Posts

25 Years’ Worth of Marriage Advice: Hina Khan-Mukhtar

In celebration of her jubilee anniversary, Hina Khan-Mukhtar shares some marriage advice gathered over the years.marriage advice

Have you ever set foot inside a couple’s home and immediately felt a sense of sakinah, or peace, wash over you? Whether it was a modestly-furnished apartment in a neighborhood where people struggle to make ends meet or a magnificent mansion in the most coveted district, these spaces radiated warmth and love and tranquility. What was their secret? How did the husband and wife together achieve this calm and quietude in a world that is too often overwhelmed with cacophony and chaos?

Over the past quarter of a century, many of my elders, teachers, relatives, friends, and community members have shared a whole range of marital advice with me. Being fortunate enough to have witnessed tawfiq, or Divine success, in a number of harmonious unions — in which many of the tips outlined here were implemented — I feel it is advantageous for us to learn from the success stories in our circles. Therefore, I am sharing the most helpful gems of wisdom in the hopes that you will find suggestions that are of benefit to you. I am not a perfect wife nor would I say I have a perfect marriage, but I do know that these suggestions have worked for me whenever I have been able to act on any of them, alhamdulillah.

Please keep in mind that this advice is for those women who are in substantially healthy marriages. The assumption is that their husbands are God-fearing, are not emotionally or physically abusive, know how to give their wives their rights, and do not have any debilitating addictions, vices, personality disorders, or mental health struggles. Although most of the following counsels are primarily for the wife in the marriage, some do apply to both partners — however, you will have to go to a male writer if you want advice solely for the husband.

Therefore, dear sisters, while reading, please resist protesting, “But what about him?” This isn’t about him — this is about you and me.

Make Allah Your #1 Love

A scholar once encouraged us to look at our order of priorities in life as a pyramid with Allah, great and glorified is He, at the top. It is from the understanding of having a hierarchy — of Allah first; then husband; then children and parents and teachers; then closest friends and extended family; then greater community — that the barakah, or blessing, comes into the home and flows out to every family member. Many people mix up the order and then don’t understand why there isn’t peace in the home and why the children are rebellious. Look at your circles of concern, and then make sure that an awareness of Allah, great and glorified is He, is at the top of the pyramid which then runs as a core through all of the other layers.

Pray together and pray for one another. Supplicate every step of the way. Rely on salaat-ul-istikhara, or the prayer of guidance, for all major family decisions. Pray for your union to bring healthy and righteous children into the world who will grow up to be beloved to Allah, great and glorified is He. One scholar lightheartedly but sincerely advised us to “pray that your partner is someone who drags you to Jannah (Paradise).”

Make your marriage a means of drawing closer to Allah, of pleasing Him. Look at it as an act of worship. Have big intentions. Don’t keep score of how much you’re doing for your husband versus how much he’s doing for you; instead, make your intention solely for Allah, great and glorified is He. Seek His approval and pleasure — and His alone.

Work on Increasing Your Love and Affection

Follow the example of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace; there was a reason he encouraged spouses to hold hands and to feed one another from the same plate. Just like any other blessing, marriage can eventually start to feel “old” and “stale” and “taken-for-granted,” but these types of intimate gestures help to re-invigorate the marriage.

Take note of the five “languages of love” — providing service; giving time; giving verbal praise/affirmation; giving physical affection; giving gifts — and see which one your spouse utilizes on you the most. If you have a different language of love, he may not notice it unless you reciprocate from time to time with the same language that he is using. Learn his love language and then use it in order to be “heard.”

Flirt.

But please don’t be overly demonstrative in public. That just makes everyone else extremely uncomfortable. As a couple, preserve your dignity and self-respect.

Establish a routine or a tradition that no one else is allowed to get in the way of — not work, not parents, not children. For some couples, it will be Sunday morning brunch together; for others, it will be after-dinner tea; yet others may choose to go for an evening walk or to read aloud to one another in bed. There are many who have established a designated “Date Night” in their weekly schedule. Have something special just for you two and then jealously guard it; it should be something that you both will miss if it ever got taken away.

Hold onto your passions and interests. You may not be into each other’s “pet projects,” but be each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Ask sincere questions about whatever hobby the other is into.

Khidma, or service, wins hearts. Filling his gas tank that you realize is almost on empty, helping him complete the dreaded tax forms, sewing on his button that you noticed came loose are all signs that you care about him and are looking out for him. For some spouses, actions speak much louder than words. There should be a difference between you being present in his life and you being absent.

Go to bed at the same time.

Among the most important duties of husbands and wives in the Islamic context is the fulfillment of one another’s sexual needs. This is not something to take lightly. Spouses who insist on rejecting their partner’s advances cannot be surprised to witness their relationship disintegrate. There are situations when a husband is forbidden to approach his wife for intercourse (i.e. during her menstrual cycle, during her postpartum bleeding, and during fasts in Ramadan), but outside of these cases, it is imperative for both spouses to do their utmost to make sure they are partners in every way — not least of which, physically.

Always pray that Allah, great and glorified is He, maintains the love in your heart for your spouse and that He preserves the love in your partner’s heart for you. Allah is the One Who puts love in our hearts for one another, and He is the One Who can take that same love out in any split second. If you stop to think about it, it is a sheer wonder that out of the billions of people in the world, there is one person who has that special love in his heart for you — that is nothing short of a miracle in and of itself. Thank Him for that blessing.

Your Grandmothers Were Right — All Men Want Respect

The wife might be the one to instigate most major changes in life; she might be the one who brings home the thicker paycheck; however, the husband should be given the respect of having the clear role of being the Emir, or leader, of the family. He should be honored by the wife and the children as the guardian of the household, and he in turn should recognize that Allah is the Guardian of his and his wife’s household. Of course, acknowledging your husband as the Emir doesn’t mean that you aren’t very vocal in sharing your own opinions. As one grandmother joked, “The husband is the head of the family, but the wife is the neck that turns the head!”

Don’t contradict or correct him in public. Give him the dignity he deserves. (As my own husband had to once firmly remind me, “I’m not the one being homeschooled.” Eek! Duly noted.)

Don’t ever demean your husband to your children. If you don’t honor their father, they won’t either. And, remember, it’s still gheeba, or backbiting, to talk about your spouse in a way that he wouldn’t like, even if it’s only with the people who will always love him. Don’t let your guard down when it comes to his rights.

If he ever buys you a gift that you don’t love, love it anyway. See the heart of the gift-giver behind the gift. There are always gentle and cheerful ways of honestly communicating your preferences at a later time.

Regardless of whether you had a social media presence before marriage or not, once you’re his wife, be aware of his views on how much you post about yourself and your life with him. Respect his limits.

Put your cell phone, your book, and — yes — even your prayer beads away when he’s trying to talk to you about his day. Give him your undivided attention, and teach your children (who are old enough to understand) that they are not to interrupt their parents’ time together.

A sense of humor — that isn’t cruel or mocking — is one of the most attractive qualities in a man. I still shake my head and chuckle at hubby’s corny joke that he’s been lovingly teasing me with for the past 25 years: “On August 14, Pakistan gained its independence…and I lost mine!”

Laugh with him but never at him.

Make Your Home a Haven, Make Yourself His Houri

I realize that many women today are uncomfortable with the word “houri,” but houris are real creations of Allah, great and glorified is He, who are described in The Holy Qur’an as “companions in Paradise.” I believe it’s time that we reclaim this word and own it for what it is. There is no reason why our homes can’t be little pieces of Paradise, insha’Allah, and no reason why we can’t be heavenly companions for our husbands within our own homes!

When you see your beloved for the first time after he returns home, make sure to greet him and kiss him and hug him. Practicing Muslim men who have taqwa, or God-consciousness, will avoid all physical contact with women who are not their blood relatives, and many of them are surrounded at work by women who make an effort to look attractive. You are the reward your husband gets at the end of a long, dry day. Be soft and affectionate and fragrant.

When you know life has been stressful and busy, wait until he’s he’s had a chance to relax before asking him to do anything or before breaking any bad news to him.

Everything about you — from your clothes, to your hair, to your skin, to your breath — should smell clean and fresh…for yourself, yes, but especially so for your husband!

Be kind and welcoming to one another’s friends. (But don’t ever be in solitude with the opposite gender — and that includes not being alone with another man on social media either.)

Cook together. And even if you don’t consider yourself to be a talented cook, at least make a sincere effort to learn how to make some of his favorite dishes.

Take care of yourself physically — exercise, eat well, and have a self-care regimen. So many of us make such an effort for strangers, but it is our spouses who deserve our best selves. Think of marriage as one long dating experience where both partners are still intent on presenting their best selves — becoming their best selves — for each other. I still have childhood memories of my mom brushing her hair and putting on lipstick and perfume before my dad came home from work.

Make your home an oasis of calm in this stormy world, a place of refuge to which he can escape — a world that smells nice, is clean and organized, has a well-stocked fridge, and where the members of the household speak in respectful and loving tones with one another.

Conflict is Inevitable — Learn How to Manage It in a Healthy Manner

The first two years of marriage often end up being the most exciting as well as being the most challenging. Even if you were to go on a fun all-girls’ adventure trip, you would find yourself getting rubbed the wrong way by your closest friends at some point or another. In the first couple of years of marriage, you’re learning how to live with another nafs, or ego, while he’s having to do the same. But what it comes down to is that marriage isn’t so much about struggling with another’s nafs as it is about struggling with your own. Expect to be challenged. Intend to grow.

It’s perfectly okay to have different personalities and different interests. After all, variety is the spice of life! What you want to make sure, however, is that you both have the same goals for your marriage and for your future family and that you’re both on the same page about how to achieve those goals, insha’Allah.

One cousin of mine caused quite a bit of consternation amongst our elders. “I don’t believe in the word ‘compromise’ when it comes to marriage,” he proclaimed. “What are you saying?! Marriage is compromise!” my mother scolded him. But then he explained: “If you think of everything as a ‘compromise,’ you will keep score and you will eventually become bitter. Once you decide to do something, try to embrace it fully and believe in it. Don’t think of it as a ‘compromise’ any more.”

Self-reflect, and don’t be too proud to apologize. The relief on his face and the peace in the home that comes after suffering the sting of stepping on your own ego in order to say “I’m sorry; I was wrong” is so so so worth it.

It is a given that all of us will get angry at some point or another, but it is when tempers are flared that people’s true natures are revealed. Be mindful of whom you always want to be. Try — even if it’s a struggle — to maintain your adab, or manners/etiquettes, when you’re upset. Being angry is never an excuse to break or throw things, scream, curse, use foul language, slam doors, pull hair, scratch, spit, raise an arm, or throw punches. Don’t casually toss around the D-word (divorce!) every time you feel overwhelmed. In regards to our interpersonal conduct when we feel frustrated, it is important to always remember: Allah, great and glorified is He, is watching.

When your spouse is angry or visibly agitated, stay quiet in the heat of the moment. You can always make your point at a later time.

When addressing your disagreements, avoid using absolutes like “always” and “never.” It’s not fair to forget the positives in your husband by saying: “You always do this bad thing” or “You never do that good thing.” It is rare that issues are black and white; most of the time, there will always be shades of gray. We shouldn’t be so quick to condemn one another.

Don’t expect him to be a mind-reader. If something is bothering you, discuss it with him. Set yourself up for success by beginning your conversation with an “I” statement instead of a “You” statement. For example, avoid saying, “You left your clothes all over the bedroom again! That was so thoughtless of you!” Instead, try saying, “I feel frustrated when I find clothes all over the bedroom at the end of a long day.” Try to avoid getting personal, and don’t assume that he knows exactly how his actions are affecting you. Give him the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t go to sleep angry (stay up and fight instead — just kidding!). Contrary to the age-old advice to resolve all conflicts before going to bed, sometimes it actually helps to sleep on a problem. But first you have to calm yourself down by reminding yourself to have tawakkul, or trust, in Allah. Once you’ve had a full night’s rest, you can tackle your problems with a fresh attitude the next day. Make sure to avoid sleeping in separate beds; you’ll be surprised how many problems can eventually get solved just by snuggling together under the covers. It is Shaytan who wants to separate you two.

Avoid arguing in front of your children, but if they ever do witness a loud disagreement between you and your spouse, make sure to make up in front of them as well. Show them that marital conflict is not the end of the world and that there are healthy ways to resolve issues. Let them witness you apologizing and hugging it out.

Holding grudges breeds toxicity and dysfunction. Once issues are resolved, don’t keep bringing up past mistakes. Learn to forgive. And then forgive every day.

Have a sense of humor about each other’s annoying flaws and foibles. Case in point: I am frequently misplacing my eyeglasses and losing my wallet. It is such a bad habit of mine that even I have gotten to the point that I have difficulty forgiving myself. Alhamdulillah for a patient husband who manages to laugh it off, no matter how many times he ends up being inconvenienced (which is unfortunately a little too often). As long as they’re not extremely serious issues, try to act like you don’t even see each other’s faults.

Go with the flow.

Four other words: JUST LET IT GO.

Be a Uniter and Not a Divider

When you get to know your in-laws, you will see that not every family does everything the way your family does. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take the good you see in your new family and adopt it. Ignore the “bad.” Do resolve with your husband, however, not to allow either of your families’ poor habits and poor choices to continue in the next generation that you two are raising together.

Don’t complain about or criticize your spouse to your own family. You’ll eventually get over whatever issue was bothering you, but it will be difficult for them to forgive and forget so easily. You want them to respect your husband. Be a veil for him. (Physical abuse, however, is a non-negotiable deal-breaker — God forbid, if that line is ever crossed, sound the alarm and get help immediately!)

If you want him to respect your family, you will have to show respect for them first. He will follow your lead. If he sees that your family is always causing you to feel annoyed, he will eventually start to resent them for bringing stress into his own household. Protect and nurture that special yet fragile relationship between him and his in-laws.

Even if it doesn’t seem to be a priority for him, take the time to buy his parents and siblings thoughtful presents — just because. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Give gifts to each other and you will love one another.” So go ahead and “buy” their love — it’s sunnah after all!

If your husband is ever upset with his own parents or siblings or extended family, don’t jump in and encourage him in his negative opinions. Defend them and make excuses for them and encourage him to see the good in them. Be their advocate. If you have nothing nice to say, stay silent. He may not admit it then, but he will be grateful for your attitude and thank you — even if only in his heart — later. The truth is: no one wants to hear anyone else bad-mouthing his family. Remember when we talked about service being one of the “five languages of love?” Well, here is an opportunity for one of the highest forms of service. Be someone who helps mend hearts and helps bring relations together; don’t be a cause for discord in the family.

Don’t Try to Keep Up with the Junaids

Avoid debt like the plague. A large, fancy, expensive house may do nothing toward making you happy. However, a small, clean, cozy, simple, peaceful home in a safe neighborhood filled with people who are hopefully trying to please Allah can very well feel like a palace in Heaven, insha’Allah.

Responsibly managing the family budget will avoid a lot of stress in your marriage. Paying riba, or usury, brings about all kinds of problems in one’s life and destroys the barakah, or blessing, in the home. Don’t ever pay interest, even if it means you never get to own your own home or car in this life. Keep your “akhirah (hereafter) glasses” on.

Make do with what you have, and only complain to Allah for your wants and needs. Make your husband feel like a hero. Having said that, don’t hesitate to schedule time to have honest conversations with your husband about anything that needs to be improved — the key is not to become an irritating nag who is constantly whining and complaining and issuing orders. Talk to your spouse when he is in the headspace to listen.

Be grateful. Be grateful. Be grateful. Allah, great and glorified is He, says in The Holy Qur’an: “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you.” And Allah always keeps His promises.

Remember: you will never have it all (not in this life at least).

Don’t compare your life to others’.

At the same time, you might not want to brag to the world about how happy you are. ’Ayn (the evil eye) and hasad (malicious jealousy) are two realities that Allah in His Wisdom has allowed to exist in the world. Protect your marriage from them. Besides, who would ever want to be the cause of any pain or sadness for those who are struggling with their own love lives?

There will be “little things” that will irritate you about him, and sometimes those causes for irritation might start to feel like “big things” (even when they are not). At those times, remind yourself that perfection is only for Allah, try to think about what life would be like without him, and be grateful for a spouse who is choosing to somehow still accept you despite your shortcomings. (And if someone else’s husband seems perfect to you, remember that everyone has flaws, and good wives hide their husbands’ shortcomings, so you are probably not getting the full picture — nor should you expect to.)

Instead of chasing “happiness,” try aiming for “contentment” instead.

Don’t take one another for granted. Your spouse is a duniyawi, or worldly, blessing that can be taken away at any moment. And, believe it or not, somewhere out there is someone who would be more than happy to trade places with you. Appreciate what Allah has given you.

Have a Mentor in Marriage

Avoid getting marital advice from people whom you know are having their own relationship problems. Similarly, stay away from getting advice from newbies who are still learning the ropes themselves. Look to someone who has a long-term, successful marriage of his or her own to find out how to make it work. Try to find one wise, discreet person to consult; don’t tell everyone your “problems.”

If someone you respect says you need therapy, you probably do. Don’t be ashamed to do whatever it takes to save your marriage. Give it your all.

If you do pay for marital therapy, only seek out trained professionals who understand and respect the parameters and priorities of your religion. You’ll be surprised at how often well-meaning (but spiritually clueless) therapists will prescribe the haram, or Divinely prohibited, as medicine for a troubled marriage.

Set Yourself Up to Soar Spiritually


He may be your best friend, or maybe he’s not. Either way, don’t neglect your girlfriends. Take time to nurture those bonds that help you be a better person. There will come a day when you will need the support of your sisters. Don’t let falling in love make you fall out of friendship with your “tribe.” Consider connection with your soul sisters as part of your self-care, but remember that your husband and his needs always take precedence. If, after being married, people routinely mistake you for being “single,” you’re definitely doing something wrong.

Attend religious classes together, either in person or online. The point is to keep growing together spiritually. You may not grow at the same pace (and that’s okay — you’re two separate souls after all!), but at least you’ll respect the same teachers and will understand each other’s motivations and end goals.

Instead of listening to those who advise “Don’t let marriage change you,” amend their words to “Marriage should only change you for the better.”

Take an occasional break and travel — even if you can only afford to do so locally.

But make Allah, great and glorified is He, be your ultimate destination.


Hina Khan-Mukhtar is a mother of three young men and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in the San Francisco Bay Area which now serves over 35 homeschooling families. In addition to having taught Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she is also involved in interfaith dialogue. Hina was a monthly contributor to The Muslim Observer’s “Raising Our Ummah” column and also writes for Seeker’s Guidance where she shares parenting advice and ideas for nurturing spiritual traditions in childhood.


“He Brought Us Back To Life” – A Tribute To The Late Dr Ahmad Sakr

Ahmed-Sakr-SpeakingBack in the late 1990’s, I gave up a $20 bill to buy a video cassette that featured a keynote speech by a world-famous Muslim scholar whom I had recently started admiring and subsequently learning from. After his talk was over, I was pleasantly surprised to see the familiar figure of Dr. Ahmad Sakr coming up to the mic, so I continued watching my TV screen. As he began sharing his humorous advice for successful marriages, I sat transfixed, hanging on every word and even grabbing a pen and paper to take notes. I later told my brother, “I bought the videotape because of Shaykh So-and-So, but — you know what? — Dr. Sakr was in it too and he was absolutely amazing! He totally stole the show!”

“Don’t you remember what he did for Muslims in Southern California in the 1980’s?” my brother asked matter-of-factly. “He brought us back to life.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Before Dr. Sakr arrived on the scene, I was a typical teenager — like countless others — who had no focus in her day-to-day existence other than pop culture, fashion, and personal amusement. The few times I went to the local mosque, I felt untethered, continuing to drift away from religion and spirituality like flotsam on the open sea.

Then Dr. Sakr threw us our life-lines and reeled us back in.

This week I was visiting my parents and siblings in Southern California when my mother asked me if I wanted to go visit Dr. Sakr who has been suffering from Parkinson’s for some years now. My response was: “Of course! When?” Our plan was to see him the next day, but on Monday evening my sister solemnly read aloud a text announcing his passing. A collective gasp reverberated around the living room.

It was as if we had felt our lifeboat shake.

Ahmed-Sakr-2A Pioneer

When you read Dr. Sakr’s biography, you learn that he was one of the pioneers of Islamic work in North America, instrumental in establishing many national organizations and institutions including the MSA (Muslim Students Association) and ISNA (Islamic Society of North America). He was the first representative and director of the Muslim World League to the United Nations. He was selected as an Outstanding Educator of America. He wrote over 50 books and sat on countless boards and taught in several universities. He won many accolades and titles in his lifetime.

But none of that felt relevant to us restless teenagers living in 1980’s California.

With smiles, jokes and kindness

So how DID this Lebanese-American father of four who was already in his 50’s manage to win the hearts and minds of all-American kids living in the suburbs of Los Angeles?

By smiling at them. By cracking jokes with them. By speaking kindly to them. By remembering their names. And perhaps most importantly of all (every adult needs to take note) — by never ever judging them.

My observations are backed up by Shibli Zaman who wrote this personal testimonial on Facebook:

“I owe Dr. Ahmad Sakr. I remember when I was an angst-ridden headbanger in my early teens with long hair, wearing Iron Maiden attire emblazoned with zombies before zombies were cool, I would get a lot of head-shaking and condemnation from my parents’ generation in the Muslim community. I was a rebel, so — to be honest with you — I looked forward to my local Muslim community’s mini-conferences so that I could rub their noses in my non-conformity.

“When I first met him, I was particularly surprised by his LACK of surprise at me. I had grown accustomed to raised eyebrows when I would meet more religious-oriented elders in my community, and it somewhat entertained me. But from him all I received was a firm handshake accompanied with a hand on the shoulder and an unusual look straight into the eyes. From that day forth, he always stepped aside to see what was going on in my life. He would always ask me, ‘So when is your Islamic heavy metal album being released?’ I had absolutely no intention of doing ‘Islamic heavy metal’, but it was his way of saying that he wouldn’t judge me; however, he wanted me to focus my efforts — whatever they were — for the cause of Islam in America. He would affectionately refer to me as ‘Shibli Nu’mani’, invoking the name of a legendary Islamic scholar of the Prophet’s biography with whom I share my first name. He had a way of bringing me back to my roots and traditions without me feeling judged. It worked.

“From accounts I have heard from countless American-Muslims over the years, this was his way. We can never repay him for his service to shaping the Muslim community in America as a demographic that is largely made up of professionals and — dare I say (in a good way, of course) — over-achievers. His message of ‘whatever it is you do, make sure you are the best at it; don’t forget who you are and give back to your community’ was heard. Rest in peace, my dear ‘Ammu (uncle). Paradise is yours, insha’Allah (God willing).”

For the purpose of this article, I reached out to friends and family, asking them to share their thoughts and memories about Dr. Sakr with me, and the commendations have been pouring in non-stop.

“He was a great American”

A mother of two, Nasha Khan, emailed me this today: “When I first began researching Islam as a 15-year-old, desperate to make sense of my world and my difficult life experiences, I began reading the Qur’an and a lot of books on Islam. Among the first books I picked up were Dr. Sakr’s Death & Dying and Life, Death and Life After. I remember poring over them in the dark quiet of the late nights when my parents thought I was sleeping. And for the first time, I felt the reality of death and the akhirah (hereafter). The fear it instilled in me spurred me to reflect on the way I lived and dealt with challenges at a young age. I can easily say his were the first books that propelled me towards the quest for Truth.”

I asked my brother to tell me something to share with the world about Dr. Sakr. He said, “He wasn’t just a great Muslim. He was a great American. He was never angry or hopeless or depressed or fiery in his sermons. He was always gentle and funny and positive and cheerful. No matter what the circumstances, he always made you feel that there was hope. That is not a small thing. That is HUGE.”

One of my brother’s friends told me, “I never heard him raise his voice. Not once. Not in any of his khutbahs (sermons) nor in any of his personal conversations. When I sought advice from him for my marriage problems, he always spoke in a calm, respectful manner and never made either of us feel uncomfortable. He was a pillar in our community and he will be missed.”

Never Made Us Feel Guilty or Ashamed

My mother reflected while talking to my father and me tonight, “You know, in all the years he taught us, he never lectured us about hijab (the headscarf). His wife covered according to shariah (sacred law) and so did his daughters and granddaughters. But he never made any of us ladies feel guilty or ashamed about not wearing hijab. He just led by example and eventually many of his students just started getting it, alhamdulillah (praise be to God). He let everyone grow at their own pace.”

Talking about not letting people feel shamed or judged, there is one particular incident that stands out in my mind. When I was a student at Cal Poly Pomona University, our MSA invited Dr. Sakr to come give a talk about Islam that was open to the public. As he was up on stage speaking about the similarities between Islam and Christianity, a man stood up in the audience, clutching a Bible, and began yelling at him about how “this man (Dr. Sakr) was preaching a false religion brought by a false prophet who produced a false book and how Jesus Christ was the only way to salvation”.

Dr. Sakr stood there smiling quietly the whole time while this man went on and on, berating him and the rest of us. At the end of his tirade, we all looked to our scholar to put him in his place. Dr. Sakr simply said, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts, my brother. May God bless you.” And then he continued with his speech.

I remember thinking at the time (as a fiery, passionate college student who wanted to change the world) that his response was too gentle and may have come across as “weak”, but now — as an adult — I realize that he was actually the embodiment of the sunnah.

When I last visited Dr. Sakr, he was immobilized by pain and lying flat on his back in bed. After hearing (not from him) about his various ailments and the negative effects of the different medications and the varying degrees of pain and the debilitating progress of the disease, I turned to him where he lay listening and asked with a smile, “But you are content with Allah?”

I already knew his answer. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “Prophet Ayub (Job) dealt with so much worse. All of the prophets were tried with so many tests and tribulations. This is nothing. I just have to be patient.”

It never fails to amaze me how the sign of a true teacher is one who continues to guide you during good times and bad, simply by his example.

When he attended his 19-year-old grandson’s funeral in his wheelchair six months ago, my brother approached him to kiss his hand, not expecting him to either recognize or remember him in the midst of the crowds. But Dr. Sakr squeezed his hand and said quietly in his familiar, elegant accent, “Doctorrrr….inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’oon (we surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return).” He was always a paragon of sweet patience in the presence of immeasurable pain. (He was buried today only a couple of graves away from his eldest grandson.)

Loved by teenagers

My 15-year-old niece texted me this evening: “To all of us kids from Institute of Knowledge, Dr. Sakr felt like a grandfather. When our school was in his building, he used to come down after Dhuhr (afternoon) prayer and give us advice about everything; and it was advice many of us still remember very well. He would stress all the sunnahs, especially fasting. If we liked one of his books, he would gift it to us. He was really kind and loving. We all loved him very much.”

Upon reading his daughter’s words, my brother said, “What I find so remarkable about this man is the tawfiq (success) he had from Allah. If you think about it, he taught three generations of our family: our parents, us, and our children.”

“My teacher…my teacher…my teacher”

Ahmed-Sakr-funeralWhen I was at the beautiful Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley this afternoon for Dr. Sakr’s janazah (funeral) prayer, I was fascinated by the throngs of people who had shown up to pay their last respects. There were men and women from all strains of Islam — Arabs and South Asians and East Asians and African-Americans and Sunnis and Shias and Deobandis and converts from North and South America. As I walked through the clusters of people in the large hall, I overheard snippets of conversations, many accompanied by tears: “He was my first teacher…” and “I have lost my beloved teacher…” and “I will never have another teacher like him…”

“Did you notice?” my girlfriend asked me. “Everywhere you hear: ‘my teacher…my teacher…my teacher.’ THAT was his gift. He made everyone feel like they were his most special student and he was their only teacher.”

As we were stepping out of the main doors, my father stopped to talk to one of the uncles who is intimately involved with the running of the mega-mosque. Apparently, for years, the Islamic Center has been unsuccessfully trying to get its permits approved so that the mortuary could finally be functional. With a sense of reverent awe, this uncle informed my father that the final official approval came in just last week, and Dr. Sakr was the first community member whose body was bathed and prepared for burial and stored in the very center where he had been the imam so many years earlier. Today, Dr. Sakr inaugurated the mortuary which will be serving the community for as long as the center stands, insha’Allah.

Words do not suffice

After hearing this news, my parents and I climbed into the car that was waiting to take us to the cemetery. Once there, I was carried along by the crowds and suddenly found myself standing near the head of Dr. Sakr’s grave, watching people eagerly stepping forward to fulfill his last rites. I blinked back tears as I watched my middle son Ameen, surrounded by his shuyukh (teachers), carefully lifting up three handfuls of dirt with his right hand to gently drop onto Dr. Sakr’s casket. When he turned his head and our eyes connected for the first time, I had a difficult time getting out the simple words: “He was my teacher.” I wanted to somehow convey to my son the affection and appreciation I felt for this man who had made me first fall in love with my religion all those years ago because I knew Ameen of all people would understand, given how much he adored his own teachers. But I couldn’t say anything and he just silently hugged me, patting me on my back in a sincere attempt to comfort me.

Later that evening at home, my brother told my parents and me, “If I die before you all, please bury me somewhere near Dr. Sakr. I have no doubt that he’s a wali (friend of Allah), insha’Allah.”

At one point, my eldest son Shaan mused, “So even my being president of the MSA at my high school is thanks to him, isn’t it? If he had never helped establish MSA’s in America in the 1960’s, who knows if we would ever have had them by the time my generation came along?”

Before he went to bed, my mother handed Shaan a copy of Dr. Sakr’s book Khutab from Mihrab (Sermons from the Pulpit), a collection of his Friday sermons which my brother had said helped him and his friends conduct Friday prayers in the Caribbean back when they were in med school there in the 1990’s. “Maybe this can help you with your Friday MSA meetings from now on,” my mom told him, and Shaan nodded his head thoughtfully. As I saw the book exchange hands, I couldn’t help reflecting how the knowledge was being passed on from one generation to the next, but the teacher was no longer here.

Such is the nature of life.

Ever since hearing about Dr. Sakr’s passing, all of the lessons he ever taught us have been swirling around in my brain. The first time I ever performed (or even learned about) Salat-ul-Tasbeeh was behind him. The first time I felt the sweetness of staying up and worshipping with the community on Laylat-ul-Qadr (Night of Power) was with him. The first time I realized the power of prostration or the fact that the tashahhud (testimony of faith) in prayer was a personal conversation with God was thanks to him. He taught us to prepare for the afterlife and now he’s gone on to experience it before us. How does one thank a teacher for all that he’s done for him/her? How does one even find words that are sufficient enough?

Dr. Sakr’s son-in-law shared with us some details of his final moments. He told us that Dr. Sakr had completed the Isha (late night) prayer and had asked his wife to let him hear the renowned Shaykh Muhammad Jibril’s lyrical recitation of Surah Kahf which he always enjoyed so much. She told her husband that her iPhone was low on battery, so she would go charge it. When she returned, he had passed.

He died as he lived…teaching us all the way

I end this piece with a hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad) for everyone to reflect on and a plea for everyone to repeat.

The hadith was reported by Abu Huraira (may God be well-pleased with him): The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When Allah loves a servant, He calls Jibreel (Gabriel) and says: ‘Verily, I love this person, so you should love him.’ Then Jibreel loves him and makes an announcement in the heavens, saying: ‘Allah loves this person and you should love him.’ Thus, the dwellers of the heavens love him and he is honored in the earth.”

And the plea is the same one I heard Dr. Sakr’s devoted wife softly murmuring as she followed his funeral cortege to the gravesite today: “Allah, have mercy on Ahmad.” Aameen.

By Hina Khan-Mukhtar

Hina Khan-Mukhtar is a mother of three boys and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in Lafayette, California, which now serves over 30 homeschooling families in the East Bay. In addition to teaching Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she has written articles on parenting and spiritual traditions for children and is involved in interfaith dialogue.

Helping our children find the light in dark times, by Hina Khan-Mukhtar

“You should probably think about what you’re gonna say to kids when you go back to school on Monday,” I told my son Shaan this weekend.

He raised his eyebrows quizzically.

“About Paris … and Muslims.”

He suddenly looked irritated. “I’ve done the drill before. Every year of my high school life, I’ve had to deal with what to say and how to react. In freshman year, it was the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. The next year, it was the Boston marathon bombing. Last year, it was Charlie Hebdo. Now I’m a senior and its 127 dead in Paris. I’m a pro at this now.”

He walked away, a signal that he didn’t want me to continue with further advice or suggestions. But before I could say anything more, he turned back to me and I saw the anger on his face replaced instead with sorrow. “Isn’t that sad, Mama? Isn’t it sad that I’ve become a pro?”

I was surprised by the tears that suddenly sprang to my eyes. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry that this is your reality.”

“You know what’s really frustrating?” he asked. “Last week we had the highest number of students ever show up to our Muslim Students Association meeting. I bet you the numbers are gonna drop now.”

“Why would they drop?” I asked. “I would think that in these types of dark times, kids would find it helpful to seek solace and comfort within a larger group. Wouldn’t they want to come to the MSA where they could maybe find guidance and support from one another?”

He shook his head. “It’s easier just to stay away, to not be known as a Muslim anymore.”

I was still mulling over his words when my youngest son piped up. “How can these terrorists be Muslim? They attacked on a Friday which is supposed to be like a mini-Eid for us; it’s a holy day. And ISIS people carry a flag that has the seal of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on it. Those aren’t bad things; those are good things! How can they turn everything that’s beautiful into something that’s so ugly? They just can’t be Muslim!”

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa“It doesn’t matter if they’re actually Muslim or not,” I heard myself telling my sons for the umpteenth time. “What matters is what people’s perception of them is. That’s our reality. If the majority of the world says and thinks Muslims are doing these horrific acts, then that’s the reality we have to deal with. That’s what we have to address.”

I felt gratified to know that my boys have a hard time believing that Muslims would be the ones who would be barbaric enough to commit the heinous crimes of Friday the 13th. Whereas someone else may accuse them of just being in denial, I actually realize how so far removed from evil they are that they aren’t even able to recognize it within anyone who claims to be a co-practitioner of their faith. They simply can’t relate.

I gathered them close to me. And, as I did so, I found myself wishing once again that I could create a special protective bubble within which to encase my family. I’ve always wanted only to get through life with them in safety — not only safety of body and limb but safety of heart and soul. I want them all to be safe in their deen (religion) and to never waver in their faith, insha-Allah (God willing). It feels like we Muslims are under attack from every side these days. Please know that not for one moment do I compare myself to the refugees fleeing war-stricken lands; my loved ones and I are not tested in the least when it comes to what the Syrians and the Palestinians and the Afghans and the Iraqis and the Rohingyans and the Kenyans are suffering these days. Yet I still worry what effect today’s state of affairs will have on the hearts and minds of my charges.

So my response has been to hunker down. To create an oasis in the middle of the desert. To lead them to the center of the vortex and let the storm rage around us. The way I try to do this is by minimizing our exposure to news media and teaching them about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instead. I show them examples of his magnanimity and his kindness and his generosity on a daily basis, and then I remind them to emulate him. My husband and I try to maintain a peaceful, loving, welcoming atmosphere in our home where prayers are prayed in congregation and the Holy Quran is recited on a regular basis and friends enter open doors to share food and funny stories and words of wisdom. We attend dhikr (remembrance of God) gatherings where the lyrical chants of God’s name wash over us while we close our eyes and calm our spirits. We talk about Islamic history and point out examples of tests and tribulations greater than the ones in our time and then we teach them about the even greater responses of dignity and grace. We pool our resources — and encourage our friends and relatives to do the same — and then share blankets, warm clothes, and funds for food with refugees and orphans from around the world, some who are now living locally. As a family, we pray for peace and healing for all of mankind.

“This world is not meant for us to wrap our arms around,” I tell them. “It is fleeting and we are here only for a little while. Our only duties in our lifetimes are to worship our Lord and to serve our fellow mankind. We serve by spreading peace and light and knowledge; we serve by leaving the world a better place than we found it, even if it only means that we’re picking up the litter we happen to find in the street or we’re giving a smile to someone who looks sad and lonely.”

No matter what the headlines and the political pundits may be screaming, my top priority in my childrearing is to prove to my kids that “Islam works”. If they can grow up seeing that Islam worked in their homes, then the deviant aberrations they hear about in the world will be recognized by them for what they are — complete impostors perverting the pure message of a religion that provides so much peace and guidance and benefit to its followers. And the next time an ignorant person tells them, “You Muslims are terrorists!”, they can honestly respond with, “Come meet my family and find out the truth.”

 

The author, Hina Khan-Mukhtar, is a mother of three boys and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in Lafayette, California, which now serves over 30 homeschooling families in the East Bay. In addition to teaching Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she has written articles on parenting and spiritual traditions for children and is involved in interfaith dialogue.

Republished with special thanks to The Muslim Observer.

 

Resources for Seekers:

Help Your Kids Confront ‘The-P-Word’: Pornography, by Hina Khan-Mukhtar

Photo credit: kolessl“Hina?” The voice on the other end of the line was ragged; it was obvious the caller had been crying.

I felt panic rise in my chest. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

Pause. Deep breath. And then: “It came into my house last night.”

And there it was. Without any need for elaboration, without any more details, I knew exactly what “It” was referring to.

Pornography.

If I use the word “epidemic” to describe what is happening with pornography and our children, I do not think I would be overstating the matter. It is no longer a matter of “if” but a matter of “when”…at some point or the other, we will all be confronted with this cancer that is currently spreading its tentacles into every home in the world. Therefore, it behooves us to be prepared and to have our preventions and our treatments in place, insha’Allah (God willing).

According to the latest statistics on familysafemedia.com:

  • 4.2 million pornographic websites exist today
  • 42.7% of internet users view porn
  • 34% of internet users receive unwanted exposure to sexual material
  • 72 million worldwide viewers visit pornographic websites on a monthly basis 

The facts that all parents need to know:

  • the average age of first internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old
  • 80% of 15- to 17-year-olds are having multiple hard-core porn exposures
  • 90% of 8- to 16-year-olds have viewed porn online (most while doing homework)
  • 26 children’s character names are linked to thousands of porn links (including Pokemon and Action Man)

It is my hope that parents will use this article as a family read-aloud, a springboard from which to jumpstart a more in-depth conversation about a crisis that is affecting so many youngsters and adults alike.

1.) Treat the internet like a loaded weapon in the house.

How does one treat a loaded weapon? First, you make sure that children know that’s it there and you warn them of its inherent dangers. You teach them that they are never to touch it unless you are there to supervise them. You never ever leave kids alone with it. You don’t let them have easy access to it. You keep it under lock and key. All of these exact same rules apply to the internet as well.

We have two sons in high school and one son beginning middle school, alhamdulillah (praise be to God). The older two have flip phones for calling and texting — no smart phones with internet access. None of them are allowed to use the internet in the privacy of their bedrooms. All web searches are conducted in a public space in our home where anyone passing by can see what they’re looking at. Whenever there is silence for an extraordinarily long amount of time, either their father or I will glance over their shoulders to see what’s going on or we will simply point-blank ask them what exactly they’re doing. We know the passwords to their email accounts. These understandings have been in place since Day One, so our attitude doesn’t come across as one of mistrust; it is simply the way things are done in our home if one is a minor who wants the privilege of using the internet.

I know of other parents who require that their children “check in” their smart phones with them at night. The phones are charged in the parents’ bedrooms after 9 pm and no one is allowed to email or text after that time. Some parents change the wifi password daily and the kids must request the new password whenever they need to use the internet. The parents’ laptops are kept under similar stringent security controls. Some parents check in with adults — even close relatives — before letting their children go over to play or spend the night (just like they would with any loaded weapons in the house): “Will the children have access to any computers? What kind of controls do you have on the kids’ internet usage?”

This first point I’ve mentioned is all about prevention, about trying to establish a healthy rhythm and routine around the internet before ever even letting your kids get on the information highway. The rest of the points in this article are all about preparation.

2.) If your kids are using the internet at all, you should have talked to them about pornography yesterday.

Muslims have always been known for their sense of modesty. Countless times I have witnessed parents wince and then — with bulging eyes — hold urgent “shush” fingers to their lips when they hear me start to caution about the dangers of pornography in front of their children — children who are often clutching their own computers and smart phones and iPods after having asked me for my wifi password within minutes of entering my home. Modesty is a noble trait and one that needs to be honored, but when it comes to discussing the dangers of the internet, any apprehensions about talking about what’s really happening “out there” need to be thrown out the window.

Last year, a mother who attended one of my talks at a local mosque heard me urge parents to talk to their kids about pornography as soon as possible. A few months later, she showed up at one of my parenting talks at a private Islamic school. When it was time to get feedback from the audience, she raised her hand and told the other moms and dads, “When I first heard Sister Hina say that we needed to talk to our kids about pornography, I knew I had to do it, but I didn’t know how. I was scared to death. Despite knowing that this was something I had to do, it still took me over a month to summon up the courage to actually speak with my son. When I finally did, I couldn’t believe the look of relief on his face! It turned out that he already knew about pornography and had even seen some images and didn’t know what to make of them. He had so many questions, but he didn’t know whom to ask. I’m so grateful that I finally talked to him about pornography…I only wish I had done it sooner.”

Some parents worry that talking to kids about pornography will make them curious about something they had been blissfully oblivious about and they will then want to further seek it out on their own. I recently heard of a child who looked up “pornography” on the internet after hearing the word mentioned as a social ill in a khutbah (Friday sermon). I learned of another child who went to a summer camp where another boy asked him if he knew what porn was; the Muslim boy was too embarrassed to admit that he had never heard the word before and came home and typed up “p-a-r-m” on the computer’s search engine…and guess what? Porn came up. I know of another little girl who was searching for her favorite toy (“American Girl”) as a potential Eid gift and pornographic images of the “ideal” American girl flooded her family’s computer screen instead. One little boy had to do a science report on dogs, and when he attempted to research canines, images of bestiality popped up on his mother’s laptop.

If you don’t talk to your kids about porn, I can guarantee you that someone else will. It is only a matter of time. You simply must get to them first.

There isn’t any need to go into graphic details about what makes up pornography…what’s important is that kids know WHAT it is and — perhaps even more importantly — that they know that YOU know what it is. If a child accidentally stumbles onto pornography, previously completely clueless about its existence, they may assume that — like them — their parents also must have no idea about this secret world either. Believe it or not, the children may even worry that they need to be the ones to protect the adults from it! They may also fret that parents will overreact or will mistrust them or will even accuse them of having deliberately searched out “dirty images”. But if you’ve already talked to your kids about this heinous industry and its terrible evils (and its inevitability), they will instead be able to tell you, “It happened, Mom/Dad. You had warned me that pictures of naked people would suddenly pop up on my computer one day and today it actually happened. But — don’t worry — I knew exactly what to do. I followed our drill.”

3.) Just like with any emergency, have a safety drill in place for when (not if) kids encounter pornography.

Students are taught fire drills and earthquake drills and intruder drills in school and at work. Just like those important precautions, we too need to have a safety drill in place for when we encounter pornography in our lives. Pornography can be just as destructive to one’s livelihood and happiness as any other natural or manmade disaster. Zeeshan and I have taught our sons and nieces and nephews a simple three step drill:

First, say, “Audhu billahi minashaitanir rajeem” (I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan).

Second, turn off the computer or laptop — close the cover, unplug, power down, whatever it takes to immediately remove the pornographic images from your sight.

Third, get up at once and go tell an adult.

Photo credit: bnmk0819

We have drilled these three instructions into the children over and over. We teach them that there is real power in seeking refuge in God and remind them that He hears all our prayers; there is no success without His Help. But along with praying to God for help, we need to take real, practical steps to ensuring our own success as well — and the next step after dua (prayer) is to physically turn away from that which is displeasing to God. Finally, we remind them that they need allies and mentors to help them succeed through the various challenges in life, so it is important to involve trusted adults in anything that could be harmful to our physical, emotional, and spiritual development.

Our middle son lives 400 miles away from us with my brother. I am fortunate in that my brother and I have the same rules when it comes to internet use in our homes. Despite being on the same page, however, my brother told me, “You know, Hina, I can watch over Ameen all I want. We can have all the rules and restrictions in place. But there are many times when I have to go to bed and he often still has homework that he is doing until the wee hours of the night. The truth is that at some point HE needs to be the one who is vigilant; he needs to know what to do when he encounters pornography.”

Sure enough, one night Ameen was working on an assignment when a pornographic image popped up on his screen. Thank God he remembered (and followed) the drill and promptly uttered “audhu billahi minashaitanir rajeem”, turned off the computer, and immediately went to tell his uncle what had happened. My brother told him not to touch the computer again and in the coming days got someone to clean up the virus that had infected the laptop. If we hadn’t had that drill in place, I shudder to imagine what might have happened — the confusion, the curiosity, the second glance, the clicking, and then — WHOOSH — he’s fallen down a dark, cavernous, sick hole from which he could have spent years trying to crawl out of. May Allah protect all of our children. Aameen (amen).

4.) It is important to explain pornography from a spiritual perspective as well.

A person can have instituted all the rules and limits in the world, but if kids don’t understand Whom they are ultimately trying to please, there will never be any true buy-in on their part. “Remember, we will not always be around to instruct you on what to do and what not to do; your teachers will not always be monitoring you and your actions,” we tell the kids. “But Allah IS always with you. He sees and hears all. He is the One Who never sleeps. You cannot hide from Him. And Allah especially loves the one who avoids sin in the privacy of his own home simply out of his fear of displeasing God. That’s called taqwa (God-consciousness). It’s when you’re alone that your true sincerity and belief in God is tested. Will you pass the test? Will you have taqwa?”

It’s not necessary that the “God sees you” warning will be enough of a deterrent for many teenagers, but it is still our job to make sure that our kids are taught to look beyond this realm and to ponder otherworldly consequences for their actions. We have also told our kids that “the first inadvertent glance is a freebie”; they will not be held accountable for anything they did not intentionally mean to look at, but it is the second glance when the angels do in fact start recording their actions. “Be mindful of your intentions” is the mantra we repeat.

“Anything Allah has prohibited for us has only been prohibited for our own benefit,” we also teach our sons. “There is a mercy and a protection in any instruction that tells us to stay away from something, even if we don’t understand the wisdom in the moment. Our job is just to say, ‘I hear and I obey.'”

The other point we make with our boys — and other parents make with their kids — is to admit that it is possible for some people to watch pornography once or twice or even multiple times and then decide that they are done with it and don’t ever want to return to it again. But we emphasize the highly addictive nature of pornography as well; there is a reason that the rush one gets from watching porn has been compared to the chemical high one gets from cocaine and heroin. “You have no idea what camp you fall into,” I tell our three boys. “You could be someone who sees porn once or a few times and then decides, ‘No more for me’…and then actually sticks with that decision. Or you could be someone who watches it once and — BOOM — it’s over for you. You are addicted for the rest of your life and later you cannot have a normal, healthy relationship with your wife and you need therapy forever. There’s NO WAY of knowing how you’ll react to porn when you first see it…and that is the point. That is why Allah has told us to just completely stay away from that which is haraam (prohibited). Like alcohol, don’t even taste a little bit of it just once. It’s totally off-limits now and forever. And thank God for that.”

We remind our children of the sufi teaching that there are seven inroads to the heart — the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the hands, the stomach, the genitalia, and the feet. We compare the heart to a castle that needs to be protected by a fortress wall so that no enemies can attack it from any of the seven entrances. “Only people with pure hearts will enter Jannah (Paradise),” we caution our kids. “We are all born with a tiny black speck on our hearts. Every time I allow a sin from one of those seven avenues to enter my heart, that black spot continues to grow until eventually the whole heart is rotting. The only thing that removes the (spiritual) blackness and polishes the heart is tawba (repentance) and dhikr (remembrance of God). Life is made up of constantly messing up and of constantly asking for forgiveness and then resolving to do better. You don’t want to be consumed by a disease or an addiction that takes over your life, God forbid. Watching porn is not worth the risk; the price is too high.”

I have also taught my sons and my other students that Muslims are supposed to be here to leave the world a better place. I inform them about the destructive elements behind the pornography industry — the criminal exploitation of women and children, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the harmful effects of porn on marriage, the plummeting low self-esteem of men and women who cannot ever measure up to what they’re watching on their screens. “Pornography is a dark, dark world…and Muslims are here to bring noor (light).”

5.) There is no utopia. There is no safe community. There is nowhere to escape.

Pornography is here to stay and it is up to us to figure out how to deal with it. I had a young mother recently tell me, “Thank God we live in (insert name of a Muslim country). The government there has tight controls over what is and isn’t allowed to be seen.” It broke my heart to burst her bubble, but I knew I was doing her a favor by removing her blinders. Even my children are aware of the fact that the top countries that download the most porn are ones that claim to be Islamic.

I have heard more than one parent come up with elaborate plans to escape the country, to get away to “somewhere safe” where the lifestyle is more provincial, more simple, more “disconnected”, preferably where the people are pious and the culture is conservative. Suffice it to say that I have been told first-hand about villages that don’t have electricity and running water but that still have the ability to access pornography on the few phones that manage to exist there.

After my presentation at a mosque, I was overwhelmed by the number of mothers and wives who wanted to share their own heartbreaking tales of woe. I heard about young hifz (Quran memorization) students who stumbled onto porn while reviewing Quran on their iPods, becoming hopelessly addicted over the course of years before being discovered by parents. I was told about young children who encountered porn in their trusted grandparents’ homes while looking up popular cartoon characters (a famous porn star has professionally named herself after an innocuous Disney character). My own son told me about a classmate who was openly watching porn on the computer at the local public library — other teens were laughing at him behind his back, but he was completely oblivious to them. (Ironically, the librarians were hushing the boys for being loud and even threatened to kick them out if they didn’t quiet down, but these same adults were helpless to stop anyone from watching porn on their premises due to the fact that it would be seen as “censoring public information”.)

“I did everything right,” one mom wept to me. “I kept a close eye on what they watched. I didn’t allow them to use the internet unsupervised. No one but my husband and I know the password on our wifi. I let others know what our family rules were. The ONLY thing I didn’t do was talk to my kids about it because I wanted them to hold onto their innocence a little while longer. I didn’t tell them what pornography was and how they should react if they ever come across it. So when it happened, they just didn’t have the tools to deal with it.”

There is nowhere to go, folks. There is no immunity. We have to face the monster head-on.

Photo credit: Jasmin Merdan

The first step to facing the monster is being informed; the second is being vigilant. I was really impressed recently when I met a husband and wife team, both of whom were born and raised in a small town in a third-world Muslim country. They have been living in the US for only a little over a decade, yet they are two of the most culturally aware and attentive parents I have ever met. They know all the statistics and the studies. They have tight controls on what their children are watching and when. They talk to their kids about everything without lecturing or nagging. These are parents who are not clueless in the least.

Only a week later I spent time with a young father who — along with his wife — was born and raised in America. Both of these parents work in the tech industry and have shared many articles with me on how best to raise kids in this day and age. After meeting their young daughter, however, I couldn’t help but feel an acute sense of foreboding. This sweet child took selfies constantly in my presence. She seemed unable to function without her smart phone permanently in her hand. Within minutes of entering my home, she was pestering me for my wifi code, despite my repeated attempts to rebuff her. Through talking to her, I soon found out that she had more than one social media account…unbeknownst to the adults in her life. For now, it seems that she is still innocent and unharmed, alhamdulillah, but it feels like this little girl is playing with fire…and her parents are the ones handing her the matches. The difference between both families is that one set of parents is informed and vigilant whereas the other set of parents is simply informed. It is imperative that all parents act on what they have learned.

****

As a personal confession, I must admit that it has been extraordinarily difficult to write this piece — it is very, very important to me that no one despairs after reading my words. The point is not to dishearten anyone but simply to wake people up. In the course of researching and writing this article, I have had to walk away more than once; there have been many times when I have just wanted to burst into tears. After proofreading my first draft, my 17-year-old son Shaan asked me, “Don’t you feel icky? This is so depressing.” Yes, but I knew I had to write on this topic back when he was a freshman who polled the boys in his class and found out that — except for one — every single student claimed to watch porn on a regular basis. One of them even told him, “I only use my computer for homework and porn. What else is there?” Shaan recently shared with me: “You talked to us about alcohol and sex-outside-of-marriage and hard drugs and peer pressure, but I’m finding the two things that a majority of kids — Muslims and non-Muslims — seem to be struggling with in high school are (1) weed and (2) pornography.” While I definitely feel the weight of this topic, I am continuing to pray that I only write that which is of benefit, insha’Allah.

If you are someone whose child has been exposed to pornography or whose child has become addicted to it, please do not despair. Allah has created no disease without also creating its cure. There is always hope…first and foremost with Allah. And there is treatment available with mental health experts who are professionally trained to help our kids heal. Please do not shame or blame your children, no matter their age or your expectations of them; they are victims of an evil industry that preys on the innocent and the weak. You need to be there now as their advocates and their support. Sometimes, despite our best efforts and our tightest precautions, our children will still end up engaging with pornography. It is not your fault. It is not your child’s fault. This is a test that — for whatever reason — Allah has meant for you and your family to be tried with; just like with any other test, you need prayer, patience, and perseverance (along with a plan for healing) to get through the toughest times.

If you are someone who is reasonably sure that your children have not yet encountered pornography, please do not become complacent. Remain hyper-vigilant always. And, God forbid, don’t ever be smug and do not judge or criticize other parents and their children who are struggling with a plague that is infecting so many. All of us need to pray for one another’s children. May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) protect their eyes and ears and hearts and brains and guide them and keep them safe from all of the detrimental elements of this world. May they escape this dunya (world) unscathed. Aameen (amen).

*details of personal anecdotes have been changed in order preserve anonymity*

 

Resources for Seekers:

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on The Social Costs of Pornography
Finding God Through The Chains Of Pornography Addiction
“Too Embarrassed to Talk About It”: Pornography Addiction and Some of Its Effects on Muslim Marital Life
Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya – Radio Interview with Hina Khan-Mukhtar
Raising Children with Deen and Dunya
Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children

The Powerful Dua of a Parent

In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful

All praises are for Allah SWT, the most Compassionate, the most Forgiving.

Salutations and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad SAW, his family and companions.

Oh Allah, I submit myself to You.

I realize that parenting a child is a very difficult task and I turn to You in humility for Your help.

I implore You for Your wisdom and guidance.

Oh Allah, I know that our children are an amaanat from You, to care for and to raise in a manner that is pleasing to You.

Help me do that in the best way.

Teach me how to love in a way that You would have me love.

Help me where I need to be healed, improved, nurtured, and made whole.

Help me walk in righteousness and integrity so that You may always be pleased with me.

Allow me to be a God-fearing role model with all the communication, teaching, and nurturing skills that I may need.

Oh Allah, You know what our children need. Help and guide us in praying for our children.

Oh Allah, put a hedge of safety around our children. Protect their bodies, minds, and emotions from any kind of evil and harm.

Oh Allah, I pray that You protect them from accidents, diseases, injuries, and any other physical, mental, or emotional afflictions and abuse.

Oh Allah, I pray that You keep our children free from any addictions and vices.

Draw them close to You for protection from every ill and evil influence of our society, whether it’s apparent to us or not.

Oh Allah, grant them the best of company as their friends — people who will inspire them to love and worship and obey You.

Oh Allah, grant our children hidaaya and a heart that loves to obey You.

Shine Your light on any secret or unseen rebellion in their hearts and destroy it before it takes root.

Oh Allah, guide them away from any pride, selfishness, jealousy, hypocrisy, malice, and greed and make them uncomfortable with sins.

Penetrate their hearts with Your love and reverence today and always.

Oh Allah, make apparent to them the truth in any situation and let them not be misled by falsehood.

Oh Allah, grant our children the ability to make clear decisions and let them always be attracted to good things that are pure, noble, true, and just.

Oh Allah, guide them in making choices that please You.

Oh Allah, help them to taste the sweetness of walking with a humble spirit in obedience and submission to You.

Oh Allah, grant them the wisdom to choose their words carefully and bless them with a generous and caring spirit.

Oh Allah, I pray that they never stray from the path of deen and that You give them a future filled with Your best promises.

Oh Allah, always keep our children cleansed and pure from evil and shaytaan.

Oh Allah, keep them steadfast in establishing Salaah and help them revere the Glorious Quran as Your Word and Law and to read it with understanding daily. Let it be their source of light and guidance.

Oh Allah, let our daughters love wearing hijab and our sons the dress of a humble Muslim.

Let their dress be a representation of their Imaan and of their love and respect for Your commands.

Lead them to a position where they rely truly on Your power alone and fear You in the open and in secret.

Oh Allah, make them so strong in their deen that they never encounter doubt.

Oh Allah, do not allow any negative attitudes in the place of our children’s lives.

Oh Allah, guide our children in honouring and obeying You, Your Rasool (peace be upon him), and us as parents (when we are commanding that which is pleasing to You).

Make them the coolness of our eyes.

Oh Allah, fill our children with compassion and caring that will overflow to each member of our family.

Oh Allah, grant them piety.

Oh Allah, help them love, value, appreciate, and respect one another with good communication between them always.

Oh Allah, drive out any division between our children and bring them healing.

I pray there be no strain, breach, misunderstanding, arguing, fighting, or severing of ties.

Oh Allah, allow them to one day marry righteous, God-fearing, kind, hard-working, intelligent, beautiful, healthy spouses who get along with and respect and love (and genuinely enjoy) every member of our family and who lead our children (i.e. their spouses) even closer to You and Jannat ul Firdaus.

Oh Allah, please grant me the company of pious friends, relatives, extended community members, and teachers who will be inspirational role models for my children and will help me raise them to be the best of believers.

Oh Allah, please don’t let me become self-satisfied and arrogant in my parenting, but please don’t humble me or shame me through my children’s misdeeds either. Please let me always give credit for their good character to You and please don’t ever let me stop praying for them.

Oh Allah, please don’t let my children be “late” in meeting any of life’s milestones that are expected of them.

Oh Allah, protect my children from debt. Make them givers and not takers.

Oh Allah, grant my children noble professions with halal incomes that give them respect and dignity in Your Eyes and in the eyes of their fellow human beings.

Oh Allah, grant them worldly comfort so that my children can come to You through the Door of Gratitude and so that they are not forced to come to You through the Door of Patience. Please let them always be grateful…and patient.

Oh Allah, I pray for a close, loving, happy and fulfilling relationship with them for all the days of our lives and to be reunited with them in Jannat ul Firdaus. آمِيْن يَارَبَّ الْعَالَمِينْ


Edited by Hina Khan-Mukhtar, who said, “This list of duas was not started by me but I edited it and added a few of my own and am now sharing…feel free to add your own and continue sharing!” Khan-Mukhtar is a mother of three boys and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in Lafayette, California, which now serves over 30 homeschooling families in the East Bay. In addition to teaching Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she has written articles on parenting and spiritual traditions for children and is involved in interfaith dialogue.

 

Resources for Seekers:

Why does Allah Bless Some with Children and Others not?
Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya – Radio Interview with Hina Khan-Mukhtar
Raising Children with Deen and Dunya
Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children
Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz’s advice on duas to read during pregnancy and labour and for infertility

Raising a Muslim with Manners by Hina Khan-Mukhtar

muslim-little-boys
Photograph by Audrée Marsolais.

I once asked a scholar for advice on what we should be teaching our children and he immediately responded, “Adab and akhlaq (manners and etiquettes). Parents don’t emphasize these enough anymore.” He went on to define “adab” as “the appropriate action, attitude, and response in any given situation”.

Another scholar once said, “Adab beautifies everything it touches. We have Muslims who know rules and rituals; we don’t have nearly enough Muslims who know how to have adab. Sell your misbaha (prayer beads) and go buy some adab instead.”

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated, “I have only been sent to perfect good manners.”

It was at a friend’s house that I saw copies of the books “Islamic Manners” by Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah and “How to Raise a Gentleman” by Kay West lying side by side on a coffee table.

“What are these all about?” I asked, picking up one of the books and flipping through its pages.

“That? Oh, nothing,” the mother of four boys shrugged nonchalantly. “Just making sure nothing falls through the cracks is all.”

The concept fascinated me. A systematic way of making sure that our sons are learning the proper etiquettes and manners? Sign me up!

Pooling elders and friends, I asked around to find out what they thought are some basic adab and akhlaq concepts that all children should be learning while under our tutelage and here are just some pointers we came up with…

1) Personal Grooming and Hygiene

Like me, how many moms have cringed when hugged by sons drenched in that particular stench of sweat, sunshine, and sports which seems to be specific only to growing boys? I try not to grimace when I see the state of their “holey” socks and their long fingernails, but it’s hard not to be repulsed when you’re a fastidious girly-girl like I am. Instead of nagging, I have tried to set them up for success by providing them with their own “grooming kits”. We trekked out to the local drugstore and bought nail clippers; deodorant; floss; and travel-size containers of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, cologne, and bandages. Packed in a zipped-up case, all of the boys’ grooming essentials are easily accessible whenever they are heading out the door for a sleepover at a friend’s or a weekend visit to the grandparents’ or even a two week trip overseas. We have tried to inculcate in our sons the Friday routine of showering, perfuming, and dressing neatly in their best clothes (no ripped jeans!) for Jumah (Friday) prayers, and one of the sunnahs (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) that they follow is to clip their fingernails before leaving the house for their weekly act of worship. Having their own set of nail clippers readily available in their grooming kits ensures that I don’t ever have to hear the excuse: “Sorry, Mama! I couldn’t find the nail cutter anywhere! What was I supposed to do?”

When my older two hit the age of puberty, my husband Zeeshan sat them down and talked to each of them about the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) behind ritual cleaning and purification. He provided them with clippers and razors and instructed them in their use, explaining how they were supposed to groom themselves as young men from now on. Mothers of girls have told me that they have demonstrated for their daughters how to dispose of sanitary pads in as discreet a manner as possible, wrapping them up in layers of toilet paper before tucking them deep into trash cans so that they are not visible to the next person who comes to throw something away.

Back when our sons were first becoming independent, I taught them how to do istinja (the ritual washing of private parts after using the restroom), showing them how they needed to use their left hands to clean themselves and then firmly cautioning them against touching the toilet flush or sink faucet with anything but the dry right hand afterwards. One girlfriend recently shared that her mother taught her and her sister that part of good manners entailed leaving the istinja can full of water for the next person. Just one more etiquette I’m going to add to my checklist from now on!

2) Being a Good Guest

When my older two were younger, I would do a quick review with them before they left us to spend the night at anyone else’s house. (I still follow this routine with my 11-year-old by the way.) I tried to keep my instructions short and simple so that they weren’t overwhelmed, but there were quite a few basic instructions that I made sure to drill into them over the years:

  • Make your bed (or fold up your bedding if you were camping out on the carpet) to the best of your ability first thing in the morning.
  • Close the toilet lid and dry the counter after you’re done using the restroom.
  • Either wash your dishes, put them in the dishwasher, or place them in the sink (depending on what your host prefers) after having your meals.
  • Compliment the chef!
  • Clean up the games and toys after you’re done playing.
  • Don’t open closed doors, cabinets, closets, drawers. Ask for whatever you need; don’t go searching on your own.
  • Notice what chores your friends help with and offer your assistance as soon as possible.
  • Thank Auntie and Uncle and your friends for hosting you before you leave.

Years ago, my boys had a friend over with whom they were playing Hide-and-Seek all over the house, running upstairs and downstairs. At some point during the game, Shaan came running into my bedroom with his friend Yusuf following closely behind — except that Yusuf came to a screeching halt at my bedroom door as if he had just slammed into an invisible force field. “You have to come out and play in the loft, Shaan!” he called to my son while holding onto the door frame with both hands. “I’m not allowed to go into parents’ bedrooms!” I remember taking note of the fact that this little boy clearly knew what was and wasn’t off-limits in other people’s homes; since then, I began talking to my kids about boundaries and respect for privacy as well.

3) Being a Gracious Host

Every now and then we have friends and relatives come to visit with whom my children may or may not be familiar. Before their arrival, Zeeshan and I make sure to give the kids some background information about the guests and suggest some topics for conversation. I once overheard someone trying to make friendly conversation with my son where he (my son) would respond with polite but short answers that didn’t carry the conversation any further. I later took him aside and told him that part of being a charming conversationalist and a gracious host is making people feel important, like you’re actually interested in talking to them. “If you can’t think of a topic to discuss, just ask polite questions that show that you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them,” I said. “Don’t be nosey. Be sincere. If nothing else, just ask them what they think of California.”

I was really impressed when I went to visit a girlfriend recently. She and I relaxed in the family room while her son and daughter took over the kitchen, emerging one after the other to serve us water and tea and cookies on a little pedestal stand. My friend didn’t have to get up even once. Her daughter was no more than 10 years old and her son was only 11. I left inspired, rushing home to show my own kids how to balance cups on a tray and to explain the importance of using coasters when serving glasses of water. I want my guests to feel like they’re being taken care of the same way I felt pampered in her home, insha’Allah (God willing).

Being shy isn’t an excuse that any of my friends have allowed their children to use to get out of greeting elders and guests. Modesty and shyness is part of our religion and no one should be forcing kids to be anything they’re not, but saying salaams (greetings of peace) is a non-negotiable for most families who are teaching their kids manners. I have noticed that the children with the most impeccable adab always say “Assalaamu alaikum” (peace be upon you) and “Walaikum as salaam” (and upon you be peace) instead of the generic “Hi!” and “Hello” when greeting fellow Muslims. They are also quick to jump up and offer their seats to elders.

Other signs of budding ladies and gentlemen are kids who insist on carrying adults’ bags and packages for them (and refuse to take “no” for an answer), teenagers who walk guests to the door and beyond when it is time for them to leave, little ones who offer visitors water before they even have a chance to ask, and children who put away the smart phones and laptops when elders engage them in conversation.

4) Being a Kind and Considerate Friend

As parents, it is our job to teach our kids how to be a good friend and how to fulfill the rights their friends actually have over them. Part of learning manners and etiquettes is knowing that you are never allowed to backbite your buddies (i.e. saying that in their absence which they wouldn’t like to hear in their presence), that you must always return any items you’ve borrowed in exactly the condition you received them in (and replace/compensate for anything that is broken or lost), and that you must be willing to pick up the phone and call with your congratulations when someone dear to you receives good news and with your condolences when someone is dealing with bad news. A cousin recently told me how touched she was when her eldest son’s good friend called to give the whole family his heartiest congratulations upon hearing that his friend had been accepted into a prestigious university. A few years ago, we had a health scare and were worried about the upcoming test results for one of our sons; tears sprang to my eyes when my son’s friend telephoned to wish him the best and to reassure him that all would be well, insha’Allah. (It was, alhamdulillah.)

We teach our kids that adab entails having a healthy, sensitive understanding of how people around you are feeling and then responding appropriately to those feelings. One of our favorite quotes is from the author Jonathan Swift: “Good manners is the art of making people comfortable. Whoever makes the fewest people uncomfortable has the best manners.”

5) Being a Model Student

When my son began attending public high school, he was startled by how different the rules of engagement between teachers and students seemed to be when compared to the adab he was expected to have with his mentors in all the years of homeschooling prior. Giving up your seat for seniors, helping them carry heavy items, greeting elders first, and not interrupting or talking back are all givens. In an Islamic learning environment, however, our adab goes to another level. Many of my friends have taught their kids the subtleties of sitting in front of scholars and teachers. They are cautioned against ever pointing their feet towards their instructors and are instructed to always have a pen and notebook ready for note-taking. No one should be sitting around with a glazed look in their eyes while a speaker drones on; that is considered to be the height of disrespect. Muslim students also do not make jokes at the expense of their teachers and wait until the end of a lecture to ask their questions.

What I have found, however, is that all the books and discussions and checklists are pointless unless manners and etiquettes are actually actively being modeled for our young ones. Kids are like sponges, soaking up everything around them. When squeezed, whatever is inside comes gushing out. There’s a reason why people say “His/her parents raised him/her well” when commenting on someone’s refined behavior. It is up to us parents to rise to the occasion and be whatever we want our kids to be, insha’Allah. In the process of trying to prepare the next generation to be more considerate and compassionate than the dominant culture around them, it’s quite possible that we’ll improve our own worlds as well.

May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) grant us all success! Aameen (amen).


The author, Hina Khan-Mukhtar, is a mother of three boys and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in Lafayette, California, which now serves over 30 homeschooling families in the East Bay. In addition to teaching Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she has written articles on parenting and spiritual traditions for children and is involved in interfaith dialogue.


Resources for Seekers:

Raising Children With A Sound Heart
Why does Allah Bless Some with Children and Others not?

Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya – Radio Interview with Hina Khan-Mukhtar
Raising Children with Deen and Dunya
Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children
Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz’s advice on duas to read during pregnancy and labour and for infertility

Parenting: Planting the seeds of prayer in our young ones

Teaching our children and teenagers to perform obligatory prayers, and enforcing it, is a delicate and often stressful matter for families. What is the prophetic guidance on the matter? When and how is it best done? Parenting expert Hina Khan-Mukhtar sheds some light.

I was driving a girlfriend to her house when my son Shaan called me from high school on my cell phone. I had him on speaker, so his anxious voice reverberated around the inside of the vehicle for us both to hear: “Mama, can you please be sure to pick me up exactly at three? I need to make it home in time to pray my Dhuhr (afternoon prayer) and I don’t want to risk missing it.”

After I assured him more than once that I wouldn’t be late, I hung up and found my friend staring at me with a quizzical look on her face.

“What?” I asked.

“Explain that to me,” she said.

“Explain what to you?”

“How the heck do you get a teenage boy in public high school to actually care about not missing his prayer?”

It is a question that I’ve been asked more than once, and there has never been a simple, easy answer to give. The quickest and most honest one is to frankly admit that all guidance is a blessing and a mercy from God and none of us are in any real control of what our children choose to take — and not take — from our teachings.

But let’s face it — we all know that’s not what parents want to hear (even if they know it’s the truth). Parents are looking for tips and advice, some kind of handbook to follow, a checklist of do’s and don’ts. The fact of the matter is that saying “Tell me what else to do besides pray about/for it” is a false premise to begin with — every success is dependent first and foremost upon prayer for that very success. After hoping I’ve made that clear, I will say that for the purposes of this article, I did sit down and reflect on what has brought us to where we are now after almost 18 years of raising sons, alhamdulillah (praise be to God). I write this article with the full knowledge that we are no experts; we are no authority figures; we are no success stories (if for no other reason except the fact that the “story” simply isn’t over yet). We just happen to be parents who for whatever reason are blessed with children who choose to pray…for now (may the desire always remain with them and only grow in conviction — amen). I asked my kids what they think has helped make prayer a priority for them in their lives, and I informally interviewed some friends to get their insights as well. Here’s what has worked for our families so far, and we hope that our experiences may help others in turn, insha’Allah (God willing)…

1) For God’s sake (literally), leave those kids alone for the first 7 years!

We’re not contending that you shouldn’t teach your kids about their religion or that you shouldn’t encourage them to stand with you in prayer, but we are saying that you shouldn’t have any real expectations of them until after they are 7 years old. I still remember how I cringed when I once saw a well-meaning father pretty much forcing his 6-year-old daughter to join the congregational prayer. She kept running off, and he kept bringing her back, insisting that she fold her hands and stand silently by his side as he recited the Quranic verses aloud. His intentions were noble and sincere, no doubt, but the execution left much to be desired. It was painful to watch, and I remember hoping that his plans weren’t going to backfire on him one day. Another time, I heard a mother tell her son that “Allah will be mad at you if you don’t pray; the angels are writing down that you’re being a bad boy”, and it took all my willpower not to cry out loud, “Stop! Please don’t say that to your 5-year-old!”

There is a reason God has not made prayer incumbent upon children — what baffles most adults is trying to figure out how they are supposed to take the spiritual souls that have been placed under their care and then successfully prepare them for the lifelong duty of praying five times a day once their physical bodies have attained puberty. The responsibility on parents is no joke, and some of them can crack under the pressure.

In the early years, children should be allowed to join and leave the prayer at will, letting themselves get acclimated to the motions and the sensations of the ritual prayer at their own pace. Praying with the family should be an enjoyable experience — one that kids can partake in (or not) as much as they desire. Their association with prayer should be one of sweetness. I know one father who has all of his children share their duas (supplications) aloud one by one after the prayer is over so that everyone can join together in asking Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) to grant their siblings’ wishes. Once the duas are over, the kids often dissolve into tickling and wrestling matches while the father finishes up his supererogatory prayers on his own. Kids can be taught the basic adab (etiquettes) of prayer from an early age — i.e. being mindful of not walking in front of people while they are praying and resisting the urge to make loud, obnoxious noises while others are engaged in worship — but these guidelines about the prayer are all related to respectful consideration towards our fellow Muslims; as far as these little Muslims themselves are concerned, no one should be demanding any personal obligations of them just yet!

2) When the time to begin formally praying finally does come, go all out and make the initiation into prayer a celebration to remember! Treat it like an exciting honor, a real rite of passage.

When each of my boys turned 7 years old, I bought them beautiful journals which I gave to my friends and family to fill with inspiring messages about prayer. A few of my more “crafty” friends went all out and used their art supplies to create elaborate 3-D cards complete with embossed ink and sequined beads. My parents and my in-laws each wrote messages to their grandsons, sharing their hopes and wishes for their futures with them. Older cousins wrote about how prayer helps them in good times and in bad; aunties and uncles gave advice on what helps them get through “prayer slumps” which — if we are truly honest — are bound to come in one’s life at some point or another. I remember my husband Zeeshan getting teary-eyed as he read his message aloud to our middle son Ameen. The general theme was one of encouragement and excitement. It’s been almost 10 years since I put together those gifts for my older two sons, and even now, I will sometimes catch them perusing their Prayer Books with smiles on their faces as they read the heartfelt messages to themselves.

A friend recently organized an elaborate “Salah (Prayer) Party” for her daughter who had turned 7 years old earlier this year. There was a delicious cake and a colorful piñata and many goody bags, but there was also a “Prayer Mat Making Station”, a “Misbaha (Prayer Beads) Making Station”, and a “Pin the Moon Over the Mosque” Game for the kids to enjoy. Along with yummy treats, each little girl also left the party with a “Prayer Chart” where she will now be able to track how many prayers in a day she is able to complete. I overheard the birthday girl excitedly bragging to her guests, “Guess what? I get to wake up for Fajr (dawn) prayer now!”

Zeeshan and I have found that slow and steady wins the race. When each of our sons turned 7 years old, we allowed them to choose one prayer that they wanted to take on as their daily commitment. Every single one of them chose the Maghrib (evening) prayer — probably because that was a time their father was usually home from work, they could pray in congregation behind him, and worship at that particular time of day seemed to fit seamlessly into our hectic schedules. The understanding was that — no matter what — Maghrib would never be neglected from that day (i.e. their 7th birthday) forward. If the boys wanted to pray any of the other prayers, that was all well and good (and highly praiseworthy), but it was their choice and we made it clear that we would not be monitoring them or holding them accountable. Maghrib, however, was non-negotiable. Whether they were at a play date or in the middle of a shopping mall or at a swimming lesson, if the time for Maghrib came in, they made sure to take a few minutes to complete it. (One note: we didn’t expect more than the fard/obligatory of Maghrib from them at this age.)

We continued this routine for twelve months. When a year of praying Maghrib on time had finally passed by successfully, we told the boys that they were now “qualified” to take on a second prayer. We treated it like an honor that only the most responsible could be trusted to handle! Once six months of praying two prayers had passed, we announced that it was time for them to commit to a third prayer. We tracked the completion of their prayers with star stickers on calendars that we had made at home out of cardstock. Using this method, all three of our boys were praying all five of their daily prayers by the time they were 9 1/2 years old, alhamdulillah. By age 10, prayer was an established routine. After the age of 10, the boys eventually began adding on the sunnah (supererogatory) prayers as well.

It is important to note that during this period (i.e. before the age of 10), we did clearly explain to the children that we were not requiring them to stick with their prayers because we considered it sinful for them to leave them (we didn’t) but because we were trying to train them for the time when fard prayers would eventually be required. We told them that we were trying to teach them how to honor commitments, we knew that it took practice and discipline to do so, and we accepted that it was our job to slowly but surely teach them those tools for success.

During the course of writing this article, I asked my almost-16-year-old son Ameen why he prays all of his prayers on time, and he responded, “I don’t remember ever not praying, so I can’t imagine not doing it now. It’s a part of who I am.”

My most fervent prayer is that he always feels that way. I am no fool; I know prayer is a gift and, if not treated with gratitude and humility, it can be lost at any moment. May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) protect us from ever experiencing such a devastating void in our lives. Aameen. (Amen.)

3) “If it was good enough for the Prophet (salallaahu alaihi wasallam), it’s good enough for me.”

When I asked Shaan why he is committed to his prayers, he said, “It was the last thing the Prophet (salallaahu alaihi wasallam) told us to hold onto; he was talking about it right up until the point he passed away. How can we ignore that? How important must prayer be if he (peace be upon him) was reminding us about it even with his last breaths?”

If children are taught the seerah (biography of the Prophet Muhammad) and Islamic history, they will learn that our pious predecessors performed their prayers even in the middle of a battlefield, even when they were ill and dying, even when they were being harassed and humiliated. They learn that missing a prayer just isn’t an option for anyone who has taqwa (God-consciousness).

4) Teach them what they’re saying, what they’re doing, and why.

Prayer should not be allowed to become a series of robotic yoga-like motions devoid of meaning or purpose. Zeeshan and I have been forthright with our kids and confessed to them that there will be times when prayer might feel like an inconvenient, rote duty that just needs to be discharged — and they may find themselves feeling disillusioned and disheartened when those thoughts come to them — but, nevertheless, the canonical prayer is never to be abandoned, no matter how ambivalent one might be feeling towards it in that moment.

“We worship Allah with our minds, bodies, and souls,” I remind my children. “If our minds and souls aren’t ‘into’ prayer for some reason, we can at least force our bodies to obey Him. And then we pray that He will eventually lead our minds and souls to follow our bodies in joy and submission as well. Allah is the One Who is in charge of our hearts. He can turn us to Him at any time He wills. We just have to make sure that we’re not the ones who’re turning away first.”

One of the ayahs (verses) of the Quran that I often quote to my kids is 51:56: “And I have not created jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me.”

“That’s the purpose of life right there,” I tell them. “If you want to know why we were created and what we’re supposed to be doing while we’re here, you have your answer in that one line. Look no further.”

When we discuss the creation of man and the time when Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) commanded Iblis (Satan) to bow down to Adam, we point out how it was nothing but arrogance that made Iblis rebel. “With every prostration, you are choosing to obey God and humble yourself before Him in a way that Satan refused to,” Zeeshan tells them.

We have made sure to make it clear to the kids, however, that God is not in any need of our prayers or our praise or our prostrations; on the contrary, it is we who are in need of Him.

We have also emphasized that none of us should ever feel self-righteous or holier-than-thou about the fact that we are choosing to pray when others are not. “We need prayer; it’s like taking medicine that the Doctor prescribes,” I tell the boys. “Would any of us go around bragging about taking meds or look down on others because they aren’t taking the prescription that we’ve chosen to take for our own health?”

At the same time, we have encouraged friendships with those families and children where prayer is a taken-for-granted part of the daily routine. We all know that you are only as good as the company you keep, and being in an environment where prayer is as natural as eating or drinking just helps create a new type of “normal” for the kids. My boys have grown up seeing not only their parents and their friends praying in congregation but seeing their parents’ friends and friends’ parents giving significance to the five daily prayers as well.

Teaching our children about the Isra and Mi’raj (Night Journey and Ascension) has been instrumental in getting them to understand how the prayer was revealed and what the different parts of the prayer mean to us on a spiritual level. The position of ruku (bowing) is compared to the way one would bow in front of a king. In the humbling position of sajdah (prostration), we point out how that is the only position in which the human heart is elevated over the human brain. “At a certain level, yes, we can recognize Allah by using our thinking minds,” we tell our kids, “but — ultimately — we come to Him via our hearts. It is the heart that truly knows God; it is the heart that truly recognizes Him.”

Once the kids are taught that the same “attahiyat” that we recite while we are sitting in prayer is in fact the actual repetition of the conversation between Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and the Prophet Muhammad (salallaahu alaihi wasallam) and the angels, they will not be so prone to mindlessly speed through it, insha’Allah. The prayer will suddenly have relevance for them. When we sit and recite our dhikr (litanies) after prayer, we tell the kids that each whisper on our tongues is a polishing of the heart. “We want to have hearts that shine like mirrors and only reflect Him on the Day of Judgement,” we tell them. Making sure that we teach them what the Arabic words that they are reciting actually mean helps in bringing about some consciousness in the prayer, insha’Allah.

Finally, it’s really important to talk to the kids about intention. One of my favorite quotes by Imam Ali (radiAllahu anhu) that I like to share with the boys is his comparison of worshippers to three types — the first is the worshipper who worships out of desire for Heaven (he is like the businessman looking only for a profit); the second is the worshipper who worships out of fear of the Hellfire (he is like the slave who wants only to avoid punishment); and the third is the worshipper who worships out of gratitude because he recognizes that Allah is worthy of worship (he is the truly free man).

“Which one are you?” we ask our sons…and then we leave them to reflect.

And we reflect on ourselves as well.

5) Set them up for success.

We make sure to equip each of our cars with what I like to call “a prayer pack” — a small knapsack that contains a clean prayer mat, a bottle of water for wudu (ablutions), a squeeze bottle for istinja (ritual washing of the private parts after using the toilet), a compass for ascertaining the Qibla (direction of the Ka’aba in Makkah for prayer), and a prayer garment that will cover any woman who is in need of one. Before smart phones arrived on the scene, I used to keep a print-out of the month’s prayer timings in the pack as well. This prayer pack ensured that I didn’t need to worry about whether I had the ability to fulfill my prayers properly and on time or not.

Once Shaan started high school, I helped him create his own “prayer pack”. In his backpack, we placed a zip-up prayer mat made out of parachute material; it was light and compact and easily folded up and unfolded on a moment’s notice. I also included a digital timer that snapped around his thumb and could be discreetly clicked for dhikr while accurately keeping track of how many litanies had been completed. And I bought him a really cool compass that he uses regularly to figure out the direction for prayer. We recently invested quite a bit of money in some high quality khuffs (waterproof socks) for him so that he wouldn’t have to deal with the inconvenience of having to stick his foot in the sink while making wudu in the boys’ restroom at his high school. He can just wipe over his khuffs during school hours now. On Shaan’s first day as a freshman, his father and I helped him come up with talking points so that he could approach the principal with confidence when he requested a private space for prayer; we promised to have his back if he ran into any resistance. Our “support” turned out to be unnecessary however. It’s been three years now, alhamdulillah, and the high school front office staff knows Shaan really well — he’s the kid who comes in every day during lunch to go to the conference room to pray.

While all of these gadgets and gizmos may be great to have around for convenience’s sake, the kids understand that they will have to make do for prayer — one way or the other — whether they have their prayer packs on hand or not. “Guard your prayer” is the mantra in our home.

6) “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi

For some kids, positive sensory associations are very important in creating an attachment to prayer. From a young age, my boys have taken great pride in dressing up for Jumah (Friday) prayers in their best clothes, wearing their best perfume and their best kufis (prayer hats). We always set out their most special clothes for the most special of days, and they feel noble and dignified as they wash and dress for going to the mosque on Friday afternoons. I know of one mom who created a magical “prayer corner” in her daughter’s bedroom, complete with a lace canopy that cascaded down over an intricately embroidered prayer mat and an ornate table that held a beautifully designed Quran and crystal prayer beads. Other parents regularly light sweetly scented incense or candles during prayer time in the home. One mother used to wear a silk prayer gown stamped with gold and silver block print for her night prayers; her children sometimes have compared her to a princess, other times to an angel. Another parent told me that she always baked the kids’ favorite treats to share after the congregational prayers on Fridays and also played nasheeds (devotional hymns) in the house after Surah Kahf had been recited for the week. These are all examples of kids who saw, heard, smelled, and tasted nothing but beauty and elegance when it came to prayer in their homes.

7) Aspire to be what you want them to be.

No one recognizes hypocrisy quicker than a child. The truth of the matter is that you can encourage and teach a child to pray all you want, but if you’re not going to pray, the chances are highly likely that he/she’s not going to pray either. And letting a child witness that you pray isn’t always enough either. What about how you pray? Are you rushed and distracted? Do you drag your feet when the prayer time comes in? Are you nonchalant if you miss a prayer? I know of an adult who remembers his own father weeping when he once missed a prayer, and that reaction made more of an impression on him about the importance of prayer than all the lectures in the world ever could.

In conclusion, I feel it’s important to confess how emotionally difficult it was for me to actually write this article. I’ve been analyzing what my hesitation was, and I realize that it was rooted in the fear that my words will come across as preachy and imbued with a sense of self-satisfaction when nothing could be farther from the truth. Another part of me worries that I will somehow jinx my family by admitting to the world that my husband and kids are regular with their prayers (for now). After a lot of back and forth debate with myself, I finally decided to pray to Allah to purify my intentions and asked Him to allow me to write just one thing that will benefit even one parent out there. I remember when I had my first son in 1997, how desperate I was to find any kind of reading material that would help motivate and guide me in teaching him the fundamentals of this beautiful religion. I didn’t need proofs for why I needed to teach the prayer; I was already more than convinced. But I did desperately crave real-life examples of how Muslim parents got down in the trenches and actually did the hard work of passing on this most important pillar of the faith to the next generation. I have been fortunate in that I have been surrounded by many inspirational parents and have had the opportunity to learn from them all, alhamdulillah. I am hoping that their techniques can now help a new generation of parents, insha’Allah.

A year ago, one of my girlfriends who has a son in college somberly told me that he had recently confessed to her that he was no longer praying because he “just wasn’t feeling it anymore”. This was a mother who had “done everything right”; she was a mentor to many of us when it came to raising children to be practicing and believing Muslims. I tried to comprehend what she was telling me and then thoughtlessly blurted out, “Why aren’t you panicking?” I didn’t understand how she could tell me such devastating news in such a calm and matter-of-fact manner.

“Because I have faith in my Lord” was her forthright response. “From Day One, I have been praying for my children’s imaan (faith), and I don’t think those prayers just disappeared into thin air. They have been heard and they will be answered, insha’Allah…but in His time and not mine. I’ve done my part; I’ve done what was commanded of me. Now I leave my children’s fate to Allah while I continue to pray for their guidance and His Mercy.”

As of this writing, her son is praying all five prayers once again.

 

Resources for Seekers:

Traditional Methods of Raising Children
Raising a Muslim with Manners

Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya – Radio Interview with Hina Khan-Mukhtar
Raising Children with Deen and Dunya
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children

Explaining the Chapel Hill shooting to children

A moving and age appropriate guide for parents struggling to explain the Chapel Hill tragedy to their children, written by California-based teacher, Hina Khan-Mukhtar:

Image: Namee Barakat and his wife Layla Barakat, parents of shooting victim Deah Shaddy Barakat, react as a video is played during a vigil in Chapel HillMany parents have been asking how to talk about the Chapel Hill homicides with their children. Here is what I wrote to a Facebook friend today. I am focusing on the lives of the three who were killed, not their deaths. I discussed this with my 7th graders today as well. I reminded them that death is inevitable whether we live five days, 25 years, or a 100. Every single one of us will experience death – it is a guarantee.

The point is what was the total sum of our lives? These three martyrs lived full lives of service and benefit to others in their “short” lives. There are many witnesses who testify to their inherent goodness. Their last FB posts were about feeding the homeless and taking care of refugees. Deah’s tweet was about wanting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I shared the interview Yusor did with her Islamic school principal and pointed out how grateful and kind she was in her manners and in her speech. We talked about how do we want to be remembered? If we die tomorrow, what will our friends and our social media friends say about us? Will the poor and the hungry miss us? How many people will want to come to our funerals? Yes, we live our lives to please Allah, but how we affect people matters too.

I reminded them to pray for safety and to know that no one can harm us unless Allah wills it. People say that those three had “their whole lives in front of them” and that “their futures were taken from them”. No, they didn’t and, no, they weren’t. This is exactly how much life Allah had written for them. None of us know when our end is coming, but we need to prepare for that inevitable day when it does.

I told them that it is still our duty to do whatever we can to ensure that this type of heinous crime doesn’t happen again, insha’Allah, but in the end, we know that Allah has created both demonic people and angelic people, and we pray that we are of those people who are most pleasing to Him.

We are either benefiting people and the world or we are harming people and this world…there is no neutral ground. It’s one or the other. We have to all assess our own lives and see what kind of impact we are making on our friends, family, and society at large.

Hicks’ first wife left him, citing cruelty on his part (it’s in the official records). His neighbors say he was a belligerent man and many people had reported him to the apartment complex HOA as a nuisance. He loved those tools that can be used to harm and kill (i.e. guns).

Deah, Yusor, and Razan are spoken about by everyone with nothing but the highest of praise. Two were in dentistry and the other was in architecture. Their tools of choice (dental instruments and architect’s materials) were used to heal and bring beauty to people and the world. What do we love? What do ppl have to say about us? Will it be a relief to others when we are gone, or will the world mourn our passing?

 

Resources for Seekers:

Readying the Ruh for Ramadan by Hina Khan- Mukhtar

The Ramadan moon is only a few nights away from being sighted, insha’Allah, and I am in the midst of last-minute preparations. The bulk of my worldly to-do list has been completed and I am finally beginning to feel at ease.

home-cleaning1

The children were fascinated this past month to see all of the tasks that were being
undertaken in the name of “preparing for Ramadan”. I finally got around to calling my
trusted carpet cleaning company so that they could take care of the stains that have
accumulated over the past year. A window washing company sent out four employees to
come scrub the windows inside and out, upstairs and down, so that the sunlight could
sparkle through grime-free glass. My husband and I spent an afternoon, paintbrushes and
touch-up paint in hand, inspecting the walls and floorboards for scuff marks and scratches
that magically disappeared with a flick of the wrist.

organized-closet1

The boys gave up a few hours of their carefree summer days to assist me in organizing closets and cupboards and cabinets. The hearts felt lighter as bags of clutter were taken out to the garage and bins for donations were set up. I am pleased to see that the flowers we planted a few weeks ago are now in full bloom outside my family room window. We are currently preparing to deliver cookies to neighbors and friends. Our next step is to assemble the family’s favorite egg rolls for the freezer in anticipation of upcoming iftars.

flower-bed

When the days of fasting begin, house and garden will no longer be my focus,
insha’Allah. Aside from the necessary meals, the kitchen will take a back seat on my list
of priorities. I hope to immerse myself in prayer and remembrance. I don’t want anything
to distract me from the loftiness of the upcoming month, however, so I am trying to “set myself up for success” now. A scholar once advised that we should treat Ramadan like an “honored guest” and prepare for its arrival with proper planning so that we can benefit from its blessed presence once it is with us.

img_9993

It is my sincere wish that when my children grow up to one day run their own
households, insha’Allah, they will see Ramadan as a time not only for cleansing the body,
the soul, and the mind…but for cleansing the long-forgotten recesses of the home as well.
With the world around us in tidy order, the spirit feels better prepared to turn in complete
focus on the worship of our Lord. May He grant us all success in our endeavors to please
Him and allow us to live simple, clean lives that free up our time to do what is most
important — remember Him. Aameen.

Cookie image courtesy of ‘Barakah Life’

COPYRIGHT HINA KHAN-MUKHTAR 2010. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Resources for Seekers:

Why does Allah Bless Some with Children and Others not?
Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya – Radio Interview with Hina Khan-Mukhtar
Raising Children with Deen and Dunya
Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children
Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz’s advice on duas to read during pregnancy and labour and for infertility

Mawlid by Moonlight – Hina Khan-Mukhtar

The flickering flame of a candle casts a light on a child’s face, causing it to glow…and something magical happens.  The six-year-old opens his mouth to sing salawaat on the Prophet…and hearts soften.

b738eb4e4298c4921An older sister takes her brother by the hand as they march off to the beat of a daff, singing nasheeds under a full moon, falling in line behind fifty other young ones…and tears spring to my eyes.

It is known as Mawlid by Moonlight and it took place this month of Rabi ul Awwal in celebration of the birth of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alaihi wasallam).  A dream of my friend’s for the past ten years — with the permission of Allah, it has finally become the reality she had envisioned almost a decade earlier.

Back when our children were pre-schoolers, we gathered with them every 12th of Rabi ul Awwal to decorate candles, singing Ta’ala al-Badru ‘Alayna while we worked with our glitter and colored wax and beads.  We taught them songs and explained the significance of the noor of the Prophet, comparing him to a candle who leads people out of the darkness and into the light of knowledge of Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala.  We read stories from the Seerah, highlighting our Messenger’s special relationship with children and animals and his divinely inspired message of mercy to the worlds. My friend’s wish that the children participate in a candlelight parade, marching in the darkness while holding their candles and singing, couldn’t come to fruition due to the fact that the month of Rabi ul Awwal arrived during the summer months in those days.  Most of the children would be asleep long before the sun had set…even longer before the white moon had risen.

Our older children are in middle school now while younger siblings have joined the growing families, masha’Allah, and the tide turned a few years ago when Rabi ul Awwal finally arrived in the spring months.  As we have done for the past few years, we gather on a friend’s ranch where our homeschooling co-operative meets during the week, hiking up and down green hills with the neighing of horses and the calling of a peacock accompanying our children as they sing, “Salallaahu ala MuhammadSalallaahu alaihi wasallam”.  The flames dance in our boys’ and girls’ excited eyes, a father beats the daff, a mother calls out, “Look at the moon, children!  The skies have cleared!  SubhanAllah!”

Earlier in the week, I had shown a poem to our children’s Islamic Studies teacher who is also the father of one of my fifth grade students.  “Do you want to hear what your daughter wrote in class?” I asked him.

“I would like that,” he responded, turning from his computer work in the teachers’ lounge.

I read from the paper I held in my hands…

If the Prophet spent a day with me,

I’d give him my finest chair,

And give him my finest tea.

If the Prophet spent a day with me,

I’d bake the bestest cupcakes,

And serve him with lots of glee.

If the Prophet spent a day with me,

I would be so delighted,

If the Prophet spent a day with me,

I would be so excited.

If the Prophet spent a day with me,

I’d be sure to make it last,

If the Prophet spent a day with me,

It’d be an awesome class.

I looked up, pleased and smiling, to find that he had removed his spectacles and was wiping his eyes with his thumb.  No one said anything for a few moments before he cleared his throat and quietly addressed the parents in the room.

“You know, we worry about our children being too slow in this or not good enough at that, but, at the end of the day…if they love Allah and His Prophet, what else really matters?  What else really matters?”

moon As I watch the children cluster around the tables laden with sweets and treats and scintillating candles, excitedly showing each other their glow-in-the-dark bracelets before heading off to join the congregation which will pray Isha under the inky black sky, I realize that love really does conquer all.  Glancing up to catch the moon emerging from behind the clouds, I imagine the Prophet Muhammad (salallaahu alaihi wasallam) gazing upon that same moon all those years ago.  I hear the children singing the lyrics “O the white moon rose over us from the Valley of (al)Wada, and we owe it to show gratefulness where the Call is to Allah”, and I think I can hear the Ansar of Medina-al-Munawwara singing the same song in joyous welcome to the Prophet’s long-awaited entrance into the blessed city.  I want to reach out and hug the blue-eyed, golden-haired children with kohl in their eyes and kufis on their heads, the cheerful African-American boys in their thawbs, the little girls in sparkling shalwar-kameezes.  Finding myself surrounded by kids of all colors and races who believe “La ilaaha illAllah” in twenty-first century America, I marvel at the success of the Prophet’s mission.  “Truly, you have delivered the message,” I silently tell him.

“You are so fortunate!”  A father turns, letting the night carry his voice out to the children as they gather together at the end of the parade, carefully clutching their votives and plastic cups with candle pillars alight.  “The Prophet Muhammad (salallaahu alaihi wasallam) is your Prophet!  Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala sent him as a mercy to us all!  Who is going to make him proud?  Who is going to follow what he taught?”

“We are!  We are!” the children respond.  “Salallaahu alaihi wasallam!”

I look down at my kindergartener when I feel him tugging on my hand.  “He’s my Prophet too!  Right, Mama?”

The comforting scent of the crackling bonfire soothes me and I inhale deeply.  The stars continue to twinkle in the velvety night sky as I nod my head and squeeze his hand in affirmation.  I can’t seem to find my voice, so I simply smile and try to blink away the wetness on my lashes.

COPYRIGHT HINA KHAN-MUKHTAR 2010.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.