The very first job I had in my life after the completion of my Masters Degree in Islamic Studies from Karachi University in Pakistan was to teach Islamic Studies to grade 7 students in a private Convent school. Later on, I had the opportunity of teaching Islamiyat in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
To begin with, during my experience of teaching Islamic Studies, I have never referred to the word “Shari’ah” except while discussing the highly scholarly topics included in the Cambridge University O Level curriculum of Islamiyat, namely, The Sources of Islamic Law. There was no need at all.
The terms Shari’ah or Islamic Law or Islamic Government are not only ambigious but I dare say misleading terms devised quite late after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and even after his successor caliphs. These terms do not carry the essence of the faith. Even the word Islam is used in the Qur’an maybe a couple of times. And Islam is declared as “Deen,” loosely and commonly translated as “a way of life/a code of life.”
To my knowledge the word “Law” in the strictest sense of the word is nowhere to be found in the Holy Qur’an. The last sermon of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), also known as the Farewell Pilgrimage is the epitome of the Message he had received and had promulgated. The verse from the Qura’n stating, “Today We have perfected your religion (Deen) for you…” is reported to have been revealed at that point of Muhammad (Pbuh)’s life.
That last sermon was to serve as one of the most important charters for the guidance of the believers. There is no mention of implementing the Islamic Law or the Shari’ah Islamic governing system in that sermon.
The Qur’an calls itself “the truth,” its Creator, The Truth, or the Prophet (pbuh) upon whom it was revealed was given the title name of “the truthful” by his countrymen before he was chosen a Prophet. The Qur’an addresses mankind in general and certain groups in particular (believers, disbelievers, hypocrites, etc). Even address to the word Muslims is very rare.
The Qur’an aims at the building of character by alluding to the signs in nature and in one’s own self, making appeal to the intellect of human beings to reflect and reason, and informing others about the reality of life and the hereafter, as the Prophet (pbuh) did all his life.
As for the grade 7 syllabus, I would suggest the following:
a. A couple of verses from the Qur’an with their meanings and commentary;
b. What the Qur’an says about the well known Prophets (pbut) or their stories.
( An interesting point of commonality between Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Non-Muslims students take a lot of interest in such common points);
c. Sayings (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) related to individual and social morals. (e.g. “One who cheats is not one of us,” “The giver and taker of bribe will both go to hell,”) as well as the Importance of gaining knowledge, etc.; and
d. A biographical sketch of the Prophet’s life and the lives of the four Caliphs.
The course should be tailored so as to introduce the students to the true Islam as found in the Qur’an and proclaimed and practiced by the Prophet (pbuh).
I have had the privilege of having Hindus, Christians and Parsi students in my class though they were exempted from the Islamic Studies class but I loved them and they loved me. I used to make them share their religious beliefs and teachings with their classmates. And perhaps that’s the only capital I’ve accumulated by teaching Islamic Studies.
But unfortunately, faith as a subject is something in which very few are interested.