The Al Manar Girls I came to know last Friday touched my heart. In a rather remote village in Pasir Putih, Kelantan, these girls are clad in traditional muslim outfit but in no way are they restricted in movement. They moved about gracefully, yet robust when they played their favorite ball game of 21 throws. The lush green surrounding their hostel grounds adds grandeur to the living environment, and the girls learn to value what God has bestowed upon them.
I came to visit this secondary school at the invitation of Datin Noraini, the lady who relentlessly motivates them to be high achievers in striving for success not only academically but also spiritually. Their 'battle-cry' is "we are the best among the best, AllahuAkbar", and they said it out with resounding conviction.
WITH DATIN NORAINI, THE PRIME MOVERThey have learned to be different and they "dare to be different". Their school (Al Manar for Girls) may not be well known among Malaysians and may not be the choice of most Malaysians, but that does not derail their determination to be what they ought to be as Muslims. The fact that the school is located far from the city centre does not dampen their will to strive hard to be proficient in the Quranic studies and at the same time perform well in the academic subjects. However, this does not come easy. Like all teenagers they want freedom and friendship and fashion and fun. Datin Noraini redefined the meaning of freedom, friendship, fashion and fun in the context of Islamic Laws. There might be tears and discomfort to fall in line, but regular meetings and heart to heart sessions with them make a difference. They begin to learn the meaning of sacrifice and resilience, and they learn to internalize the meaning of divine love and affection.
As they go through the demanding requirement of rather rigid scheduling of activities such as timely presence in class, timely daily prayers in congregation, nightly school homework and predawn prayers (tahajjud), they are also "taught" how to "take it easy". The teachers are quite understanding and the girls are capable of learning and accepting the difference between what they want and what they need. Datin Noraini has a magical way of coaxing the girls to learn and accept the fact that if we do things sincerely in the name of Allah, difficult things will become easy and complicated problems will somehow workout well at the end.
There are many more things to learn and many more "lessons in life" to be digested. But these girls are high spirited when we left them late on Saturday. We will be visiting them again later this month and we hope to iron out any problem, personal, family, social and otherwise. Rome was not built in a day and our hope is that the girls will one day walk tall, at par with other school graduates in terms of paper credentials, but spiritually strong to face challenges in life. May Allah help them and help us all the way.