Eternal Success Syllabus

The words that would be read

Muhammad didn’t want to go inside. What he wanted to do more than anything was to turn around, go back down the stairs and escape outside into the cool afternoon breeze. He wouldn’t have minded if it rained all the way home. He just did not want to go into the classroom.

However…he knew that he had made a promise to his mother that he was going to try his hardest today. It wouldn’t be easy, but he would try his best.

He whispered a duaa “Allah please help me…O Allah! There is no ease except that which You make easy, and indeed You, when You want, make difficulties easy.” Then he opened the door and walked into the classroom.

As the number of children and worries he associated to the room surrounded him, he focussed his eyes on his seat and marched towards it trying not to let anything else distract him from his task.

The teacher turned on the interactive whiteboard and Muhammad’s stomach suddenly felt full of buzzing bees as the shapes on the screen swam before him.

“Today we will be learning a new surah,” the teacher announced. “You will each read an ayah each starting with Sulaiman.”

As Sulaiman started to recite, Muhammad felt himself clenching his fists tighter and tighter. He looked across and realised there were only three people between him and Sulaiman. Three people before the teacher would ask him to read in front of the whole class.

He panicked, unsure how to get out of the difficult situation when suddenly he had an idea. Holding onto his stomach he jumped out of his seat. “Ustadh! Please! I’ve got to go toilet! Quick!”

The teacher nodded and other children giggled. With a sigh of relief, Muhammad sped out of the classroom and towards the toilets. When he arrived, he was out of breath and he leant against the wall to take a few deep breaths. He stayed there for a few minutes before deciding that the dangerous moment in the classroom must have passed and he should head back before someone was sent to find him.

This time he felt calmer, knowing that he had managed to avoid being asked to read in front of the whole class. However, when he sat back in his seat a new wave of dread swept over him. There, on his desk, was a piece of paper with a long section of writing at the top.

“Muhammad, we are reading the section from the surah in Arabic and English and then answering the questions below. I expect you to work in silence or raise your hand if you have a question.”

Muhammad stared at the page again. He tried to look at the first word, but he didn’t know if it was a faa or a qaaf. And why did the raa and alif keep switching places? The letters seemed to be teasing him. He started to feel frustrated but he said “bismillah” and tried to read it. His tongue felt like it was in the wrong place but he didn’t know where else to put it.

“Irqa…irqi?” He muttered. He looked around him to see the other children calmly reading and writing as though it was the simplest task in the world. He imagined all their pencils on a running track racing ahead of him while his pencil just couldn’t get going.

Then he imagined himself outside walking home in the rain. He pictured puddles in the pavement to jump in and dodging splashes of water from passing cars and motorbikes. He thought about how he would get changed into his monster truck pyjamas when he got home and make himself a mug of warm milk and honey. He imagined…

“Muhammad…Muhammad!” Suddenly he heard his teacher’s voice and looked around to find himself still in the classroom where the other children were packing up their bags and handing their sheets in to the teacher before leaving.

Muhammad looked down at the empty lines on his own paper and felts nauseous. He took his time tidying away his things and getting out of his seat. Perhaps if he was really slow and didn’t attract too much attention to himself, he could leave before Ustadh Abu Bakr realised he hadn’t handed in any work. He put his bag on, slid the paper up his jumper and edged cautiously towards the door. As he reached for the door handle he pictured himself running down the stairs three at a time and leaping out into the fresh air.

But as his hand touched the handle he heard his name again.

“Muhammad, walk outside with me please. Your father will meet us in the courtyard in a few minutes inshaAllah.”

He turned around his stomach twisting uncomfortably as he followed the teacher out of the door and whispered a duaa “Allah please help me…O Allah! There is no ease except that which You make easy, and indeed You, when You want, make difficulties easy.”

The other children and teachers were so busy organising themselves to leave, so no one seemed to notice as he walked out into the cool courtyard with Ustadh Abu Bakr. The courtyard had three semi-circular raised flower beds with herbs, edible flowers and beautifully scented heather. These were arranged in a triangular shape around the tall stone water fountain which was in the middle. All around the outside of the courtyard there were wooden benches on which two young girls were sat revising their Qur’an. Then there was a long walkway which was lined with purple and green solar lights and led out to the masjid car park. They walked up and down this walkway, in and out of the courtyard, as they spoke.

“Muhammad, do you know what surah we were reading today?” asked his teacher in a kind and gentle voice.

“No Ustadh,” replied Muhammad as he saw the tall figure of his father entering the walk way from the car park.

After giving them both salaam, Muhammad’s father looked at his teacher expectantly.

They were surprised when the teacher suddenly stuck his tongue out at both of them. They stood in silence, unsure as to how they should react to a mosque teacher sticking his tongue out. Muhammad giggled. His teacher smiled, pulled his tongue back in and spoke.

“I can’t role my tongue Muhammad. When I was your age all my friends could roll their tongues and I used to get so frustrated thinking that if I tried harder I could do it too. Then I got older and realised it’s genetic. You are born able to do it or not able to do it. If you can, you can and if you can’t, you can’t. And what I want you to remember from that,” he said now turning to look at Muhammad’s dad, “is that if he could, he would.”

Father and son, still confused, waited for the teacher to finish.

“We were reading surah al Alaq today,” he continued, as a blue butterfly fluttered past Muhammad, touching his cheek with it’s wing.

“Do you remember when we built a den in the forest and acted out surah al Alaq?”

Muhammad nodded eagerly. Excited for an opportunity to finally share his knowledge. “Yes Ustadh, when the Angel Jibreel alayhis Salaam came to the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wassallam in Cave Hira and said “Iqra! Three times and he kept answering that he couldn’t read.”

“Which was true wasn’t it?” interrupted his teacher with a broad smile. “He couldn’t read. In fact, he never learnt to read and write. But Allah is the one who gives us every ability we have, and Allah gave him the ability to receive, recite and share the revelation of the Qur’an with others. And Allah Almighty has honoured you my dear student Muhammad, by allowing you to share the noble name and a precious quality of our beloved Rasul sallallahu alayhi wassallam”

The tightness that had gripped Muhammad’s chest and the twisting sensation in his stomach both seemed to melt away as the realisation spread over him.

“He can’t read?” asked his father.

“But he’s eight years old. He should be able to read now. He reads his favourite books to me. He reads all the food labels in the kitchen.”

His teacher smiled calmly. “Remember Abu Muhammad. If he could, he would. My understanding is that Muhammad has probably memorised the stories you have read to him and if I asked him what three food containers are on the top shelf of your fridge, he’ll be able to tell me without leaving this courtyard. I suspect that your son has dyslexia. It doesn’t mean he is any less intelligent than his peers, in fact, I would argue that Muhammad has used his intelligence in an effective way to help him cope with his difficulty in decoding letters. Would you agree Muhammad?”

Before answering, Muhammad read his favourite duaa out loud for his father and teacher to both hear “O Allah! There is no ease except that which You make easy, and indeed You, when You want, make difficulties easy.

Yes Ustadh, I didn’t know why, but I used to memorise the pages in the Qaidah when you taught us them even though I didn’t really know what I was reading. I get scared of reading and I stay away from the other children because they’ll ask each other to read things and I don’t know what to do so they all think I’m rude. Maybe if they knew I’m actually similar to the Prophet sallallahu alayhiwassallam they’d want to be friends with me!

But is this it now? Will I never be able to read like you and my Baba can?”

Ustadh shook his head with another kind smile.

“No alhammdulillah, with Allah’s help dyslexia is something which we can work through together and you will be able to read, write and achieve whatever Allah wills for you. It may be challenging and even frustrating at times, but your father and I will be there to support you, you are not alone Muhammad.”

It was with these words that the tears started to come. They scattered themselves carelessly all over his cheeks and they felt hot and sharp as he felt his father’s arm around his shoulder.

“Yes my boy. We are with you  every step of the way inshaAllah.”

“I’ll let you go home and take in everything we’ve talked about so far and then tomorrow if you can come in fifteen minutes early with your Baba we can start making a plan for Mission Iqra, as I like to call it.”

As Muhammad walked to the car with his father’s arm still comforting and strengthening him, although the sun was starting to set, the world outside seemed somehow brighter and more welcoming than it had before.

“Baba,” he said quietly, as he put on his seatbelt. “I know how else I can try to be like the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wassalaam.”

“How is that?” asked his father, turning to look at him.

“I can memorise the Qur’an inshaAllah. Memorising is easy for me. I’ve used it to help hide my dyslexia for so long, Allah Al Aleem has helped me become very good at it. So, part of Mission Iqra for me will be to try every day to memorise and revise my memorisation of the Qur’an inshaAllah.”

It was his father’s turn to feel the heat of tears fill his eyes as he nodded in stunned silence. As the car engine switched on, Muhammad reached for the car’s CD player controls and pressed play, he gasped as Surah al Alaq started to play.