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Monday, August 16, 2004

Empower your child with a religious education

By Shaykh Sikander Syed Hashmi

The ideal age to send a child to an Islamic boarding school is around 10-11. Doing so usually enables the child to easily adjust to life in madrasah, and usually gives enough time to complete a religious as well as a high school education, after which the child can easily pursue a post-secondary education.

Some may see acquiring an academic education as being useless after acquiring a religious education, or vice versa. That is not the case, since no education is useless. If anything, the more education one acquires, the more it opens one’s mind and widens one’s scope of knowledge and understanding of issues.

Religious education should be the priority at an early age, because once the early years have passed, acquiring a religious education can become a serious challenge. If the base in religious education is strong, most children can easily accelerate in academic education as well, since a good part of what is taught in in-depth religious courses is deep, university-level material that opens the mind and requires critical thinking and logic.

Apart from all the benefits of studying at a madrasah from an educational point of view, madrasah life in itself makes one a much stronger individual.

Under the protective wings of their parents, children nowadays are becoming more and more spoiled and pampered, which often leaves them as wimps and creatures of comfort always in need of being served. When they get a little older and start going to college/university, begin working, and then subsequently get married, they have a hard time adjusting to the many new responsibilities and new real-life struggles.

Madrasah students often tend to be much more cultured and tamed in this respect. When one has to do his/her own laundry, wash his/her own dishes, wake up on time, help in cleaning, iron one’s own clothes, and live with being sick without the parents at one’s side, all at an early age, it has a long-term effect that usually shows when one’s stamina, creativity, and independence are called into question.

In my case, I know that had I not been sent to madrasah for almost 10 years at the age of 11, I would be the biggest Mama’s boy on the block. Apart from all the education I was (Alhamdulillah) able to acquire at madrasah, I would be deprived of a number of skills and experiences had I stayed home.

At madrasah, I had the opportunity to cook breakfast for 50+ people, mop the floors, use the buffing machine, drive the tractor, develop sales and marketing skills while operating the school snack shop, clean toilets, shop in bulk, and the list goes on and on. I wasn’t forced to do any, and when I think about it now, I’m glad that I took part, as the experience and skill I gained are invaluable.

Religious education does not put one at a disadvantage in today’s competitive world. In fact, it does the opposite, as the madrasah graduate (who has also completed high school) has so much more to offer in terms of understanding and experience than the average high school graduate.

Islamic boarding schools are not perfect. While they may have their shortcomings and disadvantages, if a proper balance of parental guidance and nurturing is maintained along with life in a madrasah, in the end, those very shortcomings can be turned around into positive advantages for the child in the long-term.

Sikander Hashmi, 21, recently graduated from the Alim Program at Al-Rashid Islamic Institute in Cornwall, Ontario, and is now headed to Concordia University in Montreal for a BA Major in Journalism. He is the founder and editor of eat-halal.com, and resides in Montreal.


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