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Maktab Madressah and Knowledge – Part 1

Jan 24, 2022

Today, the 24th of January is commemorated across the world as International Education Day, highlighting the importance of education in our lives, the backbone of every community, organization, institution, association, of each of our lives, collectively and individually.

Much attention and importance is given to secular or tertiary education and parents in most cases will ensure that their children receive the best education.

But the question is do we do the same for their Islamic education?

Therefore this week we will focus on the history of the Maktab and their due relevance.

The Maktab Madressah
Maktab or more famously known here in South Africa as Madressahs, are institutes of daily Quranic and Islamic education mainly for Muslim children. They are a lifeline to the preservation and protection of our Faith. They provide a deep rooted consciousness of distinguishing between right and wrong and between the permissible and forbidden. It gives the innocent Muslim child a sense of belonging to a wider brotherhood of the Ummah. It forges a distinct Muslim identity. It helps insulate our children from hypocrisy and disbelief.

Let us first take a very brief look at the Importance of Ilm (knowledge)

Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
ٱقْرَأْ بِٱسْمِ رَبِّكَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ خَلَقَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ مِنْ عَلَق ٱقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ ٱلْأَكْرَمُ ٱلَّذِى عَلَّمَ بِٱلْقَلَمِ عَلَّمَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
Read (O Muhammad)! In the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists), Created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood. Read! And your Lord is the most Generous, Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. Has taught man that which he knew not. [Surah Al ‘Alaq 1-5]

The above Qur’anic verses are the opening verses of Surah Alaq. These are the first verses revealed by Allah to His beloved Prophet ﷺ.

In the verses with which Allah commenced revelation, He mentions qir‘aat (recitation), taleem (learning), and ta‘allum (teaching). He ends the first revelation with “Has taught man that which he knew not”, thereby stressing yet again the importance of knowledge which is the primary goal of the Maktab.

This mention of qir‘aat and ilm in the opening verses of revelation is a lesson to Muslims that the preservation of Deen (religion), Imaan (Faith) and Haq (truth) in the unique manner the Prophet ﷺ, brought us, i.e., through the medium of wahi and Sunnah, can only be possible with Ilm. In places where the acquisition of knowledge was neglected, then even if Islam and Muslims remained, they were in a pitiful state (May Allah forbid). Wherever there is knowledge, this faith of ours will remain in its original purity.

Hence, the verse, “Read! In the name of your Lord who has created”, is the very first lesson for us. Who is the teacher? Allah, Glorified and Great! Yes! Allah is teaching His beloved Prophet ﷺ; and He ﷺ in turn is shouldering the responsibilities of an educator. To whom does he ﷺ teach?

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