Nearly every Muslim child of immigrants can commiserate over parental pressure in regards to education. It makes sense. As Bernie Sanders has said repeatedly, long gone are the days when a high school diploma was enough to get a job. Undergraduate degrees are often necessary in order to have an adequate standard of living. And that’s the essential American dream for most immigrant parents: a comfortable life.
But many of them take it even further.
[bctt tweet=”Many girls I met in college admitted they were there to bolster their marriage prospects.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Out of all the major religious groups in the U.S., Muslims have the second-highest level of education. Given Islam’s emphasis on seeking knowledge, this should come as no surprise. However, this level of education is also a reflection of the relative privilege of American Muslims.
I would like to say that the love for post-graduate degrees among Muslims is merely a reflection of that cultural emphasis on education, but it isn’t. I can’t tell you how many girls I met in college who admitted they were there only to bolster their marriage prospects.
And I don’t blame them.
I’ve watched so many family members and friends judge potential suitors for themselves or their children purely based on their educational background. While I do understand the desire to make sure that you find a highly-qualified mate, it doesn’t make sense to forsake everything else just for that. Kindness, common interests, compatible views on faith— these are the things that make a relationship, not a master’s or a doctorate.
An MD doesn’t guarantee that your relationship won’t be M-T.
[bctt tweet=”An MD doesn’t guarantee that your relationship won’t be M-T.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Islam started as a social justice movement. The Prophet Muhammad taught his followers to reject sexism, racism, and most of all, classism. This relentless emphasis on higher degrees is, at its core, classism in the worst way. Post-graduate degrees are an accomplishment of the privileged.
Education is expensive.
Merit scholarships are great, but “good grades” will still be elusive for certain students, such as those who are neurodivergent or who have to work to support their families. Need-based scholarships are still limited in both number and access.
There’s also the fact that education can be attained in more ways than one. You’ll never hear me not advocate for the pursuit of knowledge. The Qur’an says to travel the Earth, observe the skies, and discover what lies beyond them. It doesn’t say a thing about degrees. I’ve met many college dropouts that were far more well-read than the doctors or lawyers that I’ve known. And intelligence isn’t exclusively being a good reader or test-taker.
Everyone demonstrates intelligence in their own way, whether it’s through musical talent, connecting with others, or athleticism. Each kind of intelligence is valuable and useful in our society. If we all had the same strengths and focused on the same areas of life, society would cease to function.
So rather than hoping that your child will one day become a doctor, you should hope they’ll become the kind of person that eases others’ pain. Rather than choosing your social circle based on the merits of their educational background, you should choose them based on the merits of their character.
[bctt tweet=”The Messenger of God himself didn’t have a formal education at all.” username=”wearethetempest”]
The letters that come after a person’s name tell us nothing about their integrity, their sense of humor, their ability to forgive, or their capacity for compassion. But their attitude towards others based on their access or ability to receive an expensive and exhaustive education does. Islam began as a social justice movement meant to break down class barriers. But far too many Muslims today believe that an individual’s worth lies in their social status.
They forget that the Messenger of God himself didn’t have a formal education – according to Sunni doctrine, he couldn’t even read or write. It was his character, compassion, and wisdom that guides many Muslims through their day-to-day lives.