By Kamoru Sodiq

Necessity is the mother of invention goes a saying. I totally agree with the logic of that maxim in theory and in practice. We need serious invention in order to accelerate our Arabic learning system into a super league where standard and competition dictate the tune. Our traditional method of transferring Arabic education deserves state of emergency. It is absolutely infantile and ineffective in production. The existing structure is in variants. Some types are as old as time. This invariably renders its disciples to be living past their time. 

The suitability of such knowledge only remains in the olden days when someone would be regarded as an Alfa though he hardly recite Quran. The style has many peculiar features anywhere you find it. It has as its strength the philosophy of humility, respect and sacrifice but lacks knowledge substance to complement its virtues. It emphasizes lessons of ethical uprightness. Little wonder, many of the Alfas we parade in our society belong to this school of thought. They can train and rebuild your moral characters. If it is morality, give it to them.

They control substantial followers and worshippers but the sad story is that they feed them with pseudo knowledge and in some cases misguided orientation of Islam. No one should reason in vain, you can only give what you have. Despite this, they continue to take precedence in position not in function. With profound respect, the pattern of knowledge they are handing down to innocent learners amounts to no-knowledge. The reason is simple. It does not fit in modern time. But everyone wants to blow his/her whistle. Our people will never allow sincerity and standard to be the judge.

As the bad and the ugly one continue to take on the pace, there emerge from a no-where distance the good type. It is substance filled, stuffy and time limited. The structure is purely founded on international standard where learners can acquire the knowledge and compete with anyone wherever he comes from. Thanks to many who midwifed its possibility. In this group, learners vocalize in Arabic language fluently and eloquently. Within three or four years, you get to memorize the whole Quran and recite in grand style. 
You get to interprete Arabic books without let or hindrance. The working of this approach is just remarkable and incredible.
However, this kind of paradigm shift from the traditional trend does not come on a platter of gold. It is like a capital project. It requires robust spending if result will come out. The pattern of its investment is business in nature. It needs huge finance, competent teachers and standard structure. Here lies the focus of this epistle. In my humble opinion, the invention and resuscitation may take any form. The very first reality is that, Arabic teachers are not in an enviable positions at all. In our community, to be an Arabic expert is to be less fortunate. It is difficult to expect change if we continue to appreciate our Malams and Alfas in denial. No invention will fly so long our Arabic teachers are celebrated in poverty. We believe they should work and get paid in heaven. 
We see them as our running boy and attach no dignity to them in real sense. 
How many of us want our sons lived the way of Alfa? The fact is, we know the type of lifestyle they live and the kind of profile they keep. I doubt if there is any serious Muslim today who feels Arabic teachers are fairly treated and sufficiently remunerated. We cannot preach integrity when we are lacking in such integrity itself. We fail to recognise the obvious fact that they deserve decent salary, no matter what. We always love to use them and dump them like a refuge. It is so easy to make fanciful promises in gatherings and occasions. But how long will they spend in hopes and promises?

It is impossible today for an average Nigerian to survive on his normal income. I still don’t know how most Arabic teachers manage to run their home and family on casual stipends! Some don’t receive anything at all. Many are on no-pay-roll for life. And come to think about it, you must pay for transport, feed on something and cough out sundry bills. This reality has driven some into utter desperation and the need to resist the temptations of surviving by fire and by force. We must be ready to support them in kind and in cash. If things will get straight, it is imperative to start with the mystical hens that will lay the golden eggs.

Having got things done in this direction, the next honourable step to go is to put in place well furnished structure. Platforms that would automatically induce and attract even lethargic learners. A conducive environment is key to learning in modern time. Of utmost important is the welfare of students. Arabic learners need help in all ramifications. We can actually show them encouragement and support by giving out scholarship and free opportunities. We can be part of their struggle by agitating for their rights and privileges. 

Of many things handy in this regard is to give their certificate a life. The certificate they are carrying around is simply a dead horse. It needs life for it to run its race with full wheel. Arabic learners are living on uncertainty throughout the course of their study. After graduation, there is no hope in sight. They are forced to keep their certificate inside cupboard and looking up to fate. Nothing could be more discouraging! The level of hopelessness within them could be cut with a blade.

As Muslims today, it is an understatement to say that we have many wealthy hands and intellectual minds around. In fact, they are in excess. The whistle is blown already long before the race. Here is the Quran and Sunnah directing and  admonishing us to invest in the cause of Allah. Q 61: 10-11, “O you who believe! Shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful torment? ” That you believe in Allah and His messenger and that you strive hard and fight in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives; that will be better for you, if you but know! It is purely noble to heed the call to redeem our Arabic educational system from its supersonic slump from grace to grass. It is bleeding in stages and disgrace in all fairness.

The campaign to reverse this ugly narrative is launched already. Everybody agrees change is inevitable. Let keep the struggle alive and circulate it wide and far. I know it is possible and realizable to come by. It is only a test of time and will. Little by little the hen built its nest. I believe, the way to go is clear enough; with resolve, relentless efforts and Allah on our side, we can all make it happen.

Sodiq wrote via kamorusideeq@gmail.com

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