Educating Muslim Children Challenges And Opportunities
Educating Muslim Children: Challenges and Opportunities
Education is 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
Today, globally 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. Vast majority of the 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.
The greatest 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 Allah (the Creator) and to fellow humans. The
aims and objectives of Islamic education has been defined in the Recommendation of
the Committee I of the First World Conference on Muslim Education as under,
"Education 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 Allah 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 upbring the younger generation
for leadership has not yet been formulated.
Every Muslim 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
Parents play 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 continuos 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.
The frontiers 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. The parents have the choice to 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 and disadvantages.
WHY ISLAMIC EDUCATION?
American society today is drifting aimlessly in a sea of problems:
• Guns and violence including rape
• Sexual promiscuity and immorality
• Single parent families
• Children traumatized emotionally and psychologically as a result of broken
• Disrupted upbringing
• One million teen-age pregnancies of unmarried mothers per year
• Sexually abused children
• Spousal abuse
• Child abuse
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 thinkings 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 the 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. Islamic identity, 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.
Problems in Islamic Schools:
• No Adaab or Islamic etiquette or behavior
• Parents want teachers to be lenient
• Some girls and boys meet secretly in the basement.
• They have girl-friends and boy-friends
• They do smoke
• Profanity is written on the walls, desks, blackboards, etc.
• Behave roughly: laughing, talking, screaming, rip off their Hijab on the
• Discipline: Behavior is no different from the Public Schools.
• Teachers are not fair. Spoiled kids as their parents are rich or important
• Less school activities for girls. Little opportunity to interact with other
• Islamic schools are running without an Islamic curriculum, often without
• No textbooks.
• No qualified 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.
• Non-Muslim teachers 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
• Qualified and certified Muslim teachers work in Public schools. As
Islamic schools do not offer viable salaries, benefits (pension health
• 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.
• Chronic shortage of space, science labs, auditoriums, gyms, playgrounds,
• High turnover rate (30 to 40 percent annually) of teachers.
• Parents' fear Islamic schools trade off academics for Islamic
• Organization, planning and discipline -suffer most in Islamic schools.
• Governance is the big reason why most Islamic schools suffer
• Do not develop an autonomous and unique decision-making (governance)
• School Boards require training in how to run a school
• School Boards rarely include women
• Parents do not play a part in Governance structure
• No qualified administrators
• Some parents worry Islamic schools offer an inferior quality of education.
• Children are not prepared to face competitiveness and the challenges of
the modern world.
• Seriously lacking in Muslim literature and culture.
• For many Muslim families, Islamic schools are not affordable.
• In sparse Muslim population areas, Islamic schools are not financially
• Very few trained Muslim teachers in special education or none
In North America major problem is the prevalent moral degradation of the society. In
establishing the 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 disastrous venture.
The best and safest place for a Muslim child to be educated
• Home schooling is possible only for a very small number.
• Requires motivated parents who are qualified.
• Parents should be trained and willing to devote long hours every day.
• Parents should impart both 'Islamic' and 'secular' education
• Prepare the children to successfully compete in the outside world.
• Parents rejoice in the experiencing a child harvest the fruits of an education.
• Taking children from pre-reading to reading is an exhilarating experience.
• Public and / or private schools may have turned children away from being
self-motivated learners and taken the joy of learning away from them.
The public/private schools are not as thorough as a parent wishes.
• There is no available or affordable local full time Islamic school.
• The Islamic school does not provide the entire K-12 educational experience.
• Public schools work against the parent's authority and unfriendly to Muslim
• Public school texts and classroom materials may be destructive to Islamic
values and parental authority.
• Parents develop their own curriculum, pick out books, texts and workbooks
that best suit
their needs and family or learners style.
Home schooling removes children from an environment of drugs, violence,
Experimentation, gangs, and peer pressure.
It returns them to a healthy, safe, Allah-centered learning environment.
• A school schedule that is friendlier to the demands of an Islamic life can be
• Classes can be held on Saturday and Sunday, continued during Christian
lightened during Ramadan and stopped for Eids.
When family moves and relocates, continuity in education is preserved.
• Homeschoolers do not have to fit the child to the curriculum
• Homeschoolers make the curriculum fit the individual child.
• Misconception: parents need to know everything or spend all day teaching.
• School days need not be as long, either.
• One-on-one instruction is faster than one-on-30.
• Home schooling is legal in all fifty states, Canada, the United Kingdom and
many other countries
• Homeschooling 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
• SOCIALIZATION: Muslim families arrange weekly or monthly field trips or
social events. Participate in local Boy/Girl Scouts, sport teams, craft and
YMCA (physical education requirements).
Muslim organizations that meet social needs of Muslim children: Muslim
Youth Camps, MYNA,
local Masjid youth programs, summer camps, vacation camps, Muslim Athletes
Home school students watch much less television than students nationwide.
• Home school student achievement test scores are exceptionally high.
• Home schooled students have higher scholastic achievement test (SAT) scores
than students who attended other educational programs.
• Homeschooled children are winning Spelling Bee and Geography Bee
No tuition fees. Public schools are run with tax-dollars to which Muslims
• Have qualified, trained and certified teachers
• Teachers are paid well, with all the benefits
• Provide secular curriculum which has many good skills-like critical thinking
• Tries to inculcate thirst for knowledge
• Teachers are strict about homework
• Classes are scheduled in blocks with longer times.
• Provide college preparation with emphasis on science, math, English and other
• Provide real life experience-meet children of all strata of society, diversity, co-
• Sufficient space for buildings, libraries, labs, playgrounds, gyms, Internet and
• Public schools in suburban areas provide quality education, relatively in a safe
• Provide almost free Textbooks.
• Provide free or subsidized lunches for low-income Muslim families.
• Provide advanced classes for gifted and talented children.
• Provide education for special children who are slow learners or mentally
• Public schools provide an excellent opportunity for advancing the cause of
• Gives opportunities for Muslim students and teachers to dispel misconceptions
Problems of Public Education:
• Drug abuse
• Boyfriend-girlfriend -romantic pair- starts early in pre-school
• Sexual Experimentation,
• Peer Pressure
• Secular curriculum places undue emphasis on western culture and ignores
• English literature is devoid of Muslim authors and Muslim topics
• Cultural heritage (provides identity and belonging to a cultural group) taught
is totally Western.
• Muslim youth torn between school culture and Muslim culture at home
• Religious holidays are celebrated but no Muslim holidays
• Lying is accepted as growing up aspect.
• Family concept is deeply eroded
• Social studies class does not give credit to Muslim/Islamic contribution to the
development of West
• Distance learning via the World Wide Web and Internet.(
• Virtual Islamic Schools
• Non-Muslim Parochial Schools
• Non-Muslim Private Schools
• Charter Schools-funded 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.
Examples of Charter Schools: Star International Academy and Universal
Academy. Both are in Detroit, Michigan. Website:
Charter schools provide solid foundations of knowledge and skills to compete
in the world.
• Admission is open to all state residents and students pay no tuition.
In his state of the union address on February 4, 1997, President Bill Clinton declared
that if the United States failed to accept the responsibilities of leadership, it could
endanger the peace of the world and its own welfare. He said, " The new promise of
the global economy, the Information Age, unimagined new works, life enhancing
technology-- all these are ours to seize….. We must be shapers of events not
observers." President Clinton plans for strong economy, and democracy, job certainty
to Americans, harnessing the force of technology and science, strengthening families
and communities, saving the environment and making America the strongest forces
for peace, freedom and prosperity. In his address President Clinton gave the topmost
priority to education for the next four years. " Education is a critical national issue for
our future" he declared. His " Call to Action for American Education" is based on ten
principles ensuring that all Americans will have the best education in the world. The
President fixes the goals of education at all levels. He observes that every 8-year-old
must be able to read; every 12-year-old must be able to log on to the Internet; every
18-year-old must be able to go to college and every adult must be able to continue
learning throughout one's life.
Islamic Horizons May/June 2000
2. The Message International May 2000