Work Placement Reflections.
Religion and Theology
I completed my work placement hours in an Islamic education Institution. The purpose of the work experience was to provide an opportunity to gain insights on matters of religion and more specifically the Islamic religion. Therefore, the aim was to promote the true Islamic teachings and their interpretation and to also have an understanding of Islamic science and hence uplift the Muslim Umma both morally and spiritually. Apart from spiritual uplifting, other purposes were understanding Islamic welfare, promotion of the love culture and education.
The institution has a well laid out structure. The main organizational structure being the Central Secretariat. This is the nucleus of the organization which heads the main functionalities such as planning, administration, research, production, events management, education, human resource, welfare of various groups such as Minhaj-ul-Quran Women League, Mustafwi Students Movement and Minhaj Education Society among other functions. Furthermore, the secretariat, provides financial and administrative support to its affiliates.
Under the central secretariat is the supreme council. It is headed by a patron-in-chief. The council comprises of heads of all the directorates as well as other senior office holders. The operations of the council are democratic whereby, decisions are on the basis of a two-third majority vote. The upper house of consultation the council is its policy making body. The lower house on the other hand, is for consultations. The Central Executive Council (CEC) prepares proposals for the supreme council as well as general council. It also has the capability to make recommendations to the institutions governing constitution. Also integral in the structure of the company is the Central Working Committee that consists of directors as well as secretaries of all the organizations forums it works the same way as the CEC with same powers and authority.
The principle aim of the institution is to bring change in society both comprehensive and multidimensional change. The move also ends the ideological and academic gridlock and hence reviving the Islamic spiritual and moral values which were previously exterminated. The institution also aims at exalting Umma to its rightful position of respect and admiration on the basis of the strong foundation laid down by the Holy Prophet whose main teachings were on peace, knowledge and love.
The values of the institution are centred on specific objectives. They include interfaith tolerance whereby members of Islamic religion are taught to live in harmony with other Muslims as well as members of other faiths. Secondly, to promote wholesome education that would tackle intolerance and promote peace in the world. Thirdly, the institution tackles terrorism and extremism. It talks strongly against these acts of cowardice by educating against them and their believes. Fourthly, the institution engages with the Muslim youth for moderation of religion. Fifthly, it is involved in women based initiatives that provide them with a platform to freely express themselves. It does this by promoting their fundamental rights such as the right to education among other basic rights enjoyed by human beings. Other issues that the institution lobbies for include women development, social welfare and empowerment.
Roles, duties and responsibilities in the workplace setting.
During my work placement, I played various roles. I was exposed to organizational planning whereby I was tasked with planning of social events, coordinating them as well as controlling activities under the central leadership of the institution. Some of the events in which I actively participated in planning include charity dinners to raise funds for the various activities of the organization. Social events for the youth which aimed at promoting cohesion among the youth, to curb intolerance as well as preventing them from engaging in social ills such as violence, drugs and alcohol abuse.
Based on my background in theology, I was tasked with preparation of speeches. The topics for these speeches included violence, extremism, drugs and alcohol. In these speeches, the aim was to propagate the true Islamic teachings, introduce reformation of spiritual and moral affairs of people and finally to create renaissance and promote Islam. To successfully complete these tasks, I had to do research on the most recent and most relevant information on the speech topics. I also collaborated with professionals and religious leaders who advised me on key issues to include in the speeches.
I taught classes on Islamic philosophy and theology. The Islamic classes covered the various modes of the institution’s Da’wa program. One such mode is the call for affiliation with Allah. This is achieved through knowing and remembering Allah, love for Allah, obedience to his word and carrying out devotion and worship. The second teaching is call for Islam to link to the Holy Messenger of Allah. The target is achieved through loving the holy prophet, followership and obedience to him, observing polite mannerism, veneration and submissiveness to him.
The third teaching was on call all the faithful to turn to the Holy Qur’an. Having a relationship with the Holy Qur’an based on love, recitation of the Holy Qur’an, contemplating and meditation on it and finally following its injunctions and commands. The fourth teaching was seeking knowledge. I achieved this through promoting knowledge and publication of it. I also taught students to honour and practice the knowledge gained. Consequently, awakening cognizance and awareness of students.
The teaching were centred on brotherhood. The concept of brotherhood that I taught included forbearance and love, study of human rights and how they can be safeguarded. Teachings on cooperation and mutual help in society making society a better place to live. Another lesson under this was moral beauty as well moral lessons on sectarianism. The sixth lesson was on interests and collective struggle. The concepts taught under this lesson include obedience and consultation with others, a call to righteousness, steadfastness, sacrifice and altruism, organization as well as discipline. The final lesson under Da’wa is calling for consolidation which is achieved through preaching and publicity, application of Sunna and Qu’ran, restoration of Islamic identity and finally attaining world peace and security.
I also worked with staff in looking into the current syllabus and analysing its reference to modern day challenges and needs such as extremism and intolerance. Consequently, we expedited the review of the syllabus to make it more relevant to modern day society and ultimately address modern day challenges.
Reflection on learning experiences in my work placement setting.
At the institution where I undertook my work placement, women welfare was one of the issues they promoted. The institution did this by promoting women welfare and their rights in a society that is strongly dominated by the male gender. The institution therefore advocates for women participation in decision making in society as well as a platform for them to grow both socially and economically (Reckdenwald and Parker 2008, p. 220). For instance, the institution promoted the welfare of women through a sewing machine scheme that enabled women from poor backgrounds to earn a living. Hence they are able to live a decent life and also support their families.
This incident was critical to me because in the history of humanity, women have been disposed, dehumanized, marginalized, silenced and subjugated. For instance in Saudi in 2002 police forced girls who were fleeing a burning school building back because the girls did not have they did not have abayas. A report in 2007, showed that about 96% of women in Egypt were undergoing genital mutilation (Slackman, 2007). In Pakistan, a fifteen year old girl was attacked for championing for the right of women to education (Ahmad, 2012). These incidences serve to show that social ills against women are in existence. The result of this is that there has been gender intolerance. The consequence of this is that there is little if any development amongst women.
My immediate thoughts were that women marginalization was not a big issue. This is because women are living in a patriarchal society. Islam is itself Patriarchal. Consequently, my initial thoughts were that marginalization is a cultural practices which is acceptable and can never be changed.
My thoughts have however expanded now. I later realised that it would be inhuman to treat people of the female gender as if they never existed in society. Some of the issues that the world is facing are also as a consequence of marginalization of women. For instance, poverty in most homes especially in developing nation can be attributed to women who are not empowered. If a society is not educated or guided on ways of generating income, they are likely not to have opportunities to generate wealth as well as support their families.
Health is an important issue in society. A less empowered gender, is likely not to understand basic health care which would lead to an increase the mortality rate because women are the care givers in the families and they don’t understand basic health care and hygiene. The women may also not have equal health care as compared to the male gender therefore they may shy away from seeking health care services.
In education, women have limited access to academic space. Consequently, those who are already in school, find it difficult to participate in class works, study groups, and discussions. This is based on stereotype threat where they fear that their actions may confirm a certain stereotype. Hence these students post poor grades due to the effect of marginalization on their concentration as well as their social and emotional well-being. Gender imbalance in political leadership and careers can also be attributed to marginalisation. This cycle may continue from one generation to the next because children look up to their parents for inspiration. Therefore, if a child sees her mother or other women living a life of inequality, they may feel that they have no alternative but to live in squalid conditions.
My thinking was developed because of the situations I was exposed to during my work placement. The institutions programs that promoted women welfare gave me an opportunity to understand the challenges women were facing. Furthermore, the broad move by the institution to support these women despite the belief that women are inferior to women was a wakeup call to me that it is important to support women in society. I also got an opportunity to interact with these women who narrated to me the struggles they have gone through due to marginalization. For instance these women have gone through marital violence, lack of proper education and lack of freedom and right to express themselves. As a result of this, some were sickly and could not support themselves financially.
Based on this scenario, I have learned that in my practice I need to be accommodative to all people in society. Both women and men should be treated fairly and this means that they should also have equal opportunities. I also learnt that it is my social responsibility to enlighten other people in society on marginalization of women and how it can be neutralised.
I would practice change by promoting social welfare in my community as well as in my professional field. I would take it upon myself to teach the community that the Holy Qur’an speaks about peace and love (Berger, 2016). Therefore, we should reciprocate this to women in society. Furthermore, I would initiate programs in my community that would enlighten people on marginalization as well as provide a platform where women could discuss the issues they face. It would be through the program that counselling would be provided, legal aid would be provided and also educational support.
Another critical incident that I was exposed to was religious intolerance among Islam and other faiths such as Christians. The institution ideology of peace is introduced to people through Da’wa. Furthermore, the world is currently faced by the threats of bloodshed resulting from terrorism (Yilmaz 2014, p. 188). These acts are more about fanaticism, extremism and radicalism. Unfortunately, it is seen as if Islam is responsible for these acts. To curb this, the institution is teaching about the true Islam by offering a platform on which inter-faith dialogue can be carried out, creating a culture of tolerance, promoting human rights, equity and justice. The institution organised seminars and programs whose aim was to do away with the belief that Islam was responsible for the acts of terrorism.
The issue was critical because it is believed that Islam is responsible for acts of terrorism. It is also believed that Islam is not accommodative of other religions. My immediate thoughts once I was faced with this issue during my work placement was that it was not the responsibility of the institution to create a platform for interfaith dialogue as talking against terrorism. This is because I felt that the beliefs of terrorism and violence were fabricated and did not have a basis (Hermansen 2004, p.390). Consequently, I felt that Islamic bodies did not have to speak against them since they were not true in the first place. During my work placement, I was therefore not ready to offer my input in the area.
My thoughts however changed later during an institutional seminar. We were enlightened on the need to protect the Islam religion. This is because extremists who were tarnishing the name of Islam would over shadow the achievements made by Islam. Furthermore, we were informed that there was need to have interfaith tolerance. This is because we need to love other people despite their believes. That is what Da’wa teaches. The seminar at the institution transformed me and I felt I am personally responsible of protecting the name of Islam. This is because Islam teaches peace, love and tolerance.
I have learnt that in my practice I need to lead from the front. This means I should speak strongly against extremism and terrorism by the true Da’wa. My practice would change since it would be now more based on teaching against extremism and preaching inter-faith tolerance. I therefore need to research and find out ways through which radical movements are recruiting people to join their extremist groups and what they are using to motivate people to join the groups. Such a move would ensure that in future people are not motivated to join these groups. I would also ensure that people get the right interpretation of the Holy Qu’ran. This is because most of these extremist groups are born out of wrong interpretation of the message contained in the holy book.
On the issue of inter faith tolerance, I would resolve to be in the forefront of propagating interfaith dialogue which would lead to a decline of bad blood between faiths. I would organise forums whereby people of different religions would interact freely as well as explain the teachings of Islam. It would prevent the view that Islam is a violent religion. Based on this approach which can be accompanied with other seminars I feel the image of Islam would change.
My work placement in an education institution, opened my world on various issues. At the institution I played various roles such as organising social events, charity dinners and other events. These events gave me hands on skills on preparing events and what goes into hosting an event. I also took part in preparation of speeches on various topics such as violence, drugs and alcohol.
I taught classes in the institution on Islamic philosophy and theology which were based on Da’wa. The process of teaching gave me an opportunity to practice and share what I had learnt over the years. I also got the rare opportunity of refining the syllabus at the institution along with other members of staff. The move was geared at incorporating modern day challenges into the curriculum such as extremism and intolerance.
During the period, I was also exposed to critical incidents of women marginalization, interfaith intolerance, extremism and terrorism. The education institution was at the forefront of fighting these social ills therefore I was exposed to these incidents. In certain circumstances I was held responsible of addressing the issues. At the end of the experience I had a better understanding of the issues currently facing the Islamic religion.
Ahmad (2012.). Voices Rise in Egypt to Shield Girls From an Old Tradition …. [online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/20/world/africa/20girls.html [Accessed 2018].
Ahmad, M. (2012). The plight of women’s education, The Review of Religions, 107(12), 10-12. Retrieved from http://www.reviewofreligions.org/download /RR201212.pdf
Berger, J. (2016). Promoting Disengagement from Violent Extremism. Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Studies.
Hermansen, M. (2004). Muslims in the Performative Mode: A Reflection on Muslim-Christian Dialogue. The Muslim World, 94(3), pp.387-396.
Reckdenwald, A. and Parker, K. (2008). The Influence of Gender Inequality and Marginalization on Types of Female Offending. Homicide Studies, 12(2), pp.208-226.
Yilmaz, I. (2014). Pakistan Federal Shariat Court’s CollectiveIjtihādon Gender Equality, Women’s Rights and the Right to Family Life. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, 25(2), pp.181-192.