hema’s sphere

Archive for May, 2007

on Islamic Schools

Posted by hema on May 30, 2007

would you send/are you sending your children to an Islamic School, and if so why?
and do you think that qualified Muslim teachers have a duty to work in said Schools, or is better for them to integrate into a mixed environment?

these are just two of the questions i have been thinking about recently, and actually right from the start of my teaching career. it would be interesting to see the range of responses i may receive and i’d rather open this up as a dialogue then go into detail about my views, but i will explain why a)i don’t teach in an Islamic School at the moment and b)why i would seriously consider sending my children to an Islamic School.

a) i actually did consider teaching in an Islamic School at one point, but knew i wouldn’t be able to do it. from what i know (and i have very limited knowledge of Islamic schools so feel free to correct me if i’m wrong) there are limited resources and training opportunities. of course, the reason for this is poor funding, but as a teacher it would have frustrated me knowing i couldn’t teach my kids properly because i didn’t have access to a projector, for example. and it would have been frustrating if the teachers i worked with didn’t believe in the things i have come to associate with a good lesson- objective led learning, the four part lesson plan, assessment for learning and incorporating different learning styles to name a few (maybe i’ve just been brainwashed by my teacher training!).

also, i like working with the non Muslim kids and just interacting with them on a daily basis i can see i am making a difference, you know? they ask me things they would feel reluctant to ask Muslims (“if a woman is covering her face, does that mean she doesn’t want me to chat her up?”).

of course, i can understand why teachers do teach in Islamic Schools in terms of wanting to work in a segregated environment and this is very noble and i admire that, but at the end of the day if you’ve not been trained properly, maybe you are doing more damage that way, if the children are not getting the education they deserve?
the only way around this is for Muslim teachers to train in the secular environment (which in the UK means at least one year in a state School) so if you don’t believe in working in a mixed environment, you wouldn’t be able to do that anyway.

and actually, in the UK, i’ve noticed that some Schools are making it compulsory for all teachers to be qualified, which is a good thing for the children and for the Schools, but i’m thinking once people have gone to the effort to be qualified, would they go back to working in a Muslim Schools, when the pay and the conditions of service are better in state schools? i know that may sound selfish, but training to be a teacher is hard! the PGCE is just a year of intense scrutiny, rigorous observations and stressful research. i don’t think money and promotions are everything, but the difference between a qualified and unqualified teacher should be recognised.

things are changing though, especially in the UK (maybe not so much in other countries?) and there are already a handful of good Islamic Schools around,. i can think of one in Manchester, for example. so maybe i will inshAllah get to work in a good Islamic school one day. at the moment though, it would be the fastest way to limit my career prospects. i know that’s not everything, though. for one thing, i feel guilty as i know Muslim parents are spending their hard earned money on sending their children to these Schools, and i may have a duty i’m neglecting to ensure these parents are getting what they paid for. a solution to this would be if i opted to work in an Islamic School one day a week, perhaps. i looked into it this year and then didn’t pursue it, but maybe next year.

b) i’ll try to keep this short, like i promised, as i no doubt will elaborate in the comments section anyway, but i don’t want to send MY children to a state School.

actually a lot of the reasons for this have nothing to do with religion. for one thing, i think children are tested so much in Schools today it’s disheartening. and it’s especially sad when the testing is not for the benefit of the children. the year 9 SATS for example are sole designed to test the School, there is no other function of them whatsoever. a private School can opt out of doing them.

another big big thing for me is the peer pressure. i know it is important that children interact with different cultures, but they can do that in their own time. and i know i said dialogue is important, at the end of the day every parent will do the right thing by their child and it is a personal choice i would make.

if i was to send my child to an Islamic School, however, i would do my research, and i’m hoping things will have improved by the time i actually have children inshAllah. if not, there are other avenues i’m thinking about, grammar Schools, home schooling and Schools abroad to name a few.

to sum up then, although i have said i do not think i would want to teach in an Islamic School at the moment, this does not mean i am opposed to them. parents should have the right to choose. and i don’t see what’s wrong with state funded Islamic Schools. at the end of the day, it’s no different to having state funded Catholic Schools (and noone seems to be contesting these). it is not even that all the children and staff have to be Muslim, just that the rules are on Muslim terms. for example, dressing modestly (which doesn’t necessarily have to mean hijaab for non Muslims) more segregation (and separate girl and boys Schools exist anyway and there seems to be no problems with that) and no Christmas Assemblies in state Schools where 99 % of the children are Muslim anyway!

this post was inspired by ‘Liya’s thought provoking post on Islamic Schooling


Posted in islam, teaching | 25 Comments »

the "f" word

Posted by hema on May 28, 2007

i have been studying Henrik Ibsen’s a Doll’s House with my students and someone commented “oh no not another feminist text”. seriously they hate it. i’m going to have to change the text next year (to shakespeare i think. i’m just really lazy, i spent ages doing the resources for this play!) because bringing the “f” word ie feminism into a discussion always meets with sceptism and groans from most classes, girls and boys alike.

i think the image they have is the streotypical image of raving men-haters wanting to disclaim their femininity.

but it’s got me thinking about the whole issue of womens’ rights and what it means.

i see a lot of women doing blaming their own emotions on the fact that they are women “i’m feeling emotional, its that time” and this is perfectly acceptable and normal,
but when men do it, it’s seen as wrong.

iv not been following the latest craze that is The Apprentice, but someone was really laying into Tray? (what a name) accusing him of being a mysoginist. again i don’t watch it and don’t know the guy so can’t comment, but all he seems to be saying is women are more emotional or “it must be that time of the month” right? so why is it different if a man says it?

i’m asking- i know it is different and i can feel the difference. i got annoyed when someone said to me recently ” you’re not one of those modern types who hates to live with inlaws are you” (erm ..it depends!)

i know and can accept women are more emotional then men (i mean most women. i’m not, in fact sometime i just pretend to be so i don’t feel left out!)
that’s one of the reasons why women aren’t allowed to divorce men as easily, and one of the reasons why two women witnesses are needed for every male in certain imporant cirumstances.

so, for the people who think feminism is a dirty word and separate from Islam, i don’t think it is. we are, after all, talking about a religion which gave women crucial rights at a time when women were seen as evil.

kher.. i guess it depends on your definition of feminism and what you deem to be womens’ rights?

Posted in islam | 15 Comments »

under cover

Posted by hema on May 25, 2007

how important is it to “cover” and what does it mean to do so?

personally, i have an issue with the phrases – “she is covered/ she needs to cover” and cringe every time i hear them used, especially to describe Muslimahs. just because she isn’t covering her hair/ face, it does not mean she is not covered.
there is a huge difference between people who deliberately dress provocatively, and those who wear modest clothing but choose not to/ are not yet covering their hair or face, and i just think this difference should be noted.

and as a matter of fact, there are some women who are managing to “cover” better without covering their hair. i’m sure you all know what i mean, so won’t bother going into too much detail, especially seen as there is an interesting discussion about it on unique’s blog, (warning: pretty girl alert on the post for any brother’s wanting to save their eyes. hey they could still exist!) but i’m not judging anyone here, especially as i was one of those people that started off wearing “hijaab” with my neck and earings exposed, but let’s not delve into that phase too much (please!)

a student the other week suddenly whipped off her hijaab, brushed her hair and then put it back on again for some random reason during the class! i had to bite my tongue, as i didn’t want to embarass her, but talked to her after the class, and she said “oh it was just the guys though, it’s not as if my dad was here or anything!”
(weird Pakistani mentality- you should wear your headscarf in front of elders, even if they’re mahram, as a sign of respect).

it just made me think. wearing the hijaab (as in headscarf) is so much more common here now then when i started doing it, but do people really understand why they are doing it? because it’s a dangerous game to force/ pressurise women to do it for the wrong reasons.

on the one hand i do recognise that it is our duty to advocate what we belive to be right, and in partiular some fathers/ husbands want to ensure that their daughters/wives are obeying the Laws, but at the end of the day, it is a personal choice that a woman makes, and she needs to do it if/when the time is right for her. i see people trying to force/pressurise women to wear hijaab more than they encourage prayer, charity, fasting etc. surely this issue can’t be more important than the fundamental pillars?

i’m not saying wearing hijaab should not be encouraged. it makes sense to me on so many levels. and, with the niqaab i would never say “never” as there is something very attractive and liberating about walking down the street feeling completely invisible.

i’m just saying i think we need to stop judging a person’s piety levels on how much of their body they choose to cover. i’ts disheartening when i hear muslim women looking down on their sisters, with phrases like “she deson’t even cover so what right does she have to tell me about Islam”. there are other things that are more important than outward appearance. isn’t there?

Posted in islam | 17 Comments »


Posted by hema on May 22, 2007

A potentially hazardous topic, and I’ve been debating about whether to post about it, as I usually avoid confrontation at all costs. But I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, because it has come up in a few conversations I’ve had with various people, who have various different views on it, which in turn has forced me to address my views on it.
Warning: my views are going to seem naïve and simplistic to many, and perhaps they are. But I have been doing my research, and in particular have been reading this blog. there are many more I could link to, but I like this one because it is honest and it has got me thinking about my views on the said topic. I mean on a personal level of course, the status of polygny in Islam is not being called into question. In the end, it is allowed in Islam today, just like it was at the time of the prophet, peace be upon him. I can understand why people are against it and wouldn’t want to practice it, but I don’t really see what the big deal is, if it is practices properly it can even be an advantage for the woman.
The main benefit I can see is quite simply more time. sometimes time apart is a good thing. You have more time to do things you did before, spend time with friends etc. and it would stop you from becoming too attached to your husband, I think, which can often be a dangerous thing.
I’m going to update this soon when I have more time, as I have some more “justifications” for my arguments. I know people are going to have strong views on this, and I’m just waiting for someone to say “just wait until you’re married..” .
But I just wanted to put the topic out there, and in particular discuss two things that I’m still wondering about.
Firstly, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the consent of the first wife is not needed. In fact, the husband does not even need to let his first wife know if he gets married. This seems to be the biggest cause of anxiety and distress for the 1st wife. the only way of preventing your husband from getting married again is by stipulating that you don’t want him to in the marriage contract (does anyone actually do that?) so, if you don’t do that, and your husband does marry again, do you have the right to divorce him?
another argument against polygny is that it doesn’t fit into western society and is outdated, but I’m worried about this idea as it can be applied to a lot of things in Islam. Are we being conditioned and influenced by western notions about what is acceptable and right?
As I said, I want to add more to this but it depends. I just think polygny is something we need to accept more, so that people aren’t made to feel bad about wanting to do something that is halal at the end of the day, providing the relevant conditions are met of course.

Posted in Uncategorized | 36 Comments »

mars vs thorntons

Posted by hema on May 20, 2007

i’m rather disappointed in them for caving in so easily actually. i was rather looking forward to justifying my new found obsession with thorntons.


click here for important information on when the products will be suitbale for vegetarians ( check the sell by dates) and which products were never suitable (ie bounty, twix and celebrations)

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »


Posted by hema on May 17, 2007

i’ve been neglecting this despite requests to put it on, and i know i’ve been using this blog mainly to waffle on about teacher stuff (why can’t teachers switch off even in their free time?)
this one is all about the etiquette of entering your own house, and the houses of others. it was interesting to hear about the ettiquettes of being a guest, as the focus usually seems to be on how to treat guests.

anyhow, here are the notes.

When you enter your own house or leave, do not push the door violently or leave it to close by itself. Rather close it with gentleness, calmness and composure, as a muslim should be gentle with everything h/she does ( i think slamming the door in a tantrum would also come under this:) )

When entering your own home, make your entrance known eg by coughing or tapping your shoes so that you do not startle or frighten anyone (oh that’s why people do that!)If returning from a long journey, give plenty of notice.

Seek permission before entering every room (even in your own house!) To avoid seeing someone in a situation which would embarrass them.

When knocking on someone else’s door, do so gently. Remember it is not necessary for them to open the door.
Stand to one side. And do not look through the letterbox. Don’t be insulted if they do not answer the door and do not arrive at someone’s house unexpectedly.
Use your commnon name to identify yourself if asked.
Ettiqutee of phoning someone- Identify yourself (unless it is someone you phone regularly and your number is stored) and if a prior arrangement hasn’t been made to phone, always ask if they are free to talk- make it easy for them to say no.

Etiquette of conduct towards other muslims

Suspicion is haram and one should always think the best of other muslims (70 excuses..)
Do not backbite or talk about other peoples’ sins.
Don’t hang around public areas, eg after visiting the mosque as you may be disturbing people and restricting access to their homes.

just as a side note, it is really realy sad to see muslims fighting and arguing with each other, especially in public. and is it just me, or shouldn’t the same rules apply to blogs/forums? there are too many examples of people having blog fights, leaving nasty comments (usually annonymously. sigh. i mean, if you don’t like the blog, just don’t read it! or, email the person if you have any issues. double sigh. (and rant over)

to remind you then, these posts are based on notes from a fantastic talk i attended on adab (manners) in Islam by mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al kathwari. there is another course on soon (i’ve just realised it might be this saturday!) there is a sister doing a much much (much much) better job than me at summarising the notes here so please take a lot (for one thing there are no annoying side comments like there are in mine!)

Posted in adab | 10 Comments »

girls and boys

Posted by hema on May 15, 2007

without a shred of a doubt, boys are easier to deal with and understand, especially when it comes to behaviour management. here’s why:


i have this student that hates me. this usually doesn’t bother me, as it is not always a good thing if the students like you, as it is often for the wrong reasons (eg i like you, you’re so laid back, i like you, you always let us go early etc) but this student hates me for very personal reasons, and i’m not used to it. i’m used to falling out with students (and them falling out with me) but for work related reasons, eg missing lessons etc but this student isn’t a bad student and i know she behaves in other lessons.
a few weeks back i sent her out of a lesson for saying something a li–ttle inappropriate. i had turned around to write something on the board, and when i turned back, i found she was on the phone (!!??))
me: Beth, put the phone away.
beth: (loudly) ok, i’m going to have to go, my b*** of a teacher is making me get off the phone.
so i very calmly told her to leave my classroom and not to come back until i’d spoken to her form tutor.
i had a meeting with her form tutor, who was surprised and said she was usually a nice quiet student (??). when asked what the problem was, it became a little clearer why she was treating me that way.
she said “this is probably going to get me into trouble, but i don’t see why i should be taught by her anyway, she probably wasn’t born in this country”.
luckily, the college is very supportive of things like this, and told me i didn’t have to have her back in my class and could just set her the work to do, but that isn’t dealing with the problem so i let her back. she has been sitting at the back of her class with a scowl on her face refusing to talk to me unless pushed. she directs all her enquiries through the support staff, which is actually rather funny.
on Monday she came in and had done all the work and asked to be signed off. (the course isn’t GCSE or A Level, it’s actually a level one literacy course designed for people who achieved E or below in GCSE English) there is no exam, so i can sign her off as soon as she has done the work, which i did. i think she had done the work outside the class, just so she didn’t have to come back. anyway, i wished her good luck for the future and we had a pleasant-ish conversation, but she couldn’t wait to get out of the classroom! quite sad really, i just wanted to have one good lesson with this student and leave a lasting impression that was more positive. maybe i did, but i doubt it.


all you have to do to win the respect of your boys is have a nice car, it’s as simple as that! i’m only half joking, my poor little car puts up with so much abuse every day 😦

seriously though, i have a lot of boys that misbehave but at least they are not vindictive with it. i’d hate to teach in a school full of girls, i can just imagine how hard that would be..

Posted in teaching | 5 Comments »


Posted by hema on May 13, 2007

yesterday was just an ordinary saturday, you know lounging around the house and then it got busy with lots of guests (in the way that only pakistanis know how!) and so barely had time to breathe!

and then…

at night, i had a conversation which touched me and made me remember something. you know one of those conversation which you know will stay with you because of how powerful it was?

i had the pleasure of telling a sister about the istikhaara prayer.before i carry on, i just wanted to talk about what it made me remember- my first experience of feeling at an utter loss and not knowing which direction my life would take.

i was 17 at the time and working hard at college to get the grades i needed to study Law at university. i had always been sure i wanted to do Law, encouraged by my teachers and parents who wanted me to do something great and deserving of the work i put into my studies (yes i was always a little nerd!)

and then one of my closest and dearest friends, who i respect a lot, told me that perhaps Law wasn’t for me, and i would be suited to something else (i can’t remember if she actually suggested teaching or not) at first i denied it and insisted law was for me and that was what i wanted to do

but gradually i started to think about teaching, and made some tentative enquires, and really liked the idea, but decided i wasn’t cut out for teaching (especially thinking back to my own high school and mean some of the kids were to teachers!)

so, i decided to stick with Law and that’s what i applied for and when i got my place at a very competitive university, i decided it was meant to be and i should be lucky as so many other people don’t get that chance. i convinced myself i was doing the right thing.

and then one night, i was speaking to another dear friend online (why are all my deep and meaningful conversations always online?) and i told her about my “decision” and she said, you still don’t sound sure so why don’t you pray Istikhaara? and taught me the whole thing that night (i wonder if she knows how much of an effect that conversation had on me?)

i was so excited and ecstatic as i finally felt at peace, you know? i prayed Istikhaara for a long time, and got a bit impatient to be honest as i was still undecided. and then one morning i woke up and i was sure what i needed to do. i didn’t have a dream, but i just had this certainty and felt at peace with the decision, even though it wasn’t what i had wanted.

doing Law would have been easier because it was what people expected of me, and i knew it was what my dad wanted. but teaching was what was written in my destiny.
telling my dad this was my biggest concern as i didn’t want to disappoint him, so i did what i always do when i want to tell my dad something big- told my mum and asked her to tell my dad:)

and to my great joy my dad said straight away, it’s up to you and do what’s best for you. alhamdulilah, he then said he had only ever encouraged me to do Law because he thought that was what i wanted.

so there you go. i put my trust in Allah and felt at peace with my decision straight away. of course i did, as who can guide me and understand my needs better than the One who created me?

i felt so grateful to Allah for granting me with the honour of telling this sister about istikhaara yesterday. immediately i could feel her excitement as she felt sure this was the best solution and the only way to make the important decision she wanted to make.

so, one of the reasons i am sharing this story with you guys is, i want you to please share your experiences of salatul-istikhaara and how it may have helped you to come to any decisions. i know it is a very personal thing, but i am hoping to show the sister the variety of experiences people have, and how it can affect people in different ways.

so, spill!

(link to prayer)

Posted in islam, personal | 11 Comments »

that friday feeling

Posted by hema on May 12, 2007

every time i attend Abu Eesa’s al adab al mufrad class i get something out of it which which affects me deeply.it’s usually something which may seem obvious but is said in way which stays with me.

yesterday it was:

it is only in Islam that you can incease your status by lowering yourself

i don’t know why it had such an effect on me but it did. i don’t know how to explain it properly so i won’t try and will leave yo to reflect on it yourselves.

or if you live locally you could just come.

every friday at Makki Masjid, Longsight, Manchester.

from next week it will start slightly earlier at 8, which is good. i won’t have to drive home with my eyes closed because of all the fitnah (why would you dres like that, it was raining).

it’s probably not a good idea to drive with your eyes closed is it?

Posted in islam | 1 Comment »


Posted by hema on May 11, 2007

ok, i really am sorry, nevertheless i have to do it.

emma bunton has a blog!

i love baby spice, she’s so pretty and sophisticated and cool.

i shall now give three justifications for my apparent bizarre obsession.

1. she reminds me of my childhood (when i really was obsesseed) at a time when i am starting to feel old. one of my classes finally figured out my age, and then one of them said “wow you’re old for someone who looks our age” he–y

2. it’s tiring (pretending) i’m so mature and sensible all the time. i had to spend half an hour nagging and nagging a student about wasting time during a mock exam today, when she wrote two pages along the lines of this:

Here is two pages of nonsense. Well so far, it’s one line. Wait, two now. Have you ever wondered whether Adam and Eve have belly buttons? Why thoughts like this appear in my head, I have no idea. Why is Larry always happy? Who is Larry anyway? Could he be the fragment of a delusionist’s imaginataion to counteract his depressive tendencies?

Maybe Larry was just a very happy person, I guess we’ll never know.

I think that’s enough for now. However, I’m being pressured to do more.

actually, i can see the funny side of it now but it’s really not! especially seen as i let her come into my class after she got kicked out of her other English class for similar antics. sigh.

3. it’s friday! and i’m too tired to do the post i’d planned on different forms of Education,

so.. there you go. i hope i don’t lose all the new blogging friends i’ve made:( oh well, this can be a lotalty test. you have to take the good with the bad, after all.

(oh i liked it better when she wore bunches)

Posted in random stuff | 11 Comments »