Why Teach?

Given the recent events, American Muslims stand in a unique position to revive the spiritual and moral dimensions of modern life while continuing to be loyal to the true spirit of moderation. Like our earlier counterparts, our community is not without precedence. Dr. Abdul Hakim Jackson at a recent lecture at ISNA illustrated the event of Hudebiya as a turning point in Islamic history, as it did something incredible -– it indigenized Islam in the land of Arabia. The seemingly defeatist contract allowed people to not only view Islam as a legitimate source, but also paved way for mutual discourse that led to a greater understanding of Islam. We too stand at a turning point in American history, as inheritors of an ongoing legacy; this is our chance to indigenize Islam by educating our surrounding communities.

No need to be over excited though because the profession of teaching seeks no ordinary teachers concerned with only transferring skills to bypass state mandated standards. It’s really not that simple.

First off, America's attitude towards its teachers is frequently ambivalent. We respect them and at the same time lament that they don't do more. We limit their resources, and then ask them to do the most important job in the world – educate our children. It doesn’t take much to realize that teaching is neither a lucrative field nor does it bring with it the glory or status worthy of a more ‘respectable’ profession as medicine or engineering. Albeit, while a doctor saves a life and his actions stops there, a teacher’s deeds effect eternity. After you’re done contemplating the low incentive professional teaching has to offer, think about the educational system itself.

Al Attas defines "education" as the progressive instilling of "the recognition and acknowledgment of the proper place of things in the order of creation, such that it leads to the recognition and acknowledgment of the proper place of God in the order of being and existence" of mankind. The current educational system however is more concerned with numbers and statistics than with value and meaning, where critical thinking skills are deemphasized in lieu of performance and conformity.

How is it then for an eager body interested in saving the ummah, creating an environment which provides an avenue for a body of people to create their own experience, allowing students to pose questions, create projects, participate, and develop trust and responsibility, to go about this? Yes, expecting all of this to occur in a policy ridden economically challenged classroom might be more on the idealistic side but at the same time the real challenge for a teacher is to make the best of her resources. To know that we are not without precedence but rather inheritors of an ongoing legacy that promises hope and change.

Teaching is not an easy profession and it isn’t for everyone. But someone has to do it as to a large extent our future will depend on how well we educate our surroundings today and to what extent we are successful in transferring to them the sacred vision of life we have as Muslims.

(Wrote this sorry piece couple of years ago, as well. it desperately needs to be revised but I like the place I was in when I wrote it, so it too goes into the time capsule.)