Thursday, 4 January 2007

The Importance Of The Makatib

Almighty Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:

Read (O Muhammad)! In the name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists) Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood). Read! And your Lord is the most Generous, Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. Has taught man that which he knew not. (Surah Al-Alaq: Ayat 1~5)


The Qur'anic verses above are the opening verses of Surah Al-Alaq. These are the first verses revealed by Allah to His beloved Prophet SAW.

In these verses with which Allah commenced revelation, Allah SWT mentions qir'aat (recitation), ta'leem (learning), and ta‘allum (teaching). Thus emphasis is being placed upon establishing Maktabs and other institutions of ilm. Allah ends the first revelation with “Has taught man that which he knew not”, thereby stressing yet again the importance of knowledge.

This mention of qir'aat and ilm in the opening verses of revelation is a lesson to Muslims that the preservation of deen (religion), iman (faith) and haq (truth) in the unique manner the Prophet Muhammad SAW brought us, i.e. through the medium of wahi and sunnah, can only be possible with ilm. In places where the acquisition of knowledge was neglected, then even if Islam and Muslims remained, they were in a pitiful state. Wherever there is knowledge, this faith of ours will remain in its original purity.

Hence, the verse, “Read! in the name of your Lord who has created”, is the very first lesson for us. Who is the teacher? Allah, Glorified and Great! Yes! Allah is teaching His beloved Prophet SAW; and he (SAW) in turn is shouldering the responsibilities of an educator.

To whom does he teach?

Khadijah tul’ Kubra RA.

When the Noble Prophet Muhammad SAW, returned from the cave of Hiraa and informed our mother of his fear, he also recited to her the verses revealed to him. We learn from this that a person should firstly be concerned about his own household. If one wishes his sons and daughters to remain faithful Muslims, he should make an effort to create in his wife an Islamic consciousness. If she is imbued with the spirit of Islam, the children who grow up under her care will blossom into upholders of the deen. Whoever is lazy and negligent in this matter will see the ill effects in his children.


As we may be aware the first lady to embrace Islam was Khadijah RA, and amongst men, Abu Bakr RA, and amongst children, Ali RA. The Muhadditheen (commentators of Ahadith) have written that they accepted Islam at the same time these verses were recited to them; Waraqa bin Nawfal RA also embraced the new faith. When the Prophet SAW, related to him the event that had transpired, and recited that which had been revealed to him, Waraqa testified to it and promised to assist the Prophet SAW, in his mission.


This was the personal and discrete manner in which the teaching of the Holy Qur'an began. Gradually, as more people embraced Islam the following verse was revealed, “Therefore, proclaim openly that which Allah has commanded, and turn away from the Mushrikun.” The first concern of the Holy Prophet SAW thereafter was to arrange teaching facilities for the new converts. How could they be taught the Holy Qur'an? The circumstances at the time did not permit the dozen or so Muslims to gather in one place in order to perform Solat and be taught the Holy Qur'an. For this reason the Holy Prophet SAW, organised their ta'leem in various homes where they could secretly assemble and study the Holy Qur'an.


The home of Umar’s RA sister, Fatima binti Khattab RA, was selected for this purpose. This was the first Maktab of Makkah Mukarramah. The Muhadditheen write that the first teacher of this Maktab was Hazrat Khabbab ibn Aratt RA .

Umar RA once remarked:

"The Holy Prophet SAW had fixed upon my sister’s household the feeding of two persons on a daily basis; one was Khabbab (RA), and the name of the other teacher I cannot recall."

Saiyidina Umar RA, related this during the time of his khilafah, and could not remember the name of the other person.


Most of us are aware of the incident that led to Saiyidina Umar RA’s conversion to Islam. The story in brief is that Umar RA set off with the intention of assassinating the Holy Prophet SAW. On his way he met Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqas RA (in another narration it was Nu'aim bin Tufayl RA) , who tried to obstruct him from executing his vicious intention. During their conversation a quarrel broke out, and both of them unsheathed their swords. Just as the swords were about to meet, Sa’ad RA proclaimed, “Firstly, see to your own household, your own sister has embraced Islam.”

Umar was shocked and diverted his attention immediately. He turned towards his sister’s house and knocked on the door. At the time the occupants were busy studying verses of the Holy Qur'an from their teacher Khabbab ibn Aratt RA. Upon hearing the voice of Umar, Khabbab RA hid himself. Saiyidina Umar RA in his rage, launched himself upon his sister and brother-in-law (Saeed ibn Zayd RA) until they began to bleed. In this condition the sister called out, “You can do what ever you like, we have already accepted the new faith.”

When Umar’s anger abated, and he saw the state his sister was in as a result of the attack, he asked to be shown the parches they were studying. Upon hearing this request Khabbab RA reappeared and made Umar RA perform ghusl (bath). Umar RA then read from the parches, on which were written some verses of Surah Taha. Thereafter, he went to the HoIy Prophet SAW, and embraced Islam.

This was the very first Maktab established in Makkah Mukarramah. It was in the house of Saeed ibn Zayd RA, the brother-in-law of Umar RA. The teachers here were Khabbab RA and another Sahabi RA.


A second Maktab came to be established when the Muslims increased and the former premises became insufficient. It was set up at Darul Arqam, which was near Mount Safa. Here, approximately forty Sahabah RA , would reside on a permanent basis. The Holy Prophet SAW, would also stay here for many days. According to some traditions, once the Holy Prophet spent an entire month here. During the whole month he (SAW) would teach the Holy Qur'an and other religious instructions.


A third Maktab was set up in the Sha'bi (glen) of Abu Talib where the Holy Prophet SAW, and his family were exiled for three and a half years. During this period, the Prophet SAW would teach the Holy Qur'an to his family and to those who secretly came to visit him.

From the traditions of Makkah Mukarramah it is clear that these three locations were the main Maktabs in the early days of Islam. There may have been more.


Similarly, when the Noble Prophet SAW, came to Madinah, efforts to set up Maktabs were made from the outset. The sole purpose being that the teachings of the Holy Qur'an should also be made known to the people of Madinah Munawwarah. In fact this happened before the Prophet SAW's migration to the holy city. He despatched Mus'ab bin Umair RA and Abdullah ibn Ummi Maktum RA. The latter was also a maternal cousin of the Prophet SAW, due to his marriage with Khadijah RA.


The Holy Prophet SAW, had great affection and love for Abdullah ibn Ummi Maktum RA, and he too was eveready make sacrifice for the Prophet SAW’s sake. Although he was blind, he held a very lofty status in the sight of the Holy Prophet SAW. Whenever the the Holy Prophet SAW, had to be absent himself from Madinah, he would appoint one person to oversee the affairs of the city, and lead Muslims in prayers in the Prophet’s Mosque. Abdullah ibn Ummi Maktum RA, was chosen for this purpose on a number of occasions.


The Holy Prophet SAW, selected these two companions and sent them to Madinah with As’ad bin Zurarah RA. As’ad bin Zurarah RA, was the first person from the Ansar (helpers) to embrace Islam at the hands of the Prophet SAW. He undertook the responsibility of taking Mus'ab bin Umair RA and Abdullah ibn Ummi Maktum RA to Madinah Munawwarah for the purpose of teaching the Holy Qur'an.


The second Maktab of Madinah was established by Rafi' ibn Malik RA for the people of his tribe. This Maktab was located outside a large house. Here he started to teach the Holy Qur'an RA. This is the very place where later a Mosque named Masjid Banu Zuraiq was erected. This place is located directly opposite Masjid Ghamamah. Surah Yusuf was the first Surah of the Qur'an to be taught at this Maktab.


A third place was Masjid Quba. Here the freed slave of Abu Huzaifah RA namely, Salim RA was Imam as well as teacher of the Holy Qur'an. Some Companions also memorised the Qur’an under him. This was the biggest Maktab in Madinah, the reason being that it was directly on route from Makkah. Whoever from the Muslims did Hijrah (migrated) would reside here. This place was also known as Baitul Uzzab (house of the lonely ones) for the reason that the Sahabah RA, who made Hijrah arrived here alone for the sake of helping the Prophet SAW, and left their wives and children in Makkah in the hands of Allah. At this place there was accommodation and food for all those people who would arrive. The responsibility of their ta'leem and the ta'leem of the local Ansar was upon Salim RA.


From these three Maktabs, the best place of residence was at the house of As’ad bin Zurarah RA. The Sahabah RA narrate that his house was located in a very open surrounding. From the very initial stage As’ad bin Zurarah RA, had selected this place because people could free themselves from all types of worries and anxieties, just as many of today's Darul Ulums and Madrasahs function. The site of As’ad bin Zurarah RA, was a vast open field called Naqeeul Khazamaat. the reason for this name was that a special type of grass named Kuzaimah, which is still well known, would grow there. At this Maktab, Mus'ab bin Umair RA and Abdullah Ibn Ummi Maktum RA would teach the Holy Qur'an.


The first Jummah Salaah was also established at this site by As’ad bin Zurarah RA, on the instructions of the Holy Prophet SAW, before his arrival at Madinah Munawwarah. This place (Naqeeul Khazamaat) is also known as Harri-bani-Bayada.


Apart from these Makatib, during the Hijrah from Makkah to Madinah, the Prophet SAW continued this work of establishing Maktabs. The Prophet SAW during his journey arrived at a place called Gumaim. There Buraidah Aslami RA came to meet him (he had not yet embraced Islam) and invited him to his home. The Prophet SAW accepted the invitation and proceeded to his house and invited him to Islam. On that journey of Gumaim eighty households embraced Islam. Now just imagine eighty households and in each household there would have been at least five to ten people; such a large number of people embraced Islam at once. The Prophet SAW commenced his ta'leem by teaching them the opening verses of Surah Maryam. Then, he appointed Buraidah Aslami RA as their teacher and proceeded on his journey. Buraidah RA fulfilled this responsibility of taleem in such a manner that he did not even have the opportunity to visit the Prophet SAW in Madinah. When the Prophet SAW, finished from the important battles of Badr and Uhud, he arrived at Gumaim, and completed the teaching of Surah Maryam.


Let us realise here that our manner of ta'leem is exactly the same as it was in the early days of Islam. The Sahabah RA would learn the Holy Qur'an directly from the Holy Prophet SAW by both - Nazrah (reciting by looking inside the Qur’an) and Hifz (memorization of the Qur’an). This manner of teaching the Holy Qur’an is so significant and important, that the Holy Prophet SAW himself initiated it. In other words the foundation of our whole deen is based upon this ta'leem. This is why the Prophet SAW formally established these Maktabs and sent senior Sahabah RA to teach at these places.

If we study and ponder over the history of Muslims who came after the Prophet SAW, we will no doubt find numerous examples and incidents which will clearly testify that this method of ta'leem i.e. establishment of Maktabs, has remained the most vital and effective way of retaining and preserving our deen in its original pristine purity. This is also the reason why the children of those people who established Maktabs maintained their Islamic identity. A community which fails to do this, will retain its Islamic identity only with difficulty, if at all.

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