Leadership In Parenting

Enriching The Soul: The Importance Of Continuing Islamic Education (CIE)

To begin with, this post refers to the one-hour presentation I did on 24th December 2023 at the MISG-IMSA Muktamar 2023 in Austin, Texas. Special thanks to my husband, Ahmad Fakhri who helped me structure the presentation and my daughter Alia Nadhirah who spruced up the slides just in time for the session.

Continuing education is a subject close to my heart. Why did I place this post under “Leadership In Parenting”? Because with CIE, you’ll empower yourself with a better understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah, which guides how you interact, lead and inspire your children to think, feel and do better.

Now, for the seminar itself.

After a brief introduction of my personal journey at Continuing Education, I clarified that what I was about to present wasn’t academic. Rather, I hoped that the audience would be motivated and inspired to embark on a journey of continuous education, specifically Continuous Islamic Education (CIE) for reasons I did elaborate.

 

CASE FOR ACTION

Muslims base their actions (what to do, what not to do) on two sources: “Naqli” (divine revelation i.e. Al-Qur’an & “Sunnah” i.e. way of life of the Prophet SAW) and “Aqli” (Reason/Research/Logic). From a “Naqli” standpoint, CIE is worth our time and consideration:

Read, in the name of your Lord who created. . .” – Al-Alaq:96:1

“It is only those among His servants who have knowledge that fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Almighty, Oft-Forgiving. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Forgiving.” – Fatir:25:28

If you’re in doubt about the existence of God, look no further than the Qur’an itself, for the Qur’an is precise. Example: Who would have known 1400 years ago that the commander of the ants is a she? Do refer to Surah An-Naml:27:18, specifically:  قَالَتۡ نَمۡلَةٌ۬

In my parenting class, I sometimes refer to Surah Hud:11:114 meaning “Good deeds remove bad deeds”, a divine injunction for parents to be able to move on and encourage their kids to follow up their bad behaviour with good ones.

Abu Hurairah RA reported: The Messenger of Allah SAW said, “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end but for three: recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious child, who prays for him (for the deceased).” (Sahih Muslim, 1631, sunnah.com). Another reason for you to go for CIE.

Yours truly presenting “Enriching The Soul: The Importance of CIE”.


Consequences of Colonialism

It’s worth mentioning the consequences colonialism brought to Muslim countries. Islamic education is holistic, leads to “tawhid” (oneness of God), understanding of Allah, Islam, Qur’an & Sunnah. The colonials imposed significant changes to the education system, one of which was that, subjects deemed as “duniawi” (e.g. Math, Science, Technology) were separated from “ukhrawi” (the Afterlife). My siblings and I were blessed because our parents emphasized the importance of both. We attended two different schools everyday so that we did not miss out on Islamic education. I know many families who did not, as the religious school (Islamic Education) wasn’t compulsory. Attending two different schools was tiring, but I’m glad my parents made us do it. The early exposure to the Islamic worldview guided our life decisions until  today – what we did, what we didn’t do, who we married, how we raised our children –  these are important choices with far-reaching long-term consequences. Today, in Malaysia we have a number of integrated schools that essentially combine the “duniawi” and “ukhrawi” so there’s no need for kids to rush to a different school daily. Still, if the family doesn’t practice what’s being taught in (Islamic) school, chances are the kids won’t either in the longer run.

Confusion with the Qur’an

A huge issue with Muslims worldwide. Muslim children and youths are taught to read the Qur’an without understanding the “seerah” (context) and/or meaning which results in a fragile Muslim identity or worse, an identity crisis. I highly recommend The Clear Qur’an: Tafsir for Kids (4 volumes), an excellent choice to begin with. Growing up, at school I would read different parts of the Qur’an. I would come across two words that were different, and I would wonder why the English or Malay translation was the same.  If this is true of you, wait no more. Sign up for a class so you can tell the difference. The grammar and structure for Arabic Qur’an is unlike that of English or Malay.

Personal glory

Nothing is worth doing unless the intention is to please Allah.

When I sent my children to school, at the school gate I would prompt them, “Password, please.” They would respond, “Ikhlas and Outstanding.”

“Ikhlas” (sincerity): we do everything sincerely for the sake of Allah. You might gain fame or popularity but life in this world is fleeting and before you know it, it’ll be over. Is it really worth striving for the sake of personal glory? All that fame you got will be worthless when you stand before Allah.

“Outstanding”: Everyone is gifted in some way by Allah SWT. Our job is to find what it is, and excel.

Ask: What are you going to do with the knowledge you gained with CIE? It should not only enrich your soul, but offer practical solutions to current problems. Example: Muhammad Yunus was an economics professor at a university. But one day he returned to Bangladesh and discovered that the theories he learnt and had been teaching at the university did not work to cure the poverty problems of his countrymen. This was the motivation for him to start Grameen Bank.

BENEFITS OF CIE

For “akhirah” (Afterlife):

  • Knowledge of Quran and Sunnah
  • Deepens one’s connection with Allah
  • Enhanced worship (Transform your prayer – Iqbal Nasim)
  • Promote accurate Islamic understanding

For “Ummah” (Muslim community):

  • Navigate modern challenges (visibility of Muslim voice)
  • Community building
  • Unity in diversity

For Self-Improvement & humanity:

  • For Effective communication (Da’wah)
  • Critical thinking skills

I have done a number of informal CIEs, a number of them together with my family. Here I present 2 of them:

  1. CEP (Cultural Exchange Program);
  2. Islam & LGBT

Case Study 1 – Cultural Exchange Program (CEP) : Formal CIE 

It is estimated that 9 out of 10 Japanese youths born to Muslim parents opt not to remain a Muslim by the time they reach adolescence. The majority of these youths experience tremendous pressure to fit in and lack confidence to practice Islam. In 2019, Ahmad Fakhri and I coordinated the Japan-Malaysia Cultural Exchange Program whereby we brought in 12 students (8 Muslim and 3 non-Muslim) from Japan to stay with practising Muslim host families. The official organiser for CEP 2019 was the Chiba Islamic Cultural Centre (CICC), Japan. Running the program was a risk; it was a pilot program. Yet, the results were better than we had imagined. The second CEP program was delayed to 2023, with equally pleasing results. CEP focused on experience – what the incoming student experienced during a short stay with a practising Muslims. A program that we hoped others would copy and run.

Snapshots of CEP activities. 

 

Ahmad Fakhri and I proposed the CEP to the CICC as we wanted to find out whether an experiential approach could make a difference to the development of the Muslim identity among Japanese Muslim youth.

The CEP is based on Al-Hujurat:49:13 and grounded in documented narratives of dynamic, eminent and committed Japanese Muslims as shown below.

 

Above is an overview of the CEP.

What I did gain was more than what is depicted below:

If you would like to see a short video presentation about the CEP, click here. For the complete Master’s thesis which I did with USIM (Islamic Science University of Malaysia), please write to [email protected]

Case Study 2 : Islam & LGBT by Dr Carl Sharif El-Tobgui : Informal CIE

To sign up for this free course, click here. If you did the quizzes and got them graded, it would become a formal course. In this course, Dr Carl used the LGBT issue as a case study. Meaning, the principles you learned in this course may be applied to other issues. If you’re a parent or teacher struggling about this issue and would like to gain some insights, click here.

 

Among other things, I gained a structured understanding of the Islamic worldview versus the modern worldview. If you’re like me, your formal education grounded on Mathematics, Science and Technology, this course is worth the hours spent.

Having a postgrad degree does not necessarily mean you’ll become an academic, teaching at a college. You never know when the opportunity may arise where you need to step up with confidence and respond to concerns among your family members, particularly why the Qur’an is such-and-such or the “sunnah” is such-and-such. What you say based on informed and accurate knowledge does make a difference.

Embarking upon formal CIE is the easy part. Sticking to it till completion is the hardest. Our ultimate goal is nothing more than seeking Allah’s pleasure. Getting a supportive supervisor is crucial. Many students of postgraduates did not finish their studies for different reasons. But if you have a clear purpose, you know why you need to do it, chances are you’ll reach the finishing line come what may. I have personal interest in both the CEP and LGBT programs as I have family in minority Muslim communities and these are contemporary issues where they live. I believe that when you do what you can to help others, Allah will send help to your own family members in ways you never imagined – something I have experienced many times.

 

About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 540 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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