Ours is an age of crisis…a crisis in science, in literature, in thoughts, in perceptions, in attitudes, in behaviors and in relationships. Crisis is everywhere. It has pushed major parts of culture to a state of acute dislocation, conflict, destruction and bewilderment.
This is an age that is plagued with a deep-seated spiritual vulgarity…an age that erroneously forwards the responsibility of nourishing and nurturing children to schools, hardly realising their anti-educational effect on society.
Work, leisure, politics, city living – all are crippled to depend upon schools for their survival and growth.
Modern schools have marginalised the educational significance of family in their naked pursuit of individualism, opportunism and careerism. They are mushrooming at an unprecedented level at every nook and corner without proper guidance and moral values.
Ivan Illich, a renowned 20th century philosopher, warns: “The escalation of schools is as destructive as the escalation of weapons.”
He further muses:
“School makes futile promises!”
“Neither learning nor justice is promoted by schooling. It enslaves profoundly and systematically.”
In recent times, blind faith in schooling has affected familial influences. It has ceased home to be a place of education, recreation and edification.
School has brought about new ways of spending leisure hours with electronic gadgets at home. It has indisputably undermined family as a welfare service for its members in time of sickness and trouble.
To quote the Ministry of Education publication, United Kingdom Citizens Growing Up:
“Admittedly, conditions are not easy for a family living in the modern world. The climate of opinion is unstable, impatient and cynical. Cheap and easy pleasures, some unwholesome and corrosive, occupy an undue share of some parents’ time…..and some children’s and young parents too.”
One of the principal dangers of modern society is that it has formalised every sphere of human activity…be it infant care, pre-schooling, driving, sports training, drug counseling, pregnancy, mother care courses, marriage guidance, adult education, continuing education…almost all areas of human pursuit come under methodological supervision.
Man has really institutionalised most of the learning required of him in life. As Bowen and Hobson lament, “the world wide movement towards a mass, public institutionalized education is now creating a virtual crisis situation.”
The contemporary age has given in and bowed down to organised schools for its every possible future need without family being a stabilizing force to strengthen it. Gabriel Compayre comments:
“The school would be powerless, notwithstanding all its efforts to develop sensibility in children who have not brought the first germs of it from their home life. But how few are there who have been refused the tender smile of a mother! How many and happier are they, who according to the delicate phrase of a contemporary author, ‘before learning to speak have read affection in the eyes of their parents!”
Doubtless, it belongs mainly to the family to sow in the minds of the child the seeds of future life. The family certainly has precedence over the school by the priority, continuity and duration. That is how F. C. Happold puts it:
“Education comes not primarily through words, but through situations, not primarily through instruction, but from a pattern of living, not primarily through courses of study, but through an intangible spiritual atmosphere created by members of family.”
Nothing can compensate adequately for lack of parental affection and love.
“Whether the professional educators wish it or not”, writes Dame Olive Wheeler, “the fact remains that the home is the chief training growth of the emotions and consequently of character. The love of parents, brothers and sisters, the give and take of happy family life, the intimacies only possible in a small natural group, life in an atmosphere of consideration for others and respect for truth, beauty and goodness, these are what needed for the education of an individual.”
The argument leads …how should Muslims nurture their children? Should Muslim parents rely for everything upon contemporary schools, which generally follow non-religious, and anti-religious set up, method and organisation?
What should they do? Should children be sent into a school for a better and successful ‘man’ and hand them over to other authorities for religious training and knowledge? Should the two i.e. becoming of a prosperous man as well as an Islamic being, go together or separately?
Parents need to know that it is from their religion that their goodness, both as a prosperous man and a true believer flow, and Islam undoubtedly has revolutionised that idea of goodness.
“Let there arise among you an Ummah advocating all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain peace and prosperity.” (Qur’an 3:104)
A Muslim’s future lies, not purely in academic pursuit, but in its eternal message of truth and beauty. Islam makes a unique place in the world of religion and has universal, standardised and a well-integrated system of patterns and beliefs – not merely as a religion but a complete and comprehensively way of life.
What a child, within an Islamic setting, is first to do, is to emancipate himself/herself from internal chains of false beliefs, faiths and ideals. It is to see if he/she does not indulge in misleading convictions and dogmas.
Islam contains both ‘verbal’ and ‘practical’ methods of moral education. Members of family must inculcate in them the feeling of awe and submission to Allah as the one and only God and make them realize Tawheed as the essence of Islam. They must guide children to the individual and collective goodness in the light of examples drawn from Sunnah of the Prophet and Islamic heritage. Currents of Islamic feelings and thoughts must run through their veins to get rid of false perceptions and patterns in life.
“We cannot help influencing our children; the only question is how and in what direction”, goes the remarks of R. M. Hare.
So good habits are to be tilled from the cradle, as a child is nothing but a bundle of mere habits. W. Kenneth Richmond articulates:
“Moral or ethical virtues is the product of ethos.”
“The human young are immature. If they are left to themselves without guidance and succor of others, they cannot even acquire the rudimentary abilities necessary for physical existence. They acquire moral attitudes and virtues from their environment in which they live. If parents are themselves honest and moral, their children will, in good time, follow the same course.”
However, it is distressing to note that many young Muslims adhere to foreign values, and corruption, bribery, dowry, nepotism and other forms of social evils have entered their daily lives. Muslim men and women also disregard Islamic requirements in dress, manners and etiquette. They, by no standard, are setting an example for the generation.
Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, a renowned Islamic scholar, grieves:
“Muslim youth is passing through the state of bewilderment and dilemma. Guided by the press and other media, young people listen to talks and programmes which more often obliterate what traces of Islamic education and training are left in them, exposing them to intellectual vagueness and psychological frustration. The modern press, deemed respectable by the majority, provides them with inflammatory, sensational and irresponsible material. Sexy pictures and lascivious headlines, which first attract their attention, incite lust and create doubts in their minds about the norms of morality and absolute truth.”
Truly if we look into disparate Muslim societies of today, we notice that there is a clear gap between their beliefs and their outward behaviors. It is as if their faiths and their social actions were opposite poles. This is due to the weakening of traditional values.
Islam takes greater care of children and gives immense responsibility to parents who are the guardians of families. It exhorts them to pay utmost attention to the social, spiritual and moral welfare of children. The Prophet of Islam delivers:
“It is sin enough that a person will not care for those he is responsible for.”
Parents, succeeding in bringing up their children in the right way, will be promoted to the foremost ranks of the God fearing. Child rearing is true thanks giving and worship to Allah. It is not mere display of life’s fair vanities.
A Muslim is accountable for and has therefore legal obligation to be in charge of those who are under his guidance and protection. The Prophet of Islam speaks:
“Allah will ask every shepherd concerning those who are under his care whether he has looked after them or has neglected them, and He will ask this of each man about his household.”
It is high time parents realize that family remains the foundation of all sound education for the young rather than profit making school shops.
Muslim parents must ensure that those who depend upon them do not suffer at the hands of their own wrongdoings. There is a clear warning:
O believers! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones over which are appointed stern and severe angles who flinch not (from executing) the commands they receive from Allah, but do exactly what they are commanded.” (Quran, 66:6)
The revival of true Islamic spirit within the family and making it ideal for the future in every sphere of life is the need of the hour.