Posted by: Dawud Israel | April 13, 2010

When Madrassa Pedagogy meets Technology

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

Whomever you speak to they will mention the solution to the problems of the Muslims today is education. Not just secular education but also Islamic education.

Today, with Islamic education online, there is an excellent use of technology, however, this use of technology is one-sided. It is largely used by educators (shaykhs) to teach, however, the only way one can know if it has enhanced learning is by studying the student. Is the student comprehending better? I would contend although technology has helped with new methods of teaching it has not increased Islamic learning on part of the student, in fact, I think it has either stayed the same or gone downhill. Islamic knowledge has been trivialized by the Internet and seen as “edutainment,” and at the accidental click of a button one can become totally distracted. The Internet does create a beguiling sense of “know-it-all” when really, most Muslims online can rarely quote a hadith precisely and on the spot, which of course is what counts. We forget, all that information can be deleted instantly off the Internet, forever gone.

Therefore, I will suggest technological tools and practices here the student can use to enhance their learning experience. The teachers can only do so much, the onus is on you, oh seeker of knowledge!


-MP3 players or CD players are still very crucial and not used as well as they should. You don’t really even need something big. Listening to a lecture in the car is helpful, but I suggest as you listen to it, keep a little note inside the CD set, and jot down times when certain key points or hadiths or explanations are mentioned. Revisit those points and jot down the exact wording so you can revisit those parts in text format and memorize them. Also I recommend avoiding iPhones or iTouch’s because compared to a cheap mp3 player or CD player, it’s very distracting with plenty of other applications to run.

-I also think an old-fashioned cassette player with a record option is excellent (or even a Yak-Bak toy?). It’s tactile and personable and you can just use it to record yourself reciting Quran or hadith and replay it for memorization. I used a digital voice recorder a few times but I found the audio quality poor, the upload on the computer took a great deal of time and the files were large and not easy to work with. Convenience is always key.

-Laptop vs. Pen and Paper? A classic question for note-taking. What I suggest is pen and paper for recorded audio classes where you can rewind but laptop for live or streaming events. You can type faster (and neater) than you can write most often. Also remember to write with the 1st person perspective, for yourself, not a 3rd person perspective for showing someone else. Also try writing very compact (vertically stacking) instead of writing spread out (longitudinally).



Inna rahmati
taghlibu ghadabi
“My Mercy precedes
My Wrath”
-Hadith Qudsi

is easier to read, memorize, recall, and quicker to write out than


“Inna rahmati taghlibu ghadabi” My Mercy precedes My Wrath. -Hadith Qudsi

And having a good reliable pen that you are comfortable with, the ink color or how messy or clean it makes your writing also helps. Small considerations- big consequences!


Livescribe is another amazing piece of technology. I don’t want to explain it here because its features are very dynamic and multifaceted, but its definitely worth getting for a class where you are heavy on note-taking. You can get an idea as to how it changes the lecture experience by visiting here. From what I hear, AlMaghrib does not allow these into their courses which is unfortunate, but I think other places do.


is a tool I just started using. It is a scanner for books that will let you scan line by line, saving you time from typing everything out by hand. Now, you know how I can post huge excerpts on the blog. There are number of pen-scanners out on the market and the technology is far from perfect, but after doing a great deal of research I decided to purchase this one as it has the best record. But for extensive quotations, I simply use a scanner to keep records of tables or charts.


Google Documents is a life-saver. Most people already have Gmail account but don’t realize it means they also already have a Google docs account. You can write clearly, neatly and access your files from anywhere on the go. Also, if you remember something and forget it, you can just do a quick search of all your documents. Very helpful in finding the exact wording of a hadith you memorized or a concept that was explained. You can also upload all your documents there and even PDFs of papers or Powerpoint presentations to study. I use this heavily with Seekers Guidance and other online events (ilminar, Islam Cast, podcasts, etc).

Digital Cameras are also a nice little tool. I recommend the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3. Instead of typing my notes out, or scanning them with either a pen-scanner or regular scanner I just take a quick snap. It helps to have a good camera because not all images show up. Especially if I am in a hurry or am at the mosque and find an interesting hadith with a nice quote, I will take a snap or alternatively, if the image doesn’t show up, I will go to movie mode and record myself reading it out. Of course, you can also use movie mode on your cell phone to record lectures or halaqas at the mosque, which is either a hit or a miss depending on the environment and the volume of the speaker.

And of course, starting your own ilmp3 styled study space.

Last but not least, endless review!!

See also: Mediated Cultures

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


  1. Assalamu aleikum,

    This is Caio Rossi, from Brazil. I think you should add spaced repetition software to your list, such as Mnemosyne or Anki. If you’ve never tried that, you don’t know what you’re missing.


  2. Assalamu’alaikum..
    thanks for information

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