The Importance of Islamic Schools in America
Read in the Name of your Guardian Lord, who created. Created man from a clot of congealed blood. Read and your Guardian Lord is most generous, He who taught the use of the pen. Taught man that which he did not know. Nay, but man doth transgress all bounds, In that he looketh upon himself as self sufficient. Qur’an 96:1-7
Allah (swt), the All Wise Creator, introduced Himself, firstly, to our Prophet Muhammad (saw) as the Guardian Lord (rabb) who created and taught man. One might ask the question, “Why did Allah not introduce Himself using the name “Allah”? Only Allah knows for sure, however, one might deduce from this that Allah wanted to introduce our Prophet to His attributes that are most important to the creation and development of man. That man’s creation and existence is not by accident. It was He, Allah, that gave man his origin and designed the womb for his nourishment, both in his mother and in the external world, after his birth. Then out of His generosity He taught man and gave him means to record and preserve the knowledge that he learned. And until this day, Allah (swt) is still the Nourisher and Sustainer of man and He is still the ultimate teacher of human beings. The discovery of new knowledge and skills is only through the mercy of Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds. Hence, man has nothing to boast about or claim in which he cannot trace back to Allah (swt). Therefore, when we attempt to build a viable educational future for our children and ourselves here in America, or anywhere else in this world, we cannot do it successfully without putting Allah at its center.
In this short article, I’d like to discuss the importance of Islamic schools for our future as Muslims in America. Of course, one might ask, “Why Islamic schools when we have free public education in America and many very good public charter schools administrated by Muslims?” Why should one pay a tuition fee when he/she can keep that money and buy some material properties, such as; a new car, a new house, more gold or platinum, more clothes, etc.? One might say that he/she is already being taxed by the government, so why pay more? They believe that their child can get a “good education” for free. All of the aforementioned seems perfectly reasonable to the materialistic driven mind and perhaps even to some religious minded individuals. However, we must take into consideration that “getting something for nothing” is a misnomer when we live in a capitalistic society such as America. The bottom line is that education in this country is to train a work force to build the economic and political institutions that exist and to expand those bases. Unfortunately, it is not to build the human being so that he or she will be successful in this life and the life hereafter. It is not to build strong G-d fearing individuals, because such individuals will not be the consumer market and morally degenerate, open to all vices, people that the capitalist need to build their society. Therefore, as Muslims, unless we also buy into this type of society, then we must have an alternative.
We, among many, believe that if we are to have a future in America, as true Muslims following Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (saw), then we must chart our own course. We must trust our own ability to build institutions that respect Allah (swt) first and foremost. We must build educational institutions that have Al-Islam as their core value system and Prophet Muhammad as the model of correct human conduct. We must have educational institutions that does not prohibit the invocation of Allah (swt). Institutions that allows our children to read and respect the Book of Allah (Al-Qur’an) as the most important book in their lives, because it is the book that qualifies or disqualifies all other books. Our children need an environment that’s conducive to their healthy and proper growth as Muslims. It is the healthy climate we create in our social spaces through individual and shared group spirit that allows the natural expression of the soul that Allah created to develop. Truly it is the way we touch the soul that empowers the innate spirit of taqwa and fujoor which is the beginning of enlightenment, not the information that we put into the child’s mind.
So, in contrast to traditional education, Islamic education is therefore concerned with the evolving of both the spiritual and rational life of the child. Islamic schools are concerned with developing the total being of the child, and not just his/her mind or intellect. As humans, our spiritual and rational, conscious and unconscious, individual and social thinking and behavior, our beliefs and values, must be addressed and in the proper manner. And we must have the environment to do that, if we are to be successful.
Respected believers, we must impress upon ourselves as individuals and as a collective group (ummah) of Muslims, that the future that Al-Islam offers us is second to none. However, if we and our children, in particular, are to realize that future here in America, we must be willing to make some sacrifices. Unfortunately, we as an ummah appear to have lost our way when it comes to the education of our children. We are giving Al-Islam to our children as if it is a drug store prescription. Giving them a dose on the weekend or maybe a dose in the summer and sometimes none at all. This will not build the children capable of continuing the future of Al-Islam in this country. Therefore, respected Muslims, we must understand that Allah (swt) has prescribed Al-Islam as a total way of life and its knowledge is paramount as a daily prescription for our children. It’s practice must be cultivated in our children everyday, not just on the weekends or during the summer. That is a good effort, but at best, it falls short of reaching the goals that we all hope for.
Lastly, we’d like to remind you, that the lack of resources in some Islamic schools is not an excuse for you to not enroll your child and or not to support them. If Islamic schools are to be the excellent schools that we all hope for, now and in the future, then they must have the support of the believers. And I advise us all to not forget, that the government supported schools that many of us respect as the “educational citadels of the world” had very humble beginnings. Our schools will be no different, but in time, with the help of Allah (swt) and your support, they will once again be the sort after institutions for all who wish the best for their children.
Nadir S. Ahmad
Director of Al-Ikhas Training Academy