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Presented at a fund-raising dinner organized by Seri Al Huda Islamic Primary School Kuala Lumpur on Friday 11th January 2008 by Omar Hasan Kasule MB ChB (MUK), MPH (Harvard), DrPH (Harvard) Professor of Epidemiology and Islamic Medicine University Brunei Darussalam and Visiting Professor of Epidemiology University Malaya. WEB

Successful child upbringing is following closely the teachings of the prophet on the ‘aqidat, physical, moral, intellectual, and social development of children. Children brought up that way will be outstanding leaders in every field of endeavor. The first 7 years are crucial because after that the basic personality structure is formed and changes are more difficult to make. Parents have the primary and most important tarbiyat role but our modern socio-economic forces keep parents away from this crucial task for 8-10 daylight hours. The community also has a role because good models in the home and the society are more effective than lectures and admonitions. The school plays a complementary role in tarbiyat. It should enhance and not take over the parental tarbiyat duties. A successful school will aim at a curriculum that ensures joint reading of the 2 books of Allah: kitaab al wahy and kitaab al kawn. The social environment of the school has a bigger impact on the child than the classroom teaching. Both the school and parents must cooperate in making effective use of the time between the end of the school day and the sleeping time because it is often wasted in recreational that can adversely affect the children’s moral development. The final outcome of both parental and school tarbiyat efforts is an adult who knows himself (self-confidence, self-esteem, and bravery), has positive relations with the Creator (‘aqidat and ‘ibadat), has positive relations with the rest of the community (mu’amalaat), and has positive relations with the environment fulfilling the vicegerent role, khilafat, of improving and not degrading the earth. The reality, which is by no way the ideal, is that children spend more time with their teachers than with their parents. We therefore need to pay more attention to the school.

The school should set itself the objective of producing a complete individual, insan kamil, in terms of taqwat, ‘ibadat, personality, character, and behavior. The curriculum should be Qur’an-based i.e. imparting knowledge from the Qur’anic perspective of istiqamat. Qur’an-based learning emphasizes critical thinking, tafakkur; critical observation, tadabbur, and critical analysis, tafaqquh while it rejects blind following, taqliid, and rote learning. The school, as a socializing agent, is a laboratory for reform of the total society. It should exemplify the adab of the teacher which consists of: kindness, sincere advice to the student, humility, being a good example and role model, knowing the characteristics of each student and dealing with him or her as an individual. It should also inculcate the adab of the student: commitment, ikhlas; humility, tawadhu’u; respect for teacher, and applying what is learned. The school curriculum must should emphasize iman; ibadat; ‘amal salih; mu’amalaat; social renewal and reform, islaah & tajdiid; mutual social cooperation, takaful; balance, tawazun; moderation, wasatiyyat; and equilibrium, i’itidaal. Extra-curricular activities should be encouraged such as: essay competitions, art competitions, drama, trips, excursions, camps, songs, sports, practical dawa experiences, amr bi al maruf & nahy ‘an al munkar, 

There is no one correct or wrong way of raising children and we can debate the issue until morning; it all depends on the circumstances.  However the final common path is the same we will all agree when we see a youth who was brought up well or one who was brought up badly. The story of Hasan and Husain is very instructive. They saw a Bedouin making wudhu wrongly and nit wanting to annoy him by correcting him, they asked him to be a judge between them who of the two would make the better wudhu. The Bedouin watched as both perfected their wudhu and he asked them who they were. When they told him they were from the Prophet’s family he was not surprised at their good conduct.

Guidelines for parents
Childhood, the period from birth to puberty, is a period of limited but gradually increasing abilities and responsibilities. Children are not miniature adults. They have their distinct personalities, identities, and needs that require handling them as children and not as adults. The scope of parental responsibility starts with pregnancy and continues until puberty and nowadays beyond puberty. Parents are responsibility for material support and tarbiyat of their children. An intact and harmonious family is the best institution for child rearing. Children need a lot of love. Children must be treated equally with no discrimination based on age or gender. Good treatment of female children has special emphasis as a preventive measure against abuse and neglect. Breast-feeding establishes both a biological and psychological bond between the mother and the baby. In order to complete the infant’s biological and psychological growth and development, breast-feeding must continue for not less than 2 years.

Babies can learn and retain information. The injunction to make adhan in the right ear for the newborn is perhaps an indication of this. Under-estimation of infants is the cause of under-stimulation by many parents. Children are born in a state of natural purity, fitra. It is the parents who can misguide them. Good parents and a virtuous social environment will guide them to the good. Inadequate parents and a poor social environment will guide them to evil.

Islamic law recognizes the age of 7 as the age of discrimination, sinn al tamyiiz. Full intellectual maturity is not reached until the age of puberty for the majority of children. Children are therefore ordered to start praying at the age of 7 and are punished for missing prayers at the age of 10. Children become fully legally responsible, mukallaf, at puberty. Social development starts with awareness of the self then the family and the neighborhood. As children grow older, they become aware of membership in larger groupings: the tribe, qabiilat; the nation, the ummah, and the universe. At a later stage they learn about the past and the future. Gender identity is acquired quite early but its meaning and implications become deeper as the child grows. ‘Aqiqat is a social occasion when the newborn is introduced into the community. Development of social responsibility and accountability differ among children. That is why orphans are tested before they are given control over their inheritance.

Personality is the nafs. The Islamic view of personality in based on the Qur'anic concept of nafs. Fitrat to refer to what some call nature; the term nature has atheistic connotations. Each individual has a distinctive fitrat. Nurture introduces even more differences among individuals as environmental factors interact with the basic fitrat. A lot of behavior is copied or is assimilated from parents and other social role models. That is why it is very important to provide children with positive role models. They should never be exposed to negative role models even for brief moments.

Growth refers to increase in body size. Development increases functional specialization and capability. It includes both maturation and increasing experience. It has biological, cognitive, and social aspects. It is a continuous process. Later development builds on earlier experiences. Development impairments early in life could affect the capacity for development later in life. Parents must be aware of the rapid growth and development of children and should adapt their parenting to the requirements of each stage of growth and functional development.

A child must belong to a set of parents, a family and a community. Lineage is the basis of self-identification and self esteem. The name influences self-concept, identity, and self-esteem. Love for children is natural and ensures protection and for the children. The love for children and their treatment should be the same for all regardless of gender. Parent communication with children must be open, honest, mutual, nurturing, and consistent. Parents must have time to play with their children. Successful parenting requires a high tolerance level for children. Children's actions and behavior cannot be judged by adult standards. Each child is an individual; each is different.

Parents should teach the following to children: love of Allah, loving jannat, hating jahannam, salat by age 7, reading and memorization of Qur’an, telling the truth, avoiding kufr and the prohibited, haram, avoiding shirk, rules of dress especially for girls, using the right hand, basmalah before any activity, adhan and its response, avoiding bad company, bravery, and revenge against the transgressors. 

Children are born in a pure and natural state, fitrat; it is the environment that shapes them into either good or bad people. The first 7-10 years are the formative period of personality. Influences at this stage of life, positive or negative, have long lasting impact. The age of legal maturity is defined biologically as either 15 years or the appearance of definitive signs of puberty. Attaining the age of legal maturity does not mean attaining wisdom. Many problems arise from high expectations of legally mature but unwise children. Good manners and attitudes are not taught but are shown to children. The social environment that children are exposed to should be carefully controlled. Children must be guided to understand moral issues. Moral values can be taught by use of stories since young children cannot appreciate abstract notions. Children should be taught the kalima, love of Allah, love of jannat, reliance on Allah, salat, reading Qur'an, attending salat al-Jama’at, truthfulness, hard work, love of learning, exploration, bravery, and courage. Selfishness should be discouraged. Children should be warned against sins such as: kufr, shirk, gambling, pornography, and smoking. They should be taught to wear Islamic dress, to use the right hand, cleanliness, and respect for the visitor.

Children are not a tabula rasa. They certainly are born with instinctive knowledge of their creator. However their data bank is limited. Their ability to learn from the environment is also limited. Development is individual and there are no fixed norms. Tarbiyah must be related to the level of intellectual and social development. Genetic endowment determines basic intelligence and its potential or ceiling. Environmental stimulation enables reaching the potential. Children understand and retain information at a level higher than what most parents imagine. Children are born with an inner drive to investigate, explore and learn from the environment that should be used in the learning process. Learning should be a pleasure. Fear or scoldings are counter productive. A warm and democratic home fosters intellectual growth. The layout, organization and running of the home should be designed to facilitate child development and not for the convenience of adults. The first intellectual skills that should be taught are language skills. Language influences the way people think. The first words that children learn should emphasize Iman. Complex, detailed, stimulating language should be used. Read to children as early as possible. Early interest in books carries through to adulthood. A second language should be taught as soon as the primary language is stable. A second language is best mastered before puberty. Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, is the preferred second language. There should be zero tolerance for colloquial Arabic.

Children should be taught obedience. Obedience is an attitude. It starts with obedience of Allah then the parents then those in authority. It also includes obedience of the physical laws and acceptance of social realities. Disobedient individuals tend to be marginal individuals in society; they may commit crimes and cannot be good and religious individuals with stable family life. Obedience should be taught by example. A wife obeying her husband and a husband obeying his parents are very good models for children. Disciplining of children must be firm, fair and appropriate. There must be house rules that are not broken. Too much scolding or belittling is child abuse. Children should be treated as individuals. They must be respected as humans with rights, feelings and concerns. As individuals they have a God-given self-worth and an identity that is unique. Children cannot be the same and should not be expected to behave is similar ways. Neither should you expect your children to be exactly like you. Children must be loved and that love should be shown. Parental love for the youngest children should never be conditional. Preference for either male or female children is an un-Islamic custom. Building self-esteem in children requires time and effort. Teach them to communicate their feelings. Listen to them. Negotiate and compromise with them in matters that are not strict rules. Your disciplining must be fair and consistent. Give them responsibilities and tasks. Allow them to make some decisions. Have a sense of humor. Give them loving care.

Guidelines for schools
Knowledge and education in the ummah are in a crisis. There is pervasive ignorance of uluum al diin and uluum al dunia. There is little respect for scholarship. Wealth and power are considered more important than scholarship. There is neglect of the empirical sciences. There is a dichotomy in the education system: traditional Islamic vs. imported European, ulum al diin vs ulum al dunia. Integration of the 2 systems has failed or has been difficult because it has been mechanical and not conceptual. Failure if the integration is failure of joint reading of the 2 books of Allah: kitaab al wahy and kitaab al kawn  The process of secularization in education has removed the moral dimension from the education and violated the aim of Islamic education to produce an integrated and perfect individual, insan kaamil.

The knowledge crisis and intellectual weakness are the most significant manifestation of ummat’s decadence. The intellectual crisis of the ummat is worsened by copying and using poorly digested alien ideas and concepts. The prophet warned the ummat about the lizard-hole phenomenon in which the ummat in later times would follow its enemies unquestionably like the lizard running into its hole. Among the manifestations of the ummatic malaise are deficient ibadat, action deficiency, political weakness, economic dependency, military weakness, dependence in science and technology, and erosion of the Islamic identity in life-style.

The generation of the Prophet (pbuh) was the best generation. The best teacher met the best students and excellent results were obtained. Companions had excellent knowledge and understanding. Seeds of the current crisis appeared towards the end of the khilafat rashidat... New social and political forces overthrew the khilafat rashidat and the ideals it represented were distorted or abolished. Then the authentic ‘ulama and opinion leaders who remained faithful to the ideals of Islam were marginalized and persecuted. Intellectual stagnation then ensued. The process of secularization of the Muslim state progressed. Widespread ignorance and illiteracy became common. Many non-Islamic ideas and facts without valid proof have found their way into the intellectual and religious heritage of the ummat making the existing intellectual crisis even worse.

Reform and revival of the ummat will occur through educational and knowledge reform. Tajdid is a recurring phenomenon in the ummat and is a sign of its health and dynamism. It is a basic characteristic of the ummat that periods of reform/revival alternate with periods of decay and return to jahiliyyat. Tajdid requires knowledge, ideas and action related by the following mathematical equation: tajdid = idea + action. Action without knowledge and guiding ideas will not lead to true change. Ideas without action are not change at all. Tajdid requires and is preceded by a reform in knowledge to provide ideas and motivation on which to build. All successful societal reform starts with change in knowledge. The ideal society cannot be created without a knowledge base. That knowledge base must be correct, relevant, and useful. Successful revival movements throughout Muslim history have always been led by scholars.

The Muslim ummat is a potential economic and political bloc whose potential is not yet realized. The contemporary tajdid movement has a lot of strengths but also has basic deficiencies that must be corrected. The knowledge and intellectual crises are still a barrier. Reform movements unguided by correct knowledge and understanding will falter and fail or will be deviated from their paths. Social change requires change in attitudes, values, convictions and behavior of a critical mass of the population. Attitudes, values, convictions, and behaviors are determined by the knowledge base. The vision of the knowledge strategy is an upright balanced person who understands the creator, knows his place, his roles, his rights, and his responsibilities in the cosmic order. The mission of the knowledge strategy is conceptual transformation of the education system from kindergarten to post graduate studies to reflect tauhid, positive moral values, objectivity, universality, and serving the larger causes of humanity.



Writings of Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr

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