Away from his widowed mother, his beloved grandfather, and his honorable family, he was left, far in the desert with a poor family to learn his language skills from their purest origins.
That was the first childhood memories of our prophet Muhammad-may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him, which has always sounded harsh to me as harsh as when little Jane Eyre was sent to Lowood Institution, and when Oliver Twist was misplaced in the workhouse.
However, growing up as a mother of a boy myself, I learned how a mother love can spoil rather than teach. I saw the amazing effects of having my son far from me since he was one year old, and I better related to King AbdulMalik’s famous saying “ our love for AlWaleed (his son) harmed him” since he refused to send him to the desert and the boy grew up with an accent.
One more thing that remodeled my mindset regarding environment-based education was meeting that sister who earned her medicine degree from the United States and her Quranic Ijazah (Quranic Completion Certificate) from India.
At the time we met she was thirty, already married and with 4 or 5 children. I wondered how fast she had accomplished it, especially for a non-Arab who is living in the States, so I asked her. She told me that at her time, Islamic schools were not initiated yet, so their only option for schooling was public schools. Her parents had to send her in the middle of her school years to India to finish studying the Quran there before continuing with her academics in the States. Of course, that one-of-a kind education experience summed it all.
Hence, I started to appreciate how our Prophet Muhammad-may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him- was raised up. It all started when parents used to recognize their own short comings, and facing this fact, they looked for better examples that match their greater expectations for their own offspring.
Parents of modern time
Nowadays parents are too arrogant to confess it; they think they are their children’s best teachers, and they are positive that they can tutor Quran, manners, belief, hadith, fiqh, and whatever else Islamic to their children with no help from anybody except for google search and YouTube. Nevertheless, none will even try teaching algebra or physics if they did not learn it themselves. Well, that is the irony of being resourceful!
Environment is one of the integral components of any successful education model. The people our children are interacting with on a daily basis can have a greater influence on them than their own families. The manners, the language, and the principles they are living by will be soon our children’s, and any difference between the family’s expectations and the community’s expectations can have devastating results on the children.
Even our Prophet Muhammad- may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him- was advised by his Lord to hang around with the right company.
Allah says, “and restrain thyself along with those who cry unto their Lord at morn and evening, seeking His Countenance; and let not thine eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, who follows his own lust and whose case has been abandoned.”(Qur’an: 18-28)
Great Prophet Moses-may the peace of Allah be upon him- asked upon Allah to grant him his brother to be his companion and helper in his way to his lord. We are talking here about two of the most prominent prophets; one who has been receiving revelation from Heaven, and have been taught by Angel Jibril, and another who has given the honor of talking to his Lord. Nevertheless, both of them needed that kind of company, they needed that supportive environment.
Prophet Muhammad- may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him- illustrated the effect of company upon us in a very beautiful simile stating that
“The similitude of good company and that of bad company is that of the owner of musk and of the one blowing the bellows. The owner of musk would either offer you some free of charge, or you would buy it from him, or you smell its pleasant fragrance; and as for the one who blows the bellows (i.e., the blacksmith), he either burns your clothes or you smell a repugnant smell”. (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Also, he broke it simple in one sentence,
“you are the character of your friend, so let each one of you pick up on whom he befriends” (narrated by Abu Dawuod).
Watch who is around
The fact that the rotten apple spoils the barrel is unanimous in all cultures. The influence of the company has been experienced by people all over the world through all ages. You see everybody around you all of a sudden riding the same SUV, holding the same smart phone, getting their clothes almost from the same store. However, when it comes to teens and children, the influence is always stronger; it is what has been commonly termed as peer pressure.
In recent studies at Temple University, psychologists used functional magnetic resonance imaging scans on 40 teenagers and adults to identify differences in brain activity when adolescents are alone versus with their friends. The findings were astonishing.
The researchers asked 14 young teenagers (ages 14 to 18), 14 college students and 12 young adults to play a six-minute video driving game while in a brain scanner.. Half the time they played alone, and half the time they were told that two same-sex friends who were watching the play in the next room. As a result, the young teenagers ran about 40 percent more yellow lights and had 60 percent more crashes when they knew their friends were watching.
Besides research, we have been hearing in news, if not among our friends’ and acquaintances’ circles every day and everywhere negative peer pressure catastrophes that have ended in horrible crimes and death sometimes.
Thus, when we are choosing for our children, we should bear in mind that they are painfully susceptible to the environment we are leaving them in. It is not a matter of how good they are, it is rather a matter of how bad it is around them. We should not challenge them to to fit in in the wrong place while asking them to maintain our right code.
First Published: March 2014