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The Adventures of Homeschooling

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Had someone told me years ago that I’d one day be educating two hyperactive, adorable little mini-me’s at home, I would have laughed in their faces and called them the most glib prophesiers ever! Stay at home all day with two naughty little elves always up to something? Never!

And here I am, tired and drained as I write this, but wonderfully happy with my decision to homeschool. This wonderful foray into the world of home education, child psychology and parenting techniques began with first my stint as parent.

Utterly clueless except for a burning desire to fulfill my responsibility as a mother, I sincerely prayed to the One who had placed me in this important position by handing me a crying, burping, squealing, pooping and spitting-up bundle of joy, to guide me to raise her right – in a manner that would get me His pleasure and approval.

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When that first bundle was merely a few months old, I started hearing well-wishing advice from others urging me to register her as soon as possible in one of the “good schools” in the city – schools that have hefty admission and monthly fees, long admission applicant lists, bureaucratic interview processes, and even longer waiting lists for the unrelentingly ardent hopefuls. I went along wherever the tide took me, never challenging those who insisted, “It is very important for a child’s confidence and personality development to put him or her into a good school at a very early age nowadays, as early as 18 months or 2 years! If you do not do that, your child will not be able to succeed in life, or learn how to be sociable.”

It was not long before I found all these myths and delusions challenged by practical experience and observation. Children as young as 2 do not need to be left in a room full of strangers to develop their confidence. Why does Allah make a child suckle for up to two years? Why does Allah not enable a human baby to walk before the age of 10-11 months at the very least (even though goat kids and other mammals start walking mere hours after birth)? Why is completely potty training a child not possible before the age range of 18 months to 3 years? —> Because children so young need their mother’s unswerving love, attention and physical contact to gain confidence in their budding, initial years of life.

I started reading up a lot about homeschooling, parenting techniques, child psychology and educational models and methodologies online. Whenever I’d face a problem with parenting both my children, I’d go online to try to find a solution for it, e.g. how to handle a tantrum, and from there I’d also try to discover why a child throws one, so that I could avoid the problem in the future. I discovered eye-openers such as this:

Children, like all human beings, crave freedom. They hate to have their freedom restricted. Children explore and play, freely, in ways designed to learn about the physical and social world in which they are developing. In school, they are told they must stop following their interests and, instead, do just what the teacher is telling them they must do. That is why they do not like school.– Peter Gray, a specialist in Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology.
[- Freedom to Learn, PsychologyToday.com]

I must admit, the vast chasm between what I learned during my reading stints about how children learn and what society, especially its elders, were telling me, led me to become an enormous mass of confusion, pushing me into a constant mental dilemma. I started turning to Allah in earnest supplication (du’a), asking Him to make me see reality as it is, rather than what people want me to think it is. Also, my husband was not convinced that homeschooling was the way for our children, especially since their naughtiness sometimes drove me up the wall so much that he seriously doubted what my mental state would be if both of them not only stayed at home all day, but also had to be taught by none other than me.

I always find it interesting how people are so convinced of specific outcomes of certain actions. They tell you with conviction, “If you do that, such-and-such thing will happen,” even though evidence to the contrary exists right under their noses. E.g. when I started hijab, countless ladies were convinced that “girls who observe hijab do not get married”. But then I did get married, alhamdulillah, even before some other girls of my age in my extended family, who did not wear hijab.

The same applies to home education. People will make statements with unflinching conviction, such as, “Your children will become shy and unsociable,” or “Your children will not learn how to write exams or get along with peers” and so on. My daughter studied in school from the age of 2.5 to 5, and despite being around peers her age, she still preferred the company of adults: teachers, school maids, or her parents. One of the consistent “complaints” her teacher made to me was, “You have to make her get along with children her age; she always comes up to my desk and takes an interest in what I am doing, rather than playing with her classmates. This is problematic, and you need to make her hang out more with peers.”

*Cough* This is a “problem“? A child who likes hanging out with adults is a “problem child”? Last I checked, preferring the company of adults and older children over that of peers was one of the signs of giftedness!

When I heard this, I remembered `Ali Bin Abi Talib, `Abdullah Bin Abbas, `Abdullah Bin `Umar, Usama Bin Zaid (may Allah be pleased with them), and other “children” of their generation who used to regularly hang out with some cool adults as children. How did this adult company affect them? Did it not make them learn skills at an early age, gain foundational knowledge more quickly, and succeed in life after they grew up?

Eventually, I started doing sincere istikharah, attending activities and get-togethers of home educating families in the city, and brainstorming options with my husband. I was convinced that homeschooling was the best way to raise responsible children, but I was not sure if it was the solution for our family. Hence, the mental dilemma continued, until I started my daughter on her school’s summer vacation homework during July this year.

When I actually started practically teaching her, what transpired was nothing less than an epiphany for me. She loved that I was taking time out and teaching her chapters from her books. She did her work quickly and with interest, so much so that we’d finish the reading and question-answer set of one chapter per subject in an hour at the most, whereas her school would make her do the same amount of work in a week – reading out a chapter to 20 children at once in class, making them all answer the questions in their notebooks, and giving the leftover questions as homework to be completed under the parents’ supervision at home.

As it happened, my husband read a couple of homeschooling articles online, without my telling him to do so in an attempt to convince him to homeschool, and by Allah’s decree, he became convinced that homeschooling was the best option for us as well.

And that is how Allah answered my earnest istikharah prayers and ended my constant mental turmoil. It has been three months since we took this decision, and alhamdulillah, we are pleased that we did.

I’d like to point out a few factors here, however, which I think made the decision to homeschool easy and practically workable for our family:

  1. We do not have a television set or any kind of video games in our residence, but we do have many other resources to keep our children occupied, which means that they spend most of their time reading or engaging in creative work, games, and productive play.
  2. We live as a nuclear family, where we, as the parents, get to practice total control over our children’s activities and pastimes. This is not always possible in extended families where many others live in close proximity e.g. our children cannot watch any television by going upstairs to their uncle’s home.
  3. I have given all my time to be with my children, as a constant supervisor. At least one parent’s constant presence around the children is necessary for homeschooling to be possible. I know that all mothers cannot do that, especially those who work, but it is important to remember that a homeschooling parent’s time is not always their own – their children are their constant companions. That becomes, ironically, an effective teaching methodology in itself that benefits the latter: they constantly observe their parents and learn to master adult tasks and responsibilities at young ages. This particular methodology is also endorsed by our Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) sunnah. He never restricted his company, talks, sermons or other group activities to only people who were adults. Rather, wards such as Anas Bin Malik and even his own wife A’ishah, (may Allah be pleased with them) were placed in his company as minors/children, because of which they acquired knowledge and grew immensely in their own skin. Contrast that to how we tend to treat children under the age of twelve: we want to get them out of the way, make arrangements for them to be occupied in activities revolving around make-believe, fantastical, dream worlds having princesses/princes, castles and unrealistic characters, and thwart their natural curiosity by giving them lame answers far from reality (“No, no, don’t be sad. That kitten did not die, it was just asleep!”).

Will we always be successfully able to homeschool our children? I do not know at this point. We do intend to keep the option of enrolling them into regular school as a valid contingency scenario if and when circumstances change. However, with the rampant culture of private tuition and education in Pakistan, it’d not be an exaggeration to say that homeschooling is here to stay.

How They Stay Busy: A play slide overturned to simulate a vendor’s pushcart selling toys as wares

Here are some of the most valuable lessons I have learnt as a parent since I started homeschooling:

  1. Children are naturally curious and possess an intrinsic love of learning. This love is thwarted by none other than the adults around them, when the latter respond negatively to the incessant questions and interruptions children make.
  2. Children keenly observe and emulate their parents.
  3. Children like to learn independently, after minimal guidance from adults.
  4. Children love to read, especially text accompanied by illustrations.
  5. Children are enthralled by, and enjoy the company of, animals.
  6. Children love not just to build things from raw materials, but also to take things apart to see what they are made up of (“You broke this up too?!”)
  7. Children love to play and experiment with diverse textures such as water, paper, mud, wood, plants, sand and paints.
  8. Children get hooked on television, cartoons, comic books, musical songs and video games only because their parents bring these things into the home for them, and plop them down in front of them to keep them occupied and hence, out of their own hair.
  9. Children forget and keep no grudges, so even if a parent makes a mistake in their sincere effort to teach or train their child, an onlooking adult might remember it and remind the parent of it later, but Allah will make the child forget about it, especially if the parent repents and follows it up with good.
  10. Children love the Quran. If the Quran is played or recited before them, they catch on to it and automatically memorize it without any difficulties.
  11. Children who are homeschooled start to get along very well with their parents because both spend time so much together. They help their parents and rush to aid them in their day-to-day tasks.
  12. Children, if left on their own, can learn a skill or accomplish an adult task long before adults expect them to.

A homeschooling household transforms into a center of learning for the children, a place where parents are guides and teachers, where the children contribute to the chores and help out their parents in all activities.

In stark contrast, numerous mothers of school-going children “dread” the onset of summer or winter break/vacation because their children will be at home for three months. The children, on the other hand, treat vacation as “freedom” from books and boring schoolwork. Their home turns into a hotel-cum-entertainment center, where they sleep in till noon and spend the rest of the day wasting time in mostly unproductive activities, expecting Mum to turn into a chef catering to their whims and desires.

Education and traditional means of gaining knowledge are changing drastically as the years go by. An example of this is the Khan Academy, an online tuition centre or teaching program that is a one man show. An MIT and Harvard postgraduate gave up his lucrative full-time career to do what he loves: making online videos teaching math to youth. None other than Bill Gates has acknowledged the benefit of this academy, that was started and is still run from a closet inside the tutor’s residence.

Isn’t it quite ironic that we formally educate and train our children to attend the best institutions throughout their youth and then instruct them to go work for companies that are headed by college and school drop-outs who left “school” in order to pursue their natural interests and dreams, and consequently became financially successful? Isn’t it ironic that these drop-outs are today called in by these institutions to give graduation addresses and speeches?

However, what I am advocating here is not for everyone to drop their formal schooling, or not to pursue a job after they graduate if they want to. What I want everyone reading this post to realize is, that success does not lie in what the world wants us to do, or in what other people think we should do, but rather, in doing what we love, as long as it is not against the pleasure of our Creator. And this is the message which our children should be receiving from their parents, especially at ages less then 10, when they look up to their parents for every answer and for guidance in every little matter.

If you are not courageous enough to stand up to people for what you believe is the right choice for you or your children, how can you expect to succeed in life by always unquestioningly following the majority, riding the wave so to speak, and doing only what everyone else is doing, or what they’re telling you to do?

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Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan. 11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette. Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'. For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.

52 Comments

52 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rafa

    December 17, 2010 at 12:36 AM

    I was always curious about homeschooling. From my own experiences of public school at a young age, I’d say homeschooling would be, in many ways, the better option.
    There is one objection that always seems to come up though, which is the child’s “social life.” While I agree that it is beneficial for a child to spend time with adults, how does a homeschooled child go about making friends of their own age groups? And what about when schooling is done, and they’re faced with the “outside” world?

    Jazak Allah for the article!

    • Avatar

      Sabeen

      December 27, 2010 at 10:01 AM

      ” There is one objection that always seems to come up though, which is the child’s “social life.” ”

      This is one of the greatest misconceptions about homeschooling. Allah has blessed me and given me the ability to homeschool for the past six years and the opposite is true as far as my children’s social life is concerned. Homeschooled children are often involved in so many activities “outside” that the parents are always talking about scaling back on the extra-curricular. Since they are not tied to a school routine they often have a lot more flexibility in the activities they can participate in.

      There are endless opportunities for homeschoolers to interact through homeschooling support groups, through the activities at their local Islamic Centers etc. Many museum, zoos and libraries across the US offer special programs for homeschoolers. The “social life” thing would only be a problem if the parent is a socially isolated adult.

      Sadaf is mashallah homeschooling in Pakistan so she is truly a pioneer. May Allah give her the courage to continue and bless her and her children in this life and the next

      • Avatar

        Rafa

        December 27, 2010 at 11:32 AM

        Thanks for clearing that up. Jazak Allah!

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  3. Avatar

    abu abdullah

    December 27, 2010 at 3:28 AM

    jazak Allah khayr for the tremendous article. Mash Allah, Tabarak Allah may Allah bless your children. ameen.

  4. Avatar

    Muslimah

    December 27, 2010 at 7:28 AM

    JazakAllah, good one!

  5. Avatar

    an lusan

    December 27, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    London Home Schooling Resources

    One of the traps many muslim homeschoolers full into is the idea that homeschooling is about the school at home. So they get out the national curriculum, set up a class room in their living room and off they go.

    But with just a little research, they would realise that having your children at home gives you a unique opportunity to raise your children so that they can fufil their potential as a son or daughter of adam, created with the capacity for greatness.

    Ok , so we will give them homework as well as lessons?

    NO THE ABSOLUTE KEY to a childs growth is CONFIDENCE and never supressing their desire to learn.

    Well how do you that?

    First and foremost , no tests, no defined goals, no expectation of being able to read at the age of 5,6, or 7.
    and NO teaching.

    What NO TEACHING?

    Yep. our role is to facilitate their learning. Where the child explores what they are interested in. If they are ever being taught that which they don’t want to learn , you seriously risk them loosing the desire to learn. Boredom, stuck learning something they don’t want to, but this time there is no escape. They will be like the millions of kids who come out of school having learned, nothing but left with the memories of boredom, and the desire to get away from education as quick as they possibly can.

    So how do you facilitate learning.
    Well you learn with the child, bring to the equation your years of experience in being able to resource and research effectively.

    Thats it. No qualifications, no huge amount of resources. Just the attitude that your care for your childs growth and happiness, and thats the reason they are at home.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      December 31, 2010 at 12:18 AM

      Interesting. I agree that, especially at younger ages, stress should not be on teaching/structured lessons, as much as on letting the children learn on their own. Surround them with resources (crafts, books, pens, etc.) and let nature takes it’s course. Plus, if the children see their parents reading and having intellectual discussions, they will pick up a love of learning even faster, insha’Allah.

  6. Avatar

    A Muslimah and a parent

    December 27, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    May Allah help you in your sincere efforts. There were some interesting points in your article. I have been weighing the pros and cons of homeschooling vs Islamic Schools for a long time now here in the US for my son who will be turning 3 years old soon inshAllah. I personally know parents who homeschool as well as those who send their children to Islamic Schools. What I have seen in their children is a confirmation of what I have always known from personal experience. That is, the result depends on how much effort the parents put into their child’s studies and broader education. My mother constantly oversaw my education at school and very often taught us what took us beyond what we learned at school and at other times corrected the concepts we were taught in the light of Islam. Although we went to school, she was our primary educator. At school, I learned to compete with and interact with my peers many of whom were from diverse backgrounds. Some of them are even now my closest friends, my support system and my best advisors. I had the space to run around and play, I learned to work with others and make allowances for them. I benefited from going to school in more ways than one. Just wanted to share these thoughts. May Allah guide us and our children and make them righteous. Ameen. 

  7. Avatar

    ummi homeschooler

    December 27, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    MashaAllaah a very nice article. I also homeschool, in the Emirates.

    I have only one little thing to say! potty training, only a problem if you are using diapers especially disposable (though not really disposable) diapers/ nappies.

    So for those who haven’t heard about this insha’Allaah you find this beneficial.
    For a very long time the rest of the world (not the West) used elimination communication/ also known as diaper free or natural infant hygiene.

    heres some info you all might find shocking! but useful insha’Allah. its an amazing thing when you realise you can communicate with a 4 month old, who lets you know they need to go to the toilet! (might not be for everyone, just like homeschooling might not be for everyone.)

    http://www.freewebs.com/freetoec/
    Let’s begin with what it is not.

    EC is not potty training for babies. Firstly, the method is not anything close to what the word “training” would conjure up. There are no rewards or punishments, there is no unlearning of a previous habit, there is nothing in it that goes against the infant’s nature. EC is no more training infants to eliminate than breastfeeding is training an infant to eat.

    Babies have a need to eat: they are capable of communicating this need to us, and are capable of assisting us in fulfilling this need.

    Babies have a need to eliminate: they are also capable from birth of communicating this need to us, and assisting us to meet this need.

    Or, as my wise friend Jen says, “Being aware of your baby’s elimination needs is no more or less “parent training” than being aware of when your baby is hungry.”

    http://www.tribalbaby.org/ECindex.html
    In a nutshell, Elimination Communication is about the Communication.

    When I first heard about Elimination Communication, my second child was about 8 months old. The concept intrigued me. I knew that women around the world did not use diapers, and though they wore their babies on their bodies, they didn’t get soiled on. They simply tuned in to their baby’s cues from birth and at the right time, held baby out over a bush or toilet receptable and let nature take its course. I decided to try it with my son. I was tickled pink when I sat him on a little potty and he went, right on cue. It’s like he knew exactly what to do.

    • Avatar

      Nayma

      December 27, 2010 at 2:49 PM

      wow, jak for the new info. Never read about it before.

      • Avatar

        ummi homeschooler

        December 28, 2010 at 3:56 AM

        Yeah me too, when i first heard about it, i thought ppl would be spending all their time running to the loo with the baby! there was a small clip about it that i saw. then when i started reading about it, it was pretty amazing.

        I really feel like the whole bonding thing went to another level, just because all of us dh, and the older children could all tell, mama, he needs the loo!

        Masha’Allaah. i would say try it. i use it part time and it really does help, cuts down on diapers, easier time when you are diaper free and if your expecting again and the kid needs the loo he totally lets you know he needs to go or wants to be changed. no squished smelly mess! as they hate sitting in their own mess, alhumdullilah, so much cleaner.

    • Avatar

      Hebah Ahmed

      December 31, 2010 at 1:25 PM

      I could not agree with you more. I used the EC or Infant Potty Training technique (its more about training the parent to be aware of the child’s natural signaling) you described with both my children and it was amazing. It is a common misconception perpetuated by pediatricians that children cannot have control over their elimination before 18 months. AlhumduliLah my daughter was potty trained with number 2 from the age of 6 months and fully potty trained including night pottying by 14 months. Boys usually take longer so my son was not fully trained until between 2-2.5 years of age. I used cloth diapers so I would not get lazy about changing them and it also is much more environmentally friendly. After they were trained, even if I tried to put a diaper on them, they would refuse, and either try to pull it off or throw a tantrum.

      I also think it greatly effects the mental development of children because you are responding to their needs and signals early, teaching them effective communication and making them responsible for themselves at an early age.

      I personally believe if you have the time and energy for it, that it is the most Islamic way to deal with children due to its cleanliness, mental effects, and environmental savings.

      Hebah

      • Avatar

        ummi homeschooler

        January 2, 2011 at 8:18 AM

        As salamualykum

        Totally agree with you there sister about it being more islamic, clean and environmentally friendly. Alhumdullilah. i think even if people are a little scared about doing it, trying it even part time would help and would also keep the child from losing their natural reflex of holding it in!

        MashaAllaah for the article and all the comments about homeschooling. Its really nice to see positive information, expereience and advice regarding homeschooling.

        jazakAllahukhairn
        As salamualykum

  8. Avatar

    Lil' Muslimah

    December 27, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Assalam-o-Alaykum!
    What a WONDERFUL article!!! Currently, I am a freshman in high school but was homeschooled in 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade (I went to Islamic school in 4th grade) because my mother wanted my sisters and I to become stronger Muslims before entering the “real” world. And I ToTALLY agree!! Homeschooling made me a completely stronger muslimah! I now wear and abaya and hijaab in school and have ABSOLUTELY NO SOCIAL PROBLEMS (at least, thats what I think) and LOVE explaining my religion to other people! Insha-Allah, your children will flourish under thier loving parents supervision!
    I have a baby sister, who is four, and is currently homeschooled too, Walhumdulillah. She is academically ahead of her peers and acts very mature (maybe its cause my other sisters and I are WAAYYY older than she is). She LOVES memorizing Quran because she sees me and my otehr sisters memorizing and reading everyday. Insha-Allah, our goal is to have her memorize the 30th juz beofre she turns five.
    So my point is HOMESCHOOLING IS LEGIT!!! I have an undying love for my parents because I realize that they took the time out of their day to raise me (I was a difficult child, always trying to see how much trouble I could get into ;)) to my full capability. My parents instilled Islam into my sisters and I by acting like themselves and teaching us by example (praying in front of us, du’aa — normal routines of their lives)

    May Allah bless you and keep up your efforts!!!

    • Avatar

      Aaishah

      December 28, 2010 at 3:49 AM

      i am a junior and have been homeschooling frm 8th grade. i follow the curriculum thru keystone and i say i just love it!!
      but there is one thing as a homeschooler, u r faced with these enormous n silly questions by ur friendz.. questions like, how do u make friends, dnt u cheat in ur exams, or dnt u miss bullying ur teachers just bug u out!! :/
      but anyway, ALHMD i am finally way ahead than my peers who r in skool academically as well as Islamically.

      btw, Gr8 article!!

      • Avatar

        Hidaya

        December 28, 2010 at 10:43 AM

        ”ALHMD i am finally way ahead than my peers who r in skool academically as well as Islamically.”

        lol this statement doesn’t sound like you are ahead of them =D Not judging you , just stating how your statement came across.

        • Avatar

          Lil' Muslimah

          December 28, 2010 at 2:26 PM

          Yea, I have to say going back to public school brought down my Imaan a bit, but I try to keep it up by reading books (reading “Du’aa: Weapon of the Believer” by Yasir Qadhi right now – AWESOME BOOK) and listening to lectures. But going to school is an awesome Da’wah opportunity, especially if you live in an area where ANY sort of colored people are a minority and most people have never seen a Muslim in their life (I just moved to Indiana -aka the cornfields- last year… it is awful here)
          A couple of my friends told me that theyre gonna consider Islam for their future and a boy once told me that hes gonna marry a Muslim gurl int he future <– I wasnt sure how to respond to that soooo I just walked away :)
          But I hope your Islamic and worldly knowledge increases!!!

        • Avatar

          Aaishah

          December 28, 2010 at 11:10 PM

          thats slang!!:P dnt judge on that lol
          wat i mean is the skools here r not v nice n islamic. being a homeschholer made me goal-oriented, responsible and increased my iman.

          • Avatar

            Lil' Muslimah

            December 29, 2010 at 12:21 PM

            Agreed.

      • Avatar

        Sadaf Farooqi

        December 31, 2010 at 12:21 AM

        I am so pleased to see young homeschooled students comment under this article!
        Jazakum Allahu khair.

  9. Avatar

    Subahan Allah

    December 27, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    Aazing jazaki Allah khaire, will def pass this article on to others… :) May Allah bless Sadaf and her children

  10. Avatar

    BintKhalil

    December 27, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    Assalamu alaikum

    Will the homeschooling parents comment on their thoughts on this?

    • Avatar

      mmmtea

      December 28, 2010 at 11:33 AM

      As a homeschooling mom, this is pretty much preaching to the choir. I would be more interested to see the comments of those that are teetering.
      Thanks for the link. :)

  11. Avatar

    Curious

    December 28, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    JazakAllahu Khair Sr Sadaf for the fantastic article, mashaAllah!

    Homeschooling seems to have many benefits with regards to a childs development however one question I have. Till this day, after countless reading about home schooling and meeting home schooled children/adults (who are quite social btw! So this one is definitely a myth), I have noticed that academically that are not up there as their peers.

    I am not saying that they are dumb (no, they are intelligent) but what I mean by this is that I have not met any that have been home schooled their whole life and went on to gaining a very high qualification, e.g. Medicine etc.

    Sure they are intelligent, in fact I attended school for most of my life and changed to home school (due to my circumstances) for the remaining 3 years and there were different benefits. During my schooling years, I was the smart kid – the one that who would always get first place in most of my subjects, the one that peers called ‘nerd’, the one that the teachers loved but with regards to knowing where I wanted to go in the future and recognizing my talents, I did not have that because during school I had the mentality that whatever job offers the highest pay, highest status is the one to aim for.

    In contrast, when I left school – things were the total opposite. I learned so much more about life and about myself (and as a result, I became more mature than my peers) but with regards to my studies, they went downhill. It all relied on self motivation, self teaching ( my family could only help me to a certain extent ) and as a result I did not end up achieving as high as I was capable of [ not that it mattered to me because I had other plans for the future, but this is just an example ].

    Maybe I can be wrong. I don’t know but this is always something that tends to worry me with regards to home schooling so till I find a way to be able to give my children a good education during their last stages of schooling, I would inshaAllah homeschool them for the years that I can teach and then send them to a (good) school for the remaining years so that they don’t miss out.

    What do others think about this? This issue is hardly addressed because whenever the issue of homeschooling comes up, most of the time it is focused around the social aspect and it does not address something like this.

    • Avatar

      Curious

      December 28, 2010 at 3:05 PM

      by the way, school in and of itself was not the reason for my good grades rather it was because of the extra support I received from my family. So I think its possible to be on this intellectual level when being home schooled, as long as someone can teach it all to you but when your parents can no longer teach you then things get tricky.

    • Avatar

      an lusan

      December 29, 2010 at 6:17 AM

      salaam
      your making the mistake of judging success by academic qualifications.
      The reason homeschooled kids probably do not go on to be doctors or lawyers is because they recognize there is more to life than being a SKILLED worker. Which is what these professions are.
      Muslims HAVE to get out of this mindset that success is being a SKILLED worker whether it is a doctor or lawyer or engineer.
      Success should be measured by acheivement and creativity, like being an entrepreneur or creating an independent business.

      that said homeschooled kids CONSISTANTLY over acheive when they do take exams. And gain higher grades across the board.
      Like i said in my earlier post do some reasearch, especially on the reasons why compulsory schooling was set up (john taylor gatto). Because it was not set up to educate, but to create SKILLED dependent workers who peform their function of being cogs.

      We are all sons and daughters of Adam, and ALL of us have the capacity for great ness. So call Genius is as common as muck, its just that the vast majority are dummed down in the schooling system for a reason.

      If you had a thouand kids brought up how beethoven was raised, most likely you will have a thousand musical geniuses.

      • Avatar

        Curious

        December 31, 2010 at 12:09 AM

        Please don’t make an assumption, I never said anywhere in my post that success is when you get into med school nor did I say that home schooling kids are dumb. So no need to get heated up.

        My point is that if child (that was homeschooled) wanted to be a doctor or some high profession, then would home school make it harder for them due to the lack of resources mainly?

    • Avatar

      Med school

      December 30, 2010 at 2:37 PM

      I personally know many people who home schooled all their life and went to medical school, including my husband and sister in law. It all depends on the type of person they are (hard-working, studious, etc.)

      • Avatar

        Curious

        December 31, 2010 at 12:13 AM

        Jzk for this answer. I was looking for something like this.

        I understand that if you try your best then anything is possible. That theory is the case for everything in life but can you please elaborate on this? How did they do it? Did they go to private tuitions. Did their parents teach them? Did they teach themselves?

        When I was doing my final years of schooling at home, it was really difficult for me to self teach myself certain subjects that were a bit more complex such as physics, chemistry, mathematics.

        • Avatar

          Curious

          December 31, 2010 at 12:17 AM

          Also what country are we referring to here? Because where I am from, getting into medical school is very tough. One has to not only achieve top marks but they also have to do a special IQ test and in some states go through an interview process with a panel.

          • Avatar

            Med school

            January 7, 2011 at 10:33 PM

            They are going to medical school here in the US, which is very hard to get into. Basically, they homeschooled themselves using various resources with some help from their parents, started community college at a young age, transferred to a 4-year university, applied for medical school, and got in! :) Pretty much the same process as everyone else goes through.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      December 31, 2010 at 12:25 AM

      I have one example for you, of a homeschooled girl who went on to gain a high qualification from a prestigious university: Umaimah Mendhro. She studied at Cornell University and at Harvard Business School.

      You can read her interview at the above link. Our local Home Ed group interviewed her via email exclusively for the benefit of our group.

  12. Avatar

    Ismail Kamdar

    December 29, 2010 at 2:48 AM

    Jazakallah Khair for this.

    Between this and sister Zohra’s article and interview, I am seriously considering home-schooling my kids. I went to a Muslim school, and taught in some too, and am not happy with the ethics and ‘Islam’ in some of these schools.

    Alhamdulillah, I completed my high school through home schooling so I missed the worst part of school life. So I can compare and it seems that home schooling is harder but has better results.

    Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      December 31, 2010 at 12:28 AM

      May Allah guide you to the right decision for your family.
      Homeschooling is quite easy. Please start reading up on it in your leisure time, accompanied by sincere istikharah prayers, and insha’Allah, Allah will help you.

  13. Avatar

    Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

    December 30, 2010 at 8:20 PM

    When people tell you with conviction, “If you do that, such-and-such thing will happen,” they are in fact expressing their own fears and insecurities. They are bound by those fears, shackled like prisoners, so they can never admit that the shackles can be easily broken by one who dares.

    This was an inspiring article, thank you, and I love the way you pointed to those Sahabah who were “home-schooled”, i.e. the ones who spent their time as children hanging around adults, or around the Prophet himself (pbuh), learning.

    And thanks for reminding us about all the good things that children love naturally, as long as we do not corrupt them or suppress them. We need to encourage all those good traits and let them flourish.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      December 31, 2010 at 12:33 AM

      When people tell you with conviction, “If you do that, such-and-such thing will happen,” they are in fact expressing their own fears and insecurities. They are bound by those fears, shackled like prisoners, so they can never admit that the shackles can be easily broken by one who dares.

      Yes, I agree 100%!

  14. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    December 31, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    Great Job Sadaf!! mashaAllah.

    May Allah give you strength and motivation to keep you steadfast on your goals.

    My kids were homeschooled all their lives in US. The first time they went to school was here in doha. A part of the family stopped feeling “sorry” for them and were thankful that finally my children will be “educated” now, LOL.

    I must say that I felt sort of “relieved” not having to homeschool them, not for any other reason but just the stress part. But within the first year of their schools, i started realizing the blessings of homeschooling. And I might soon start it again inshaAllah.

    For the mother, i have one piece of advice, don’t ever think that because of homeschooling you will have to give up your own activities/life. If you manage your time well, and you are disciplined and consistent, you CAN have your own life AND homeschool ur kids. I’ve done it and there are many other mother who are doing it.

    For those of you who are in US, please take advantage of the virtual academy programs. Go to K-12.com and you will find out how many states participate in that. YOu can actually get free supplies and an online teacher, online educational clubs, PLUS an official report card etc.

    • Avatar

      Sadaf Farooqi

      December 31, 2010 at 1:08 AM

      I am so glad you commented, Umm Reem. :)

      You were a great inspiration for me when I was reading up about/researching homeschooling, especially since (and I want the readers of this article to know this too) you have also made your older 2 kids memorize the Quran all by yourself at the ages of 10 and 8, respectively, if I am not mistaken? Masha’Allah! Allahu Akbar.

      May Allah continue to make everyone who is inspired by you, a sadaqah-e-jariyah for you, in addition to your own offspring. Ameen.

      I must say I agree with you. Ever since I started to homeschool this August, Allah has placed so much barakah in my time, that my life is actually more full of fun activities/outdoor excursions, and I am so much less stressed out/short of time now – perhaps because of the absence of school homework, the school pick-and-drop routine, exam preparation (yes, even at the age of 5, my daughter had written exams!), and the rush to go to bed on time every night/wake up on time in the morning.

      The flexibility that homeschooling affords (which is also part of our pious predecessors’ sunnah viz. they did not get structured, rigorous, institutionalized education during early childhood) is amazing for the children, masha’Allah.

      Alhamdulillah for Allah’s blessings.

      • Avatar

        Hebah Ahmed

        December 31, 2010 at 1:44 PM

        Barak Allahu Feekum to both of you!!!!! May Allah reward you and make your children of the most righteous Insha Allah!

        Thank you Sadaf for the well written article. I love how you presented your choices and perspectives without judging others who may make different choices. We all have to make our own parenting plans, and reading about how others have chosen helps us make informed decisions without having to be defensive.

        To your duaa to Umm Reem “May Allah continue to make everyone who is inspired by you, a sadaqah-e-jariyah for you, in addition to your own offspring. Ameen. ”

        I say double Ameen. Umm Reem gave me the confidence to believe I CAN teach my children to read, memorize, understand, and implement the Quran as well as homeschool. I searched high and low for someone to teach them, not believing I could. But Umm Reem inspired me to learn tajweed and teach my daughter. The best part is how much I am benefiting from it and how much I am learning with my daughter. Its also a great way to make sure you come to the Quran every day beacuse sometimes you will do what you should for your children before you will do it for yourself.

        One of the biggest misconception about homeschooling or teaching Quran is that you have to already be an expert. The truth is you can acually learn with you child and it does not take away from the respect or abilities of your child at all. Sometimes it more fun for them too!

        Where there is a will there are so many ways!

        Finally, I live in New Mexico which is so progressive in terms of homeschooling. In order to enter any university in New Mexico, a homeschooled child only has to take the GED and SAT. They do not require transcripts or grade reports. They tell you which subjects you must teach but how and what you teach is up to you. There are so many community activities and programs to support homeschoolers. Also, any child which attends their senior year of High school or is homeschooled in New Mexico automatically qualifies for a full 4 year scholarship to any NM university based on min test scores. Its a great deal!

        Hebah

  15. Avatar

    UmmeNYer

    December 31, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    Greatly written article Sadaf. I am so impressed by my sister in Pakistan, kudos to you! May Allah make your kids your path to paradise, ameen.

    I just wanted to make a clarification to readers who’re looking for “successful” products. Homeschooling a child is about helping your child find his/her passion. I recently read a quote – “Education is not about filling a bucket but it’s about lighting a fire.”

    I’ve met quite a few muslims who measure success by careers. Generally, if one is a doctor or engineer, then one is deemed successful else not worth a second look. True homeschooling doesn’t allow children to be pegged into a hole at a young age – the medicine track, the engineering track or business track but rather it allows the child to enjoy learning. Homeschooling allows for happiness while learning;which is such an idiosyncrasy in the institution of education.

    Here in US, I’ve met many doctors from Pakistan but not one who wanted to be a doctor because of wanting to treat the poor. They became doctors because that was only one of 3 routes to success and many times the only way out of Pakistan or into a good marriage. Sadly, most were pushed into the path by their parents who were vicariously trying to live their childrens’ lives and therefore victimized them by having them study 24/7 to get into med school. So yes, they’ve got the big houses and the nice cars here but I don’t envy them in the least bit as wealth doesn’t bring happiness and as Hamza Yusuf here, http://vimeo.com/17166865 says, the world’s poorest people are also the world’s happiest people.

    And if one still must search for successful formerly homeschooled, I wish I had a list of muslims as I’m sure they’re countless but here is one of non-muslims, http://www.knowledgehouse.info/famous.html

  16. Avatar

    umm easa

    January 2, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    Asalamalaikum, amazing article. I really needed the article to re-boost my confidence in homeschooling. I have started h.s since september 2010 and it is the best decision I have made in my life (after accepting Islam that is). I think support though is a major factor, it would be very hard for me if I did not have my husbands support when everybody else in the family thinks we are going to wreck our children’s lives and turn them into social mishaps. It was not just a decision based on religious beliefs ,this did have a major part to play however, a lot of it is about growing wholesome children with good adhab which for me is far more important than academic results, to love the world, experience nature hands on, the woods as a classroom while other children are sat at tables that are colour coded in order of academic ability ( blue table = gifted to the yellow table= needs extra support), such labels at a tender age damages confidence that will effect them through life. Also I love the fact that insha’Allah our children will be enriched with memories that we would have created as a family and they will become adults that will prioritise on the importance of strong family bonding that can only strengthen the muslim community.

    There are days when stress levels are high and I think the Mother should find a routine in the day so the children are in bed at a certain time so she has her time to concentrate on things she likes, and also planning is very important to me if you choose to homeschool in a structured way, it really does let the day run smoothly. My daughter said the only thing she missed from school was P.E so now she is in karate class.
    Islam is full of knowledge and wisdoms that will benefit our children in this life and the next, if my child remembers 1 ayah from the koran each day I would rather that than them knowing the entire works of Shakespear and Yeates.

    ” I think we’ve tied acquiring knowledge too much to school” (A.Penzias, Nobel Literature). SubhanAllah it is us Mothers that are the first school, it is our duty, we will be questioned on it. I think we have to check our own naffs to see why would we prefer school and to me personally if I am honest it was a 6 hour a day free babysitting club so I could do a few things in peace. I know everybody has there own individual cases, some woman are single parents and simply have to work to keep things running but do not leave all your trust in the teachers, turn the t.v off and talk to your children, have the weekends when you teach them by visiting museums, art galleries e,t.c it does not have to be expensive.
    JazakAllah once again to the sister who wrote the article, may Allah make it easy for us , amin.

    • Avatar

      Sabeen

      January 2, 2011 at 9:39 PM

      The first year of homeschooling was the most challenging for me. I was insecure in my ability to teach even though I was pursuing a degree in education at that time! The constant stream of criticism from friends and family was also unnerving sometimes. But trust in Allah and in yourself and ignore the criticism. Some people do not understand homeschooling, others are irritated that you chose a different path and some are driven by jealousy.They will come around, inshallah, as they watch your kids grow up.

      The support of your husband is critical and if you have have a group of like-minded friends then you are truly blessed. Inshallah, Allah will give you the will to persist and reward you in this world with respectful, wholesome, believing children and in the hereafter for all the effort you put in for their upbringing.

  17. Avatar

    Faraz

    January 4, 2011 at 1:02 AM

    Great article Masha Allah. The struggles described to get to this level are very inspiring.
    I just wonder however that didn’t early Muslims send children to mosques to study with elderly shaikhs. Isn’t that sending children to some kind of school then?

    • Avatar

      umm easa

      January 4, 2011 at 4:47 PM

      But with the elder sheikhs you would refer to them as pious beings with excellent charecter, I couldn’t say the same for teachers not alone the peers. I still believe that even if there was a good islamic school near me I wouldn’t send my children, the whole concept of how the west teaches is a problem to me, especially under 7’s.

    • Avatar

      ummi homeschooler

      January 8, 2011 at 2:01 AM

      Sending the children to the mosque was and is still different. you dont get grouped by age, rather you find little ones sitting next to big ones and everyone in between. go to the masjid and you would find 5 year old kids next to 10 year olds 20 year olds etc.. you would also find that the teachers at leaast here in the mosque organize it so that the child who is better at the basic level will teach the newcomer and the one better than him will teach the basic level and so on and so forth till you get to the sheikh who is teaching the most advanced student.
      The Sheikh/ teacher would listen to the students no matter what age they are and then select the appropriate help for them.

      You also find that there is no line of students with the teacher at the head sitting opposite. rather everyone is sitting in cirlces and can see everyone else in their group teacher included.

      the whole set up and pyschology is different.

      (but they learnt more than just quran back then, they learnt, hadith and good manners too)

      These days it seems good manners and any kind of islamic explanaiton get left and the focus is just on quran without meaning.

  18. Avatar

    Owais

    May 6, 2011 at 7:10 AM

    I have a different view based on my experience of my children’s education i.e. schools running for years even do not have proper selection of books as they follow the fame of books/publishers rather than what is necessary for the children to learn at a given level of education.

    I believe that all parents are doing home schooling for years as teachers at school give for homework without guidance, eventually parents have to teach them at home.

  19. Avatar

    amel

    April 6, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    sister I will be very grateful if u share some educational resources for homeschooling

  20. Avatar

    Sahar

    August 23, 2014 at 12:34 AM

    JazakAllah sister Sadaf, May Allah bless you and your family for sharing such a useful article.

  21. Avatar

    Hassan Mahfooz

    March 15, 2015 at 5:00 AM

    Jazakillah khair for this excellent article. I have always wondered if there are any good resources / books out there written by Muslims on this subject?

  22. Avatar

    Omar Ali

    June 1, 2015 at 3:37 PM

    As Salam Alaikum wa Rahmat Allah,

    Thank you for writing up a great article. I am going to in Sha Allah be homeschooling my kids (they’re too young for me to call it homeschooling) (2.5 years and 0.5 years) … but.. I have been a ‘tutor’ for almost all my life and I have some pointers to share:

    1. Do not mimic school curricula… school’s have outdated, boring and very specific curriculum tailored to make exams and testing easier…

    2. Never lie to your kid… if you do not know the answer to something, seek the answer out together in earnest.

    3. Do not hide away the realities of life (the article mentions this too)… so do not think that children will get traumatized by hearing about death, illness, cancers, accidents, murders, violence etc. Talk to them about it and tell them what’s right and what’s wrong.

    *** The only thing you might want to keep away from them, at least till they’ve figured it out on their own … is that.. the very animals they love to know about (lambs, deer, chicken, fish etc..) are also food we eat :) this might … throw them off a little and they might not accept it… so there’s no rush in explaining that… just tell them when you feed them that food will make them stronger, healthier and more intelligent… you can call the food meat and chicken, that’s okay though.. of course each one will have their own way of dealing with this matter.

    4. Let them play in the day – all day long in the SUN… and don’t let them stay out after maghrib prayer… and dim your lights down completely after isha prayer… the brain needs rest at NIGHT – melatonin is released at night and is needed to help repair the brain and prepare it for the next day.

    5. Toys are for breaking – for opening for figuring out how they work. Allow them to interact with everyone and everything… The fathers should most definitely take them to garages, farms, shops, offices, construction sites, etc.. (even the mothers, if they’re up to it!)

    6. Let them help you in everything – in the kitchen, in fixing the bathroom faucets, in using the machinery … in every aspect of life.

    7. Don’t be scared for their safety and hence limit their use of tools and knives… teach them early .. as early as 2 in fact! And they’ll figure out how to use it safely under your CONSTANT supervision. You should always be there for the..but out of their way

    8. Talk to them. With respect. And a lot. Don’t force your kids to pray … instead you do it yourself. Don’t force Quran down their throats.. because Quran isn’t an easy learning subject.. instead … bring in ideas of Islam in their day to day experiences. And if and when you recite Quran to them… make sure you explain it to them too ! Show excitement as you hear a beautiful aya – pause the Quran and tell them what you just heard….

    9. You, as a human adult will have lots of fears. You will have lots of things you had wished you learned. And you will most definitely be an awkwardly anti-social, slightly racist, slightly negative human being. Your child and your involvement in their development is a way for you to … overcome YOUR OWN fears. Your own prejudices and your own negativity ! Have fun growing up again!

    10. Listen to them attentively. Listen to them well. Take their suggestion. Have conversations with them. Debate with them. Reason with them. RESPECT THEM.

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I Once Spent Ramadan Semi-Quarantined, Here’s How It Went

Omar Usman

Published

Even though it was over 10 years ago, the memory of that Ramadan is seared into my mind.

I’d just taken my first consulting job – the kind in the movies. Hop on a plane every Monday morning and come home late every Thursday night. Except, unlike in the movies, I wasn’t off to big cities every week – I went to Louisville, Kentucky. Every week.

And because I was the junior member on the team, I didn’t get the same perks as everyone else – like a rental car. I was stuck in a hotel walking distance from our client in downtown, limited to eat at whatever restaurants were within nearby like TGI Friday’s or Panera. This was a pre-Lyft and Uber world.

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A couple of months into this routine and it was time for Ramadan. It was going to be weird, and no matter how much I prepared myself mentally, I wasn’t ready for it — Iftar alone in a hotel room. Maghrib and Isha also alone in a hotel room. Suhur was whatever I could save from dinner to eat in the morning that didn’t require refrigeration.

Most people think that with the isolation and extra time you would pass the time praying extra and reading tons of Quran. I wish that was the case. The isolation, lack of masjid, and lack of community put me into a deep funk that was hard to shake.

Flying home on the weekends would give me an energizing boost. I was able to see friends, go to the masjid, see my family. Then all of a sudden back to the other extreme for the majority of the week.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that Ramadan with the prospect of a quarantined Ramadan upon us. I wish I could say that I made the most of the situation, and toughed it out. The truth is, the reason the memory of that particular Ramadan is so vivid in my mind is because of how sad it was. It was the only time I remember not getting a huge iman boost while fasting.

We’re now facing the prospect of a “socially distanced” Ramadan. We most likely won’t experience hearing the recitation of the verses of fasting from Surah Baqarah in the days leading up to Ramadan. We’re going to miss out on seeing extended family or having iftars with our friends. Heck, some of us might even start feeling nostalgia for those Ramadan fundraisers.

All of this is on top of the general stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ramadan traditionally offers us a spiritual reprieve from the rigors and hustle of our day to day lives. That may not be easy as many are facing the uncertainty of loss of income, business, or even loved ones.

So this isn’t going to be one of those Quran-time or “How to have an amazing Ramadan in quarantine!” posts. Instead, I’m going to offer some advice that might rub a few folks the wrong way.

Make this the Ramadan of good enough

How you define good enough is relative. Aim to make Ramadan better than your average day.

Stick to the basics and have your obligatory act of worship on lockdown.

Pray at least a little bit extra over what you normally do during a day. For some, that means having full-blown Taraweeh at home, especially if someone in the house is a hafiz. For others, it will mean 2 or 4 rakat extra over your normal routine.

Fill your free time with Quran and dua. Do whatever you can. I try to finish one recitation of the Quran every Ramadan, but my Ramadan in semi-quarantine was the hardest to do it in. Make sure your Quran in Ramadan is better during the month than on a normal day, but don’t set hard goals that will stress you out. We’re under enormous stress being in a crisis situation as it is. If you need a way to jump-start your relationship with the Quran, I wrote an article on 3 steps to reconnect with the Qur’an after a year of disconnect.

Your dua list during this Ramadan should follow you everywhere you go. Write it down on an index card and fold it around your phone. Take it out whenever you get a chance and pour your heart out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Share your stresses, anxieties, worries, fears, and hopes with Him.

He is the Most-Merciful and Ramadan is a month of mercy. Approach the month with that in mind, and do your best.

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#Current Affairs

Criticism, Accountability and the Exclusion of Quran and Sunnah – Critiquing Ahmed Sheikh’s Critique

Shaykh Tarik Ata

Published

Let me begin by making two things clear. First, this article is not seeking to defend the positions of any person nor is it related to the issue of CVE and what it means to the Muslim American community. I am in no way claiming that CVE is not controversial or harmful to the community nor am I suggesting that affiliations with governments are without concern.

Second, this paper is meant to critique the arguments made by the author that encourage holding Islamic scholars accountable. I encourage the reader not to think of this article as an attempt to defend an individual(s) but rather as an attempt to present an important issue through the framework of Islamic discourse – Quran, hadith supported by scholarly opinion. In that spirit, I would love to see articles providing other scholarly views that are contrary to this articles. The goal is to reach the position that is most pleasure to Allah and not the one that best fits our agenda, whims, or world views.

In this article I argue that Islamic scholars in America cannot effectively be held accountable, not because they are above accountability but because (1) accountability in Islam is based on law derived from Quran and hadith and this is the responsibility of Islamic experts not those ignorant of the Islamic sciences. And to be frank, this type of discourse is absent in Muslim America. (2) Muslim Americans have no standard code of law, conduct, or ethics that can be used to judge behavior and decisions of Muslim Americans. I do believe, however, that criticism should be allowed under certain conditions, as I will elaborate in the proceeding paragraphs.

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To begin, the evidence used to support the concept of holding leaders accountable is the statement of Abu Bakr upon his appointment to office:

O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.

This is a well-known statement of his, and without a doubt part of Islamic discourse applied by the pious companions. However, one should take notice of the context in which Abu Bakr made his statement. Specifically, who he was speaking to. The companions were a generation that embodied and practiced a pristine understanding of Islam and therefore, if anyone were to hold him accountable they would do it in the proper manner. It would be done with pure intentions that they seek to empower Abu Bakr with Quranic and Prophetic principles rather than attack him personally or with ill intentions.

Furthermore, their knowledge of the faith was sufficient to where they understood where and when the boundaries of Allah are transgressed, and therefore understood when he was accountable. However, when these facets of accountability are lost then the validity of accountability is lost as well.

To give an example, during the life of Abu Bakr, prior to appointing Omar (ra) as his successor he took the opinion of several companions. The prospect of Omar’s appointment upset some of the companions because of Omar’s stern character. These companions approached Abu Bakr and asked him “what will you tell Allah when he asks why you appointed the stern and severe (ie Omar).” Abu Bakr replied “I will tell Him that I appointed the best person on earth,” after which Abu Bakr angrily commanded them to turn their backs and leave his presence.

Fast forwarding to the life of Uthman, large groups of Muslims accused Uthman of changing the Sunnah of the Prophet in several manners. Part of this group felt the need to hold Uthman accountable and ended up sieging his home leading to his death. Now, when one researches what this group was criticizing Uthman for, you find that Uthman (ra) did make mistakes in applying the sunnah that even companions such as Ibn Mas’ood expressed concern and disagreement with. However, due to the lack of fiqh and knowledge, these Muslims felt that the actions of Uthman made him guilty of “crimes” against the sunnah and therefore he must be held accountable.

With this I make my first point. A distinction between criticism and accountability must be made. Ibn Mas’ood and others criticized Uthman but, since they were scholars, understood that although Uthman was mistaken his mistakes did not cross the boundaries of Allah, and therefore he was not guilty of anything and thus was not accountable.

Holding Muslim scholars accountable cannot be justified unless evidence from the Quran and hadith indicate transgression against Allah’s law. Thus, before the Muslim American community can call for the accountability of Dr. Jackson, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, or others, an argument founded in Quran and Sunnah and supplicated by scholarly (classical scholars) research and books must be made.

It is simply against Islamic discourse to claim that a scholar is guilty of unethical decisions or affiliations simply because CVE is a plot against Muslims (as I will detail shortly). Rather, an argument must be made that shows how involvement with CVE is against Quran and sunnah. Again, I emphasize the difference between criticizing their decision because of the potential harms versus accusing them of transgressing Islamic principles.

To further elaborate this distinction I offer the following examples. First, Allah says in context of the battle of Badr and the decision to ransom the prisoners of war,

“It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You ˹believers˺ settled with the fleeting gains of this world, while Allah’s aim ˹for you˺ is the Hereafter. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. Had it not been for a prior decree from Allah, you would have certainly been disciplined with a tremendous punishment for whatever ˹ransom˺ you have taken. Now enjoy what you have taken, for it is lawful and good. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (8:67-69)

In these verses Allah criticizes the decision taken by the Muslims but then states that ransom money was made permissible by Allah, and therefore they are not guilty of a punishable offense. In other words, Allah criticized their decision because it was a less than ideal choice but did not hold them accountable for their actions since it was permissible.

Another example is the well-known incident of Osama bin Zaid and his killing of the individual who proclaimed shahadah during battle. Despite this, Osama proceeded to slay him. Upon hearing of this the Prophet (s) criticized Osama and said, “did you see what is in his heart?”

Although Osama’s actions resulted in the death of a person the Prophet (s), did not hold Osama accountable for his actions and no punishment was implemented. Similarly, Khalid bin Waleed killed a group of people who accepted Islam accidentally and similarly, the Prophet (s) criticized Khalid but did not hold him accountable.

Why was there no accountability? Because the decisions of Osama and Khalid were based on reasonable – although incorrect – perspectives which falls under the mistake category of Islamic law “And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (33:5)

The previous examples, among others, are referred to in Islamic discourse as ta’weel (interpretation). There are many examples in the lives of the companions where decisions were made that lead to misapplications of Islam but were considered mistakes worthy of criticism but not crimes worthy of punishment or accountability.

Ta’weel, as Ibn Taymiyya states, is an aspect of Islam that requires deep understanding of the Islamic sciences. It is the grey area that becomes very difficult to navigate except by scholars as the Prophet (s) states in the hadith, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear and between them is a grey area which most people don’t know (ie the rulings for).”

Scholars have commented stating that the hadith does not negate knowledge of the grey entirely and that the scholars are the ones who know how to navigate that area. The problem arises when those ignorant of Islamic law attempt to navigate the grey area or criticize scholars attempting to navigate it.

Going back to Ibn Taymiyya -skip this part if you believe Ibn Taymiyya was a dancing bear- I would like to discuss his own views on associating oneself with oppressive rulers. In his book “Islamic Political Science” (As Siyaasa ash Shar’iah) he details the nuances of fiqh in regards to working with or for oppressive rulers.

It would be beneficial to quote the entire section, but for space sake I will be concise. Ibn Taymiyya argues that the issue of oppressive rulers should not be approached with a black and white mentality. Rather, one must inquire of the relationship between the person and the ruler.

One can legitimately adhere to the verse “And cooperate in righteousness and piety” (5:2) while working for an unjust ruler such as: “performing jihad, applying penal laws, protecting the rights of others, and giving those who deserve. This is in accordance to what Allah and His messenger have commanded and whoever refrains from those things out of fear of assisting the unjust then they have left an obligation under a false form of asceticism (wara’).”

Likewise, accepting a position under an unjust regime may prevent or reduce the harm of that regime, or prevent someone mischievous from taking the position and inflicting even more harm, then such an association is Islamically valid. Furthermore, someone working in a particular department is not responsible or accountable for the crimes being committed in another department nor are they guilty of “cooperat[ing] in sin and aggression” (5:2). He ascribes these fiqh rulings to the majority of scholars including Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmed.

The argument against those who are affiliated with the UAE is simply not grounded in fiqh or supported by clear evidences from the Quran and hadith. How does being part of a peace forum make the participants guilty of the crimes in Yemen? The claim that such participation enhances the influence of these regimes is not necessarily consistent with Quran and hadith.

Dr. Jackson, I argue, is in line with Islamic discourse when he says that being part of such initiatives does not mean he agrees with all they do. The same goes for CVE. As Ibn Taymiyya suggests above, participating in such programs is Islamically justifiable if the goal is to reduce the harm and this is what Dr. Jackson claims. Ibn Taymiyya gives the example of someone working as a tax collector for a ruler who unjustly takes taxes from his citizens. If the individual can reduce the amount being taken then his position is Islamically valid.

One might state that such a claim – reducing the harm – is naïve and an excuse to justify their affiliations. No doubt this is a possibility, however, I once again quote Ibn Taymiyya,

“The obligation is to bring about the benefit to the best of their ability and or prevent the harm or at least reduce it. If there are two possible benefits then the individual should pursue the greater of the two even if it leads to losing the lesser. If there are two possible harms to prevent then they should prevent the greater of the two even if it results in the occurrence of the lesser.”

There are ways of determining whether a persons is clearly excusing himself. At the same time, the debate as to whether the benefits outweigh the harm is almost always within the grey area mentioned above. Thus, it is irresponsible to attack Islamic scholars and call for their accountability for positions that are not clearly against Quran and hadith.

Another rebuttal might claim that the rulers during the time of Ibn Taymiyya were better than present day rulers and that his fiqh was addressing his realities which are inconsistent with ours. My response is that although that is true, Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings are not built on contextual realities that are only effective in those realities. Rather, his teachings are built on principles that are formulated in a way that renders it capable of measuring a particular context. In other words, it acts in a way that considers the realities and context as part of the equation and decision process.

A third rebuttal might claim that Ibn Taymiyya, like many others, warned of the harms of befriending rulers. Again, this is accurate, however, an important distinction must be made and that is between spiritual advice and fiqh rulings. An issue can be spiritually problematic but permissible fiqh-wise and this differentiation is seen in the lives of the companions and spiritualists in general.

For example, the companions rejected many worldly pleasures out of zuhd and wara’ (two forms of asceticism) and not because they are forbidden. To be more specific, a person may restrict themselves from drinking green tea not because it is forbidden by Quran or hadith but because of they view it as a desire that distracts them from the next life.

Similarly, the discouragement scholars expressed towards relationships with rulers was because of the spiritual harms and not because of an unequivocal prohibition against it. This is an important facet of Islamic discourse that should be recognized by the Muslim community. That is, a person can critique an issue from various angles (for example the psychological harms of political rhetoric and how it effects a person’s spirituality) while remaining neutral to Islamic law. What I am trying to say is that legitimate criticisms can be made about a particular issues without having to bring a person’s Islamic credibility into the discussion.

To conclude, I’d like to once again emphasize a distinction between criticism and accountability. Criticism is justified when the criticizer is qualified in the topic and when the one being criticized has made a mistake. Accountability is legitimate when a person has transgressed red lines established by Islam itself. But, in order for such accountability to be valid one must invoke the Quran and hadith and here lies the problem.

In the several articles posted against UAE and CVE, Quran and hadith are excluded and such has become Muslim American discourse – we are Muslims who invoke Allah and His messenger yet exclude their words from the conversation. I remind the Muslim American community and myself of the following verse “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result” (4:59).

I would like to pose the following questions to the Muslim American community:

  • Under what code of law and ethics should scholars be held accountable? In other words, what standards do we use to deem a scholar accountable or guilty? Who determines these laws and principles? Is it other scholars who are well versed in fiqh? Is it American standards or perhaps Muslim American activists and whatever is in line with their agenda?
  • Who or what institution has the authority to hold scholars accountable?
  • To what extent do we consider Quran, hadith, fiqh and scholarly opinions in determining illegal actions, problematic decisions, and or immoral behavior?
  • Are these laws and principles only applicable to scholars or are other Muslim leader figures held to the same standards?
  • Are all scholars “dancing bears” who have no credibility? If not, who, in your opinion, is trustworthy and credible and why do you think so? Is it because they are following Quran and Sunnah, or because they fit activism?
  • Do you believe that certain celebrated Muslim American activists / politicians present theological and moral problems to American Muslims that are corrupting their faith and behavior? Should they be held accountable for their statements and actions? What about the various Muslim organizations that invite them as keynote speakers and continue to show unwavering support?
  • Do you believe it is fair to say that these celebrated activists are not responsible for clarifying to the community their controversial positions and statements because they are not scholars or seen as religious figures?
  • Do you believe that activism is dominating Muslim American discourse and do you believe that there is a serious exclusion of Quran and hadith in that discourse?

I hope the community will acknowledge the concerning reality of the exclusion of Quran and hadith from our affairs. Until we live up to the standards of Quran and sunnah our criticism will only lead to further division and harm.

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#Society

Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

#JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

Fatima Asad

Published

Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

By Fatima Asad

Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.

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“Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).

But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!

Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?

It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.

Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?

It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”

Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?

Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.

There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.

There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.

Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.

We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.

Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.

Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.

Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.

Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.

Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.

Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.

And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.

Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.

More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.

Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.

It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.

#justiceforuzma #justiceformaids

 

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