Saturday, April 26, 2014

Connecting With Kids

It is often observed in today’s globalized post-modern society that on entering teenage, kids become strangers to their parents, especially the father. This was not the case in the past as demonstrated by the relationship between Prophet Yusuf (AS) and his father. We see that even as a youth he confided his secrets to him and came to him for advice. Why are our teenagers ignoring their fathers today? Perhaps it is due to some deficiencies in the ways fathers connected with their kids in their early years.

Perhaps the most important factor is for a father to listen to his children. He must try to understand their psychology and unique personality.  He should endeavor to understand what motivates and demotivates his child. By doing so, the child will develop a trust for his father. He will see him as someone he can turn to for comfort, advice, guidance, support and empathy.

As many of us grow old, we lose the zest for life that is characteristic in children. The father should attempt to regenerate that enthusiasm while interacting with his children. While visiting a public park in New Jersey, I read a sign which said “Families that play together stay together!” Play can be traditional games like “oonch neech”, “baraf paani”, “aanch machooli”, 4 corners, tag or regular sports or board games like chess, scrabble, snakes and ladders, ludo, etc. By playing with the child, the father is strengthening his relation with him.

Part of considering the father as a source of knowledge and wisdom comes when the father regularly engages in teaching them. He should not only help them with homework, but read to them beneficial books, take them to museums, science centers, libraries, book fairs, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, etc. When his child asks him for something he does not know, he should admit his ignorance and research the topic with his child using references and the internet. Among the subjects he teaches, he should not neglect religious subjects as most answers to difficult questions that a teenager goes through are found in our beautiful deen.

The father should take his children outdoors to beaches or parks on a weekly basis. This not only refreshes the children who are locked up at home throughout the week, but also makes them realize the handiwork of our Creator all around us. By sharing in their amazement at marveling at the flowers, birds, trees, sea, sand, shells, stones, fish, animals, changing seasons, etc. he is implicitly emphasizing his natural relation with his children.

Lastly, a father should establish worship with his family.  He should take his children for regular prayers to the masjid; make them participate in the Friday prayers, takbeerat of Eids, the taraweeh prayers, qiyaam ul lail, salaat ut tasbeeh, lectures, halaqas, etc.  He should sometimes pray at home as an imam with the family praying behind him. By doing so a father sends the message to his family that he is in charge, but he too is ultimately answerable to Allah (SWT).

We do not know what destiny Allah (SWT) has written for each child, but by taking the above steps, fathers will be assuring themselves that they have attempted to fulfill their responsibilities in the child’s early years. The only recourse left after that to fathers is to always make supplications for their children as the supplication of a father for his child is accepted.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

An Agile Methodology for Quran Memorization

Unfortunately, most of us have missed the opportunity to memorize the Quran in our youth when it was the easiest. Is there a methodology that can allow us to do it now when we have a 9-5 career and family responsibilities? Absolutely! The secret lies in an unlikely place – in a modern software development methodology called “agile”.

Agile software development is all about breaking down a project into small manageable chunks and working on them opportunistically making maximum use of scarce resources like time and effort. The process is very flexible, iterative and based on short meetings to check one’s progress and remove any obstacles that are in the way to achieve the next iterative deliverable. The idea is not to attack the problem at once in its complete scope with dedicated resources, but to work on its various components with judicial use of your limited resources. The tasks for the daily work are assigned and checked every day quickly and the assignment for the next day is taken. Every piece of work is associated with the time it takes to complete it. The project can thus be monitored in real-time by anyone as the tasks get completed. Less frequent, feedback is taken at each deliverable for continual improvement.

The principles of agile software development methodology are natural principles of effective work accomplishment which can be applied to many projects we undertake, including Quran memorization. But before applying any methodology one should make the intention of memorizing the Quran for purely Allah’s (SWT) pleasure. Any other intention will lead you to eventual failure. Secondly, a person should resolve to avoid committing sins as that hampers memorization. Finally, the same mushaf should be used for the entire memorization, as one memorizes the sounds as well as the location of the writing on the page. The Medina mushaf consists of 600 pages. Each page has 15 lines. The calligraphy is such that no verse is cut-off at the end of any page. If one commits oneself to memorizing just 5 lines every day (typically about 2-3 verses), one can memorize two pages in 6 days. One should not attempt to memorize any more than this daily amount. The seventh day of the week, one should use to revise and connect whatever one has memorized in those 6 days. That day should also be used to recite the two pages to a Quran teacher, check previous memorization and go over the next two pages for the next week in proper tajweed. Less frequent but longer sessions are needed to revise and recite long sections of the previously memorized sections of the Quran. If one commits to this methodology, one can memorize the Quran in 5-6 years, bi-izn Allah.

Every night after isha, write down the 5 lines from the mushaf for the next day’s memorization on a pocket fitting index card. Make sure you put the date and the surah/verse numbers on it. Next day after fajr, spend whatever time you have to try to soak in those ayaat. This time is the best to start the memorization process. Look up the meaning of anything you do not understand. Keep the card in your front shirt pocket before leaving your home for work. While commuting, waiting for a bus or elevator, standing in the queue, going to and returning to the masjid or any period of free time you get in the day, keep working at those ayaat. Keep checking the index card if you do not remember any detail. In your daily prayers, in the first rakaat recite the previous day’s and that day’s lesson and in the second rakaat recite only that day’s lesson. If you do this all day, by the end of the day you will have those verses memorized and you would have related that day’s memorization with the previous day’s. (NB:  Make sure you do not take the cards to the restroom throughout the day by mistake)

On the seventh day of the week (preferably a weekend), do not memorize anything new but spend some dedicated time revising and connecting up that week’s memorization and whatever you have memorized from before. You should use a mushaf for this and not your cards. You need to schedule 1 hour one to one meeting with your Quran teacher this day too. I recommend someone with ijaaza in tajweed and memorization who is available on-line. Pay for the sessions so that both you and your teacher are committed to these weekly meetings. Having on-line classes means that you will almost never miss them, even when you are out of town. In these meetings first you should recite the week’s lesson from memory with the right tajweed. The Quran teacher then tests you on previously memorized sections. Finally you read the next week’s lesson in his supervision with proper tajweed. After every meeting you file away your index cards for the week and begin again for the next week.

Upon reaching milestones in your memorization, wake up in tahajjud and recite long passages from memory in your prayers. This is the most important application of your memorization efforts and it also helps in preserving what you have learnt.

The agile methodology for Quran memorization allows us to work on this project in a flexible manner which is in line with our busy schedules. Furthermore, by reciting the daily lessons in the prayer we are making use of it immediately. Our prayers become full of meaning and we look forward to engage in them.  By using it this way, we are making the Quran a part of our lives. We ponder on few verses daily and derive guidance from them like we are supposed to rather than attempting large sections without understanding and implementation. Every day we attempt to improve ourselves.  The Sahaba (RA) memorized the Quran when they were adults, applying an agile methodology which was suitable for their times. In the Hereafter, we will be told to recite the Quran from memory and rise. Our final position in Paradise will be based on how high we rise, in sha Allah. We are told that Paradise has over 100 levels and each level is as high as the distance between the earth and the stars. Should we not make a priority in our life to undertake this ascent? By following this methodology we can actually monitor our ascent on a daily basis.