By Shahida Khan
Children are imitators and like all of us they learn from their surroundings. Because of this it is important to provide them with an environment that is conducive to instilling beneficial knowledge from teachers who are caring and committed to developing the spiritual character of the child. As Muslims we must equip them with an education that can benefit them in both this world and the next. If we desire the best of both worlds we need to think more seriously about our children’s education and whether we are fulfilling our duty to them and Allah (swt) by giving them a good education in an Islamic environment. On the authority of AbudDarda’, the Holy Prophet (saw) said, ‘If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise’. (Sunan of Abu-Dawood)
Many of the young Muslims acquiring an education these days are often led along a very different path. The environment in schools can in many cases have a bad influence on children. They are exposed to ideas, concepts and manners which are contradictory to the teachings of Islam and thus degenerative for both society and the individual, in this life and the next. This society argues that it values ‘freedom’ – freedom of movement, thought, expression and so on – these are seen as basic rights. However, these days school children are denied their right to be free from erroneous ideas and immoral teachings and behaviour. This can lead to children abandoning home values in personal and social matters.
Additionally, the system encourages children to take a sceptical view on religion and adopt a materialistic outlook on life. These days teachers assume that their students are each an end in themselves and are often simply viewed as a commodity in the vocational world – you learn, earn money and die. As Muslims we know that we are but a means to serve a greater purpose – for the worship of Allah (swt).
Mainstream schools thrust children into competitiveness from a very early age. Schools are now taking children from the age of three into their nurseries. Although this is regarded as not being compulsory, parents are under increasing pressure to register their children in school nurseries. This is due to the fear that their child may not otherwise be guaranteed a place in their school of choice as priority is given to pupils in those nurseries. This results in the distancing of the child from the mother at an alarmingly early age, the child is placed in an environment that drowns them amidst a sea of strangers and they are not given the attention that is so vital at this age.
One of the biggest problems in schools is the bad influence children can have on one another. More and more Muslim children are being enticed into immoral anti–Islamic behaviour and habits. Such institutions offer little if any discipline in themselves. Amidst the growing climate of attacks on teachers, school bullying, drugs and violence, we are losing more and more children to the system. Bad habits such as lying, cheating, stealing, disrespect for authority, drug abuse and immodest dress are the diseases which have contaminated most, if not all schools. There is a lot of emphasis on good companionship in Islam. Keeping the company of pious Muslims leads one to think in an Islamic frame of mind, facilitating ones journey to paradise. Often the parents’ efforts in inculcating good Islamic teaching are destroyed by the influences of immoral placements. Parents have little control over such influences on the child especially when they are apart from each other for an average of 7-8 hours every day. At school, children often lose their self esteem and are exposed to much negativity: rejection, taunts, bullying, mockery if he is a slow learner, if he is gifted, too tall, too short – the list is endless.
Many educational writers such as Neil Postman, John Holt and David Huxley, to name but a few of the growing number of critics, claim that schools support a competitive, exploitive ideology which perpetuates inequality in the world and further add that this can even undermine the cause of peace. Paul Goodman, a leading critic of State education and an acclaimed educational writer, states in his book ‘Compulsory Miseducation’: ‘…the mass superstition…is that education can only be achieved by the use of institutions like the school…’. Goodman argues that, ‘…On the contrary, subjecting young people to institutionalised learning stunts and distorts their natural and intellectual development, makes them hostile to the very idea of education, and finally turns out regimented, competitive citizens likely only to aggravate our current social ills…’. We may find this view a touch extreme, however we cannot discard the mounting research that has been carried out and the growing concerns of many educational analysts about the effects of modern schooling.
Imam al Ghazali (Ra) defined the role of the teacher in Islam as: ‘…to dissuade students from evil ways with care and caution…’. As parents, we need to ask ourselves whether the teachers in the schools fulfil this criteria. These days teachers themselves are often the reason for the rise in immoral concepts and ideas and they often set a bad example for the young. In contrast to school the child who is educated at home can learn and feel confident about his Deen and is not confronted by atheist teachers who more often than not set examples of immoral speech and conduct. In State schools our children are exposed to false doctrines and are taught subjects such as evolution as ‘a matter of fact’, often supported by ‘scientific research’. Concepts such as homosexuality, and premarital sex are also discussed and even encouraged. Schools indoctrinate with these false philosophies.
At home, in contrast, concepts such as what is right and what is wrong and respect for elders are taught naturally, as the child develops and establishes themselves as a member of their family. This home contact is crucial. In their formative years children need to be in a nurturing environment for it is at this point that the foundation of their character is formed and they require much love and attention, and, who better to give it than the child’s own family?
Home-educated children are also at an advantage socially as they will be far more likely to associate with children that their parents choose for them. This lessens or can even eliminate the harmful influences that other children can have on your child. This helps to enable the child to develop into a responsible, reflective adult with a solid foundation both in the Deen and Dunya: beneficial to his own self and society at large.
It seems to be a fact that one of the biggest misconceptions people have about home educated children is that they are isolated socially. Research has proven on the contrary. Such children are, in fact, more socially mature and thus play a more effective role in society. Some of the greatest thinkers in modern days were home educated (see Education Otherwise web site – http://www.education-otherwise.org). Home-schooled children learn to think more independently than school children their age. As the home child associates more with adults and children of both their own and of other ages, they learn to get along with a variety of people. This aids in breaking down the growing generation divide between parents and offspring that many Muslim families are exposed to in the West and it can also help children grow up to become good social leaders. At home the child is free from peer pressure thus they learn and develop naturally and confidently in an environment which is spiritually healthy – the family. Children who are home educated are much more likely to develop respect for their parents and, therefore, respect for all authority figures, above all, Allah (swt).
One thing we need to remember is that education does not end at the receiving of a certificate – it is for life and for the next life. Real life is not simply about making a living, that is only a minute portion as a means. Our main purpose should be to become good Muslims. This is more likely to occur if a child is placed in a healthy, wholly Muslim environment where like a precious rose, is watered and cared for so that he may bloom. A child needs both spiritual and physical nourishment to develop into a righteous believer – only then can he be a true benefit to others. The child needs to be in an environment with other good Muslims, and not associate with children from morally deficient households, as is the norm in our schools today.
Muslim Home Education Network Australia ( MHENA ) is a united group of Muslim Homeschooling mothers, with experience in all of the learning stages up to stage 5, from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. Read More