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Email of the Month - Dhu'l Qa'dah 1424

Muslim School on Sundays

Assalamu Alaikum,

We are starting our Sunday school this month and I was looking for any guidelines from your site about having a successful year. We have kids from various ages and requirements and need to do our best to satisfy the majority. Any advice is highly appreciated.

Thank you,

Wa 'alaykum us salaam brother Hesham,

Welcome to a noble task! We wish you all the success.

Perhaps you know many of the things I will talk about but I will yet mention them for the sake of completeness.

The first thing we do is make the niyya that we are doing this for the love of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala and His Beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. May this be a means for our salvation, Amin.

At the very beginning, it is perhaps important to get a commitment from parents that they will send their children to the Sunday school regularly and on time.

And the students have to be taught that adab (proper etiquette and respect) is very important.

First, we find out the level the students have already reached and put them into groups (or classrooms depending on the facilities). One group would be of those who are beginning to learn the Arabic alphabet; another of those who are learning Arabic word formation and know a few surahs by heart, a third group of those who are in Juz 'Amma, a fourth group of those who are trying to improve their tajwid, that is proper recitation of the Qur'an and so on.

There are separate classes for boys and girls. Boys wear the prayer cap or amama and girls wear the hijab.

We have to impress upon the students that they have to be in wudu. If they don't yet know how to perform the wudu, that is the first thing they will be taught.

Each day beings with the joint recitation of Surah al-Fatiha and Surah YaaSeen sharif and ends with the joint recitation of Surah al-Fatiha.

It is always good to begin the class with the joint recitation of Surah al-Fatiha as well as the last 10 surahs of Juz 'Amma so that in time, even those who not know them, will have memorized them. As we are all aware, to know these is essential for the performance of the five times daily salah (prayer).

Every week, students have to memorize one surah beginning with al-Fatiha and An-Naas and write it in beautiful handwriting. Within ten weeks, they will have learned the last ten surahs of Juz 'Amma, and their handwriting skills will have improved. Their confidence will grow. We have set themselves on the path of Hifz (memorization) and Islamic calligraphy, Alhamdulillah!

Those who have already memorized the last 10 surahs, will memorize one surah per week beginning with al-Humazah and al-'Asr and reach till ad-Duha. They will also write that surah in beautiful handwriting. This is the second stage.

In the third grade, the students will memorize and write more surahs beginning with al-Layl up to surah al-Buruj. Now we have mentally prepared them to become Hafiz ul Qur'an. This then would be another accomplishment. We should aim for this achievement in the first year, InshaAllah.

As far as tajwid is concerned, that is, the proper recitation of the Qur'an, my experience is that the students best learn it as a group. The mu'allim begins by reciting about a page from the Qur'an loud and clear at an appropriate pace. Then each student gets a chance. Those who are more fluent get to recite more, say a page each. Those who have average capability, get to recite a few verses. Those who are struggling, get to recite one or two verses. All the while, the mu'allim is correcting them where necessary. Once one student has finished his recitation, the mu'allim will say aloud "Sadaqallahul Azim", to indicate that now its the turn of the next student. Once all the students have had a turn, the mua'llim will lead the class in a joint recitation of about a page from the Qur'an. He will recite aloud and the students will repeat. As he recites, he explains the rules of proper pronunciation and intonation where necessary. In this lesson of about half and hour, a quarter juz or half a juz will have been recited, depending on class size and proficiency of the class.

As a matter of priority, the students should be taught how to do wudu. Some of them might already be knowing the adhan and the iqama. They should be requested to say the adhan, beginning with the one who is considered the best.

When he is done, the rest of the students are asked to comment positively on the things he did well and correctly. Then, they will give their suggestions on how he can improve. Then comes the turn of the next student till the whole class has had a turn. Fifteen to twenty minutes might be set aside for this every week. Those who didn't get a chance one week, get their turn next week. Now we have trained them to be mu'adhin so that they can delight the listeners with their melodious adhan.

We go on to the performance of two rak'a salah an-naafila by each individual student. As one student performs the salah, the rest observe. The student recites everything in salah loud and clear so that everyone hears. When he has finished his prayer, the rest are asked to comment on things he did well. They might tell us that he was focused and concentrated in his prayer, that he recited the surahs without any mistakes, that while in ruku', his back was straight, that in sijda, his feet were on the ground and his hands were facing the qibla and so on. This way, everyone is learning how to perform the salah properly. Then they come to suggestions for improvement. They might suggest that he should not forget to pronounce the niyya (intention), that he should improve on his memorization of as-salatu Ibrahimiyya, that he should be in a state of complete rest in between the two sijda and so on. We are ingraining in out students the teaching that a Muslim has first and foremost to be an 'abid (worshipper of Allah) who should be careful not to go near sin, and to be truthful and trustworthy.

Then we come to Hadith. Each week, those who are in juz 'Amma and in the Qur'an class are taught one Hadith with translation and proper recitation. It is best to begin with Hadith on iman (faith), Arkan al-Islam (pillars of Islam) and on good manners and character. We choose short ahadith that are easy for the students to learn. Within one year, they will have learned at least forty ahadith.

The next year, we start them on memorization of Hadith. Each week, they have to memorize one Hadith with translation. The next week, each student recites the Hadith that he has memorized. Mistakes are corrected. Another Hadith is assigned for memorization. In this way, InshaAllah in one year, if at least one student has memorized forty ahadith it is a great accomplishment for which we have to thank Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. A program is held to honor the student at which he will recite the forty ahadith that he has memorized. This will encourage other students, InshaAllah, to emulate him.

We set aside about ten minutes for du'a. One du'a is taught each week. By the end of the year, students will have learned the basic du'a, such as du'a after adhan, du'a qunut, du'a after salah, du'a on entering a masjid, du'a on leaving a masjid, du'a while going to sleep, du'a for ones parents, du'a for all the Muslims, du'a at the completion of the Qur'an, du'a for good health, du'a for husnul khatima (a felicitous end), and du'a to obtain the love of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala and the love of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

Then we come to zikr of Allah. The students are taught that the best zikr is Laa Ilaaha Illallah Muhammad u'r Rasulullah: None is worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. They are introduced to Asma ul Husna, the Most Beautiful Names of Allah. Wasilat ush Shafi of Imam Yusuf ibn Isma'il an-Nabhani is recited together. The advantage of joint recitation is that those who are slow learners get to learn faster by hearing those who are more fluent. Wasilat ush Shafi has the Asma ul Husna in it. Its poetic content is also explained. The students begin to appreciate Muslim piety as well as Muslim scholarship. Within a year students will have mastered Wasilat ush Shafi.

The we come to madih (eulogy) on the Beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. The students love these couplets from his Companion Hadrat Hassaan bin Thabit Rady Allahu 'Anhu.

Wa ahsanu minka lam tara qattu 'ainiy
Wa ajmalu minka lam talidinnisaau

Khuliqta mubarra'an min kulli 'aybin
Ka annaka qad khuliqta kama tashaau

I have never seen anyone better than you
Nor did any woman give birth to anyone more beautiful than you

You are created free from all faults
As if you were created just as you desired

The students also take very much to the popular religious poems (qasaid) of Imam al-Busiri, Imam 'Abdallah bin 'Alawi al-Haddad, and Imam 'Ali bin Muhammad al-Habshi, among others.

The last five to ten minutes should be set aside for this. Within a few years, we find we are producing munshidin (qasida reciters).

Aqida is best learned with Aqidatul 'Awaam (Universally well-Known Muslim Creed) by Imam Ahmad al-Marzuq. This takes about twenty minutes to recite in congregation. Every week, we spend about five minutes to explain a few verses. The Arabic is very simple, easy for everyone to understand. Within a year, students will have learned about our belief in Allah, in His angels, His Revealed Scriptures, in His Prophetic Messengers whom he sent to guide humanity, in the Last Day, in the Pre-Ordainment by Allah, whether it is good or bad, and in the raising up for Final Judgement after death. Aqidat ul 'Awaam can be learned in one year simultaneously with Wasilat ush Shafi, or we might decide to concentrate on Wasilatual Shafi the first year, and on 'Aqidat ul Awaam in the following year.

The students learn about Islam as well through essay writing and quiz competitions. You might decide to initiate these for your Sunday school and encourage the students to take part as well in the Iqra Essay and Quiz Competition

A project the students find very interesting is writing a book on Islam through teamwork. The students are given a topic to research about for the following week. We naturally select to learn about Allah, first and foremost. The next week, in a session of about 15 to 20 minutes, the students share with the class all that they have so far learned about Allah. The teacher moderates the discussion. One student speaks, and the rest note down his input. Each student is given a chance. Mistakes in understanding are corrected. The teacher does not contribute until the very end when he/she adds on the most important parts that have been missed out that students at that level must learn.

The teacher has to bear in mind that this work is done by students and has to remain at their level. The assignment for the following week for each student is to write up all that he noted down in class. The next week, each student reads out loud what he wrote. The student who has the best write-up is given the task of collecting all the write-ups to help him write the final chapter. He will use the material in his chapter as the basis and any material from the other students that he himself missed out. He brings this final chapter to the teacher for final editing.

The next week, students are assigned another topic, say, "Our Beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam". Other topics that might be considered are "The Holy Qur'an", "Hadith Sharif", "The Prophets", "The Family of Prophet Muhammad", "The Companions of Prophet Muhammad", "Kalima Shahada", "Salah", "Zakah", "Fasting in the month of Ramadan", "Hajj", "Good Character and Behaviour", "How I can serve my Parents", "How I can serve Muslims", "Why I am proud to be a Muslim", "Good and Bad Deeds", and so on.

The teacher might learn that kicking another person is indeed a very bad deed!

Once in a while students who are not outstanding or more senior but show commitment and zeal are requested to put together the material for a chapter. Everyone should feel that they contributed in a teamwork effort.

Once enough chapters are ready, the class might decide to put it together as a book. They are asked to write the page of a table of contents and design the cover page. The class will vote on the best cover page to select from among the cover pages submitted. The names of the authors will go on the cover page or in an inside page as the class decides. The students will write an introduction explaining what the book is all about and about the process of writing it. A special program is held, open to all Muslims, at which the book, or parts of each chapter are recited by the students. Effective learning takes place. There is a sense of accomplishment. Each student is given a prize as encouragement.

One student is selected to conduct the program. Refreshments and food is served by the students. It is a program of the students, by the students and for the students. In either the third of the fourth year, they have graduated to become authors. They are now ready to write more books and take on more tasks in the following year.

If you are interested, please send us your postal address so that we can send you copies of books our students have compiled.

There is a separate class for learning Arabic as a language.

At the end of the year, there is an examination where the students are tested on wudu, Qur'an recitation, Qur'an memorization, Hadith memorization, du'a memorization, salawaat memorization, adhan, iqama, salah, Islamic knowledge, Arabic as a language, and qasida recitation. Report cards are given. Student of the Year awards are given to Juniors and Seniors. Other outstanding performances are awarded.

There is a ten minute break after an hour of study. We have to make sure about the availability of refreshments for students in the school. Holidays are in the month of Ramadan.

Please increase your du'a for us. May Allah bestow peace on Muslims all over the world. Amin.

With salaams and du'a,

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