Teaching World Religions in the Khalifah Method Way


Susan Doughlas

Assalamualaikum WBT.

Alhamdulillah. Solātan wa salāman ‘alā Rasulillāh. Ammā ba’d.

The lecture given by Sister Susan Doughlas introduced me to a very important civic framework which is timely and critically needed. Taking religion as real, important and nevertheless relevant in this public square modern life, she has summarized many important guidelines for teaching of comparative religions. Making use of what is stated in the Constitution, the framework also includes two materials suggested; Finding Common Ground. A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools and Taking Religion Seriously Across Curriculum, both by Charles Haynes and co-authors.

Some of them are as follow:

  1. It is academic, not devotional.
  2. School promotes students’ awareness, not the students’ acceptance.
  3. School sponsors the study about other religions, not the practice of other religions.
  4. School exposes students to the diversity of religious view, and may not impose any particular view.
  5. School educates students about religions but do not promote or integrate them.
  6. School informs students about various religious believes but not confirming any of them.

Teaching other faiths in public education, is a huge gap in our country; be it the public schools, or private and Islamic schools. Even though Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and members of some other minor faiths are living together,  we do not know each other and tension between faiths is easily occurred. I like what Len Traubman said in the Youtube video “How to communicate in times of conflict”. He said, “We can do what the government can’t. Governments write treatise and enforce treatise. But we as the member of the community are building human relationship.” Therefore, to make use of the education is our beacon of hope. I believe many want to do it, but without a proper framework, the efforts in many ways trapped in conflicts and distanced from the objectives.

KMSS Core Subjects

In our school, we have World Religions as an elective subject to be offered under the Islamic History and Civilization’s Unit. But we have not made the subject available and one of our main concerns is to find an appropriate civic framework to teach. Many questions are raised regarding it, one of them is “can other faiths being taught without bias” and “how to make sure our students’ faith is protected when learning about other faiths”.

To me, I have a strong feeling that by learning about other faiths, it will definitely strengthen our own faith and on top of that, we will also communicate with members of other faiths with the highest degree of confidence. But my argument is too abstract. I argued that Umar ibn al-Khattab r.a. said, “if a believer knows Islam but does not know jahiliyyah, his Islam will detach from him one by one” Another argument is based on historical perspective because I admire Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī (973 – 1048) . He spent a very long period in India, lived with Hindus, remained Muslim faithfully and observed the Hindu culture, faith, philosophy and recorded them objectively without being judgmental. He laid the foundation of a strong anthropological social studies and even considered as the founder of Indology.

But to formulate a proper framework, I thank ITEP for exposing us to such a resourceful and relevant materials. Both books by Charles Haynes are now in my hand and I will continue to study them Insha-Allah. This gives us confident to launch the World Religions subject next semester and  probably, it will be the first attempt in our country, a school (and even an Islamic school) teaches its students about other faiths. We want to produce leaders and to lead our country, students must admit that our country is a multi racial and multi faith society. It is dangerous to let the students continuously live in a monotonous Islamic bubble, ignoring the reality.

The only thing is, we need to clearly balance and harmonize topics which are taught in Usul al-Din class, and topics which are taught in World Religions. I believe that Deen has two dimensions, one is habl min Allah and another one is habl min al-Nas. Habl min Allah deals with the connection between man and his Creator. It is theology and here, each religion is unique and exclusive. Habl min al-Nas deals with the connection between man and his surrounding. Here, all religions are promoting similar almost similar values. Golden rules, be kind with one another, respect human lives, family, neighborhood, caring for the environment etc.

Therefore, we should not mix between the two. The theological part contains many differences which make a faith is different from the others. Here, the process of learning must commit to instilling the Aqeedah, having the Yaqeen, and feeling gratitude to be blessed with the true guidance from Allah. Other believes will be touched and the error must be made clear. With akhlaq, being on the side of al-Haqq, we feel blessed and not towards grandiosity.

The social aspect of religion is where, interfaith dialogue can be made possible. Every member of different faith will explore what their and other’s faith say about certain topics. Here, similarities are promoted for better understanding, feeling safe and secure living next to ‘the others’.

Offering World Religions subject in our school is planned with the inclusion of visiting Churches, Hindu and Buddist Temple and to let the representatives of the faiths explain themselves about their belief and practice. What we need to do is to prepare our students to have the heart of learners and ears of Ulul Albaab:



Who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding.[Q39:18]

At the subject level, we hope to achieve the learning outcomes using our Khalifah Method. At the school level, we hope to achieve the objective of Khalifah Method (“Shaping Excellent Character”) using the subject, like other subjects too.


We will continue to explore the materials ITEP provided and hopefully in the near future, World Religions subject will no longer be a taboo. Insha-Allah.



Islamic School Policies in Correcting Misbehavior

credit photo:

“Ali, would you answer my question. What do you understand… the differences between Prophet and Messenger?” ask the teacher.


Before Ali answers the teacher’s question, what do you think about Ali’s feeling? Does he like the teacher more or less when the teacher asked him like that? Putting him at risk of failure in public. What other students in the classroom feel about the teacher? By choosing Ali to answer the question, does that make the rest of the class like the teacher more or less?

Well, a very simple action we do in a classroom, is actually reflecting our value, and nevertheless, our world view. How important to ensure our students feel secured being in our classroom? How important the students’ dignity, the mutual respect among each other, and the level of cooperation? All these are not random acts. They are the interpretation of our belief as educators, teacher, and even as the members of our faith.

Then, we should carefully examine what our iman says about pedagogy, curriculum and dealing with Tarbiyyah.

Recently our school dealt with serious misbehavior among our students. At first, we tried to deal with them at micro level. The teachers talked with the students and try to understand their motives and perhaps help them to understand our concerns. Some of them successfully worked out but some did not. The cases were quite serious which I think in some schools, these students might be sacked and terminated.

When the frequency is increasing, it became quite alarming.

We were forced to deeply question ourselves, what is our belief? As Muslims, as the practitioners of the Khalifah Method, how to deal with this test? These are no longer isolated cases. We must act before the wrongdoings became a norm.

We remind ourselves, as khalifah we have three responsibilities:

  1. Make ourselves good
  2. Help others to become good
  3. Keep the physical surrounding clean and beautiful, pleasing to Allah.

Will terminating the students make them better? In fact, will sacking them make us better persons? How do we balance between the rights of individuals to be corrected and deserve second chance, and the rights of many to live at school in peace? So many questions came out and we concluded that Allah wants us to learn something that cannot be taught in any classrooms.


We do not subscribe ourselves to public shaming. It is against our principles in educating the students to improve and betterment. ‘Gentle but firm’ (we call it LEGAS (lembut + tegas) at school) is not a cliche, and not as simple as it sounds. We believe that evil doing must be repelled with something better. Evil is not capable to erase another evil.

This is what Allah says:


And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel (evil) by that (deed) which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. [Fussilat 41:34]

It Allah who promises us that an enemy can be turned into devoted friend if we return evil with goodness. Public shaming, punishment with nothing to learn, will only thicken the ego and stubbornness, increase hatred, grudge and all forms of negativity.

Would it be easy?

If public shaming is common, this ‘soft’ action would be assumed as easy.

But Allah reminds:


But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except one having a great portion (of good). [Fussilat 41: 35]

The ‘soft’ approach cannot be taken except by those who possess a high quality of patience (sabr). It requires patience, wisdom and good self control. For those who have the patience, they are indeed have a great portion of goodness.


It is our time to practice chapter 159 from surah Āl ‘Imrān:


So by mercy from Allah , (O Muhammad), you were gentle with them. And if you had been hard (in speech) and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (upon Him). 

In this chapter, Allah gave us five steps of problem solving than can be developed into a school policy:

  1. Pardon them (‘afw)
  2. Ask forgiveness for them (istighfar)
  3. Consult them in the matter (syura)
  4. Make a decision (azam)
  5. Rely upon Allah (tawakkal)


Pardon the wrongdoers does not mean we let go everything. It means that we accept the thing had happened. We remove our anger from clouding our motive. We bring down ourselves a little bit to sit and face the wrongdoers at the same level, willing to engage and reconnect.

Looking at the wrongdoers with full of anger and  hatred can never bring education into function.

Syaitan is there, wanting the children of Adam to fail the test.


We are not in the position to forgive the students 100%. Their mistake related to our rights, the school rights and other students’ rights are only a portion of it. The other portion involves Allah’s right. How can we forgive them on behalf of Allah? That is why, after pardoning them, we should ask forgiveness from Allah so that He forgives them.

We do not ask forgiveness openly, but we will say it in our prayer. This will bring the sincerity into perfection, Insha-Allah.

How many of us, remember to ask forgiveness from Allah for our students? Maybe we can start asking Allah’s forgiveness for ourselves due to our forgetfulness in this important matter.


Then only we should start the process of consulting them in matter. The first two steps should not be skipped because they differentiate the positive Islamic education from others. Both steps create a positive and potential surrounding for a syura to take place.

In this part, the word Syura is used in a form of shā-wara (شاور) which benefits the meaning of ‘two ways’. It means, we need both party to listen to each other in order to get a complete picture between the wrongdoers’ perspective and our expectation. We cannot make syura into success if the meeting offers only our interpretation and verdict.

Listen to the students’ point of view. They might still be at the guilty side but perhaps we can discover the real problem behind the presented problem. We are dealing with stealing, but maybe it is not the real problem. Stealing can be a symptom of a more serious psychiatric illness. It can also indicates some other social disorder in their personal life.


The process must have a clear outcome. We cannot discuss half way and leave the trial session with inconclusive decisions. Otherwise, we are only halfway gentle but not firm. In order to achieve decisiom, it could take an hour or two, or dragged into longer hours. But here, teachers and students will experience the learning Allah wants them to learn.

They should understand at what point their actions are considered wrong.

They should understand that a sincere taubah is more valuable than punishment. There is a tendency in our society to belittle taubah and do not work enough to help a person to reach the taubah. Allah makes taubah strong enough to erase the biggest sin in amount and quality we can ever imagine.

The misbehaved students must be ensured that Allah is not just the Ghafūr to forgive when we seek forgiveness, He is also the Rahīm, who also subsequently love and bless the one He forgives!

Students should also choose some good deeds to be done, since Islam teaches us that goodness erases badness. Community service, inside and outside school is a good option. And at this stage, students are expected to do it voluntarily.


After both parties agree upon the decision, we must reestablish the trust. Do not spy on them. Make sure they leave the session with the highest trust in Allah. They trust Allah to guide them and we trust Allah to guide them. With that trust, Insha-Allah He will guide both of us towards betterment.

Are these easy?


Allah says:

“So by MERCY from Allah , (O Muhammad), you were gentle with them.”

It is the mercy of Allah.

Ask for His mercy.

Do things to gain the mercy.


Jarir radhiyallāhu ‘anhu narrated, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: He who is deprived of gentleness, is deprived of goodness [Muslim]



Thank you Allah.



A Learner Centered Approach to Munakahat


Can the learning of Fiqh being transformed from a teacher centered essentialism into a learner centered progressivism?

I don’t have an immediate answer.

But what I understand from the Sirah, it was obvious that during the time of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, there was no text books, no structured course outline, no standardized assessments. There was no mass instruction.

But that does not mean, a structured learning is wrong. I never intended it to be understood like that. What I want to emphasize here, education is a process of instilling progressively something into a person. Having a structured content, should not let the dynamism of learning disappeared. Therefore, I believe that our 2015 Curriculum Transformation is workable, even for a perennialistic subjects like Fiqh.

Today, I had my chance to explore this when I substituted our Fiqh teacher who had an emergency. The topic was Fiqh Munakahat.

I began my class by asking them what are the things that they’ve learnt from last week session. I required them to reply in related vocabularies, knowing that our students still have problems dealing with constructing ideas in sentences. They gave me the answer and one of them was the Rukun of Nikah.

When I asked them if they can remember all the Rukun of Nikah, most of them looked reluctant. I said, “if you can understand what does the word Rukun means, and why it’s being used frequently in many aspects of Fiqh, then remembering it will be easier, and less confusing when it comes to Syarat and other stuffs.

What are the other Rukun they can remember?

They gave me all sorts of Rukun such as Rukun Solat, Rukun Haji, Rukun Negara and the list goes on.

Rukun is pillar.

Pillars are something that without them, the main structure can never exist. A house can stand without a window, but not without pillars. So, pillars mean something that are so important which you cannot imagine the existence of one without them.

You cannot imagine Hajj without Wuqf in Arafah.

You cannot imagine Prayer without Qiyam, reciting al-Fatihah, or Sujud.

Similar to the fact that you cannot imagine a building without the pillars.

That was the first five minutes of the discussion. I didn’t want to touch too much on the topic because I want them to continue it with the appointed teacher, next session Insha-Allah.

I took the opportunity to investigate the learners’ idea about marriage itself. So, I divided the discussion into two sets of topic.


First, I drew a line and divide it into three columns, named “Jahiliyyah”, “Islam” and “Neo Jahiliyyah”. The second line was divided again into three columns, named “pre marriage marriage”, “in marriage” and “post marriage”. The students are required to share whatever they can think about the divisions. Write, whatever you want to write. Do not worry if they are right or wrong.

Alhamdulillah, the ‘entire world of marriage’ came forward and written on the whiteboard. All sorts of thing! Beyond your imagination. It is not my position to judge if their answers are right or wrong at this stage, but I have to assist them to analyze the words they and their friends shared.

We talked about all the vocabularies.

It was really fun, sometimes sad, in many ways it was awkward too, and once a while, it freaking me out.

Married to a bridge?

What is that?

Then, we decided to identify all those words on the whiteboard if they are ADAT (custom) or SYARIAT.



“Reception’s color theme?”


“Headache to do the financial budget?”

“Syariat! Adat! Syariat! Adat!” they got confused.

I asked the girls, “do you want to get married to a man who is good looking but fail to sort out the budget?”

“They agreed with one solid answer, “NO!!!”

It was a very good session. My advice to myself and other teachers who want to adopt the learner centered instruction, “do not overestimate your students’ current knowledge that you fail to make the topic simple, and do not underestimate your students’ capability to learn”

Appreciate and acknowledge what they already know. Let them realize that they actually know a lot of things related to the subject. Then, we discuss them, and finally we suggest them to reconstruct the outcome to a more structured knowledge by reading the suggested further reading materials, if there’s any.

Discussion was ended with a heavy topic related to neo Jahiliyyah marriage involving the same sex marriage, nikah mut’ah, and some other super rare examples.

We do not talk too much on the rule of fiqh regarding these types of marriage (because we already subconsciously categorized them as neo jahiliyyah), but we discussed a little bit about the causes that lead a person into these types of un-islamic marriage.

Why a man finally attracted to another man? Why a woman is attracted to another woman? The causes occurred at the age of ignorance, but the implications remain for the entire life. Class ended with “take a very good care of our aurat, interaction and character shaping”.

Wallahu a’lam.

I enjoyed every bit of the class, Alhamdulillah.




Patient with the Silence

Rain of Info

Today, I had a chance to cover a class as a substitute teacher because she had a problem with her car on the way to the school. I didn’t prepare anything, only to understand just couple of minutes before the class begin, that its a Fiqh Mu’āmalāt class and topic to be covered is Khiyār.

At that time, I consciously reminded myself that our school now is moving from the traditional teacher centered learning, to the learner centered instruction. Therefore I must limit myself from providing the learners with rain of information, but to encourage them to build their knowledge and understanding.

It means, conducting a Fiqh Mu’āmalāt session without the lesson plan, will be a good advantage, provided that I myself know what Fiqh Mu’āmalāt and Khiyār are all about.

I decided not to touch too much on the Khiyār itself because I believe what the teacher planned for her class, should continue to be delivered later on. I will concentrate on few fundamental ideas on Fiqh which the teacher might not have enough time to bring it forward.

There were numbers of question I shared with the students:

  1. If the students understand about topics and subtopics, we have Physics, Chemistry and Biology as the subtopics to Science. So, what are the subtopics of Fiqh?  Who are the siblings of Fiqh Mu’āmalāt? (‘Ibādāt, Munākahāt, Jināyāt etc)
  2. Why having Fiqh in our life is better than not having it?
  3. Does Fiqh contradicts freedom?
  4. If someone says, “I am doing this because of me. This is me. I don’t want to be a hypocrite by doing what I don’t want to do simply because someone told me to do so,” how do you relate Fiqh to someone like this?

In order to promote learner centered instruction, a teacher must have patience with the silence. To me, this was the hardest part. Of course there were two or three of them who were more enthusiastic to share their opinion. But the majority were in complete silence. Sometimes, I saw their lips moving. They were whispering the answers to themselves but reluctant to voice out.

I tried again and again.

I explained to them that Fiqh is about managing reality. If the classical books in Fiqh gave examples on how to pray in a boat, we must understand that pray must continue but boat is now an airplane or a train. The learners are also reminded to identify how the people around them think about Fiqh. Otherwise, the knowledge we possess is irrelevant.

At the end, I found that it was me who did most of the talking and I am still distance away from practicing the learner centered instruction. I can tolerate  the function of content, but I am still not patient enough with the silence.

I ended my class by giving them an example in Maths (which is far from the original plan to ‘teach’ Fiqh Mu’āmalāt and Khiyar).

Division in Real Life

Their teacher for Mathematics will ask them to create a simple word problem based on this mathematical inquiry. What the teacher means, is there an event in real life that can be reflected in this mathematical problem? So, if the students can answer this question correctly (in numbers) but cannot see how this calculation can be used in solving real events, then the thinking is not really a thinking. Perhaps, no thinking took place during the problem solving.

So, all subjects are taught to help the students manage their real life.

High order thinking skills are in distance when lazy thinking is still dominant.

I pray to Allah to help our teachers as well as the learners for both parties to be blessed with the enthusiastism and high spirit to think and learn, which were the most basic characters of human being, Ameen.



To Welcome With the Spirit of Hijrah


What and where is the starting point?

It was our first week. And that morning was my first session with both current and new students.

“When seniors and juniors gather in this school, how can you relate this situation with Sirah? Any particular event that came across your mind?” I asked our students.

They looked each other. As if so many things happened and I ‘miss the train’.

One of the students replied, “hijrah!”

“Yes, indeed. Hijrah! Your brothers and sisters left their home, and come to this new place, we should consider our selves as Ansār and the new students as Muhājirūn. Ansār loved Muhājirūn, they helped them and they even sacrificed for their new brothers and sisters. Allah praised them in the Quran because of their selfless attitude” I responded.

59_9And [also for] those who were settled in al-Madinah and embraced the faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not any want in their chests of what the emigrants were given but give [them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation. And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful. [al-Hashr 59: 9]

The seniors love the juniors, assist them, and provide them to fulfill their needs. The juniors love the seniors, respect them, and pray for them. Those are the truthful and will be the successful, as promised by Allah.

Bullying is jahiliah.

There is nothing funny and cool about bullying.

It is us to decide, if the school is going to be a school of faithful people, or a school of jahiliah which could not be cured by our Islamic garments , our memorization of the Quran or our collection of A’s in the exams. We will never tolerate bullying.

May Allah bless you and our school, boys and girls, khalifah of Allah.


Education: Jihad Against Zombification!”


“Do you guys know any Zombie movies?” I asked our students this morning.

“Zombi Kampung Pisang!” one of the sisters replied.

“Zombieland!” another one responded.

And the list went on and on.

“What are the similar characters you realize among those Zombies?” I continued asking them more questions.

The students did not respond immediately. They took few minutes to reflect. Asking them to provide you with facts, most likely you will get what you expected. But when you ask them to share some simple hypothesis, the speed of response will decrease. Analyzing involves thinking. And after many years involved with students, and even my own kids, I have to say that thinking is a huge challenge and the scenario seems worsening from one year to another.

I told our students during my first session with them this morning that their parents must have some ideas on why they want to spend a huge amount of money sending their kids to a school which the fee for one student could be like 1000 times more expensive than having their kids at public schools. And not all the parents are rich. I know some of them struggle very hard to afford their option sending kids to our school. I want the students to reflect their parents’ idea on education.

What is wrong with our public education?

Why you are here?


I shared with them an important questions I found when reading Jane M. Healy’s Endangered Mind: Why Children Don’t Think – And What We Can Do About It? recently.

“Since the introduction of standardized schooling over a hundred years ago, the rate of literacy has radically declined. How did we go from a nation of unschooled but highly literate people, to a nation of over-schooled and illiterate people?”

The standardized education in public schools ignores the fact that children’s brains might be so significantly changed by contemporary culture as to be increasingly maladapted to our traditional notions of “school”. This has been described by Jane M. Healy in length.  Introducing or perhaps enforcing ‘critical thinking’ or ‘high thinking order’ module while the brain itself is injured and remain untreated, is far from answering the real problem we have.

When you talk to students, you hardly feel that you are connected to them. As if you are talking to Zombies! Alhamdulillah in this country, as far as I concern, we haven’t reach the level where Ritalin is easily prescribed to control brain activities. But I think we are not distance away from that.

Before the class even begin, our students now are in fact surrounded by fast–paced visual stimuli (TV, videos, computer games) at the expense of face-to-face adult modeling, interactive language, reflective problem-problem solving, and creative play. They are expected to arrive at school unprepared for academic learning, fall farther behind and become increasingly “unmotivated”as the years go by.

The injured brain and the unmotivated soul among our students create a huge market for self help industry.

But it makes everything worse. The short term changes pacify and lead us believe that we did well at helping them. But based on my first hand experience conducting hundreds or perhaps thousands of motivational courses, I know that there is something wrong, inside the skulls, and I am too illiterate to connect neuroscience to education. Popular psychology does not answer my concern.

It has to go deeper.

I don’t want to cheat or be cheated.

Our students are drowning and education need fundamental reconstructions.

We cannot blame the students for not being able to think.

They are sick, and the sickness remained misunderstood.

“Here in this school, we are trying very hard to prevent you from being Zombies. We need you to remain conscious, alive, becoming superheroes and save the nation for Zombies. Therefore you will experience war on brain aggressively launched in consistence” I told them.

How I wish all parents have the strength, not to think too much on their children’s grades. But I understand that educating the parents themselves is nevertheless as tough as educating the students. The vicious cycle must be stopped.

Education is jihad.

To fight against Zombification.



Teaching With Movies


This year, I will try to choose at least 10 movies for #KMSS students to watch. It will be good for their Social-Emotional Learning. Each month the school will emphasize a different value, such as sportsmanship, friendship, respect or honesty. I will discuss with teachers several movies that related to the monthly topic. For assessment and to obtain extra credit, students would watch one of the movies with their families, talk briefly about the film, and submit a written response to one of three discussion questions posed by the teachers.

Sample assignments could be something like:

(1) Sportsmanship and Friendship: Cool Runnings, Brian’s Song, and Angels in the Outfield;

(2) Respect: Captains Courageous, Boystown, and To Kill A Mockingbird;

(3) Character growth through taking responsibility for your own actions: Quiz Show and The Miracle Worker

I hope our students will be excited about the project and talk about the films with each other.

I was accused by many several years ago when a tv drama based on my real story did not meet the people’s expectation. It was an attempt and what if… 10 years from now, we have brilliant talented young and faithful directors from our graduate, who can interprete the aesthetic of life at its best?

I believe many of our students are among the visual learners. It is a duty for us to help them discover their talent. | all about learning | © Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved