By: Nadira Ansari
“Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim male and female” (Bukhari)
This is a famous saying of the Prophet (SAW) regarding the importance of seeking knowledge. This is also one of the reasons that Muslim parents send their children to school and encourage them to develop an affinity for lifelong learning. In the society we live in we are fortunate to have the best technological resources at our finger tips. A large majority of Muslims however, are forced to send their children to public schools for various reasons, one of them being the inability to pay for the fees required for private Islamic School. Here we will discuss some challenges that Muslim children face in public schools and their solutions.
1. Prayer – “Prayer on its appointed time has been made obligatory to Muslims” (4:103). Parents are recommended to teach their children how to perform salat prior to their reaching adulthood. However, most Muslims do not give priority to encouraging their kids to read salat in a timely manner. Then, as a result when the child passes puberty he is not ready, nor does he have the habit or desire to pray on his own. Therefore, many Muslim adults have not adopted salat into their daily lives. This is why parents should teach their children how to pray before the age of 7 and help them practice by having them read fajr before going to school daily. Parents should speak to the teacher regarding zuhr prayer and request a short break in the school day so they may complete it. If the child is a bit older, parents should discuss accommodations for jumah with the school. YM and MSA can be requested to collaborate with the school and perform the khutbah and other activities with the students. In this way children can get together and participate in monthly food drives, masjid clean-ups, and Islamic activities related to Ramadan, and Eid. Where these programs have been implemented, the results have been positive. If parents would like to teach their children on how to perform sermons, then there are several available online. The children can study those khutbahs and perform one on their own at Jumah. This will help increase their confidence and public speaking skills. Also, if a parent volunteers they can pick up the children and take them to the nearest mosque and bring them back in time to resume their classes.
2. Purification – “Purification is half of faith” (Bukhari). It is important for parents to teach their children the methods and rituals of wudu and ghusl. On a daily basis, provide them with a small water bottle so they may use it to clean with in the bathroom. Otherwise wet wipes could also be used for this task. Often the facilities available in gym locker rooms do not have doors in front of showers. It is important to teach your children to guard their private parts and avert their gaze from others’ as well. They must know that this is the command of Allah.
3. Sex Education – Due to American culture children are exposed to topics regarding sexuality at a very young age. They are bombarded with innuendo on television and in cartoons and often by mistake due to living with adults around them. Because these subjects are not considered shameless to the average American, they are discussed and taught in school via books and videos. If a parent desires to prevent their child from watching the video they can bring home literature and explain it in their own way. The primary goal of sex education in schools is to teach students about safe, protected sex. However, in Islam we must teach our children that any sex before marriage is completely haram. This is why those actions that may bring you closer to this are also haram, such as being close, hugging, and kissing the opposite sex. Help children understand that Islam forbids the immodest way of life to avoid being plagued with issues that face American society. The statistics from the National Center for Domestic and Sexual Violence reports each year approximately 2.3 million people are raped and assaulted by current or former intimate partners. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. Parents should know who their children are friends with both in the real world and in cyberspace. Parents should also be vigilant and find the registered sex offenders listed in their area. If parents do not feel comfortable teaching their own children, they may request an aunt or uncle who is close to their child to fulfill this task. Due to the proper sex education given at home in an appropriate and shameful manner, the child will be able to differentiate between what is right and wrong at an early age.
4. Food – “O People! Eat the food that is pure and halal” (2:168). Before the first day of school it is important to ingrain in your child’s mind that pork and any product related to it is forbidden. To eat these foods is a grave sin which also does not allow your worship to be accepted. It is also necessary to teach one’s child about zabihah and non-zabihah. If the child buys lunch at school then he must be able to make the decision between what is halal or haram. But it is better to prepare their lunch at home with their favorite foods so that they are not ashamed to bring something different than the other kids. Rather they should be proud that unlike other kids whose menus cycle the same food, they bring something new on a daily basis.
5. Modesty.” Modesty is a branch of faith. One who does not have modesty does not have faith.” (Bukhari). Children must be trained from the very beginning to have modesty. Modesty should be included in the way they walk, how they talk, and what they wear. They must always avoid profane language, lying, and backbiting. They should be encouraged to respect their teachers, parents, and elders. A girl’s figure should not be visible through her clothes. While the clothes can be any kind – from the east or west they should not be too tight or too thin. And most importantly, the private parts must be guarded. Regardless of the heat, it should not be allowed for girls to wear shorts. Boys should not wear earrings, necklaces, or bracelets. Girls should only talk to boys about necessary things related to school work and other topics. They should avoid making friendships that result in excessive closeness. Girls and boys should never stay alone – there should be another boy or girl in their company. Never allow one’s daughter or son to go to a party in which boys and girls will mix freely. Be mindful of the extracurricular activities that children engage in. Involve them in healthy sports activities so that they learn about team-building. This way they will be prepared to enter the playing field of the real world in which they will be exposed to a variety of people from all different backgrounds. Do not get overwhelmed by fulfilling all of their demands. Make them understand that in this world you cannot always get everything you desire – no matter your age. Teach children to revere the elders and love the little ones. Have their younger siblings work for them and help them and create an environment of love and appreciation towards each family member. Then these are the same children that will eventually respect their teachers and shower their parents with love. “Those who do not respect their elders and are not merciful towards the youth are not amongst us” (Bukhari).
6. Holiday Celebrations – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween are all holidays that
come in the school year. It is important for parents to teach the history and meaning of the holidays to their children before they are exposed to them in school. Make them understand that these are all marketing techniques to make businesses more profitable. There is no such thing as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny is not real. If children are required to participate in activities in school such as decorating a Christmas tree or other arts and crafts teach them that these are to be stored away at home instead of negating their effort and throwing it away. Similarly, Halloween is a demonic holiday that encourages Satan worshipping. Parents can provide children with candy and treats prior to the holiday and make them understand that begging is haram. Always remember kids are very understanding and easy to influence, if taught in a loving manner then they will accept it. If they continue to plead and beg, let them do this action but make sure to inform them that you are very angry with them for this action and will not talk to them. It is guaranteed that next year this same child they will not celebrate the holiday and will even help explain to the younger child on how to avoid this. Islamic celebrations like Ramadan and both Eids should be emphasized and prepared for. For example, a poster can be made depicting a moon and 30 stars, as each day of Ramadan passes the child could remove a star. This will help them anticipate the excitement of Eid. It is also advised to sit and read quran with children daily and take them to Tarawih prayers. Make sure the child reads 8 rakat of tarawih and then allow them to play. Do not drop the child off at masjid for the sole purpose of playing. Often parents are heard saying that children are only given one month to play with other Muslim kids. However this is not the right approach. When these children grow old they will never pray tarawih on their own let alone go to the masjid. The second celebration is Eid – ul – Adha. Celebrate this eid with a lot of enthusiasm. One should take their family to the farm house and slaughter their own animal with the help of the child, and share the story of prophet Ibrahim. Make them understand the purpose of slaughtering. Take permission from the child’s school to teach the classes about our holidays. For example a puppet show or story-time can be performed. The children at the public school will then ask many questions and gain knowledge about Islam.
Always remember it is very difficult to retain one’s Islamic identity. If we don’t open our eyes, our children will be lost in this melting pot, and then we will be crying but to no avail because our children will have left us behind. Once in a Houston mosque there was a janazah for an old man. Many people came to attend this funeral but stayed outside of masjid – citing their relationships as brothers, sons, and grandsons. They were all dressed in black. It was then found out that these people were not Muslim and did not know about the rituals of Muslim burial. Upon finding this out, the Muslims present at the masjid were saddened wishing only that these people were Muslim too. It makes one think, will our own progeny remain Muslim? Those children for whom we sacrificed our lives, wealth, and time – will they even offer a few words seeking repentance on our behalf when we pass? “Allah does not allow anyone’s efforts to be wasted. No matter if they are a man or a woman.” (3:195) It is our responsibility to work hard for the training of children to be good Muslims. The acceptance of our hard work is up to Allah. Do not be flustered by the challenges you face, and do not leave the children on their own. Work hard and have hope in Allah. Always do the following dua for them: “Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.” (25:73)