Sitting in a cafe last night with an old friend and student – Dr Khalid Hussain – we had a very insightful and lengthy conversation about education and its purpose. The conversation was interspersed with sweet cardamom tea and added more flavour to the discussion. It propelled me to write today’s blog.
One of the deeply rooted superstitions of our age is the notion that the sole purpose of education is to benefit those who receive it. What we teach, how we teach, what subjects we encourage, are all utilised for one underlying purpose – “what do the kids get out of it?” And this ignites another more detrimental question – “is it relevant?” – and by relevant they mean “relevant to the interest of the kids.” From these superstitions have arisen a multitude of other problems such as the abhorrence of rote learning. Continue reading →
I walked into the library of Darul Uloom. Orderly rows of Arabic books, handsomely bound in rich colours framed in arabesque and stamped in gold and silver surrounded me. I looked at the titles around me that ran boldly across the spines of all the volumes. I could see the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the Tafsir of Tabari and Ibn Kathir’s al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah.
I slowly walked forward and saw a crouched man before me, sitting cross-legged reading some penned notes on pieces of paper. He raised his head as I came forward, and replied to my nervous Assalamu ‘Alaykum. I sat myself down before him and conveyed Shaykh Asad Madani’s salam to him. A conspicuous smile lit his face and he replied, ‘Alayhi wa ‘Alaykas Salam‘. This was my first meeting with my ustadh, Shaykh Yusuf Motala, who departed this temporal abode on the 10th of Muharram this year. Continue reading →
In days gone by, not very long ago, the adhan, a letter, or human contact were the only interruptions we had to our day. Then came the telephone; but for most people this was not an intrusion. Then, mobile phones appeared, followed by the smartphone. In just a few years the number of notifications and interruptions increased astronomically. No longer is it just a phone call. It is text messages, group chats, Twitter and Facebook. Add to this emails, appointments via a calendar, breaking news and other unimportant information coming in all day long. There is never any silence. Never any solitude. Never any contemplation.
I came across Dorothy Sayers’ article on the Lost Tools of Learning around twenty years ago. Written in 1947, it still as pertinent today as it was then. In her own words:
“Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and the radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area? Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?”
And this was before the invasion of social media. The need for critical thinking skills in ever more important today. I have reproduced here speech her in full for all to read and ponder.
Dorothy Leigh Sayers (1893-1957) briefly entered on a teaching career after graduating from Oxford. She published a long and popular series of detective novels, translated the “Divine Comedy,” wrote a series of radio plays, and a defense of Christian belief. During World War II, she lived in Oxford, and was a member of the group that included C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield. By nature and preference, she was a scholar and an expert on the Middle Ages. In this essay, Miss Sayers suggests that we presently teach our children everything but how to learn. She proposes that we adopt a suitably modified version of the medieval scholastic curriculum for methodological reasons. “The Lost Tools of Learning” was first presented by Miss Sayers at Oxford in 1947.
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One of the greatest pleasures that providence has thrown my way is that I was given the opportunity to learn Arabic in the traditional manner studying at the feet of masters. This prodigious good fortune to have inherited from my forebears a language that has two really special features. One is that it is the language chosen by our Lord Most High to be the vehicle for His Divine Message. The other is that during the last fourteen centuries, it has been, one of the great vehicles of thought, communication and culture of all time.
I personally believe that there is no better way that you can spend your time – that is to say, that there is no way you can spend your time more valuably, more satisfyingly, or even, other than in the sense of instant and swiftly-come-and-gone gratification, more enjoyably.
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A merry soul by the name of Miss Khadim, who writes under the nom de plume: the Silent Soliloquy asked me last week to write something on how to give a presentation. Although what she asked was about instructive speech, I will focus today on persuasive speech and return to instructive speech in a forthcoming blog.
Aristotle, who is commonly known as a philosopher, and you might be forgiven to think what might a philosopher have to say about giving presentations. But, as we shall see in this blog, Aristotle has great insight in this area; given that a presentation in other words is the act of persuading others to act or believe in a certain way; this is precisely what Aristotle is a master of – the art of persuasion – and his book entitled Rhetoric is the masterpiece that he produced on this topic.
There are basically three main strategies that one employs to persuade others. And the best words to describe these three strategies are the ones that the Greeks used. They are: ethos, pathos and logos.
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Literally, the Quran in Arabic means recitation. Fulfilling this purpose, it is perhaps the most recited – as well as the most read book in the world. Certainly, it is the most memorised book in the world, and possibly one that exerts the most influence on those who read it. So great was the Prophet Muhammad’s, Allah bless him and give him peace, regard for its contents that he considered it the major miracle that God worked through him. He himself, unschooled to the extent that he was unlettered, could not have produced a book that provides a ground plan of all knowledge and at the same time is without poetic peer.
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