When we hear the word competition, some of the first things that come to mind are sports and athletic competitions or other co-curriculars such as debates and elocution competitions or perhaps, even arts and crafts competitions. However, at Al Manarat Heights Islamic School, we have a vision of nurturing our students in the light of the Quran and the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). With this vision in mind, we have developed a broad range of additional competitions for our students that specifically revolve around perfecting our embodiment of Islam. Competitions are a great way for students to experience a host of topics such as, participation, effort, teamwork, excellence, wins and losses; and overall attain a deeper understanding of Islam which is at the heart of each competition.
The first of such competitions discussed in this blog is the Annual Khutbah (sermon) Competition which took place in early February 2022. All students from grades 1 through 8 participated in delivering a khutbah or an Islamically motivated speech. This competition was divided into two streams of participants based on their gender and age. All the male students of grades 4 through 8 delivered khutbahs which were of 10-15 minutes in length. All the female students of grades 1 through 8 and the younger males of grades 1 through 4 delivered speeches instead of the khutbahs. These speeches were timed between 2 minutes for the youngest ones to 10 mins for the oldest ones. The intention behind this competition was to educate all our students about the importance of the Friday khutbah and to specifically train the older boys firsthand in delivering factually Islamic and relevant khutbahs (sermons) with proper knowledge, confidence, and poise. We believe that in a framework of Islamic schooling in the West, it is very important to educate our future khateebs from a young age so that inshaAllah, when they grow up, they can lead their local congregations with the right knowledge and the right adab (mannerisms).
To prepare for this competition, students were granted more than a month in preparation time and were asked to pick a topic of their choice from a list of 70+ topics. They were encouraged to pick something that they had studied/learnt over the years and felt comfortable presenting. The female students had to pick topics from themes of women leadership in Islam, well-known female companions of the Prophet (PBUH), etc. All the home room teachers and the Islamic studies teachers played a vital role in coaching the students on their chosen topics, by providing them appropriate content, and ensuring that their speeches and khutbahs were delivered within time limits, and ready for the competition.
Both the khutbahs and the speeches during the competition were graded with highly detailed rubrics that were used to assign relevant points to each speaker. The grading criteria included the speakers’ physical appearance and presentation, the structure and content of the khutbah, proper delivery of the khutbah as per the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), their understanding of the content being presented, as well as their adherence to prescribed time limits. Similar marking criteria were used for the speeches as well. Based on the points obtained in the first round, speakers were promoted to the second round where they were again judged amongst their peers, and the top 3 khateebs and speakers from each grade were picked as winners. They were presented with winners medals as well as some books of knowledge commemorating their well-deserved distinction in the competition.
The second competition that is discussed in this blog is the Dua Competition. As we know, dua is the essence of worship. Without knowing the proper etiquettes of making dua and beseeching Allah (SWT), our worship can feel empty and mechanical. Based on this thought, we regularly teach our students the various duas prescribed in the Quran by Allah (SWT) himself as well as other masnoon duas. After every Duhr prayer at school, students sit in several smaller groups for 10-15 minutes to recite all the duas that they have memorized till that day. Students who know only 20 or so duas are grouped together with others who are in a similar position and the ones who have memorized all 40 duas are grouped together to recite and refresh their memories.
The dua competition was also held last month (in February 2022) to test our students on their memorization of the 40 Quranic Duas. All the students of grades 1 through 8 participated in this competition and based on the years they have spent being students at Al Manarat Heights, they were asked to recite either the first 20 Quranic duas or all 40 of them in sequence. Based on the beautiful recitations of dozens of students, three winners were then picked from each grade, and they were acknowledged, appreciated, and presented with books as their prize.
While these competitions keep our students on their toes and inculcate friendly competition amongst their peers, it is also worthwhile to note that through these competitions, we can have all our students practice public speaking and oratory skills. Being able to speak comfortably in front of an audience is a skill we aim to develop in every single student at Al Manarat Schools. We believe that our students ought to be able to communicate confidently, clearly, and with an excellent speech, just as our Prophet (PBUH) was known to do.