What are we doing to create Muslim thinkers that can see past a secular mindset?

By now you’ve heard of the obscene statements by Amina Wadud calling Prophet Ibrahim a “dead beat dad” because he left his wife and infant in the desert under God’s own command.

I don’t need to waste your time refuting this statement or discussing what a piece of work Wadud is. But don’t pat yourself on the back, either.

What we do need to talk about are the ways that we, well meaning teachers and parents, allow for this type of thinking to evolve. We are unwittingly sending our own children on this destructive path if we do not make major reforms in our pedagogy.

You may recall my discussion on children’s literature and secular thinking (refresh your memory here: http://bit.ly/2pNh023)

This early stage of life is where the problem starts–it’s when a child or youth learns about the world in terms of what she can see and think about. She’s not reading stories about relying on God’s plan, she’s reading stories that are devoid of any mention of God. She’s studying science texts that describe natural phenomena without delving into the creator of those phenomena. The student learns to be an analytical thinker, someone who can look at the world around him and logically analyze issues from language, literature, to science and sociology.

We think that a once-a-day Islamic Studies class is enough to remedy this, provided the child is privileged enough to be in an Islamic School.

We are telling this child to think, to analyze, to make inferences, to use “critical thinking” and be an independent thinker, and yet we haven’t given him the proper tools with which to do this within a theological framework.

We have enculturated the child in a completely secular humanist framework, so when he reads the Qur’an, he’s got those secular humanist lenses on. We prioritized this paradigm his whole academic life–is it any wonder that some of these kids completely lose the plot and grow up to be of the same mindset of the Amina Waduds of the world?

Do we think that we are so intellectually and spiritually superior that we have somehow inoculated our children from this mindset with little to no effort on our part? Can we possibly be this naive? Are a few sessions a week of an “Islamic Studies class” that is essentially fun-and-games time, plus the memorization of surahs they don’t know the meaning of, enough to create a whole worldview by which the student can then understand everything around her?

Meanwhile, they are receiving secular educations that will enable them to enter college and do any field of their choosing.

And lest you think that this secular education is merely for the purposes of employment, you must understand that everything has a worldview attached. And nature abhors a vacuum. If you fail to fill the mind of the child with the Islamic worldview and integrate this worldview into every single subject, then the natural consequence will be for the child to adopt secular norms and attitudes towards the world.

I tell my kids that our Islamic lens is like a pair of sunglasses that we have on all the time that affects how we perceive the world around us. This lens is comprised of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and everything that we hear, read, or see passes through this filter before it reaches us.

Where people go wrong, I try to explain to them, is when they put on other glasses first. It might be the glasses of their own cultural upbringing. It might be the ideas derived from their own logical analysis. Then these people will go read the Qur’an and Sunnah with the wrong glasses on, and start to understand the Qur’an according to their own preconceived notions.

I think most of us understand this analogy and yet what we lack is application, on the individual, family, and community level. This is beyond the scope of this post, but I hope to start reflecting on this more as an educator and parent. How do you propose we approach children’s education so that they do not develop a divided mindset of religious on one side, secular on the other?

Follow other posts at: #meriumnotesandthoughts andthemuslimeducator.wordpress.com.


Literature, Existentialism, Secularism, and all that fun stuff….

The topic of secularism and kids literature is one that is near and dear to me, so this is another area I’ll be delving into…
TL;DR [too long; didn’t read]: The secret to what kids’ fights, YA literature, and the Big Questions of Life have in common (this is not really a fair tl;dr because I’m not going to give you the spoiler)
My kids AB and Z get into awful fights over the stupidest things.
AB will insist that Z has done something, she will roundly declare she hasn’t, and eventually she comes sobbing to me, saying, “He says I did this but I didn’t!” Or vice versa. Or perhaps they are dickering over the exact nature of what went down. You would think they were members of the British Parliament brawling, the way they go at it.
Invariably, I repeat a mantra over and over again: “It doesn’t matter who says what—You can’t change reality.”
I try to get Z to understand that if she really didn’t say “AB is a stupid piece of poop,” it doesn’t matter how much her brother claims she did it. “His saying so doesn’t change the reality,” I tell her.
There’s a common thread you see in children’s and young adult novels as well as movies, and that is a certain level of existential wondering. “Do you ever think about what’s out there?” characters will muse. Angsty lovelorn teenagers will theorize over what happens after death (before one of them tragically dies). The authors will somehow remind us of the mystery of it all, the randomness, often with a nihilistic and/or secular humanistic underpinning.
This thread continues into adult literature– “When Breath Becomes Air” is a bestselling book by the late Paul Kalanthi. In it, he grapples with the big questions of life and death in the face of his impending death due to cancer.
To this I say the same thing, and I endeavor to pass this message on to my children in every aspect of life: It doesn’t matter what people say, the reality does not change.
It sounds nice to pontificate over the deep, dark, existential questions (preferably lying under the stars with your crush, Young Adult novel-style). Uncertainty is sexy, whereas conviction is passe.
Except—those discussions are just words. And remember: words don’t make reality. The world will keep on turning according to a predetermined plan no matter what we say about it.
To the wanderers and questioners, I say: there is a reality out there, so look for it. Pray for it.
Because when that Day comes when the reality (al-Haaqah) arrives, all the words will cease. All the wondering and theorizing will have been for naught, because the answer and the accountability will have arrived.
Skeptics have a cartoon that they are quite proud of, because they believe that all the universe’s questions can be answered by science alone. They despise the idea of religious ideas that have no proof in the physical world. The cartoon has a beaker from a lab with legs and arms. One hand is held up, giving the middle finger. The caption reads: “Science doesn’t give a sh*t about your beliefs.”
To this I say: “Reality doesn’t give a care about your words.”
 Let me close with a verse from the Qur’an that puts words and reality into context:
“His speech is the Haqq.”
Haqq is truth and reality all rolled up into one. And it is HIS speech that is the ultimate truth. Our words will be dust in the wind, but when He speaks, He creates the true reality. And it is one which we can never escape, no matter how many words and tales we weave.

if the kid schools the parent, is it called kidschooling?

One day the three-year old was acting really cranky, and so my husband said, “See? We shouldn’t take him to a movie–he can’t handle it; it makes him cranky.”

I could see the look in AB’s face that he wanted to say something. I know this kid and how we will spot a tiny flaw in something and feel a desperate need to point it out. Honestly, it gets tiring at times, and we’ve tried to let him know that this behavior is not exactly a trait that endears one to people. I get the way his mind works, though. He has an ability to spot tiny flaws or holes in logic and it bothers him–it’s an itch he can’t help but scratch.

“Abdullah,” I said quickly, “I know EXACTLY what you want to say right now, and I’m telling you, just don’t say it. I know Baba will not like it, so wait until later and then say it.” Baba is old school and I don’t think he’d appreciate his logic having holes poked in it by a fourth-grader.

“You know?” Abdullah said. “How do you know what I’m going to say?”

“I’m your mom: I can read your mind.”

He wiggled. He held his hand over his mouth, dying to say his piece. He then asked, “Is it something with a C and a C?”

“Yep,” I replied. “I told you I’m a mind-reader. I knew it.”

Siraj had gotten curious by now and then asked, “Ok, ok, what is this about?”

“Confusing correlation with causation,” we answered. “The movie and the crankiness.”

“You’re right,” he said, “I think I would have gotten irritated.”

I could feel his pain–it wasn’t too long ago that I was saying something when my nasally-sounding 9 year old interrupted to say, “Mama, I think you are mixing correlation with causation.” Please, God, let him outgrow this before high school.


(c) xkcd, 2014