Good education of children is every parent’s concern and priority. As Muslim parents though we have lost sight and true comprehension of what a good education is. To most parents today a good education is that which ensures their children a place in one of the in-market careers. It is very evident that our understanding of education is directly related to a comfortable life in this world. Our expectations of this life and its goal has come in line with those of the non-Muslims’. Thus, it is no surprise that the means and goals of education of majority of Muslims are the same as theirs. While it is not impermissible or wrong to desire a good life for our children, it is critical to look at what expense we are seeking it.
Vast majority of Muslim children attend non-Muslim or un-Islamic Muslim schools for education. It is helpful to differentiate between these two schools for better understanding of how they are same and how they are different. Non Muslim schools are those whose administrators, teachers and majority of students are Non Muslims. These schools often have their religious and cultural influences on the curriculum and students. In such schools prayers are made to other than Allah, Islamic dress code is prohibited and non Muslim festivals are celebrated. Seeking “education” in such schools are Haram for Muslim children for these and many other reasons which corrupt the fitrah on which the children are born with. It destroys the understanding and application of Tawheed (Oneness of Allah) from the children’s life. These children are in constant conflict and confusion between the Islamic beliefs and practices and the un-Islamic ones. They lose the criteria to judge between right and wrong. As such, children who are “educated” in such schools are oblivious of Allah, His Messenger, the message of Quran, their obligatory duties and how to perfectly fulfill them, Islamic rulings on what is permissible and what is not, Islamic morals and ethics and other important aspects of religion along with the true purpose of their lives.
Heartbreakingly, many parents approve (whether ignorantly or else wise) their children being actively involved in haram, shirk or kufr speech and actions at school and home. For example, many parents send their children to school without any hesitation on Christmas Day for celebration. Then, there are those parents who seek to cover up this damage done to their children on a daily basis (eight active hours to be precise) by claiming that their children are not affected by the school’s culture or their peers’ because essentially taribyah is done at home and that they correct, undo and rectify the un-Islamic beliefs and teach correct beliefs to their children at home. Even if this claim is believed to be true (although not all parents are Islamically knowledgeable enough for this task not to mention the very limited quality time these parents get with their children after school) the contradictory actions and behavior of children at school and home speak loud enough. Moreover, these children are still obliged to follow the school rules and guidelines which many times are against the essence of Islam as mentioned earlier. Children need pure and flourishing environment where their faith can be nurtured. Believing that sending the children to non-Muslim schools will help them see and face the real world and expecting that their beliefs and actions will not be corrupted is like dipping your garment in filth and expecting it to come out clean! It is against the common sense. It cannot be expected that these children will graduate from such schools and come out to be sincere slaves of Allah with correct understanding of Islam and live a life in a way that is pleasing to Him. The examples of such young adults are everywhere around us to see. The damage done during these delicate and precious years of childhood affect their life in this world and most importantly in the next life too.
The Un-Islamic Muslim schools on the other hand are those that are administered by the Muslims. The teachers and majority of the students are Muslims too. However, this school does not run according to the laws of Allah. Some “Islamic schools” happen to fall in this category too. Mere introduction of Arabic and Islamic studies does not make a school an Islamic school. In such schools you will commonly find contradicting practices taking place throughout the academic year. For example, on one hand the school may have a Quran competition for students while on other hand you will find them conducting impermissible events and activities. Such schools are established for the sake of profit alone, and not to serve Allah’s religion. Most teachers in such schools just happen to be Muslims and teachers. They are unaware of Islam to be true practicing Muslims. They lack authentic knowledge of Islam and consequently lack Faith and righteous actions. They earned a Bachelors Degree in Education for the sake of taking up a teacher’s job or because there was nothing else to do, not to serve the Ummah by fulfilling their great responsibility by guiding the Muslim students to the best in this world and the next. Consequence of having such “Muslim” teachers are many. One of them is that he or she will fail in distinguishing between the correct and incorrect knowledge. For example, while teaching children about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution he or she will pass through the topic just like any other non-Muslim teacher without even acknowledging that this theory is Kufr and that he or she should approach this topic from an Islamic perspective. Likewise, the lifestyle and manners that she displays at school will be contrary to the Islamic teachings. Students coming out of these schools are no different than other children.
How do then Muslim parents go about their children’s education? It cannot be denied that education is necessary for a good life in this world as well as next. There are permissible and blessed ways in which parents can provide their children good education. Firstly, it’s important to realize that educating the child is the parent’s responsibility. The salaf (righteous predecessors) were educated at home by their mothers and fathers. It is only recent that sending children to schools where they are “factory-ized” became the norm of the societies. Homeschooling children is the best gift and best means of education parents can give to their children. It’s challenging, but it’s doable. And most importantly, it’s a rewarding journey. There are increasing number of Muslim families, interestingly even the non-Muslim families (people of the book) are homeschooling their children for the sake of preserving their religiosity and culture. A search online on Islamic homeschooling can enter parents into a new world they did not know existed. Homeschooling is not keeping children in the “nest” or controlling the children. It’s providing a pure, safe and flourishing environment for learning and growing. It also provides the child an excellent opportunity to bond with the mother as an educator and mentor and nurture under her Islamic guidance and good influence. Academically, homeschooled children are often more independent and curious learners. They develop a love for learning. They also enjoy freedom with regards to studying topics of their interest in depth and avoid that which is against the Islamic beliefs and teachings. They have plenty of time to learn and memorize Quran, learn Quranic Arabic, and study Islamic studies. Homeschooled children are also more self-disciplined, respectful and well mannered.
The next best means is to educate the children in true Islamic schools. Although rare, these schools are built to serve the Muslim community. Therefore, the haram and bid’ah practices are not part of such schools. The teachers are Muslims who practice their religion, fear Allah and deal with children according to Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed (salAllahu Alaihi wa sallam) thus setting an example for children to learn and follow. Since most parents choose such schools with the right intention (to nurture their children Islamically and give them the best atmosphere) children get company of good students who come from righteous families. A good companionship is rare and very precious at such tender age. Such schools incorporate Islamic knowledge into the curriculum and teach most topics from an Islamic perspective. This builds the faith in children and makes them confident Muslims.
If there are no Islamic schools in and around the neighborhood then it’s time to look at the last option, Hijrah. Hijrah can be made to another city, state where there are good Islamic schools or to another country. Similarly, in many countries homeschooling is illegal so moving to another country will allow parents to homeschool their children.
To summarize, education is not merely a synonym for great job opportunities and a good worldly life; education is enrichment of the soul in this world and a gateway to success in the Hereafter. Therefore, Muslim parents should consider the education system their children are part of, explore alternative means of education that are halal and blessed, and give higher purpose to education. Our Ummah is truly deprived of enthusiastic and talented young adults who utilize the knowledge of duniya to assist the religion of Allah and the Muslims. Therefore, it’s time that we improve our understanding of education, renew our intention for education, provide permissible means of education for our children, and finally allow our education to benefit Islam and Muslims instead of simply fulfilling our dreams and desires.