I started teaching Islamic Studies to kids and students nearly 2 decades ago. I fondly remember Mr. Abdul Qader, the Sunday School Principal. He knew I was inexperienced, nevertheless, he was patient, loving and allowed me to make mistakes to learn and grow. Over these years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching students Qur’anic Arabic, Quran, Arabic, and most sub-subjects within Islamic Studies. And as much I’ve enjoyed teaching, I’ve also had my fair share of “aha moments.” In this series, I share with you some of the best practices I’d recommend to every teacher of Islamic Studies.These best practices will help teachers save valuable time and avoid pitfalls while teaching. In part 1, I will explore the importance of assessing one’s students and establishing a baseline.
More often than not, students are taught Islamic Studies in an anecdotal fashion. Some students barely know anything about Islam. Yet, you will find students who are encyclopedias of stories, facts and random tidbits. Rarely will you find students who have a structured understanding of Islam. As students grow up, these random facts and tidbits, if not carefully organized, will cause students to formulate a weak and surface level understanding and application of Islam. Therefore, every student is unique and different in their understanding of Islam. No two students are alike. Because Islamic Studies is not quite standardized across the country, every teacher should have some basic knowledge of how to assess and establish a baseline when teaching Islamic Studies.
Begin by assessing your students and finding a baseline. This assessment can be in a form of a test, discussion or activity. For more basic students, test their knowledge of the five pillars of Islam, the six pillars of Iman, working knowledge of wudu and how to perform prayer, and identify a few key historical individuals or events from the biography of Muhammad (pbuh) or other prophets. For more advanced students, examine their understanding of tawheed, relationship between the world and the divine, faith vs. religiosity, purification of the soul, meaning of ‘ibadah, basic fiqh and madthahib, how Islam informs one’s identity, define and explain the sources of revelation and finality of the Qur’an. While these suggested topics are not definitive and exhaustive, they however help a teacher grasp each student’s level.