By Muneeb Nasir
It is reported that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, engaged in a thorough learning process.
They would diligently memorize ten verses from the Qur'an as taught by the Prophet, may peace be upon him, and only proceed to the next ten verses once they had comprehended the knowledge and actions contained within the revelations.
They would say, “We learned sacred knowledge and action together.” (Source: Musnad Aḥmad).
This early generation of believers demonstrated a commitment to emulating the teachings of the Qur'an, emphasizing an important principle: genuine success lies in embodying moral values and nurturing a profound understanding of faith. The companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, were dedicated to fostering personal and societal transformation.
As a result, religious education should prioritize the development of character and values, playing an essential role in shaping the moral compass of individuals and their communities.
Religious education extends beyond mere sermonizing, imparting religious facts, or organizing revival gatherings - areas where many mosques, schools, and religious institutions excel, serving as essential elements in guiding their members and constructing communities.
Nevertheless, by placing a strong emphasis on moral growth faith communities can guide their members toward embodying virtues such as compassion, integrity, empathy, and justice. This approach ensures that religious teachings transcend theoretical concepts preached from pulpits and become a lived experience.
Religious education should inspire individuals to contemplate their beliefs and actions, fostering self-awareness and personal development. By providing tools for introspection, faith communities can help their members internalize moral values and apply them in their daily lives.
Additionally, in today's world, relevant religious education should promote critical and active engagement with the teachings of the faith. It should not be confined to rote memorization or blind acceptance.
Instead, believers should be encouraged to explore religious texts and doctrines and discern how they can be applied in their specific contexts. This approach empowers individuals to cultivate a deeper understanding of their faith, enabling them to apply moral values in ways that resonate with their unique circumstances.
In a wonderfully diverse community like the Canadian Muslim community, we should celebrate the richness of various cultures, perspectives, and traditions. Mosques and religious institutions should serve as forums for dialogue and mutual understanding, where people can learn from one another and appreciate the beauty of diversity. This inclusive approach nurtures empathy, respect, and cooperation, fortifying the moral foundation of the community.
To gauge the success of a community, it is important to transcend superficial metrics such as the number of events and courses held, institutional size, financial contributions, or social media popularity. True success lies in the positive impact on the lives of adherents and their communities.
Thus, success should be gauged by the extent of moral development, the depth of spiritual connection, and the contributions of members to the well-being of the local community and society. Success should be evaluated based on the transformation and empowerment of individuals to live out the moral values of their faith.
Making religious education relevant necessitates modeling moral principles, nurturing personal growth, promoting critical thinking, embracing diversity, and redefining the criteria for success.
By embracing these principles, faith communities can offer a pertinent and meaningful religious education that empowers adherents to manifest their faith in ways that inspire positive change in society.