Religion is morals

This month the Education Ministry instructed all religion teachers to spend five minutes of every class they teach to lecture students on how to dress properly and avoid western clothes. These instructions are strange considering that all Saudi public schools have very strict dress codes that even govern hairstyles. Girls have to wear a uniform inside the school and a tent style abaya with full face cover coming in and going out of the school while boys have to wear thobes (traditional Saudi menswear) and have their hair almost shaved off. And yet this is not enough, what students wear at home and on their own time under their parents’ supervision has to be addressed too!

Another issue that the Ministry has asked all schools to look out for is that some students come to school with pictures on their bags and stationary supplies. The issued warning is ambiguous about the nature of these pictures but for readers of Arabic you would think it was pornography. Actually it’s more in the nature of the wildly popular Disney High School Musical and Hannah Montana characters. These according to the warning are putting our school environment and the whole of society in dire danger. While the schools do their jobs of confiscating pictures and organizing parental awareness programs, the Ministry has promised to take this up with Saudi commerce to stop allowing these pictures into the country.

In all Ministry of Education supervised schools students spend a lot of time on religious studies averaging about 6 to 9 40 minute classes per week, depending on the grade level. What is taught during all that time? Some of it is just reading and memorizing the Quran which I enjoyed as a student since many of the Quran chapters we took were stories about prophets. But many other classes are devoted to abstract and unrelatable concepts especially at the elementary level. And what I mean by abstract is like a whole subject devoted to monotheism that is taught over and over again from first grade up until students graduate. And then there’s Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) in which students learn about which kind of lamb should be sacrificed and how to prepare a corpse for burial, all of this in theoretical terms of course and through mostly rote memorization. What am I getting at? It bothers me that all this time at school is spent on such topics that the majority of students will not have to deal with in real life. What is more, the Ministry is willing to push class time for such a superficial issue like how students dress in their own time but at the same time if you visit any school canteen in our kingdom you will find chaos. I have never seen a school canteen where students stand properly in line waiting for their turn.Come in to any school early in the morning and I guarantee that you will catch some students with their notebooks sprawled out copying last night’s homework. Check out all the posters hanging on the walls of the school and you will see that at least 95% of them were not done by the students whose names are shamelessly written on it but actually some Syrian or Egyptian man in a shop was paid to make it. Teaching students to have pride in making things themselves has not quite caught on.

 The Prophet Mohammed PBUH said (Religion is morals) which means that the main manifestation of Islam within a society is how people deal with each other. So why is respecting others by standing in line not assigned five minutes? Why is plagiarism and pride in one’s own work not assigned a chapter? And how about Saudi arrogance, self-righteousness and racism?

 This post was long overdue having gotten myself into numerous verbal clashes at cashiers because people just won’t wait their turn but what really instigated this topic was that my sister’s friend was beaten up badly by a couple of women at a clothing shop, Zara, because she wouldn’t let them cut in. She took this to court but the women just won’t show up and consequently the hearing keeps getting postponed.


Filed under Culture, Education

16 responses to “Religion is morals

  1. موضوع جميل ومتشعب..

    المشكلة ليست في المحتوى.. المشكلة الحقيقية في التطبيق..

    كيف لنا أن نعلم طلابنا بأن هذا حرام وذاك مخالف إذا كان القدوة يقوم به.. يعني كلام فاضي.. يجعل الطالب أو أي انسان لا يقتنع بما يسمع وإنما يأخذ ويرمي..

    نحتاج إلى قدوة في حياتنا أكثر من مناهج.. نحتاج إلى تطبيقات عملية تحثنا على الانضباط والصدق..

    سمعت مرة من مصلح إجتماعي عبارة جميلة..
    قال:”لا تقل لأبنك قم فصلي.. بل خذ بيده وصلي بجانبه”

    الخلق لا يأتي بشعارات ولا بمناهج.. بل بتطبيقات على أرض الواقع..يبدأ من البيت والمدرسة..

    ورسولنا خير معلم وخير مثال عليه أفضل الصلوات والتسليم

    موضعك جميل جدا ويمس واقع مرير بدا مستفحل..

    جزاك الله خير..

  2. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read this post. My daughters attended Saudi government school. All of what you say today applied twenty years ago when they were kids.

    I remember my daugher begging me to make a poster for her art project, because I was very good in art. I wanted her to make it, but she nearly cried at the prospect. She would be laughed at and ridiculed. Worse yet, she’d fail the project.

    Reluctantly, I made the poster.

    When she was in “high school”, I decided to homeschool her using the University of Nebraska program, and was being used by several of my American friends in the Kingdom.

    My poor daughter’s background was so weak that she could not keep up, even with continuous coaching from me.

    As for the dress codes, listen to this: At the gate of my daughter’s school stood a “bawaab”, a doorman, who was responsible for checking that the girls were properly covered! I couldn’t believe this until I saw it with my own eyes.

  3. haitham

    I remember when I was in school myself the same applied. Focus on abstract concepts and little care for topics of actual importance.

    I don’t ever remember “Saudi arrogance, self-righteousness and racism” being addressed, but then, to discuss a problem is to admit its existence! There are many other topics which are also swept under the rug.

    Its a shame that the whole point is being missed, personally I think it is down to education officials who are far out of tune with what actually happens in the schools.

  4. Subhanallah.
    1. The teachers in my schools in America dressed much more modest and professional than Saudi teachers. I think they are the ones in need of a talk. However, I do agree with all the images. i never imagined that I would have a harder time avoiding images here than I did in the States. The Ministry is right…our daughters do not need Hannah Montana as their role models. Even my daughters who do not watch T.V, don’t listen to music and no that we do not buy clothes or accessories with images are imitating their peers and asking me to buy them Hanna Montana stuff.

    2. Adab. This really bothers me. Muslims are supposed to have the best manners and characteristics, but I’ve found many Saudis to be two faced. On one hand they are extremely generous and hospitable and another they are rude and obnoxious.

    I send my children to school with their lunch and only give them money once a week to buy at the canteen. The lines were two dangerous!

    3. What nationality is your sister’s friend. One of my fears is that I will be deported for beating down a Saudi girl/woman for butting (butting) in front of me. I have had too many bad experiences to tell.

  5. Marahm, I plan to homeschool my kids after they complete 6 grade. I just want them to get a grasp of the Arabic first.

  6. Nader

    Good post, Saudi Woman.
    As for the dress issue, I think that the ministry noticed how students in some schools (especially the non-public ones) are dressed. My nephew (first grade) goes to one of those, and initially he wanted to wear a thob, but then he changed his mind and wanted to wear a t-shirt and pants. He even asked for jeans!! When asked why, he said everybody in his school wore pants and t-shirts. I had to go there and see it myself, and ohh boyyyy was he right! No single student was wearing a thob! I talked with my nephew’s teacher about this, and he said that in some cases those who wear thobs get mocked at! Scary.. isn’t it? This has happened during the first two weeks of school this year, so shortly before we hear about the new instructions of the ministry of education.
    Regarding curriculums, I totally agree with you… we studied soo many useless topics in school.. like how much Zakat you should pay if you had 10 cows, or a thousand camels.. or something!
    Its worth mentioning here that I heard of a new pilot project taking place in some school where they’re applying new curriculums. In these new curriculums, religion would be one book, and it includes most (if not all) today’s subjects. Same thing with Arabic. More focus will be given on math, science and English.

  7. Andrew

    I would first commend you for the quality and tenor of your comments.

    I would secondly note that the educational curriculum has the effect of strengthening the power of the ulemaa. Interestingly and ironically (and tragically), it does so by weakening the ethical and behavioral standards provided by the Rasulullah.

    Unthinking obedience and rote learning are emphasized, while creative thinking and the ability to form one’s own opinion and views are discouraged.

    It is disappointing that the educational system at home is dominated by this ulemaa-inspired obscurantism, while abroad the King offers a more enlightened perspective on matters. One can but hope that his views will be able to be manifest at home and not just abroad.

  8. Muslim

    are you saying religion shouldn’t be taught in school? who do you think you are

  9. saudiwoman

    you got to improve your reading comprehension skills before you comment.

  10. Hi Saudi Woman –
    You always have such interesting posts!
    It’s really a shame that the students aren’t taught useful things and that more emphasis is placed on things that should be left up to what parents choose to teach their children at home.
    Luckily I haven’t had any salesline encounters – I think it’s because my hubby prefers to go shopping at the odd times when there are no lines!
    As far as having pictures of popular TV shows or stars on school items, I remember having school lunchboxes with my favorite TV characters on them, and I just don’t see the harm in it. Having these things had no lasting ill effects on me and didn’t turn me into a bad person. I think that the more things that are forbidden, the more people tend to want them. Less attention should be placed on things like this, and more focus should be put on more important things, like respect, coutesy, and racism.

  11. you brave brave woman.. what a courageous post.. thank you for educating me..


  12. Umm Latifa

    More manners definitely! Learn, learn, learn and teach your children. When I came to Saudi Arabia, I expected to see the examples of Muslim ADAB. I was so disappointed with behavior of so many Saudi women! Why do people (but not only Saudis, other Arabs/Muslims also) do not know how to stand in a line? Why pushing and neglecting others? What is happening to Muslims! Shame! Land of the Prophet, land and heart of Islam…
    I recall, once I had to literally shout at a group of Saudi women in the amusement park, because they were about to squeeze a child in a queue! Good there was no fight ;-p, probably thanks to my sister in law, who is a diplomatic “master” and literally an ANGEL (she and my mother in law are the most wonderful SAUDI WOMEN I have ever met, ma sha Allah, alhamdulilaah). BTW, I do like the idea of a dress code and also agree with UmmAdam reg. the “role models” and pictures ;-). But, if I was educating children, I would not put this issue as a first nor second priority ;-). Jazak Allahu khairan, Iman, for your work.

  13. Umm Latifa

    BTW, if a woman will not show up in a court, is there a way to force her to appear? I thought, that if a person does not appear 3 times, the police should be after him/her. Good to know, if I found myself beaten or try to protect myself. Uff, Saudi women, beating your friend. It is just incredible!

  14. Hala

    True, very interesting post, like many things in our countries, focus is always on the wrong things. Students now actually run away from studying religion, or just doing it out of obligation. Too much limitations and less focus on role models and true qualities of a Muslim. I feel sorry for the gloomy mood of my nephews when I haappen to drag them to school in the morning, poor boys, they just talk about fights and who got beaten today…

  15. Paul

    Religion is NOT morals. Religion is a guide as to how we should treat each other. To stone a child to death, to force a woman to shave her head or a man deflowering his own child is NOT serving the will of G-d. Serving G-d is feeding a hungry child, carrying an old woman’s heavy burden, stopping an act of violence and treating someone with honor and respect is serving G-d, no acts violence will ever bring someone closer to Him.

  16. Thank you for being yoou

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