September 15, 2017

Manners and Qualities of a Muslim Student

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, not only told us, but showed us how we should act. School is a great place to show these things so that Muslim children’s will be able to understand how Muslims are taught to act. Students are a very important segment of the society. They are intellectually alive, are dynamic, idealistic, and can afford the luxury of looking at issues without being under the pressure of being in the field. Skills and convictions acquired by students are a valuable investment for future community leadership. Work among students helps not only to identify potential leaders but also to train and promote their leadership potential. Students have a wide range of issues that affect them both inside and outside the institution. Most student activists tend to gravitate to controversial issues. Within the institution students are concerned with the issues: academic policies, physical facilities, and services. Outside the institution students are concerned with the environment, social issues, economic issues, and international affairs. Students may have social apathy or social dynamism depending on their socio-economic background. Students in affluent free societies with no pressing social problems tend to be satisfied and difficult to organize because of apathy. Students in societies with social repression are apathetic because they have little hope of changing their fate.
Students are most active where there are issues that affect them as students or as citizens and there is reasonable chance of meaningful change. Too much idealism can cause some students to back away from social activism when they realize the imperfections of ‘real life’. A balance needs to be established between social activism and academic achievement. A student however should never forget that the main purpose is to learn and study. Student extracurricular activities should never interfere with studies. Students have to be good students first before they are anything else! Students face many challenges: academic, ideological, and cultural. They are also concerned about ummatic issues: economic development and human rights. Students grow up in homes and communities where they receive Islamic knowledge and culture to varying degrees. They attend educational institutions that impart euro-centric disciplines of knowledge some of whose paradigms are contrary to what they learn from their communities. Students are acutely aware of the gap in science and technology between their societies and the industrialized world and many of them are aware of the reality that their education may not equip them to ‘catch up’ or even if it did there are forces that will not allow them to make their societies stronger. Students are bombarded daily with ‘isms’.
Student programs may be social or dawa oriented inside or outside the university campus. Programs for students on the campus include: worship, tarbiyat and training, academic support, entertainment, career or study counseling, counseling on social life, protection of Muslim student interests, and dawa. A specific plan as guided by Holy Prophet (pbuh) and Quran must be followed to ensure that there is continuous and balanced tarbiyat all through the course of study at the university. According to the late scholar, Abu A’ala al Maududi, students have a major role in Islamization of knowledge. They have to learn and transmit Islamic heritage to the next generation. They have to engage in an intellectual struggle against other ideologies. They have to fight corruption to preserve their morals and those of society. They must get practical skills needed to succeed in an increasingly technical society. Islamic teachings regarding social relations and dealings with others are very important. We must become a good human being before becoming a good Muslim. This message destroys a disastrous and tragic misconception that reduces Islam to only the performance of the ritual acts of worship.

We must submit our whole life, not a small subset of our choosing, to the commands and teachings of Allah and his prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Our commitment to Islam must not only be life-long but also life-wide.

Islam gives very much importance to social relations. Islam is concerned with how we behave in the family, interact with relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and all the rest of humanity. Now a days people are seen violating the values they hold sacred in their sermons and lectures. Such an atmosphere is hazardous for the immature and sensitive young people who react and suffer from mental confusion and are led to believe that there are certain values to be paid lip service only, whereas the practical needs of contemporary human life demand an altogether different set of values. In the past, parents and teachers used to make the best of their efforts to provide an atmosphere to their children which is congenial to the development of higher virtues and morals. But the gross social change over the last fifty years, large scale urbanization, ruthless competition for financial gains, and heavy preoccupation in everyday life deplete all time and energy from the parents, leaving behind little time or energy for their children.
Whatever time they have at their disposal is consumed by newspapers, television and other recreations. As a result, the younger generation hardly gets any opportunity to share ideas with their elders or to enter into a meaningful discussion. On the other hand, this idea is gaining ground among us that education is not meant to build up better human beings, but only to get better jobs. Consequently, the students’ minds are obsessed with better jobs and dreams for higher social status. Obviously, the moral and religious training of the child has gradually been ousted from the preview of education. The system of private tuition among the students and teachers is also endemic. Now the students do not consider their teacher as their mentor or reformer.
The net result of all this deterioration is that the value system of our society has fallen into oblivion, which we had to transfer to the next generation for the preservation of our religious and national identity. In Islamic history, teachers have not only distinguished themselves by their profundity in knowledge and research, but also because of their character, piety and abstinence from immoral acts. Throughout their history, Muslims have refused to except the authority of any pervert or debauch as a religious scholar and teacher. We have always attached importance to the character, nobility and conformity of belief and action. In the Islamic view of education, instruction of sciences cannot be divorced from moral and ethical training. It is again a contribution of the modern age that character building has been totally dissociated from education. That is why our system is producing an educated but characterless generation. The cornerstone of Islamic teachings in this area is the requirement that we do not cause anyone any hurt through our words or actions. A famous hadith states, “A Muslim is the one from whose hands and tongue other Muslims are safe.” [Tirmidhi]. Keeping others safe from our hands and tongues does not only mean that we do not hurl stones or abuses at them, it also means that we do not say or do anything that will hurt them. This hadith clearly describes this as a defining trait of a Muslim. While it refers to “other Muslims,” scholars agree that it is a general requirement that equally applies to non-Muslims except those who are at war with the Muslims. A person who, through his intentional or careless actions or words inflicts unjustified pain on others is not worthy of being called a Muslim. We can begin to appreciate the value of this teaching by realizing that most problems in our lives are man-made. Life can become living hell if there are problems within the family: the tensions between the spouses, the frictions between parents and children, the fights between brothers and sisters and other relatives.
Today these are common stories everywhere. But can these problems occur and reach the intensity they do if everyone is genuinely concerned about not hurting others? The same applies to relations between friends, neighbors, colleagues, and communities. Islam wants to build a society, which is a model of civility, courtesy, and consideration for others. It does so by emphasizing these attributes at a matter of faith. One hadith says that Iman (faith) has seventy-seven branches. The highest one is the declaration that there is no God except Allah and the lowest one is the removal of harmful objects from the path. This is consideration. And obviously, there is no trace of Iman below this. We see this consideration for others throughout the life of the Prophet Muhammad Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Of course, such an attitude shows itself in “minor” details. For example, whenever the Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam visited a group were some people were asleep and others were not, he would greet them with a low enough voice so those awake could hear him while those asleep would not be disturbed.
Every night when he used to get up for Tahajjud (midnight prayer)—a voluntary prayer for the rest of us—he would walk out of the bed very quietly so as not to disturb his sleeping wife. Whenever he saw someone commit a wrong that needed to be corrected in public for the education of others, he would mention it in general terms, not naming the person who did it. This last practice also shows the two extremes in this regard that must be avoided. On the one hand is the temptation to compromise on the issue of right and wrong to avoid hurt feelings. On the other is the temptation to correct the wrong with total disregard to the fact that one might be insulting or injuring the other person. While we may see these extreme attitudes in people who seem to be poles apart in terms of their practice of religion, both stem from the same narrow vision of religion that holds our dealings with others as worldly affairs, outside the realm of Islam! It is good to remember that Islam is a way of life. We must submit our whole life, not a small subset of our choosing, to the commands and teachings of Allah and his prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Our commitment to Islam must not only be life-long but also life-wide.
(——The author a teacher at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology (SKUAST) Srinagar writes on Islamic topics exlusively for “Kashmir Horizon”)


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