“The Genius of Ahmad Zarruq’s Grandmother”


On a beautiful Fajr morning on the 22nd of Muharram in the year 846 A.H (June 7th 1442 CE), in the village of Tiliwaan, was born a man the ‘Aarifeen would forever praise and look to for spiritual growth. His name was Ahmad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Isa Al Barnusi Al-Fasi, known as Az-Zarruq. His parents died while he was one week of age due to an outbreak known as ‘Azzunah. His maternal grandmother Umm Al-Baneen, a woman he would always express absolute love and gratitude for, raised him. Umm Al-Baneen had memorized the Qur’an and studied Islam. She was a Zahida and raised her beloved grandson as one as well. Imam Az-Zarruq describes his grandmother as such,

“She instructed me how to make Salaah and ordered me to do so at the age of five. At the same age she sent me to the kuttaab (Qur’anic School) and started teaching me about tawheed, tawakkul, emaan, and deen in a curious method. One day she prepared food for me. When I came back from the Kuttaab for lunch she said, ‘I have got nothing for you to eat. However, provision is in the treasure of the Almighty! Sit down and let us ask from Him!’ We stretched out our hands to the heavens and began praying to Allah . Then she said: ‘Go and look, maybe Allah has put something in the corner of the house.’ We began to search and how glad I was when I found the food! She said: ‘Come and let us thank Allah before we eat, so that our Lord may give us more from his Mercy!’ We thanked Allah and praised Him for an hour then we commenced eating. She used to do many times till I grew up.”

Just before coming across this beautiful example of parenting, I read an article, the extract of which I set out below:

Developmental scientists explored the basic science of learning by designing controlled experiments. They started by saying: “Suppose we gave a group of 4-year-olds exactly the same problems and only varied on whether we taught them directly or encouraged them to figure it out for themselves? Would they learn different things and develop different solutions?” The two new studies in Cognition are the first to systematically show that they would.

In the first study, MIT professor Laura Schulz, her graduate student Elizabeth Bonawitz, and their colleagues looked at how 4-year-olds learned about a new toy with four tubes. Each tube could do something interesting: If you pulled on one tube it squeaked, if you looked inside another tube you found a hidden mirror, and so on. For one group of children, the experimenter said: “I just found this toy!” As she brought out the toy, she pulled the first tube, as if by accident, and it squeaked. She acted surprised (“Huh! Did you see that? Let me try to do that!”) and pulled the tube again to make it squeak a second time. With the other children, the experimenter acted more like a teacher. She said,”I’m going to show you how my toy works. Watch this!” and deliberately made the tube squeak. Then she left both groups of children alone to play with the toy.

All of the children pulled the first tube to make it squeak. The question was whether they would also learn about the other things the toy could do. The children from the first group played with the toy longer and discovered more of its “hidden” features than those in the second group.

In other words, direct instruction made the children less curious and less likely to discover new information.

Engender curiosity in children! (just like Umm al-Baneen!)

Shaykhspeare

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