In conversation with Munira Ben R.
Photography Alifiya Z. S.
Foreword Batul S.
Many before us have claimed that being an educator is nothing short of nobility. Nobility is a loaded word but Munira Ben embraces it with dedication matched by few others.
Munira Ben is an educator of Ilm-e Aale Mohammad. She has dedicated 29 years of her life crafting and moulding minds of Maulana’s farzando and continues to do so with great passion.
Pick any student who has been under her guidance and they’ll talk about her patience, impartiality and the values she exudes.
Ask any colleague or friend and they’ll tell you how dependable and supportive she is.
Ask her daughters and they’ll beam with pride, knowing that she has literally taught generations of children.
Join us on Mighzal and read all about her! In conversation with Munira Ben R., or Munira Teacher, as her students lovingly call her!
I have always been a confident vocal person
Give us a brief glimpse into your childhood? What was it like growing up? Your dreams and aspirations? Hobbies?
I have always been a stage person, taking part in school plays, elections and class competitions. I have been a confident vocal person; be it at home or in the classroom. My parents motivated me to do my best in class and have always been my role models. I grew up to be very balanced child in terms of academics and extracurriculars and hence, my parents decided to send me to Aljamea tus Saifiyah, Surat.
Through my teenage years, I was in Jamea. I tried to acquire the Ilm of Aale Mohammad (SAW) to the best of my abilities as I always wanted to achieve Maula’s khushi and make my parents proud. My dream was to become a caring daughter, an amazing wife, a great mother and an ideal teacher. I want my daughters to pick up on the knowledge I have learnt through my years, from my parents and Al-Jamea.
My hobbies have changed with age but I still love puzzles; of any kind. I like crosswords too. Recently, I have challenged myself to do a 4000 piece jigsaw puzzle.
Life is so unpredictable.
Looking back, how would you say your life turned out compared to what you had imagined?
I am truly blessed. I have no words to thank Allah, but I will definitely say shukranlillah.
I am what I am today because of my Maulas’ and parents’ duas. I had never imagined that after studying till Adarajatus Sabea (Class 7) in Jamea, I would get an opportunity to go to a country where I would be the first muntasebaat to actually represent Jamea.
As for Singapore, never in my wildest dreams had I thought of settling here. I was ready to stay a few blocks away from my parents in Mumbai, next to Raudat Tahera but life is so unpredictable. Since then I have been given countless opportunities to do khidmat of Dai Zaman in different ways that have hopefully made a positive impact on the people here in Singapore.
Jamea is truly a journey, where you start alone but along the way, make friends that last a lifetime.
What was Jamea like?
Jamea is Jamea. No school or University can substitute for it. It is an institution that belongs to a Dai and is taken care of by a Shafeeq bawa who looks into the welfare of each and every child, as his own. Jamea, Dai ni zaat mubaraka che ane har talabatul illm aa Dai na kanaf ma mohto thai che.
Jamea is truly a journey, where you start alone but along the way, make friends that last a lifetime. Every student there has a common goal – to groom and prepare one’s jaan and put in immense effort leading up to the day of shafai imtehan, where one gets the opportunity to sit in front of Maula. That is the essence of Jamea.
I will keep doing so till my last breath
Why a teacher? How long have you been teaching? Have you ever thought of having a different career?
After completing my education in Jamea, it was waajib on me to give zakat – mara ilm ni zakat. Teaching was the only khidmat I felt I could do in shukur and with Maula’s raza mubarak. I got the opportunity to do khidmat in Al-Madrasa-tus-Saifiyatul-Burhaniyah, Mumbai, now known as Madrasah Saifiyah Burhaniyah (MSB). This school was Maula’s vision and I was blessed to be a part of it.
I started off and gradually gained confidence. Spending time with children gave me great satisfaction and taught me a thing or two on how to handle my own children.
I have been teaching for almost 29 years now and if Maula grants me raza, I will keep doing so till my last breath, inshallah.
If I hadn’t joined the teaching industry, I would have been a businesswoman. My father is my inspiration. I often went to his shop and took care of his business when he went overseas. Inshallah, one day agar Khuda imkaan kari aape.
A teacher is more often than not, like a second mother to every child
What do you believe is the role and importance of a teacher?
To ensure that she teaches every child with responsibility. I, as a madrasa teacher, have always kept Maula’s kalaam engraved in my heart.
“Aa farzando tamara nazdeek maari amanat che.“
This kalaam ensures that I treasure each and every child and groom them to their best abilities.
A teacher is more often than not, like a second mother to every child.
This makes it necessary that I leave no stone unturned in finding a child’s true potential.
A teacher should be one who not only teaches, but also inspires her students to practice what is taught. “Illm na saathe laazim amal che” – these kalaam have always been my inspiration and motivation to teach. I believe in “Practice before you preach”, that actions speak louder than words. This is more powerful than anything else. These are the two quotes I live by in my teaching profession.
The most rewarding thing about this khidmat is seeing my students grow up, ready to do their part.
What is the most rewarding part about your job?
Being a Madrasah teacher is not a job for me. It is purely my humble khidmat for my beloved Aqa Maula (TUS). I am privileged that I got the sharaf of doing Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s (RA) khidmat, and today Aqa Syedna Aali Qadr Mufaddal Saifuddin’s (TUS) khidmat. This khidmat would not have been possible without the support of my husband and I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart.
The most rewarding thing about this khidmat is seeing my students grow up, ready to do their part. Their readiness to say “Labaik ya dai allah” at Maula’s every farmaan- it gives me immense joy and pride.
Every child has access to Google and can easily search up any kind of information their curious mind demands of them.
What would you say is the toughest challenge, how do you overcome it?
The toughest challenge is to compete with today’s technological age. Every child has access to Google and can easily search up any kind of information their curious mind demands of them. We have to ensure that we engrave in them the understanding of right from wrong and good from bad. We have to ensure repeatedly that they are not driven towards all the worldly influences and stay sabit (grounded) on deen and follow our Dais’ footsteps.
Being a wife, mother, teacher and mumina- how do these identities intertwine for you?
I was born a daughter and always had a sense of responsibility towards my parents. I owe them my life for all that they sacrificed. This realisation helped me groom myself as a muminah. Then, during my Jamea years, Maula’s tarbiyat groomed me to become the wife, mother and teacher I am now.
These four identities are so intertwined for me that if one identity is to strive for excellence, the other three will just flow automatically.
Every child giving a Madrasa imtehan is my imtehan
As students, we know you have it easy. You read from the book, relax while we attempt your hard exams, and just love making us suffer. Do you admit it?
I disagree. You may feel like this during school exams, but if you ask me, I would say that teaching every child is a very big responsibility on us as Madrasah teachers. Every lesson of mine, every word I say, has an impact on the child because it’s grooming a soul. Jaan tayyaar karwa nu che, e mara nazdeek amanat che.
Every child giving a Madrasah imtehan is my imtehan. If they are able to attempt it successfully, it means I have succeeded in teaching them the importance of Dai, deen and dawat. And if they are unable to attempt, it means I need to work harder to ensure that if not in the paper, in front of Maula they appear ready. Maula par fida thawa ne tayyar.
So basically, if you suffer, I am suffering too. If you succeed, I rejoice with you.
All that I have is given to me by my Maula, from my name to my identity.
What kind of impact or legacy do you hope to leave with your students?
Nothing I have belongs to me to leave behind as legacy. All that I have is given to me by my Maula, from my name to my identity. I do however hope that whenever my students see me or remember me, they remember that I am from Jamea, Maula’s Jamea, and they too get inspired to go to Jamea and do khidmat of Maula in any way they can. They should always have the jazbo for khidmat and never miss an opportunity for it. Maula par fida thawa nu jazbo.
I remember my Father telling me, “Dikra Maula ni khidmat karwane firshtawo hazir thai che. Jo agar tame nai karo to koi bijo to karwane tayaar thayaj jase.”
What has being a teacher taught you?
Every student is different and you should never be biased towards or against any of them. If you love your students unconditionally, they will never forget you.
…Maula counted the names on his fingers and smiled away
Your favorite memory of Maula? Or his kalemaat nooraniyah that inspires you daily or the work you do.
I have a treasure box filled with uncountable memories and bayans of Maula. I always inspire my students by showing them Maula’s shaanaat, to make them understand that Maula is like us but not like us. He is a firishta here to guide and enlighten us.
I have memories of ziyafats, qadambosis, talaqis and even the azeem sharaf of making Maula wear his jooti. But the most unforgettable memory I have is of my Shafahi imtehan.
Aqa Burhanuddin Maula (RA) samne kursi par tashreef rakhta hata, looking at each one of us sitting across the room. I was nervous and could feel the butterflies in my stomach but I looked up to get taufiq from Maula. I was afraid of how I would speak in front of him, I didn’t want to make any mistakes. Before I knew it, I was there sitting in front of Aqa Burhanuddin Maula (RA) and Aqa Mufaddal Maula (TUS) who was one of the Amirul Jamea at that time.
I cannot forget how Burhanuddin Maula (RA) questioned me, “Rasulullah (SAW) na kitna naam che?” and when I was answering, Maula counted the names on his fingers and smiled away. After that, Mufaddal Maula (TUS) asked me two more questions. It was a 100% Maulas yaari in those moments, that gives one the courage to answer. And of course, seeing Maulas tabassum, you feel so accomplished.
Talabul ilm farizatan ala kule Muslim wa Muslima- Ilm talab karwu farizat che har Muslim mard ane Muslima bairo par.
Can you elaborate on it a little? In regards to misunderstandings that dikriyo should just study home science. But its stated explicitly that ilm is farizat on Muslim and Muslimah. Although women can technically come under the banner of muslims, the use of muslimah is obviously to emphasize.
Ilm encompasses both deeni ilm and duniyawi ilm. Aqa Syedna Taher Saifuddin (RA) ye khaas dikriyo waaste school qaim kidi. This school had both Madrasah syllabus as well as mainstream school syllabus. This is proof that Maula wanted us to acquire both kinds of knowledge. This itself shows how important it is to educate a dikri.
Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (RA) included “tadbeerul manzali” in Jamea syllabus. This was to prepare every talebaat to not only be good with books, but hands on with everything.
Today, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin (TUS) is encouraging young girls more towards home science education. So all 3 Maulas have always encouraged muminah to acquire ilm of deen and duniya.
Maula has never stopped a woman from educating herself and building a career. But he did encourage us to take up professions je ma tamaro pardo rahe, tamaro lihaaz rahe. We have doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers and many more who are doing great in their fields with the raza and dua of Aqa Maula (TUS).
The reason why Mula places an extra emphasis on home science education is because he sees it as beneficial, not only for the woman but for her whole family as well. Home is the place where you begin to grow as an individual, as a muminah. It is where we are prepared well for all aspects of our lives. It’s the first place where we start learning and teaching. And as a muminah, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we are well qualified to groom ourselves and our family.
There is a very famous quote, I’m sure you must have heard it. “When you educate a man, you educate an individual but when you educate a woman, you educate an entire family.” This is basically what Maula is trying to achieve.
Even Rasulullah’s hadis has mentioned “talabul illme farizatun” and farizat means compulsory.
So if a muminah has both the ilm of deen and duniya, I am sure she will not only benefit herself but her family, her community and the society as well. Simply because, ilm na saathe laazim amal che. You have to apply what you are taught to make a change.
Khuda Taala apne Aqa Maula (TUS) ni dua ni barakat si ilm parhwani, amal karwani yaari ane toufiq aape ane hamara Aqa Maula (TUS) nu thando sayo hamara par hamesha baaqi raakhe. Khuda aap ni umre shareef ne qayamat na din lag daraaz ane daraaz kare. Ameen.