Saturday, December 31, 2016

"Read in the Name of Allah" and "Read the Names of Allah" in Islamic Education

'Read in the Name of Allah' literally means reading anything with the intention of doing it for the sake of Allah. While 'Read the Names of Allah' literally means to read up the 99 Names of Allah or the attributes of Allah. Although both actions are important and highly encouraged in Islam, the first is claimed to be much related to Islamic Education according to many scholars.

"Read / Proclaim! In the Name of Your Lord"
- Al-Alaq:1 -

This verse is the first revelation from Allah s.w.t. to the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and it is being discussed by scholars of the past as well as contemporary scholars to be the basis of seeking knowledge in Islam. In this verse, the word iqra' have a wide meaning and it does not limit the reading to any particular topic or area, whether religious or non-religious, whether academic or non-academic. It opens up the call to seek knowledge through reading.

The only condition of this verse is to read in the Name of Allah. That means the reader should first have the belief in Allah as his/her Lord and Creator. Thus when reading anything and seeking knowledge through reading, one will be blessed by Allah and he/she will receive 'ajr / reward both in the Heaven and also in this world as the form of knowledge.

When reading in the Name of Allah, the knowledge acquired will drive us to know ourselves better as His creations and be a better part of this world, and hence be closer to Him as our Creator by knowing Him and all His Creations around us.

Reading in the Name of Allah also encourages us to use our senses, especially sight (or fingers and touch for the blind) to acquire knowledge. When combined with the rational faculty He has given us, we are encouraged to think, inquire, reflect and contemplate on the knowledge we learn.

On the other hand, 'Read the Names of Allah' encourages us to know and remember Allah as our Creator. It is a form of remembrance or dzikr' that brings us closer to Him. When reading up His Names and Attributes, we are getting to know our Creator in depth.

In one of the verse of the Qur'an, Allah mentioned that by remembering Him, He will put peace and tranquility in our hearts. By reading up more on Him, we get to know our creator and Lord better, acquire more knowledge about Him to strengthen our faith in Him. It is also an important part of seeking knowledge, and with more knowledge about Him, it would be much easier to acquire all other kinds of knowledge and relate it to the Islamic point of view.

However, although we are encouraged to read the Names of Allah, many prominent scholars agree that we should not be thinking or questioning too much about Allah alone. Instead, we should contemplate more on His creations and other types of knowledge in order to be closer to Him. Whatever he has provided about Himself in the Qur'an and through Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. should be accepted as it is and there should be no further questioning.

In conclusion, 'Read in the Name of Allah' is directly related to seeking knowledge and it is actually the basis and philosophy of seeking knowledge when one believes in Allah. While 'Read the Names of Allah' with no doubt brings use closer to Allah but the knowledge will be limited to His Names and Attributes only.

Article written for Advanced Philosophy and History of Islamic Education, M.Ed.
2nd November 2016.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Whole Life Devoted to TaeKwon-Do

17th November 2016 marks another milestone in my personal TaeKwon-Do life.

Since I was a teenanger, especially when I was very active in participating in national championships and spending my weekends as an instructor - at the age of 13 - to those younger and older than me, I have dreamt of having the honourable 'wings' (in Malay we call it 'sayap'), or black stripe on my uniform. And today is the day I get to wear that uniform.

Releasing the truth only today, to be honest, I was pretty much demotivated when I had to withdraw myself from being a part of the Malaysian contingent to the 6th World Junior Championship, for the sake of my IGCSE O-Levels examination and my entire future. At 2nd Dan in 2004, it was a point where I thought I was losing everything I have strived for in TaeKwon-Do. It was a point where I thought I could and will never achieve more. So I attempted to join Karate, but only for a year. And later I attempted to join WTF TaeKwon-Do but also only for a year.

Throughout those years, I was still in close contact with my TaeKwon-Do peers. However, I did not train regularly or conduct any classes due to my undergraduate commitments (and secretly doing other martial arts) but they kept calling me to teach TaeKwon-Do as we have very limited female instructors as compared to the rising demands.

Family & friends kept on encouraging me - especially because 5 of my 6 siblings are all black belt holders, and I felt obliged to contribute to the society by conducting trainings for females. So I continued my journey in TaeKwon-Do, and went for my 3rd Dan in 2007. But soon after, I stopped again.

After receiving my bachelor degree, I resumed my trainings and conducted TaeKwon-Do classes for girls once or twice a week. But I silently had put aside my dreams to achieve much further in TaeKwon-Do. Even few years later when I was offered and encouraged to go for my 4th Dan in 2014, I did not feel the excitement and determination. Life goes on as usual and I took maternity break to deliver my third son, so I withdrew myself from the 4th Dan grading in December 2015 as I was not physically ready. It was again quite devastating to stay at the 'same spot' when seeing many of my peers earn their 4th Dan. I wonder, will I ever make it there? Will it ever be worth it to spend so much time, effort and money to achieve that?

Joining the Tul Tour in South Korea, hosted by the ITF headquarters, had opened my eyes, broadened my views and gave a new breath to my TaeKwon-Do spirit. It reminds me of the famous quote "Whole life devoted to TaeKwon-Do" that have always inspired my younger days. I learned and experienced so much just within a week. And here in South Korea, the homeland of TaeKwon-Do, I officially received my 4th Dan.

When people ask me what is so special about 4th Dan? My answer is simple: If getting a black belt is like graduating from high school, then getting a 4th Dan is like graduating from bachelor degree in TaeKwon-Do.

However, the journey does not and will not stop here. If God wills, I will continue to spread the skills and knowledge of TaeKwon-Do to younger generations, especially to girls, ladies and women, inshaAllah.

This 4th Dan is especially 'dedicated' to my mom Pn Laili Ismail, my dad En Johari Maarof and my husband Abdullah Mujahid for their never-ending support!