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“Ali, would you answer my question. What do you understand… the differences between Prophet and Messenger?” ask the teacher.
Before Ali answers the teacher’s question, what do you think about Ali’s feeling? Does he like the teacher more or less when the teacher asked him like that? Putting him at risk of failure in public. What other students in the classroom feel about the teacher? By choosing Ali to answer the question, does that make the rest of the class like the teacher more or less?
Well, a very simple action we do in a classroom, is actually reflecting our value, and nevertheless, our world view. How important to ensure our students feel secured being in our classroom? How important the students’ dignity, the mutual respect among each other, and the level of cooperation? All these are not random acts. They are the interpretation of our belief as educators, teacher, and even as the members of our faith.
Then, we should carefully examine what our iman says about pedagogy, curriculum and dealing with Tarbiyyah.
Recently our school dealt with serious misbehavior among our students. At first, we tried to deal with them at micro level. The teachers talked with the students and try to understand their motives and perhaps help them to understand our concerns. Some of them successfully worked out but some did not. The cases were quite serious which I think in some schools, these students might be sacked and terminated.
When the frequency is increasing, it became quite alarming.
We were forced to deeply question ourselves, what is our belief? As Muslims, as the practitioners of the Khalifah Method, how to deal with this test? These are no longer isolated cases. We must act before the wrongdoings became a norm.
We remind ourselves, as khalifah we have three responsibilities:
- Make ourselves good
- Help others to become good
- Keep the physical surrounding clean and beautiful, pleasing to Allah.
Will terminating the students make them better? In fact, will sacking them make us better persons? How do we balance between the rights of individuals to be corrected and deserve second chance, and the rights of many to live at school in peace? So many questions came out and we concluded that Allah wants us to learn something that cannot be taught in any classrooms.
We do not subscribe ourselves to public shaming. It is against our principles in educating the students to improve and betterment. ‘Gentle but firm’ (we call it LEGAS (lembut + tegas) at school) is not a cliche, and not as simple as it sounds. We believe that evil doing must be repelled with something better. Evil is not capable to erase another evil.
This is what Allah says:
And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel (evil) by that (deed) which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. [Fussilat 41:34]
It Allah who promises us that an enemy can be turned into devoted friend if we return evil with goodness. Public shaming, punishment with nothing to learn, will only thicken the ego and stubbornness, increase hatred, grudge and all forms of negativity.
Would it be easy?
If public shaming is common, this ‘soft’ action would be assumed as easy.
But Allah reminds:
But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except one having a great portion (of good). [Fussilat 41: 35]
The ‘soft’ approach cannot be taken except by those who possess a high quality of patience (sabr). It requires patience, wisdom and good self control. For those who have the patience, they are indeed have a great portion of goodness.
It is our time to practice chapter 159 from surah Āl ‘Imrān:
So by mercy from Allah , (O Muhammad), you were gentle with them. And if you had been hard (in speech) and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (upon Him).
In this chapter, Allah gave us five steps of problem solving than can be developed into a school policy:
- Pardon them (‘afw)
- Ask forgiveness for them (istighfar)
- Consult them in the matter (syura)
- Make a decision (azam)
- Rely upon Allah (tawakkal)
Pardon the wrongdoers does not mean we let go everything. It means that we accept the thing had happened. We remove our anger from clouding our motive. We bring down ourselves a little bit to sit and face the wrongdoers at the same level, willing to engage and reconnect.
Looking at the wrongdoers with full of anger and hatred can never bring education into function.
Syaitan is there, wanting the children of Adam to fail the test.
We are not in the position to forgive the students 100%. Their mistake related to our rights, the school rights and other students’ rights are only a portion of it. The other portion involves Allah’s right. How can we forgive them on behalf of Allah? That is why, after pardoning them, we should ask forgiveness from Allah so that He forgives them.
We do not ask forgiveness openly, but we will say it in our prayer. This will bring the sincerity into perfection, Insha-Allah.
How many of us, remember to ask forgiveness from Allah for our students? Maybe we can start asking Allah’s forgiveness for ourselves due to our forgetfulness in this important matter.
Then only we should start the process of consulting them in matter. The first two steps should not be skipped because they differentiate the positive Islamic education from others. Both steps create a positive and potential surrounding for a syura to take place.
In this part, the word Syura is used in a form of shā-wara (شاور) which benefits the meaning of ‘two ways’. It means, we need both party to listen to each other in order to get a complete picture between the wrongdoers’ perspective and our expectation. We cannot make syura into success if the meeting offers only our interpretation and verdict.
Listen to the students’ point of view. They might still be at the guilty side but perhaps we can discover the real problem behind the presented problem. We are dealing with stealing, but maybe it is not the real problem. Stealing can be a symptom of a more serious psychiatric illness. It can also indicates some other social disorder in their personal life.
The process must have a clear outcome. We cannot discuss half way and leave the trial session with inconclusive decisions. Otherwise, we are only halfway gentle but not firm. In order to achieve decisiom, it could take an hour or two, or dragged into longer hours. But here, teachers and students will experience the learning Allah wants them to learn.
They should understand at what point their actions are considered wrong.
They should understand that a sincere taubah is more valuable than punishment. There is a tendency in our society to belittle taubah and do not work enough to help a person to reach the taubah. Allah makes taubah strong enough to erase the biggest sin in amount and quality we can ever imagine.
The misbehaved students must be ensured that Allah is not just the Ghafūr to forgive when we seek forgiveness, He is also the Rahīm, who also subsequently love and bless the one He forgives!
Students should also choose some good deeds to be done, since Islam teaches us that goodness erases badness. Community service, inside and outside school is a good option. And at this stage, students are expected to do it voluntarily.
After both parties agree upon the decision, we must reestablish the trust. Do not spy on them. Make sure they leave the session with the highest trust in Allah. They trust Allah to guide them and we trust Allah to guide them. With that trust, Insha-Allah He will guide both of us towards betterment.
Are these easy?
“So by MERCY from Allah , (O Muhammad), you were gentle with them.”
It is the mercy of Allah.
Ask for His mercy.
Do things to gain the mercy.
Jarir radhiyallāhu ‘anhu narrated, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: He who is deprived of gentleness, is deprived of goodness [Muslim]
Thank you Allah.