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Keeping Family Ties Through Intergenerational Trauma – Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil reflects on why she travels with two small children, and how to break the cycle of  intergenerational trauma.intergenerational trauma

I started to write this while my two jetlagged daughters were finally fast asleep. My husband, young daughters and I have just returned from our annual visit to Sydney, Australia. There, I finally get to reconnect with my mother, my siblings, their spouses, my nieces and my nephew. We are exhausted, and yet, we plan to visit again next year, if Allah wills, and the year after that.

These experiences allow me to see this hadith in a new way:

Malik related to me from Sumayy, the mawla of Abu Bakr from Abu Salih from Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Travelling is a portion of the torment. It denies you your sleep, food, and drink. When you have accomplished your purpose, you should hurry back to your family. [Muwatta Malik]

There are the challenges that come with being trapped in an aeroplane with small children. And there are the hardships when we land. And there are the readjustments when we come home. It’s not easy. And yet, we keep visiting our family in Sydney, year after year.

Why? I have my sentimental reasons. I miss the city I grew up in. I miss my family, my friends, tasty Arab and Turkish food. I miss the bush, and I miss the beach.

But my most important intention in our annual trip to Sydney is linked to blood. I want my daughters to know their grandmother, aunties, uncles and cousins. My daughters are unlikely to remember these early years of their life, but I pray that their hearts will always know how much they are loved. In a world so fragmented, I want my daughters to be deeply rooted in the foundations of our families.

We are all bound by blood, and blood is not always easy. My family and I have gone through deep valleys of pain. I am grateful that my trials brought me on a journey towards Allah. Now, I am at the most challenging and rewarding leg of my journey – motherhood.

Every day, I commit to breaking my family’s cycle of intergenerational trauma. I commit to intentional, peaceful parenting. I refuse to inflict my nafs on my children. On good days, I can stay calm and rise above the challenges that come with being the main caretaker for my children. On bad days, when I am running low on sleep and patience, I can see the temptation to lash back. And when I slip up, I always say sorry. I want my daughters to learn how important it is to take responsibility for their mistakes, to make amends, and repair their relationships. I hope to model that for them, I pray that Allah fills in the rest and forgives me for my shortcomings.

While my daughters sleep, I look up flights to Sydney for next year. Until then, I tell stories to my children about their grandfather, grandmother, aunties, uncles and cousins. They are too young to understand the meaning of divorce, estrangement, and inherited pain. But what they do understand is love.

May our children never hunger for our love. May we teach them how much Allah and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) love them. May we all be reunited with our loved ones in Jannahtul Firdaus.


Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.


 

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 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.
[cwa id=’cta’]
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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A Guide to the Confused of Our Times, by Imam Zaid Shakir

imam_zaid_shakirimage181The seeming tsunami of negativity unleashed by the dastardly actions of terrorists, some claiming to act in the name of Islam, and the nefarious reactions of an assortment of bigots, racists and opportunistic politicians, have combined to create an environment that has demoralized many Muslims, terrified others, and left many confused and desperately searching for direction. This state has increased exponentially in the aftermath of the shootings in San Bernadino, California.

In light of this situation, we need to step back and remind ourselves of some fundamental Qur’anic teachings. First of all, we are told that this world is the abode of trials and tribulations (2:155; 2:214; 3:186; 21:35; 29:2-3; 67:2). This world is not our permanent home. We are passing through and we are tested along the way. If we endure the tests with unshakable faith, patience and dignity, we eventually return to our ancient, yet permanent, home –Paradise.

One of the verses referenced above asks, “Do you think that you will enter the Garden (Paradise) without there coming to you the like of that which befell those who passed away before you? Misfortune and hardship afflicted them, and they were so shaken that the Messenger [of that time] and those who believed with him cried, “When will God’s Help come ?!” Surely, God’s Help is near” (2:214). The times we are experiencing are not unprecedented in human affairs, nor are they novel for believers. There will be times when we will be shaken, however, despite the severity of the convulsion, we should never forget that God’s Help is near. With prayer and patience, we access that Help.

Oftentimes, when the Qur’an mentions the trials and tribulations we will encounter in the world, it mentions the importance of patience. As mentioned above, trials are to be borne with patience. In this case, patience has two aspects: one involves being undaunted by the verbal abuse, discrimination and other forms of mistreatment we might suffer from ignorant people; the other involves bearing the hardships that might come in persevering in doing the good things we do. Continue to be a good neighbor. Continue to be a good coworker. Continue to be the person you know you are, and do not allow the situation to lead you to doubt in yourself or to become someone who you aren’t.

In light of the ongoing anti-Muslim propaganda blitz, there will be those who might question you. “How can I trust you?” “How do I know you do not harbor ill-will towards me?” Try to understand the fearful place such comments may emanate from, but also understand that God knows who you are and He knows your innermost thoughts and motivations. If you are right with God you are right, and most people will appreciate your light. Live a life that radiates the truth you represent. Life a life defined by the love that you share and do not allow anyone to prevent you from living and loving as only you can. Be who you are, and, first and foremost, be with God.

Never despair of God’s justice. There is surely a lot that is wrong in the world, however, eventually, God will set things right; of that we can be sure. Quoting a 19th Century theologian, Theodore Parker, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would frequently say, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The suffering of so many innocents all over the world will not continue forever. Wherever they are, one day, they will be delivered from their oppressors. Live for that day. Work for that day. Pray for that day, knowing that the end of the circle is its origin and we were created to live in peace. Do not allow anyone to lead you to believe otherwise.

King would also quote William Cullen Bryant, who said, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” Sometimes it feels like the truth of Islam –a religion that has brought people together like no other force, a religion that has played an integral role in the ongoing march of human civilization– has been crushed to earth. Distorted by its ostensible friends as well as its actual foes, that truth will rise when you stand up and give voice to it. That must not be with words of frustration, anger, hatred and victimization, but with words of encouragement, joy, love and forbearance.

End of Part One

This was first published on Imam Zaid Shakir’s blog New Islamic Directions.

 

Resources for Seekers:

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:

Becoming A Man – A New Course for Those Coming of Age

MC-Amjad-Bio-resizedComing of age can be awkward, challenging, and confusing–for both parents and their children. Although many of the changes are biological, they also have religious implications as well. This course seeks to provide a framework for young men to learn about the qualities of a true man of faith. By contextualizing the wisdom and example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions to deal with contemporary issues, young men will gain insights into the practice, spirituality, and virtue of the believer. Insha Allah, this course will help give young men clarity and confidence in their religion and life.

Listen to Ustadh Amjad Tarsin’s brief introduction below and don’t forget to register for the course.

Maryam: Blessed Mother & Child

How does Allah bless intentions, how does upbringing blossom in a child’s character and how does it empower a child to face most difficult situation; we can see some answers to these questions in the story of Maryam.

This is part of a series of remarkable Quranic stories of the Prophets (peace be upon them), retold by Shaykh Ahmad Saad al-Azhari, a master of the Quran and scholar in residence at SeekersHub this Ramadan.

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