Kalimahs – A Concerning Observation
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In many classes I have taken, I found myself probing the students, trying to determine whether they fully understand the importance and meanings of the Kalimahs. Unfortunately, I have come to face the reality that despite the students having been taught the Kalimahs from the very beginning right up until the advanced years, their relationship with them does not go beyond memorising the Arabic and their translations.
When I ask students why they are made to learn these Kalimahs, I receive answers like, ‘So we can read them at night’, or ‘because the Mawlānās tell us to’, from the sharper students, with the rest - the majority - completely taken by surprise at the question. Another question I ask is, ‘What are the basic things a Muslim should believe in?’ Very rarely have I received an answer beyond stating the Shahādah.
The Kalimahs were formulated and are taught to ensure the basic beliefs of a Muslim are always at the tips of the students’ tongues. Yet today, the achievement of this purpose is found wanting. Almost all students will be able to say them fluently with their translations, but will not understand them or be able to explain them. We need to ensure the students not only learn the Kalimahs, but fully understand them and are able to relate to them in their day-to-day lives. This can be done by referring to them frequently when the opportunity presents itself. For example, if the teacher is teaching the student about Allāh and His Qualities, it would be extremely beneficial if he/she referred to these qualities having been mentioned in the Kalimahs, like Allāh’s dominance (له الملك), His giving life and causing death (يحيي ويميت), etc.
It upsets and worries me that a teenage student who has been in Islamic education throughout his/her childhood and learnt the Kalimahs together with their translations repeatedly, cannot explain the basic beliefs a Muslim should have. A Muslim child much younger should be able to explain that with ease. This, despite having learnt the Kalimahs and their translations for years on end! We as teachers and parents seriously need to address this concern.
It’s about time we revamped our educational strategy and moved away from forcing data upon the students, making them memorise almost everything. Teaching and learning is not just about memorisation.
May Allāh grant us all the understanding. Āmīn.