Jaihoon’s essay on the religious education of Muslim women.

It was during a business chat that this topic pounced upon my thinking cap. My customer, an American settled in the Emirates, was sharing his bit about the only educational institution, an American affiliated campus, imparting undergraduate programs in Arabic and Islamic studies for the expatriate community at relatively affordable price tag. (An irony of modern times for the atheistic West to dole in charity the religious sciences for the religious Middle East. Policy makers has still not given a thought to the sad fact that the region’s academic circles offer only courses in Business and IT whereas graduation courses in humanities which are serious building blocks of cultural identity are completely overlooked.)

My western client admitted that he was himself too busy and old to attend the above-said campus and therefore chose to conveniently send his wife so that she could teach him upon her return. ‘Man I just want a sheikh in the bedroom, you know, to teach me Islam’ he said.

Present Muslim world is in greater need of private home-based sheikhs than public pulpit-based ones. The community is disintegrating and so are individuals going through identity clashes. The little ones are confused right from childhood- East or West? The glittering media is showcasing thousand and 1 role models- and not one of them belong to this creed!

And on the other hand, another group of zealots become walking ‘time-bombs’ since they cannot agree with the ‘present times’! They have no idea who their victims are going to be nor do their preys ever figure out why they are killed! If bombs could clean the society of bad souls, then the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam and his august companions didn’t have to bear decades of insult and torture at the hands of enemies of faith!

Only a b|room sheikh can be successful in bringing out a domestic revolution. Reason is simple. Home is the first and the best school that can mould the thinking of a person. Only ‘She’ can raise better citizens who will care for humanity at large. She can better implant the lesson that there isn’t any good in styling one’s mind and body after an alien culture nor any virtue in blowing up themselves among civilians who have nothing to do with the messed up politics.

And history, recent and distant, is full of shining examples of such home-based sheikhs who have molded historic personalities.

Take for example, the mother of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, Ummul Khayr Fatima was a saintly daughter of a saintly father Sheikh Abdullah Sawma’i. ‘It is related that as he was about to leave home on this momentous journey, his widowed mother sewed forty gold coins inside his coat as part of his inheritance, and as parting advice told him to be forever truthful. The caravan with which he was travelling had gone as far as Hamadan when it was attacked by a gang of robbers. In the course of their loot, one of the robbers asked him whether he had anything with him and he truthfully replied that he had forty gold coins sewn in his coat. The robber obviously thought he was joking and narrated this incident to his chief who decided to come and see this young man. When his coat was torn open, sure enough there were forty gold coins. The gang leader was astounded. He asked Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani as to why he revealed this when he could have very well kept it secret. Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani told him that his mother had advised him not to lie and he was duty bound to obey his mother, Hearing this, the gang leader was overpowered with remorse, repented, accepted Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani as his Shaykh and so did all his followers and they went on to acquire wilayah (sainthood) themselves’

And the mother of late Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, Sayyeda Khairunnisa, is another example from the recent past. Maulana has himself mentioned that his mother was fortunate to have pledged allegiance to the Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam in the dream. She played a key role in shaping the personality of the Maulana. It was the little Ali’s religious progress that filled her heart during the solitary prayers at midnight when tears rolled in the remembrance of her Lord. She perpetually prayed to Allah to inculcate in her son the qualities of the Companions and the Caliphs. Maulana used to say that his mother’s education to apologize publicly before the housemaids was an inspiration for him to express regrets when would commit faults in the later life. She worked for building religious awareness among women and was one of the blessed ones who had immediate answer for duas.

It is no doubt that great ones are grown on the lap of noble mothers. Their education is the education of noble generations ahead.

And why not? This faith owes much to the dearest wife of the Holy Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, Ayesha Siddiqa, from whom the Islamic world learned half the religion (“Take one half of your religion from this reddish young lady”).

One would simply be surprised and awed considering how wonderful is this lifestyle that the Beloved of Allah presented for humanity to practice and feel pity for those who associate it with terrorism!

sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.

07 Oct 2005 (Ramadan 04)