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A well of a problem – Islamic education in today’s age

A well of a problem – Islamic education in today’s age

Islamic  education is the key to giving the confidence every child deserves in today’s  world

By Aisha Vicky Koolen

Manchester, UK

“… do not kill Yusuf but throw him into the bottom of the well; some travellers will pick him up – if you would do [something].”

(Qur’an 12:10)

The words of the Qur’an describing the situation of Prophet Yusuf (عليه السلام) describes the current situation of the ummah of Muhammad ﷺ. Like Yusuf(عليه السلام) , we are stuck in a well. We are surrounded by the after effects of terror attacks and our imaan is rock bottom. The ongoing psychological pressure to defend and explain ourselves in the pursuit of being accepted and respected is — especially for our children — a very concerning situation. Growing up while your community is being put down on the basis of its faith and being questioned day in and day out through negative media coverage can be testing for each Muslim. Some might be willing to compromise their deen in order to please the overpowering society. Is being a Muslim becoming something like living with a handicap in a demanding world of Kufr? How does this affect the education of Muslim children?

We might not completely understand and be able to visualise the long-term effects of the situation we are in, but being systematically deprived of a sound Islamic education is more devastating than being attacked as a community. The manner in which the majority of Muslim children are being educated is undermining their emotional well-being. Being a Muslim in the current environment is something that needs to be defended and clarified all the times. We also need to practice care and have the right knowledge about what is right and wrong according to Islam. We can’t stop the media, we can’t stop society and their actions, but we can review the way we educate our children.

If Muslims are being openly and explicitly questioned for their  belief, while the religion is in fact the backbone of their identity, we need make sure that we protect our children. Muslim children should not have to face a battle for their identity every day. They might suffer silently at schools from some level of pressure and confusion and subsequently experience stress to defend or sacrifice Islamic values. What are the best options to give them the education they deserve?

Fortunate are the children whose parents can afford to send them to Islamic schools or are willing to homeschool them. It is likely that this group does experience more positive feelings of acceptance and respect. The challenge is the huge group of Muslim children who have no access to Islamic schools, because of the high fees inherent to the private sector or those children whose parents don’t consider homeschooling as a reasonable option. Those children are forced to go to schools with singing, dancing and lyrics that don’t make any sense at best. They learn while burdened with lessons which teach values that don’t belong to Islam; they read books and listen to stories absorbing views against the Qur’an and sunnah.

What is really concerning is that many Muslim parents don’t really see the danger. They don’t feel that sending their children to non-Islamic schools is a problem. They believe that teaching Islam at home and sending their kids to weekly Qur’an classes will do the job. Not realising that teaching the Qur’an and sunnah needs much more time, love and care. They drop their children off day in and day out to let them be educated by teachers with no love for or knowledge about the Qur’an and sunnah. This gives the impression to children that Islam is not as deserving as it should be in a Muslim’s life. The best case scenario for a child who goes to regular school is that as a Muslim you are ‘tolerated’ or to a certain level ‘respected’. Is that enough to get groomed to excel as a Muslim?

We allow schools to educate our children with the values, habits and the culture that contradicts Islam in so many ways. Are we unaware of what we give up in these trade-offs? We are fleeing from our responsibility. We are the ummah of Muhammad ﷺ whom Allah expects the best from, not the worst! This is not the way to educate Muslim children, then why do we do it?

It’s all about priorities and Islam is not the first priority in our education.

Instead of teaching the Qur’an and sunnah, we let our children be educated in the hub of foreign cultures through TV, schools and clubs contradicting Islam. We encourage it, allow it or think there is no other option. Are we trapped to go down this road to regrets? When the children of the ummah of Muhammad ﷺ are exposed to such little mention of their deen, will there be room for it later, as we naively hope? Have we lost our self-worth? Wait a minute, what were the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ last words of advice and guidance to us?

I am leaving two things among you, and if you cling to them firmly, you will never go astray, one is the Book of Allah and the other is my way of life.

(Farewell Pilgrimage: Muatta)

Our education needs to cling on to the Qur’an and sunnah and we need to take back control. When are we going to wake up and realise that we need a serious change? As Muslims we must  be the followers of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. We must educate our children in a way that will make him ﷺ proud on the Day of Judgement. It is now that we have to wake up and  sacrifice our time, our wealth and get out of our comfort zone to start raising our children upon Islam. We have no choice but to repent and unite and bring the education of our children into the Light of Islam. To become the best nation we must embrace, love and live the Qur’an and sunnah and teach this to our children.

هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّـهِ شَهِيدًا

He is The One who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, so that He makes it prevail over all religions. And enough is Allah for being a witness.(to His Promise)

(Qur’an 48:28)

At the surface we might not see the depth of the problem, we might not feel the urgency … the danger. Maybe we are spellbound by the overwhelming force of a non-Islamic education, seemingly offering a good education with fun and even serving halal dinners and eid celebrations in the guise of encouraging diversity in some places. But the effect of their daily teachings or the lack of good, quality Islamic education day in and day out, year in and year out, is depriving Muslim children from exploring the great treasures of Islamic knowledge. We need to realise the gift of Islam and of raising children. It’s a duty upon parents to change because the fact is that children have no choice — in the end they are told to go wherever they need to go and they are dependant on the choices their families make for them. Just like Yusuf (عليه السلام) was at no fault in what happened to him. Yaqub (عليه السلام) said:

“Truly it saddens me, that you need to take him away. I fear lest a wolf should devour him, while you are careless of him.”

(Qur’an 12:13)

And what was the brothers’ response?

“If  a wolf devours him, while we are a strong group to guard him, then surely we are the losers.”

(Qur’an 12:14)

The problem is also not that the non-Islamic schools are wolves, we can only blame ourselves that we send our children off to the place where the wolves live and we don’t protect our children by providing them with sound knowledge and a nurtured imaan to stand strong and protect themselves. This process is intense and takes time. Many Muslim parents still believe in fairy tales with a happy ending, but like Prophet Yaqub (عليه السلام) explains about tales we make up ourselves:

“Nay, but your own selves have made up a tale. So, for me patience is most fitting. And it is Allah Whose Help can be sought against that which you assert.”

(Qur’an 12:18)

I pray for mighty patience for those who see the seriousness of the problem we have regarding the education of our ummah. We need patience to work and find the way out of the falsehood of devastating promises of a secular education. With the help of Allah, we can find solutions to support each Muslim child to receive the Islamic education that he or she deserves; a day of learning and care based upon the guidance of Islam, encouraging them in their identity to be the knowledgeable and strong Muslims they can become.

About Aisha Vicky Koolen

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