Feb 16, 2011

Reality Check: The Tide is Turning

by Maryam

I vividly remember almost two decades ago when I was a first year pre-clinical medical student in my home country. I had many Muslim friends in various departments - Education, Pharmacy, Arabic and Islamic studies, Agriculture, English, Biochemistry, and so on. Back then in those days, most parents gave full recognition to majors such as Medicine, Pharmacy, Architecture, Dentistry, Engineering and other “highly reputable” majors. If you were studying Arabic Language, Education, or Islamic studies, you were looked down upon. The looks entailed that you were not smart enough or studious enough to be admitted into the “reputable majors” mentioned above. In fact, subconsciously, I also had this feeling whenever I met a Muslim sister studying one of the “less recognized” majors at the university. It was really a subtle cultural flaw that many of us ignored for a long time until…

… the tide started turning. Personally, I never realized this issue until I returned to the United States for further studies. And as Allah would have it, I ended up not even pursuing my own childhood dream: Medicine. The moment I became a diaper changer, laundry-machine assistant, and a self-made arbitrator in the midst of my kids’ chaotic dramas, my life completely changed. However, I still continued my studies but this time in a less “reputable” field that was more flexible and not too demanding.

Just a few years ago, I also realized that I needed to do more than just reading the Qur’an without understanding what I was reading. Learning the Arabic language became my next task on my “to do” list. Then, I began to go down memory lane, thinking about my friends and my days at the university in my home country. I started thinking of those sisters whose majors were Arabic and Islamic studies, or Education. It was such a deep and sober reflection that I had had for a long time. I started regretting why I had not declared a major in Arabic and Islamic studies, and why on earth would I have even look down upon such majors? I realized that our destiny is not and will never be in our hands. We have plans, dreams, aspirations, and fantasies, that we all tend to run after as if the world will never end. I wished I was more experienced and culturally competent to correct the ridiculous misconceptions people hold about specific majors. I wished I had been more open minded to those sisters I had met many years ago. They were my friends yet I had showed no interest in what they were studying. It was just the feeling of “I wished, I wished, I wished”.

Now, fast forward almost twenty years, and you will see that things have really changed. Gone were those days when such majors were viewed as “unmarketable” in the cultural sense. Gone were those days when Muslims did not realize the importance of such areas of studies. Now, the tide has completely turned back home and here in the west. For example, many private and non-profit organizations, as well as the federal government, have scholarships and fellowship programs to fund students who are interested in learning Arabic or anything related to Islam. There are now Islamic learning institutes, here in the United States, encouraging and recruiting Muslims to learn the language of paradise. Muslim students in the States are seizing any slightest financial opportunity to travel abroad for a summer or two semesters, for Arabic language studies. As a matter of fact, the number of non-Muslim students declaring Arabic language, Islam studies, or Middle Eastern studies as their second major or minor is astonishing. Some of these students also apply for scholarships to travel to the Middle East and/or North Africa. Some go there to experience a completely different way of life that seems natural to them, sometimes returning to the States as Muslims. Or, they come back feeling humble and at the same time guilty that they have allowed the western media to brainwash them.

In regards to the field of education, Muslims in general are becoming more aware of the importance of Muslim educators in their children’s lives. Hence, the tide has completely changed as well. It is a fact that some Islamic schools are not as fully funded like their public school or private Christian school counterparts. Many Islamic schools, at least in the US, depend on private donations and fund-raisings. Despite the meager amount of money some Muslim teachers receive at some Islamic schools, they continue to touch lives, one child at a time. I have a friend who is a teacher at an Islamic school in Texas. She tells me that although the pay is not good, she still feels completely pleased with her job as a Muslim teacher. She can pray at the right time without much ado when it is time to pray, and there’s no fuss or outcry about her Islamic dressing. To her, these two issues are worth more than the money she receives. MashaAllah!

As for me, it was a reality check. It finally dawned on me after many years of ignorance, that acquiring Islamic knowledge is a must alongside our various educational pursuits or careers. Islamic knowledge should never suffer at the expense of other academic vocations. For at the end of the day, what will count is our knowledge of the deen and not necessarily the worldly degrees we attain.

I'd love to hear your views on this article. Please tell me in the comments section below :)


Alhamdulillah! "The Tide is turning" for me as well. When I first came into Islam, I thought I was capable enough to teach my children the deen. Well, at least that is what I told myself. The truth is I was focus on my "career" more so than putting the time and effort into the Deen. Many moon later, I regret that decision. But, by the Grace and Mercy of Allah I am taking class at the Islamic Online University. Not only will I be equipped with the knowledge of knowing my Deen, but knowing that in the future, Insha Allah I will be able to help others on their journey. Jazak Allah Khair!


Maasha Allaah, Sister Navetta.
It's a blessing and favor from Allaah that we are still alive to witness this u-turn in our lives. Are we not fortunate? We should be 4ever grateful to the One who has showed His mercies upon us by opening our eyes to see the light.
I applaud you for this giant step you have taken. May it be of immense benefit for you and make you beneficial as well to the Muslim ummah, aameen.

Na'am. Wa lilaahi'l hamd.

Shouldn't I be a grateful servant?

Same thing happenrd to me at university. I am not in d US and the misconception is still rampant amongst students. I have moved on and don't have d flair for medicine anymore; I am now a nursery teacher married with kids and I don't regret it one bit. I am also a 4th semester student with the IOU - Islamic Online University, I'll recommend it to anyone, it has really changed my life.

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