Tarbiyyah vs Ta’leem

Props to Shaykh Abu Eesa for inspiring this post.

In our day and age, the terms tarbiyyah and ta’leem get tossed around as synonymous terms that are enacted in various Islamic settings: Masjids, Community Centers, Halaqaat, Khutub, etc. However, this notion and phenomenon that tarbiyyah and ta’leem is only meant for the above settings is flawed from its very core.

The term tarbiyyah in the arabic language comes from the root word ra-ba which means to grow, cultivate, to increase, to be more than. Interesting enough, it is also the root word for Rabb, which means Lord when loosely translated. However, there is a deeper, more significant meaning the scholars point in regards to Allah’s Beautiful Name ar-Rabb (The Lord), which is: That Allah is the One who creates, sustains, and nourishes everything; the believing and the disbelieving, the obedient and the disobedient, the fearing the non-fearing, the male and the female, the white and the black, the earth, the skies, the moon, the trees….everything. And so from this, we see the job of the person who does tarbiyyah is to grow, cultivate, sustain, and nourish a human being. It is a long-term act which is not bound by any locations, rather its a task that needs to be done everywhere and anywhere. It’s a constant effort to ensure the blossoming of sweet fruits.

Ta’leem on the other hand comes from the root word ‘a-li-ma which means to know, to be aware of, to learn, to be informed about. As you can see from the root itself, ta’leem is very different from tarbiyyah. The one who does ta’leem is the one who teaches, he informs, he makes the people aware of matters, etc. The responsibility of the one who does ta’leem is not to grow and cultivate a human being, rather it is to provide information that help in the process of growing and cultivating a human being.

In our times, many parents have given up the responsibility of tarbiyyah and ta’leem with hopes and expectations that the masjids, imaams, scholars, etc. will take care of this task. Somewhere in our history, the institution of the masjid shifted from a primary place of worship to becoming the lifeblood for all services a community thrives on. This in my opinion is unjust and unfair. Parents cannot continue to pile the masjid with these responsibilities when Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala made it clear in the Qur’an:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلَائِكَةٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَّا يَعْصُونَ اللَّهَ مَا أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ

O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded. (Surah Tahrim V.6)

The primary responsibility of tarbiyyah and ta’leem for children is with the parents themselves. The masjids, imaams, scholars, etc. are the support system that enable effective tarbiyyah and ta’leem but the primary responsibility is of the parents. And this only makes sense as the job of tarbiyyah is something that starts from the roots; for you to see fruits one must plant righteous seeds into fertile ground and give it the correct sustenance, nourishment, etc. for it to blossom and give benefit.

To all parents, save this ummah from disaster and disgrace by investing time in your children. May Allah allow us all to understand our responsibilities and carry them out with ihsaan for His sake alone. May Allah bless those who are parents to uphold their responsibilities with the utmost care. May Allah bless those who are not yet parents to understand the importance of the task ahead of them and to aid them in their responsibilities. May Allah bring about a people from our progeny who will bring dignity back to the Muslims. Ameen

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