Society Ummah

Sunday School Complex

Questions come up in a single class
Girls not happy with this meaningful path
They don’t get it, no one has helped them understand
And now to the Sunday school their parents drag them by hand

Help my daughter she is driving me insane

But what have you done to ensure their name
To ensure they stay Muslim for years to come
Have you completely tied the rope of your camel or only some?
You push to convince them about the scarves on their head
But really, this isn’t the knowledge they, currently, need to be fed
Their foundations, in truth, have hardly been placed
The true problem here, hasn’t been faced
They were raised for years, with hardly a drop
And now you bring them here and knowledge is sought
I teach one thing in the classroom, but it’s really not enough
They must see it in action at home, or it will remain simply “stuff”
When their parents allow them to hang out with boys
Then they come to me and it seems that I “kill” all of their joys
Then when the girls go astray and do the wrong things
Their parents come to me and songs of sorrow they sing

Why aren’t you doing the job we paid you for?

They speak to the principle for, at me, they are sore
But what they don’t understand…that I wish they would see
Is that raising their children—is not a job for me
Parents in this day and age—wake up already
Put your feet on the ground and stand up—strong and steady
Take hold of your children, for whom you will be questioned about
The work you did with them—concerning the amount.
Realize that on that Day you will be asked
Could you have done more to help your children pass
The test of not, math, science, or arts
The test of life – which is driven by the hearts.
Now go to your children and take an active role
Don’t leave the job to a single Sunday school teacher’s soul
They are your kids and you will get what you reap
So don’t wait until it’s too late—and then start to weep.
I say this now—not out of anger or pride
But because for you, I have fear inside!
Having kids is such a big test by our Lord
And failing at that test we really can’t afford
On behalf of all Sunday school teachers today I speak
We will definitely help you and do our best to attain this feat
But raising kids is a job of the community
And you can’t expect this job to depend just on people like me.

About the author

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref

Reehab (Ramadan) Aref grew up in a small Texas city and was unexpectedly uprooted to Cairo, Egypt. The shift of countries precipitated a shift in her outlook on life; this, with her enriching experience in community activism—specifically social service, youth work, and Qur’anic Studies—provides for a rather enlightened perspective. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Thankfully, her main outlet and therapeutic tool is to write, write, write! She keeps her own blog, contributes regularly to various publications, and – most importantly – you’ll find her entries on this site.

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  • Excellent post, mashaAllah. I was a Sunday School teacher for three years and you summed very nicely what I’ve felt about the experience.

    Jazakillah Khair.

  • Nothing Sunday school can do… You can tell kids stuff and even pratice what you preach do it but kids will do what they want… I pulled so much shit under my parents… I just did later in my college years… in my early 20’s. still living at home… I did everything a normal young adult does but zina. Then I gave it up.. Older wiser… Going tell my kids same don’t pull shit till ur twenty… then its your choice. Parents may suspect but your an adult; you make your own mistakes.

  • This rings so true for me subhanallah. It’s a shame sometimes I feel like our Sunday School is failing when I see the discrepancy between the kids’ home environment and what the learn in school. But alhamdulillah we strive to make it so that the kids at least enjoy coming to the masjid so hopefully they will continue to do so in the future as adults. Also, your point of teaching them the foundations is important, instilling in them the love for Allah and the foundations of the deen are things they will carry with them no matter what the home environment is like insha Allah.
    Studying to be a certified teacher has taught me a lot about kids, especially that kids are naturally curious. This is true doublefold for Muslim kids who are curious about their religion and what it all means. So one day when one of my students asked me before we prayed Tahiyyatul Masjid: “Can you tell me what to say in my prayer because I keep forgetting”, it showed me that my kids care about what they know and want to learn the things they still have yet to learn, alhamdulillah. So for that reason, even if one child benefits and gains closeness to Allah, to me it is all worth it in the end. On the other hand, you address the need for parents to step in very well mashallah. I always tell my parents they are their child’s first teacher. Everyone else, although maybe important to a child’s education, is secondary.

  • Bismillah

    This poem is great! I have been a Sunday school YG teacher for years now (and previously a director as well for the school) and one of those hard moments is when a parent comes in all upset because we aren’t teaching this or that, or they want to know why we aren’t doing things a certain way. The biggest question is “why aren’t you teaching the YG how to pray? They don’t know how, and they don’t do their prayers….” And my reply, “how old is your son/daughter?” And the reply is in their teens……

    I feel sad, but none the less, it is a great opportunity to help them learn their Deen, to plant seeds i their minds and hearts, that insha’Allah, they will harvest later.

  • This poem does go right to the point; when I used to teach Sunday school (mostly six- and seven-year-olds) at the MCA I soon realized that my one accomplishment would be to let these children enjoy the masjid. Any knowledge they gained was a bonus. So, every week I would be sure to bring them treats, I wasn’t strict about homework or lessons, and generally just made sure they had a good time every week that they came. As far as I was concerned, if I could just get them to love being at the masjid then it was worth my time. And hopefully theirs.

  • A beautiful poem masha Allah. Jazaki Allahu Khiaran you speak about a huge problem in our community; parents who relegate the job of teaching their kids about Islam to Sunday and Saturday schools forgetting that learning Islam is not about lecturing and memorization. It is about living it in their daily interactions; we pray together as a family, we read Quran, we go to the masjid, we pray when we go to Disneyland, we pray on the plan traveling somewhere, we give back the cashier the extra change we got when we checked out, we tell the teacher the truth no matter what, we take our child back to the store when they steal something, etc. We get so many chances in our everyday to connect the child to Allah and Islam. And in all of it we are the role models. Now parents could be doing all of this but their child chooses to take on a different path when they become adults (just think of Prophet Nuh’s son who was raised in the household of prophethood and his father inviting him up to the last minute). I believe this is one of the most difficult tests a parent can face. But let us remember that Allah is the one who Has Given us that choice: “there is no coercion in religion.” Our duty and responsibility (whether parents or teachers) lies in guiding, supporting, and planting seeds. That is what we will be asked about: did we do our job as adequately as our abilities and resources allow us? I pray to Allah that He Guides us to what is best.
    “Family Connection” radio show would like to use this poem on the air. Do we have permission to use it citing the blog and the author?

  • MashaAllah., I really liked this poem as it presented a real issue in our communities, May Allah bless all the teachers in our community.

    As a mother and active community member, I’ve thought about this issue a lot. Here are some thoughts, that are not necessarily about the poem, but about the issues the poem brings up. And I’m mainly looking at it from the angle of kids from public school –

    – A lot of kids resent going to the masjid on their weekends – it’s like a 6-day work week for them. Plus, the once a week infusion of Islam feels kinda random to them.

    – The once-a-week trip to the masjid for some kids means a novel environment with a bunch of kids he/she hasn’t seen in a while. Rambunctious behavior often ensues, which is barely tolerated at the masjid, if at all. Another issue — in american public schools, being assertive and even loud is expected, and maybe even encouraged – by both peers and authority figures. To expect kids who daily have to survive and thrive in this context to suddenly ratchet it down to the level expected of other muslim peers who, due to other cultural influences, barely talk or move or express emotion in public, is unfair. Especially since alternatives other than public school are either unavailable or unattainable for the majority of families for a variety of reasons .

    – – There is an elite-religious-masjid-families vs. public-school-not-so-religious-families division I’ve seen at every masjid in my vicinity. I’m sorry to report that often (in my experience) families who practically live at the masjid have poor attitudes toward kids who frequent the masjid “only” once or twice a week. I know many families who simply do not allow their kids to mix with public school kids at the masjid. How can these public school kids have a good peer group if the so-called good kids can’t mix with them! I’ve personally heard an islamic school official talk to his students about the public school students as if they were intruders into the masjid who had to be watched and defended against. No wonder many youth don’t like to go to the masjid – who likes a place where they feel inferior or like they don’t fit in? Well, right now they don’t fit in. So we have to make room for them.

    – – A lot of parents are in a tough bind. Some of them were raised to believe that islam is only found or taught at the masjid. maybe they weren’t raised with much knowledge, and so out of a sense of deference to knowledgeable people, they don’t teach it much at home. What about families in repressive countries that have had their religiousity scared out of them?

    But even very knowledgeable parents with kids in public school have faced a really, really tough time. Kids in public school are under tremendous pressure to conform and be normal (they are after all being socialized at school – which means fitting into society), and parents who work cannot counteract this easily, if at all.

    The “success story” kids we know locally who have survived public school with their Islamic identity intact – meaning praying 5 times a day, etc. – were instructed not to interact with any non-muslim kids in school – couldn’t sit with them at lunch, for example – and had a very large extended network of same-age muslim relatives with whom they interacted outside of school. For some families this is untenable, and, considering the segregation this method entails, undesirable. We need to find other models that have worked.

    – For my part, I’ve concluded that, better than sunday school, insha’Allah, is to have some kind of study hall during the week for muslim students who go to public school, so that their lives become more integrated and not this ratio: Non-muslim environment 6, Islamic environment 1. Instead, 5 days a week after school, the kids would be around their muslim peer group, doing their regular homework, having snacks/game time, praying salaat, getting a bit of regular Islamic educational input, etc.

    We could cut the daily ratio down to maybe 6 hours non-muslim environment at school to 4 hours islamic study hall at the masjid or other suitable venue.

    Allah Knows best. Thank you for this poem that expressed so much of the frustration and concern we are all experiencing.

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