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Motivating Our Youth Beyond Bigotry



Reply Date

Sep 12, 2017


As-salamu `alaykum, First, I would like to thank you for this great site and all the helpful information you provide. To start with, I am not a parent, but a teacher. I teach at a Saturday Islamic school Arabic studies, Islamic studies, and Qur'an studies. I have 12 children in my class from various cultural backgrounds. The children's ages in my class range from 9 to 11, both boys and girls. So I try to teach my materials through activities that would get them interested, but the activities that they do at their English schools always seems to be more interesting. So how can I get them more motivated and excited to learn the new Islamic and Arabic materials? I have looked in different places, but couldn't find much. Do you know any Web sites that have an organized curriculum for ages 7-12 with appropriate activities to teach Arabic and Islamic studies and to memorize and study Qur'an? Or a Web site where the school I work at can order books? Second, I have mentioned earlier that the students in my class come from various backgrounds, mostly Arabs, but there are non-Arabs as well. There are few kids in the school who come from the same country. There is no problem in being proud of where you come from, but the way these kids act toward the other kids is unbelievable. They have formed some sort of a club or a group to which only people from that country could belong. The other students feel inferior and are always being picked at. I am not sure how should I deal with this situation. I don't want to seem like I am picking on those students because they would (and have done it before) say that I am picking on them because they are from that country. Some teachers just ignore the whole thing, but I don't like it and I can't watch the other kids being treated the way they are. The parents are not of much help either. So is there any advice you can give me? Finally, one student came to me and asked me a question that so took me by surprise that I just didn't know how to handle it. The girl (10 or 11) told me that at her English school, her teacher told her that to love is a normal and natural thing in humans. So it is okay if she loved a boy because that is the way we are created. She came and told me this, and later told me that she knows that Islam addresses everything, so if being in love is natural, what does Islam say about it? She asked if it is okay to get a crush on a boy because she just can't control herself. How should I answer her? I know these are a lot of questions, but I would really like good advice from someone who is experienced because I really want to help these children with the problems they have. I got advice to ignore it, but it didn't work out. Jazakum Allahu khayran for all the effort you put in this, wa as-salamu`alaykum.




In this counseling answer:

“You need to help her understand that what she is feeling is most probably a physical attraction or just an overall fondness for her male friend. It is a good time to explain to her that, for example, love is more about giving than it is taking. In addition to the indescribable wonderment of true love, it is also about sacrifice, patience, enduring hardship together, compromise, and many other seemingly “not so pleasant” things.”


I will try to answer your questions in the order you posted them. First off, here are some links that I found for Islamic education resources and curricula. If you do a search on the Internet I’m sure you can find others:


As I have no real experience teaching Islam to children in a formal school setting, I cannot give you much advice in terms of strategy to get the children motivated.Perhaps if you find some better resources to draw from and include in your classes that will help. The link above that I provided, The Book Foundation, is run by a Muslim education specialist in the United Kingdom named Jeremy Henzell-Thomas. Perhaps you can e-mail him for suggestions on specific strategies. His writings on that site may also help you understand the education process better and stimulate ideas for you.

As for the second part of your question, what you are witnessing from your children sounds like the seedlings of assabiyyah (bigotry), also known as “group feeling” but in its negative sense can refer to tribalism. Your frustration at not getting help from the parents to curb this problem is not surprising, as the children most likely are learning it from the home to begin with.

Nevertheless, as their teacher you need to really stress that this is absolutely wrong in Islam. There is nothing wrong with being proud of one’s heritage and ethnic group, but when it leads to elitism and exclusion, particularly among other Muslim children, it must be dealt with. There is a lot of this tribalism going around in the world today. We see it everywhere and it is the antithesis of Islam. It is disgraceful and disgusting and is nothing less than the very sin of Iblis himself, who refused to prostrate to Adam because he felt he was better because he was created differently.

The Muslims, sadly, are among the worst perpetrators of tribalism today. Islam came to the Arabs at a time when tribalism was at its peak. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) challenged his people to rise above it through Islam, which regards all humans equally in the eyes of Allah.

As the Prophet said in his farewell khutbah (sermon), no Arab is better than any non-Arab and vice versa. As a teacher, you must teach these children that bis wrong. Islam teaches that the only thing that makes one human being higher than another in the eyes of Allah is one’s strength of character, that is, one’s piety, which is only truly known to Allah anyway.

I strongly urge you to teach the evils of  being nervous and its opposite — the virtues of unity, equality, and righteousness — and stay on top of your students when they act in an inappropriate manner. You don’t have to condemn them for taking pride in their heritage, but when it evolves into arrogance and exclusion, you should step in and stop it from happening while explaining why. Help them to understand why this is such an evil.

Help them to understand why this is such an evil. Draw on the lessons from the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet as examples, along with modern-day examples of what is happening every day in this world of ours. Show and explain to them the consequences of their actions and that the religion of unity and mercy does not tolerate tribalism.

As for your female student who feels she is in love, of course, love is a natural and wonderful thing, a gift from Allah to be nurtured in its supportive environment of marriage. At this point, you need to educate your young student on the difference between what she is feeling — a crush — and real love.

You need to help her understand that what she is feeling is most probably a physical attraction or just an overall fondness for her male friend. It is a good time to explain to her that, for example, love is more about giving than it is taking. In addition to the indescribable wonderment of true love, it is also about sacrifice, patience, enduring hardship together, compromise, and many other seemingly “not so pleasant” things.

It is about truly wanting the best for another individual in a completely unselfish way. As Muslims, love is inseparable from our spiritual path, and can be thought of as a partnership toward mutual support on the path to Allah. Maybe it can also be explained to them that the greatest love of all is the love of God.

I think it is important that you help this young girl understand that not every feeling we have should be acted on according to our lower desires, but that we have to understand our feelings based on wisdom and knowledge that we get from our parents, elders, and teachers, who have much life experience and knowledge to draw upon regarding these matters.

Perhaps it would be good to ask this young lady some questions like “what is love?”, “how do you know what your feeling is love?”, and “at what point did you decide that you loved this boy? What did you feel inside? What did you think? Why this boy and not some other boy?” It doesn’t do a young person any good to merely tell them that they shouldn’t act on what they are feeling, for example, it’s haram, etc. Rather, they need to be challenged to understand what they are feeling and to learn about themselves. Help them to see the potential consequences of their actions as well.


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides.

Read more:

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About Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah

Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Science Study’s Community Education and Youth Studies Laboratory, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He received his B.A. from the University of Delaware (U.S.), his M.S. from Columbia University (U.S.) and his PhD from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies (PEKKA), Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005 in the field of Youth Studies. Abd. Lateef is an American who has been living in Malaysia since 2001. He is married and has 2 children.

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