Children Relationships

Question: "Should I send my kids to a public school or an Islamic school?"

The Question:

Should I send my children to a well established public school or a not so well established Islamic school? I am constantly being told by family members to send my son to a state school as the level education is better, I would prefer to send him to an Islamic school because of the environment, because I don’t like the godlessness and immoral environment in state schools.


Asalamu alaykum,

I’m not really able to comment on the U.K situation since my experience is in the USA. However, I have found that most of the kids who attend excellent public schools, combined with good parenting, seem to turn our much better than those who attend Islamic Schools who are sub par in their education religious and otherwise. This is my experience and it is not something that is written in stone. However, as an educator, I’m inclining towards sending my own kids to public schools for a number of reasons:

1. Preparation instead of incubation:
I’ve seen many kids come out of Islamic schools incubated and unable to deal with the drama that awaits them in High School and the Campus. Thus, and I’ve put this question to Islamic educators before, we need to move from an incubation psychology to one that prepares, empowers and strengthens our young people. By sending children to education reservoirs we are failing to prepare them for what awaits them. Thus, indirectly, we might be creating inverted personalities who fail to connect with the fact that they are part and parcel to the society at large. This effort to “protect them” as I’ve seen, only increases their hunger to break away from the pride lands and kick it with Beyonce. The most difficult youth I’ve dealt with were all graduates from such reservoirs. On the other hand, youth who went to public schools, had non-Muslim friends and engaged were far more comfortable with themselves. The others, to put it bluntly were walking Freudian slips.

2. Education standards and Ethics:
So far, and I’ve taught in Islamic schools for a number of year and have a degree in elementary education, I’ve not seen, at least in the States, any Islamic school that can educate a child the way public schools do. The latter have issues, but the former have not, in most cases I’ve seen, lived up to the visions associated with them. When it comes to testing your kids, addressing learning issues and cognitive development, many public schools are setting some amazing trends. Islamic schools are not able to offer the same resources for a simple reason: money.

3. Politics:
Unfortunately Islamic Schools have become the focus of many a political battle in communities. Wives, who are unqualified, of mosque board presidents get hired and some boards have no clue about education. In fact, I remember, during a job interview being asked, “Does one really need a degree to be a good teacher?”

4. At the end of the day, WE must raise our kids:
No Islamic school, nor any other institute is going to do the job that good parents can do. It is a simple fact that schools, and in recent years, the internet are closing in on parents as the most important factors in a child’s life. However, religion, morals and faith should be looked at like a grammar that is acquired, not preached, or uploaded. Organic and robust religious experiences come through a set of sociological constructs that are formed, shaped, nurtured and lived in one’s home.

5. Costs

Most of us, if we are holding down good jobs, are unable to pay the high costs of Islamic schools. Once you get past two children it becomes next to impossible to afford tuition, books and uniforms.

Allah knows best but I would:

1. Make Istikhara.
2. Talk with other parents in the community.
3. Make a decision based on the above.
4. Visit both schools and look at the philosophy of each school/ask to see test scores as well.
5. If there is one school that I would fully endorse with no reservations it would be Granada School in Santa Clara California. By Allah I sent my daughter there and it was one of the best experiences of her life. Her teacher was amazing and the school setting was awesome. Unfortunately there are some who are trying to use this article to debase and attack that institution. Let me make it clear that what I’ve written above deals with schools that I’d seen in my travels and not Granada School. I hope and pray that Allah will protect us from fitna and cause us to have the best feelings towards another. This piece I wrote was more of an opinion piece than and attack on institution. Furthermore, while I support sending my kids to non-Muslim High Schools. I agree that we must send them to Islamic schools for their early education. I’m an avid supporter of Granada and have always complemented and supported it.

We ask Allah to bless you both, protect your children and raise your status. Please don’t take these words and write them in stone. They are mere opinions. They might be right or they might be wrong.


About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.


    • Respected brothers and sisters, please don’t put Islamic Schools down regardless of their quality because the are evolving and I recommend reading, how Islam started? people were week for 13 long years with the most powerful man(The Prophet of God)with Ultimate support by (God) yet they have to go through all the turmoils. You are comparing apples and oranges because comparing Islamic Schools with public is no comparison. Just like Eman(faith) & kufr(disbelief)can’t be compared. You don’t consider anyone to be a writer because he/she knows how to type. I advise you to leave people with how they feel comfortable putting their kids in certain environment. If you’re OK with public schools that’s your choice but implying that Islamic Schools are not good or what have you, is not fair. Be careful being ignorant “There is in ignorance a death for its people before death, and their bodies before burial are graves, and their souls are in grief on account of their bodies, and there is no resurrection for them (from death) until the Resurrection.”
      Our Prophet said; The cure for ignorance is to question and to learn,“Indeed the cure for ignorance is to ask.” [Reported by Ahmed, Abu Daawood and Ibn Maajah. (Hasan)] So he made ignorance a disease and declared asking to be its cure. And Ibn al-Qayyim said in his Ash-Shaafiyatul-Kaafiyah, “Ignorance is a fatal malady and its cure is in two things in agreement: A text from the Qur`aan or from the Sunnah, and a physician possessing knowledge of the Deen.” do you think the knowledge of our Deen (our way of life)taught in Public Schools?

  • Assalamu alaikum Sh. Suhaib,

    jazakAllahu khairan for positing your views on the pros and cons of public and islamic schools. Like you, I, have also taught several years in Islamic schools and understand what you are saying regarding the general lack of professionalism in Islamic schools as compared to public schools.

    Having taught in islamic schools and attended non-Muslim schools growing up, I would definitely, though, recommend Islamic schools over public schools for most children growing up in America. I say this because very few families have the tarbiyah structure and knowledge you have to properly raise their children according the Quran and the Sunnah. For most kids in Islamic schools, whatever they learn about islam comes from these schools. If they are taken out of this environment and put in public schools they will have absolutely no chance, except whom Allah guides, to graduate as Muslims. At both school and at home, they will be called towards the dunya, and with no guiding light they will not have the thaqafah to fight the doubts and temptations society will put into their minds about the absolute perfection of Islam and will generally easily succumb to the nafs first society at large. This has been my experience of a large number of Muslim children who I grew up with who attended non-Islamic schools; honestly most of them are Muslims on in name.

    JazakAllahu khairan,

    abu abdullah

  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Aba Abdillah:

    I certainly agree with you. That is why I don’t like to answer such questions. It is impossible to give a general answer on this issue. I would encourage everyone to thoroughly investigate things before making such an important decision.


  • Definetely islamic school even though some islamic schools dont held the islamic values as they should.

  • I agree this is a decision which Muslim parents all over may see differently on depending on where one lives. There is much work needed to be done to bring most Islamic schools up to par, although mashallah I’ve seen a few in Houston and Dallas that seem to be on the same level if not higher than public schools, with a focus on getting kids ready for college. Alhamdulillah I admire the wholesome Islamic environment they are able to create for students attending. From my experience, this is something valuable which cannot be found in a public school.

    On the other hand, I also agree that students should come out of Islamic schools with their background in Islamic values and secular education, and also be able to integrate back into society when in high school or college. Unfortunately most schools don’t provide for this because of time and cost restraints in the many other areas of schooling. The Islamic school where I used to work is now making praiseworthy efforts to have their students reach out to the community and other schools, so that interaction and experience of the real world can be maximized and learned from. This is a start inshallah.

    Jazakallah khayr for addressing this issue and giving advise on what factors to consider in deciding where to send your kids.

  • Salams all,

    I have a bunch of cousins Stateside who were educated at state schools. All did well educationally; almost none have a firm grasp of deen and a minority practise it. Their interests and preoccupations are those of typical American youngsters (entertainment, the opposite gender and so forth), with a little of the ‘Desi’ dimension thrown in. Meanwhile, back here in the UK, many of my British cousins were brought up in an insular way, educated either at Muslim schools or at Dar al-Ulums, and they, too have their problems: how to feel a part of this society rather than living on the edges of it. Neither option seems particularly attractive.

    Our two children (aged 5 and nearly 7) attend what I call a progressive Islamic primary school. The educational standards are not bad (we keep continuous tabs on this side of things), and the staff are continually being trained and developed to meet the needs of the hundred plus kids, who are from a variety of backgrounds: Arab, Indian, Somali, Pakistani and so on. Ultimately, I feel that an Islamic school education entails that you back up the education side with your own input and resources, while a state school education entails that you back up with all the Islamic values that are missing from the school system. So, it’s hard work either way!

    That said, I’m truly grateful that our kids have the opportunity to learn their deen in a holistic way, without the schisms that we, as kids, experienced, when religion was almost like a secret part of life that was confined to the home (even though our dad was an imam at the local mosque!) But we do make sure they mix plenty with non-Muslim kids, too, since they need to learn about diversity, tolerance and so on. (Plus my in-laws are non-Muslims, so they get exposure there, too.)

    May the All-Merciful be with us and guide us on our journeys…

  • Dr. Tariq Ramadan has a very nice article on Islamic schools in his “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam”. He gives a similar answer and asserts that strong weekend (and summer) Islamic educational institutions are a better solution to the full-time Islamic school.

  • AA,

    I remember having this convo with you, Imam Suhaib a few years ago, and at the time you had felt that if the right staff is involved i.e. people who know the society (converts), Islamic schools can be preferable. You had cited your experience working at an Islamic School with Muslims who had the right background (teaching degrees etc).

    I agree with your current position (generally) because we won’t always have the right staff (again generally speaking). When I talk to the media about the Muslim community I often point out that the Muslim community has focused on 2 major institutions so far. 1. Masajid 2. Islamic Schools (K-12) but we can debate how strong these institutions are. 3. would prob be lending and investment institutions (i.e. guidance, amana) On a side note to make our community stronger theres so many institutions which are needed that just aren’t there. i.e. Halal student loans (side track but related – education/priorities)

    One point that you did not mention, which would be one at the top of my list is establishing a presence of Islam in the minds of other children while they are young. I can think back to third grade in public school where I recited Surah Fathiha to my class and explained what it meant (for some project). One time I brought in Kameze Shalwars in 4th grade and I forgot to put the zarband/nara/waist band in, so when I lifted it up it was huge. And this one kid said… “Ohh Dipp, thats fresh!… Just like MC Hammer!” Now thats Dawah 🙂

    We also grew up playing with Dradles and eating Matzah, so its kind of hard for us to become “anti-semetic” or hateful towards jews without really trying.

    Dawah has an impact moreso in junior high and high school sitting with friends and talking about what we believe. Recently one of my HS friends told me.. that everything he knows about Islam is because of what I told him back in High School (10 years ago). May Allah (S) guide him. I used to also mop the floor with those who believed in blind faith with an agressive debating style, which I kind of regret.. but other kids used to get a kick out of it.

    Another friend who I went to HS and College with, came to me after taking 3 courses on Catholic theology told me that he was convinced Jesus is not God (so he’s half way there). May Allah (S) Guide him. My cousin and I started wearing Kufis in school and everyone knew we were Muslim. Then we tried to represent Islam right.

    My wife teaches in an elementary school in (do or die) Bed-Stuy where she is known as “the Muzlem Teacher”. Little kids ask her about her hijab and mashallah they really love her. So when they grow up, its going to be that much harder for them to believe stereotypes about Muslims because the first Muslim they will have known will have had a positive impact on their life.

    If we care about the larger society we will want our kids to be a part of its school system. What my wife and I debate over is if there are inequalities in the public school system where poorer neighborhoods have less resources for their schools if it is better to put our kid in that school for social justice purposes. She feels you have to set the kid up for success, while I’m constricted about inequality. (Hes only 2 months old though ha).

    Ok this is getting too long, should save something for my own blog. 🙂

  • Sh Suhayb, May Allah reward you, I very much admire your bold nature and courage. As Shaykh Bin Bayyah once said that the Mufti must be “bold, he does not get weathered down by doubts and misgivings”.

    Good answer anyway


  • As Salamu ‘Alaykum

    I feel that this recommendation is more harmful to parents and our children especially. What makes these schools any better? And what about them actually makes putting our children there worth it?

    I understand the problems with a Islamic school but do those problems make it any worse than a public school? Can we judge the public school system based on the haram that exists within it, the poor education it gives our children, and the waste of time it is? How many drop out of school or fail classes and are called stupid? Why do these schools (including private) not focus on the strengths of every child? Not every child is interested in math and wants to spend years on that. Maybe a child prefers his art class, so why can’t he have the option of spending more time in that class? These are just random thoughts that come to my head after reading this.

    Anyone who encourages the public school system should really get their hands on John Taylor Gatto’s books. There ARE other alternatives if you can’t afford a private school. You simply must do research and ask questions. Even if I had the money to put my kids in a private school, though, I wouldn’t place them there. I just don’t believe the system really nurtures a love for education in these institutes one bit. I believe, after reading John Taylor’s works, that school really is dumbing our children down. I also don’t believe that teaching children that Islam is a one hour subject is wise at all and will not help them build that love for their religion. That is why I choose not to do either.

  • Assalaamu alaikom wa rahamatullah,
    There are few things I’d like to point out. InshaAllah I’ll be brief.
    1. School itself is incubation. Where in real life do we see adults in a group of 18-23 all in the same age group following one leader? There idea that school is the ideal place for socialization is a myth. Real world preparation comes from being in the real world not in a government run factory schooling isolated from life.

    2. Since when does testing have to with learning, especially standardized tests? Every academic in the field of education condemns such testing of children. Many teachers actually leave the profession because of this testing. Why would anyone want to send their child to a school that teaches testing skills versus real world thinking skills?

    Standardized Tests and their Victims by Alfie Kohn

    3. Do you think public schools are immune to politics? That would be absurd. From lobbying, book protests, and all sorts of things, public schools are far from politics-free. No Child Left Behind, ring a bell?
    Another false assumption is that teaching requires some body to give them credentials. Some of the best teachers I’ve seen are ones that strayed from the methodologies they were taught. Wasn’t it Einstein who said there’s too much education going on and not enough learning?

    4. I agree with you. Responsibility is on the parent’s shoulders and parents must decide if they’re going to send their children into a hotbed of haram and different values. 8 hours a day is a lot of time to be spent outside the home with a group of people who share different values, beliefs, and ideas. Sure, a young adult needs to be introduced into the larger society. That happens best AFTER they’ve already been instilled with Islamic values. That said most of the established Islamic schools I’ve seen did have interaction with nonMuslims through various activities (volunteering, field trips, competitions, etc).

    5. There are other ways to school our children aside from public schools and Islamic schools. There are alternative schools and home schooling options. No schooling is more expensive then public schooling (its big business) although the parent may not be paying the direct cost.

    I must stress how ridiculous of looking at test scores is. I think this is some of the worest advice I’ve seen. A high test score doesn’t mean high learning. I’d say if you’re sending your kid to a publicschool look at the economic make up of the school. The wealthier neighborhoods have more resources and in the crisis of our modern day schooling, it’s the poor who’re getting left behind the most. Of course if you really want to make a difference in the life of your child, then you’d take it on yourself to educate yourself, research, and find the best method, which I’m sure wouldn’t be a factory style school.

  • From my experience of having two younger brothers in two of the leading Islamic madrassas and a sister who teaches Arabic in a girls-only secondary school, I can agree largely with Ustadh Webb.

    Based on their responses and feedback, I have determined the following:

    There are two key problems out of many with the Islamic schools;

    1) Lack of appropriate funding and the dispersion of it
    2) Lack of emphasis on secular studies or other sciences (national curriculam) – so the kids really do not sit on par with other state schools.
    3) Very poor management and management completely unqualified for their positions.
    4) Loosley > their interaction with the wider society is limited and with non-Muslims. They come out of these schools and feel alienated or odd.

    Number 4 can also be seen in schools where kids are from the same ethnic grouping – such as all-Bengali or all-Pakistani schools. The kids go on to college and have a hard time adapting to the changes and some completely mess up their studies.

    With those 4 key points, I would choose a state/public school and teach Islam at home, evening madrasa’s or weekend madrasa’s and give them a full tarbiyah and education drill down from a very early age. I know my parents did this for me and I am so grateful for them. They knew their Islam, even if they were simple villagers, they knew that they had to supplement the education of the deen at home. They warned us of the outside world and told us to not shy away from it either.

    Many kids coming out of madrasahs cannot make it into universities – a few actually do. Most of them have had little interaction with wider society – as their holidays uusally consist of returning to a predominantly ethnic area.

    I think parenting and home-education of Islam is KEY and crucial to deciding where you should send your kids.

    Good generic advice by Imam Suhaib and these descisions should not be taken lightly. I believe critique of our own schools, high expectations and a public discussion of them will raise key issues and change will come about, inshaAllah.

    wa Allahu a3lam.

  • as Salamu ‘alaykum

    Umm Zahra touched many important details that I would like brother Suhaib to address. It is very important that anyone who assumes a position of leadership be well informed and this advice of you doesn’t show awareness of what public school really is. I haven’t done much research on standardized testing but I do remember them very well. There were children in school who were put behind because they couldn’t handle tests, even though their grades, their effort, and their homework, showed they were, in fact, very intelligent.

    Touch upon this. And please don’t fool people into thinking that public school is free. We pay for it out of our pockets. Where is all the funding for schools going btw? Is it really being given to the children and being used to come up with better teaching methods? We would think that with so much funding our schools would be seeing much improvement but the opposite is true. My city alone has one of the worst public schools in the country but so much money is going into the pockets of those that run the schools (though not the teachers).

    You want parents to be involved but how can they be involved when their new parents (aka the school system) won’t let them be involved. One of the greatest dangers to govt schooling is parent involvement. That is the one thing schooling has clearly accomplished may I add – it has destroyed the connection between families and children and it is very sad.

  • Not only are they a financial drain on specific individuals, but on on our communities as a whole (with very little returns).

    If only a fraction of the millions being spent on such schools in each community was redirected to build something akin to a community-center, you could provide something much better and more needed to the community. It would only need to be a staffed by a handful of people (youth counselors, an admin) and because of that, you could provide competitive salaries and so attract an able stable (you would also be encouraging people in the community to seek after such careers). This is contrast to the great amount of people needed to run a school and the meager compensation they receive.

    Also, such institution would be cater to the whole of the community, not just the inevitably limited amount that will be able to attend an Islamic school (who themselves need after-school programs), so it would make more sense for the community as a whole.

    The facility can include guy’s and girl’s gyms, outdoor field, activity rooms, rooms for halaqas etc…

    Our problem is we need to focus on filling our communities youth’s (at large) free time with healthy activities and instilling tarabiyya and religious knowledge along the way. Islamic schools don’t come close to solving any of these.

    The only claimed reason for their existence is ‘to provide a better environment,’ but even this issue is highly debatable.

    Thanks for your post.

  • Asalamu alaykum,

    All of these responses have great merit and I would like to thank all of you for commenting.

    One thing that I failed to mention is related to the parents general goals for their children. Based on those goals, and I said general because the specific, in my humble opinion, should be left to the child in the long run, parents are going to seek educational opportunities for their children that assist in the completion and maintenance of such goals.

    Test scores: I taught in the public as well as private school systems and softly disagree with UmmZahra and UmmLath. The problem is not so much with the tests, although they have some major issues. The problem exists in three areas:

    1. Teachers teaching to the test. This is usually based on poor preparation, lack of familiarity with the curriculum or some sort of outside pressure. Either way, it is not good.
    2. A teachers inability to understand that the test is “Salt on food.” Many are unable to work the curriculum around the tests, allowing the tests to dictate what is taught.
    3. Parents inability to read and understand test results. In fact, not only parents, but administrators, school boards and teachers as well. For that reason we see those who are not very well versed in understanding text results, making the biggest deal out of them [for or against]. As my professor told me “Tests don’t make or break a child.”

    I’m not in favor of doing away with tests, nor do I hold them as the ultimate sign of one’s educational development. I see them, in many ways, as a mechanism that most people lack enough literacy about to use correctly.

    I appreciate everyone’s valuable words and hope and pray for all of our children.


  • Assalamu alaykum,

    I very much empathise with the misgivings about tests expressed above, especially for younger children. However, I think Imam Suhaib’s points really do stand for a number of reasons.

    The first of these is that we have traditionally, in both Muslims and western systems, developed goal-oriented learning, in which specific approaches and texts are used to inculcate measurable learning. If one wishes to allow one’s children to imbibe their knowledge without taking stock of its content or extent, then that is surely one’s choice, but I don’t believe it can equip a child well for a world in which tasks/productivity/competence are all in some way measured through various means.

    Secondly, if one teaches Qur’an, for instance, or any religious text, one’s means of knowing whether the child has memorised or understood the lesson is to ask or to test. I find with my children that their knowing how far they have got helps them to understand where they need to work harder (though without pressure from me, I hope), and their sense of having achieved small steps towards their goal appears to give them a boost.

    Thirdly, testing is, I think, an important part of nurturing critical thinking, though of course, as Imam Suhaib points out above, they are not the be-all and end-all, and are not an end in themselves.

    The western education system may be to the distaste of many, and for good reasons. However, if you live in the west, it seems ridiculous to not want to engage in it through its own institutions, because the best critique comes from those who engage, and who would like to see positive changes for society as a whole rather than just Muslims. I do feel for all of us Muslim parents, I and fundamentally respect all our different choices and would not countenance a one-size-fits-all solution. At the same time, from where I stand, it seems that it’s also time for many of us (no-one in particular intended here) to stop behaving like a lobby group and get in there and be a part of things, kids and all!

    My kids go to a progressive Muslim school which happens to be very well-run, alhamdiulillah, but we take them to other classes for sports and other things so that they can be with non-Muslims, and we try to be a part of other local institutions (libraries, museums, local arts initiatives) so that they can feel that their are taking part in wider society – and I believe that da’wa can start at a young age (albeit in a subtle way), if the kids happen to have outgoing, sociable personalities.

    That said, each family must weigh the options, and do what fits in with their children’s personalities, strengths and needs. Friends of mine have kids who are shy and quiet; they felt school did not do them justice. Mine love school and want to be with other children and do the various activities that school provides (and I could not). I am with them all the way, so far!

    • Assalyamu Alykum sister,

      Alhamdullilah you are lucky that your kids go to islamic school. Can I know what islamic school do you put your children? I am searching for good islamic school.

      May i mention my opinion here? My 8 year old is in public school and a gifted child. I feel that my daughter waisted 2 of her years in public school in terms of education. She was much smarter and brighter child ten before starting school when i used to teach her at home. Public schools do not teach our kids very well they kill creativity. Plus I am tired of all that Crismas, valentines and easter celebrations at school. 8 hours a day my kid is at school listening to nonsense. its sad. I pray to Allah to find good islamic school for my kid. At least my kid will see girls in hijabs at islamic school and remember Allah.

      • I know some good islamic schools in New York. They are: Al-Ihsan Academy, Al-Madina, and Wellspring. Al-Aqsa in Chicago is also very good.

  • Brother Suhaib, as salamu ‘alaykum

    My biggest issue with school isn’t the tests. You addressed one issue and I thank you for that but what about the rest of the points? It would be great to hear the opinion of people who support public school on those issues.

    Sister Fozia, it isn’t ridiculous at all to not want to engage our children in these institutions when we know that these places aren’t bringing out the best in our children and are in fact doing the opposite.

    I sense in your post that you think (please correct me) that the shyer children are the ones that aren’t out there in these schools and if that is the case then this is seriously a misunderstanding. My oldest son, who I do plan on homeschooling insha’Allah, is a complete social bug. He loves people, he loves activities etc… and I don’t feel that because of that I should place him in such an institute. I want him to be a part of the greater community and not just one part of it. We look at learning as an endless amount of possibilities because the world is full of so much more than what 4 walls, a few teachers, and a group of students of the same age, offers them.

    Again, I would recommend any parent to read the books by John Taylor Gatto. I want someone who can bring some refutations for those points (and leave out the socialization point already because it is getting old) and show those parents who are more concerned about education that these schools aren’t as bad as they are. We want to see that schools really are bringing out the best in children, and that the money that is taken from our pockets is actually going to our children. So much technology and more children drop out. What is going on?

  • Asalamu alaykum

    Umm Layth:

    My experience in education and my background as a teacher are what I base my feelings on. I’m not able, nor would I like to, engage you at such a level. I have major exams, three or four projects that I’m working on and preparing to head back to the states. Thus, I’m very sorry, but I’m not looking to engage you nor disprove what you’ve read. I’m open enough to accept both opinions without being convinced that I’m on the truth and the other is not.


  • wa ‘alaykum as salam

    Brother Suhaib, that is fine, alhamdulillah. I hope you are okay with others continuing the discussion here.

  • Umm Layth:

    You are more than welcome to discuss this and we hope to benefit from your wise words.


  • Salamat

    Umm Layth:

    Have some adab and refer to Imam Suhaib as Imam or Sheikh! If such adab is the outcome of home schooling, then I want no part of it. He is one of our young leaders, a memorizer of Qur’an and someone of respect in the community. At least treat with a little adab.

    Asad Williams

  • Brother Asad,

    Perhaps it would be more appropriate if you addressed one of the believing women of this ummah with a little more haya in the manner you give advice.

    Humility is one of the signs of a believer.

    And adab is not conveyed simply through the use of titles.

    Some of the most respected and knowledgeable people refuse to be addressed with titles, and in fact only refer to themselves as the students of students of knowledge.

    Most definately if you want to address people with honorific titles out of love for them and respect for their status this is something good, but it is too much that some people consider this to be one of the fundamentals of the deen and correcting other people where such corrections are not necessary – if you want to apply the same principles to others first ask yourself – do you for example know the age/ status etc. of Umm Layth in relation to who she was addressing?


  • thanks brother-imam suhaib, me and my wife practically have been playing scrables over where to put our 3 yr old in montreal. i was counting on the off-chance of you landing on the side of faith-based schools, but seems like my wife has a heavy weight on her side 🙂

  • Assalaamu alaykum Imam Suhaib,

    I had this discussion with my wife over dinner once. She basically said exactly what you said here, listing all the points mentioned.

    The subject is really important (especially since Muslims are asking people like you for answer) but on a community building level, do you think the real question is why is this question even being asked? Meaning, why haven’t we built such awesome Islamic schools that neighboring non-Muslim families are on waiting lists to send their children to.

    A lot of the up and coming Muslim college grads are education majors who are starting to teach in Islamic schools, many of whom graduated from public high schools. I pray and hope we get more of them, and that they form the backbone for a much needed revolution in the Muslim educational systems in the West. In the meantime, questions like these will have to be asked as well as answered by those such as yourself.


  • as salamu ‘alaykum

    I apologize if my responses came out as rude in any way. I get caught up sometimes in topics and how passionate I feel about them and forget to go back and re read my words. It’s something I’m working on with using the net.

  • Umm Layth:

    There is nothing more honorable then being called “brother.” It is a great sharif and I would prefer to be called as such. Asad: such titles should be used for true scholars, not students of knowledge like myself.


  • The unfortunate fact is that I must agree with Imam Suhaib. He definitely has a point, I believe it is correct, but I’m not saying the current situation is a good thing.

    When I was reading his post, I felt like the Imam was reading my mind. My mother teaches at an Islamic school, and she comes back every single day very frustrated with the way students act. Many teachers feel this way too, especially since there is way too much politics. My mother comes back everyday telling me how children are not disciplined because their parents give more money.

    If she works in the public school system, she would come back happy everyday. But working in an Islamic school, she comes back extremely frustrated. Even the Co-Workers don’t treat her islamically. Our Islamic Schools are beginning to look at things from a business point of view.

    I see many kids from the Islamic school come to a very large high school and go 180. They are the ones with the girlfriends, while the ones already in the public school system aren’t. It seriously confuses me a lot.

  • I agree with Imam Suhaib that sometimes teachers are under qualified, however, I don’t believe this can be generalized to all schools. For example, at our school there isn’t one teacher who is a wife or related to any of the board members. There is a thorough interview process and all teachers have a Bachelors in their subject or extensive knowledge in that area. I do agree that some instructors don’t have the education background to be great teachers. Our Arabic, IS, Quran teachers are trained to be Imams not teachers (although I don’t think there should be a difference). I’ve interviewed for several schools in the past and for the most part I think the staff is highly qualified, although in smaller communities they have to resort to such things since the school can’t afford to have highly qualified teachers, nor are people willing to move to a small town.

    Now, I also agree with the Imam that for the most part many of the instructors don’t have a clue about American culture. Alhamdulillah, I believe I get along with the students so well and the enjoy my class a lot since I connect with them and I speak their language. They finally have an IS teacher who speaks their language. I had some students tell me that they won’t come back next year if I don’t teach them. This is a mercy from Allah, and this is the reason I’ve stayed here even after all the things that take place at the school. Its a stressful job but inshallah it’ll pay off when we see the future muslim community. The way I see it, we’re helping build the future Muslim community.

    At times, it feels kind of disheartening, but these kids are way better off than public school kids. As you’re aware most people don’t have time to teach or do tarbiyah of their kids at home. So by sending them to public school they’re just making it worse, I’ve met many kids who don’t even know the kalima or the Prophet’s name. So I don’t understand how the Imam is saying these kids are comparable? Even though the Islamic school kids seem to get into trouble after graduating and sometimes are far from Muslim role models this is mostly due to their environment at home. This is the same with public school kids, however, our kids have some knowledge and hopefully a seed of imaan in their heart that will help bring them back. Imam Abdul Malik of Oakland said that he has met many kids who got on the wrong track after Islamic school but after a few years realized the mistakes they made and came back stronger Muslims.

    I think sending kids to public schools makes them accept their culture. I agree that we shouldn’t alienate them and totally shut them off from non-Muslims, however, we can do this in a controlled environment. In our school we’ve taken them on trips to the cemetary to build imaan, a trip to a church to understand their religion and to build faith, to Loaves and Fishes to help them feel part of the community and volunteering. We’ve had them attend several Muslim events so that they see they have a community and people their age to be a part of. Tell me how many public school kids get the same opportunity?

    In order to answer the subpar education, our students take AP classes in 10th grade and some start going to Junior college in 11th since they’re advanced. They memorized 5 juzz of the Quran (although many forget them, they have a chance to review in the future when they realize its importance). Our CAT5 (state test) scores are higher than many public schools. We have a tarbiyah program where all subjects try to come up with ways to teach a certain concept of Islam like brotherhood/unity, Importance of Arabic, modesty, etc..

    I think the main thing Islamic schools are lacking are funds and that hurts them being able to afford good counselors and disciplinarions. Our kids don’t have the right behavior because of the lack of administartive ability. We also need to get rid of this concept of the school depending on the community and therefore being to lenient and too open to their criticism and suggestions.

  • Salaam Aley’kum to all,

    Subhun’Allah, what a great topic. I have a story that I have not seen here and I wish to share it with those believing their children are safe in the public school system. We live in a very nice area in the East Bay area in California. Our neighborhood school is a blue ribbon school (prize-winning). I sent my two oldest to the school, it was wonderful, we walked everyday, I was a very active member of the school and in the classrooms. I went on every field trip and talked with all the other moms when we were waiting to pick-up our children. Then, I finally took the hijab. Many moms kept their distance from me, but I didn’t allow them to, I kept talking, small talk, weather, anything, to fill the “strangeness” of my hijab. Most eventually realized I was the same person they had gotten to know. Then I started to give talks in the classrooms (of which I had really wonderful, loving teachers) during Ramadan and at Eid I would bring in small treats to share. My daughters invited some special friends to partake in our Eid parties. It was a good combination. Both daughters were well-loved by the teachers and the students. Nothing controversial, they were good, kind, decent girls (alhumdulilah, they still are!). But I cringed during the month of December (and mind you I am a revert, so I am used to the whole Christmas thing). When I was growing up, Christmas was not celebrated for the whole month of December, just the last few days of school before break. Now, it is the entire month, plus every other religious celebration, except of course Ramadan. I only got to talk about it because my daughter’s teachers were so great and open. But they received complaints from other parents for not informing them that I would be talking. Anyway, I and my girls were still going to go to public school, until some girls in my daughter’s second grade class started asking my daughter why she was a Muslim. Didn’t she know Muslims killed so many innocent people in the world? How could she be a killer? How many people has she killed and so on and so forth. It occurred to me that I had failed my child. I put her in an environment where she was subject to ridicule. She had gone through long days at school, came home had a private sheik teach her Koran and Arabic daily for more than an hour, we had dance, swimming and many other lessons. She was tired and beat up and she held it in, all to try to please everyone. During the summer, she told me what happened and she told me she would not go back to school. Subhun’Allah, after that we were at the local school supply store and we met another muslimah, I started talking to her and she told me of an Islamic school in Hayward. Alhumdulilah, we went to the campus, interviewed, and became members of this lovely community. We now drive more than 1/2 hour each way to and from school, but we have our half days on Friday, we can go to Jummah, we have many friends, there are seven little girls spending the night here tonight and the sound is beautiful. Are they perfect? No, but it’s the best solution for us and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I will be doing the bridging books over the summer to make sure, academically they are up to par, but I’m not too worried about it. My older one can now read and write Arabic fluently, both know so many new Surahs, I can’t even keep up and have been in school plays based on Aesop’s fables, enjoyed countless field trips, been active members of the community and most importantly are learning who they are and are proud of it. They’ve learned Islamic history and can tell me stories and stories of the countless contributions to society the muslims have made. I merely encourage them to be one too. Do I leave them at school and expect the teachers to do everything? No, but I didn’t do that in the public school either. I am an active part of their education and I wouldn’t do it any other way. No parent should expect one institution or the other to fully educate their child. No matter what method you choose, you should commit to it fully and become a PTA or PTO member, a class mom, volunteer, lunch duty supervisor, whatever you can. Schools need you and you need to listen to your children. I did what was best for mine and insha’Allah they will be better for it in the long run.

    I don’t think there is a perfect solution. Islamic schools are costly, home schooling takes a regimented life-style, public schools open our children up to abuse at extremely early ages, which they aren’t prepared yet on how to defend themselves. Islamic schools may be lacking in the academics, at public schools, our children may be lacking in their deen. All I can say is no matter what method you choose, make sure you are an active part, reach out and let’s help each other no matter where we choose to send our children.

    Jazak Allah Heir and sorry for the long post…

    • Alhamdullilah Agree with you, Sister! U did so right! My 8 year old in public school and my heart hurting every day when she goes to school. 8 hours at school learning nonsense in spiritual point of view. Public school is a waist of children time. Kids do not remember Allah in public school.
      I pray to Allah to find a good islamic school for my daughter. I want my daughter see girls in hijabs and hear zikr of Allah not music and songs at public schools.

  • I like everything about your article Imam Suhaib, apart from that line about testing. As a home-schooling advocate put it, would you pull up a growing plant to check on the roots to make sure everything is okay down there? Trying to test learning that is going on inside a child’s head is comparable to that!

  • Asalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah,
    First of all, Jazakom ALLAH Khaire brother Sheikh Suhaib Webb. Secondly, I would like to state that I have taught at three different Islamic Schools in three different states and each of them have offered a different perspective on Islamic Education. It is incorrect and empirically invalid to state from some personal experiences wide generalizations that depict Islamic education as sub-standard in both cognitive and social education. In fact, the experiences that I have had depicted these schools as above standard in both cognitive and social education. A better approach to giving such advice would be to state: “I recommend that you look for such and such factors when choosing your child’s school…” But by far, Islamic education is superior because it saves kids from atheism, immoral behaviors (such as dating and drugs), and gives them excellent education in small settings. This has been my experience as a teacher and as a guardian figure (to my younger brother who attended Islamic school.)

    Jazakom ALLAH Khaire

  • Asalamu alaykum,

    Sr. Latifa:

    Besides a few mistaken assumptions on your part, I have also worked and been around 4-5 Islamic schools, did you even read what I wrote?


  • AsSalaamu Alaikum brothers and sisters,
    Im late into the conversation , but I would like to add somethings for all to consider.

    School is around the corner, and we all have the best intentions to raise our children well, myself included.

    I am an American Muslim convert of 6 years. I have attended public and private schools prior to becoming Muslim. I have three children ages 13, 7 and 8. My children have been homeschooled, with the exception of a year in Islamic school, and my oldest ( aboy) one year in public school.

    Each child has his or her own personality, strengths , and weaknesses. I think one should consider these things, when they decide which route to go with education. Be it public, private or home education.

    Fortunately everyone has had various experiences, and no two will be exactly alike.
    I believe that their are benefits in all. I suggest you look at each individual student, the schools, and weigh the pro’s and cons.

    My oldest, is a boy. 13 years old, very social, not really into sports, loves Islam, but likes to fit in and be popular. He is also going through what most boys do at this age.

    Perhaps at this critical point in his life, public school may not be a good option. Perhaps Islamic school is too expensive, and perhaps I am not able to stay home, nor monitor him in home education.

    I must look at the pros and cons of each situation, which is the best place, for him at the time?

    Also my other children. My 8 year old ,loves Islam, loves to learn, and he himself feel public school is not a place for Muslim children. He cries if we mention the possibility of it.

    I try and give them information about the options, and we sit and discuss it as a family Shurah.

    My daughter, age 7, is also very social, loves to be center of attention, but is not going through the same things as my 13 year old son, so I may feel a little better with her being in public school. But as she gets older perhaps I will not.

    All three have a strong foundation from being homeschooled this long, and have been given Islam at a young age, but I do feel that a positive environment is the best option.

    Unfortunately we do not live in such an environment, and we have to give our children the armor to go out in the world.

    We have to balance things. 8-10 hours in an un-Islamic environment compare d to perhaps 5-6 in one, may not be enough for your child, depending on their stage of development at the time.

    We need to make sure our children are proud of being Muslim, and able to stand up for what they believe, and not be tempted by others. This is difficult , even for adults. So I think the opportunity to learn what is right and what is wrong, as well as the opportunity to choose the right decision is what we need to offer our children.

    How do we do that, if we keep our children in an Islamic environment 24/7, or a Dunya environment for the majority of their time?

    It is a difficult decision, I know I have to make it each year, and I stress each year, doubting if we are making the right choice.

    I just want to stress to brothers, do not let your wives tackle this alone. It means a lot to us when you are involved with the children , by taking an active part. Visit the schools, meet the teacher, look at the curriculum, ask about the teaching methods of the teachers. Make sure your children are given an area to pray if in public school, make sure they attend the Islamic events for the youth on the weekends, and special occasions.

    We have to make the Deen fun !

    And if in your children are in an Islamic school, let them hang out with non -Muslim friends in the neighborhood on the weekends.

    But make sure they are positive friends. I have found that sometimes my kids Non-Mulsim friends are better behaved than their Muslim friends. This gives them the chance to give Dawah ,and become confident about sharing Islam.

    If your children are homeshcooled, let them do extra things within the community, girl scouts, join a sports team, community service etc.

    This will also provide opportunity to have a balance.
    It is difficult if everyone in your family is Muslim to have this balance , while it is also difficult if you are a convert and no one in your family is Muslim.

    I make Dua for all of you.
    Look at the benefits that public education can give, such as the ability to be comfortable with being different then others, giving Dawah, socializing with others that are different, perhaps a little competition, etc.

    Islamic schools are taught by Muslim teachers, students learn Islam, Quran, and Islamic History, Arabic etc.

    Home Education provides you the opportunity to customize your child’s education. You can do what ever you like pretty much. Its up to you.

    Im an education Advisor, I specialize in Home education if you have any questions, about home education, learning assessments, curriculum etc.

  • Assalam u alaikum,

    I think the best option would be neither public school or Islamic school, but to homeschool. I homeschooled from Grade 5 onwards and I think it is one of the best things my family did for me.

  • Asalamu Alaikum

    I can’t send my son to the Islamic school in our area because he is autistic and they are not equipt to deal with this. In public school he gets excellent special needs services… BUT it ends there.

    I’ll share one thing that absolutely threw me for a loop. I live in a part of the US that was populated with a lot of native Americans… so the lake in our town has a ‘legend’ associated with it. The story goes something like this: A lot of the indians living around the lake were drowning so the chief of the tribe went to see the lake god. The lake god told him that if he tied up his daughter and threw her into the lake as a sacrifice he would stop drowning the indians. So the chief did it and he was considered a hero. Now my son was in 3rd grade at the time and the assignment was to… get this… DRAW PICTURES OF THIS STORY. I just about fainted when this assignment came home. What kind of message is that to send to any child? Kids are just forming their ideas of God at that point and to let them hear a story about some mean lake god that insists on human sacrifice is just stupid.

    Anyway, thats my story. Inshallah the Islamic school will be able to take him soon.

  • I am very glad this discussion take place. I agree with the brother who said that community resources will be better used if a center is built for after school program instead of a full time islamic school. Too much politics and bickering going on in many communities because of islamic school which cater to only a small fraction of the community but asking for support from all. I have taught in one islamic school for three years and have live in more than five communities. Currently I happen to live in one of the best public school district in the US alhamdulilah.

    I for one believe that we need to engage people in order to have them hear us and public school is a good neutral avenue because of the common goal. (I have tried homeschool and have read many homeschool books as a licensed teacher i do not think that homeschool is an option for many people, we tried Islamic school but found it having narrowly define philosophy and no real plan to fulfill the visionand goals their created)

    I talked to the principal and the teachers at my children school regarding my children Muslim identity all the time. And i stress how important this is to my family. often times I found the teachers very understanding and support even my children attempt to fast for example. This in a way help the teachers understand what Islam is all about. I always engage my children with any issues that come up at school, masjids and the community and always help them see the big picture and their role as Muslim and where they should stand. It is very important to me that my children understand where Islam stand with regard to other religion and what it means to be the minority. To me this is how we teach them to be Muslim, facing real issues head on. I encourage my children to see the beauty and compassion in all human being regardless of who they are. I also make the teachers my ally, show respects and model the behaviors that I want them to have when dealing with people. Having been raise in Muslim country I have found more people committed to goals and visions here in the west than back home and that takes integrity.

    As Muslim I think we still have things to learn from people around us here in the states be it Muslim or not, otherwise I don’t think many of us would want to still live here. I honestly think that many who run Islamic school still carrying baggage from the old country and want to raise the children to be like them. I think part of the responsibility of our leadership is to teach parents how to parent in this environment. I believe that many people send their children to islamic schools because they fear what is out there. To hide is not going to make what you fear go away. Muslims should be stronger than this! How can we establish the truth and share the beauty of Islam when we are not there to begin with and hide our children. Our children has to learn how to confront their fear of non muslim and learn to be with others without losing themselves.

    May Allah guide us all and forgave our mistakes.

  • Assalaamu alaikum,

    Some (somewhat random) thoughts:

    In theory I’d like to be able to have really outstanding Islamic schools to send my kids to. I used to be 110% pro-Islamic school, and this was coming largely out of a Catholic upbringing where Catholic schools were synonymous with instilling discipline, good moral & ethical training, community leadership, modest gender relations, and last but definitely not least, top-rate academics. Not to mention being strong advocates for education of inner-city and other potentially disadvantaged youth.

    Okay, catholic schools have lots of problems too, but basically you knew the kids would have access to a rigorous academic education in a structured environment that paid serious homage to the traditional virtues. I thought Islamic schools were like that.

    Unfortunately I discovered otherwise. Mainly I think it’s because Muslims are ambiguous about their support of these institutions. We don’t seem to be committed to developing these institutions to be the world class places of learning and moral/spiritual/ethical training that they could be. There isn’t a clear, unified vision of what these schools could and should be.

    I know there are many financial, logistical, infrastructure hurdles, but I finally came to the point of deciding I don’t want my kids to be the guinea pigs in this experimentation process; at least not full time.

    Part of what I’ve noticed in the community is a lack of sincere interest in the development of other family’s kids. And even more basic – you feel like people just don’t LIKE each other’s kids. There is a strong competitive, dog-eat-dog streak between muslims and this gets played out on the kids.

    If your kid is not hafiz PLUS on one-way-track to be a doctor or engineer or PhD, not math whiz, not quiet-as-a-mouse – he or she is a loser.

    Also, one of my biggest peeves with Islamic schools (and I have limited knowledge, just speaking from my experience), is there is a lot of backbiting and backstabbing going on from parents and staff/admin against kids. Complaining about so-and-so’s kids, gossiping about the personal problems of the parents and stigmatizing their kids for it, bad-mouthing kids who were in the public schools and just transferred in, etc.

    Because many communities are small, the gossip and toxic attitudes spread like wild fire. Kids get labeled for life within a certain community.

    As well, schools seem to often have a dominant ethnic caste thing, so if your kids don’t fit into that, they are never truly accepted. They feel as much, or more, of outsiders as they would in a public school.

    One thing I like about public school is that the “sins of the father” don’t get visited upon the kids. They are basically treated as they are. They don’t care if your dad is the imam or if he is a cab driver. They are not focused on whether your parents are paying their school bills on time or are the biggest donors to the school. Or if the kids’ parents are divorced or had some other family issue. Basically one feels most public school teachers and administrators are genuinely rooting for your kid to succeed. They take delight in your kid. I generally don’t feel that way dealing with islamic schools or other muslim parents.

    DON’T GET ME WRONG- I know some very dedicated individual Islamic school teachers and administrators – what I’m talking about is the stifling, judgmental small-town culture that arises and takes over in the islamic school and community setting.

    I want to re-emphasize the point about stigma of muslim kids who go to public school. I’ve experienced that in several islamic schools (not dealing with my kids, so not biased in this way), weekend islamic programs, and even with the muslim homeschooling crowd, of utter loathing of muslim kids who go to public school. They are talked about in very disrespectful ways as if they are coming into the islamic school or masjid to infect the other perfect muslim angels. Some muslim folks practically hold their noses when they see them coming.

    Even with the kids who go to weekend Islamic school, I hear their teachers kvetching about the kids’ behavior, their low level of Islamic knowledge, having limited time to do anything spiritually meaningful or influencial with them, their lack of interest, etc.

    So I feel like these kids get the taint or stain of public school on them, and even with their efforts at the weekend or summer school, they can never quite wash it off and never are fully accepted by the community.

    Again, this is from my limited experience, but I definitely sense a growing divide and I wonder if our communities will witness more and more of the sharp divisions between very religious and secular/non-practicing muslims we see in other countries.

  • Amazing article and well structured with clear arguments. Unfortunately I disagree with S. Suhaib. I argue if good parenting can save the child’s religion and faith when we send the child to a mainstream school, as Suhaib argues, so i believe parents can maintain child’s educational achievements with sending the child to an Islamic school. In addition to that, the most precious thing which we should take care of must be the child’s faith. A Muslim school can save the child from the bad environment in the public schools.
    More discussion.
    Sh. Abdissamad (UK)

  • Yes, Imam Suhaib has changed his mind after seeing the high school enviroment.

    Imam Suhaib Webb visited a school and saw that the girls wore shorts like underwears and bikinis and that the school was a zoo. Frankly me studying in the modern day High School, what he saw is nothing. Everyday as I walk around the hall, I see everyone kissing and going down the neck. Whenever I sit in class, The teachers made sex jokes. The students behind me and in front of me talk about which times they do sex and the process of how they do it. And unfortunately, some of those students claim to be muslims.

    I am sure this is not a High School parents would want to send their children to. As the hour approches, the world is growing more corrupt and misguided.

    I would recommend parents to send their children to an islamic school from pre school to 3rd grade, then to a elementry school from 4th to 5th grade, then homeschool their children from the years on unless they could find a good privet school that doesnt commit such high school drama that a regular public High school has.

    Allah knows best

  • Assalamu alaikum. I am in the UK and I think the schools are different here to the US so i’d welcome advice from those of you who are in the UK.

    My children are 7 and 5 and in an Islamic school in London which is meant to be one of the ‘better’ Islamic schools around. However, they have problems finding good staff and yesterday my daughter brought homework back and the teacher had spelt ‘bottle’ like this: ‘bottel’. I don’t make a huge fuss about these things but slowly they add up and I see parents complaining regularly but not much is done about it. It would be wonderful to see some non Muslim teachers, even part-time or temporary basis to come and share their experiences as most of the Muslim teachers lack a broad experience. I also am finding the Islamic side a little weak too. I don’t want to go into further criticisms but I do feel stuck in that I want my children to flourish, not just academically but in their creativity, self-expression etc. I am now considering alternatives which would be a good state primary or homeschooling. But there are problems with both and many people close to me are sceptical that i’ll be able to home school. Plus there aren’t support networks here as much as there are in the US. I wear niqab and being naturally quite shy, I don’t think I could mingle with a crowd of non Muslims easily – I wasn’t always like this, in fact I went to a non-Islamic private school from the age of 9 and University till 23 and only started wearing niqab eight years ago. It is difficult to get so involved in a non Muslim school due to niqab and the Islamic school doesn’t allow parents to get involved except in fund raising matters etc. I would not be allowed to sit through a class or volunteer in a lesson. They just don’t allow it as they get plenty of criticism from parents anyway and that would just open the door.

    I’d love to homeschool, even for a few years but I have a younger child who is nearly 3 and i’m expecting another one alhamdulillah. I am praying hard and making duah as I don’t know whether to plod along in Islamic school now and consider a good non Muslim private school for secondary school later. That brings its own problems as the private schools I know do not allow hijab. The local grammar school does, but you need to pass the 11 plus exams to secure a place. There are about 100 places and about 2000 applicants I think.

    So I still am not sure what is best. I want my children to learn how to mix with non Muslim children but I don’t know any. Here in the UK we don’t have kids playing outside. Plus they are so into their ‘high school Musical’ and ‘Bratz’ culture. I’m sure there are Muslim children like this but we don’t know any. My children don’t hang out with kids other than those at school or through family and friends. I am happy with their choice of friends at school mashaallah as they come from good practising families.
    The local good state primary has a high intake of Muslim children but I am unsure as how practising their families are.

    There are so many factors to consider and I agree with sister Aisha that each child is different and each school or method of teaching is different.

    May Allah guide us all, ameen

  • From all the responses and my own experience the thing i have come away is that most parents would like to send their children to Islamic schools, however many are apprehensive about doing so mainly because they are not satisfied with the standards.

    Having gone to public schools, I came out with promise to myself that I would try my best to send my children to Islamic school. Of course I also wanted to make sure that they also receive the best education. Alhamdulillah I was able to do this, as currently my children have been attending Islamic school for many years. Our Islamic school has the same problem with teacher turn over, and community problems, but on the whole students have come out of this Islamic school on the top of their class, and most of them as they have gone on to high school and college have excelled among their non-Muslim peers.

    There is no doubt there are a lot of problems with our Islaic schools, however I would say that we must work to make our Islamic schools better and better, we must not give up. It is a work in progress, no doubt but so were the private Jewish, and Catholic ad parochial schools decades ago when they started. They did not give up, and they stuck to it and they were able to transform their schools into the best schools. We must stick to this resolve.

    I believe, in this country (USA) we have so much available to us, if we were to only avail it. We must understand and accept the problems we face within ourselves, because much of the negatives in Islamic schools are portraying the negative points of us as a people. We need to accept this, and then we need to work on ways to overcome these problems.

    If one is able to afford it, I still believe Islamic is the best. Look to see how past graduates are doing. Look at the students who are in the school currently and try to get a feel as how do they seem, socially, Islamically, and academically.

    Does the Islamic school participate in the county or city’s science fair, spelling bee, forums, writing competitions, etc.

    Despite other problems, there are Islamic schools out there that have produced very good outcomes. The thing most impressive to me about the Islamic school my kids attend is that, even before my kids were of age to attend, I noticed that the students of the school, were very confident of themselves as Muslims. I saw that they had very full life, and that as they graduated from the Islamic school and entered the public high schools, despite the drastic culture change, most of them excelled academically and yet maintained their confidence and commitment to Islam and being Muslims. This made me satisfied, and although their are many improvements necessary in our Islamic school,it is the continuous production of these results year after year, graduating class after graduating class, which makes me satisfied and motivated to work harder.

    Reason being I believe is that in Islamic school, you must establish the love, the commitment, and the pride in being a Muslim into the child. This is the foundation they need in order to flourish in the rest of the world. They will be able to be in environment with other Muslims, where their life will be all about being Muslim, and not about being different and on the defense, as the case in public schools. They will make friends who are Muslim and they will have the foundation of the knowledge of Islam, as well as the peers to help them through the subsequent years.

    I have seen this year after year, and I work at public high schools sometimes, I see those girls walking with their heads held high with the hijabs on andn some with jilbabs. With the Muslim students getting together for Juma, and they are proud of it, and they don’t hide it. And I also see something I didn’t see when I was in high school, that is the other students, respect them and it has actually become kind of normal to have some of those Muslims in their class.

    So lets be determined to make our Islamic schools the best, and not give up, after all we are the ones who can do this, no one else is going to come and do it for us. And why cant we do it, are the Jewish, Catholics, etc. better than us? Alhamdulillah we are Msulims!

  • Salaam Alykum,

    I’ve attended public schools in US and I know of many who are attending some of the best public and private schools in US but I can’t imagine sending my kids to any o those schools for a second! Even the best public and private schools in US is full of Fessaad and Haraam environments, I’ve seen the products of such schools and it’s not good! If they’re not on drugs or Alcohol, at least they have girlfriend, they use foul language in expressing them selves, they’re ashamed of their Muslim identity, they go to dance clubs, they enjoy celebrating Valentines/ Halloween, they hardly go to Massjid or Fast and much worst…

    I rather have a strong Muslim who might end up to be a janitor than an Atheist or non-practicing Muslim PHD. I don’t mean to say that kids who go to Islamic schools end up as a janitors or a janitor is a bad thing, not at all! Many Islamic schools are as good or better than public schools and if Muslims help them with their Dua’as and financial assistance, they can be better than the best private schools.

      • As is said earlier there are many good Islamic school. Al-Madinah and Al-Ihsan in New York are great schools whose secular education is even better than the public schools.

        • Razi school in New York is also very good. To get into that school you need to be interviewed. Some of the students from Razi school made it into the finals for the Science Olympiad.

  • AsA

    You know, there is just as great of a chance that a Muslim ends up an atheist in an Islamic school then in a public school, if not, greater. I personally know someone who had 2, not 1, 2 of his friends who became atheist. The sad part about this is that one of those dudes used to be the one to give talks to some of the other students. He was, “the religious guy” amongst all of the other students in his grade.

    You can do whatever you want but at the end of the day, the reality is that many, not all, but many students who graduate from Islamic schools, guys and girls alike, end up IN the clubs, with girlfriends and boyfriends. Dude, there are hufaz making out with girls! Can you imagine that! These are individuals whose lips recite the words of Allah every year, and it is these same hufaz that are walking around with muslim girls.

    Kids need to be exposed to the reality of life. They can’t live their lives in a bubble.


    • Alykum As-salaam,

      I’m sure what you’re telling is true but the chances are much greater going to public school. I’m saying this based on facts and experience, not making anything up.

    • Assalyamu alaikum ,
      alhamdullilah westen culture has very very strong influence on our children. its sad. But i wouldn’t call islamic schools a “bubble”. Our kids do not need to go to public school to be exposed to the reality of life.. Its all around us wherever we go. What we have to worry is how to protect our children’s innocence from all this reality. I think sending our kids to Islamic school is the least we can do to protect their iman. After reading this article and replies i want to send my kid to islamic school very strongly.

  • Salaam alaykum all and jazakumullahu khayran for your contributions on this very important issue. I completely take exception to exposing kids to fitnah. They need to be protected both outside (in school and elsewhere) and at home (TV and such) while being prepared for the outside world. The damage you do to kids by sending them to public schools is beyond what you can imagine. A lot goes on out there that impact them severely – and you don’t see it all. Bear in mind too that much of it is by design. By all means despite the seeming short comings / challenges of the Islamic schools & Home schooling, public schools should not be considered an option. And there is no easy road to success, you have to sacrifice.

  • Aslaamo-alykum,
    It’s almost unbelievable that people still in this time and age promoting public education, where nation’s at rick, I think Imam has few valid points but his views about current school environment aren’t quite up-to-date. I’ll give you my example, I went to public school and It wasn’t a bad school and my parents were good people. yet I’m sorry to say of what my mistakes were, all I can say may Allah forgive me. My experience with all honesty, Ask Allah for help and don’t ask people. My kids goes to Islamic School and I’m not negating the quality. If we all stop our support for Islamic school, you can imagine the horror you are leaving behind. May Allah (st) guide us all, It’s the time of fitna, where good will be shown as bad and bad as good. please be careful and remember If Sahaba were to choose between the public and Islamic school, what would they choose?
    Lastly, please don’t form your opinions based on what these Imams say, only go back in the time of our beloved Rasool-Allah and and look ahead.
    Forgive me if what I said is not well liked.

  • Actually, there is one school in New York called Al-Ihsan Academy that is very good. Some kids there are bad because they were originally from public school and established a bad record so they were switched to Al-Ihsan ,but I have seen many good kids. They aren’t incubated there and also many non-muslims visit the school (there are non muslim catapult teachers) and in the 5th grade, Al-Ihsan meets with 2 Jewish school and one other islamic school to discuss about each others’ faiths and have fun with each other.
    Al-Ihsan offers high quality education. The 1st graders are doing 3rd grade math and the 8th graders are doing 10th grade math. Science is very good too. The teachers link subjects to reinforce what they learn. For example: the 7th grades learned about slope and how it applies to osmosis and diffusion in plants in science class. The kids who don’t succeed there are the kids who don’t want to try and don’t care about school.
    There is almost no politics in the school. If there is any, it is never publicized and the parents and students know nothing about the politics.
    Al-Ihsan offers many things to its students. In fact, the other day the NAO robot was bought in for a demonstration in front of the whole school. The school also has a basketball team, a STEM club, and a drama club.
    The school is also very clean. It also offers many good school trips ,such as to Dorney Park, Six Flags, the Hall of science, plays on famous classics in English literature, etc.
    The teachers there are very nice and caring. They respect as individuals and understand you. They give you fair grades and treatment.

  • Assalamaleikum, I have high regard for Imam Suhaib Webb and was a bit surprised to read this article. I don’t know the situation at the time this article was written. A lot of progress can be made in 6 years . However, in present times, at least here in Canada the situation is quite different. My elder daughter went to a public school for a year in 2010 before we moved her to a full time Islamic school. Actually, we always wanted to send her to an Islamic school but felt that at that age ( Jr. KG) full time ( 8:30 – 3:30) would be too much. At that time the public schools in our area offered Kindergraten for only 3 hours. We felt that it didn’t matter much which school she went to at that age. We were soon proved wrong. Public schools claim that they don’t have anything to do with religion but still festivals like Halloween and Valentine’s Day are celebrated because they are supposed to be a part of culture rather than religion but we know that it’s not true from an Islamic point of view. Within a few months of starting Islamic school my daughter went about reciting surahs while playing instead of nursery rhymes. She reminded us to recite our duas and recommended her friends not to celebrate birthdays or dress up on Halloween. Even for subjects like Math and English she went much ahead of her peers within a few months of joining the private Islamic school. Here, in my city in Canada most Islamic schools only hire qualified teachers certified by the state education board. Since , the parents are paying such a high fee the teachers feel more accountable and pay individual attention to the students.When it was time for my second daughter to start school my husband and I never had second thoughts about sending her to full time Islamic school right from the very beginning. Recently, there was a controversy here in Ontario about celebrating ‘Pink Day’ in public schools. Children were read stories on why homosexuality should be accepted. This particular incident reinforced my belief that I took the right decision about choosing an islamic school for my kids. No doubt, the high fees is one of the biggest reasons which deters most of us from choosing Islamic schools over private schools but I believe that if we are doing this for the sake of Allah SWT, He will make the path easy for us, Insha’Allah.

  • Assalamulikum,
    It is true, islamic schools cannot compare to the resources that public schools can. But if we do not invest our money and time in our schools they will never grow. As a public school teacher, I teach at an amazing high school but the peer pressure to conform is real. I have many Muslim students who’s parents are from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, B- desh, all the boroughs of NyC, West Indies and most of them feel this need to fit in. So they attend prom, have girl friends /boy friends and they tell the teacher their parents would not approve so the teachers help.them trick the parents. To the non Muslim teachers what is so wrong with dances and text messaging a boy? The idea to most people is Muslims are oppressed and need to change with the times. Hijabis are kissing in the hall ways. Yes it happens, your innocent kids during puberty are not so innocent when they are able to be.
    Some of the best private schools are Catholic and Jewish because the people in their community spent time and money on their communities. It is hard to have the most qualified teachers when parents complain about the tuition. Teachers who have a masters will eventually move on to public school. Most people are never going to go back to their parents mother land so it is imperative we invest our money here and create a space for our kids to grow with a strong sense of self. Why should we always use other peoples resources, we should create our own. Many people who come from different countries are able to start businesses, get jobs, become college educated, despite having to.learn English and deal with the biggest dose of culture shock. Children who grow up in America and speak English fluently, go to playgrounds , museums and other activities will be fine if the attend Islamic school. If our parents survived they have a bigger advantage. If you feel insecure about the curriculum not being up to par,supplement with work books, tutoring. Successful public school students do that, they receive outside help.
    Our children’s character and what they are exposed to as they develop are far mkre important then anything else. If you are able to financially pay for Islamic school in my opinion you should send your children and support the school on a positive way. Stop bringing Islamic schools down, if you dont like something then work to change it. They wouldn’t hire the aunty if they took more tuition. We need to be a stronger community for our future generations who won’t have a link to back home. Many immigrant communities started out struggling.

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