Answered by Ustadha Umm Umar
Question: How should one handle a teenager raised in a practising environment from a young age, but now unsure as to whether he wants to remain a Muslim due to all the restrictions in Islam?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah
I pray this message reaches you in the best of health and iman.
There have been several posts about how to reach out to teenagers lately. I think we need to realize that there is no such thing as the perfect parent out there, i.e. if I do my job perfectly as a Muslim parent that will result in my child becoming a strong and pious Muslim for the rest of their life.
Wrong. Consider that iman (faith) is a gift from Allah Most High which He bestows upon His beloved servants. There are supplications such as “O Allah, Make my heart firm upon your religion.” Even in the very Fatiha we read daily, we ask for the path of those Allah has favored, not the path of those who earn His anger, nor of those who go astray. Reflect on what this means.
There is no one immune from losing their faith, so we need to turn to Allah Most High with humility and need, asking Him to strengthen and preserve faith in our hearts, and in the hearts of our children. Even some of the prophets were tested with regard to their children. Consider the example of Prophet Nuh (upon him be peace) when he asked his son to get on the boat and how he refused.
Also realize that once your child has reached the age of maturity, they are now accountable for themselves before Allah Most High. You have done your best in raising them, so now it is up to you to help them like a friend in staying on the right path.
A couple of tips I can recommend that I learned from my mother who went through these same struggles in raising my brothers and I:
1) Have a general set of house rules for one’s children. We were not allowed to go out with friends after school and certainly not parties. We could join after school clubs where there was a staff supervisor on hand, so we still had the opportunity to benefit from the additional clubs the school had to offer – and get in more social time with good friends.
2) Keep close tabs on your kids. I remember once asking if I could go for additional tutoring for Math (while also planning to meet up with some friends), and my mom saying something like that sounds great, that she would take me there and wait for me during my appointment. I went to that appointment with my teacher and straight home afterwards : )
3) Take your teenagers to classes or conferences with teachers that can seriously affect their hearts. Some teenagers really turn off when listening to different lecturers speak with a thick accent about things that don’t seem to make sense to them. I still remember vividly, to this day, the first time my mom took me to a Shaykh Hamza Yusuf lecture. Seeing Islam explained (I think for the first time) in a clear, logical and sophisticated manner made me realize that I did not fully understand Islam and needed to get more serious. This can help bridge the gap from learning about outward rituals of Islam to imbuing a state of having true love for Allah the Exalted and seeking His pleasure in every moment, and through one’s worship.
4) Strive to have a good relationship with your teenager. Be open to talking to them about anything troubling them without making assumptions or being judgmental. Take them on outings that you would both enjoy, even if it is just to your local coffee shop. Ask them for advice on how to handle situations you are not sure about, such as “What would you do in X scenario?” and allow them an opportunity to give *you* advice. Give your own advice sparingly, and at times when they seem open to listening.
5) Turn to Allah Most High at night, especially during the tahajjud prayer (i.e. before dawn) and beg Allah Most High to protect your children & descendants from the path of misguidance, and to guide them in ways pleasing to Him and protect them in their dealings with the dunya.
I know some of these rules seem kind of restrictive, but alhamdulillah my mom really did hold me in check at all the right times through the grace and mercy of Allah Most High. She always told me I would thank her later, and many years later that was exactly what I did.
May Allah Most High have mercy on us and help us all to guide our children onto the straight path, and may he protect them from the trials & temptations of the dunya, ameen.
Please see also:
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Umm Umar (Shireen Ahmed)
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani