As part of their subject knowledge development, RE PG trainees partook in a subject knowledge development day, focusing on Islamic and Jewish teachings. Before the sessions, they completed subject knowledge audits of both topics (using a GCSE specification) which enabled the sessions to target specifically those areas which they have identified as in need of further work.
For the first session, Lauren Woolley from St Peter’s led an interactive and engaging session on Judaism – taken from the Edexcel specification. The group were joined by a number of Yr10 GCSE students who contributed to the session and who enjoyed their visit to Edge Hill immensely – especially as it coincided with the ‘Well-being’ Event in the hub!
After a short break, Waqaus Ali led the group through the differences in Sunni and Shi’a Islam – discussing differences such as beliefs about Ali, the way in which salat (prayer) is carried out and the controversial issue of ‘temporary marriages’.
In the afternoon, trainees visited ‘At home with…’ run by Liverpool Community Spirit. Sitting in Muslim and Jewish living rooms, they chatted to Hinnah and June about the Islamic and Jewish experiences and were able to build on their sessions from the morning.
The PGCE cohort visited the Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque in Preston as part of their subject knowledge development. In addition to touring the mosque and observing Friday prayers, the group also had a fantastic opportunity to speak to some Yr10 pupils from Preston Muslim Girls High School about their experiences of Islam and what their faith means to them. Thanks Waqaus for a great day as always!
This summer I spent around ten days as a visiting lecturer at Centre for Islamic Theology the University of Tübingen, located on the edge of the beautiful and mysterious Black Forest in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The University of Tübingen, now also known as Eberhard Karls University, was founded in 1477, and has a long-standing history in the fields of theology and philosophy.
I delivered a series of lectures on classical Islamic philosophy, beginning with the definition of “wisdom” (sophia in Greek, hikma in Arabic), then exploring different key foundational philosophers up to the Grand Master of Islamic Philosopher Ibn Sina, known in the Latin West as Avicenna.
As part of the visit, I met local scholars and visited a number of historical locations around the city, including the Stiftskirche (the university church and one of the earliest to convert to Protestantism) and the Bebenhausen monastery on the outskirts of the city.It was exciting to walk around the streets that were once frequented by likes of Lessing, Holderlin, Hegel, Karl Barth, and Rudolf Bultmann! On the final day, I was able to attend a stunning performance by the university’s Philharmonic orchestra of Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St. John Crysostom and Mozart’s Coronation Mass. Still, it was chilling to learn from the signs outside that the concert hall used to be a gathering place for Nazi officers during the Second World War, and the city’s once thriving Jewish community no longer exist.
I would like to thank the assistant director of the centre, Professor Lejla Demiri, for inviting me, as well as all of those who made me feel very welcome as well intellectually/spiritually energised from the visit.
– Harith Ramli, Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Religions
As part of the Subject Knowledge Enhancement course for PGCE RE and UG RE, students visited the Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque in Deepdale, Preston . They were treated to an educative and engaging day which in addition to helping them understand Islamic beliefs and the importance of the mosque, saw them witnessing a Nikah (wedding) ceremony and juma (Friday) prayers. The day ended with them considering the role of the mosque in the community and a chance to construct their own mosque from pasta and marshmallows!
Year 1 Undergraduates at Edge Hill study a module on Islam and as part of that spend a day in the Muslim community in Preston. One of the Year 1 students, Katie, reflected on the day.
We began the day with a talk about the aims of the day, and identifying what we already know, and what we would like to have found out by the end of the day. Everyone was so warm and inviting, I felt really comfortable asking questions, knowing that I would get a thorough response that would help me in my Islam module in university.
The highlight of the day for me, was crossing the road to Preston Muslim High School for Girls and being able to speak to actual students about Islam. I felt that speaking to a ‘normal’ person as opposed to someone who was extremely educated allowed me to identify basic points on which to develop my knowledge. All the girls I spoke to were really polite and answered any questions I had to the best of their abilities.
I also really enjoyed visiting the local Mosque and being able to sit and observe one of the daily prayers. It was such an amazing experience seeing a community come together to pray as one. It was also a good chance to see the diversity of Muslims that were in one small area. Their style of dress tended to show their heritage, and our speaker and guide was able to tell us where they were from based on their clothes.
After the prayer was finished, the Imam came to speak to us and answer anymore questions we had. He told us a little bit about what is was like for a child in Islam, and how they can attend a madrassa to help them learn more about Islam. The whole session was extremely informative and useful for me, as I am in the middle of writing my Islam assignment about Salah (the five daily prayers).
We were also lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to observe a man perform Wudu – the ritual cleansing and purifying a Muslim must do before praying. Again, this was more useful information to use in my assignment, as well as just being really interesting to witness.
All in all, the trip was really eye-opening, and gave a great insight into Islam as both a religion, but also as how it is a way of life for its followers. It was such a worthwhile trip, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go on it!
For Inter-faith week, the University’s Chaplaincy team organised a trip to visit the three Abrahamic faiths’ places of worship in Liverpool. Thre years of Undergraduate students and the PGCE students came together for this fantastic trip.
First year Undergraduate Hailey wrote this about the day:
Arriving at the Cathedral I thought that we had turned up at the wrong place. I had never been to a Cathedral before but this wasn’t the picture that I had in my head as to what it was meant to look like. In my head it was meant to look exactly like a church with an old brown building just much much bigger. I was in for a shock with a white building which resembled that of a large tent. Everything about this Cathedral is very modern. Going inside I was in awe.
The whole place was lit blue and I really couldn’t understand why until our very nice tour guide explained to us that this was due to the architect of the building and that the stain glass windows make the whole place change colour throughout the day symbolising that Jesus is the light. The next thing to catch my eye was a large silver sculpture just hanging from the ceiling, usually going into a church you would never see anything like this which just made this Cathedral much more interesting. This actually symbolises Jesus’ crown he wore when he was crucified. Our guide talked to us a lot about the different roles you can take within the Roman Catholic Church and also about the difference in the different types of Christians explaining why and how they were all so different.
Arriving at the synagogue I was surprised. Walking into the little hallway for some reason I imagined that when he opened the door it would look very similar to inside a Church. How naïve of me. As soon as the two men opened the doors everyone in our group all made a very similar ‘wow’ noise.
It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be and I was completely surprised at how grand the whole place was, also how different it was to a church. Straight away the man started to tell us all of the different things that a Jew would believe in and do within his/her life.
He explained the whole synagogue to us, even down to explaining how the Torah was made and telling us about a fire they had in the late ‘60s. During our trip to the synagogue the university rabbi joined us and he didn’t shy away from telling us everything from marriage in Judaism to the decline that has faced its followers following World War 2. I would personally say that the synagogue was the building I was most in awe at during the trip.
Finally we arrived at the mosque (the first university group that has been allowed in to view it), this being the shortest of the three but they didn’t lack to tell us any information. While they didn’t go into depth with the beliefs involved in Islam they told us all about the building we were in and the founder of the whole thing.
Abdullah Qwilliam was the founder of this mosque, more interestingly this was the first mosque in England. Abdullah Qwilliam was an English convert who wanted to spread his faith among other people within his culture at home. The mosque was closed for a while after Abdullah’s death and Liverpool council opened it as a registry office but more recently has been reopened and they are now working on making it a fully working mosque again and replacing the old traditional things that were there at the beginning such as the organ which Abdullah used to play.
After being there a short while we were asked to move to a different room as it was time to do the call for prayer, I had never heard this before and thought that it was amazing. I would to go back again soon when they have finished restoring it back to the way it used to be.
Life in places of learning tends to follow a seasonal pattern and each year in late summer just prior to the new academic year commencing the RE team at Edge Hill along with eminent visiting tutors delivers a subject knowledge enhancement course . The course is designed to give our new PGCE students a refresher in the basic beliefs and practises of the main world religions and an opportunity to visit local faith communities.
For me, this aspect of the enhancement course really brings what we try to do as RE teachers to life. It puts flesh on the bones of our classroom teaching and allows for honest inquiry and genuine human interaction with living, breathing people of faith communities.
Year 1 undergraduates study a module on Islam. A key part of the course is to meet, talk with and learn from followers of the faith, to get a real life, contemporary understanding of what it means to be a Muslim in 21st Century Britain.
First up we met Yunus Chasma who is a follower of the Sufis. One of the students, Luke commented about what he had learnt:
Sufism is an essence without form. It is independent from everything, and is free from the shackles of religion. Pure Sufism is finding the fullness of knowledge from God, where the worshiper sees God alone in all that he contemplates and at the same time feels a total and ecstatic sense of his presence.
“When the individual self is lost, the universal self is found”. The soul can directly communicate and become united with God, so that a Sufi can be the perfect man.
The following week we had a question and answer session with four Muslim RE PGCE students: Aisha, Shabana, Nasira and Zaleka. The discussion was wide ranging from fasting to prayer, to arranged marriage and even Beyoncé! What was great was to be able to first hand hear about the variety of interpretations of Islam. Athe visitors were able to show how though this answers weren’t always the same they were all Muslims.
The final experience was a day in Preston Muslim Girls High School and the Quwattul Islam Mosque where we met a number of practicing Muslims and had some fantastic experiences.
The day began with Riyaz Timol who is currently completing a PhD at Cardiff on contemporary British Islam. He explained how King Offa had interacted with Islam as early as the Eigth Century, that the first UK Mosque was opened in 1889 in Liverpool and that a large expansion, mainly through Post World War II post colonial immigration meant that there is now close to 2000 mosques. Religion and culture are frequently intertwined within the immigrant community. For many Muslims their religion is just an extension of their culture. For example, arranged marriage is a cultural phenomenon contra to Islam based on the Hadith. FGM would be another example. He spoke about the rise in Islamophobia since 9/11. He suggested that much ‘extremism’ is political grievance dressed up as religious rhetoric. In Riyaz’ experience Imams base their teaching on Qur’an and are not radicalising agents. He recommended a free online course that he is involved in delivering, Muslims in Britain: changes and challenges: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/Muslims-in-Britain
Zahra Patel gave us a perspective of a British Muslim woman. She started wits some group work, asking what does society say about women in connection with religion, education, work and home. She pointed out that at Eton, the uniform gives the boys a proud identity. Zara wears a niqaab for the same reasons. But she is not just “the girl in the niqaab” she is the girl who loves football, pizza and watching Rafael Nadal!! She is a feminist, and not in any way the oppressed woman the media would paint her as.
We were then treated to a delicious vegetable biryani, before going over the road to the Quwattul Islam Mosque to observe the zuhr prayers, an inspiring experience, before meeting the Imam.
Imam Ismail explained he is the leader of Salah, but there is no priesthood in Islam. His other roles include marriage ceremonies, funerals, teaching the children in the madrasah, mediating disputes and dispensing advice. On a Friday he gives a khutbah, a sermon which is written by the imam in response to the perceived needs of the congregation one week this is in Urdu, the next in English. Women are allowed to the mosque , but this mosque doesn’t have facilities due to the cultural heritage of the mostly Gujerati congregation. He explained that Men and women must worship separately because there would be the possibility of distraction if they were together.
Waqaus Ali, our host then took us on a tour of the Mosque, explaining many of the beliefs and customs associated with the faith, including wuzu, giving zakat and sadaqah, and of course prayer.
We then had a chance to meet a number of year 10 pupils from the school and talk to them about various important aspects of the faith, including the Qur’an, Muhammad and the five pillars. This was really fascinating, being able to hear such eloquent young members of the Islamic faith.
The day ended with a plenary feedback activity, where it was clear that the students had learnt much from the many Muslims they had been able to meet and discuss with. These experiential learning opportunities are key features of the course and will enable the students to complete their assignment, but also to teach Islam with conviction on their school placements.
Paul Smalley and a small number of Year 1 Undergraduate RE students were recently invited to take part in the Cheshire West & Chester SACRE Primary Pupil conference. This two-day event, funded by a generous grant from NASACRE and organised by Naomi Anstice, was held at the Forest Hills Hotel in Frodsham and brought together over 100 primary school children from a range of primary schools
The session we had been invited to deliver was an experiential Hajj. Pupils from Years 5 and 6 began by hearing about how Muslim pilgrims enter a state of Ihram before the begin their pilgrimage. Pupils then washed their hands, promised to themselves that they would enter into the activities as much as possible and try to do their best, before donning a sheet of white flipchart paper. This made us realise how pilgrims get a real sense of unity when all are dressed the same.
The children circled the Ka’ba, before hearing a story and replicating Hajar’s desperate seach for water as they looked for a hidden bottle of ‘Special Zam-Zam Water’. Before bedding down for the first (rather noisy!) night, pupils used iPads to record the first of their video diaries.
I enjoyed the Hajj acting and learnt that Muslims get to go to sleep on pilgrimage
The video diaries helped me to remember what we had already done
The pupils held their hands up on the Mount of mercy whilst thinking about what problem they would want solving in the world, or what they had done wrong and might need to put right. They listened to the story of Ibrahim’s sacrifice and then, before the second night’s video diary and ‘sleep’, they each collected seven post it notes from around the room.
I liked learning about the story of Ibraham and how he sacrificed a sheep instead of his son
Today I learned about the pilgrims going on Hajj and I enjoyed acting the different parts and using the ipads to record our family diary
The next morning the pupils thought deeply and wrote on their post it notes seven things that they might be tempted to do, even though they know they are bad, before scrunching them up and throwing them at a jamarah, like the pillars representing Shaytan in Makkah.
I really enjoyed the pilgrimage today
Then to celebrate Eid-ul-adha, a sheep (cake) was sacrificed and shared out by each family, before compleing Hajj with a final Tawaf and a last video diary.
I loved sacrificing the sheep cake
I loved making a film and sacrificing a sheep
We liked the practical way to introduce Hajj to children
Good ideas for teachers to take back to schools. Our children partically enjoyed the experiential Hajj and it was good to hear then reflect about our RE lessons back in school.
Two former PGCE students, now serving teachers, returned to Edge Hill to talk about life as a Muslim in 21st Century England.
Sabrina Hussain completed her PGCE RE in 2008 and teaches RE at Oasis Academy in Oldham. Arsalan Aslam completed his PGCE RE in 2009 and now leads the teaching of RE at Al Jamiah Al Islamiyyah Darul Uloom in Bolton, a Muslim boys’ day and boarding school.
After a brief introduction where our two guests shared a little of their life stories, students had the opportunity to ask questions on a range of topics related to Islamic beliefs and practices in readiness both for their upcoming assignments and also for when they teach Islam in schools.
It was fascinating to have two Muslims who practise their faith in different ways and see that in Islam, as with all religions is internally contested and fuzzy edged (Jackson, 1997). Students came away from the session ready to wite their assignments and looking forward to being able to teach about Islam as a real living religion during their placements.