Learning Prayer Is Like Learning Math

By: Al Jupri, M.Sc.*

As usual, every Friday, male Muslims around the world perform Friday prayers. Not to mention, I did it.

When friday prayer time is approaching, immediately come to the Mosque to perform it, it is better to come before Khotib ascends the pulpit. That’s the advice of religious teachers that I always remember from a young age. Further advice, it is said, when it comes and occupies the first shaf, it will be rewarded with a double reward–this is like the reward of a camel or cow; when occupying the back shaf-shaf, the most reward is the size of a chicken or egg only.

That advice, I always try to run. As I did in friday prayers: Friday prayers that I cashed in one of the Mosques in the Netherlands, a mosque managed by Muslims, generally, descendants of Moroccans.

Unlike usual, after tahiyatul masjid prayer (prayer in honor of the Mosque), my attention was focused on a father who had just come and brought his little boy, who was about 3 or 4 years old. I noticed the two father-children. The father immediately prayed Tahiyatul Masjid, while the child imitated the movement of the father while celingak-celinguk left-right, and back. The child who felt noticed, smiled at me. I smiled at him. What is interesting is that when the father bows down, he does not move, but he embraces the father’s neck from behind, carrying it over his back.

The father-son incident reminds me of my childhood, when I was about 4 or 5 years old. When the prayer time comes, I always wait for my mother to pray. The most fun thing is, when mom bowed down, I immediately carried on her back. The more rakaat, the more often the carry, fun and fun it feels, like flying like Superman. Until, indirectly I also memorized the number of rakaat in each prayer time, before I myself knew and understood the ordinances of doing it.


What lessons can we learn from this simple story?

For a father-son story that resembles the story of my childhood, there is at least one important lesson that we can learn. In my layman’s view, the father is introducing and teaching the child about prayer.

Perhaps, for those of you who think critically western style will question the way: why teach children the procedure of performing prayers when the children do not or do not understand why it is done? Isn’t it better to give understanding and understanding first, then practice prayer? Wouldn’t doing something better if it was based on understanding first?

At the very least, the answers to these questions are as follows. Although the child is not expected to understand anything, by taking him to the Mosque and practicing how to do prayers, then this is expected to familiarize the child to do so. So that when the child is obliged to do prayers, and coupled with knowledge and understanding of prayer of course, it is not awkward and not heavy anymore to do it.


So, what does it look like to study math?

Mathematics education, especially for school maths in our country, is considered very concerning because students’ learning achievements are seen as poor–even though each year the national exam results illustrate very stunning results.

One of the criticisms of the unenviable achievements, it is said, is due to the school’s procedural and algorithmic mathematical learning process. Namely, a learning process that focuses on procedures, memorizing methods and formulas, but lacks emphasis on understanding mathematical concepts. This results in low students’ understanding of mathematics–students only memorize formulas or ways to work on the problem that has been taught only, but confusion and unable to solve the problem when the problem is different, so it can be expected, the learning outcomes are low.

Is it true that the criticism? Is it true that procedural and algorithmic methods adversely affect students’ learning achievement? Is it true that learning that focuses on understanding first rather than procedure will be better seen from the learning outcomes of its students in the future?

Reflecting on the father-son story, I think that the process of learning that is procedural and algorithmic is not always bad, it should not be abandoned immediately. For better, when the process of teaching procedurally and algorithmically, slowly students are given conceptual understanding and understanding. So, hopefully, there is a balance between procedural skills and conceptual understanding. It is like teaching prayers to children, starting from practice, then little by little given understanding. Agree?


*Doctor of S3 students, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

This article was written for parents and teachers, especially for our family. Hopefully there’s a benefit. Amiin.

It is forbidden to republish this article without my permission. Thank.