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Islamic Schools – The Light for Future Generations

Islamic Schools are growing as a viable option for Muslim parents in America when deciding on the best education for their children. Islamic schools are now capable of providing a level of academic education that equals or exceeds public and other private schools. In addition, Islamic schools provide a nurturing environment and the blessing of time and opportunity to concentrate on religious education that allows students to understand Islam in detail and depth. Islamic schools are growing in number, quality, and acceptance as competent educational institutions within and outside of the Muslim community. It is definitely a phenomenon whose time has come. The growth and success of Noor-Ul-Iman School mirrors the experience of a number of Islamic Schools across the United States.

Noor-Ul-Iman School (NUI) was established twenty years ago in a New Jersey suburb with just 27 students in Pre-K through first grade… Now, alhamdulillah, its grown to nearly 600 students.

Noor-Ul-Iman School (NUI) was established twenty years ago in a New Jersey suburb with just 27 students in Pre-K through first grade. The early days were very tenuous with many people suggesting that the school would close within a year. In fact, over the last twenty years, Noor-Ul-Iman School has grown to a student body of nearly 600 students in Pre-K through high school. To date, 122 students have graduated from Noor-Ul-Iman High School and all have been accepted into four year colleges, including some of the most competitive colleges in the U.S. Among these students are four National Merit Finalists and twenty National Merit Commended Students. NUI alumni are now beginning to finish college and continue to show success in gaining admissions to graduate schools or finding good jobs.

Noor-Ul-Iman chose a slow and steady model for growth, adding just one grade level in most years, allowing for the acquisition and growth of a quality staff and the development of a strong curriculum, both academically and Islamically. In 2011, Noor-Ul-Iman achieved accreditation through the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools. Seeking accreditation from an Association of Independent Schools allowed NUI to maintain its own unique mission and culture, while showing adherence to rigorous standards and generally applicable best practices. Accreditation is an important process for every Islamic school that allows for self-analysis, documentation of policies and procedures, and directed growth. The required Action Plan allows the school to set goals and focus on continuous improvement.

Alhamdulillah, Noor-Ul-Iman students have achieved success in many areas. Student scores on standardized tests and the SAT are consistently above state and national averages. Success in local, state, and national competitions in a variety of areas shows the ability of Noor-Ul-Iman students to compete with students from other public and private schools. For example, the NUI Mock Trial team won the county championship three times, and this year won the Central New Jersey regional competition. The Noor-Ul-Iman debate team, Science Olympiad team, and National Geographic Geography Bee champion have all qualified to compete at the state level, and NUI students and teams have earned national awards in several academic competitions. The students have won a variety of art competitions including the NJ Aviation Art Contest, the National First Amendment Cartoon Contest, and the ISNA Calendar Art Competition. Twenty-nine students have finished memorizing the entire Qur’an in NUI’s accelerated Hafidh program, while carrying a full academic load and maintaining at least a B average in all subjects.

Equally important, especially in an Islamic school, is character building. Good character is now valued on a par with academic excellence by colleges and in the workplace. What better way to teach values and improve character than to base it all on an Islamic education? Noor-Ul-Iman School emphasizes community service and the students have earned awards for service including the NJ Governor’s Jefferson Award, the Boy Scout Eagle rank, the Girl Scout Gold Award, and recognition from the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. In addition to community service, NUI students participate in many interfaith activities to help prepare them for interactions with people outside of an Islamic School and to present Islam in a positive way. After graduation, NUI students have often taken on leadership roles in their MSAs in college. One alumnus, Ibraheem Catovic, was a co-founder of The Center of Islamic Life at Rutgers University. The October 4, 2012 Caltech News contained an article noting the special accomplishments of the incoming freshmen. Right next to the girl who had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, an NUI graduate, Basith Fahumy, was mentioned for having memorized the entire Qur’an in eighth grade. This is just another indication of the respect Islamic School graduates are now finding when applying to college.

I will end with the words of one of our alumni, Fatima Ahmed, who is a graduate of Barnard College, married with a young daughter, and about to start graduate school, “Despite the success of NUI alumni, there are still a lot of skeptics – how can a private Islamic school compete with much older, much larger private and public schools? The best people to direct these questions to are us, the alumni, who…have gone off to the real world with only a Noor-Ul-Iman background. …I would answer them with one sentence: I can’t wait to send my daughter to Noor-Ul-Iman. My daughter is the most important person in my life and I want only the best of the best for her, and I know for a fact that that is Noor-Ul-Iman.”

 

Janet NazifAuthor Sr. Janet Nazif is the former principal of Noor-Ul-Iman School, NJ.

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