Islamic Schools: Who's Responsible?
by Muhammad Alshareef
What do you give to your son on his wedding night as a gift? A Mitsubishi Lancer, a Honda Accord, or do you give him the ever useful toaster?
When Ibn Al-Qayyim’s son was getting married, he found himself in this gift dilemma. He thought and thought and decided upon a gift that would not only benefit his son, but all the Muslims. He lit a candle, dipped his pen in the ink, and began writing. The gift, you ask? A book dedicated to his son and daughter-in-law about marriage and the rights of children. He named the book, Tuhfatul Wadood, bi Ahkaam al-Mowlood. The value of the gift? Priceless.
Many times we hear about the respect due to parents – because it is often the parents who are speaking. Yet, how often do we hear about the rights of children? Indeed, they have many rights that go farther back than 9 months before their creation. For example, they have the God given right that their future mother or father choose a spouse that will teach them about Allah and be an excellent example for them In his book, in Chapter 25, Ibn Al-Qayyim discusses the obligation of teaching the children, disciplining them, and being just between them. Additionally, one of the rights of children is the right to an Islamic education.
Allah ta’aala commands us:
O you who believe, protect yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is people and stones …(At-Tahreem 66/6)
We are commanded by Allah ta’aala to save ourselves from Hellfire. But it does not end there. The commandment extends to our family; we must save them also. Using all our resources we must save them from Hellfire, and the biggest weapon we have to protect them is knowledge of what Allah and His Messenger require from them. For verily, a human is enemy to that which he does not understand.
In another verse, we see the example of Luqman with his son:
But if they endeavor to make you worship others with Me – that of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey, yet accompany them in (this) world with appropriate kindness (Luqmaan 31/15).
Notice how Allah ta’aala mentions the shirk that the child is being called to as something which he has no knowledge of. Meaning, no knowledge of its divinity, for there can be no knowledge about something which is non-existent and untrue.
And yet in another situation, Allah ta’aala describes the exchange between Nuh and his son:
…And Nuh called to his son who was apart (from them), "O my son, come aboard with us and be not with the disbelievers." / (But) He said, "I shall take refuge on a mountain to protect me from the water." (Nuh) said, "There is no protector today from the decree of Allah except for whom He gives mercy." And the waves came between them, and he was among the drowned (Hud 11/42-43).
It has been said that about 90% of everything a child learns, he learns it within the first 5 years of his or her life. If that is not enough cause for concern, the children at that fragile age are ever so keen to please the adults in their lives, especially the ones they see day after day. Subhan Allah, it is a survival skill that Allah ta’aala created in humans. For had they not had this desire to please the 'teacher', they most likely would not develop intellectually.
If you went to public school, imagine back to your public school kindergarten class or grade 1 class and how you used to act with the teacher. Did you try to please him or her every chance you got? Would you do things just to win her pleasure? I know for me, when our school play for the Christmas Concert was coming up, the teacher chose me to play one of the lead roles because of how good an actor I was. Mind you, I disliked the part and when a boy offered me a handful of corn puffs to switch parts with me, I readily accepted. I took him to Mrs. Mitchell and proudly announced that Jason would be taking my part. She was disappointed and said how much she wanted me to do the part. I could not bear to see her disappointment, so I continued with the part. At the time, I was in kindergarten.
The horror story begins when the child is entrusted to a non-Muslim – to someone who knows nothing about our obligation to Allah and His Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, someone who our Muslim children are so eager to please.
There once was a little girl in a public school in a Muslim country whose teacher was not practicing Islam. The little girl, following the blessed example of her mother, would go to school with her hijab on. The hijab, however, was something displeasing to her teacher, so she told the girl to take it off and not dare come back to school with it on the next day or she would suffer the consequences.
Home this girl went and told her mother of how the teacher did not want her to wear hijab in school and how she did not want to upset her teacher. Her mother calmly said, "Who do you want to please then, your teacher or Allah?" The little girl looked her mother in the eye and said, "Allah!"
The next day, the little girl returned with her hijab on, defiant. When the teacher saw her, she exploded in chastisement, "How dare you disobey me?"
The painful words kept coming and coming until the little girl lowered her head, sobbing. Then she shouted back, "I don’t understand who I am supposed to please – you or Him?" "Who’s Him?" asked the teacher.
Her eyes widened and a chill ran through her. The teacher stopped talking. From behind her tears, the little girl said, "No, I shall please Allah and Allah alone." That day the teacher sent a letter home to the little girl’s mother with the words, "Today your child taught me who I was and truly who is Allah. Thank you for raising such a blessed daughter."
Television sets and public schools are spreading a subtle devastating poison through the bloodstream of our youth. Take a random class of Muslim high school students from public school and reflect on their habits and their knowledge of Islam. If a parent has chosen public school for his son, in the final year when he looks over the school yearbook and sees a picture of his son standing hand in hand dancing with a kafir woman, at that time it will be too late to question his upbringing. Now is the time to question it, now, before it’s too late.
Al-Hasan ibn Ali radi Allahu anhu used to say, "Educate yourselves today, for today you are the youth of the community but tomorrow you shall be the seniors." Alhamdulillah, there are many exceptionally smart adults out there. When you are in their company, you cannot help marvelling at their intellect. However, a question comes to mind: "What could this person have done for Islam and the Muslim community if his parents had educated him about the deen?"
There is a child, in grade 3, who has memorized almost 7 juz of the Qur’an . He is 8 years old. This child, more than likely, knows more Qur’an than most adults. There are other children just as smart as him thrown to public school, their intelligence squandered on the Incas and the pyramids, while they cannot recite the very letters of their mother tongue.
Yahya ibn Humayd said, "We went to Imam Hammad ibn Salamah once and found him sitting with children narrating hadith to them. When he completed and the children left, we approached him and said, 'O Abu Salamah, we are the seniors of your tribe. We have come to you to learn. Why do you leave us and turn instead to these children?'" "He replied, 'I once saw in a dream that I was sitting on the banks of a river, bending over with a bucket to get water to drink. After drinking, I turned around and saw these children standing there, and so I gave them the bucket of water after me'" (Ibn Abee Ad-Dunya, Kitaab al-Ayaal).
A poet once said:
Young trees, if you raise them firm, they will grow straight,
They will not slouch if kept firm with a stick.
Perhaps discipline for young ones brings benefit
But that same discipline will no longer bring results in a senior.
Sa’eed ibn Rahmah Al-Asbahee used to tell his students:
"I used to camp out in the masjid in the hopes of getting the best seat in the halaqah of Abdullaah ibn Al-Mubaarak. I had friends my age, but none of them would do as I did. When the time for the halaqah would arrive, Ibn Al-Mubaarak would come and with him would be the seniors. They would complain to him, 'These children have overcome us at the halaqah, there is no place near you for us.'
"Ibn al-Mubaarak would reply, 'These children are dearer to me than you. You – how long shall you live? These children, however, perhaps Allah shall carry them far.'"
Sa’eed would then say to his students, "Today there is no one alive from that halaqah of Ibn al-Mubaarak except me."
When children work on a science experiment, an instrument that they might use is a thermometer. This is a device that reflects the heat coming from an object or area. At home we all have this thing called a thermostat. When we are too hot, it cools us down. And if we get cold it warms us up. Not only does it reflect the heat, it does something about it. When we look at the Muslim ummah, we will see that many of our communities are nothing more than thermometers. When there is heat coming from Bosnia, it registers a reaction in our salah, our du’aas, and our checkbooks. And when there is heat in Chechnya, it registers a reaction in our salah, our du’aas, and our checkbooks. This is the action of a thermometer. What we must become is thermostats; cooling things down when they get too hot and warming things up when they get too cool.
Today everyone is looking to our brothers and sisters in Palestine and pulling their hair because they cannot seemingly do anything. We must not let the things we cannot do stop us from doing what we can do.
By Allah, the long-term goal is the children. If we do not stand up to the challenge of educating them in Islam and raising them as best we can, we – with our own hands – are paralyzing the future of Islam in this country.
All of you are shepherds and all of you shall be questioned regarding your flock.
Never think that the work you do for the betterment of our children’s Islamic education goes in vain. There is an English word called sacrifice. Some Muslims when translating the idea of sadaqah may incorrectly use this concept of sacrifice. A more correct word is 'to deposit'. We are not spending these dimes hoping for nothing in return. Nay, we are investing it for an enormous return; we are depositing it in the Hereafter.
"What’s in it for me?" we always ask. Of the many blessings…
Firstly: Allah ta’aala will protect your children because of your piety.
The example given to us in the Qur’an is that of Khidr. When he built the wall without any compensation, he told Musa why:
And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure for them, and their father had been righteous. So your Lord intended that they reach maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord… (Al-Kahf 18/82)
Secondly: By educating and protecting the Muslim children, you would be fulfilling the amaanah (trust) that Allah has placed upon you. And in the fulfillment of ones trust lies success and a 401k plan in Paradise.
Allah ta’aala says:
Certainly successful are the believers …they who to their trusts and their promises are attentive / And they who carefully maintain their payers – those are the inheritors / Who will inherit al-Firdaus wherein they will abide eternally.
In conclusion, I would like to pose the question, who is responsible for these Islamic schools? We are all responsible – every one of us. This school and everything in it is our ra'eyyah and we shall be questioned for it.
As I was speaking to a good brother recently, he asked me about the situation of our Islamic school. We spoke about the upcoming fundraiser, and then he said to me, "A’aanak Allah (May Allah help you)."
I said, "No. You said it wrong. It’s a'aanan Allah (may Allah help us), because brother, you’re just as responsible for these Islamic schools as I am."