5 Major Misconceptions of Muslim Parents regarding Parenting Challenges of the 21st Century

[Themes of this post were presented at Forward Institute for Educational Bridgework Seminar on Jan 27, 2016. ]

Note: This post is specifically written for Muslim parents and presupposes reader’s belief in Quran and Sunnah.
Over the last few years I have come across Muslim parents who are making extra effort in following Sunnah. However, their over-emphasis on “school education” seems to be backfiring creating several issues stifling the growth of their children. Their misplaced emphasis and strictness reveals several major misconceptions from the Islamic point of view:

1. Excessive Worrying about Education for Earning-sake: Degree as Raaziq?

The worry that Muslim parents exhibit about the “school education” of their children far exceeds the acceptable limits. Their over-focus on the future career of children indicates that their worry is not about education but about the future career and earning. They are not interested in “education for education sake” but are more interested in “education for earning sake” (career = earning). This over-worry of Muslim parents about the future earning potential of their children indicates a weakness of faith in “Allah as Raaziq” (Provider).

One can see that the worry of parents (especially mothers) is much more about “education for earning sake” because they are more worried about their children’s show-off-skills than with their cognitive, social and emotional skills which are more important. Mothers are excessively pressurizing the children to measure up to the artificial standards of the show-off-skills mandated by the intense peer pressure, which they can not withstand, especially if it is coming from their in-laws, friends, and cousins. This misplaced emphasis on show-off skills is actually detrimental to the natural development of their children.

I often ask such over-worried Muslim parents, who are mostly from well-off communities, whether your parents or grandparents ever worried about your school education as much as you are worrying about your children’s?

  • Did they get you admitted to school at the age of 2.5 or 1.5 years? They did not!
  • Were they worrying about your studies, when you were only 6 years old, as much as you are worrying about your child of 6-year old? They did not!
  • Did your parents hounded you for the homework as much as you are hounding your children about homework? They did not!
  • Were your grades and school performance better than your children? No!

Their answer is often an emphatic “no” to all these questions. If that is the case, then looking at your current situation are you starving? Are you short of money or resources? Are you financially sufficient? That is, Allah, the Raaziq, did provide for you irrespective of the ridiculous standards that you are worrying about!

These parents are much too worried and too much burdened by the peer pressure that seems to be mandating artificially constructed “milestones” (show-off-skills) of speaking, motor skills, reading, writing and school grades which are not backed by any sound academic basis from the experience of countries which are at the top of the education pyramid (such as Finland and other Scandinavian countries).

I am now forced to conclude that these Muslim parents in their subconscious have a weakened  belief in Allah as the Provider: They believe that if they don’t teach or give a peer approved education, the future career of their children would be at stake i.e.the child may starve or become poor, or may not do well in class. Deep down they think that a good degree is equal to good earning. They actually think “Wal degree-o khair ur Raaziqeen”, instead of

Wallah o khair ur raziqeen.
Allah is the best of providers. (Quran 62:11)

Rizq is something that is given by the creator, as much as He likes, and from wherever He likes. Struggle is our responsibility and a precondition, but how much we actually earn is through the blessing of Allah and at His discretion. For the above reason excessive worrying about the show-off skills of your children borders on a mental sickness of Muslim parents for the following reasons:

2. Purpose of Education

The parents must understand that purpose of education is not to earn money. At best, earning is a by-product of education. Purpose of education is to learn how to differentiate good from bad, and truth from falsehood, and above all right from wrong. This is why Quran is “Furqan”:

Blessed is He who sent down the “Furqan” upon His Servant that he may be to the worlds a warner (Quran 25:1)

An education that make us as a better human being and which does not help in making such distinctions (furqan) is not an education. An education that is only visible as a degree is not worth the paper it is printed on. The degree in itself is not a guarantee of good life or good earning.

3. Explosion of Professional Degrees vs the Worry Factor

Over the last 40 years the importance of high grades at matric (O’Levels) and intermediate (A’Levels) has decreased tremendously. Today a student only needs a minimum of 50% to get into a professional college today. With so many choices at the higher education level, it is irrational and even ridiculous to be exerting so much pressure on the kids at school.

In Karachi, 40 years ago, there were only 2 engineering schools (NED and Dawood) and 2 medical schools (SMC and DMC) and one university (KU). A student who did not score well in matric or intermediate was destined to a BA/MA or BSc/MSc from an affiliated degree college. If there was any time when parents should have been worried about the future of their kids, then that was the time. However, parents were not worried as much because their belief in Allah as Provider was still strong, but now they are because their belief in Allah as Provider has weakened and they now believe that education is for earning-sake and Degree is their Raaziq.

Weakening of their belief in Allah as Provider is irrational and startling because in Karachi, today there are more than 44 chartered universities/Higher Education Institutions in Karachi, and it is so easy to get into a degree program of your liking that such excessive pressure on kids at such an early age appears not only irrational but sheer madness (e.g. admitting kids in schools at 1.5 and forcing tuitions upon  3-4 year olds). Please note that there are at least 20 universities offering engineering programs and another  17 universities offerring medical/dental programs. The choices for professional degrees are now much more and more lucrative such as media, arts, textile, film/TV, computer arts, computer science, fashion design, etc. You just need a minimum of 60% in intermediate to get into an engineering or medical program. One can join other professional programs with only 50% (in some cases with even less).

4. Showing the Right Path is the Responsibility of Parents

The advent of internet and free availability of adult content and its accessibility has driven many parents to an extreme position that borders on paranoia. At times I feel that this paranoia reflects in their attitude and is indicative of they having assumed the responsibility of being a “Haadi”. In their subconscious they have started believing that giving “hidaya” is their responsibility. If they do not continuously guide and protect their children, their children will go astray. (Naoozibillah).

Being a “Haadi” is an attribute of Allah. He gives guidance to whomsoever He wills and leads astray whomsoever He wills. Yadillo mai yashaoo, waYahdee mai yasha-o. We seek His guidance for the straight path and pray to Him to guide us on the path who had His blessings.

For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. [Quran 35:8]

Our responsibility as parents is ONLY to teach our kids what is wrong and what is right and using “hikmah” let them know what will happen to them if they adopt straight path (basheer) and what will happen to them if they adopt the wrong path (nazeer).

Of course, we need to try to shield them from as much adversity and temptation as possible. However, when we get full of worry that they may be going towards the wrong path, and are about to blow our fuse, then we should seek help from the “Haadi” and pray to Him to guide the child towards straight path. Our getting angry, or getting irrational and using stick or punishment may not help at all. In fact, it may make the matters worse because your anger will make you lose your powerful capacity of parental love to transform their behavior with love, logic and firmness.

Parents need to understand the limits of their contribution to “hidaya” of their child. Given this understanding of their limitations, the tension level of the parents must decrease. Their anger and temper should consequently decrease. Consider this question:

  • What should be the emotion of a father if he sees his child not praying despite his warning and reminding the child again and again? 
  • Should it be anger or should it be sorrow?

Father should exhibit the emotion of “sorrow” because the child who has not taken heed of his advice and did not pray may go to hell. This should fill the heart of the parent with sorrow. However, the reality for most parents is that the emotion they feel is “anger”. Which actually indicates that the ego of the parent has been hurt when the child refused despite his command and warning. Therefore, the most appropriate emotion of the parent is “sorrow” and not “anger” (which is an expression of hurt ego). 

5. Belief in Learning Disability and Manufacturing Defect of a Child;

Believing in a child to have some learning disability or a manufacturing defect is also contrary to what has been taught in Quran:

  1. Luqud Khalqnal Insaan a fi ahsun e taqveem (verily we have created insaan in the best of moulds: Quran 95:4)
  2. Afa hasibtum unnama khaluqnakum abasa (do you think we have created you without purpose?  Quran 23:115)
  3. Concept of “tazkia”: Islam teaches us that man comes to this world in pristine form and the world soon starts polluting the personality which then requires “tazkia”, cleansing to revert to the original pristine form. See Education as Tazkia.
The above Islamic concepts run counter to the arbitrary and artificial construction of “milestones” with which poor child is measured, is humiliated, is labeled, and then subjected to all sorts of senseless exercises and assessments that have been constructed by psychiatrists who are themselves psychological cases, and have no experience of raising happy and well-adjusted children: 
 A child should start walking at a certain age, should start talking at a certain age, should recognize the alphabets at such an age, should have such and such fine motor skills by this age, and should have such and such coarse motor skills by that age are all ridiculously mandated milestones that are observed more on their breach than in their observance. These artificially constructed “milestones” have no nexus with the real world and the lives of successful people. (For example, Richard Feynman, the famed physicist and Nobel Laureate started speaking at the age of six. Einstein too is reputed to have started speaking at the age of 4.)  
The “myth of milestones” has been constructed by psychiatrists who wanted to create a business for their consultancy. Schools under pressure for not being able to come up to the expectations of parents started labeling the children as “learning disabled” to shift the blame from their teaching methodology to some phantom learning disabilities. Prominent among these psychiatrist constructed phantom learning disabilities consist of ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism etc. 

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6 responses to “5 Major Misconceptions of Muslim Parents regarding Parenting Challenges of the 21st Century”

  1. Very well written

  2. لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الإِنْسَانَ فِىٓ اَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيْمٍ

    Verily, We created insaan (man) in (the) best of moulds
    (Quran 95:4)

  3. لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الإِنْسَانَ فِىٓ اَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيْمٍ

    Verily, We have created insaan (man) in (the) best of moulds (Quran 95:4)

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