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Parents Matter More Than Peers – Shaykh Hamza Karamali

* Courtesy of basiraheducation.org

Muslim Reflections on Leonard Sax’s The Collapse of Parenting

We want to transfer our religious values to our children. We want them to love Allah and His Messenger, to live moral lives, to be responsible and hardworking, to pray for us after we leave this world, and to bring joy to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) on the Day of Judgment.

But our surrounding culture works against us.

Leonard Sax argues that our surrounding culture works against us because (a) it teaches our children to value their same-age peers more than their parents and (b) it teaches us to treat our children like grown-ups.

Here’s an example from his book.

“Megan and Jim, both forty-something parents, had planned a four-day ski vacation between Christmas and New Year’s. Their 12-year-old daughter, Courtney, politely declined to join them. “You know I’m not crazy about skiing,” she said. “I’ll just stay at Arden’s house for those four days. Her parents said it’s OK. They have a spare guest room and everything.” So her parents went on the ski vacation by themselves, and Courtney spent four days at the home of her best friend. “I didn’t mind. In fact, I was pleased that Courtney could be so independent,” Megan told me.” (Leonard Sax, The Collapse of Parenting (Basic Books, New York: 2016 ), pp. 27-8)

Because of her surrounding culture, which teaches her to value her peers more than her parents, Courtney valued spending time with her friend more than with her parents. Because of the same culture, which teaches parents to treat their young children as grown-ups, her parents thought they were doing a good thing by letting her be independent. Because Courtney’s parents validated her belief that her friends matter more than her parents, she will be drawn to her friend’s values more than her parent’s. And because the surrounding culture has also cut her friend off from her parents, both Courtney and her best friend Arden will learn the “values” of the “culture of disrespect” that I described in my previous post.

The culture that surrounds us as Muslim parents is the same as the culture that surrounds Megan and Jim. The challenges that we face raising our children are the same as theirs. And the solutions, too, at a high-level, are the same.

The high-level solution is for us to develop a strong family culture in which both parents and children believe that parents (in a Muslim context, the mother even more than the father) are more important than the children’s same-age peers. If Courtney (you can replace her name with “Fatima”) had been part of that strong family culture, she would not have wanted to spend those four days with her friend; she would have wanted to spend them with her parents on their ski-vacation. And her parents would understand that if she wanted to spend those four days with her friend rather than with them, that was not a sign that she had grown up and become independent; it was a sign that they were failing in their goal to transfer their values to her.

That is why, when a man asked the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), “Who is most deserving of my good companionship?” He replied, “Your mother.” When he asked, “Then who?” he replied, “Your mother.” When he asked again, “Then who?” he replied again, “Your mother.” When he asked a fourth time, “Then who?” he replied, “Your father.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Leonard Sax argues that the key to developing this strong family culture is building parental authority. That, insha’Allah, will be the subject of my next message.

I encourage all of you to buy the book, read it, follow along as I explain, and please ask your questions here. Every week, I will select one of your questions to answer in this message.


Basira Education

Our mission is to develop intelligent and conservative Muslims whose grounding in the Muslim scholarly and spiritual traditions enables them to critically integrate modern science and culture into their religious worldview.


 

Including Our Children in the Halloween Discussion – By Hina Khan-Mukhtar

Sister Hina Khan-Mukhtar shares some practical advice and tips that other parents can implement when discussing tricky issues such as Halloween with their children.

From a young age, we taught our children some simple rules in the practice of our religion. Serendipitously, some of those rules then went on to later frame our family’s discussion around Halloween.

Rule 1

We don’t make fun of death. We treat the topic — which includes the grave and our eventual reduction to bones — with reverence and contemplation since it is a reality that we will all eventually face and since the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us to think about it (i.e. death) at least twenty times a day.

Rule  2

The unseen world — which includes demonic forces and the dark arts — is real, and we don’t make light of Satan, our avowed enemy. As the saying goes, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” In our worldview, Iblis is not a fictitious cartoon character meant for our amusement. Instead, he is seen as a constant reminder that this world is an abode of danger, and we must remain vigilant and focused until our very last breath.

Rule 3

Frightening people or deliberately causing them any grief or anxiety is prohibited for Muslims.

Rule  4

We cleanse our homes of all things ugly and unclean (including bones and cobwebs and dirt) so that we attract angels and the Divine Light into our lives. It is part of a human being’s fitra, or primordial nature, to want a home environment that is pure and pleasing to the eye and to the soul. A healthy human nature is attracted to light instead of darkness.

We never said anything trite like “Halloween is Shaytan’s birthday” or “trick-or-treating is like begging” or “candy is bad for you.” We only tried to get our children to look at the world around them with “the eye of discernment.” Once they had this perspective, it was no longer necessary to have to explain why we chose not to celebrate Halloween. They were able to differentiate between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, fun and heedlessness for themselves. A parent’s greatest task is not necessarily teaching their children what to think; rather, it’s teaching them how to think.

Having said all of that, when the kids were younger and more likely to care about these types of culturally popular events that were rooted in tradition and celebration, we did make sure that they got tons of candy, a fun outing called November’s Eve on October 31 (we didn’t call it a “Halaloween”), and discounted costumes (the non-spooky kind) the day after. Understanding that there is an allure to dressing up, our homeschooling co-op organized a Costume Day for the kids to enjoy during another month. 

For our November’s Eve event, we gathered on a friend’s ranch with other families and had a potluck dinner, face painting (nothing morbid or macabre), inspirational and amusing story-telling, nighttime hayrides, pony rides, anasheed (devotional songs)-singing around a bonfire, and hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows on sticks. We returned to our neighborhoods long after the local trick-or-treaters had retired to their own homes for the night. A wise teacher once told us, “For every haraam (prohibited act) that you stop your children from, you have to give them two halals (permissible acts) that they can enjoy.” That particular philosophy requires a lot of creativity and hard work on the part of the parents (especially in the early years), and November’s Eve was just one example of that philosophy in action. 

When my eldest son started attending public high school, I asked him if he ever felt that maybe he had missed out on something fun and crucial in his childhood by not participating in Halloween while growing up. He thought about it for a moment and then replied, “If we hadn’t had November’s Eve to enjoy, then maybe yes, I might have felt that way. But we always had somewhere fun to go on October 31st. When other kids asked me what I was going to do that evening, I was always able to tell them that we were going somewhere fun and we were going to have a good time too. In the end, that’s all that mattered anyway.”

This is a crucial reminder that most children aren’t interested in proselytizing to or lecturing other people about their beliefs, even if they are sincere in the practice of their faith. They simply want to fit in. Young people just want acceptable alternatives for the things they are being told that they can’t or shouldn’t do. It’s the responsibility of the adults to provide those alternatives and to include their children in the discussion of what kinds of alternatives are acceptable for all.

Rule  5

And the last rule we taught our children was that no one should be contemptuous of those Muslims who do choose to celebrate Halloween. The attitude we tried to teach was that we should be hard on ourselves but easy on others. Nothing is more off-putting than a self-righteous and judgmental “religious” person. Our job is simply to try to protect our own hearts and souls while also setting a good example and praying for the safety and success of everyone else for whom we feel any care or concern. “Wish people well while sticking unapologetically to your own principles” was the mantra in our home. Alhamdulillah.

Prophetic Parenting Part 2 – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

The Prophetic Parenting series, taught by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani,  covers 40 Hadiths on raising righteous Muslim children. This segment of the Prophetic Parenting series covers hadith that relate to interacting with children, as well as how to nurture a good upbringing.

The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, told us that each child is born on the fitra, or its  natural disposition. This does not mean that each child is born a Muslim, but that each child is born with potential for honestly, good, and uprightness, as well as potential for corruption and waywardness. Therefore, the parents have a transformative role rather than a marginal one. Rather, it’s the parents that will influence the children either way. Results are in the hands of Allah, but parents are responsible for taking the means to raise their children well.

To help us attain this purpose,  the following dua appears in the Qur’an:

                                                   رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا 

“Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous”. (25:74)

The righteous people are the best of Allah’s servants. We aren’t just asked to make dua for simple righteousness, but rather we are encouraged to ask Allah to make us the best of His servants.

In addition, we are told that one of the good deeds that will continue to multiply after our deaths, is a righteous child that prays for us. This should encourage parents to persist in their efforts, even at times when they feel discouraged, exhausted, or even if they feel that their children are not achieving their purpose. A parent will be rewarded for every moment of hardship they experienced if they deal with it patiently, and will be rewarded even more if their child prays for them, long after they have passed away. This should be a source of inspiration and comfort for all parents.

About the Series

As Muslims, we take family and our children seriously. We seek clarity and guidance to raise upright, righteous, successful Muslim children who love Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). Shaykh Faraz Rabbani will cover 40 hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on parenting.

Beginning with how to choose a spouse while keeping in mind future parenting, to raising and educating children from when they’re small to when they are young adults. We will also see beautiful, faith-inspiring examples of the Prophet’s mercy, gentleness, wisdom, and excellence in his own parenting and dealing with children–while inculcating in them the highest of aspiration, discipline, curiosity, intelligence, and spiritual resolve.


Prophetic Parenting Part 1 – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

The Prophetic Parenting series, taught by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani,  covers 40 Hadiths on raising righteous Muslim children.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani opens the session by bringing the discussion to the pre-marriage phase; choosing a spouse.

A successful marriage will be with somebody who has good character, empathy, generosity, and other inner trails, while things like beauty and wealth can fade away. This world is provision and a means, and the best provision in it is a righteous spouse.

Good character is very important because children are extremely impressionable from a young age. It is important for parents to model qualities that they want the children to instil, such as honesty and accountability.

In addition, parents should make their choices carefully, and make them for the sake of Allah, knowing that they have immediate moral consequence in this world, and in the hereafter.

Parents’ actions will affect their relationship with their children, and have emotional, physical, and moral consequences. The Prophet Muhammad was incredibly expressive in his love, and he described his two grandsons as “the two joys in my life.” He would regularly express his love to his family members and others. Parents shouldn’t be shy to be expressive in their love to each other and to their children,

In addition, parents should have a good idea of how they want to raise their children, and ways to achieve those goals. Secondly, they should have a good idea how to have a healthy and gentle how to install adab, or proper manners, in their day-to-day routine.

About the Series

As Muslims, we take family and our children seriously. We seek clarity and guidance to raise upright, righteous, successful Muslim children who love Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). Shaykh Faraz Rabbani will cover 40 hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on parenting.

Beginning with how to choose a spouse while keeping in mind future parenting, to raising and educating children from when they’re small to when they are young adults. We will also see beautiful, faith-inspiring examples of the Prophet’s mercy, gentleness, wisdom, and excellence in his own parenting and dealing with children–while inculcating in them the highest of aspiration, discipline, curiosity, intelligence, and spiritual resolve.


 

As You Step Into the World, My Child–A Mother’s Advice about Entering High School

After being homeschooled his whole life, Hina Khan-Mukhtar’s youngest son began public high school for the first time ever. Here is some of the advice she gave him.

As he stepped out of my car and began his first walk to California High School, I recited the Ayat-ul-Kursi (Verse of the Throne) over him, said “Bismillah” (in the Name of God) aloud, told him to call on Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) at all times, to remember everything we’ve taught him, and to try to gain the most benefit in his time spent here. He smiled, nodded his head, swung his backpack onto his shoulder, and turned away from me to walk into a world where I could no longer follow.

Sr. Hina’s Advice for Coping With High School

1. Friends

I hope you make friends in school, but know that for the most part, the kids you meet will be your classmates and your acquaintances, not your “friends”. Your friends are people with whom you share similar values, and you have already been blessed with plenty of good ones, alhamdulillah. If you don’t make more friends in high school, that’s perfectly okay…making friends is not your primary goal nor is it your major need.

2. Influence

Know that in every moment of your life, you are either influencing others or others are influencing you. That’s it. It’s either one or the other; there’s no third option. The questions to always ask yourself are — Am I benefiting the world around me? Do I like who I’m becoming right now? Would the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) be proud to call me one of his own?

3. Bullies

 Be kind and friendly with everyone — but not with bullies. Bullies don’t respond to kindness; they only respond to boundaries. Don’t hesitate to speak aggressively to anyone who is trying to intimidate you. You’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll back down and (unfortunately) move onto someone else.

4. Dealing with Haraam

Remember that the eyes and the ears and the mouth are all gateways to the heart…and we want to try our best to get out of this world with pure hearts that reflect only Allah. When you see the haraam (prohibited) — and you will! — look away, lower the gaze. When you hear filth and profanity and vulgar discussions about the opposite gender, act bored. Most people just want an audience; when they see that you’re not interested, they’ll stop trying to impress you. And after hearing cussing and swearing from pretty much everyone around you, you too will one day be tempted to drop an F-bomb. Don’t. Dare to be different instead.

5. Dealing With Parents

 You will hear some kids constantly denigrating their parents. It’s generally considered “uncool” at this age to show love or respect for your parents. You’ll hear moms referred to as “stupid” and dads referred to as “a-holes”. If someone seems genuinely upset about something that they perceive to be an injustice, you can sympathize with them, but don’t ever let yourself be tempted to throw your own parents under the bus in an attempt to show others camaraderie and “understanding”. And don’t ever inadvertently encourage anyone else to be disrespectful of the very people who gave birth to them.

6. How to Study Well

Sit at the front of the class where you can focus on the board and hear the teacher clearly. The “cool kids” tend to want to sit in the back where it’s easier to get away with not paying attention. The ones who want A’s prefer to be where they can listen and focus. Set yourself up for success. And always remember the Hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it, he has a right to it.” Claim that beneficial knowledge, and don’t let anyone dare to steal it from you!

7. Respecting Teachers

Always greet and acknowledge your teachers. If you enjoyed a particular lesson or class, be sure to let them know. They’re working hard, and nothing makes them happier than knowing their students appreciate them and feel they are benefiting. When you go to the front office to pray, don’t just silently pass by the ladies at the front desk on your way to the conference room. Smile and say hello and ask them how their day is going. The same goes for taking the time to recognise the custodial staff, crossing guards, and parent volunteers. Adab (good manners) will earn you the respect of everyone, and it will get you far in life.

8. No Phone?

If anyone ever teases you for having a “lame” flip phone instead of a smartphone like “everyone else has”, let them know that you have been promised the same thing that your older brothers were promised — the latest iPhone on the day you graduate from high school and not a moment sooner. If anyone makes fun of you, just shrug and say, “Yeah, well, those are my parents’ rules — what can I do?” You don’t need to explain or defend or justify anything. At the end of the day, even your peers understand authority, and they will respect the fact that you have no choice but to acquiesce to it.

9. Feel Comfortable Sharing

If you ever feel like you can’t talk to me about something that’s bothering you, know that your father and brothers are there for you as well. We may not always be able to solve your problems (and you may not even want us to), but sometimes it just helps to get it out of your system by sharing your thoughts and anxieties with others. We can offer advice based on our own life experiences, or we can just listen. But remember that we’re on Team Raahim! We’re always here for you, insha’Allah, and you’re always in our duas.

10.  Final Advice

Remember the advice that Shaykh So-and-So gave you about high school — befriend “the academically-oriented kids”, study hard, get good grades, work out at least three times a week, avoid processed foods, and call on Allah for His Help at every turn.


With gratitude to Hina Khan-Mukhtar.


Resources for Seekers

Parenting in the Age of Social Media, by Ustadha Rania Awaad & Hosai Mojaddidi

In a time where teens and youth are increasingly active on social media, parents and educators must stay informed and vigilant about the inherent and widespread dangers throughout the Internet. Ustadha Rania Awaad & Hosai Mojaddidi joined us for our April Friday Night Family night to explore the dangers and traps online designed to ensnare children. The speakers discussed the spiritual and mental health consequences of Internet negligence and offered practical solutions for increasing Internet safety.

Sister Hosai Mojaddid also provided these tips. This talk was delivered on April 21, 2017, as part of MCC’s monthly Family Night series when we invite insightful and influential American-Muslims who are making a positive impact on our community.

About the Speakers:

Ustadha Rania Awaad, MD, Clinical Director – Khalil Center, Bay Area
Raised in the U.S., Ustadha Rania Awaad began her formal study of the traditional Islamic sciences when her parents permitted her to travel to Damascus, Syria at the age of 14. Her desire to continue studying the Deen resulted in multiple trips back to Damascus, interspersed between her high school, college and medical studies. She was honored to receive Ijaazah (authorization to teach) several branches of the Shari’ah sciences at the hands of many renowned scholars, including many female scholars. She has received Ijaazah to teach Tajwid in both the Hafs and Warsh recitations from the late eminent Syrian scholar, Shaykh Abu Hassan al-Kurdi. In addition to completing several advanced texts of the Shafi’i madhhab, she is licensed to teach texts of Maliki fiqh, Adab and Ihsan. Currently, Ustadha Rania teaches online and local classes for The Rahmah Foundation, Rabata, and is on faculty of Zaytuna College where she teaches courses in Shafi’i fiqh, women’s issues in fiqh, and has helped develop and co-direct the Tajweed and Hifz progam.

Ustadha Rania also a medical doctor with a specialty in Psychiatry. She completed her Psychiatric residency and fellowship training at Stanford University where she is currently on the faculty as a Clinical Instructor in the Stanford Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences department. Her medical interests include addressing mental health care concerns in the Muslim community- particularly that of Muslim women and girls. She has been awarded grants from the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) to conduct research on this topic and has presented her findings at several medical conferences. Other on-going endeavors include the compilation of manuscripts addressing female-related mental health and medical issues from a fiqh-oriented perspective. She currently serves as the Director of the Rahmah Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching Muslim women and girls traditional Islamic knowledge. In this capacity she also heads the Murbbiyah Mentoring Program which trains young women how to teach and mentor Muslim girls and teens. Ustadha Rania is both a wife and a mother; she has been counseling and teaching women classes on Tajwid, Shafi’i Fiqh, Ihsan, marriage and raising children since 1999.

Hosai Mojaddidi, Writer, Speaker & Co-Founder of mentalhealth4muslims.com
Hosai Mojaddidi is a second generation Afghan-American Muslim woman who is a freelance writer and editor and a lecturer on various Islamic/spiritual topics.

Sister Hosai Mojaddidi is also the co-founder of MH4M (www.mentalhealth4muslims.com), which was established in 2010. She started MH4M with Dr. Nafisa Sekandari because she is passionate about providing a unique and tailored approach to mental health support for the Muslim community which combines sound Islamic teachings with clinical science.

For nearly 20 years, she has also been actively involved in the Muslim community in the San Francisco Bay Area and southern California working and volunteering for several organizations including Peace Terrace Academy, Islamic Networks Group, Zaytuna Institute, Deen Intensive, Northstar School, (RIS) Reviving the Islamic Spirit, One Legacy Radio, Pillars Academy, Islamic Speakers Bureau of Southern California, Grand Mawlid, Rahmah Foundation, GiveLight Foundation, and Happy Hearts Learning Co-op.

In the various positions she’s held, and as a Qur’an teacher and lecturer over the years, she has been blessed to meet thousands of Muslims from different backgrounds and, in the process, develop many deep and lasting relationships both personally and professionally. She has also been able to gauge the mental health issues of the larger community firsthand by serving as a private mediator, advisor and mentor to many.

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

Our Children: Nurturing the Prophet’s ﷺ Spiritual Intelligence, by Anse Tamara Gray

Anse Tamara Gray on how we should nurture the spiritual growth in our children and how we can plant the seeds of Islam in them.

Our thanks to Rabata for this recording. Anse Tamara’s photo is from Altamish + Hannan Photograpy.

 

Resources for Seekers

Shepherding Our Sons And Daughters

Fathers and Mothers: what do you want for your sons and daughters? Ibrahim J. Long gets to the heart of the matter.

What fills your heart with joy at the thought of your son or your daughter doing, or being, or becoming? What fills your heart with hope, pride, and love for the bounty that Allah has given you and I in our children? Do you smile at the thought of them becoming a doctor, or a professional of some kind? Perhaps you imagine your daughter or son memorizing the Glorious Qur’an, or having an immense love for God and His Messenger (peace be upon him). Or, perhaps you simply hope for your son or daughter to be a person of good character.
Whatever it is that you are picturing them doing, whatever it is that generates that pride and hope in your heart; likely, you are also picturing them happy while doing it.

What About Happiness?

This desire for our children’s happiness comes from our love and compassion for them. Consider, for example, when Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was given the glad tidings that he would be made an Imam and an example of righteousness for all people he asked: “and what of my descendants?” (Q2:124)
Ibrahim (peace be upon him) had so much compassion for his children, grand-children, great-grandchildren and all his descendants that as soon as he heard the good news of being made an example for humanity, he asked if they too would have a share in that closeness that he had with Allah. He wanted all of his descendants to experience such serenity and happiness.

The Prophet’s Parental Concern

Shepherding Our Sons and Daughters
Parental concern for our children is part of being a healthy parent. In fact, it’s part of being a healthy person. Our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) demonstrated this concern with his children and all children he encountered.
About this, the famous servant of the Messenger, Anas ibn Malik (May God be well-pleased with him), said, “I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than the Messenger of God (peace be upon him).” To which he also added that while the Prophet’s son, Ibrahim, was in the care of his wet-nurse who lived in the hills outside of Madinah, he would go there just to pick up his son and kiss him, then he would return to his business in Madinah. [Muslim]

Just For A Hug And A Kiss

Today, that would be like a father driving home from work during his lunch break just to hold his son or daughter and kiss them. To myself and all of my fellow brothers, fathers, and husbands, I advise you: If there was forgotten Sunnah that you and I would like to help revive, then let us consider reviving this one.

Not Just About Joining The Workforce

As a community, Muslims in North America are among the most educated and professional Muslims in the world. Part of our success in this is the great efforts that parents have put into their son and their daughter’s education, masha’Allah. But, a good profession alone will not make our children happy in this life. They will also need our help in developing their faith, and they also require our guiding them to become good husbands and good wives (and later on good parents just like you and I are trying our best to be).
Parents, we cannot deny that being a husband or wife and being a father and mother are life-changing experiences and amazing responsibilities. As the Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.” [Bukhari & Muslim] And, as Allah has commanded us in the Glorious Qur’an: “Believers, Shield yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones…” (Q66:6)

Shepherding Future Shepherds

So, fellow fathers and mothers, how are you and I preparing our children to become shepherds of their own flocks? Are we preparing our children to shield their own families?
You and I may be raising our children with hopes of their becoming doctors, lawyers, and great contributors to the Ummah. But, are we raising them to become good husbands and good wives to their spouses? Or, good fathers and good mothers to their children?  You may very well be. And, if so, this is just a reminder for you. And, may Allah reward you.
Our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) has informed us that marriage is half of our deen. So, it is half of our children’s deen as well. For those of you who are married, you know it is a struggle. Every marriage has its high points and low points; even the best of them. Moreover, every parent wants his or her son or daughter to marry a good spouse who will treat him or her with respect and dignity. But my question to myself and all of you is how are we preparing our children to be good to their spouses?

More Committed To Daughters Than Sons

To be honest, we as a community (and by this I mean Muslims in general) are better committed to raising our daughters than we are our sons. To a degree, many believe that boys will raise themselves. But, our young men also need direction. An increasing number of marriageable women are complaining: “Where are the Muslim men ready to be good husbands and fathers?” And, “Where are the Muslim men who understand the responsibility of taking care of a household, who can demonstrate self-control and can control himself when he is angry?”

Raising Boys To Act Like Mature Men

Undeniably, we raise our daughters differently from our sons. Perhaps we lack the wisdom and strength to raise our sons the way we raise our daughters. But, what we are left with are various young males who do not yet know how to behave like mature men. Although in the short-term, greater freedom for our young men and boys may feel like we are giving them a “chance to be on their own.” However, sometimes the freedom we as a community grant our young men is experienced by them as a lack of direction, a lack of mentorship, and a lack of support.
Fathers and Mothers, it is not only unfair to our young women that we expect more from them. But, it is also unfair to our boys and young men who need us to expect more from them. Our sons also need the support of our guidance. Our sons also need us to teach them how to control themselves. Our sons also need us to remind them that they too may one day have a family of their own and that being male does not mean one is ready to be a man. So, let us help them and encourage them to be the best men, the best husbands, and the best fathers that they can be.

“Dad… I’m bored..let’s go!”

I can remember one time attending an Islamic lecture. I was sitting next to a father and his son. Shortly after the father sat down with his son to listen to the lecture, the young boy complained to his father, “Dad, Dad… let’s go! I’m bored.” To which the father very gently said, “Just wait a few minutes. I would like to hear what the shaykh has to say.” However, shortly thereafter the young boy complained again, “Dad… I’m bored..let’s go!” And so the father left with his son.
Now, I don’t know the full story. The father could have left with the son and later advised him regarding his behavior. Or, perhaps there was something else that I did not know about this situation. I am not speaking against this father, or his son. However, this incident made me realize something  that I had not before. In the past, I would have felt bad for the father for having an impatient and  disrespectful son. However, in this instance I realized that I felt worse for the son who was struggling with his nafs and did not yet know how to be patient. Patience had not yet been taught to him.

Helping Children With Their Nafs

As adults we have more experience with the inner battlefield of our nafs; battling our own desires and learning how to control ourselves. From age and experience we have become more familiar with the consequences that can come about if we don’t control ourselves. But, this man’s son was young. He did not know any better and he needed someone to advise him and to guide him. Perhaps this father did just that after he left. I don’t know. But, what if a son just like this one never received any help? Who then will teach this young man and young men like him the important lesson of patience? Who will teach him to think of the needs of others? Who will teach him and others like him to set aside one’s own desires if it would bring happiness to another? If no one helps him, then what sort of husband would this young boy grow up to be?
Now, let me be open and honest with you: it is not, and will not be easy to parent our youth. Moreover, this reminder has been directed at myself first and foremost and then to all of you. There are those of you are more experienced and better at parenting than I am. There are also many of you who have also been better sons to their parents than I have been. This discussion may erupt in denial, or anger in the hearts of parents who feel like they are being judged by others when they are trying their very best. This is not a call to judge others. This is only a reminder for each of us to bear in mind for ourselves what we are doing to raise our sons. When this reminder is forgotten it leads to the needs of the young men in our community being forgotten as well.
As one shaykh once said, “Our communities often focus on raising our daughters. Our daughters are doing fine. What we need to focus on is raising upright young men for them to marry and to lovingly care for them.”
Let us remember, that we are shepherds and shepherds must engage with, be patient with, and guide his or her flock. May Allah make it easy for us and bless us in our efforts. And may Allah make all of our children among the mutaqqina imaman (the foremost in faith).
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“Our Lord, grant us from among our spouses and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” (Q 25:74)
May Allah bless all of you and our children. Ameen.
Ibrahim J. Long is a Muslim chaplain and educator. You can follow his blog at ibrahimlong.org

Resources on Shepherding Our Sons and Daughters

How To Make the Prophets Real for Small Children, by Sumaya Teli

Just the other day my 5 year old son was watching TV, when I heard him run to the bathroom… and then came the suspicious sounds of ‘trickling’.
“MAMA! I weeweed on the floor!”
“Argh!!!!” Annoyed, I rushed to him and really tried not to shout at him.
“OK, sit on the loo and finish it now” I said instead.
When he was done, I brought a heavy duty tissue roll and made it clear to him that I would help but he needed to clean it. He had just turned five a few months ago and while it may seem harsh, I was modelling the “perfect Montessori parent”. Cleaning the bathroom tiles would be a lesson in ‘practical life skills’. Plus, I was being ‘helpful parent’ and not a ‘helicopter parent’. I gave myself a virtual pat on the back for being such a calm, forward thinking mama.
It didn’t last long.
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When my son’s attempts to clean the tiles only made the bathroom messier (it would have just been easier if I had mopped it up myself), I lost it.
“Why was the TV so important? How many times have I told you not to hold it in?! Just look at all this mess!” The tone of my voice was definitely not calm.
He looked upset – “I’m sorry mama…”
I felt bad but then, felt angry again at the thought of another cleaning chore to add on to my already long to-do list. Needless to say my ‘calm parenting’ approach went out of the window.

The Man Who Urinated In Prophet Muhammad’s Mosque

Soon after this incident I went to my usual “Mommy & Me” halaqa group – a gathering of mothers, grandmothers and even non-mothers on Tuesday mornings at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. That day the teacher mentioned the hadith of the bedouin who urinated in the masjid of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Not only did our beloved Prophet ﷺ stop his companions from throwing the bedoiun out or verbally abusing him, the Prophet told them not to stop him mid-stream, as that would be painful and uncomfortable. Only once the bedouin had finished did the Prophet ﷺ go to him.
The Prophet ﷺ addressed him in such a loving and kind manner that the bedoiun declared that he loved the prophet with all his heart and made a fervent supplication, “May Allah grant Jannah (paradise) only to you and me, O Prophet,” he prayed, to which the Prophet replied mercifully, “You restrict that which is vast.”

Mother Knows Best?

This story! I had heard it and read it many times before. Why hadn’t I remembered it just two days ago when my young son accidentally urinated, not in my living room or on any carpet but on a tiled and easy-to-clean surface in the bathroom itself.
Why had I been so severe in dealing with him? I – his mother! SubhanAllah! The kindness of our prophet ﷺ and the love he had for others – I felt it.
I vowed to go home and apologize to my son and tell him this hadith.

‘‘If you asked your child who their hero is, what answer would you get?”

In the mid 90’s, as a 12 year old, I remember reading an article from the iconic Trends Magazine that really struck me. The first line of the article asked a question, ‘‘If you asked your child who their hero is, what answer would you get?”
I was just a child myself and the prospect of being a mother was so far removed. Yet, this question fascinated me. I knew what the ‘right’ and ‘Islamic’ answer should be from the ‘perfect’ child but what are the chances of an ordinary Muslim child naming the Prophet Ibrahim or Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them, as their hero, instead of Spiderman or Superman? It seemed impossible to me.

Photo credit: Abhinay Omkar

Over the years I would consider the idea on and off until one day, my then-3-year-old son said “Mama when I grow up I want to be IRON MAN!”
I had recently read in the book ‘Boys Should be Boys’ by American pediatrician Meg Meeker, that boys have an innate “boys’ code.” This is why they love all the super hero stuff; it speaks to their inner nature of being the “good guy.” This feeling, Meeker says, should be nurtured.
To me, it made perfect sense and I had an epiphany. A child’s fitra (primordial disposition) is naturally inclined towards goodness.
In a moment of (extremely rare) mothering enlightenment, I had a genius idea.
“You know Iron Man isn’t real right?” I asked my son. “I know he’s fun and exciting and he sure is a good guy, but he is in a story that somebody made up… he is not a real man who ever existed.”
My son didn’t look too convinced.

Real Superheroes

Photo credit: V ThreepioPhoto credit: V Threepio

I tried a different angle – dragons and dinosaurs (another hot topic of interest!). I explained the difference between “not real and not existing” – (dragons) vs. “real but not existing any more” (dinosaurs). This seemed to clear things up and here is when I busted out my key idea.
“You know who was a real superhero, don’t you?”
I had his full attention.
“Who?”
I narrated the story of Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, and my son hung on to every single word. The trick was in the superhero jargon I used—that Musa had a ‘power stick’ that turned into a snake and ate all the snakes of the ‘bad guys’, and that his hand shone with the ‘power’ that Allah gave him. He used the power that Allah gave him in his power stick to part the whole sea, and save the ‘good guys’ from the bad, evil pharaoh.
My son’s eyes were shining with wonder. He now had a sudden wish to know all about the evil pharaoh. “Why was he so bad?” he asked me.
“Because he made people into slaves,” I answered, “and wanted others to worship him but we only worship Allah alone.”

Superhero Prophets

Since that day, we have learned to love all the superhero prophets. Once at a restaurant, in a desperate bid to keep our son and his best friend occupied, my husband offered to tell them a story.
“What story would you like to hear?” he asked, expecting to hear “Curious George,” or “Iron Man.”
Instead, we heard an excited little voice pipe up – hands raised in air and all – “Prophet Ibrahim story! Prophet Ibrahim story!”
I thought in my heart – subhanallah, Ya Rabb, truly You are the one who can make the impossible seem possible and here we are. Our son’s immediate reply to “Who is your hero?” might not be a prophet’s name or a sahaba’s (companion of the Prophet) name but we were one step closer.
Prophet Ibrahim, apart from being super clever and tricking his people into admitting the big false idol they were worshiping could do nothing at all, also had the super power of being able to resist fire as Allah made the fire cool for him.
“Like it just tickles him,” my son will add with a little giggle.
Another favourite story is Prophet Yusuf’s story. He had the superhero power to interpret dreams. My son renamed his story: “The story of the Big Bad Brothers.”

Knowing Our Children

Keeping in mind what we know of our own children (and their interests) and what we know of our prophets, parents can make these stories come alive. We love each prophet and we are excited to find out their stories – even the Prophets who were not given super powers but fought evil with goodness always. And our last Prophet – Prophet Muhammad, who was so special and kind, had characteristics that were so relatable.
When our son was ‘into’ the Ninja Turtles and green was his favorite color, we asked him, well guess who else loved the color green. When our son was learning about spiders and their webs, guess how a little spider helped a great prophet once upon time. When our son found out that honey is a ‘super food’ and the prophet’s favorite, guess who wanted a spoonful in his milk every day.

Starting Over

So after attending the halaqa that day, I first apologized to my son and asked him to forgive me for shouting at him when he had an ‘accident’ in the bathroom.
The sweet boy said, “Yes Mama! But I had forgotten about that already!”
Then I told him the story about the man who did wee wee in the prophet’s masjid. It was met with a shocked expression and lots of giggles but the moral of the story was so clear and so heartwarming.
Tell your kids this hadith. Toilet humor always elicits giggles with the 4-7 age group and they will see the character of the Noble Prophet ﷺ in a new light. Talk organically with your children about Allah and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as part of everyday life. There are a wealth of opportunities and examples that are relevant for the child as well as the teen and young adult. In the words of sister Hina Khan-Mukthar – or actually in the words of her teenage son whom she quotes in a Facebook post:
‘Mama I don’t know who would follow Islam if they didn’t have love for the Prophet Muhammad… I think the only way a kid could be Muslim these days is if he knew and loved the Prophet ﷺ. I don’t know how ANYONE could be Muslim and NOT know the prophet…”

It’s Never Too Early

The best piece of parenting advice I have ever received was from a beloved family friend: it is never too early to talk to your children about their Creator. In fact, the later you leave it, the harder it will be.
In a world and time that is increasingly adverse to religion of any kind, my prayer for my children has always been that I hope Allah makes them of the people whose faith shines through their hearts attracting others to this beautiful religion, not with their words but with their hearts and actions.
So I leave you with the question – if you asked your child who is their hero, what would their answer be?

Sumaya Teli is the founder and co-author of Mamanushka.com

Resources for seekers:

Cover photo by Brian Dewey.

Raising Muslim Children In An Age Of Disbelief

Shaykh Walead Mosaad is father to two exceptional young men, MashaAllah. How did he and his wife get it so right? In this brief interview, SeekersHub blogger Aashif Sacha gets Shaykh Walead talking about why he made the choice to commit years of his life to learning the Islamic sciences (hint: for his kids), who his role models are and what tips he has for those fearful of raising children in an age of widespread disbelief.

Finally, if you are worried that you have left it too late to begin studying your religion, Shaykh Walead has some very reassuring words for you.

It’s never too late to start a life of learning. Take a SeekersHub course today. There are courses on dozens of interesting topics, including Islamic Parenting. It’s so easy to sign up and you can learn from anywhere in the world.

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