Sunday, 26 May 2013

personal entry: the maarif girl

When I tell someone I'm from a Madrasah, there are two most common reactions I get. One, “That’s really amazing, tell me about it!” and two, “Huh? You mean the weekend kind at the mosque?” The latter does not offend me at all because I know that only recently the media started to shed light on local Madrasahs. 

However, I won’t lie. There were numerous times I dread admitting I was a Madrasah graduate. During orientation camps in JC or even in Uni, I dread the question “So, which secondary school were you from?” I was tired of answering the multitude of subsequent questions that came along with my answer; I was slightly embarassed that I wasn’t like the normal students who went to X Primary School followed by Y Secondary School. I don’t even know why I felt the need to cover up the fact that I went to a Madrasah but I’m telling you now, I am proud to be a Madrasah graduate.

So let me tell you my story.

I remember my parents ripping the envelope with Maarif's logo open. They were so overjoyed when I got accepted and I can still remember their happy faces and how they pinned the acceptance letter up on a board. 

Sadly, my parents received no support the minute they decided to announce they’re sending their only daughter to Al-Maarif. Immediately, they received comments of all sorts; “Are you sure?”, “Can she get a job?” and then there were the blatant, straight to the point ones, “You’re making a wrong decision, she’ll never enter any university”.

(mother if you're reading this, I tried finding a picture of me in uniform with you but there were none!!! really!!! heh!)

I don’t blame them. Majority of the local Muslim community back then had no clue about Madrasahs due to the lack of information and no form of awareness was created by the mass media. How different it is today. You see Madrasah students gracing the news headlines every now and then, emerging as top students in polytechnics, making it to universities and occasionally our Asatizahs appearing on the local news attending courses offered to them from MUIS.

In fact, I thank the people who gave those comments. I am where I am today because of them. Maybe their words weren’t exactly words of support but they pushed me, hard. They made me want to prove myself and that it isn’t impossible to dream big. This year, I’m going to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and I’d like to believe that I’ve made my parents proud. They have never placed extremely high expectations on me but I’ve always felt the need to study hard and give them the best life possible because I can never truly repay them for everything they have done for me. 

With their full support, it made the journey less difficult. I have to say that I was sheltered in Madrasah. In an all-Malay, Islamic environment, it was like a cocoon, a safe haven. Nobody spewed vulgarities, the teachings of Islam were always reminded, you do daily prayers together as a school and it was perfectly possible to have full trust in everyone around you. The minute I decided to enter Junior College, everything changed. I was introduced to this totally new environment and I felt like I was walking on frozen river. For the first time, I had to work with boys (my Madrasah was an all girls school), I had to speak English all the time (we were so used to speaking in Malay and Arabic), I had to cope with subjects I’ve never ever done before. I get this question all the time “So was it easy?” Lillahi taala, it was not.

The first time I wore a skirt in school, I hid in the toilet cubicle and cried. It was so difficult to give up my long baju kurung kain for a much shorter one and to expose the hair you’ve been covering for as long as you can remember. How do you get used to doing something you’ve never ever done before? I dreaded going to school, always being absent, went home during lunchtime and I never, ever hung out with my JC classmates. But one of the greatest things Allah made about human beings is our ability to adapt. It took some time for me to adapt but by my 2nd year, I felt belonged in a way. I made good friends who constantly reminded me of prayer times and we did our prayers together at the stairwell.

It wasn’t a smooth sailing ride though. I did get influenced negatively albeit slightly and I feel that if not for the fact for my parents, my Madrasah friends and my 10 years of Madrasah education which anchored me, maybe I could have drifted away. I’d like to say that I was stronger but I am human and we make mistakes. I’m just glad that I realised my mistakes early and I managed to not succumb to temptations. 10 years of being in an all-Islamic environment, you learn about your responsibilities and you always have the aim at the back of your mind, to strive to be the best Muslimah possible. 

With the rising number of programs created by tertiary institutions such as AAM (Achieve and Aim through Mentorship) and APEX (Ace PSLE Examinations), I see a future where not only the studying facilities in Madrasahs will vastly improve, the number of hours these mentors clock teaching these kids, I genuinely believe in a future where there’ll be more Madrasah graduates making it into local universities and I sincerely respect and admire all these individuals who take their time every Saturday to come down to the Madrasahs and teach these kids. I pray that Allah will reward your great work in helping our little brothers and sisters with the best you deserve.

I’m not saying it’s a small climb to reach here. We studied in small kampung houses with floorboards that creak (yes, creaks) with every move you make, we had to travel to another Madrasah every Friday just so that we can have our practical science lessons so really, it wasn’t easy. I’m just saying, its challenging but pressure makes diamonds and I’m telling you, the view up here is pretty amazing.

Most of my Madrasah friends currently are doing great, if not awesome in University of Al-Azhar, Islamic International University of Malaysia and local universities such as NUS and NTU. We each have our own dreams; achievements and our fair share of struggles but our thirst for knowledge will push us further, if not, harder. So if you’re a current Madrasah student reading this, I’m urging you, spur on, dream big, believe that it isn’t impossible, that it’s a race and you’ll emerge victorious at the end of the finish line. If like me, you’re currently studying for a degree, I sincerely congratulate you my friend. For we have come this far and I hope we never stop seeking ‘ilm for the love of Allah and to never forget where we came from, how we got here and to always give back to our little brothers and sisters studying in Madrasahs when we can.

"Allah will exalt those who believe among you, and those who have been granted knowledge to high ranks."

More importantly, have full faith in Allah and always seek His help and insyAllah everything will fall into place. 

If you ask me, I wouldn't trade my Madrasah education for the world. I learnt deeply about my religion and until today, my friends and I will always discuss about our religion, dalils, laws and rules, every now and then. I find joy in hearing verses from the Quraan and understanding the meaning. I met the greatest teachers and ustazahs I will never forget. I have a group of girlfriends I love so dearly and I know I can always count on. I made friends from other madrasahs because we always had intermadrasah events. I met the person I will marry one day insyAllah and most importantly, it has shaped and mould me into who I am today. I am still learning, still far from being the ideal Muslimah but each and everyday, I am trying. 

One day, when I have a daughter, I already know which school I'll send her to. Without a doubt :)

maarif girl, always have been, always will be,
Nadya Abd
(alumni of Madrasah Al-Maarif Al Islamiah)


  1. I want to cry when i read ur post.. :')

  2. Hi darling,

    I so admire you and so envy you. Now that HE has shown me hidayah, I wished I had been a Madrasah student. I cringed at the thought of my silly education years now and want to and will do my best to put my son in madrasah in 2 yrs time insyaAllah.
    Thank you for this post and kudos to you for all that has paid off! Love u, love your style and love your background hehe. Macam fangirl la now...

    "ilm for the love of Allah and to never forget where we came from, how we got here and to always give back to our little brothers and sisters studying in Madrasahs when we can." - favourite quote from your post. My goal now delve into childhood teaching and also hope to teach arabic in future till my old age insyaAllah.

    Kalau my son need a tutor in future, can ask u? hehe ;)

    1. Haluuuuu!

      Thank you for taking the time to write this! It really means a lot to me (:
      What's past is past, your past made you who you are today and it doesn't matter what you did, as long as now you have an aim in mind to be a better Muslimah and work towards it, all is well! Hehe. I hope you achieve your goals and I pray that your son will get into a Madrasah of your choice. Again, thank you for this comment!

      Lots of love,

  3. I found your blog by chance while googling 'Parents Support Group Al-Maarif'. My daughter has been accepted as a student in Madrasah Al-Maarif in 2014. And like your parents, I was (when I got the letter) and still am, overjoyed. Alhamdulillah, I thank Allah for giving my daughter the chance to be a student in Al-Maarif. Unlike you, I went through the secular education system. I was always filled with awe when I see those Madrasah students discussing and debating dalils and laws etc.

    I think society, especially the Muslim society in Singapore, is starting to realise the benefits of putting their child through the madrasah education. Though I still get questions on why I chose to put my child through the madrasah education, I believe that I have made the right choice. We are always Muslims first before anything else.

    Lastly, congratulations on your achievements so far. I'm assuming you are studying to be a teacher since you are taking your Bachelor in Education. Well, if you are, you'll make a great teacher, insyaAllah :)

  4. hey sister,coincidentally i am also currently learning in maarif and the journey so much fun and i have never regretted being put in a madrasah the enviroment is just over-whelming.And Alhamdulillah 5 years of my journey has passed,6th year will be starting soon,BIG exam coming soon.Please doa' for me to not put aside my islamic studies while focusing on my academic.I hope the next 5 years in madrasah will at least be easy for me to cope.I truly admire you even though i don't really know you.I am inspired and for that thank you:)

    nur hidayah

  5. Inspiring.. i just decided to try for madrasah entrance for my girls and you made me cry and hope my girls will be like you.. insya Allah..

    I too came from secular school so this is a big step for me... pray for me my hubby will agree. I got a whole lot of psychoing to do. :)

  6. Mashaallah yr blog really touched me...i am currently looking forward to registering my daughter to al maarif for p1 for year 2015..i wish u best of luck in yr educatioj journey...

  7. Masya Allah.... this is the FIRST time i'm reading your blog and it's truly amazing. I am a Madrasah student myself in Madrasah Al-Arabiah and i still have 2 years to complete my studies in Arabiah. I'd love to make you a role for me to study hard and make my parents proud. Bittaufiq Wannajah for your future endeavours! May Allah S.W.T bless you!