Alhumdulillah, many Muslims are involved in planning
Weekend School programs in Masajid and Islamic Centers. There are many different
approaches to take. Some may emphasize the basics of Islam while others may try to
take a broader approach touching on issues of culture or ethnic identity.
After considering all the difficult factors that come
into play when trying to design a well-rounded Weekend School program, we have come up with
the following suggested syllabus and curriculum. It is, of course, subject to change
and improvement. E-mail us with your comments.
There are three main elements to this syllabus.
They are: 1) Building a Muslim identity. 2) Gaining knowledge of Islamic
beliefs and practices. And 3) becoming fluent in Qur'anic knowledge, Arabic language
and Islamic Philosophy.
The first element involves trying to combat the
influence of non-Muslim culture in the minds of our youth. Let's face it: the only
books our children read are written by non-Muslims, the only TV shows they watch are
produced by non-Muslims, all their best friends are non-Muslims, the only heroes they have
are non-Muslims, the only musicians they listen to are non-Muslims, they go to school 40
hours a week with non-Muslims and the only places they like to go to for recreation such
as Malls, amusement parks and restaurants are all operated by non-Muslims. Is it any
wonder your child doesn't "feel" very Muslim!
The only true counter-weight to such a crushing
influence on your children's identities would be the formation of Muslim towns and
neighborhoods, but seeing that this won't happen any time soon, we must at least expose
them to literature and stories written by Muslims, movies produced by Muslims, art and
achievements by Muslims and real-life talented Muslims.
Therefore, one class will be devoted only to reading
Islamic literature, both classical and modern: story books, adventures, biographies,
etc... Some may consider it a waste of time for a class to read together, but then
again, if their child doesn't get an A+ in Reading and English class in the local public
school, these same people get angry. Fight Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Baby
Sitter's Club, Goosebumps and all the other identity shapers at least for one hour a week!
The second element is fairly self-explanatory.
The approach must be systematic. We can't teach the same thing to every grade as if
there is nothing else in Islam. There should be a variety of knowledge from class to
class. Therefore, the textbooks chosen must be varied also to suit the various
requirements of each class level.
The third element is a combination of Arabic class,
Hifz class and Ta'leem class. I've never liked to see Arabic classes taught as
separate from the Qur'an. I have also never liked "Memorization" classes
being taught devoid of discussion, tafseer and reflection. All three must be
combined. It may seem a daunting task but this is how it used to be done in the old
days. One teacher will teach all three elements in one, interwoven lesson each week.
The usual approaches have failed. We must renew our methods to make all three
trends relevant to each other.
It is assumed that most Weekend Schools will break up
their classes into age groups. The usual formula will go like this: 5-6, 7-9, 10-12,
13-15, 16+. Whether it is shifted one year one way or the other, the basic age
separation remains basically the same. In my experience this type of grouping
presents a number of problems, the main one being the following:
The level of knowledge among students of the same age
group will vary greatly. One child may know half the Qur'an while the kid next to
him or her won't even know Surah Fatihah. This causes the teacher to have to
concentrate on "the basics" of Islam in order to try and bring the other
students up to speed.
But what usually happens is that the students who come
from less knowledgeable families are often disruptive and skeptical of Islam to begin
with. Many times they question whether the core beliefs of Islam are even true or
not. I have seen this over and over. Then the teacher is forced to turn the
class into a "da'wah" class to convert the "Muslim" child into
believing in Islam.
The other children, who already accept Islam as at
least theoretically true, become bored and dispirited as the lion's share of the attention
goes to the "unbelieving Muslims." The next academic year sees
another influx of such "green" students so the information taught will be merely
a repeat of the previous year, no matter what grade level they are in. On and on it
A better scheme might be to divide the children up into
knowledge ability levels which we will label "Mastery Levels".
Here is how our procedure will work:
Give an entrance exam to the students when their
parents bring them to register for the Weekend School. This test will determine how much they know
about Islam. (We will provide such a test in this web-site, soon,
Then, place them in Mastery Level 1, 2, 3, or 4. "1" being the basic level
class and "4" being geared towards advanced studies.
Some people may scoff at this approach under the false
impression that the child will be embarrassed or that the parents will be angry that their
child is placed in a more basic level. Wait a minute! Whose fault is it if the
teenager comes into the Weekend School program not even knowing how to make Wudu!!!
You can't put a child who is barely a Muslim into a class which seeks to teach a higher
level of Islamic knowledge.
The Weekend School is offering to teach a person about Islam. To
accomplish this, you must "teach people according to their level" as the Hadith
of the Blessed Prophet states. As the child masters each level of Islamic learning,
they move on to a higher level, until when they graduate, they are a fully functional and
Would you expect to go to a college and be placed in a Junior level
course if you can barely do Freshman level work? Don't worry if a thirteen year old
is learning how to make Wudu for the first time next to an eight year old. It's not
your fault the parents were so negligent. Their fault shouldn't be the cause of
ruining your program!
Therefore, our Weekend School curriculum will follow this advanced and
sensible ability-based model and will be structured into the following classes:
Mastery Level 1. (Class A and Class
B) This class will be for all 5-7
year olds regardless. Each student will spend two years in this level (if he or
she passes) and then will move to level 2. No one over eight years old will be allowed in
this level. Anyone over eight years old, even if they failed the entrance test, will
begin in level 2.
Mastery Level 2. This is for all students who
pass Level 1 or who score below an 80 on the entrance test or who are older than eight
years old regardless.
Mastery Level 3. This is for all students who
pass Level 2 or who score below a 90 on the entrance test.
Mastery Level 4. This is for all students who
pass Level 3. Also, every new student to the Weekend School will start in this Level
provided they score above a 90 on the entrance exam. If they score below a 90 then
they will fall in either Level 2 or 3 as was mentioned previously.
Mastery Level 5. This is for all students who
pass Level 4 first. No exceptions.
Mastery Level 6. This level is only for
those who have passed Levels 4 and 5 in the weekend school program.
Mastery Level 7. This level is only for those
who pass a comprehensive exam over the summer covering all information
taught in levels 1-6. If the exam is not passed with at least an 85
then the student must repeat the level which teaches the information they
had the most difficulty with.
Mastery Level 8. This advanced level is only
for those who passed level 7.
Master of Islamic Education. This final class is
only for those who have spent at least four years in the weekend school
When they graduate, in a very auspicious ceremony, they will be given a
diploma of Master in Islamic Education. After this, the graduate
will become a teacher in this or some other Weekend school program, or,
they will attend adult study classes that teach even more advanced