What Makes Your Islamic School Stand Out?

I’m sure the majority of Muslim educators in the West have often wondered what makes their Islamic schools stand out from the traditional, secular educational system that is already in place. Is it a sense of pride in students that are well-behaved, that they are high academic achievers, or that they may go on to attend the finest universities?

Or could it be something even more meaningful and harder to measure quantitatively? This is one of the main questions that Professor Tariq Ramadan asks in the following lecture (embedded below), which he gave at Oxford University recently. Sometimes, he states, just adding the Islamic component is not enough. One must identify the Islamic principles and objectives on which an institution of learning functions.

As you view the 34 minute talk, take special note of the other relevant questions that he raises:

  • What are Islamic schools in the West doing to produce students that are dignified and globally responsible citizens that are able to contribute positively to their societies? In other words, what is the added value of Islamic education, and why is the concept of integration simply not enough?
  • How necessary are the processes of evaluation and assessment in ensuring that we are improving the Islamic educational system in the West?
  • Why must the Islamic principles of Tawheed and Tarbiyya be emphasized in order to become effective in meeting our objectives?
  • What is meant by a total body approach to Islamic education, or an education of both the mind and the heart?

Professor Ramadan excellently endeavors to shed light on both the ideas for and challenges to establishing an educational system based on Islamic principles.

One such principle that I found to be most relevant was that we must teach our students to be autonomous; having a sense of self-reliance once the essential knowledge is taught.

We want our children, Ramadan asserts, to be courageous enough to make the right choices and speak the truth when they are faced with the challenges of the real world. Do you agree?

Ala Shehadeh

About Ala Shehadeh

Ala Shehadeh was the former counselor at the Islamic School of San Diego for four years, where she developed behavioral programs to aid students achieve success as young Muslims, both socially and academically. She is nearing the process of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is also currently serving the local Muslim community in San Diego as a therapist intern and youth group coordinator.
Click here to read more posts by Ala.


  1. I do think we need to periodically evaluate our school staff, the kids attending and the parents involved in the educational process. Having everybody on the same page makes the educational process a success. The idea of teaching the kids to be independent thinkers in tremendous. As the prophet and Sitana Aisha were two great examples of this.

    With Tawheed comes strength of message. With Tarbiya comes pruning already existent strengths instead of attempting to create something new. Each student has something to offer. Let him/her shine and become engaged in the learning process.

    When the heart and body are convinced of something it is easier for the mind to follow. Having only the mind be convinced creates a great deal of anxiety for the person struggling with this dissonance and the people around him/ her.

    The comments about being engaged in learning about the community were very important as we (Muslims and Non-Muslims) are a community.

    • You make some excellent points, especially about being unified in our goals and about teaching kids to make the right decisions autonomously. I definitely believe teaching God-consciousness fosters this.

  2. So much was packed into that short clip! But the finale–are we educating courageous people?–is an inspiring question.
    Courage assumes strength, skill, dedication to a cause, service, even sacrifice along with knowledge and belief.
    Courage assumes purpose and action.
    JazakumAllahukhairan.

    • Dr. Ramadan always leaves me in awe and thinking about the bigger picture. Thank you Sumaiyah for the beautifully insightful reminder. Courage is both sincere thought and sincere action, and may Allah accept from us :)

  3. Assalamoalikum!JazakALLAH kahir for the post. I think one word which is more important than the courage is “love” which was also mentioned in the clip. Do we love our Lord? Do we have a connection with ALLAH (SWT) and His Prophet (SAWW)? Do we love our spouses, kids, neighbours, strangers? Do we love bani Adam just out of huamnity? This is important, when you have a bond, rest is easy. We are way too far from this, we are still actively engaged in to “right and wrong” philosophies.
    And second very important factor is to know your sorroundings and your times as mentioned, history, philosophy, culture, education, religions of the palces where we live in.

    When we loved humans just for the sake of humanity, it was shown in our actions. I liked these segments of the clip.
    duas wassalmaoalikum
    Mubashir

  4. Wa Iyakum, thank you for your comments. Love for the sake of Allah should be the source of our love for others, even love for knowledge and for keeping current and relevant.

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