The ‘Super Sheikh’ and education issues

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

The ‘Super Sheikh’ and education issues

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

I had a dialogue with four students of Islamic studies about teaching children in girls’ schools at the elementary level up to the third grade.

Their sheikh explained that the dispute is not religious in nature. “Islam doesn’t mind gender mixing up to the age of ten. However, it has been proven, scientifically, that the best educator of boys is the man. And that education and upbringing of boys is not best left to women. Doing so has damaging educational and psychological effects,” he argued.

Another agreed, citing the experience of his son in kindergarden. “My wife always hears the teacher complaining about her inability to control the boys. If the teacher was a man, instead, the boys would fear and respect him more,” he concluded.

The third man confirmed that the boys themselves refuse to be taught by a woman, and challenged me to come up with even one boy who would accept a female teacher. He ended with the traditional “cliché”: “Would you allow your daughter to mix with boys!”

I told them: “I am happy that we are in agreement here that our issue is educational and psychological, but not religious.”

I asked their sheikh whether he specialized in education or psychology and he said no.

“So, you would agree with me that as a university professor teaching psychology, I should have more knowledge and expertise than any of you in the said fields?”

He didn’t agree. “No need to have scientific discipline to discuss these issues. We could always look at it from a religious perspective,” he argued.

“But I thought we agreed this is not a religious issue. How come you don’t allow anyone who is not specialized in religion to discuss it, but you give yourselves the liberty to debate any subject in any field?

From what I know, it has not been proven scientifically that there is any harm in gender mixing at early age. In fact, the opposite is true. It is abnormal to separate little boys from their mothers, sisters and females, in general. If you have “scientific” studies that testify to the contrary of my findings, let’s compare notes. And don’t forget that the Ministry of Education reached this decision only after they conducted educational, psychological and social studies that support it.

Besides, as men of faith, how could you conduct or believe a study that is contrary to your religion? God Almighty permits mixing until the age of ten. Doesn’t the Creator know better?

As for your argument that women are not suitable to teach and raise children, isn’t that incompatible with your traditional argument that women are the best teacher and raiser of children, boys included, and should, therefore, stay at home to teach and raise them?

However, if you insist on this new-found conclusion that women are not fit for the mission, then men should be the ones who should stay at home to do it, and women should go out to do less important jobs.

The dialogue ended when the fourth of my friends accused me of plotting with the infidels, liberals, Marxists and atheists to corrupt our pure Muslim society. And that the scheme begins with corrupting the children under the age of ten, and then extends to the higher levels. When they reach university, we send them away to mixed Western universities or turn ours into mixed environment.

I told them: I will not defend my religion before you, this is between me and Allah, and I will not accept priesthood in Islam where a sheikh gives or denies me the keys to heaven. A Muslim has no middle-man between him and God, and in Islam there is no place for judges who decide, on behalf of Allah, the better Muslim who goes to paradise, and the bad one who goes to hell.

I also reject, in principle, the classification of people, and the judging of their beliefs or intentions. Only the Creator knows what is in people’s hearts and minds.

The meeting ended, but not the controversy. It won’t end as long as some of our sheikhs consider themselves “Super Sheikhs”, and reached a level of vanity that makes them speak in the name of God, and think they could care and know more about Islam than the Prophet (peace be upon him,) and believe that their religious knowledge gives them access to all sciences known to man.

We won’t see the end of it as long as they see themselves more knowledgable about our world than the Prophet (peace be upon him) who received his knowledge from Allah, but still said: “You know more than me about your worldly issues.”

May Allah show us the path of wisdom, following his orders and his Prophet’s directions. And to steer away from the path of Satanic vanity and stubbornness. Amen.

What do you think, dear readers? Where do you stand on this issue?

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @kbatarfi