Don't you just love school fund-raisers? My favorite part is when the young children all come out to sing their own personal rendition of that ever popular Muslim children's song that we've all come to love and appreciate (and hear 50 times in the last two weeks!), Bismillah.
Oh, how they trip over themselves-not the children, the parents. Video cameras in hand, using the zoom feature like a real pro. They move around the tables with such skill; managing to get in everyone's way at least once.
“Don't forget to take the lens cover off, Samir, honey.”
“Quiet, woman. As one of Michigan's finest neurosurgeons, I am capable of removing part of a patient's brain. I think I am quite capable of removing the lens cover off a video recorder! Iman. Psst. Iman. Smile my little turnip pickle. Smile, little one.”
Ahh, such a Kodak moment.
For many of us, this is the highlight of our child's education. After one year in kindergarten and four long years in primary school (not to mention weekend school and summer school), finally, we have succeeded in providing our child with the Islamic education that we promised ourselves and their grandparents back in Lahore, that we'd give them.
This is just a brief moment
Unfortunately, many of us have found out the hard way, that this brief triumphant moment of accomplishments and jubilation will soon turn into a feeling of sadness, despair and hopelessness, as our child enters his or her teenage years in the grips of the secular public school system.
For many, all the wonderful Islamic education that they received is annulled by the immoral and strong negative behavior of students in an inadequate education system that has produced 11 and 12 year old alcoholics and 13 year old pregnant girls. Astaghfirullah!
For many Muslim communities, K-4th grade Islamic education is no longer an acceptable norm for preserving the morality, decency, respectability-not to mention the Islamicity, of our children. Most communities are now supporting up to an 8th grade education. Alhamdulillah. And more and more Muslim communities are now making plans for a high school. All praise be to Allah. We seek His Guidance.
Are we giving our kids a competitive educational alternative?
But as we plan for the expansion of our children's education, are we seriously trying to provide a competitive, viable educational alternative for our children so that they can compete in the future for the best positions in the workplace and in the leadership roles of their community and this country?
Or are we content to make some weak, superficial attempt at addressing this problem with our only intention being to save our children, or should I say, our honor.
As one unscrupulous parent put it, “I want my children in a Muslim school. I don't care if they learn much as long as my son doesn't use alcohol or drugs and my daughter doesn't end up pregnant.”
What a pathetic and irresponsible view of their children's lives and worth. May Allah forgive us when we stray so badly into this kind of thinking.
Our kids deserve our best effort
Our children deserve the best effort that we can muster to insure their success. Islam guarantees it-Allah demands it. There is no more time left for Muslim families in a community to give a few thousand dollars in a half-hearted effort to educate their children.
We should be prepared to go all the way to China to get an education. In other words, go to whatever extent necessary to insure a quality Islamic education.
It's sad that some of us won't even go to our bank at the corner to withdraw the funds necessary to make their dreams a reality much less to China.
And why should we, huh?
We are enjoying the fruits of our labor in this Dunya. We have our fine practice or position in this country. We have a large home in the suburbs with perhaps a beautiful luxury car or two in the driveway.
We enjoy a bit of prestige in the community. The dry cleaners lady calls us by our first name. The checker at the grocery market doesn't even ask for your ID when you cash a check. They know you. You're someone special in this country. So why should I shell out large sums of money, depriving myself of the good life?
Hey, I'll pitch in a little for a school project but we don't need any fancy state of the art facility. As long as my son doesn't drink alcohol or take drugs and my daughter doesn't get pregnant, hey I'm a happy camper.
Remember our parents' example for our education
But how many of us remember the tremendous sacrifices and effort that were made by our parents in Karachi or any place else to get us where we are now? How many remember the hard times back home when we were perhaps poor as dirt.
Our parents didn't enjoy the financial stability that we sometimes take for granted. Somehow it didn't mater to them if they had or had not as long as they could provide the means for their children to get a good education and live as Muslims.
Their efforts went beyond just saving a few pennies here and there. In most cases, they deprived themselves of personal items of comfort and constantly encouraged you to strive for excellence and to always remember Allah.
But along with that encouragement came a plan of action and an uncompromising commitment to help you achieve a better place in life-to provide an environment that would enable you not only to dream but to also realize your dreams. As they say in this country, ‘they talked the talk, but also walked the walk.' Should our children expect anything less from us?
In the future, what place will Muslims play in establishing the Deen of Allah in this country? Can we afford to be wishy washy and indifferent about the educational needs of our children? Do we truly understand what it means to pledge our lives to this cause? And we pledge our lives but not our pocketbooks? Kind of makes the question of whether you have the lens cover on your video recorder on or not rather insignificant, wouldn't you say?
This article was originally published in the August 1996 edition of The Message-Canada magazine.