Written by Ramlah Aziz, Islamabad
JTI- these initials hold the happiest moments of my life. They stand for Jaamiatul Imaam Muhammad Zakariyya رحمہ اللہ - my madrasah. Although I spent only one year there, it was the most eventful year of my life and it is still fresh in my memory. It seems as if it were just yesterday that I was in those ancient buildings surrounded by noor and barakah.
JTI was a boarding school and madrasah for girls and most of our teachers lived there too. Living in a hostel is fun but when it's a madrasah, it's totally different. We had madrasah in the morning, then lunch and zuhr namaaz and school in the afternoon. Homework time, or mutala'a as we called it, was for two hours in the evening and believe me apart from homework we did bookmark- making (out of chocolate wrappers- it was a Jaamia thing), notes passing, book reading, sleeping, news updating and a whole lot more.
Near the end of the year we had night lessons to finish our madrasah course. One of our Qudoori (that's a fiqh book) teacher called us before Isha. While she was teaching, a moth managed to get in the classroom and went crazy over the light. It came and started flapping in our faces and landed on our books. All of us screamed every time it came near and we ran out one by one until our teacher came out too!
Let me tell you that the moths in England are HUGE and FURRY so don't think we were scared of a midget patanga like the ones in Pakistan. These patange aren't even a quarter of their size. Our screams echoed round the empty madrasah building and its gloomy corridors and made us even more scared. So we prayed Isha outside the room in the light of the corridor bulb.
The whole of Jaamia was asleep by then and we went in huddled groups to our own buildings, through the dark grounds with the wind blowing really hard. I was glad I wasn't the only girl from my building in my class or else I would have had to go alone! Anyway our teacher decided to teach us in the daytime on weekends instead.
Something which astounded me was that the Jaamia Buildings spelt ALLAH, although they had been built by non-Muslims. As they had been built for government use they were really fancy- more than Buckingham Palace. Then they were made into a mental hospital and finally the founder of our madrasah bought them. The earlier graduates tell us that there used to be big cages in the buildings when Jaamia was newly started (shudder).
Jaamia didn't look at all like a mental hospital when I saw it. It had been my dream to go and study in Jaamia. When we first visited, it was a snowy night and the front building (gatehouse) was illuminated by yellow bulbs. It looked like a drawing in a book as it was so picturesque.
On Monday evenings we had Halqa. We were put in Halqa groups for the year in which we learnt du'a, Asmaa-ul-husna and our Halqa teachers (two girls in their second last year) discussed a topic with us. On the last Halqa we usually had a food party although we were not allowed. Teachers stood outside our school building scrutinizing our hands and pockets as we entered.
Most of us wore big jackets that day and passed meaningful smiles at the cleverly hidden bulges in each other's jackets. Once halqa started chocolates were passed around, sweets stuffed in pockets, candies pressed into hands and autographs were taken. All of this with one ear open for a teacher --- and if a teacher did enter the whole group started reciting Asmaa-ul-Husna from somewhere in the middle. Our Halqa teachers gifted us all Hizbul Azams with colourful covers and made us all promise we would read them. I still have mine and don't let anybody touch it.
We had a Fun-day every year as well as a Mini-fun-day. Basically it's a funfair with rides and stalls. Mothers and other day-boarding madrasahs were invited and we spent the whole day shopping, eating and enjoying ourselves. It attracted people who would never have thought of coming to visit a madrasah otherwise and it raised around fifty thousand pounds every year.
The year I studied we only had Mini-fun-day. We raised funds for the rides and stalls at home and managed to collect quite a lot. The money went to under-construction building with marble floors, arched windows, underground heating and what not! The whole upper floor was a massive hall for functions.
Apa (we called our teachers that) said the marble had heating underneath. Imagine coming in from the snow with freezing feet and sitting down on a warm carpet. She also said we would have bumper cars in the upper hall if the building was finished for next Fun-day but I left before I could see that happen.
Saturday evening for one hour we had Anjuman. It was like an assembly but way more interesting. The madrasah classes conducted it in turns. We had Qiraat then bayaan, nasheed, bayaan, nasheed and so on until the end when we had du'a. This was a way of amr-bil-maroof wan-nahee-anil-munkar and the girls got practice for giving lectures on a topic.
I embarrassed myself on my first Anjuman. A classmate of mine (whom I sat next to) and I decided to recite Qasidah Burdah (sang by Junaid Jamshed). We practiced a lot but on stage she became really quiet and her voice was just above a mutter. I nudged her but she didn't seem to notice and kept the same tone. I was reciting the verses alone anyway and her voice came in quietly with my loud one as the chorus. I even went really high on one of the parts as well. To be frank we sounded horrible!
To top it all up, for the rest of the month, my year mates burst out singing Qasidah Burdah really loudly whenever they saw me in the grounds or out of class. So much for embarrassing myself…
Oh I almost forgot- we cleaned Jaamia ourselves. Each girl had a specified place for duties, or khidmat as they were called. Everyone cleaned their own rooms, and the buildings and classrooms were cleaned by groups.
I still have so much more to write about government inspections, cooking lessons, activity week, and all the rest but I am feeling sorry for our dear editor who will have to edit all this! All I can say is that atmosphere of Qaal Allah سبحانہ وتعالیٰ and Qaala Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم is one which you can only appreciate if you actually experience it.
May Allah give us the taufeeq to act upon all the 'Ilm we have gathered, Ameen