I went to Weekend School for over nine years at Islamic Foundation in Villa Park, Illinois. There were three main classes – tajweed, tafseer, and tarykh. Tajweed is the study of how to pronounce Quranic Arabic correctly. Tafseer is often translated as “exegesis,” but honestly, how helpful is that? Tafseer is the study of what the Quran means. It includes obvious, apparent meanings, as well as more subtle, deeper meanings. Tarykh is history. We studied political history, focusing on key leaders, battles they fought, and the lands they conquered.
It might appear, from that description, that I learned a great deal at Islamic Foundation. But I wish I had learned more. I wish they had taught me more. I was a high school senior from 1999 to 2000. My Weekend School teachers had no idea that terrorists would attack America in 2001. They could not have known that we would fight two wars in Muslim majority countries that would continue into 2010.
Specifically, I wish my teachers had taught me more about different sects of Islam, about controversial interpretations of certain verses of the Quran, and about the history of Islam in the U.S. I learned very little in Villa Park about Shia Islam. I learned next to nothing about the Nation of Islam. We never spoke about the verse of the Quran in which Allah permits men who have been repeatedly disobeyed by their wives to use physical force for discipline. (4:34)
Did Islamic Foundation fail me? I say no. The key is in the name itself. It is a “foundation.” It’s not the whole structure. It serves as a solid base that one can build on. I did learn enough to sustain my faith until I could learn more. I came out of the school with literacy skills that enabled me to study in college classes and to study on my own. They could have taught me more, but they might have also exposed me to issues before I was ready to handle them.