European imperialists realized hundreds of years ago what eludes too many of us even today: Women are the most powerful and influential element in society.
That's why colonizers invading new lands and worried about local resistance focused their energies immediately on breaking in the native women, whose natural identities were systematically stripped and replaced with a psychology that accepted economic exploitation by the new masters and taught her children to do the same for generations to come.
Willie Lynch, a successful West Indies slaveowner:
The female "is the most important factor for good economics," Lynch told a gathering of slaveowners in Virginia in 1712. "When in complete submission, she will train her offspring in the early years to submit to labor when they become of age. This is a perfect situation of sound sleep [no worries about slave rebellions] and economics."
Indeed, modern-day imperialists continue this "breaking process" of women around the world albeit through more sophisticated means, whether it be Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson's secular schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan (Mortenson: “If we educate a boy, we educate an individual. But if we can educate a girl, we educate a community.”), the newly founded Malala Fund for the education of girls (in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, who was purportedly shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting female education), or the NeXXt Scholars program that then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rolled out last year "to provide women from Muslim countries with a 'world-class' education."
So the question is: Are most of us operating under the Willie Lynch program? Do we continue to raise generation after generation of laborers who keep the capitalistic system running eventhough it oppresses us and others?
God has given us clear instructions on how we're supposed to educate and train our kids, and it involves much more than ensuring they become valedictorians, get into prestigious colleges and land high-paying jobs. Scholars say women have not been given prophethood because each one of us is tasked to do the same job inside the house as prophets do out in society.
God: "God did confer a great favor on the believers when he sent among them an apostle from among themselves rehearsing unto them the signs of God, purifying them and instructing them in scripture and wisdom, while before that, they had been in manifest error.” (Quran 13: 164)
Hence, the goal of a well-rounded education should be to produce sound human beings who have developed mental and spiritual powers that help them move towards moral perfection within themselves and social justice in their communities.
"Education is indeed very important, but the significance of... a balanced personality must not be overlooked," says educator Tahera Kassamali. "The world is producing a generation that knows a lot but is greatly deficient in moral and spiritual values."
Consider this: When we visited relatives recently, the mother didn't ask her children to come out of their rooms to meet us even though we were guests from overseas.
"They're working on school projects," she had explained matter-of-factly.
Prophet Muhammad (S) told his Companions that he was baree (far) from such parents of latter times because they would emphasize secular education but neglect religious and moral edification.
The good news is that if imperialists have implanted a Willie Lynch chip inside women, women can deactivate it through knowledge, awareness and virtues.
We have superb examples of women throughout history who raised their children by example (gulp!) to be intelligent, upright and compassionate people who use their knowledge and skills to not only make a living but also oppose systems of oppression and struggle for the establishment of peace and justice on earth.
Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times and mother of Imams Hasan and Hussain and Zainab, is one whom Islamic thinker Allama Iqbal praises in his poetry:
The character, the essential purity
Of holy children from their mothers come.
She was the harvest of the well‐sown field
Of self‐surrender, to all mothers she
The perfect pattern, Fatima the chaste.
Imam Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, repeatedly emphasized the important role mothers play in the correct education of children and betterment of society:
"Respected ladies! You are responsible for the upbringing of the children; you have the duty of nurturing virtuous children in your care to hand over to society. We all have this duty, but it is in your care that they receive a better upbringing. A mother’s lap is the best school for a child. You can train your children so that one day they make the country flourish. You can train children to uphold the aims of the prophets!"