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Sunday School: Supplement, not Substitute

Islamic upbringing should not be confined to a few hours a week at madressa.

Families need to realize that Islamic education and upbringing is a constant process – not confined to once a week. If a child who is reaching the age of obligation is not in the practice of performing all five obligatory prayers, what makes us think the day they turn Baligh they will magically start waking up for the morning prayer without any hesitation and with an ability to fight all sleeping powers? If recitation of the Qur’an is only done out of fear of not completing their Sunday School homework rather than out of respect and honor of the Holy Book, what makes us think our children will adopt the habit of reciting the recommended 50 verses of Qur’an a day? Such habits are instilled by performing them often and regularly – not just once a week.

Islamic upbringing should not be confined to a few hours a week at madressa.

Sunday School is an essential part of our communities’ efforts in instilling basic fundamental Islamic values and beliefs in our children. However it is, unfortunately, what many parents believe will teach their children all that they need to know about their religion, in those few hours just once a week. It appears to be seen as the one institute that will “save” our children by teaching them basic foundational practices, and making them experts at it at the same time.

It is certainly not the case for all families, but indeed, many parents have come to rely on those few hours to become the only source of Islamic education for their children. Many times we see children who are Baligh yet are still unable to perform their obligatory prayers in the correct manner. Sometimes we see young girls completely unaware of the concept of Hijab and dressing modestly. Our children are not getting the practice that will make them strive for perfection, and instead the dependency falls on Sunday School to make them good, practicing Muslims.

The argument arises that students are practicing Islam at home; they are doing their one or two page reading assignment, maybe a coloring sheet, a crossword puzzle, or a model Ka’ba project – but is that really enough?

Families need to realize that Islamic education and upbringing is a constant process – not confined to once a week. If a child who is reaching the age of obligation is not in the practice of performing all five obligatory prayers, what makes us think the day they turn Baligh they will magically start waking up for the morning prayer without any hesitation and with an ability to fight all sleeping powers? If recitation of the Qur’an is only done out of fear of not completing their Sunday School homework rather than out of respect and honor of the Holy Book, what makes us think our children will adopt the habit of reciting the recommended 50 verses of Qur’an a day? Such habits are instilled by performing them often and regularly – not just once a week.

There needs to be a change in the way Sunday Schools address their obligations towards families. There needs to be a clear understanding so that families can realize their task is greater and very vital. Although Sunday School is a great supplemental tool in getting children involved in their communities, learning about Islamic foundations, and hopefully practicing critical thinking and discussion, it is not the only way, and certainly not sufficient in itself to ensure our children will come out as one hundred percent devoted and pious Muslims.

What kids watch on television and listen to in their spare time, if not regulated, becomes their habitual practice. A few hours of regulation in a Sunday School cannot – and must not – be relied upon as the sole source of motivation and habitual practice necessary to instill in our children the values of our Holy Prophet and Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them all).

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