Heaven or Harvard: The Dilemma of Modern Education System


“As a parent, my priority is to get you into heaven, not Harvard” is a post shared on Islam for Kids, a popular Facebook page on Islam that is followed by more than 200,000 people.
The post answers a fundamental question that all modern Muslim parents are grapling with these days. Should I follow that education system which makes my children highly skilled, well equipped, and smart to handle worldly affairs but adds little to their knowledge of divine? A typical Muslim parent would obviously follow any system that guarantees a high quality Islamic education to children, and that may or may not reach the high standards maintained by some of the reputed institutes of the world (e.g. MIT, Harvard etc.) in worldly knowledge.

It is not a simple and easy trade to separate worldly and Islamic values but Islam has a clear-cut policies on what Muslims have to achieve in life, which is usually not found in any other tradition, and that makes it quite distinct and a unique religion in the world. Muslims live to achieve a place in paradise, which is their final destination and it is promised to people who follow what Islam says. This ought to be the priority of a typical Muslim parent.

And all of us are aware about the education system that is followed all over the world these days, and we also know that it usually takes resources (e.g. money etc.) to enter a school. Now, think of those children who have absolutely no resources of any kind and cannot effort formal education in the modern world. So, how such a generation of children will even think to enter some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. It is a world where mostly resourceful, and wealthy individuals are preferred. But to reach heaven, such resources are not needed.  So, it is easy to enter heaven than Harvard. And not all can enter Harvard but  heaven, qyite possible.

So, for Muslim parents it is important and vital to first and foremost equip the future generations with a high quality of Islamic wisdom plus the best knowledge that is available in the modern world to run the worldly affairs. So, ideally the quote should be something like this “as a parent, my priority is to get you into Harvard and heaven” but we know such a wish is not possible to achieve in this world and that is mainly because of uneven distribution of resources, knowledge, intellect etc. And we also know that education, wisdom, and knowledge are not all that one can earn through mere hard work but it is usually an outcome of a number of visible and invisible elements (e.g. upbringing, health, wealth, opportunities plus political, social, economic and family conditions and the list goes on), that make an individual.

So, the fundamental base onto which thrives our personality is uneven, and to expect even outcome from such a generation is not possible. This gets even complicated and difficult with all of the imposed restriction walls that the modern education system has erected and made it virtually impossible for non-privileged people to earn a formal education in various institutes. There are a number of countries where some portions of education is subsidized or free but this is unlike what a free education system should offer. This is where global Muslims should concentrate, and make sure that our future generations are following Islam and changing the world for good, and they ought to work on a global project to introduce a modern education system that offers what has not been offered by any such system in the world. If Islam is the ray of hope, show it, demonstrate it, and let people see it.

Actions speak louder than words, and in the Muslim world there is no scarcity of resources that could hinder such a project but why it is not there yet? This is a question that we should be asking to ourselves rather than continuously raising fingers at what is not there. We have the power, resources, and intelligence to do it but we are more like followers than leaders and that makes a lot of difference. Why can’t we have our own education system that offers and fills all those gaps that are there in the modern education system?

Let us talk about Kashmir, a Muslim majority nation yet there is not a single university that is based on Islam and equipped with modern education that can deliver world-class education and become a role model for the entire world. At the moment our children have no role-model-educational-establishments to follow, and therefore they end up doing what is already there, a system that merely makes machines out of humans.  This is because most of the institutes in the world teach course contents that are often designed to meet the trends of a market. In other wards students are dominantly trained to be mere users of the skills that are implanted in their little innocent brains via often highly loaded curriculum. It is true that skills are important, and job oriented courses are good. But the bitter truth that we usually face is the fact that we are unable to produce a galaxy of intellectuals of substance that would teach one how to live (and let live) on our little planet that is floating in the vastness of the universe. This intellectual deficit will cost us our much loved planet if we don’t mend our ways, right now.

Quality education should be FREE for all, why not. The education that one usually gets in schools in often corroded, eroded, and polished to meet the standards of a particular nation. For example read the history books in India or Pakistan or the United States and then map the truth. The schools which are there to control what goes into your mindscape is not education but filtering of a specific information to make humans as machines which can be controlled like roberts. And we think we are free. Absolutely not. And those who take a stand and write the truth are usually found in graves. So, it is better to stop talking about the perils of modern societies, and how good we have done to the world, and look into the mirror!

Let us ask a simple and important question that why are the so called most intelligent people in the world’s top universities unable to stop the destruction that is happening right now in Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Kashmir, Myanmar, China etc. The reality is that 9 out of 10 top universities in the world are in US and UK, and ironically these two countries are primarily responsible for the chaos in the world, and that should teach us something about the education system that is prevelant there. How many innocent lives are lost in their wars which have roots in ignorance, arrogance, supremacy, and power, and I tell you what, this will NOT stop. Because no education system on this planet has the ability to stop this EXCEPT a system that prioritizes justice over development, love over hate, and welfare for all. Not a single system that the modern education has raised over the decades have achieved this. So, it is time for the Muslims to practice what they have always been talking about, a system that teaches peace, love, welfare, and justice for all.




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