that high standard.
- As much is reasonably possible, comfort for students should be sought. Only so many students should be kept who can be catered for outstandingly. However, that should not hinder oversight of their education, attendance in class, revision at night, rigorousness in exams. No consideration and laxity should be given in any of these. As a rule, a survey should be done of the conditions of the student and provisions should be made for this. If any student fails in the [first] trimester their food should be stopped3It is tantamount to stopping the grant as the madarsah bears full financial responsibility for the student.. If they fail the mid-term also they may be given an opportunity till the end of the year and if they continue to fail in the end of year exams also they should be removed. To be lenient and tolerant on this matter is tantamount to burying knowledge.
- Monthly exam should be declared mandatory for the beginning Arabic year. The curriculum should be fixed and it should be attempted that the book reaches its goal.
- Students should be given a book or another according to their level for review and the examination for this book should be considered mandatory.
- Oversight of the student’s character, correction of their habits, and restriction on their appearance is of vital importance. Full attention should be given in ensuring salat in Jamat and in nurturing character and appearance. Leniency in these is a deadly poison. A slow learner who works hard and is pious can be tolerated but an unmotivated and ill mannered sharp student will absolutely not be deserving of consideration.
- The rules of the Madarsah should be such that the students automatically adopt an Islamic appearance. [They adopt] the motto, clothing, and attire of the pious [as well as their mannerism] in eating, drinking, socialising and worship.
- Determine provisions to encourage struggling for and advancement in exams. Establish rewards for passing with distinction. For rewards, rather than cash give fine quality books. If in rewarding their capacity and personal taste is taken into consideration then that is a cherry on top. For instance, give an excellent Hadith book for attainment in Hadith, give an advanced work on tafsir for accomplishments in Tafsir.
- In the exams of every year there should be a paper which examines general competence, ability and academic skills – one that has no association with any books. This diagnosis is especially important in the final exam before graduation.
- Arabic writing skills should be incorporated in the learning objective. Practices and exercises in Arabic essay writing should be conducted from the very beginning. One lesson should be dedicated to this which should be made compulsory for all levels. After three years of education, the fourth year should adopt the Arabic medium. The teacher should teach in Arabic and the dialogue between teacher and students should be in Arabic also.
- To create a feel for Arabic within the students it is necessary to supply Arabic articles, periodicals and journals. A reading library should be established for that purpose.
- In order to create the spirit of having discourses and giving sermons, a weekly gathering should be held for speeches on Friday nights4. There should be separate gatherings according to their levels and the responsibility for the supervision and nurturing of each gathering should be given to a teacher. The last speech should be that of a teacher. Every gathering should have a subject predetermined. The final lecture of the teacher should contain constructive criticism and analysis of the speeches delivered. Every week the gathering should be at least three hours.
- There should be no concerted effort in increasing class sizes and number of students. Quantity is of no value rather focus should be placed on quality. A small group of prepared [students] is more valuable than masses of the unprepared. The madrasah has suffered extensive damage due to their drive to increase numbers. The expenditure of twenty thousand is acceptable for good students but for the unfit even twenty thousand is worthy of criticism. The point being, this illness has taken form in a deadly shape in the Arabic Islamic Madrasah. Full attention is required in curing and preventing this.
- In formulating a curriculum, rather than appeasing the public the betterment of the din should be prioritised. The happiness of the creator should be prioritised over that of the creation. The result of attempting to please the creation and disregarding the pleasure of Allah almighty is the forfeiture of this world and the next.
- An amount should definitely be set aside from the annual budget for special grants and book awards. [End of quote]'
We must work towards making provisions for both knowledge and character for knowledge without character will lead to cynicism and character without knowledge will lead to antagonism. A balanced person must have both if they are to succeed and lead.
Muhammad Saifur Rahman Nawhami
25 Jumada I 1433
17 April 2012
- 1. Allm. Muhammad Yusuf Binnori & Muhammad Anwar Badkhishani (ed). 2000. Dini Madaris ki Darurat awr jadid taqadhaw ke mutabiq nisab wa nizam ta'lim. Karachi, Paistan; Bayt al-Ilm] (p 113)
- 2. This is a reference to kutub sittah which is taught in the eighth year.
- 3. This is a common punishment in the subcontinent
- 4. The weekend in many Islamic countries is Thursday and Friday. The reason night is suggested is because the Madaris are generally boarding schools and all students are required to report to the Madarsah before dusk.