If you are a teacher or a homeschooler then you are familiar with the word “standard”.
In education, it is knowledge that a child is required to have at each grade level. For example, 3rd graders must know all their timetables and 4th graders must know long division; those are Math standards. Fifth graders master higher levels of spelling and can write persuasive paragraphs; these are English standards. So as American Muslims, what are our standards for Islamic education? Can we say that a 10-year old who cannot yet read the Quran in Arabic is ‘below level’? Can we say that that a Muslim high-school student who does not understand basic Quran vocabulary has ‘fallen behind’? Actually, no we can’t say that because we, as a community, have not yet set Islamic studies ‘standards’. So how can we know where we stand if don’t have standards.
If we look at other cultures: Indian and Pakistani parents enroll their children in
weekend and after school Islamic studies to make sure their children are ‘up to the standard’. And if there is no program around that is suitable, then they hire a Sheikh to come to the home and teach to make sure their children are ‘up to their standard’. It is tradition in Indonesia and Malaysia that children recite the whole Quran by age 11 and this is considered a ‘rite of passage’ between childhood and adulthood. Somalians are known to memorize a lot of Quran. I always get a little bit concerned when I have an Asian or a Somali student in the class because I can feel sometimes that the pace is too slow for them. Somalis, Indians even Turkish have many Arabic words in their language so they don’t really need to spend much time on ‘hatha baytun’ ‘hatha kitaabun’. When you come from a people who have Quran on their tongue you are not exactly a beginner. I’ve had Indonesian, Malaysian students say ‘I am a beginner.’ But they did their ‘khatam ul Quran’. I can see my people are behind the rest of the Muslim world.
We have to realize that we are behind the rest of the Muslim world. It is not our fault, but it is our responsibility.
When Islam was spreading to various parts of the world, the Arabic language was also being spread because the people wanted to understand the Quran. Many regions accepted Arabic as their official language or Arabic words were enmeshed in the native lughah that was already there. For some reason that did not happen when Islam came to us in the West. There is no visible influence of Arabic on the English language today. In order to set our standard we have a lot of work to do but we keep looking for others to do it for us. We keep looking for others to take the responsibility of Islamically educating our children.
Many American Muslims are thinking the answer to move ‘overseas’ to the Arab world. Some of us are thinking ‘if we could just get into that environment, we’ll get it.’ Only few are successful.
In my personal experience, living in Egypt, Saudi and Qatar, observing and talking to many families, being on internet social groups and emailing groups over the last 15 years. I will guess-timate that less than 30% of families living in the Arab world, have children who achieved a mastery of Arabic and Quran skills. I will guess-timate that the highest number of them were or are in Yemen and Egypt. That number may surprise you and there are several reasons for it that I will speak about in another article entitled: Hijrah; Life in a Bubble.
Our next solution is Islamic schools. They try. but as they seek accreditation from the authorities and try to keep up with the Common Core standards, secular education takes more precedence over Islamic education. There are only so many hours in a school day.
Many of us have a picture in our mind of what we would like to achieve with our children and how we like to see them enter adulthood but we need a plan of how to a get there….