Ittifaqiyyah Tragedy: 6 or 9?


6 or 9?As the event unfolded, it is clear that this is a case of children attacking children. Sadly, we as a village has failed to raise our children.

On Sept 16, the day when Malaysia was born, we lost 30 children, 23 pure innocent souls taken by the blazing fire, 7 enraged hearts and confused minds taken into police custody.

Ittifaqiyyah means unity, harmony and friendship, but it’s obvious that the 7 attackers didn’t see the Ittifaqiyyah students as friends. I am not sure if they even see them as human as they planned and plotted the attack.

Any sound human heart would be moved in this incident. We visited our in laws place last night, and the hostel is a stones throw away, Bibik Sham told me that she could hear faint screams asking for help that fateful morning. I cried silently in my heart. Images of young children traumatized in a dark area full of smoke, not knowing where to go, and finally succumbing to the fire, ran through my mind.

The question is though, where do we go from here? For the sake of the children … ??

Scrolling through my FB timeline, netizens seemed to be divided on the lessons from this horrendous and vile tragedy of a juvenile arson attack on a school hostel which did not comply with the standard Bomba requirements for fire safety.

The divide is not grey. It’s black and white.

And when it involves Quran and Islam, it becomes very sensitive.

Because we all love our deen so much. Wallahi we do.

The more I think about the lessons from this incident, the more I am reminded on this comic strip. It was discussed in one of our team meetings at work when we did an exercise called Core Strength, to understand the team dynamics. One of my ‘aha’ moment in that exercise is, everyone of us sees through our own filter, driven by our core strength and motivational driver (niyyat). And this often results in conflict.

What do you see in this cartoon? 6 or 9?

How do we categorize Ittifaqiyyah incident?; arson – team 6, or negligence – team 9.

Some from team 6 argues that the negligence factor is overplayed specifically because this is a Tahfiz set up. What about other schools? What about our houses? Some used the fate card and when investigation progresses to show evidence of arson and juvenile attack, were quick to remind others not to simply blame the management of the Tahfiz that meant well in setting up the school. Extremist will say it is meant to be, and if we discuss it further, we are questioning God’s decree!


While those on team 9, see the lack of fire evacuation and building safety as the main root cause. Their argument is, reports are saying that some fatalities are avoidable if not for the missing second exit et cetera. This is also not the first fire incident involving Tahfiz, not including other incidents of physical and sexual abuse.

Some goes all the way to ask for all Tahfiz schools to be closed! Which is way extreme too!

What do I see? I see both 6 and 9. Both are correct, dependent on the filters we use.

My view from the ‘6’ side will say; why are these juveniles not in school? What is their story? Why such hatred? Who and where are their parents? Have they been involved in petty crimes before, or seen to be under narcotic influence ┬ábefore? If they have, why haven’t we as a society done anything to report, help and put them in the right facilities? What is the maximum punishment if they are found guilty?

Filter: social system, urban poor, failure of education and welfare system, retention of Tahfiz

If I were to look at from the ‘9’ side; why does the authorities let the Tahfiz operate without CF? Why are parents still bent on sending young kids to board? Why is there a void in the high demand for Tahfiz, but not filled by the local mosques by conducting afternoon or weekend sessions like in the Middle East? Why are parents distrusting the mainstream education system?

Does the religious authorities have the right resources to monitor the independent Tahfiz holistically?

Where does children wellbeing come in when in comes to boarding schools in Malaysia? Tahfiz and non Tahfiz. Is our Children Act comprehensive?

Filter: Children Act, children welfare, Tahfiz improvement

Which team are we on? Let’s stop arguing and let’s start improving..



Wallahi I really love the idea of children memorizing the Quran from a tender age. That’s how my parents brought us up. That’s how we are bringing up our children too. Quranic memorization is an essential part of Islamic knowledge.

I am too proud of every child that I knew to have completed memorizing the Quran. Too very proud. I know two Maryams, a Muhammad, a Hikmat, an Ayman, a Haziq and many more. Coincidentally perhaps, none of them boarded, with the exception of Hikmat who joined an integrated Maahad offering both academic and Tahfiz when he was 13. Maybe I am biased because none of them came from lower income family so their families can afford sending them to school and tahfiz classes after hours. Which then begs another question, why don’t we start an initiative where the rich sponsor Tahfiz after school programs which will allow the poor to join, while keeping the kids with their parents?

But the idea of sending kids as young as 6 to a fully boarding school with untrained teachers, unbalanced syllabus and children development programs, and questionable building safety and security is simply intolerable.

A million hearts has been broken in this tragedy. We need to now pick up the pieces as work as a a nation (of 6 and 9) to mend our hearts and the children under our care.

[by Khadijah Khalid; a mother of 4, an engineer and a writer who is passionate about children, parenting and education]


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