Islamic Council of NSW (ICNSW), under its program of Islamic Special Religious Education (ISRE) has been educating and empowering Muslim  youth in NSW since 1982. Over the years, thousands of volunteers have visited hundreds of public schools teaching foundational lessons ranging from Tawheed to addressing the contemporary issues of the youth today.

The assumption that being born into an Islamic home guarantees Islamic knowledge, manners and sound upbringing is widely off the mark. The reality is for a large number of Muslim students, ISRE is the only source of Islamic knowledge they receive.

ISRE programs do not get delivered in a vacuum. A team of volunteers work behind the scenes to produce resources such as videos, online content, worksheets for teachers to use as well as training modules. The resources are distributed by dedicated regional volunteer supervisors to over 500 teachers across NSW.

Just the printing costs are astronomical, exceeding $100,000 each year.

The syllabus is also designed to teach Muslim youth how to navigate their way in life by applying Islamic guidance and using reflection as a tool to develop their Islamic identity. In turn the lessons encourage students to be accountable, responsible members of the community who demonstrate excellent character.

Community to support for ISRE is rendered by volunteering their time as a teacher, giving us feedback and helping in finding ways to support the volunteers. There is always need for more volunteers.

Many volunteers cannot commit to a ISRE class if the school has placed it at the beginning or end of the school day. The commitment sought is just 30 minutes in a week.

Following ISRE volunteers lunch on Saturday 3 September, the SRE team were inundated with messages of support and thanks by  ISRE volunteers.

One of these volunteers is Megan and her story is reproduced below:

Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

My name is Megan, I am a volunteer scripture teacher at two schools in Sydney, Alhumdulilah. I am writing to express my gratitude and thanks to all those involved with ISRE.

Firstly a thank you for organising such a successful event to celebrate, inspire and encourage the community leaders, members, existent (and future) volunteers. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to meet other volunteers and hear their experiences and listen to such speeches that moved me to tears and cemented in my heart that I am where I am meant to be. That my time spent with scripture is so precious, not that my time is precious, but that my time in scripture class is precious.

I feel so privileged to be able to be a part of this. Thank you for allowing it to be so accessible and easy to be a teacher, making it easy to qualify takes away the pressure to have a certain background or skills or experience to participate.

I moved from the central coast to send my kids to be in a school surrounded by Muslims, to have scripture and ultimately for me to teach them scripture. As I know how important it is for children to have access to this, to share it with their school peers and have something in their school that celbrates their beleifs. I was able to do this and feel so honoured that there has been ground work done to enable parents to do this. Thank you.

I thoroughly enjoy the content that we have been teaching this year and find it is so beneficial to not only my students (kindy, year 4, year 2 and 3 – now switched to year 1 and 5 for term 3), but also beneficial to myself! I am learning and so dedicated to understand and love what I am teaching. I find myself researching more and practising my lessons on friends and family who also benefit from these topics and learn more or re-new their love for the deen. Alhumdulilah.

The work booklets and content is just so relevant and enjoyable for the students. They are taking in so much and hanging off my every word. Teachers from each school/grade are commenting on how relevant these topics are to what’s going on in the classroom and so important for the students to hear. Also they express how having a muslim teach them these lessons are significant for them.

I have had positive feedback from the teachers and assistants on how well the lessons are received, how well the students behave, focus, engage and participate. What has made this comment so profound is that they explain how this class (year 4) is the “toughest” or “most misbehaved” class with many “difficulties”, therefore for them to be engaged, respectful and learning is a big deal and incredibly rewarding for the teacher to see. SubhanAllah.

I do not take any credit for this, I tell the teachers they are wonderful students and they have such love for their deen and just want to be seen, heard, understood and loved. I believe bringing Islam into their classroom lights up their day and connects them to Allah again. As soon as we recite surah Al Fatiha you can feel the room covered in Allah’s mercy and blessings. Such a big shift. There are those who are learning this surah and feel shy yet encouraged to try.

This always brings me to tears. This is so crucial to their wellbeing, to their schooling and to their life. I truly think this 30mins a week is making a difference. Again it’s not from me, it’s from the content we are sharing, the fact we are there for them, and offcourse its from the love and power of Allah swt Allah Akbar.

They appreciate we are volunteers and not being paid to spend time with them, this makes them feel we truly do care. I’ve been asked by the students do I actually care about them and why? Do I enjoy coming here? Will I always come back? And they are delighted to know my responses, mashaAllah. They just want to share everything they know and be involved. How privileged and blessed am I to be able to see them grow and learn. Alhumdulilah.

The students I am told that are “naughty” tend to be the ones who want to engage the most and so this cements for me in my heart that they just need to be given a chance, to be given this space to feel at home and Safe hearing about Allah and that Allah loves them, sees them and is with them always. Allah Akbar.

I have had a substitute teacher who sat in on the class interrupt the class and say, “wow, I am learning so much about your religion that I did not know before. I am actually learning your religion is good, and those who are trying to follow their religion are trying to do good. This is so important to know as a non Muslim as I do not see this in the classroom. I have seen it during this lesson and I hope you can continue with these good things in the classroom…”.

At first I was taken aback by her comment, but then I realised her honesty and raw feelings were truly important to hear. That this dawah work is important for teachers who are supervising, and for the kids to learn the importance of character, manners and so many more life lessons. To respect all people and creations of Allah.

Alhumdulilah I pray that all the work done by ISRE and the volunteers will always be beneficial and rewarded highly in this life and on the day of judgement. That there will be ease for the volunteers to continue their work, that Ar Razaq will provide for them to continue to take time out to do this important work.

I pray that all the lessons taught will be instilled in the student’s hearts and be outwardly expressed throughout their life so that they too can continue the dawah work and be the best of representatives for our beautiful religion. Ameen.

I pray that the community and leaders will prioritise the importance of Islamic scripture in schools and enable this to continue with ease and great volume and success, Aameen.