Improve your Teaching of ‘I Love Islam’ series and your Children’s Learning Experiences

Islamic Pedagogy Series 1

It is that time of the year when we begin planning for the next academic year. After a year of using the new Islamic Education Syllabus, I LOVE ISLAM for Grades 1-6 and having many afterthoughts about how best to deliver such a huge resource, I thought that putting it down on paper would be best.

If you are interested in improving your teaching and the learning experiences of your pupils please review my ideas and give me constructive feedback on how it can be improved and give it a rating between 1-5. 1 is low and 5 is high.


Coming Next: How to use Islamic Education to improve the English literacy of your pupils.

Malick Elias

20 Quick, Tried, Tested and Effective Practices for Teaching the Holy Quran to Children

Islamic Pedagogy Series 1

1-    Read and point at the text of the Holy Quran (displayed on the whiteboard) matching symbol with sound, while pupils follow the reading along with you.

Rated: Good for linking text with sound and developing reading skills. This must be done in a slow rhythmic pace.
2-    Randomly point to verses in a Surah written on the board and pupils are required to read it out immediately without hesitation, as a group or individually.
Rated: Good for keeping pupils alert and getting them remember verses quickly if they know that they will be asked.
3-    Select the last ten Surahs, for example, read by a very good reciter and pupils read along miming his recitation as it is being read.
 Rated: Very good for improving and developing pupil’s reading style. They must however read with the same pace as the expert reciter.
4-    Read a verse alone and pupils then follow the reading after stopping.
Rated: Good for drilling the memorisation of the verse. Must be done in a clear voice paying attention to pronunciation rules (Makhaarij al-Huroof).
5-    Read a verse to the class and pupils read the next verse in sequence.
Rated:  Very good. This is done best when most pupils have learnt the Surah, with perfection.
6-    Read to the class and stop at words, which some pupils find difficult, they read that word and you then continue reading.
Rated: Good for checking pronunciation.
7-    Read a verse in a distinctive tone and pupils read the next verse in an alternate tone.
Rated: A good, but very specialist way for drawing pupils’ attention to the intonation and changes of tone and voice in the reading of a Surah. Before doing this pupils must be made aware of the meaning of the Surah and the story it tells.
8-    Select Surahs, which highlight a distinctive rhythmic style, especially those with the ending of verses which rhyme and read it with passion to the pupils.
Rated: Excellent for developing the pupils love for Quranic recitation and its stylistic features.
9-    Begin reading a Surah or random verse and then select a pupil to continue it.
 Rated: An excellent way of checking the depth of memorisation.

10- Read a Surah and pupils have to guess the name of it. This game can be extended to test their knowledge on other details of the Surah, for example, where it was revealed and in which chapter is it located in the Holy Quran …
Rated: Very good for developing pupils general knowledge of the Surahs, especially their names and where they were revealed.
11- Use images to link to verses if relevant. Best done on learning sheets.
Rated:  A good way of allowing visual learner to remember what the Surah is about.
12- Request from pupils the recitation of a specific Surah as they enter the class, standing behind their chairs before they sit.
 Rated:  Excellent technique for pupils to get into the habit. It helps them to consolidate the learning of particular Surahs. You could also develop this around gender lines. Boys begin reading and girls take over the reading at a certain point.
13- Group pupils who are at the same level and learning the same Surah to read the Surah in synchronised manner as one person in front of the class.
Rated: Very good for building the confidence of weaker pupils. But for this to be successful they must all read in chorus together.
14- Group pupils who are at the same level and learning the same Surah to read the Surah verse by verse. Each pupil in the group reads a verse and matches the pace and tone of the last reader.
Rated: Good. This is an advanced way of developing recitation skills of Tajweed and Tarteel.
15- Set a Quranic competition at the end of the lesson for pupils to compete.
Rated: Excellent for developing excitement and love for the learning of Quranic recitation. At a more advance level, give children the opportunity to choreograph their own presentations. Be creative! They love it. This is one of the most successful activities as it reflects popular culture that they can relate with.
16- Use transliterated Quran sheets, but only issue two verses at a time for individual pupils to learn. Let the pupils read to you after they learnt the verses and the teacher put a tick on the sheet and date it.
Rated: Excellent if used properly. It can build pupil confidence and memorisation skills. Pupils sense achievement quickly as they feel that they can learn the Surah. This is a good method for differentiating learning in Quran lessons.
17- Assign the copying of the short Surah or parts or selection from a long Surah in Calligraphic style, if the pupil is advanced. For the less advanced, but capable of reading the Holy Quran in Arabic, they should at least learn how to write Surah al-Fatihah from memory.
Rated:  An excellent way of developing pupils’ precision in reading, but useful also for visual learners.
18- Select pupils to read to the class, while others assess the level of their recitation. They are given levelling criteria: level 1 is recitation with some mistakes; level 2 is recitation without any mistakes but no tajweed and level 3 is recitation with tajweed.
Rated:  A excellent method for getting pupils to gauge the standard of recitation expected from them and to seek to excel in Quranic reading. It really works!
19- Assign a memorisation buddy for each pupil. They listen and check the memorisation of each other before letting you check their recitation and memorisation.
Rated: Excellent tool for classroom management and developing independent learning.
20- Assign the role of Memorisation Inspector to the most advance memorisers and or reciters of the Quran to go around and check the memorisation of others and issue them with a level; they then report back the levels of the pupil’s reading to you.
Rated: Very good method of engaging gifted and talented pupils in the learning process and classroom management aid.

Malick Elias

What is and What is Not Islamic Education

It makes sense to understand “Islamic Education” as an ever evolving phenomena not belonging exclusively to any period in time or moment of enlightenment. Much of what we now know Islamic Education to be began with the divine command ‘to read’. Now one can apply a range of epistemologies when deconstructing what that command may have meant or indeed means. We have the knowledge of the giver of the revelation, Allah (SWT) Himself and what was indeed intended by the command to His servant to read. There is also the receiver of the Revelation itself, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and his understanding both at the point of first contact and at a later stage as to what that command may have meant; and at the same time not ignoring his pre-revelation state. That is, if we do value the notion that Allah is involved in the shaping of our lives before scriptural guidance. Then there are we, the timeless reader and the perspectives we acquire through received knowledge and personal understanding over time as to the meaning, purpose and significance of that command – to read. Now all of these perceptions combined: the inaction of necessarily knowing or act acquiring knowledge and or evolving understanding all encompasses the meaning of education itself. Won’t you agree?

I often wondered what Prophet Muhammad did think, knowing that he was illiterate at the point of being urged on by the Angel Gabriel, ‘to read.’ Did he think that he was being asked the impossible – to read – or did he assume that the reading of a text was involved? Did Gabriel appear with scrolls in hand that led him to believe that he had to read them? Or was he simply being asked to recite that which Gabriel was about to read to him? But why according to hadith reports was so much strain and tension placed upon the Prophet  ‘to read’ when it could have been much easier for Gabriel to state what he wanted him to recite and then command him to follow in recitation? This begs another question: what was the point of the command itself? What I did conclude from the many questions which were raised in attempting to understand the meaning and essence of education from within the bounds of the first utterances of revelation itself was much simpler; that the Prophet was being commanded to read the narrative of his life, past, the present and future from within a new discourse and way of viewing the world, one which was based upon Tawheed.
“Read in the name of your Lord who created. Created mankind from a clot of congealed blood. Read, for your Lord is most Generous. He is the one, who taught the use of the pen. Taught humans that which they knew not.” 1-5:96
This, in the broadest of senses underpins what was meant to be ‘Islamic’ about Education and what set into motion the evolution of Islamic Education as distinct from other forms of Education, ways of knowing and imagining the world and beyond. The correct understanding of this command enshrines the purpose and legacy of Islamic Education, which remains constant throughout the annuls of time, the linking of humans with their Creator. Islamic Education therefore espouses a unique approach towards reading the narrative of life on earth.

In a research paper by Douglas and Shaikh (2004) a typology of what the phrase ‘Islamic Education’ may mean, explored four angles: 

1- Education of Muslims, which they argued, accurately meant “Muslim Education.” (page 8) An activity which takes place in local mosques or community centres after school or at weekends to compensate for the lack of Islamic instruction in schools.
2- Education for Muslims, which though perceived by Muslims as “Islamic schools’ are better coined “Muslim schools.” (p.8) The education of Muslims within a Western education secular framework.
3- Education about Islam, which is usually an outsiders view of what others perceive Islam to be (ps.9-12), as in an orientalist view of Islam, but not exclusively so, for this too can entail a romanticised view of Islam by Muslims construed for Western or non-Muslim consumption. 
4- Lastly, education in an Islamic spirit and tradition, which Douglas and Shaikh identifies as ‘the first meaning readers attribute to the phrase, Islamic Education,’ and usually the target of negative speculation by outsiders. To believers on the other hand Islam is seen as ‘a universal ideal of human knowledge,’ and with ‘no barrier between the “religious” and “secular.’’’ 
So what constitutes Islamic knowledge or Islamic Education? As Muslims we are taught that all knowledge by its very nature emanates from Allah (God) and therefore is Islamic. The coinage ‘Islamic’ does not mean knowledge bounded to the views of the followers of Islam – as viewed by those who demarcate between the search for spiritual truths and scientific enquiry. Islamic Education is not a subject to be taught alongside other subjects in the school curriculum, instead it is a pedagogy of instruction, learning and enquiry about the world founded on the basis of ‘revealed’ truths and should be embedded into the whole school curriculum. The first principle of these truths is that all truth itself emanates from ‘Allah,’ the Omniscient, to whom all knowledge belongs. Therefore, the study of Mathematics is Islamic and so are the range of Arts (Funoon), Humanities (Aadaab) and Sciences (Uloom al-‘aqliyyah) when founded upon an Islamic pedagogy that educates the whole individual.
The Holy Prophet (saw) once said: ‘The best of you is he or she who learns (masters) the Holy Quran and teaches it to others.” It is then not possible for one who has mastered a field of learning, scientist or humanist to articulate through their learning the truths of the universe as revealed by Allah? Did not the Prophet (saw) achieve this in his gift of moral conduct, when his wife, Aisha, was asked as about his manner behind closed doors and she replied: ‘His conduct was that of the Holy Quran?’ You too, can be an Islamic Educator. You too, can be a master of the Quran.

What is and What is Not Islamic Education

It makes sense to understand “Islamic Education” as an ever evolving phenomena not belonging exclusively to any period in time or moment of enlightenment. Much of what we now know Islamic Education to be began with the divine command ‘to read’. Now one can apply a range of epistemologies when deconstructing what that command may have meant or indeed means. We have the knowledge of the giver of the revelation, Allah (SWT) Himself and what was indeed intended by the command to His servant to read. There is also the receiver of the Revelation itself, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and his understanding both at the point of first contact and at a later stage as to what that command may have meant; and at the same time not ignoring his pre-revelation state. That is, if we do value the notion that Allah is involved in the shaping of our lives before scriptural guidance. Then there are we, the timeless reader and the perspectives we acquire through received knowledge and personal understanding over time as to the meaning, purpose and significance of that command – to read. Now all of these perceptions combined: the inaction of necessarily knowing or act acquiring knowledge and or evolving understanding all encompasses the meaning of education itself. Won’t you agree?

I often wondered what Prophet Muhammad did think, knowing that he was illiterate at the point of being urged on by the Angel Gabriel, ‘to read.’ Did he think that he was being asked the impossible – to read – or did he assume that the reading of a text was involved? Did Gabriel appear with scrolls in hand that led him to believe that he had to read them? Or was he simply being asked to recite that which Gabriel was about to read to him? But why according to hadith reports was so much strain and tension placed upon the Prophet ‘to read’ when it could have been much easier for Gabriel to state what he wanted him to recite and then command him to follow in recitation? This begs another question: what was the point of the command itself? What I did conclude from the many questions which were raised in attempting to understand the meaning and essence of education from within the bounds of the first utterances of revelation itself was much simpler; that the Prophet was being commanded to read the narrative of his life, past, the present and future from within a new discourse and way of viewing the world, one which was based upon Tawheed.

“Read in the name of your Lord who created. Created mankind from a clot of congealed blood. Read, for your Lord is most Generous. He is the one, who taught the use of the pen. Taught humans that which they knew not.” 1-5:96

This, in the broadest of senses underpins what was meant to be ‘Islamic’ about Education and what set into motion the evolution of Islamic Education as distinct from other forms of Education, ways of knowing and imagining the world and beyond. The correct understanding of this command enshrines the purpose and legacy of Islamic Education, which remains constant throughout the annuls of time, the linking of humans with their Creator. Islamic Education therefore espouses a unique approach towards reading the narrative of life on earth. In the forthcoming issues we will explore what has become of this unique characteristic of Islamic Education and ask whether Islamic Education is in need of reform or rediscovery.

Secularism in the Muslim World

by R. Hinkson and Malick Elias

(Originally written and published in 1999 for the Homeland Journal)

Can the organisation of the State and the integration of religious morals into public life be separated in the Muslim World? What are the prospects for a truly secular society in the Middle East and elsewhere and why will this question be a resounding issue, even for future generations?

Continue reading Secularism in the Muslim World