of Muslim Children - Challenges and Opportunities
Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D analyzes the advantages and disadvantages
of Public, Parochial, Private non-parochial, Islamic, Virtual Islamic,
or Home Schools in the United States.
the birth right of every Muslim and Muslimah. Islam puts considerable
emphasis on its followers to acquire knowledge. Investment in education
is the best investment one can make, because it eventually leads
to intellectual property. Intellectual property is the intangible
property, which no one can steal or destroy. This is the property
on which no Government can levy a tax. It was as a result of application
of knowledge that Muslims were the superpower of the world for twelve
Muslims have the lowest literacy rate. Education of Muslim children
in the west has both opportunities and challenges.
In the Western
World the purpose of education is to provide for the economic prosperity
of a nation. At a personal level the purpose of education is to
acquire academic and professional skills that enable one to earn
a respectable living with riches and fame, and also a luxurious
and comfortable life. For a Muslim providing economic prosperity
of a nation does not contradict his/her Islamic beliefs, however
focusing the goals of education solely for the purpose of money
making is unpalatable. Muslims want to impart Islamic education.
The vast majority
of Muslims think that Islamic education means acquiring Islamic
religious knowledge-study of Qur'an, Arabic, Hadith, Sunnah, Seerah,
Fiqh, Islamic history, and allied subjects. As a matter of fact,
in the present world broadly speaking we have two types of Muslims.
Those who have followed the Western type of education or secular
education and those who have acquired Deeni or Islamic education.
In the twentieth
century, due to colonialism and Western influence, Muslim parents
concentrated on imparting only Secular education to their children.
The weak or not so bright students were sent to Deeni (religious)
Madrasas (schools) in their own countries or to one of the Middle
Eastern countries. The Muslims who emigrated to Western countries
became aware of their religious identity and wanted to impart both
Islamic and Secular education, what is now known as "Integrated
Education." When they lacked the numbers and resources, they
sent their children to public schools during the week and to the
Islamic schools in the Mosque or Islamic Center during the weekends.
As their numbers
grew and acquired sufficient resources, they have opened full-time
Islamic Schools from kindergarten (K grade) to 12th grade (senior
or final year) in High School. In North America, an estimated 300
Islamic Schools are functioning which impart Integrated education.
There are even a few full-time Hifz schools in North America producing
homegrown Huffaz (plural of Hafeez-a scholar who has memorized the
Qur'an). It takes about two to three years of full-time study to
become a Hafeez. During this time the student takes an equivalent
to sabbatical leave from his or her public or parochial school.
This paper analyzes
the choice the parents make in sending their children, to Public,
Parochial, Private non-parochial, Islamic, Virtual Islamic, or Home
School. Their advantages and disadvantages.
objective of education is to prepare the young generation for leadership.
Islamic education is of course has the highest objective, and more
than that can hardly be imagined. The aim of Islamic education is
Character building. Growth and development of an Islamic personality
should be the final goal of any Islamic School. Islamic values are
the foundation of the Islamic personality. As Muslims our educational
aim is to develop the personalities of our children to the end that
they will be conscious of their responsibility to God (the Creator)
and to fellow humans. The aims and objectives of Islamic education
have been defined in the Recommendation of the Committee of the
First World Conference on Muslim Education as:
should aim at the balanced growth of the total personality of man
through training of the human spirit, intellect, rational self,
feelings and senses. The training imparted to a Muslim must be such
that faith is infused into the whole of his/her personality and
creates in him/her an emotional attachment to Islam and enables
him to follow the Qur'an and Sunnah and be governed by Islamic system
of values willingly and joyfully so that he/she may proceed to the
realization of his/her status as Khalifatullah to whom God has promised
the authority of the universe."
We need to prepare
the younger generation having leadership quality and not to be the
followers of alien ideologies but to play the role of torchbearer
by their excellence in knowledge, character, and positive action.
Some scholars believe that this quality can be developed in Muslim
youth by a direct study of the Qur'an with a view to solve the problems
of life in its light. A program of action to bring up the younger
generation for leadership has not yet been formulated.
parent is advised to raise his or her children well and properly.
A happy home, comfort, care and love, providing the necessities
of life and a good education are some of the responsibilities that
parents are required to fulfill. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon
him) said whoever is not kind to young people is not one of us and
the best teaching that a parent can give a child is the teaching
of good manners and character. The Muslim child absorbs the Islamic
values from its parents, teachers, peers, friends and the environment,
including the care-givers. Nip it in the bud is the best advice.
Otherwise once the Muslim child develops undesirable habits and
unethical values, it becomes extremely difficult to make the child
into a good Muslim/Muslimah.
a vital role in the education of their children. Early childhood
education program emphasizes the role of parents. It declares that
learning begins in the first days of life and continues for long.
Parents should develop a habit to read with their children every
night. Parents should provide an Islamic environment, an Islamic
culture. It is hypocritical to do things differently and expect
the child to have Islamic values. Parents set the best examples
for their children to imbibe. Like parents the role of family has
also been considered important in learning and upbringing the children.
As the children
grow the teachers, community elders, their friends exert deep influence
on the character of the child. The parents should choose the right
schools for their children. Audio-Visual media such as TV, Video,
video games, Movies, peer pressure could play an effective role
in erasing the Islamic personality the parents are building and
deeply influence the behavior of the children for years. It takes
constant and continuous effort on the part of the parents and others
to keep our youth on the path of Islamic values. Otherwise they
will become an American statistic. Character education, promotion
of order and discipline and ending the culture of guns and drugs
from schools are the important steps of Islamic education. Islamic
education should open the door of college education for every Muslim.
of learning are expanding across a lifetime. All the people, irrespective
of age, must have a chance to learn new skills. Internet is now
the power of information. The classroom, library and even the children's
hospitals are planned to connect with it for easy access to knowledge.
In America the
parents of Muslim children are facing the challenge of picking the
right school for their children. Parents can choose the school their
children will attend. Parents would like to send their children
to a school that promotes academic excellence and a value centered
educational environment. The following pages list the different
types of schools available for Muslim children, their advantages
today is drifting aimlessly in a sea of problems:
Guns and violence
emotionally and psychologically as a result of broken families
teen-age pregnancies of unmarried mothers per year
All of this
has great influence on and impacts the Muslims living in America,
especially the children and youth. The parents try to teach Islamic
values and morals to the children, hence children are to maintain
these values at home environment. Outside the home, the children
are in a totally different environment. At times the outside social
environment is in opposition to what Muslim children are learning
at home. As a result of this conflict, children are fighting a psychological
battle in their minds.
Islam is very
deeply concerned with the welfare of human society and the family
is considered to be the cornerstone for building the right society.
Raising children in this culture and expecting Islamic values from
them is a unique and very tough challenge. Muslim families are at
a disadvantage in meeting the psychological and spiritual needs
of the children. Giving more religious teachings to children at
home is not enough. It is extremely important for parents to spend
time with their children. Parents have to find time to be with their
children at home, school, games, on the playground, field trips,
picnics, and tours. The most essential element is to establish an
open channel of communication with the children. An effort should
be made to create an environment wherein children should not hesitate
to say to their parents their thinking and feelings.
The school system
in America deals with the teaching of academic subjects. The system
has also been gearing up to teach life skills, such as prevention
of smoking and drug abuse, prevention of heart disease, pregnancy
and sexually transmitted diseases. Children should get Islamic education
at an early age. In an effort to inculcate Islamic values, the teachings
should be done at home as well as Islamic centers or Islamic schools.
Islamic schools should create opportunities for Muslim children
to get together to bond with each other as this would help in establishing
confidence in an Islamic identity and get psychological support.
When children meet other children who are Muslim, it enhances their
confidence in being a Muslim and they feel more comfortable about
their identity and they assert their Islamic identity in non-Muslim
environment with more ease and comfort.
according to some, refers to characteristics of thought, behavior,
and attitudes emanating from the Islamic beliefs; and it should
be manifested in an Islamic way of life. The practice of Islam gives
Muslims a tangible identity that they live with and project to the
rest of the society. It can be preserved by their dynamic interaction
with the realities of the American system of life and influencing
and reforming the society through Islamic thoughts. The best role
model is the parent's character. The social support systems, such
as Islamic centers, weekend or full time Islamic schools should
be built in communities across the country.
No Adaab or
Islamic etiquette or behavior
teachers to be lenient
Some girls and
boys meet secretly in the basement.
They have girl-friends
They do smoke
written on the walls, desks, blackboards, etc.
laughing, talking, screaming, rip off their Hijab on the buses.
Behavior is no different from the Public Schools.
not fair. Spoiled kids as their parents are rich or important
activities for girls. Little opportunity to interact with other
are running without an Islamic curriculum, often without a syllabus
and trained teachers or certified teachers. (Quality in education
is not possible without good teachers.)
Those who attend
Muslim high schools do not fare better in college.
who are qualified and certified. (Live-in boyfriend, rejects institution
of marriage. Wear tight and revealing outfit. Promote gay agenda,
anti-religion agenda, or insensitive to Islamic values and events)
certified Muslim teachers work in Public schools. As Islamic schools
do not offer viable salaries, benefits (pension health benefits,
When they leave
Islamic schools and graduate from colleges, some of them, they do
marry non-Muslims as the Muslim community and their parents have
exerted zero influence on them.
of space, science labs, auditoriums, gyms, playgrounds, libraries,
rate (30 to 40 percent annually) of teachers.
Islamic schools trade off academics for Islamic environment.
planning and discipline -suffer most in Islamic schools.
the big reason why most Islamic schools suffer
Do not develop
an autonomous and unique decision-making (governance) structure
require training in how to run a school
rarely include women
Parents do not
play a part in Governance structure
worry Islamic schools offer an inferior quality of education.
not prepared to face competitiveness and the challenges of the modern
in Muslim literature and culture.
For many Muslim
families, Islamic schools are not affordable.
In sparse Muslim
population areas, Islamic schools are not financially viable.
Very few trained
Muslim teachers in special education or none
In North America a major problem is the prevalent moral degradation
of the society. In establishing Islamic Schools, Muslims lack a
clear perception of their goals and seldom evaluate the final result
if it is worth the money in producing the desired results. Many
Islamic schools have run into financial difficulties. Their dreams
have crumbled down, resulting in scaled down projects after short-lived
The best and
safest place for a Muslim child to be educated
is possible only for a very small number.
parents who are qualified.
be trained and willing to devote long hours every day.
impart both 'Islamic' and 'secular' education
children to successfully compete in the outside world.
in the experiencing a child harvest the fruits of an education.
from pre-reading to reading is an exhilarating experience.
Public and /
or private schools may have turned children away from being interested,
self-motivated learners and taken the joy of learning away from
schools are not as thorough as a parent wishes.
There is no
available or affordable local full time Islamic school.
school does not provide the entire K-12 educational experience.
work against the parent's authority and unfriendly to Muslim children-Hijab.
texts and classroom materials may be destructive to Islamic values
and parental authority.
their own curriculum, pick out books, texts and workbooks that best
suit their needs and family or learners style.
removes children from an environment of drugs, violence, alcohol,
sexual experimentation, gangs, and peer pressure.
It returns them
to a healthy, safe, God-centered learning environment.
A school schedule
that is friendlier to the demands of an Islamic life can be followed.
be held on Saturday and Sunday, continued during Christian holidays,
lightened during Ramadan and stopped for Eids.
moves and relocates, continuity in education is preserved.
do not have to fit the child to the curriculum
make the curriculum fit the individual child.
parents need to know everything or spend all day teaching.
need not be as long, either.
is faster than one-on-30.
is legal in all fifty states, Canada, the United Kingdom and many
of children with learning disabilities, special needs or gifted
and talented is possible
There are magazines,
WEB sites, distance learning programs and curriculum specifically
designed for and devoted to this segment of the homeschooling population.
Muslim families arrange weekly or monthly field trips or social
events. Participate in local Boy/Girl Scouts, sport teams, craft
and sewing classes, YMCA (physical education requirements).
that meet social needs of Muslim children: Muslim Youth Camps, MYNA,
local Masjid youth programs, summer camps, vacation camps, Muslim
Athletes United International
students watch much less television than students nationwide.
student achievement test scores are exceptionally high.
students have higher scholastic achievement test (SAT) scores than
students who attended other educational programs.
children are winning Spelling Bee and Geography Bee National Contests.
No tuition fees.
Public schools are run with tax-dollars to which Muslims contribute.
trained and certified teachers
paid well, with all the benefits
curriculum which has many good skills like critical thinking
Tries to inculcate
thirst for knowledge
strict about homework
scheduled in blocks with longer times.
preparation with emphasis on science, math, English and other core
life experience-meet children of all strata of society, diversity,
for buildings, libraries, labs, playgrounds, gyms, Internet and
in suburban areas provide quality education, relatively in a safe
or subsidized lunches for low-income Muslim families.
classes for gifted and talented children.
for special children who are slow learners or mentally /physically
provide an excellent opportunity for advancing the cause of Islam
for Muslim students and teachers to dispel misconceptions about
-romantic pair- starts early in pre-school
places undue emphasis on western culture and ignores Muslim culture
is devoid of Muslim authors and Muslim topics
(provides identity and belonging to a cultural group) taught is
torn between school culture and Muslim culture at home
are celebrated but no Muslim holidays
Lying is accepted
as growing up aspect.
is deeply eroded
class does not give credit to Muslim/Islamic contribution to the
development of West
via the World Wide Web and Internet. (http://www.thegateway.org/)
by state and local governments are Independent public schools formed
by teachers, parents and/or community members. Exempt from state
and local laws and/or policies in exchange for a written contract
(or Charter) that specifies certain results are achieved. NOT ALLOWED
TO TEACH RELIGION. However school's mission may emphasize on the
study of a particular language, cultural and ethnic traditions,
and history infused with state's core curriculum.
Charter Schools: Star International Academy and Universal Academy.
Both are in Detroit, Michigan. WEB page: http://www.uscharterschools.org/
provide solid foundations of knowledge and skills to compete in
open to all state residents and students pay no tuition.
International May 2000
2001 irfiweb.org All Rights Reserved.
Read other articles by Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D here.
B. Syed, Ph.D
of Medicine, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville,
KY 40292 and President, Islamic Research Foundation International,
Inc, 7102 W. Shefford Lane, Louisville, KY 40242-6462
FAX: (502) 894-6935
WEB Page: http://www.irfi.org/