A common complaint in many Muslim communities is that there are good programs for children, however, youth and young adults rarely find resources to help with their Muslim identity, proper understanding and good implementation.
Children go to Quran programs at an early age, but later on, they struggle to find programs that help them understand the Quran or connect with Islam on a personal level. Many young adults are left with a limiting choice: to rely on the internet to pursue their Islamic knowledge - despite the high risk of inauthentic information online, the possibility of misunderstanding and the lack of mentorship on the ground.
Others choose a harder path, to travel overseas, only to find themselves disconnected from their community when they return and unprepared to apply their knowledge in a real context.
Our solution stems from core Islamic principle: knowledge has no merit without proper understanding and correct implementation. Siraj Institute combines the knowledge, mentorship and community engagement in order to develop, strengthen, and foster a balanced identity of North American Muslims. We believe a proper education needs these four pillars:
First: Muslim Identity
Muslim youth who were born and/or raised in North America often struggle in connecting their faith with their identity; many experience a discord between home and the wider community. Despite all the efforts their parents try to provide, there is usually a gap in understanding between parents and their own children. Thus, as they go through the most challenging years of their lives, teenagers and young adults often look outside of the home for direction.
Muslim youth will often not be able to find Muslim role models in their communities that they can learn from or relate to, despite the rich heritage that Muslims enjoy. All too often, these role models are taught in a historical context, without drawing connections to the present world; They are not seen by most youth as role models, but as historical figures, and thus deemed irrelevant in their personal challenges.
At Siraj Institute we aim to develop, nourish and foster the Muslim identity first and foremost through an indepth study of the Life of the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him). We also focus on studying the biographies of the companions, their followers, and other leading figures, not just in their historical setting, but also to contextualize those role models so our students can connect and look up to. We won't stop there, but with your support, we plan to help students explore the history of Islamic civilization in the world, and specifically the history of Islam in North America.
Second: Islamic Education
Only after students have established their identities, they will be eager to learn more about Islam. Obtaining sound and authentic Islamic Education is a challenging issue to Muslim youth today.
An easily available option is online study. While online platforms have made Islamic education accessible to people all over the world, it has a few drawbacks. The first is the lack of verification; where teachers cannot ensure that remote students have understood the message in its intended form, let alone did it themselves (let's be honest, plagiarism is so easy in most Islamic online platforms). The second is that it neglects the concept tarbiyah (disciplining of the self) due to the limited exposure and time students get to have with their teachers. Furthermore, online platforms rely solely on the personal motivation of an individual. There is no sense of community, companionship or healthy competition.
We admit that traveling abroad and spending years to pursuing knowledge at the hands of high caliber scholars sounds like a good idea to some youth. While this is indeed a noble cause, it is risky, and may not be suitable for everyone. In addition, upon return to North America, these newly-qualified scholars find themselves struggling to distinguish between religion and culture, and how to engage themselves back into their community after a long disconnect from home. Thus going through another struggle which can last for a prolonged period of time.
Another available alternative is institutions that offer short intensive weekend by visiting scholars. While such institutions offer unique opportunities, they are good for kindling motivation, not fueling a continuous journey of knowledge. The “visiting” nature is often limited in scope and effect and does not contribute to the overall long-term vision of community building and contribution.
While we do not deny there are great benefits in the above methods of seeking Islamic education, we believe that Islamic education should, as it has always been, be comprehensive and teacher-centric. We have carefully looked at the rich heritage of Islamic pedagogy before designing our own. Small class sizes, weekly Q&A sessions, and assessments which aren't just a multiple choice quiz on a screen, but extend to personalized essays and engaging projects. These are not inventions of our own, rather are the same pedagogical components of Islamic education that generated exemplary scholars like Imam Abu Hanifa, Malik, Al-Shafi'i and Ahmed, leaders like Umar bin Abdulaziz, Salahuddin, Qutuz and Sulaiman the Magnificent, and role models in all aspects of life such as sciences, humanities, arts and everything in between.
Siraj Institute seeks to deliver authentic and genuine Islamic Education by highly-qualified and trained teachers who not only have studied religious sciences but also understand the social context and the challenges facing Muslims in North America.
While developing and fostering an Islamic identity and seeking Islamic Education are great pursuits, their effectiveness will be impeded if they go unassisted by experienced mentors, who have been there, done that. Mentorship is not limited to religious guidance but also extends to all aspects of life, and is essential in creating a nurturing environment for confidence and success. This an opportunity to learn, practice and apply soft- and hard-skills that cannot be obtained through lecturing and reading. Unlike classroom based learning, the apprenticeship methodology does not penalize mistakes, but teaches how to learn from them; all while benefitting from the experience and wisdom of mentors.
Fourth: Community Engagement
God Almighty described His final Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Message by its social impact, “And We have not sent you [O Mohammed] except as a mercy to the worlds.” (Quran 21:107)
It has been reported that the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The most beloved people to God are those who are most beneficial to other people.” [narrated by Tabarani, good authenticity]
Numerous texts, along with the life examples of exemplary Muslims, show us that we cannot learn Islam and remain passive in our communities. Islam is not exclusively about performed rituals, nor is it exclusively about debating legal and intellectual matters. Rather, it is about calling people to be a positive and effective force in their own societies. Our diploma students are required to complete 500 hours of supervised projects in community service. Examples of projects we supervise include street dawah initiative, feeding the homeless, helping inmates, visiting patients in palliative care, and managing youth programs in partnering mosques.
With the help of God Almighty, then good people like yourself, Siraj Institute will become accessible, not only to students who can afford to pursue their education with us, but also the students with potential who can not afford it. With your donation, we hope to provide scholarships for 85% of our students. Those students whom you will support will become the leaders of our communities tomorrow. A better tomorrow starts today.
Donate today and help transform lives, guided by authentic Islamic education through proper mentorship and positive community engagement.
Become part of the positive change and contribute towards this project. Your donations will be put in a charitable endowment (Waqf) which will be used to cover scholarships as well as operational expenses. This will ensure the sustainability of Siraj Institute and the perpetuity of your donation (Sadaqa Jaariyah).
Last but not least, don't forget to spread the word, and make du'aa for us.
Jazakum Allah khair.