Belief & Worship Reflections

Jannah Points

I came into class one morning, excited to take my young students to the computer lab. “It’s computer lab day!” I announced. Just as I had expected, the whole class was excited for change and ready to take the trip down the hall. Well, everyone except one student. He looked at me from behind his glasses with angry eyes, crossed his arms, and firmly said, “No.” I was shocked, and quite frankly, a little upset. I had gone to the trouble to make sure this class had their lab day; I had been excited for them, and now he was looking me in the eye and telling me that he didn’t care?

I took a deep breath, smiled, and asked him to meet me at the side of the room. I kneeled down so we could be at the same eye level and asked him, “What’s the problem? Don’t you want to go to the lab and hear the sheikh recite Qur’an so that you can be ready for your test? It’s always a lot of fun.” Again with full confidence he looked at me and said No. I don’t want to go. No.”

I didn’t understand. I couldn’t comprehend why he would not want to go, and it wasn’t helping that he wasn’t explaining his case. Some may have thought that I should have just forced him and get it over with, but let me give you a little background on my classroom atmosphere: I teach Qur’an, a Book full of love and mercy from the Lord above. I’ve seen classrooms in which the Glorious Book is taught but it fills children with fear and they do not enjoy what they are doing, at all.

Years ago, I vowed that would never happen in my classroom. Just like the Holy Book is filled with love and mercy, so is my classroom. We have a welcoming and no-force atmosphere. And up until this day, it had been working quite well.

Again, I took a deep breath and leaned against the wall behind me, thinking of how we could work this out. All of his classmates were excited and ready to go. I couldn’t cancel lab day for him, but I couldn’t go against my ‘no force’ atmosphere either. I tried to ask him again, “I’m sorry that you don’t feel like going today, can you explain why? So I understand? Maybe we can work this out.” It was his turn to take a deep breath and explain his frustrations, “Sister we go there every week and we listen to that man. He recites the Qu’ran, and we listen. Just like you said, for each letter he recites he is getting Jannah points time and time again—and what about us? Why should I go and watch this man get points when I could be here in this classroom reciting it myself, and getting rewards for ME!”

My heart almost exploded with joy, hearing how concerned he was for his ‘Jannah Points’ (or Paradise Points, our term for hasanaat or good deeds). I explained to him the reality of the matter, that even by listening he was getting the points he wanted so he needn’t worry.

My student learned something new that day, but it is nowhere near the lesson that he taught me. Sometimes in life we get so lazy that we love to take the easy way out. To make ourselves feel better we cut corners and miss out on amazing ‘Jannah Point’ opportunities. This little boy reminded me that it’s not the most exciting and fun things that should be our priorities in life, rather it is those things that cause us to get closer to God that are the most important. And it’s okay to sacrifice an hour of fun, if in turn we are we working towards an eternity of bliss, by the Mercy of God.

About the author

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref grew up in a small Texas city and was unexpectedly uprooted to Cairo, Egypt. The shift of countries precipitated a shift in her outlook on life; this, with her enriching experience in community activism—specifically social service, youth work, and Qur’anic Studies—provides for a rather enlightened perspective. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.

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  • Mashallah…this boy is competitive in getting the “jannah points” and indirectly is practicing ayah 61 of surah #37

  • this just made my day. amazing at such a young age! may Allah SWT grant him, his family, and all of us the love of His book, Jannut-ul-Firdaws, and protection from the Fire. ameen.

  • sA love it! Keep up the great work in your class and let us know what other lessons you learn from those blessed children iA!

  • dear bros and sisters,

    i think its improper for any good moslem to be so engrossed or giving the impression that one does about accumulating and keeping track of jannah points per se when you know too well that the points will take care by itself as long as we keep in the the right path and follow the sunnah dilligently.

    • She is talking about small children in this article she is teaching these children to seek reward from Allah swt. There was nothing wrong with that. This is what we should all be teaching our children to do. If only all the teachers in our lives took the time to teach us a religion of mercy and love with mercy and love we would all be better muslims. And there is nothing wrong with associating something good with “Jannah Points”

    • I think you missed the point of the article. This is about patience, motivation, influencing others, and learning from young children.
      I didn’t see anything negative about it.
      I read SuhaibWebb’s article everyday during my commute to work in the morning and it helps me start my day.

  • I have no intention of coming off as rude or judgmental, but why can’t we teach our children to do good deeds for the sake of helping their brothers and sisters and not for gaining points for their own good. I understand that you will get “Jannah points” but wouldn’t humanity be better off if we were taught to act unselfishly rather than to expect a reward?

    • Everything happens for a reason; everything is done for a reason. Be it material or otherwise. For humans there is no escaping this causality.

    • Thank you for your comment sister 🙂

      In essence we are all working towards “Jannah points” and staying away from “Hell-fire points” throughout our lives..but rather than call them that we are looking at ‘good deeds’ and ‘bad deeds’ or ‘hasanaat’ and ‘sayiaat’. I simply changed the names to make it more relatable for the children. Jannah points means they are actions that Allah loves…and hell-fire points are actions that Allah hates.

      And yes, we should definitely teach our children to do good deeds for the sake of helping others and encourage a selfless generosity–however we should also keep in mind the nature of humanity. Allah subhanahu wa Ta’la created us and He knows what makes us tick–what motivates us—and what keeps us away from what is wrong.

      Throughout the teachings that we receive from the Prophet we can see that there is nothing wrong with encouraging behavior with a reward. The Prophet tells us ‘Have mercy upon the ones on earth, and the One in the Heavens will have Mercy upon you.’—throughout the Quran there are ayaat upon ayaat that tell us that we should do good in order to get the fruits of Jannah–that those who are ‘muhsineen’ (practice Ihsaan) will have amazing rewards and riches in the next life.

      We know that the BEST reward in Jannah is not going to be the riches, the houses, and the fruits of Jannah—rather its going to be seeing Allah subhanahu wa ta’la HIMSELF. And there isnt anything wrong to encourage children–or even adults :)–to do good via methods of reminding them of this.

      This whole life is simply a trial and test in preperation for the next life. We were sent here to worship Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and on His terms. Sometimes knowing that we need to be good isn’t enough to keep our actions correct–sometimes we have to remember the fact that there is a hell-fire that we deeply want to stay away from and that there is a Jannah that we should crave to get to.

    • Children by nature are selfish and when you tell them they get Jannah Points by doing something for the sake of Allah you are molding them to be better people because they are seeking the approval of their Lord. It’s such a small tool that inspires them that drives them to be better muslims at such a young age.

    • I disagree, sister. As a Muslim, actually our good deeds are done for the sake of Allah’s pleasure, not for the sake of helping other humans. My understanding is that we *should* see our good deeds as trying to increase His favour, and even if we’re motivated by love and compassion for others, that love and compassion also needs to be for the sake of Allah. The alternative view of doing it for people’s sake starts to veer very close to “self-sufficiency” – which Allah warns us will lead us astray.

      I think this article also shows a good example of not jumping to conclusions about people’s motivations when they’re behaving in a contrary or anti-social way. Sometimes if you *ask* them, fully intending to understand, you find out that actually their concern is very close to Allah’s Way (note: for realising this you need recourse directly to the Qur’an, rather than your local cultural-religious references), sometimes more so than yours. It’s very humbling and enriching.

      • Also, I contrast this with my local mosque, who like to hold lectures around the time of fajr, maghrib/isya’ but taints this good deed by the manner with which they do it:

        1) they broadcast the lectures with loudspeakers so that for a couple hundred metres around all houses – whether people/children are muslim or non-muslim, resting or sick, asleep or just came in off shift, praying or eating – are forced to listen to the lecture which is usually garbled with echoes so it’s mostly just noise – but that irritating kind where your mind thinks it can just about make out words, but can’t.
        2) they then ignore complaints and requests to turn the volume down, even from the religious affairs board, and express resentment that they are being asked to not disturb others. because of the political sensitivities, nobody dares to fine them or do anything more stern than a warning.
        3) they start half an hour before maghrib, then pause just enough to call the azan, then start talking again for a good half hour or even an hour more before breaking for the congregational prayer (also broadcast to all). this being southeast asia we have short sunset periods so that’s nearly the *entire* maghrib period. and then another half hour after isya’. this means that everyone else who for whatever reason isn’t at the mosque is distracted from their own maghrib and dhikr or family time (not everyone is muslim) for between 1-2 hours.

        so, even though what they’re doing is good – organising knowledge gatherings at the mosque – because of the lack of adab, this is the impression it gives to my foreign convert husband:

        1. the people of the mosque are riya’ and like to feel important. otherwise they would not feel the need to force others to hear all the good stuff they’re doing.
        2. they are inconsiderate and arrogant, because they refused to change when they found out people’s rights are affected by their activity.
        3. they like themselves more than their religion, because they would even cut off the mike while the ending note of their own azan was not yet over, so that they can start broadcasting their own voices again.
        4. a muslim-majority country tolerates inconsiderate civic behaviour if it’s done by “mosque people”, and the people have no realistic recourse to regain their rights.

        maybe these aren’t completely fair and true, but they are certainly understandable conclusions – indeed people draw conclusions from your adab first, your knowledge second. this is what i saw demonstrated in the past year – you cannot teach compassion while your teaching method has no compassion, you cannot teach rationality when the arguments you use are not rational, you cannot teach Qur’an and Hadith when your manner towards other people are not remotely like the manner of our Prophet pbuh.

  • AA,
    mashAllah great story…And as a mother I appreciate you approach to teaching Quran to children. This only made me think is that I would like for my daughter to have a Quran teacher like you. Out of curiosity, where do u teach and what grades do you teach?

  • @Saima : Sister, you can not be a good Muslim unless you are a better human being. Therefore, humanity comes naturally for striving to be a good Muslim. As I understand the best way to be a good Muslim is making every effort to get closer to Allah Subhanuwatala i.e also by earning more “Jannah Point”. We should all try to learn the lesson that these kids are learning and try to earn more “Jannah point” for ourselves…. Just a very humble thought of mine.

  • inspiring story.i love the teacher s approach to teachin.if it wasnt wel inculcated that pupil wouldnt exhibit such.she made them understand u should do good deeds to earn jannah points.jannah points take u to jannah.mashaAllah!

  • salam
    this article ”jannah points ” was really moving, our kids are so innocent and clever at the same time . mashallah it was a very important point to remember and learn from.

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