Wednesday 4 May 2016

Can Islamic School Fix Your Messed Up Kids?

Last weekend I spent a morning with Little Lady shopping and talking. She had insisted that she did not want to come and we should leave her at home. I insisted that she should get out and get some air and spend some time with us. When we got there, we ended up splitting up, with the younger four children going with their dad and me and Little Lady drifting off. We spent a few hours browsing for bargains and chatting. I let her moan about whatever came to mind. Once she had let go of her numerous and ardent complaints, I found that she opened up and started talking about school and things that other girls were doing.

I noted at how much the girls were like thise in any other school - they loved clothing, make-up, social media, music as well as nasheeds and all had their little crushes on celebrities  

So really all things that are evident in schools across the country every day. I suspect that parents don’t expect them to ever happen in Islamic schools. One of my cousins is a scholar and studied in a boy’s madrassah (school). He once described to me how he got a lift back to London for my sister’s wedding with some boys from his school and how they managed to crash the car on the way. Thankfully no one was hurt, but on asking him what happened, he told me some of the boys, including the driver had been texting their “girls” and not paying enough attention to the road. I had to mull over that one – was I being naive to be shocked?

I put my child into an Islamic school for one reason: to study Islamic scholarship. This is a course that will result in her becoming a scholar, alongside the national curriculum that all children follow. My intention is for her to benefit herself and her family with what she learns. I hope to inspire her to benefit other people wider than her family and have concern for the wider ummah insh’Allah. At the very least I hope she is well equipped with the knowledge to raise her children in the best possible way with a sound understanding of their faith.

I think some of the parents with children in her school value the scholarship, but I think a number of them place their kids in Islamic school in the hopes that it will keep them safe and protect them the fitnah (evils) of wider society in general. Then I think there are a small number who see their children starting to misbehave or feel that they are unable to control them and think Islamic school might be the answer and in some way will fix them.

Little Lady and I had a long conversation about some of the things she was saying. I told her that I didn’t expect her to be perfect and that she was allowed to make mistakes. I also told her that I trust her to make sensible choices if she comes across things such as drugs, misbehaving in school, truanting or bullying. At the same time, I told her that I understood that at her age the hormones kick in and make the most sensible kids do silly things, so we had to keep talking and she had to tell me when something was bothering her.

She shared that someofthe girls felt stressed because they were under immense pressure from home and had limited freedom. Little Lady felt that some of her friends parents were too strict. I asked if I we were too strict with her and she felt that we were a little bit strict. The girls in her class are on Instagram and Snapchat, have smartphones and hang out after school in the shopping mall or go for ice cream at a dessert place. She has to come straight home and doesn’t have a phone. I also think she is too young for social media as I am wary that kids put things out there not realising that once it is public it is no longer in their control and can have all sorts of repercussions (it’s a shame that adults don’t understand that sometimes). I honestly don’t see why 13 year old girls should be hanging out alone in malls and dessert places. I am happy to take her wherever she wants to go and she can go with her very cool aunties if mum is too embarrassing. At the same time I can see that she feels she is missing out.

This will be an ongoing negotiation and discussion between us. I have told her that she can always disagree with us respectfully and that we will listen to her and consider her reasons. I did suggest that she can have a WhatsApp group with her friends on my phone so she doesn’t miss out on her friends after school conversations, but she looked horrified at that suggestion. Another option is a phone that she has for the day and gives back to me in the evening, but my husband is not keen on her having a phone at all.

Sometimes I wonder at what the other parents are thinking. Many of them are born here like me, went through the schools here and should know what goes on. They seem to think that they can carry on as normal and that the school will instil Islamic tarbiyyah (correct upbringing) in their children. So you can have music in the house, you can have people that do not pray, you can have free mixing between sexes in your family. You can have children that are exposed to and mix with people in the family that are not practising and have all sorts of freedom that we don’t, thereby setting them up to feel as if they are missing out and their parents are unfair. You can have a family that do not wear Islamic dress, but then have the children in a school where the girls wear hijab and abayah whilst their cousins can go out in nice dresses and with their hair done stylishly. We can lecture the kids all we like about modesty, but at 13 or 15 you don’t want to be the one that is different and your hormones are naturally telling you to preen like a peacock (hence mine and Little Ladies ongoing argument for the last year over mascara).

What this means is that children have to deal with the disconnect between their home and school life. It also means that you have kids from religious homes brought up in their faith that can be heavily influenced by children that have been raised in a very different environment and don’t see the value of their Islamic education and just see it as a burden. Little Lady recently quoted a statistic to me about mental health which said that teenagers today experienced more stress and anxiety than a mental patient. The world seems to have become a very complex and stressful place to navigate for children and young people without them getting mixed messages about life from home and school.

I believe that you need to think long and hard before you send your child to an Islamic school. I have realised that there is a reason why the parents of the scholars and huffaz (people who memorise Quran) are promised such big rewards. It is because whilst the scholar does the work, the parents must also make sacrifices: in their lifestyle, the way they live, their social life, who they interact and surround themselves with and in their mind-set. They will have to constantly coach and encourage the student and act as a patient sounding board when the child needs to vent.

As parents you have to review your life, way of living, environment and beliefs and consider how consistent it is with the environment of the school you are placing your children in. Are you placing restrictions on your kids that you can’t live with for yourself? Are they learning one thing at school and then completely going against it at home (i.e. learning about restrictions around music at school and listening to pop music at home?). Have you put the work in to help the child understand the benefits and rewards of Islamic study? Or does it feel like punishment to them because they cannot see the purpose behind it? 

The school can impart information about Islam, it can give the child knowledge and some tools to apply it. Tarbiyyah is not the schools job, it is the parents. It is for the parents to grown their children’s iman, to encourage taqwah and to impart Islamic values to the child. Little Lady’s year at school is split into form groups, or more informally as she calls them: the Directioners and the Beleibers. The girls idolise singers, Youtubers and Viners. They are selfie crazy and adept at Snapchatting and Instagramming what they are up to. I have no idea how much of this the parents are aware of or agree to. How many have discussions about this with their child? 

Enrolling your child in an Islamic school should not be seen as an easy option. It isn’t just about sending your child and thinking “job done”. Certainly if you are not willing to adapt your home life to create consistency with the schools environment and ethos, then it may not be for you. Because it will not fix your messed up child, it will not do your job of raising your child properly for you, it will just mess up other people’s children or it will mess your child up completely.

Note: I don't have complaints about my child's school, I am more than happy that she is there and that she is in a halal environment.  I think the teachers have a tough job and teenage girls are not the easiest people to deal with.  I am grateful for everything my child is learning and the environment she is being placed in.  I would seriously encourage parents to look into Islamic education for their children as we are definitely benefiting from it, but I would also encourage parents to prepare themselves and their family for it.


  1. Anonymous07 May, 2016

    Nice piece!thanks so much for sharing

  2. some boys from his school ... had been texting their “girls”
    In Arabic, they use the expression almuzhik almubki: something that makes you laugh and cry at the same time. Fits here.

  3. ...was I being naive to be shocked?
    No sister. Have these boys ever met some of the MGTOWs, by the way? Or read some of these stories?
    Boys, it is great to love, but why not read some of the happy endings before taking up this great adventure? Not the happy endings of the works of fiction, the movies and novels. The happy endings of the real world, I mean.

  4. some boys from his school ... had been texting their “girls”
    Hey boys, isn't it cumbersome to type romantic love letters on tiny-screen phones? Why not use this AutoExec Wheelmate? Do read the Top Customer Reviews, please.

  5. Anonymous07 May, 2016

    some boys from his school ... had been texting their “girls”
    Congrats boys. You’re really lucky. Luckier than Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and the Quidditch star Victor Krum.
    … they’ve (i.e. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley) both just been turned down by girls they asked to the ball! … That shut Harry and Ron up. (HP and the Goblet of Fire)
    Krum: Vot … is the point of being an international Quidditch player if all the good-looking girls are taken? (HP and the Deathly Hallows)
    Boys, could you show some generosity and share some of your good fortunes with the sad and dejected men commenting here.

  6. Anonymous07 May, 2016

    Boys, at least help Fine Gentleman who says: As for me, I’ll be spending Christmas #10 alone since joining as a paying member for nine years (yes 9 Years) and a Plentyoffish member for 3 Years logging in every day and never having received the first sincerely interested email

  7. Anonymous07 May, 2016

    Boys, at least help Fine Gentleman who says: As for me, I’ll be spending Christmas #10 alone since joining as a paying member for nine years (yes 9 Years) and a Plentyoffish member for 3 Years logging in every day and never having received the first sincerely interested email
    Correct URL:

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.