Monday, February 16, 2015

Advice for Passing O Levels Exams Privately

Quite a few of Karachi homeschoolers have reached the age of their O Levels exams. Zainab has passed a few already (very successfully!) and kindly agreed to share her preparation process with other homeschooling families. Jazak Allah Khair, Zainab! 
My parents have been homeschooling me for the past 4 years and I have given 4 CIE O level exams Alhamdulilah. I sat the English and Biology exams at the end of the year 2013 and sat Physics and Chemistry exams at the end of 2014.

 My parents, both of whom are doctors, taught me the science subjects. I went through the books with them once and they helped me understand the difficult concepts (with the help of scientific animations on Youtube). My mother, who taught me chemistry, calls herself a facilitator, not a teacher. That’s because she does not remember a lot of O level Chemistry. But having her around for support, having her there to help me find the answers to my questions on the internet, having her read the book with me once, was very helpful Alhamdulilah. For practicals, I either did them imaginarily with my father, or took the help of Youtube. However, I don’t think this method will be useful in A levels, we will probably need access to a lab then.

As for English, I just read a lot of English books, and did a bunch of its past papers.

2 months before the exams of the science subjects, I started taking notes from the books. By taking notes, I mean rewriting the whole book concisely in my own words. The purpose of the notes was not just to help me with last minute revision but to help me memorize the contents of the book. This process of note-making may take long and may be difficult for school goers as they have assignments, projects, and tests every other day (an advantage of being a homeschooler is, I don’t have to hand in assignments and projects, and give tests every other day J) Anyhow, after taking these notes, I attempted a few past papers, and got an A in all of them Alhamdulilah. The reason I did not get A*s in these early past papers was because I was unfamiliar with the pattern of the papers.
If one is aiming for an A*, they must also do past papers. Not the just read past papers and their mark schemes. The actual, complete past papers are available on Don’t use the redspot past papers, because they are meant to be read only, not done. And in my case, unless I don’t write down answers and correct my mistakes later on, I forget the answers. When doing past papers, always use mark schemes. Sometimes we assume our answers are correct by checking from our textbooks. Little do we know they we lost a mark in the exam because we wrote “Potassium Manganate” instead of “Acidified Potassium Manganate” or because we underlined an answer when we were clearly instructed to circle the answer.  One can prevent such mistakes if they have experience of doing past papers and checking answers from mark schemes.

 I must also emphasize that students should study their textbooks that are endorsed by Cambridge and not teachers’ notes or anything of the sort. Teachers’ notes will make no sense unless one has read the books thoroughly.

 Students should also be mentally prepared about the timespan in which they have to complete a certain chapter, finish a certain book and sit a certain exam.

 Constantly nagging children and giving them a few guilt trips is necessary in order to make them self sufficient so that they can study on their own, without friends:)

 Also, I did not require any tuitions Alhamdulillah. All I needed was help from my parents and the internet.

 I will inshAllah be giving my remaining O level exams (Islamiyat, Urdu, Pak Studies, and Maths) this summer inshAllah. Please pray that Allah grants me success in these exams too.

 Lastly, I thank Allah and my parents for their tireless efforts while teaching me.

 Zainab Moazzam (Zainab Binte Arifa) 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Educating children in their mother tongue

For benefit of a wider readership, br. Ibrahim's Ali response in a conversation about educating children in their mother tongue and the importance of learning Arabic.
As Salamu'aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh,
My response is a bit long, but I will highly encourage every recipient to read it completely before reaching any conclusion and raise necessary questions. May Allah SWT accept all our efforts.
Dr. Irfan Hyder's article rightly stresses the need to educate the children in their mother tongue and I quote an excerpt from his article:
"Firstly from educational point of view, there is prevalent consensus among educationists that the best medium for early childhood education is the mother tongue. We see this practiced in all the developed world, whether it is France, Germany, Finland or any other country in Europe, or whether it is Japan, Korea or Taiwan, or whether it is China. Early education is given in the mother tongue to facilitate the process of articulation and comprehension because a child who is armed with the ability to articulate his thoughts and to comprehend complex ideas in his mother tongue can very easily learn a foreign language in few months later on
Early childhood is the period of time when a child is in the process of learning how to articulate complex concepts in to words and sentences and how to interpret complex ideas being articulated orally. This process is short-circuited by the imposition of the burden of negotiating through the maze of the foreign language with the result that the child becomes lost in the complexity of foreign words and in the effort of making sense out of them, and looses sight of the more important process of articulation of complex ideas and comprehension of complex ideas. Resultantly we get children who are unable to express themselves freely and to comprehend the complexity of oral tradition."
As an NLP expert, I second the idea that a child definitely has to learn in his mother tongue in his imprint years for developing an extremely confident personality. The very social fabric gets torn if his mother tongue is replaced by other tongue(s) in his/her imprint years, as the child gets disconnected from his surroundings and as result his cognitive development is also hampered. A language is not just utterance of words, rather it is a thought structure, which shapes a person's world view. And definitely English language superiority complex in our society has played havoc and made English culture & proficiency seem the yardstick for a person's status & success. So for children to be brought up as naturally as possible, they should be educated in the language of the masses/society to which they will insha'Allah feel connected and as a result will show some responsibility towards them as they will own them. Our contemporary passion for English over urdu has made children start feeling disconnected from their society as a whole and feeling connected with the English speaking world. As a result, these children start comparing their society with the West and take Western development and Western life style as a standard. Majority of them start turning their backs towards Pakistan blaming the society for the mess they themselves are equally responsible for, and easily get settled in lands of the disbelievers for mere economic benefits not doing any active Da'wah work.
However after developing proficiency in their mother tongue, after the age of 7, children should be taught Arabic language. As there is no doubt, and I second Sr. Arifa's opinion on Arabic being the language which Allah chose for Qur'an, His Messenger Muhammad ( Peace be Upon him) and Islam. If we are to consider ourselves people(nation/ummah) of our beloved prophet (Peace be upon him) we have to own his language as entire mankind whoever follows him will be his nation, as Allah says in Qur'an:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ رَسُولٍ إِلَّا بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ ۖ فَيُضِلُّ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

"And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of HIS PEOPLE, in order that he might make (the Message) clear for them. Then Allah misleads whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise." 14:4

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
The Prophet said, "I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me.
1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month's journey.
2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum, therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due.
3. The booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me.
4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection).
5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation ONLY but I have been sent to all mankind. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 7, Number 331)
Allah says:

إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

"Indeed we have sent it down as an Arabic Quran in order that you may learn wisdom." 12:2
The point to be noted here is the Arabic structure قرآنًا عربيًّا which is the strongest kind of adjective bonding in Arabic language called مركب توصيفي in Arabic grammar. It means that Arabic is not only the medium through which Qur'an was communicated, rather it is the identity of Qur'an itself. And such a mention of Arabic and Qur'an has been made at least 11 times in different places in Qu'ran in different sentence structures. So Allah definitely wants mankind to notice this relationship, or we would have been allowed to offer our salah in our mother tongues. As Muslims we all believe that Qur'an is preserved in Louh Mahfooz in al Baytul Ma'moor from where Angel Jibraeel used to bring revelations to Rasulullah (Peace and blessing be upon him). Had Arabic been only the medium of communicating Quran to Arab nation, the above mentioned verse wouldn't have been considered part of Qur'an preserved in Louh Mahfooz. So it is clear that Qur'an's existence as a scripture is only possible in Arabic, and the guarantee given by Allah for its preservation till the day of judgement is for its Arabic text. There are tons of linguistic miracles in Qur'an which shook the earth beneath Sahabah's feet the moment they heard those verses being recited to them. Translations in mother tongues do not capture those miracles or beauties which Allah boasts about in Qur'an.
I am not denying the fact that Qur'an is sent to convey the message to humanity. And that message has to be understood in ones life time. Translation does communicate that message to a great extent alhamdulillah. And that is why even if our language is not Arabic, we must go over the meanings of Qur'an again and again to stay aligned with the direct expectations of our Creator from us until we master Arabic language. However we should not feel content that since we got the message through translation we need not strive to master the language to have Qur'an shape our perception the way it shaped Sahabas.
Sahabi Umer ( Allah be pleased with him) used to say often: تعلّموا العربية فإنها من دينكم "Learn Arabic for it is from your Religion."
The history tells us that when Islam reached the Babylonian 'Iraq and the Qibti speaking Egypt, the Sahabah preached those nations Islam by role modeling and teaching them Arabic and quoting to them Qur'anic verses.
And the history also tells us that when muslims got distant from Arabic language, they got distanced from Qur'an and started falling prey to innovations in deen. As a result Shah Waliullah had to translate Qu'ran very late even in the subcontinent.
Yes, tafseer is an asset, but it should be kept in mind that that is not Qur'an, but a commentary on it to develop depth in it. So even if tons of tafaseer on Qur'an are written in Urdu, it doesn't and cannot replace Qur'anic text for which Allah has guaranteed. It is absolutely wrong to compare translations and commentaries of Qur'an to Qur'an itself , no matter how eloquent they may sound, as the challenge put forward by Allah to mankind is to produce something like its linguistic structure which even mesmerized and still mesmerizes native Arabic speakers. Some people put forward this argument that knowledge of Arabic is no guarantee to Qur'anic understand and impact by quoting examples of the eloquence of Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl. Kindly note that, only when knowledge of Arabic combined with sincerity and Taqwa of Allah SWT leads to Qur'anic impact. Qur'an is speech of Allah and not a piece of literature, and speech cannot be perceived as speech fully if its conveyed in a different language. Arabic is not just a language, it is a paradigm, a thinking structure which according to researched enables a person to use both the sides of the brain.
Now the question is not whether Arabic should be learnt or not. It should be that what is the right time/stage to teach it to a child. The answer is simple, if parents don't have command over it, society doesn't have command over it, don't teach it as a first language to the child as he/she would become cognitively misfit not only in the family but also in the society. Use mother tongue to educate the child in imprint years. One he/she has command over the language, within a few months only he/she can acquire proficiency in Arabic. More important than young children being immersed into Arabic, its their parents who should race to master Arabic language and then at the same time engage the child in the process. Practice with the child whatever they learn of Arabic. Give instruction to children in Arabic & Speak short sentences and then switching to longer ones. As Classical Arabic conversation fluency does wonders to Qur'anic understanding since it makes the entire scripture sound as direct word of Allah with personal touch.
Even though parents maybe extremely sincere in wanting to have their kids starting learning Arabic from a very young age, it does have very harmful effects on that young mind, until parents them selves have started to learn it and mastered it.
Last but not the least, our first language was chosen by Allah so He sent us in different cultures, by His choice and every language is His creation and a community's identity, He will not hold us accountable for the mother tongue, but He will definitely hold each one of us accountable for whatever we decide to learn beyond our given first language. And if we developed proficiency in any other discipline/language at the cost of learning the language of Qur'an first, we should be ready to face the consequences, as Salah(five daily prayers) are not just obligatory for anything. They are to be understood in full spirit by the time they are fardh on the child at the age of ten as his/her accountability begins. In my experience of teaching Arabic language and developing effective Arabic teaching strategies I have concluded that between the age of seven & ten, Arabic should be learnt and not before that in Non Arabic scenarios.And it can start much earlier given that parents and extended family members have command over the language.
And Allah knows the best.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Talk on Homeschooling at ERDC conference "Rethinking Education"

An enlightening talk on Homeschooling, recommended to all those who care about education.

Follow the link to view the video: Azeem Pirani on Home Education

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Doing things naturally in today's complex world

From an exchange of emails in Pakistan Home Education Yahoo Group:

Assalamu alaikum,
I feel that we should not force learning. But one question has been on my mind. The children of yester-years, they learnt naturally. All around them, work was being done naturally. Food was cropped, clothes were sewn, furniture was made, trade was carried out. The children were aware from start to finish what was going on. In today's world, NOTHING, is done naturally. We don't know,or want to know, the intricate detail of the finished products we consume. Every field has an expert and a gazillion details. How can our children grow up on the Fitrah NOW? Left at home, all they would see (at least in my home) is a mom, who is either cooking, cleaning or reading. Where is the food for thought? I think, the issue is, if i want them to lead meaningful lives, I have to LIVE one. Myself. Taking full responsibility. To ignite the fire that fuels Imaan. To not settle for anything less than the glory Muslims are destined to create.

Some practical framework is the dire need. So far, I agree with the fact that education is building a world view. Deviation from Islamic culture will deviate our minds. The groundwork is laid,... Waiting eagerly for the real thing.

Sr. Hanaa

Sister, Assalamu Alaykum,

We have taken an unconventional route, and doubts are bound to visit us every now and then. Personally, I feel that given a child's physical and emotional needs - (need for mother, for play, for sleep etc.) and given the fitan of the times, it's best if the child spends his first 7-10 years at home.

Institutional education can wait.

Parents, esp. mother, are the primary educators in these years. But the child can also learn from others (such as Qari/ Qaria, Islamic classes, sports coach, or someone who knows a craft). These early years at home are likely to build a strong base vs. sending him away at age 3/4.

Yes, it's hard work, made harder by the criticism we face, but have conetnement in knwoing that we are fulfilling our responsisbility as parents, and can be hopeful of great ajar and sadaqa-e-jaariah. Don't we read in the biography of some great Muslims that 'Ibtidaaee taaleem ghar pe haasil kee.'' And werent they better Muslism than us?

As for your concern about the natural ways having vanished, I'd say, thank Allah that you live in Pakistan. It's a very rich country. So many crafts and skills are still preserved. Recycling/ reusing come naturally to our people (vs. the drama in the West and West-like Muslim countries whose consumeristic econmies are constantly over-over-producing and then they talk about reduce, recuse, recycle!).

However, this is 2013, and we are city-dwellers. We have to accept the fact that things cannot be excatly as they used to be. It's Allah's will that we born in this time and be city-dwellers. (The Prophet (sa) too was a city-dweller, and we all have our unique role to play in the larger role of the Ummah).

With positive, out-of-the-box thinking, we can make the best use of our situation. Below are some examples of reviving the good, old ways (not theoretical examples, but things I have done/do myself). I'm sure others would have more to contribute:

*** It's easy to make ghee and butter at home in Pakistan, and so nice to see the malai turning into butter/ghee before your eyes. (People also make yogurt at home.) I tell the kids it's healthier than bazaari one, almost free-of-cost, and the ghee's fragrance is amazing. I point out Allah's great qudrah in milk and how it gives us different things. Making these things at home teaches us self-reliance - the old way of life ruined by capitalism - today's dominant econiomic system, which even wants you to purchase water and LimoPani from them!

***As your son grows older, send him alone for ba-jamaat namaz and bringing sauda. This will teach him to be brave*, to deal with people, to do hisaab kitaab. (Dont we see these qualities in the children of poor people?) * Mom also grows braver with this.

*** We used cotton nappies mostly, instead of disposables, for the youngest. (Imagine how put-off and surprised our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would be to know that we use throw-aways every single moment of the child's first 2-3 years, and the child remains unclean all the time.)

*** Whenever the electrician, plumber, carpenter would come over, kids would nautrally be interested in their work. Plus, I woud specifically ask my son to stand next to them and 'supervise'.

*** I have seen people in Pakistan growing veggies in small spaces outside their homes. One can easily plant dhaniya etc. in pots. We planted raai, and beautiful leaves came out.

*** Our mothers and grandmothers knew stitiching, knitting, crochet and embriodery. It's not impossible to revive these highly useful and interesting skills. With our girls at home, we have the opportunity to have them learn these skills again. Quite possible, some famile member or domestic helper could teach them this or another skill.

Rest assured, in an institution, the envioronemt is generally even more articfical . So lets think positive, and make the best use of our situtaion.

Sr. Umm Shanze

Preschools: The seeds of time

By Nimrah Waseem
Source: "Dawn" (
Macbeth is told by a friend,
“You can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not,
Speak then to me …”

The symbolic use of the word ‘seed’ by William Shakespeare is embedded with several meanings. The quality of seeds is important but crops do not solely rely on it. Water supply, weather conditions and manure also play a role in obtaining a handsome harvest. Seeds symbolise children. We need to provide them with favourable conditions to grow.

Parents want to provide the best they can for their children. In order to give them a fine start they look for the best Montessori school in town. And in doing so they accede to pay illogically hefty fees. Some parents feel social pressure when the child’s cousins and other children in their neighbourhood are already going to a preschool. But most parents who seek admissions for their children in such institutions are rather ignorant of the physiological, social, emotional and academic needs of the little ones.

Karachi has numerous preschools; some of them claim to have foreign affiliations and promise to provide international standards. Others enounce that after passing out from their institution the child will get admission in the desired elite school.

In fact, only a couple of institutions in the city have an educational philosophy. Most of the preschools have only one Montessori directress and the rest of the teachers are just girls who hardly possess a Higher School Certificate. The school administration has nothing to do with education as they are there only to mint money.
These preschools do not hold a single standard procedure of admission. There is an admission test for the young buds along with their parents’ interview. To exhibit their so-called standards, they have an inflexible policy regarding the child’s age. Most of the schools open up admissions for 2.5-year-old children. A well-known Montessori school admits only 18 months old children while another admits children at the age of 2.3 years. But only those whose mothers registered with them when they were seven months pregnant are lucky to get into the school.

It is believed that early schooling will help children win the race in today’s competitive world. Parents do not realise that it can also have long-lasting effects on the future of their family. To decide the right age to start preschool, we should understand the needs of the child in the following domains of development.

Motor skill development

Motor skills are subdivided into two types; gross motor skills and fine motor skills. According to psychologist and philosopher Jean Piaget, these skills develop at a certain age and cannot be acquired before time.

Gross motor skill development is related to the child’s ability to use large muscles. Most importantly, a child should have the physical stamina to join preschool. Then, he must be potty-trained. Along with that, a child should be able to follow simple directions, walk in a straight line, eat his lunch and wash his hands without assistance. A majority of our children admitted to preschools do not have fully developed gross motor skills. This makes them unfit for the tough schedule and demands of the preschool as most of these schools are merely preparatory centres for further education and not proper montessories.

Fine motor skills develop more gradually. This is related to the child’s ability to use small muscles, specifically their hands and fingers, to pick up small objects, hold a spoon, turn pages in a book, or use a crayon to draw. A child having fully developed fine motor skills is able to handle scissors, dress up himself and tie shoe laces.

Children are unable to perform these tasks at the age of two-and-a-half years. They have slower reflex actions, lower level of distance judgment and hand-eye coordination. As mentioned already, these skills develop at a certain age and pressuring a child to perform these tasks would be disastrous.

For example, a child of 2.5 years can only use a crayon because the fine motor skills of his fingers are not completely developed and a pencil could damage some of them permanently. The hand-eye coordination also takes time to become perfect. When a child is pressurised by the teachers and parents to improve his handwriting and colouring, it simply builds on stress because he cannot perform better than that. Children under four have difficulties in the playground and at the swings for the same reason. Motor skills can become impaired in a variety of ways, including injury and illness. Later in their lives, they may have problems in riding a bike, in sports and making the right decisions when driving a car.

Speech and language development

A child should have the ability to clearly communicate his needs and understand others. For the purpose, a child should see himself as an individual and understand his place in the world. He must be able to join simple sentences together to describe an action or experience and hold a conversation. His language and cognitive abilities should be developed to the extent that he can participate in group activities. He should begin to understand that a story has a particular sequence, beginning, middle and an ending. One can easily guess that a child cannot do these things by the age of 2.5.

Cognitive development

As far as cognitive development and performance is concerned, Elizabeth Dhuey, a Canadian researcher, believes that “kids who begin classes later often perform better on tests later and are more likely to attend college.”

Social and emotional development

Let’s look at the most neglected area of social and emotional development. Parents think that their child will grow more sensible socially in the school environment. It is true but not for a child under four years of age. Actually, emotional development comes from the child’s interaction with his parents and family. Going to the market or outing or visiting relatives with the parents are experiences that not only add to the social and emotional intelligence, but expand the IQ as well.

Early schooling can be a risk factor because it asks so much of the kids. Preschool is not good for children under four years of age. Play groups are stressful no matter what as kids are stressed by the sensory overload, noise, difficulty of making their needs known to teachers, competition for grabbing attention, necessity of accommodating their own needs to the schedule, etc. Kay Margetts, a professor of early childhood studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia, says that if a child is not ready it could have “… devastating effects on his self-determination and progress.”

Children temporarily “transfer” their attachment focus from parents to the teachers. However, this relationship is not a secure attachment because of its “impermanent” nature. A child in parents’ company develops security and optimism whereas temporary separation from the mother during school hours may develop insecurity and mistrust. This mistrust exhibits itself mostly in teenage or sometimes even later than that.

Moreover, research tells us that children who are in preschool all day have high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones by the afternoon. Sometimes a child keeps himself composed during school hours but as soon as the parent appears after school, he bursts into tears. It reflects that he was passing through an emotional trauma earlier. Many early beginners compensate for the stress in other ways; they regress, they hit their siblings, they have bad dreams or they get clingier. Likewise, youngsters sent to day nurseries before the age of two are more likely to show signs of anti-social behaviour towards their teachers.

On the contrary, older children are able to manage their emotions. During play, they are able to take turns and engage in cooperative activities. The peer relationship skills help them to be socially active like entering a group of playing children.

According to famous psychologist Erik Erikson, the period of 18 months to four years is quiet critical for the child’s social and emotional development. “The well-parented child emerges from this stage sure of himself, elated with his new-found control, and proud rather than ashamed.” On the other hand, if a child is mishandled it, could lead to “… a psychological crisis that includes stormy self — will, tantrums, stubbornness, and negativism.”

Sociologist and psychologist agree that empathy is the most important social skill in terms of family bonding and social integrity. One becomes empathetic only if he is being treated empathically. No one can be empathetic more than a parent, not even teachers. So the most important social skill empathy is acquired in the parents’ company, not in school group situations. If this time is lost these young buds tend to be apathetic towards their parents and siblings later in their lives and we wonder what is wrong with our younger generation.

The writer is lecturer at the English department at the Federal Urdu University for Arts, Science and Technology, Karachi.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fear of Allah and His Punishment

By Saood Hashim


A few weeks back I had an interesting conversation with my elder daughter (of 8 years) with reference to some anger that I had shown to her that day due to some undesirable behavior of hers, and as a punishment not taking her to a decided outing. As a result she got a bit upset. But when her mood was back to normal I asked her whether she or her younger sister (of 3 years) feared me?

She immediately said, "No. We do not fear you."

I asked her the reason for it. She replied, "Because you are very nice and we love you and we know that you love us too".

But then I asked her the reason as to why they are not fearful of me even though I sometimes get angry on her and scold her much and even give her punishment. She couldn't give me a proper answer.

So I changed my question and asked her whether she thinks I will ever abandon her or her sister or let her be alone on the road or put her in some fire or give some other punishment just because I like to give punishments? She replied in the negative and then she started getting the feel of why she did not fear me even though I get angry on her. She realized that I get angry not because I like to get angry but because she does something bad which displeases me. And then I put it this way that "You do fear me, but that fear is NOT because I am some Jinn Bhoot etc. that will eat you up. You fear me because of our mutual LOVE for each other and therefore you do not want to make me unhappy. This Love asks you to be conscious of me. This consciousness tells you to do things that please me and to avoid things that displease me. Your fear of me is actually your consciousness of me. And your consciousness of me is because of this LOVE". She seemed to understand the difference between fear and consciousness (not completely though).

Then I asked her, "Are you fearful of Allah (swt)."

She said, "Yes."

I asked her why?

She said, "Because if I do not do something like Salah, Quran, etc., He will put me in fire."

I then asked her, "Do you think Allah likes to put you in fire?"

After some thought she said, "No."

"Then why do you fear Allah but not fear me even though both of us do not like to punish you?" I asked her. She remained silently thoughtful and did not come up with a ready answer.

I then explained to her that Allah is much much more loving than I am towards you and He will really dislike it very much to put any of His beautiful creation in Fire. Like you donot fear me but are conscious of me because I love you very much, donot fear Allah but be conscious of Allah, because He really loves you very much and we donot want to make him Unhappy by doing things which will displease Him.

Then I asked her what does she fear most - my displeasure or my punishment?

She said, "Your displeasure."

I asked her why? She said, "Because I don't want you to be displeased with me."

I said this goes same with Allah (swt). We should be fearful of Allah's displeasure more than his punishment. Because Allah many a times does not give any punishment even though it is already due because He LOVES us so much that he does not want us to be punished. But that does not mean that we should displease him by doing bad things again and again. It is only those who do bad things again and again that Allah will punish. For others, whoever repents and stops doing those bad things, Allah will become more loving.

I know my daughter has not yet understood this subject completely and she will have to take more lessons on this subject but I felt this conversation style was a good way to teach her about Allah and our relationship with Him.
In this context, it reminds me of the word "Taqwa". Generally the word "Taqwa" and "Muttaqi" are translated as "Fear of Allah" and "God-Fearing". I found a few translations of the Quran, for example Mohammad Asad and Sahih International which translate the word as "Consciousness of Allah" and "God-Conscious". I felt the later are better translations of these words. Fear of Allah at times tends to gives a negative meaning. Mohammad Asad has this to say when he translated the word "Muttaqi" as "God-Conscious"

"The conventional translation of muttaqi as "God-fearing" does not adequately render the positive content of this expression - namely, the awareness of His all-presence and the desire to mould one's existence in the light of this awareness; while the interpretation adopted by some translators, "one who guards himself against evil" or "one who is careful of his duty", does not give more than one particular aspect of the concept of God-consciousness."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homeschooling Means....

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

- Home-schooling means biting your tongue/lip to stop yourself from smiling every time someone sees your children use HUGE kitchen scissors to comfortably cut up things and exclaims with horror, "Don't use those! They are dangerous for children!"

- Home-schooling means not speaking openly about your children's earlier-than-usual milestones and abilities and letting people assume they are lagging behind their schooled counterparts.

- Home-schooling means truly putting your trust in Allah, because your children's intelligence and achievements are not judged by standardized tests and report cards that "rate" the progress and academic excellence of a child on the faulty "cookie-cutter" system. You might not have report cards and numbers to satisfy you as a parent about your child's progress, but you DO have your own maternal instinct and gut feeling that lets you know via simple observation how intelligent your children are.

- Home-schooling means always remembering the things you disliked in your own childhood, and ensuring that these things don't happen to your own children. E.g. taking permission to go to the bathroom in front of the whole class, red-faced with embarrassment to announce your nature-call to the whole classroom; using a filthy school washroom without a door-lock, wishing no one comes in while you "go"; the immense hurt and burning tears caused by being scolded harshly in front of 25 other kids and kicked out of class because you were making an artistic card for your teacher whilst she was teaching something else (which you found very boring); being forced to go to school when you are sick, when all you want to do is stay in the comfort of your home with your mother and play with your toys.

- Homeschooling means never forcing your children to study the Quran when they want to do something else. Result? They come after you, asking you to teach them the Quran (as well as other books, e.g. Science books!).

- Home-schooling means having a child with an open book/pencil standing at the kitchen counter next to you as you chop vegetables and cook at the stove, giving them directions and checking their work. Through this experience, the child simultaneously learns about cooking and your recipes. :)

- Home-schooling means feeling a rush of emotional "pride" and tears of joy well up in your eyes when, on coming out of your room, you see your children lined up, with one loudly leading a "mock" salah (with perfect recitation ماشاء الله لا قوة الا بالله), and the other following willingly (May Allah reward the people at Al-Huda for making the "Thank You Allah" cassette, in which Asma Zubair has taught the salah in a way that is fun to learn and so easy to memorize) - and secretly observing them perform this salah perfectly as a part of their "play", without anyone forcing them to.

- Home-schooling means enjoying your children's childhood and letting them enjoy it too; enjoying their company to the full, knowing that one day they will be all grown up and gone; remembering that your house will then be empty and they will insha'Allah be in their own homes, enjoying blissful matrimony with their own spouses and children (may Allah grant them every blessing of this duniya and the next, ameen).

- Home-schooling means passing by huge brick buildings and feeling grateful to Allah as a family that my little treasures are not "trapped" inside it 5 mornings a week against their will, but rather, are "free" to wake up when they want to, have a leisurely breakfast, and to know that their mother is nearby always to run crying to, and to play all they want! I can list many negatives as well, but I am thankful to Allah that for us, the positives of homeschooling by far outnumber the negatives.

- May Allah grant us protection from harm, and even more fruition and barakah in our endeavors. Ameen

-- By Sadaf Farooqi