A Learner Centered Approach to Munakahat

islamic-studies

Can the learning of Fiqh being transformed from a teacher centered essentialism into a learner centered progressivism?

I don’t have an immediate answer.

But what I understand from the Sirah, it was obvious that during the time of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, there was no text books, no structured course outline, no standardized assessments. There was no mass instruction.

But that does not mean, a structured learning is wrong. I never intended it to be understood like that. What I want to emphasize here, education is a process of instilling progressively something into a person. Having a structured content, should not let the dynamism of learning disappeared. Therefore, I believe that our 2015 Curriculum Transformation is workable, even for a perennialistic subjects like Fiqh.

Today, I had my chance to explore this when I substituted our Fiqh teacher who had an emergency. The topic was Fiqh Munakahat.

I began my class by asking them what are the things that they’ve learnt from last week session. I required them to reply in related vocabularies, knowing that our students still have problems dealing with constructing ideas in sentences. They gave me the answer and one of them was the Rukun of Nikah.

When I asked them if they can remember all the Rukun of Nikah, most of them looked reluctant. I said, “if you can understand what does the word Rukun means, and why it’s being used frequently in many aspects of Fiqh, then remembering it will be easier, and less confusing when it comes to Syarat and other stuffs.

What are the other Rukun they can remember?

They gave me all sorts of Rukun such as Rukun Solat, Rukun Haji, Rukun Negara and the list goes on.

Rukun is pillar.

Pillars are something that without them, the main structure can never exist. A house can stand without a window, but not without pillars. So, pillars mean something that are so important which you cannot imagine the existence of one without them.

You cannot imagine Hajj without Wuqf in Arafah.

You cannot imagine Prayer without Qiyam, reciting al-Fatihah, or Sujud.

Similar to the fact that you cannot imagine a building without the pillars.

That was the first five minutes of the discussion. I didn’t want to touch too much on the topic because I want them to continue it with the appointed teacher, next session Insha-Allah.

I took the opportunity to investigate the learners’ idea about marriage itself. So, I divided the discussion into two sets of topic.

munakahat

First, I drew a line and divide it into three columns, named “Jahiliyyah”, “Islam” and “Neo Jahiliyyah”. The second line was divided again into three columns, named “pre marriage marriage”, “in marriage” and “post marriage”. The students are required to share whatever they can think about the divisions. Write, whatever you want to write. Do not worry if they are right or wrong.

Alhamdulillah, the ‘entire world of marriage’ came forward and written on the whiteboard. All sorts of thing! Beyond your imagination. It is not my position to judge if their answers are right or wrong at this stage, but I have to assist them to analyze the words they and their friends shared.

We talked about all the vocabularies.

It was really fun, sometimes sad, in many ways it was awkward too, and once a while, it freaking me out.

Married to a bridge?

What is that?

Then, we decided to identify all those words on the whiteboard if they are ADAT (custom) or SYARIAT.

“Akad?”

“Syariat!”

“Reception’s color theme?”

“Adat!”

“Headache to do the financial budget?”

“Syariat! Adat! Syariat! Adat!” they got confused.

I asked the girls, “do you want to get married to a man who is good looking but fail to sort out the budget?”

“They agreed with one solid answer, “NO!!!”

It was a very good session. My advice to myself and other teachers who want to adopt the learner centered instruction, “do not overestimate your students’ current knowledge that you fail to make the topic simple, and do not underestimate your students’ capability to learn”

Appreciate and acknowledge what they already know. Let them realize that they actually know a lot of things related to the subject. Then, we discuss them, and finally we suggest them to reconstruct the outcome to a more structured knowledge by reading the suggested further reading materials, if there’s any.

Discussion was ended with a heavy topic related to neo Jahiliyyah marriage involving the same sex marriage, nikah mut’ah, and some other super rare examples.

We do not talk too much on the rule of fiqh regarding these types of marriage (because we already subconsciously categorized them as neo jahiliyyah), but we discussed a little bit about the causes that lead a person into these types of un-islamic marriage.

Why a man finally attracted to another man? Why a woman is attracted to another woman? The causes occurred at the age of ignorance, but the implications remain for the entire life. Class ended with “take a very good care of our aurat, interaction and character shaping”.

Wallahu a’lam.

I enjoyed every bit of the class, Alhamdulillah.

 

 

Patient with the Silence

Rain of Info

Today, I had a chance to cover a class as a substitute teacher because she had a problem with her car on the way to the school. I didn’t prepare anything, only to understand just couple of minutes before the class begin, that its a Fiqh Mu’āmalāt class and topic to be covered is Khiyār.

At that time, I consciously reminded myself that our school now is moving from the traditional teacher centered learning, to the learner centered instruction. Therefore I must limit myself from providing the learners with rain of information, but to encourage them to build their knowledge and understanding.

It means, conducting a Fiqh Mu’āmalāt session without the lesson plan, will be a good advantage, provided that I myself know what Fiqh Mu’āmalāt and Khiyār are all about.

I decided not to touch too much on the Khiyār itself because I believe what the teacher planned for her class, should continue to be delivered later on. I will concentrate on few fundamental ideas on Fiqh which the teacher might not have enough time to bring it forward.

There were numbers of question I shared with the students:

  1. If the students understand about topics and subtopics, we have Physics, Chemistry and Biology as the subtopics to Science. So, what are the subtopics of Fiqh?  Who are the siblings of Fiqh Mu’āmalāt? (‘Ibādāt, Munākahāt, Jināyāt etc)
  2. Why having Fiqh in our life is better than not having it?
  3. Does Fiqh contradicts freedom?
  4. If someone says, “I am doing this because of me. This is me. I don’t want to be a hypocrite by doing what I don’t want to do simply because someone told me to do so,” how do you relate Fiqh to someone like this?

In order to promote learner centered instruction, a teacher must have patience with the silence. To me, this was the hardest part. Of course there were two or three of them who were more enthusiastic to share their opinion. But the majority were in complete silence. Sometimes, I saw their lips moving. They were whispering the answers to themselves but reluctant to voice out.

I tried again and again.

I explained to them that Fiqh is about managing reality. If the classical books in Fiqh gave examples on how to pray in a boat, we must understand that pray must continue but boat is now an airplane or a train. The learners are also reminded to identify how the people around them think about Fiqh. Otherwise, the knowledge we possess is irrelevant.

At the end, I found that it was me who did most of the talking and I am still distance away from practicing the learner centered instruction. I can tolerate  the function of content, but I am still not patient enough with the silence.

I ended my class by giving them an example in Maths (which is far from the original plan to ‘teach’ Fiqh Mu’āmalāt and Khiyar).

Division in Real Life

Their teacher for Mathematics will ask them to create a simple word problem based on this mathematical inquiry. What the teacher means, is there an event in real life that can be reflected in this mathematical problem? So, if the students can answer this question correctly (in numbers) but cannot see how this calculation can be used in solving real events, then the thinking is not really a thinking. Perhaps, no thinking took place during the problem solving.

So, all subjects are taught to help the students manage their real life.

High order thinking skills are in distance when lazy thinking is still dominant.

I pray to Allah to help our teachers as well as the learners for both parties to be blessed with the enthusiastism and high spirit to think and learn, which were the most basic characters of human being, Ameen.

 

To Welcome With the Spirit of Hijrah

kmss-welcome

What and where is the starting point?

It was our first week. And that morning was my first session with both current and new students.

“When seniors and juniors gather in this school, how can you relate this situation with Sirah? Any particular event that came across your mind?” I asked our students.

They looked each other. As if so many things happened and I ‘miss the train’.

One of the students replied, “hijrah!”

“Yes, indeed. Hijrah! Your brothers and sisters left their home, and come to this new place, we should consider our selves as Ansār and the new students as Muhājirūn. Ansār loved Muhājirūn, they helped them and they even sacrificed for their new brothers and sisters. Allah praised them in the Quran because of their selfless attitude” I responded.

59_9And [also for] those who were settled in al-Madinah and embraced the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their chests of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful. [al-Hashr 59: 9]

The seniors love the juniors, assist them, and provide them to fulfill their needs. The juniors love the seniors, respect them, and pray for them. Those are the truthful and will be the successful, as promised by Allah.

Bullying is jahiliah.

There is nothing funny and cool about bullying.

It is us to decide, if the school is going to be a school of faithful people, or a school of jahiliah which could not be cured by our Islamic garments , our memorization of the Quran or our collection of A’s in the exams. We will never tolerate bullying.

May Allah bless you and our school, boys and girls, khalifah of Allah.

Education: Jihad Against Zombification!”

worldview

“Do you guys know any Zombie movies?” I asked our students this morning.

“Zombi Kampung Pisang!” one of the sisters replied.

“Zombieland!” another one responded.

And the list went on and on.

“What are the similar characters you realize among those Zombies?” I continued asking them more questions.

The students did not respond immediately. They took few minutes to reflect. Asking them to provide you with facts, most likely you will get what you expected. But when you ask them to share some simple hypothesis, the speed of response will decrease. Analyzing involves thinking. And after many years involved with students, and even my own kids, I have to say that thinking is a huge challenge and the scenario seems worsening from one year to another.

I told our students during my first session with them this morning that their parents must have some ideas on why they want to spend a huge amount of money sending their kids to a school which the fee for one student could be like 1000 times more expensive than having their kids at public schools. And not all the parents are rich. I know some of them struggle very hard to afford their option sending kids to our school. I want the students to reflect their parents’ idea on education.

What is wrong with our public education?

Why you are here?

endangeredMind

I shared with them an important questions I found when reading Jane M. Healy’s Endangered Mind: Why Children Don’t Think – And What We Can Do About It? recently.

“Since the introduction of standardized schooling over a hundred years ago, the rate of literacy has radically declined. How did we go from a nation of unschooled but highly literate people, to a nation of over-schooled and illiterate people?”

The standardized education in public schools ignores the fact that children’s brains might be so significantly changed by contemporary culture as to be increasingly maladapted to our traditional notions of “school”. This has been described by Jane M. Healy in length.  Introducing or perhaps enforcing ‘critical thinking’ or ‘high thinking order’ module while the brain itself is injured and remain untreated, is far from answering the real problem we have.

When you talk to students, you hardly feel that you are connected to them. As if you are talking to Zombies! Alhamdulillah in this country, as far as I concern, we haven’t reach the level where Ritalin is easily prescribed to control brain activities. But I think we are not distance away from that.

Before the class even begin, our students now are in fact surrounded by fast–paced visual stimuli (TV, videos, computer games) at the expense of face-to-face adult modeling, interactive language, reflective problem-problem solving, and creative play. They are expected to arrive at school unprepared for academic learning, fall farther behind and become increasingly “unmotivated”as the years go by.

The injured brain and the unmotivated soul among our students create a huge market for self help industry.

But it makes everything worse. The short term changes pacify and lead us believe that we did well at helping them. But based on my first hand experience conducting hundreds or perhaps thousands of motivational courses, I know that there is something wrong, inside the skulls, and I am too illiterate to connect neuroscience to education. Popular psychology does not answer my concern.

It has to go deeper.

I don’t want to cheat or be cheated.

Our students are drowning and education need fundamental reconstructions.

We cannot blame the students for not being able to think.

They are sick, and the sickness remained misunderstood.

“Here in this school, we are trying very hard to prevent you from being Zombies. We need you to remain conscious, alive, becoming superheroes and save the nation for Zombies. Therefore you will experience war on brain aggressively launched in consistence” I told them.

How I wish all parents have the strength, not to think too much on their children’s grades. But I understand that educating the parents themselves is nevertheless as tough as educating the students. The vicious cycle must be stopped.

Education is jihad.

To fight against Zombification.

 

Islamically, Mind Our Language

kmss-speakPhoto credit to KMSS Media Unit

A muslim speaks well.

They choose good words to speak their mind and heart.

To speak well is to be well educated and to be cultured.

33_70

O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice. [al-Ahzāb 33: 70]

It is a specific command by Allah instructing the believers whenever they speak, they must speak with quality. The words are sound, the message is clear and the meaning is delivered and understood.

But we do not have an Islamic Language.

We have Arabic as the chosen language to deliver the premier sources of our language but it is not conditioned that to become a Muslim, one must speak Arabic. To learn and understand Arabic is highly recommended but it does not make Arabic as the exclusive language of Islam. Our fellow Christian Arabs read their Bible in Arabic and pray in their churches with the same language.

So, all languages spoken by any Muslims are potentially Islamic.

But with a condition; the language must be spoken according to its specific instructions.

Speaking a language properly, even when describing others, is demonstrating the talker rather than the talked.

The sentence “John is stupid” is a shorthand version of something like this: “When I perceive John’s behavior in a variety of contexts, I am disappointed or distressed or frustrated or disgusted.” We are talking about ourselves here more than about John. But through a kind of grammatical alchemy, the ‘I’ has disappeared. Our grammar has forced us to ‘objectify’ our feelings, to protect them onto something outside of our skins. [Postman, Neil. Building a bridge to the 18th century: How the past can improve our future. Random House LLC, 2011.]

Plato once said, “when the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself”.

Speaking is directly related to the mind, and the quality of mind is the quality of a person’s personhood.

Therefore, we must carefully examine our language. A Malay Muslim, ‘Islamically’ speaking, must use proper Malay language. To learn Malay language it to improve the ‘Malayness’ of a Malay so that as a Muslim, he or she speaks with Islam’s quality and value.

Let us take an example.

When a young man aged 20 sent an email to an ustaz to invite him to his campus, he asked, “ustaz, ana nak tanya anta free tak tarikh 20 Mac nanti? Ana nak ajak anta datang kampus ana”

The sentence is made up of three languages; Malay, English, and Arabic:

  • Ustaz = Malay (Arabic Origin)
  • Ana = Arabic
  • Nak = Malay
  • Tanya = Malay
  • Anta = Arabic
  • Free = English
  • Tak = Malay
  • Tarikh = Malay (Arabic origin)
  • Mac = Malay (English origin)
  • Nanti = Malay
  • Ajak = Malay
  • Datang = Malay
  • Kampus = Malay (English origin)

The meaning of the sentence is “ustaz, are you free on the 20th of March? I want to invite you to my campus.”

Is the sentence Arabic, English or Malay?

The student who said the sentence is a Malay, the ustaz is Malay, so, the sentence is in Malay when spoken and heard. By using the Arabic pronoun which is ‘ana’ (I or saya in Malay) and ‘anta’ (you or awak in Malay), it does not make the sentence Arabic. I am amused to discover that some people think that using the Arabic pronouns such as ana and anta is a Sunnah because the Prophet PBUH used those pronouns! I believed that Rasulullah PBUH did not only use the Arabic limited to pronouns, but he spoke the entire sentence in Arabic. So, if any of us want to be more Islamic by following the Sunnah, then we should speak the whole sentence in Arabic, and not just the pronouns.

By using the mixed words in one sentence, the person might not realize that his intention to make the sentence Islamic, produced a reverse impact. In Malay language, we have our own way to address others. We consider the seniority, and we use the appropriate pronouns accordingly.

The sentence is heard by the ustaz who is a Malay and with his Malay ears and brain, “Ustaz, aku nak tanya engkau, engkau lapang tak pada 20 Mac nanti? Aku nak ajak engkau ke kampus aku!

The sentence is considered rude. Even if aku is changed into saya, it is still inappropriate to do so.

I saw some young journalists on television inappropriately address people during interview with the wrong pronouns. They address and old man as ‘dia’ rather than ‘beliau’. Even though the message is understood, but again, the whole point here is to improve the way we speak, not just because of the social requirement, but it is Allah who commands us to speak proper Malay, proper English and proper Arabic, to be good Muslims.

A Muslim is a person with a sound language.

Mind our language.

Speaking, writing, and thinking!