As a child, my parents always taught me to be a giving, caring and helping person in every aspect of life. I remember my mom sending me to her neighbor’s house for free babysitting, to hand out food and drink to the construction workers near our home, and to distribute Asurah to the whole community in our small town every year in the month of Muharram.
My dad easily volunteered my services to help out anyone who needed an extra helping hand; from carrying grocery bags to giving up my seat at our bus rides. Now I look back and realize that my religion and my culture played a huge role in my parents’ perspective in raising me.
Now I am an adult raising two of my own. After seeing the need for building Islamic fundamentals with my own kids, I decided to volunteer at my masjid to teach Sunday School students so that I could teach both my children and the children of my community at the same time. After teaching for several years, the opportunity to become Vice Principal of the Sunday School presented itself to me. I accepted so that I could more effectively help my community.
Me and my best friend Sister Niaama, who happens to be the Principal of the Nooran Islamic Sunday School, felt as though our Sunday School needed a lot of improvement. For this reason, we built the school again from the ground up. With the guidance of our Imam, we had to design new curriculums, order new books, organize teacher meetings, etc. Knowing the importance of passing along knowledge in our religion including all the hadiths that remind us about the rewards of even teaching a single letter to another makes this experience of volunteering a fulfilling one.
Our Sunday School consists of three main classes; Arabic, Islamic Studies and Qur’anic Studies. Before classes begin, we gather our students in the main musalla for a half an hour assembly where we teach different topics each week. These topics vary from the stories of the Prophets (a.s.), Islamic manners, forms of worship to daily duas and more. I believe starting Sunday School in this way creates belonging and a stronger bond among the students. After the assembly, students are sent off to their assigned classes.
Islamic Studies and Qur’anic Studies classes are categorized by grade level whereas Arabic class is categorized by each student’s individual capacity. For this reason, it is easy to mix grade levels to form an Arabic class. Lastly, we end Sunday School by praying Dhuhr prayer in jama’ah before we release our students. Our students look forward to a small treat that we give out each Sunday after the prayer. As much as we may seem like an organized and fully running Sunday School, unfortunately, we still have obstacles that we need to overcome.
The whole Sunday School relies on volunteers from our community. Although we have interest from members of our community to volunteer and teach the Sunday School, this interest doesn’t always translate into a consistent and dedicated work ethic. This is problematic for our Sunday School as well as many other Sunday Schools throughout the States because our students need consistency in their education. Meeting once a week to learn is already an inadequate amount of time to teach students proper Islamic values and knowledge. On top of our very limited time with the students, we are further hindered by inconsistency on the volunteer’s part. This is the biggest and most important issue we face.
The other important issue is that Muslim families want to use the Sunday Schools in order to make up for the gaps in the lack of Islamic teaching from home. Instead of the parents instilling basic Islamic foundations in their children, this burden of giving a child all of the tools and information they need to be a successful Muslim is placed on the shoulders of the Sunday School. If, and only if the parents become more involved in their children’s Islamic education, then the students will have a stronger foundation that the Sunday School can then build on. Parents must devote more than just money to support Sunday Schools. They must devote time and commitment as well for the betterment of their own children.
The role of the Sunday School is to supplement values that should already be taught at home and reinforced by the lifestyles and actions of the parents. The most important purpose of our Sunday Schools is to put the love of our masjid in the hearts of our children. We want to create a safe and healthy environment for our children to create everlasting friendships under the guidance of the Qur’an and our beloved Prophet’s (s.a.s.) teachings. This is why we need to send our children to Sunday Schools so that they can experience an Islamic environment where they can hear the adhan, pray in congregation, can be exposed to Islamic knowledge from their elders and peers, interact with other Muslim children, and build friendships which will encourage them to continue coming to the masjid. In time, they will be able to build a strong Muslim identity in a country where they are a minority.
With the guidance of Allah (s.w.t), let us take this opportunity to actively step up our efforts to educate our children and become role models to them and to our communities. May Allah (s.w.t.) reward those who have been dedicated volunteers for their strength, commitment, and effort in helping the young rise to greater depths of knowledge Insha’Allah!
Abu Umamah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Allah, His angels, the dwellers of the heaven and the earth, and even the ant in its hole and the fish (in water) supplicate in favor of those who teach people knowledge.” [At-Tirmidhi]
Sahl bin Sa’d (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said to ‘Ali (May Allah be pleased with him): “By Allah, if a single person is guided by Allah through you, it will be better for you than a whole lot of red camels.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “He who calls others to follow the Right Guidance will have a reward equal to the reward of those who follow him, without their reward being diminished in any respect on that account.” [Muslim]