#MW15: For Granted
*We would like to preface this by acknowledging that everyone’s experience in a Madrasah is different and we are only reflecting on our own experiences.*
I guess it is true when they say you’ll only realise the value of something when you lose it. After being in a Madrasah (a full time, religious institution that offers Islamic religious as well as secular education) for 10 years, we got used to the routine of doing everything the way they were - praying Zuhr in a jama’ah (congregation), reading Surah Yaasin every Friday, and memorising the Qur’an for classes. We never had to think much about it, because none of it was done in a conscious effort.
Back in Madrasah, everything we did was part of our school routine - praying, reading Qur’an, studying Fiqh, etc. We didn’t need to find pockets of time during our day to pray, or to find a place to pray. Everything was provided, and we took that for granted. Leaving Madrasah made us realise how lucky we were to have been part of the system and to have had all this prepared for us. Every Friday, we would have recitation of Surah Al-Kahf and Surah Yaasin as part of morning assembly and every Thursday, there would be khutbahs by the Secondary 4 students. This experience, unique to Madrasah students, is surely something we never cherished enough.
Now that we’re out of the system, it does feel more meaningful knowing the active effort we put into performing our 5 daily prayers, or into searching for Islamic content. The conscious act of having to look for a place to pray makes the 5 minutes of our Zuhr prayers that much more meaningful, and makes us that much more appreciative of the short time we have for our ‘Ibadah.
It was also a lot easier for us to do various Sunnah prayers and fasts when we were
doing it together with our friends. In other words, they were our motivation and served as positive peer pressure. We would invite each other to perform Qabliyyah prayers before our daily Zuhr prayers and to fast on the Day of ‘Arafah, and seeing them set aside some time to pray Dhuha during recess breaks encouraged us to do so too, alongside them. We even planned to make up our missed Ramadan fasts on the same days! In retrospect, it was really cute, and we miss it. We miss the constant advice to cover up our ’awrah (areas of the body that are required to be covered by clothing), the positive peer pressure to pray on time, and the du’as we made for each other.
Prophet Muhammad SAW said, "The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith's bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof."
(Sahih Bukhari, Book 34, Hadith Number 54)
Having good friends who remind us of Allah SWT around us is important. Being in a Madrasah, it was not difficult to find these friends who supported us in our spiritual journey. However, we hadn’t realised how valuable these friendships were, and we took them for granted back then. Now, we have to put in the effort to seek such companions and reminders, such as joining a Muslim society in school, or attending weekend talks at the mosque. An example is our very own ad hoc, ELEVEN! Joining ELEVEN is an example of our attempt at surrounding ourselves with good people. Our ad hoc spiritually grounds us and the weekly tazkirah sessions during meetings allow us to be more introspective about our iman, and also learn about more good habits and mindsets to cultivate through other members’ sharings. Now that we’re older and more aware of the importance of having good company, our friendships hold deeper meaning and make us appreciate them even more.
Besides being surrounded by good company all the time, we were also lucky enough to have had ukhrawi (Islamic religious) subjects integrated into our curriculum but all we knew was to complain about the sheer amount of work we had. Taking, on average, 15 (a mix of academic and ukhrawi) subjects every year was no easy feat and, at the time, was overwhelming. At the ripe age of 7 and then again at 12, we took on these subjects because we had to, but not because we wanted to. Had we known how precious and valuable our ukhrawi lessons were, we probably would have put in a little bit more effort to retain the knowledge. It’s truly such a shame how we aren’t able to recall the Surahs and Hadiths that we memorised during those 10 years in Madrasah.
On a lighter note, there were also smaller joys of being in a Madrasah that we miss. Although sleeping during class is nothing new to students, our naps were sometimes warranted and in fact, initiated by our Ustazah! Occasionally during Fiqh class, we were given 5 to 10 minutes to take short naps, or better termed Qailulahs. We were taught that midday napping was encouraged in Islam and was a practice done by the Prophet Muhammad SAW. Do you have any professors in university who would allocate breaks specifically for naps? Do tell us as we would like to go for those classes!
Another perk of being in Madrasah is the abundance of halal food. Never having to worry and constantly being spoiled for choice are the two things we never thought we would miss about Madrasah. The canteen stalls (and aunties!) never disappointed when it came to serving the best food. Even after graduating, some of us went back to enjoy the famous lauk lemak served in the canteen and reminisce about our innocent days in school.
Only as we grow older and share our experiences with others do we realise how lucky we were and how much we took for granted being able to grow in a Madrasah. Alhamdulillah for the people and the environment that shaped us during our youth, for the memories we fondly look back on, and for all the lessons that were taught - both inside and outside of classrooms. Alhamdulillah for everything that was, and will be. Moving forward, we'll keep this as a reminder to always be thankful and grateful for our circumstances, no matter what.