Educated Muslims

Without any statistical data, some Muslim writers claim that higher education leads to Muslims losing their faith (i.e. via apostasy or by becoming liberal Muslims). I think this viewpoint is dangerous and counter productive. Perhaps this view appeals to young people who resent their parents pressuring them to achieve academically and become responsible adults. It may also appeal to those who have to struggle through school. I’ve talked to a number of young Muslims who were discouraged by their peers from pursuing a college education because it was just dunyah. Many of these Muslims have sought alternative lifestyles by becoming “students of knowledge” or seeking a dead in career in hip hop. In reality, on college campuses many young Muslims developed a strong Muslim identity and a sense of service. In fact, that is where I discovered Islam and became Muslim. We were young and impressionable and slowly evolved out of that movement mentality that continues to be espoused by some Muslim bloggers. Over time, my peers began to see that living decent lives and providing a better future for their children was the best example they could set as Muslims. The American Muslims I knew on campus were charismatic and often gave dawah and attracted a number of quality converts to the religion. In the South Bay, I have seen a whole generation of young Middle class children of immigrants and the few American Muslim families grow up, go to college, graduate, get married, and begin their own Muslim families. They contribute to building institutions, give charity, and have much more to offer than those who had little foresight to think about building a better future. This perception that only working poor Muslims maintain their faith, while middle class and educated Muslims are losing their faith by assimilating, is not only false, but irresponsible. We should be all working for the betterment of our children by encouraging them to excel in school and in their professions. So much damage has been done after religious leaders in the 90s discouraged independent thought and encouraged a utopian escapism. Meanwhile, those who overlooked honest ways of making a living constantly look for hand outs by those bougie Muslims they resent so much. I am not saying that everyone is meant to be a scholar or an academic. I am an advocate of Muslims gaining various skills, The path to improving our condition can be through community college, university education, vocation schools, job training programs, and apprenticeships. In order to have functional communities, we need to think about a diversity of skills such as carpentry, plumbing, electricians, mechanics, architects, contractors, lawyers, journalists, entreprenuers, academics, etc. I’m not looking down on working class Muslims. I come from a working class background. But I’m really tired of those who try to glorify their limited perspective at the expense of other hard working Muslims who are also struggling to find their way.

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6 thoughts on “Educated Muslims

  1. I agree with all you have to say. I was thinking about something related today after reading about some of the political developments in Canada (where I live). What I have seen in both Canada and the US recently is the rise of certain forms of anti-intellectualism. Having a higher education, rather than being a boon for someone entering politics, has become millstone they carry around their necks. The new leader of the Liberal party of Canada is dismissed because he is, horror of horrors, a former university professor and author. I am not really interested in the political aspect as much as the thought process that lies behind it. And despite what Sarah Palin may say, it has nothing to do with a rural/urban divide because I am as small town as people come. If we are to successfully address the looming challenges facing our families, communities and nations in the years ahead we must encourage everyone to utilize the talents they have and one of the talents we need to be exploiting is peoples academic ability and rigor. Of course we respect the working class, but that does not mean that should be the aspiration of everyone.

    One other quick thing that troubles me is that a lot of muslims, and even some of our beloved scholars, discourage engaging modern western thought and I believe that this is disastrous. Part of the premise of those who believe so strongly in the working class life is that this life is virtuous because it avoids these ideas. Closing our eyes and ears is not virtuous, it is delusional. Instead of hiding from ideas we don’t approve of, we should be grappling with them to come to our own conclusions so that we can confidently answer the questions that will arise in peoples minds. If what we believe is true, then this should not be difficult. It is unlikely that you can protect yourself and your family from these ideas and even if you can the price is too high to do so.

    PS – I also became muslim at university. And I apologize for rambling on.

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  2. ASA sis.,

    Very interesting blog. What i paid particular attention was:

    “We were young and impressionable and slowly evolved out of that movement mentality that continues to be espoused by some Muslim bloggers. Over time, my peers began to see that living decent lives and providing a better future for their children was the best example they could set as Muslims.”

    I am in total agreement with your assessment. While there are those that seek to retain that “movement mentality”, there are others who are just as significant by just “staying out of trouble.” We must shake this whole notion that we are meant to “fight the power” at all times, shirking anything outside of that narrow framework.

    You also wrote:

    “We should be all working for the betterment of our children by encouraging them to excel in school and in their professions. So much damage has been done after religious leaders in the 90s discouraged independent thought and encouraged a utopian escapism. Meanwhile, those who overlooked honest ways of making a living constantly look for hand outs by those bougie Muslims they resent so much.”

    Such a pertinent statement here. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was quoted as saying that we should pursue knowledge from the cradle to the grave. Now, there are corners of the world where muslim women are forbidden from following this wisdom. No one, regardless of religion being followed, should not be discouraged from seeking and obtaining knowledge, even if that knowledge takes us out of the Madrassa every once and a while.

    Peace.

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  3. asa. “Without any statistical data, some Muslim writers claim that higher education leads to Muslims losing their faith “. do you have a link to any of these articles? i would be interested in reading them. jak in advance.

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  4. Salaams,
    Abu Darr, This post is related to some of Umar and others’ views on education. I come from a working class background myself, but I also grew up aware of the legacy of Black intellectuals who stressed the importance of education in order to improve the condition of our people. As opposed to striving for excellence, the converts who opt out are doing themselves a diservice. That has led to a dangerous tendency of tons of deadbeat “students of knowledge” or lazy brothers sitting in the mosque all day because they don’t want to work for the man or be corrupted by the system. I’ve also seen a significant flight of children from Islam who come from those isolated communities/communes.

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