NOTES ON THE EDUCATION OF MUSLIM CHILDREN
Foundation of Education
Education is the birth right of every Muslim and Muslimah. Investment in education is the best investment one can make, because it eventually leads to intellectual property. Intellectual property is the intangible property, which no one can steal or destroy. This is the property on which no Government can levy a tax. Hence, the foundation for education should start from childhood. It becomes imperative that the education of children be given the utmost importance as the prime duty to every parent, society, Government and nation.
To the Muslims a child is a trust from Allah (SWT) in the hands of the parents. The heart of a child can be compared to a fine and clean slate without any writing on it. Hence the child could be developed into any type of human being depending on what type of environment he or she is exposed to. If a child is educated in the traditions of goodness including the Noble Qur'an and the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAS), he or she will surely follow the truth when grown up and will attain health, happiness, and success both in this world and the hereafter. The reaching of great heights by the child gives the greatest pleasure both to the parents and the teachers. Even the community and the nation share in the child's achievements. On the other hand, lack of proper education destroys the bright future of the child. The blame and responsibility for this unpleasant and sad deed has to be shared both by the parents and the teachers, as well as the community and the nation. Therefore parenting is not any easy task. In some societies people literally spit on the faces of the parents whose children have gone astray. Right from the beginning parents should impart good conduct to their children and discourage them from bad company. Children should be taught to exercise control in self-adornment, extremes of pleasure and comfort.
The care of the child starts from the time of birth. Bottle-feeding should be kept away unless the mother has problems in breast-feeding. The virtues of breast-feeding to the child and the mother have been elaborated elsewhere by the author. The mother's milk not only nourishes the body and immunizes it but also builds up the mind and strengthens the emotional bonds of love and affection.
When the child reaches an age enabling him or her to distinguish things, greater care should be taken to teach good manners and respect for others. This is the time to teach table manners particularly Islamic traditions - recitation of Bismillah ("In the name of Allah"), using the right hand to eat, to eat from the plate the items near to him or her, not getting greedy at other's eating, to chew food thoroughly and slowly, avoiding haste, preventing of smearing one's hands on clothes. Mothers should be careful not to inculcate the habit of overeating. Parents should emphasize eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, reducing salt intake, discourage consumption of chocolates, sweets, candies, coffee, tea, soft drinks and encourage drinking of skim milk, fruit juices, low calorie, cholesterol-free, fat-free ice creams, yogurts.
Children must be complimented for moderate eating and for sharing food and toys with other children, so that they can learn sharing and self-sacrificing, as these qualities will lead to success in their married and professional lives. Children should be taught to develop simplicity and humility in their actions and behavior.
Teaching the 3 Rs
Children should attend schools to learn reading, writing and arithmetic, in addition they should be taught the Qur'an, Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (SAS), Islamic history and stories of the Muslim Heroes and Heroines, so that the values and virtues in these things may take root in their hearts. Apart from sciences and mathematics children must be allowed to read world history, poetry, literature, art, fiction, etc.
Children should be praised for their good actions and behavior and rewarded but seldom monetarily. This will make the children pleased and encouraged to repeat their good deeds. Whenever children commit mistakes or undesirable acts for the first time, they should be forgiven and their acts or misdeeds should be corrected in a loving and affectionate way without any harshness. Children should not be scolded frequently, particularly in front of their playmates or other adults. Scolding makes them insensitive and they continue the bad acts and may acquire undesirable habits. However the parents should communicate with their children and the father should not only talk to them but also discipline them without any physical harm. The mother should show her love and affection and at the same time remind them of their father's warnings and tell them to keep away from evil things.
During the day time children should be allowed to study and also to play otherwise their intellect will be dulled, and their physical bodies will not be in good shape. At night they must go to bed early. "Early to bed and early to rise make one healthy, wealthy, and wise." Children should not be allowed to do anything in secret, as it may encourage them to bad things and hide them from parents, teachers and friends. Openness, frankness and honesty are great virtues of leadership. At the same time, the children must be taught not to boast to their friends about parents' possessions, their living conditions, and family matters. Children must be taught to respect others and to show gentleness and humility.
Teaching by Action
If parents are wealthy, their children should be exposed to the acts of Zakah, Sadaqah, fitrah charities towards the poor, kith, and kin, and other deserving poor people. If the parents are poor, their children should be taught to live within their means, to strive and work hard for a better life, but never to steal, rob, or cheat others for a living.
Children must be taught to respect parents and elders and to make room for them. Children should not swear in order to speak the truth. Their habit of taking oaths should be avoided. They should be taught good manners of sitting and speaking. They should be encouraged to ask questions, but should not become chatterboxes. They should distinguish the bad habits from good habits. They should avoid the company of those who have bad habits. They should keep away from children who smoke, drink alcohol, abuse drugs, violate morality, and ethics.
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