The life of a young person today is filled with so many different focus points, every parent desires to grant their children the very best education. Your desire is that they are well rounded- you would like them to be excellent students – yet at the same time you don’t want to take anything away from their Islamic education, but extracurriculars seem to overshadow everything. The benefits of each one seems to outweigh the other. You,as a parent find yourself feeling guilty and often playing tug of war with making the choice of which one to prioritize.
Most Islamic teachers will often be heard expressing their extreme frustration when parents choose extra curriculars over the Madrassah time. And conversely parents feel extremely frustrated when Madrassahs are not understanding and accommodating towards extracurricular activities. This then leads to an impasse and only allows the child to become confused and not fully enjoy either lesson. As Muslims who are of the Ummah of Nabi (S) , we have been blessed to be from the nation that is wasat – a well-balanced nation. Our Deen has been outlined for us in such a way that it lies between the two poles of ifraat and tafreet – a religion that is too extreme or on the other hand a religion that is extremely lax. We are blessed to have this balance. This means that every part of our lives must be lived in a way that does not cause harm to the other part.
Our academic choices serve to further our minds and our knowledge – this is extremely important as a believer, but it can never come at the expense of our Islamic education.
As a parent you must strike a balance of the importance of both. You have to reframe your mind to understand that we have to develop our children to live both in this world and the hereafter. Both are a reality. Both need preparations and attention.
Your child does not live within his mind only – his/her body is a great amaanah and has to be treated as such. An amaanah that extracurricular activities assist in taking care of. In movement we see that a child is exposed to exercise, friendship and learns valuable skills of teamwork. Most extracurricular activities push the child to compete, and this teaches him valuable leadership skills. It teaches him how to lose with dignity, how to accept failure and develop a deeper push towards learning new skills.
Islamic education focuses on the spiritual connection of your child. Sometimes it is the only knowledge or connection to the Deen of Allah Ta’ala. Most people learn the Deen of Allah in their formative years and then they are not exposed to anything at all once they leave maktab. This time period is supposed to develop in a student a deep understanding and connection to surahs and duas and an attachment to the Qur’an that is supposed to last a lifetime. As a parent – your focus is on creating this deep attachment to the Deen of Allah that is your child’s lifeline in the long journey ahead of life.
You know that someday you will leave this world and your desire for your child to live a life that grants him or her deep connection to Allah is your worry and constant focus as a parent.
How do we balance it all?
- Place it in Allah’s hands– Recognize that is is a large load for yourself and your child. As a parent you are incapable of taking care and fulfilling every need of your child. Remind yourself daily (especially as you are racing to do drop offs and pick-ups and your entire day is in a car)- repeat to yourself that all your efforts are there but your complete tawkakkul is on Allah Ta’ala. You accept that your efforts are nothing if not tied to understanding that Allah is the only Murabbi- the one who molds and takes care of your child. Taking this load of your shoulders allows you to complete your busy load without the eventual breakdowns and meltdowns that often happen to parents when we feel overwhelmed by it all.
- Create a list of values for your family, your core principles that you live by. Make every decision from these core values. For example, if you value your salah all academic and extra-curricular activities will then be planned around your salah time. You choose times based on your value system. If you value protecting the aurah – then all extra-curricular activities should be chosen with a careful understanding of what is the dress code or whether it is appropriate for my son or daughter in terms of the limits set by Islam.
- Don’t look at Madrassah as an activity in your child’s list of activities. Rather focus it to be your child’s connection to Allah. When you remind yourself that Islamic education has nothing to do with examinations or progress on a report card, you quickly realize that it is supposed to motivate us towards finding Allah. Once you have reframed your thinking you now will place each part of your child’s day around the deep desire to allow him to succeed both in this world and the next.