Islamic Schooling in the Western World – Part 2

Having attempted to explore the concept of Islamic schooling and the various existing viewpoints of our communities in Part 1 of this blog series, we shall now do a deep dive into Al Manarat Islamic School’s endeavors to rekindle that perfect balance of worldly education built upon the foundations of sacred Islamic knowledge. 

We believe that every Muslim child growing up anywhere in the world should have the option of a holistic conventional + Islamic education. This belief is tad bit more applicable to the Western world, where a lot of the mainstream culture and heritage is viewed in stark contrast with the Islamic way of life. To advance this idea, at Al Manarat Islamic Schools, we have worked hard over the past decade to provide the Muslim students of Mississauga and Brampton a high-quality Islamic school, that provides conventional education with a unique blend of Islamic principles and values. By being active and responsible members of their local Muslim community, our founder and the senior leadership team have garnered their immense trust and respect. This has undoubtedly led them on a community mission to change the demeaning narrative around Islamic schooling as an inferior offering as compared to the other educational systems available to families in Ontario. By infusing the Ontario syllabus with an Islamic mindset and purpose, they have managed to produce exceptional students over the years, who have gone on to excel in their academic spheres as well as in their deen. Isn’t that then the primary objective of a good education? 

A good Islamic education at its core entails that a student gains the worldly education as well as the Islamic knowledge necessary to practice their deen to the best of their abilities. However, that is merely the beginning of it. Our vision at Al Manarat Islamic Schools is to nurture each child in their spiritual, moral, intellectual, social, and emotional growth, in the light of the Holy Quran and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). When closely examined, the vision urges us to produce exemplary citizens, who are always conscious of Allah (SWT), who emulate the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and can achieve excellence in everything that they do. This is quite a tall order, and it cannot be achieved without a proper hybrid curriculum and the right teachers who understand the depth of this task.

In keeping up with our founder’s dedication to the school’s vision, our teachers at Al Manarat Islamic Schools have also spent several years with our school, trying to incrementally improve the curriculum, as well as the overall teaching and learning processes. Being professionally trained and educated, they know the importance of a good quality education in a child’s life, and truly appreciate the role of a hybrid Islamic curriculum in achieving the school’s vision. Each teacher at Al Manarat has been granted the autonomy to incorporate the best pedagogy in their classrooms that they know is most suited in achieving the desired learning outcomes. This leads the teachers to attain a sense of responsibility and allows them to immerse fully in their respective subjects. In turn, they bring their students along for an exceptional learning journey that is grounded in critical thinking and reasoning instead of just blindly following textbooks and superficially completing the syllabus in the semester. They believe that students need to engage with the learning materials at a deeper and more conscious level, to truly understand and partake in the concepts being learned. Additionally, our teachers also ensure that the material that is being taught in class has wide practical applications in the students’ day-to-day life such that the students feel empowered to solve real world problems, with the education they have attained.

Apart from acquiring knowledge in the languages, math, sciences, and Islam, a significant portion of a child’s time is also spent in just the act of growing up and evolving, learning about themselves and their environments. We understand that it is this constant extracurricular learning that shapes a child’s character and personality. It is through hanging out with their peers or elders that they learn true aspects of human communication and coexistence. It is through riding their bikes in groups on the neighborhood streets, or collecting pebbles on the beach, or bringing stray animals home as pets, that they learn about the earth and its vast eco diversity. It is in these curious moments that children can attempt to practically apply elements of their attained education. At Al Manarat Islamic Schools, we are constantly thinking about ways in which such moments can be utilized to teach our students about Islam and being Muslims. How do Muslims interact with their friends and relatives? How do Muslims treat animals in the street? What would Muslims do when they see someone in need of help? How would the Muslims agree to disagree on certain topics? Through setting up monthly themes and friendly competitions, we address some of these important topics, whereby students are reminded of their attitudes toward kindness, relationships, responsibility, patience, obedience, cleanliness, honesty, humility etc. By simply framing them into correct perspective, these mundane day-to-day activities (both in and out of school) can be strong teaching aids that make us better human beings and ideal citizens of our countries.

As these children continue to grow up and inch close to puberty, a different set of curiosities arise in their minds, which unfortunately most of the times are not acknowledged or addressed in a safe and open manner. At Al Manarat High School, our physical education teachers are conscious of this phase of life and have designed our hybrid curriculum to beneficially address the teaching and learning outcomes on the taboo topics of sexuality, relations between the different genders, personal hygiene, addictions, substance abuse, mental health, etc. that are all quite naturally present in our societies and communities. As followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we need to understand and acknowledge that all these human behaviors and curiosities experienced through the teenage years are naturally occurring and need to be addressed appropriately through an Islamic lens. Most of the problems associated with teenagers arise when these topics are considered taboo in the society and are not acknowledged or addressed, which in turn drives them to dangerously experiment on their own or approach ill-informed sources for seeking knowledge and satisfy their curiosity.

In conclusion, we believe that the future of our Muslim communities in West and elsewhere lies in going back to our roots as Muslims. We need to look at the world through the lens of Islam and empower our communities through the highest quality of education that positively consists of both the worldly sciences and the Islamic sciences. Additionally, we believe that in-order to produce conscientious citizens in the future, we need to allot serious time, effort, and resources, for their holistic development today, through engaging the right perspectives. And finally, we believe that if the Muslim communities want to grow and prosper in the West and better integrate with their societies at-large, they need to invest in high-quality hybrid Islamic schools and universities, which will shape the futures of the youth and ensure the preservation of the Islamic culture and heritage for years to come.