The Lost Tools of Learning

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:

 

Dorothy-sayers

 

“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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The Importance of Learning Traditional Arabic

arabic-home-design-modern-home-design-traditional-arabic-home-designOne 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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The Quran – Deciphering Holy Writ

quran

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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The Importance of Being Grateful

WordsworthThe onslaught of technology has left us with little energy or mental space to ponder over creation. In times gone by, nature spoke the language of God; it still does but we fail to comprehend it. William Wordsworth, the celebrated English poet, repeatedly lamented the loss of the connection with the divine. His ode, ‘Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’ begins with these words:

‘There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,

The earth, and every common sight,

To me did seem

Apparelled in celestial light

The glory and freshness of a dream.’  Continue reading →

Philosophy of the Hijab

hijabA relative of mine asked me about the hijab, and this is what I replied:

The concept of hijab is based on modesty, which as Muslims, is a praiseworthy trait and in this sense of the term it is not gender-specific. It is incumbent on both male and females to adopt and adorn themselves with modesty and decorum when they interact with each other. This should be obvious. This notion of hijab thus goes beyond the outward dictates of the law – it is an inner trait that one adopts. A non-hijabi in this sense can be adorned with the praiseworthy trait of modesty, and a hijabi can be completely divest of it.

The law possesses both an outward conformance and inward reality – the letter and spirit of the law respectively. The ideal is to create an inward and outward harmony. Even a superficial reading of Quranic verses and related hadiths will attest that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace,  has always emphasized the balance that is reached by this.    Continue reading →

Remembering Maulana Hasan Tai (1930-2017)

 

Sadly, on the 28th of December 2017, Maulana Muhammad Hasan departed from this temporal abode and left us with his memories.

عن عاءـشة قالت : ما غرت على أحد من نساء النبي  ما غرت على خديجة – وما رأيتها – ولكن كان يكثر ذكرها، وربما ذبح الشاة فيقطعها أعضاء، ثم يبعثها في صدائق خديجة، فربما قلت: كأنه لم يكن في الدنيا امرأة إلا خديجة فيقول: «إنها كانت وكانت وكان لي منها      ولد

 

Aisha, Allah be well pleased with her, states that:

“I was not envious of any of the wives of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, more than I envied Khadija – and I had not seen her – but the Prophet used to remember her frequently. He, at times, used to distribute meat amongst Khadija’s friends, whereupon I would exclaim, “It’s as if there is no other woman in the world except Khadijah!”

He would remark, “She was like this …and like this.. and I have had children from her”

(Bukhari)

As I sit down to write this, there are many memories that I recall about Maulana Hasan Tai – too many to mention here. Somewhat similar to how the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to reminisce over Khadijah. Continue reading →

Shah Rafi Uddin’s Metaphysics

blind men

John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816-1887) version of Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

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Sayyid Habeeb Ullah Madani

Blue-Mosque-19

Shaykhul Islam Husain Ahmad Madani writes about his father, Sayyid Habeeb Ullah that in the field of taweez and amaliyaat he had notable skill and complete expertise. He used to mention, ‘There was a time when I had become so proficient that I used to write naqsh myself for curing illnesses and benefits were derived from them.’ At the time when my father granted me verbal ijazah to practice amaliyat and nuqoosh, he added, ‘I have fulfilled the zakah required for all the amaal within this common place book (his own hand-written compilation). There is no need for you to fulfil the zakah. I present you with ijazah; however, it will be better for you to carry out all the amaal in my presence once. Unfortunately, owing to my insolence and idleness I avoided this opportunity because I considered it an exertion and gave precedence to my Ilmi commitments. I was left regretting my decision thereafter.

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A Grandmother Departs…

41917-A-Grandmother‘Amr ibnul ‘Aas states that the Messenger of Allah used to give me attention, and spoke to me in a manner, that I began to feel that I was the best among the community (Shamail of Tirmidhi:338)

20th December 2015 was a sad day for my family and I. My maternal grandmother, or Amma ji, as I was wont to call her, sadly left this world. She leaves behind a husband, sons, daughters, numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and many other well-wishers and friends.

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Hadith vs. ‘Amal

mosqueImam Malik wrote a letter to Layth b. Sa’d saying:

“It has come to my notice that you give decisions on religious matters which go against   the position of the scholars of this city of ours. You are a leading scholar, a man of position and eminence in your area. People need you and trust you in your decisions. Because of this you must fear for yourself and tread the path that is likely to take you to safety. Continue reading →