Year 1 and Year 3 undergraduates enjoyed spending a day in the Islamic community in Preston as part of their Module on Islam.
We were able to once again benefit from the hospitality and wisdom of Waqaus Ali ot ThinkBrite. The day began with an introduction and then a brief visit to see some of the youngest members of the Islamic community in the Pre-school at Little Sparkles Nursery.
Waqaus then spoke about Islam as a Way of Life – a deen – and was joined by Abdul Hafeez Darr, who is a partner in a legal firm and was able to include some practical examples of living life as a Muslim.
After some refreshments at lunchtime, the first highlight of the afternoon session was a visit to Abrar Academy, an Outstanding Independent Islamic boys’ school. There we were treated to a very rare spectacle: being able to watch the Friday Jummah prayers being led by a student at the school. afterwards we were able to talk to the headteacher, Mr Anayath Chowdhury who spoke about the school’s ethos, curriculum and plans for the future. all were struck by how amazingly calm the school was.
The day ended at the Madina Masjid, where we were able to see all of the facilities in this purpose built mosque.
As part of their Islam module, Year 1 and Year 3 undergraduates were visited by former student Kulsum Issa and Yunus Chasma in order to educate us about the spiritual movement of Sufism.
Yunus explained the beliefs that Sufis have and the origins of the movement. In many ways Sufism is like Islam taken to another spiritual level, where loving the beloved (God) is all important. Different levels of devotion were made clear – Shariat (the law), Tariqat (the path), Haqiqat (the journey) and Marifat (the destination).
Two members of the production team from BBC Religion and Ethics, Nick Holden Sim and Charlotte Hindle, recently came and spoke to Undergraduate Secondary RE students at Edge Hill.
The BBC is making a series of 10 minute films for the Learning Zone for use in KS4 RE classes. The films will follow a group of six modern day pilgrims as they explore the 5 common RE themes of revelation, evil and suffering, life after death, marriage and divorce and human sexuality/sexual relationships through three perspectives – Christianity, Islam and non religious world views. This enables us to look in depth at the issues in a way that is most relevant to the syllabus and exam criteria.
The six students who will go on a voyage of enquiry on behalf of the audience. The group will be made up of two Christians two Muslims and two non believers who will witness a series of religious events, question the participants, and afterwards discuss the diversity of opinions held with in the group. Charlotte and Nic discussed the themes and talked to the students about the work of BBC Religion and Ethics generally. It might be that some of our students end up taking part in the films.
Term has started early at Edge Hill, with our annual Subject Knowledge Booster Course. This course was originally funded by the TDA to help those with non-Theology or Religious Studies degrees enter RE PGCE courses. We at Edge Hill found these courses to be so useful that we have continued them after the central funding has stopped – so that Edge Hill PGCE students can have an advantage at the start of their course. These free courses have proved so popular that even graduates with Theology degrees now attend and find them hugely beneficial. This year was another first as two students who will be joining our Undergraduate Secondary RE course via our fast-track route have taken the course to improve their subject qualifications.
This nine day course is jam-packed with a day focusing on each religion, beginning with a lead session in the morning led by academics from Edge Hill or other institutions such as Paul Walsh from Newman University College and Professor David Waines of Lancaster. The afternoons entail a period of paired research and a final plenary session. The highlight of the course is a field trip to Preston where students visit a Hindu Mandir and a Buddhist Centre in the morning and in the afternoon a Mosque and Muslim High School. The final assessment is a portfolio of research notes and a paired presentation on one of the six major world faiths.
We’re glad to say that everyone found the course fantastic fun, as well as a great way to Boost their subject Knowledge before starting their QTS courses!
Yunus Chasma came to Edge Hill University to talk to Year 3 students about Sufism as both a journey and a destination. He said that Sufism is ‘independent of any other religion’ and is a way of living and being. Students were introduced to the idea of Allah as the Beloved, and learnt about a lot of different Sufi Masters. We discussed ‘Who am I’ and what defines us and how we feel about Love (different kinds of love and the feelings associated with Love), we also discussed Love and the self. Sufism surpasses the laws of Shariat (the law) and instead goes through to Tariqat (the path), Haqiqat (the journey) and Marifat (the destination).
Students thought it was really insightful and awakening; Yunus made comparisons with Christianity (Jesus) which made difficult concepts more relatable and understandable, it provided a good perspective of a Sufi’s relationship with Allah. It was good to hear first hand what Makkah was like as an experience, Yunus was very open and honest. We really enjoyed the different analogies used (even if non religious) to help us understand, for example the Elephant story. We found that the visit was in the right place and was pitched really well.
Almost a dozen Mentors, Lecturers and consultants were able to attend the RE Subject Network’s recent twilight session held at Byrchall High School.
We were privileged to have the input of Emma Mcvittie who explained how her ME! resource was helping pupils develop spiritual literacy in both primary and secondary settings nationwide. This was followed by a general discussion of good practice from around the partnership led by Gill Robinson of Rose Bridge High School.
Waqaus Ali spoke to us about the work of ThinkBrite Services who can lead Inset for staff, provide visitors to schools or create a tailored day visiting a local Mosque. Edge Hill Students have benefited from Waqaus’ expertise for many years.
Gill concluded the evening with some national updates, around many issues including the RE Council’s consultation report on the proposed New National RE Framework. It was a while before people left, though, as people spent time with our visitors exploring the possibility of doing further work together.
Our 17 PGCE RE students have concluded their Subject Knowledge Booster Course with a visit to three places of worship in Preston.
First stop was at the Gujarat Hindu Centre, where Biku Patel spoke about the history of the Gujarati Hindu community in Preston and told students about some of the practices that take place at the centre. There was plenty of opportunities to take pictures of the beautiful, ornate Mandir.
Only a short walk away was the Vajravarahi Kadampa Buddhist Centrewhere Kelsang Pagpa reminded students of some of the fundamentals of Buddhism and the distinctive nature of the New Kadampa tradition of Buddhism. The questioning and discussion was deep and well informed.
Finally a quick drive across the city to the Madina Mosque in the Fishwick area for a quick sandwich before Zuhr prayers. Waqaus Ali then explained to the trainees the concept of Islam as a Deen – a way of life.
The trainees found the whole day, and in fact the whole fortnight, illuminating, and an outstanding preparation for their PGCE RE course.
As part of their third year undergraduate module on Islam, students visited Preston to hear first hand what life was like for a Muslim in the UK in the 21st century. In the morning the trainees visited Fulwood Academy where they were able to interview a number of young Muslim students. They found the youngsters to have widely varying ideas of what it meant to be a Muslim, from the very observant to those who seemed ready to challenge.
After a quick lunch we visited the Medina Mosque in the afternoon. As well as a tour of the facilities and the opportunity to observe the zuhr congregational prayers students were given a very thorough presentation of Islam as a deen by Waqaus Ali of Thinkbrite Services. Waqaus talked of how faith could be thought of as having three levels: Islam, Iman and Ishan. He also spoke about historical and contemporary issues surrounding Islam.
“it has brought the religion of Islam out of the textbook and into real life and society that we can now transfer into the classroom”
Here are a selection of photographs taken during the fieldtrip: