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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

Star Wars And The Crisis Of Modern Masculinity

That there is a crisis of modern masculinity, there is no doubt. Everyone from bloggers to The Atlantic Monthly is writing about it. Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad begins first with a synopsis of how damaging life without a father figure is and then moves on to discuss contemporary gender confusion as promoted by mass media: what exactly is a man, and what is a woman? We’ve lost count of how many brilliant points the shaykh makes in just 13 minutes!

Becoming a Man: A Comprehensive Guide to the Coming of Age in Islam is one of 30+ courses on offer at SeekersHub. Registration is easy and free.

Our gratitude to Mishkat Media for this recording.

Resources on the crisis of modern masculinity and related matters:

How to be real men, by Habib Ali Al-Jifri

“He was like one of us, until the time for prayer came – then it was like he did not know us, nor did we know him.”

Men who feel it is beneath them to lift a finger to help their wives and families at home, should look to the life and habits of the best of creation, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, counsels Habib Ali al-Jifri. This is a short excerpt from a course delivered in London, United Kingdom, organised by the Radical Middle Way.

Translated by Shaykh Walead Mossad.

The Muslim Marriage Crisis – A Frank Conversation with Imam Zaid Shakir

Fahad Faruqui had an in depth discussion with a leading American-Muslim scholar Imam Zaid Shakir, a senior faculty member of Zaytuna College, about marriage, polygamy, temporary marriages and divorce, in attempt to tease out the true spirit of love, romance and marriage in Islam.

A brief SeekersHub course on being married won’t cost you a penny but could do absolute wonders for your lovelife. Take a look here.

Some Muslim men and women spend several years in finding the right spouse. Very few know what exactly they’re looking for beyond physical beauty and financial stability, which has proved to be insufficient for a sustained, successful marriage. And many others have a skewed Disney fairytale version of love and marriage in mind.
Marriage in Islam, in the outward sense, is merely a social contract, but the wise Imam explained that it is also a “spiritual covenant,” which got me thinking.

Fahad Faruqui: Can you talk a bit about how the institution of marriage is seen in Islam? And what should one look for when searching for a spouse?

Imam Zaid Shakir: Marriage in Islam is a sacred covenant, whereby intimacy between the genders becomes lawful and sanctified, and acceptable to the Lord of the Worlds. So there is definitely a deeper spiritual covenant to it, and I think a lot of times we lose sight of the fact that there’s an issue of not only fidelity towards one’s spouse and not only a desire to please one’s spouse and to sacrifice for one’s spouse, but also to please Allah and to have fidelity in our dealings with Almighty God.
Marriage is an institution whereby we can deepen our relationship not only with another human being, but with Allah subhanahu wa-ta’ala.

Q: It seems that more and more people are losing faith in the institution of marriage. What is the root of this problem?

A: It’s a societal problem, so our societies are increasingly of people who’re divorced from not just the teachings of Islam per se, but from deeper ethical and moral teachings. And these kinds of issues you’re pointing to are only manifestations of those deeper crises.

Q: When you say marriage is a spiritual covenant, where does Islam place those men and women who cheat on their partners and hence, put their relationship in jepoardy?

A: I think it affirms the fact that they’re living a life divorced from a sense of responsibility…A wife is a trust from Allah. A husband, a family is a trust. Allah ta’ala mentions in the Quran: “O ye believers! Don’t betray Allah and His messenger.” And simultaneously by so doing, you’re betraying the trust.

Q: Why Islam gave men the right to marry four women at a time?

A: There are situations where there are disproportionate number of eligible women, and polygamy allows a dignified way for those women to be married.

Q: Even though the reasons for allowing polygamy may be well founded, why do we see the practice being misused?

A: Oh, most definitely! Any social institution can be misused. Marriage itself is misused, like for obtaining residency, visas, extending favors to relatives, and situations that render those people involved extremely unhappy in many instances. So there’s no doubt that polygamy is misused. And this is why Islam tried to regulate the practice, so that the potential for misuse can be minimized.

Q: How did Islam curb the pre-Islamic forms of marriages?

A: First of all, by limiting the numbers of wives. When you had marriages [in pre-Islamic era] where there were 10 or 12 wives for one man then you basically had a revolving-door policy, where three or four wives were divorced every few months and then others taken on. This sort of nonsense was something that Islam tried to eliminate by making manageable arrangement that was subject to limitation. Also requiring the equal treatment of one’s wives–in terms of their maintenance, clothing and provisions.
Islam tried to regulate a practice that has social benefit in many situations and instances, and to elevate thereby the status of the man and the woman. Anyone who’s suggesting that primary motivation for man marrying another wife is boredom is extremely misguided.
Muslim marriage nikah

Q: There have, however, been instances of exactly that–men marrying out of boredom.

A: Definitely, there are instances. Okay, my wife doesn’t turn me on anymore, so I’ll go get another wife, you have instances of that. But how frequent is that? Especially in light of the fact that in non-oil producing Muslim countries and increasingly even in those countries, such as Libya and even Saudi Arabia, where the population is growing, an average guy can’t afford one wife. It has become increasingly difficult for 99 percent of Muslim men to get married – period – to a single a wife.
So to take the practices of a small minority and extrapolate from that into a situation that supposedly represents the norm–the normal Muslim man being bored with his wife, so he gets another wife–I think that’s a dangerous way of looking at social reality.
How many Saudi men can involve themselves in this sort of nonsense?

Q: A good number, Imam Zaid.

A: What percentage would you say?

Q: In terms of percentage in the Muslim ummah [community] it may be low. There is a problem when the west or even the feminists look at the Muslim world and say that such practices are becoming normative.

A: I am not denying it’s a problem. And I am not denying it is a misuse of religion, and it’s the abuse of an institution that was instituted for noble means, so that’s definitely true.

Q: Aren’t temporary marriages–like misyar, misfar or mu’tah–escaping the commitment and responsibility towards the family?

A: That’s why we believe temporary marriages were forbidden! And these sorts of arrangements are extremely questionable. And I said, these are only excuses that point to a deeper set of problems in the society. When one is looking for legal loopholes to escape one’s responsibility, then it’s a betrayal. When one is looking for legal loopholes to escape one’s responsibility, get out of a contract that one has entered into through guiles and schemes–this is a betrayal of Allah and the betrayal of the messenger of Allah, who introduced a set of very serious practices to this ummah in order to safeguard the social and spiritual integrity of the ummah. These practices you point to are simply indications of social disintegration.

Q: But what’s surprising is that practices like misyar [arrangement marriage] is preferred by women, who are not willing to completely invest themselves in marriage and would like to keep their options open while getting expensive gifts.

A: That’s exactly what I am pointing to. It’s a deeper problem that transcends gender and points to spiritual crises, where the religion is just a set of rules to either be adhered to, if you’re pious, or to be skirted around by various guiles and schemes, if you’re not pious. And women who would facilitate such foolishness are just demonstrating that they too are affected by that spiritual disease.

Q: What should be guidelines for marriage then?

A: I think the guidelines should be, first and foremost, a study of marriage relationships. They should think: Will this person help me in my deen [Islamic code of life]? Will this person be an aid for me in attaining paradise? Will this person be a good mother or father for my children? Will this be someone who will be faithfully committed to me in my old age, when I need someone to assist me and to strengthen me? These are the questions people should be asking, going into a relationship.

Q: What would you advice to those looking for spouses?

A: I would advice, first and foremost, to not be fanatically committed to superficial things such as looks or income or profession that is if a person is close to standards of acceptability then to move in to look at their character and look at their religion…Character is what’s going to sustain the relationship, not good looks. Good looks fade. Big muscles become puffy and soft. Slim waistlines tend to bulge and expand as the years go by.

Q: What would you suggest to those who are married but feel they’re falling out of love?

A: It’s very important for them to do some of the things they were doing when they fell in love. Like when you ask people what did you do when you fell in love, they’ll say, we took walks together, ate out, went to the park ever Saturday and just sat and watched the children play. And invariably you’ll find that they gradually stopped doing those things. So the things that led to them being in love in the first place were stopped. How does one expect to sustain a deep emotional attachment when the things that led you to develop that attachment in the first place, have faded away.

Resources on Muslim Marriage for seekers

Cover photo by Azlan DuPree.

Denying the Obligation of Wearing Hijab

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: If a person denies that wearing hijab is obligatory for women, are they considered a disbeliever? If not, what is their status?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits. The obligation of covering applies to both men and women, and the limits of what men and women must cover are clearly affirmed in the Qur’an and Sunna of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him).

From this obligation is an adult woman’s obligation to cover all but face, hands, and feet in front of unrelated men. There is clear and decisive scholarly consensus (ijma`) on this, and it is not a ruling subject to change.

However, given the troubled times we live in, the scholars do not declare people who deny this obligation disbelievers. Rather, our duty is to call people to sound understanding of Islam and the Sacred Law. If people understand the big picture, and the wisdom and mercy the Sacred Law is based on, they will understand and accept its rulings.

Allah Most High said in the Qur’an, “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! Your Lord is Best Aware of those who stray from His way, and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.” [Qur’an, 16.125]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Call people with good tidings, and do not turn people away.” [Muslim]

And Allah alone gives success.

Wassalam,

Faraz Rabbani

The Muslim Household – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The Muslim Household – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Hamza Yusuf is currently visiting the Emirates. He studied there in his youth, and has maintained ties with his friends there over the years. He has been invited back many times to share his knowledge and experience with the people in the place where his journey of seeking knowledge began.

Hamza Yusuf gave a lecture after Tarawiyyah prayers on July 30th, 2012 in Sheikh Zayed’s Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It was aired on Abu Dhabi Radio.

The subject he spoke on was the Muslim household, and his remarks were based on the verses in Sura al-Ahzab (33:32-35) which address the wives of the Prophet, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, letting them know that they are not like other women because of the great honor of being married to the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him. The verses describe the wives as having seven characteristics, and Hamza Yusuf explained that every Muslim woman should model herself after them. They are as follows:

1) To have God-consciousness (taqwa), which entails adhering to the commandments of God and avoiding God’s prohibitions, inwardly and outwardly.

2) To not speak seductively, but rather to speak resolutely and forcefully with men who are not of the household in order to avoid being objects of desire for those whose hearts are diseased.

3) To stay home and not go out without good reason, as the house is the real abode of peace (dar al-Islam). It is the place where a believer can control his or her environment – hence the hadith, “What a blessed monastery is the house of a believer.”

4) To not ornament oneself with the ornaments of the Age of Ignorance (jahiliyyah) but to be modest in dress and movements when outside the home.

5) To establish the prayer and pay zakat. This is because prayer purifies the heart and zakat purifies wealth, and God has purchased from us our lives and our wealth.

6) To obey God and His Messenger, God’s peace and blessings be upon him. Even though prayer and zakat are part of obedience to God, they are mentioned before general obedience because those who pray and give zakat will find it easy to fulfill the rest of the obligations.

7) To remember God through recitation of the Qur’an and Prophetic practice.

After mentioning these seven characteristics, God reminds us that He is al-Latif; He knows the hidden matters of the house and of the heart. He is also al-Khabir; He knows the reality of everything.

The next verse describes the ten qualities that are necessary in order to have a purified household in this world as well as an eternal abode of bliss in the next world. They are as follows:

1)   Islam

2)   Faith (iman)

3)   Piety; reliance on God with humility (qunut)

4)   Truthfulness (sidq)

5)   Patience (sabr)

6)   Humility (khushu’)

7)   Charity (sadaqah)

8)   Fasting (siyam)

9)   Chastity (hifdh al-furuj)

10)  Much remembrance of God (dhikr)

In the midst of these verses, God reminds the household that the purpose of practicing these qualities is divine purification.

Hamza Yusuf concluded by suggesting that we all begin to try to inculcate these qualities during this blessed month.