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Why Your Soul Craves The Love Of Allah – Habib Hussein al-Saqqaf

Habib Hussein al-Saqqaf was invited to the SeekersRetreat 2016 but was unable to come. Instead, he prepared this beautiful video for the participants and now, we are releasing his gift to the public. Even if you weren’t able to come to the retreat, inshaAllah you will gain much benefit from his talk.

Our Origins and Love

Habib Hussein begins by talking about the various components of human beings; the high elements and the low elements. The high element is from the spirit, and yearns for permanent, lasting things. However, the lower element is the body, which runs after temporary things.

He goes on to say that we need to reconsider our idea of love. We may love people, groups, or things that give us a sort of happiness, even though they give us little or no benefit. On the other hand, Allah is our maker and Sustainer, and He gives us everything we need.

What Allah wants from us is not for us to pray with a sense of obligation, but a sense of true love and intimacy with Him.

Resources for Seekers

Photo by Ken Tsang.

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

Mother of "cucumber, not cooker bomb" toddler, in her own words

Editor’s note: In January 2016, a British Muslim mother was called in for a meeting by her 4 year-old son’s nursery school. The managers informed her that her little boy had been referred to a ‘de-radicalisation’ program after drawing what they alleged to be a ‘cooker bomb’. Shocked by the news, the mother reached out for help on the private Facebook group, Muslim Mamas (see their public page here). Muslim Mamas is a close-knit group of some 9000 Muslim mothers from around the world. This mother now shares her story in her own words for the first time, though the story has been reported in The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph and other news outlets.

Assalamu’alaikum,
Some of you may have heard about the four year old boy, whose nursery wanted to send him to a deradicalisation programme for mispronouncing ‘cucumber’. Well, that was my son. I’ve been a member of Muslim Mamas for a while now and wanted to share my story with you all.

“He told us it was a cooker bomb”

One afternoon back in January 2016, when I dropped my little boy to nursery, the nursery manager and deputy manager called me into a side room and presented me with a document, together with some drawings that my son had drawn. I recognised the drawing straight away, as it was a recent one. It was of a man with a knife. My son had told me it was ‘daddy cutting a cucumber’ so I told the school managers this straight away. They were unconvinced.
“Well, that’s not what he said to us. He told us it was a cooker bomb,” the nursery manager replied.
I was blindsided by this. My son has never talked about bombs at home. I was so confused and upset. At that point, I didn’t immediately associate his pronunciation of cucumber as “cukkabum” with a “cooker bomb”. I’d never even heard of such a thing.
cucumber-bomb
The school then showed me two other scribbles by my son. They said he talked about “pulling a string in Africa.” I explained that my neighbour’s cat used to visit our home frequently and my children often played with the cat by pulling a string. Sadly, the poor cat got run over and, not wanting upset them by telling them that he had died, I told the kids that the cat had gone to Africa to be with his family.

“Prove yourself innocent”

Again, the nursery manager dismissed my explanation and told me that they were referring me to Channel. I had no idea what Channel was, but assumed it was social services. I asked the manager if this was the case and she told me that yes, they did work together and that they would help me raise my children in the ‘right’ way. By this time I was in tears and pleaded with her not to refer me. But her reply did little to console me.
“Your kids might not be taken off you. You can prove yourself innocent,” she said.
I was distraught! I continued to plead with her. She asked me what he was watching on television and I told her that he liked his superheroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, but I would put a stop to this immediately if it would help (and I actually did go home and do this!). I even banned their Disney movies, as the nursery manager described one of my son’s drawings as that of a train blowing up. Incidentally, this is the opening scene in Toy Story 3.
Nothing was going to help me that day. She told me I’d already been referred and I had to “sign the referral form”, which I declined to do. I couldn’t – it just felt wrong to sign a document I did not agree with. My son, according to the nursery’s own description is a very ‘gentle’ child. I couldn’t accept the things that they were now suggesting about him.
I left the meeting and went home. My husband was away, so I telephoned him and explained the situation. He told me not to worry and reminded me that our boy always says “cukkabum” when he means “cucumber,” so obviously they’d misheard him. It then became clear to me what had happened.

“Cucumber, not cooker bomb”

I called the nursery manager immediately, with a renewed sense of hope and told her about his mispronunciation of the word “cucumber”. My son was still at the nursery and I told her to go and show him a cucumber so that it all becomes clear. However, the nursery manager was not willing to discuss things any further and told me that my son had already been “referred” and it was out of her hands. She then asked me again about signing the document and I once again refused. She informed me that she would “have to put down a reason”.
I felt really pressured but I’d spoken to my husband and my sister and they both advised me against signing something I am not comfortable with. So I held my ground and I told her firmly I wasn’t going to sign it as I didn’t agree with it. I hung up at the point and felt really worried about how I was going to find someone who could help me. I felt bullied and was ready to ask the police for help. I didn’t realise then what I realise now: this is state supported bullying.
I frantically called people who might be able to help me. I knew the school was wrong. Had I not been a Muslim Asian, I wouldn’t be in this position. I even messaged Tell Mama and was ignored.

Teachers now legally obliged to report concerns around terrorism

In Luton, where we live, you’d think it was easy to find help but there is no local organisation to help our community in situations like this. It’s actually more like the opposite. People don’t want to get involved, even though they know it’s wrong. They’re scared of the repercussions.
Eventually, I was put in touch with Rehana Faisal, who is a local Muslim community activist. She came round to see me and I went through everything with her. She asked me if I knew what Channel was. I told her I didn’t. It was Rehana who told me that Channel was a de-radicalisation programme and that teachers are now legally obliged to report concerns around terrorism. Apparently, this is called the “PREVENT duty”. I was horrified. She called a local solicitor, Attiq Malik of Liberty Law Solicitors, for some advice and the two of us then went to the nursery together for another meeting.
Rehana talked the nursery manager through what had happened and tried to encourage her to apply some common sense and recognise that the referral was misguided. The nursery manager again stated that the referral was a done deal. Rehana asked the manager if there was something else that had triggered this referral because it seemed ridiculous that they had taken such drastic action over a child’s mispronunciation. Did they have any other concerns about the parents? You see, I wasn’t new at this nursery. I had a seven year relationship with them. Thus far, it had always been a positive one. In November 2015, there was a parent-teacher evening and I was told not to bother coming in because my son was so lovely and gentle.

Questioning children appropriately

The manager told Rehana there was nothing else of concern apart from this one picture, to which my son couldn’t mispronounced “cucumber”. To be clear, my son never said the word “bomb”. This whole incident was never about what my child said or drew. It was about their perception of what he said. My son did not say the word bomb, they did. And they repeated it to him in their questioning. As Rehana pointed out to them, had the staff member he was speaking to questioned him appropriately, without leading questions, they would have realised what he was actually saying. In fact, he, according to their own records told them that a ‘cukkabum’ was something you cut!

“Did Jimmy Saville look like a paedophile?”

At this point in our meeting, the nursery manager repeatedly asserted her position that the referral to Channel had already been made. I was really upset at this point and was crying. I asked her, “Do I look like a terrorist to you?!”
The manager, looking directly at me replied, “Well, did Jimmy Saville look like a paedophile?”
I was shocked. Rehana witnessed this exchange and couldn’t believe how unprofessional the nursery manager was. Rehana informed the manager that we had sought legal advice before attending the meeting and if the nursery chose to pursue this, then so would we. We would go to the press if necessary. We then walked out of the meeting.
That evening, Rehana and Attiq came to see me show their support. Attiq then introduced me to someone from an organisation called PREVENTwatch and discussed what could be done next. They helped me draft a very detailed letter, which I gave to the nursery. They also told me to unblock the kiddy channels and assured me it was normal for kids to be into Power Rangers and the like!
The nursery manager on numerous occasions tried to speak to me alone over the next few days but I just didn’t trust her or anyone at the nursery anymore. Speaking to them was the last thing I wanted to do after being treated this way.

Backtracking

Soon after, I was given a letter by the nursery manager that said they had never made a referral but that everything they had said to me was according to government guidelines. This was a blatant lie. I know this because they had, possibly accidentally, given me a document which clearly states that my four year old has been referred. They had clearly backtracked and I strongly believe this was because they realised, I now had support and backing.
The last few weeks have been a steep learning curve for me. I didn’t know much about Channel or Prevent but I do now. Channel is supposed to be a ‘consensual’ programme but my son’s nursery tried to bully me into it. That’s not right. The whole policy isn’t right. It is not only flawed, it is also deeply discriminatory.

Don’t Take It Lying Down

I decided to talk about what happened to me in the hope that it will help others who find themselves in such a position. I want people to know that they must not put up with it. I originally spoke to the BBC Asian network and the story was then picked up by other news outlets. After that I was on the morning program on BBC 3 Counties Radio and Inspire fm. I also gave an interview to Luton on Sunday and the Guardian and was on ITV news Anglia.
I hope that this helps people to understand how flawed PREVENT is. It is a policy which is supposed to be making us safer, but it is hardly doing that. I felt scared, intimidated and discriminated against. It cannot carry on. I hope by speaking up myself, I will encourage others to also speak up.
My son is still at this nursery. Some of you might think that it’s a strange decision to leave him there. To say I feel awkward is an understatement. Everyday, I drop my son off to people that I no longer trust. However, my son loves nursery, his friends and his keyworker, who wasn’t present in any of the meetings that the nursery managers had with me. I’m not sure who flagged my son as a ‘radical’. His keyworker is so lovely and always has pleasant things to say to me. I’ve decided I don’t want to disrupt my sons life due to the incompetence of some prejudiced staff members.

Teachers as Spies

While I’m upset at the way the teachers in my son’s school dealt with this matter, I feel sympathy for the teachers who have been forced to act as “security services” in schools. They are given 1-2 hours training and are expected to spot the very complex signs of “radicalisation”. Unfortunately, too many of these “signs” focus on the Muslim Community.
So that’s my story. I’m still struggling to come to terms with what has happened but I want to keep talking about it, and I pray that this helps others.  I never dreamed I could be treated this way, in my own country, as a British Muslim.
If any of you find yourself in this position – GET HELP. PREVENTwatch is a national organisation who can help. If you are in Luton, you can look up Rehana Faisal and Attiq Malik. Speak to them.
As a community, we all need to speak up. Our “community leaders” and elected representatives need to speak up. Let our teachers teach rather than behave like the police or like spies!
I want to end by expressing gratitude for the help and support I’ve received from family and friends, through this horrid ordeal! As for the nursery, I am yet to receive an apology from them.
Anonymous

Cover photo by Keoni Cabral.

"Is it Eid yet? A Fun and Educational Countdown for Kids"

Growing up in a sleepy English countryside village, we had to drive at least an hour to the nearest mosque (a converted semi-detached house). We would visit it twice a year on the occasions of Eid and my parents tried their best to make these days as special as they could for us. With none of our extended family nearby and only a few Muslim friends – Eid was a subdued but certainly happy affair. We would receive eid money and in addition one gift each. It was exciting to make that trip into town where our parents would let my sisters and I pick out anything we wanted from the hallowed pages of the Argos shopping catalogue!
This was the innocent late 90s, and we loved the Eid that we had. I would go back to school with henna-painted hands as the only sign of festivities happening at home. Without the world of Amazon Prime – where a henna cone can be summoned at the click of one’s fingers – I would spend  the night before Eid mixing the henna and applying  it myself using a toothpick to dab out the designs.
Sumaya-Teli-IMG_16023The next day someone would inevitably ask why I had ‘orange marker’ on my hands, (soon Madonna made henna painted hands the next cool thing of the nineties and the same people would then ask me to decorate their hands with it) . I would feel proud to say that we celebrated two Eids in a year, rather than the one Christmas my friends did.
Even so, like many of us who were brought up in the Western world, I have fond memories of the Christmas holidays. Even if our families did not celebrate the actual holidays, it was a time when everybody had time off from work, families and friends gathered together, ate good food and (before the days of Netflix and cable) watched Christmas movies on TV. Our children are born into this culture and are also likely to associate positively with the idea of Christmas.

“You don’t even have a Christmas tree?”

I must admit, when I was around eight years old, although I knew there was no Santa Claus, the idea of someone whose job it was to leave presents for small kids was quite compelling. So, just to be sure, I decided to set up an experiment. That year on  Christmas Eve, I hung the closest thing I had to stockings (a pair of striped socks!) on our mantlepiece. When they were still there, empty and limp the next morning, I happily put Christmas and all its associated myths behind me. Nevertheless I couldn’t shrug off the feeling of inadequacy when a girl at school looked at me in pity and said, “You don’t even have a Christmas tree?”

Competing for their attention

The reality of the matter is that we are competing for the attention of our children, and our religious festivals are competing with the attention of other more glittery offerings. Many of us start to decorate our homes and plan Ramadan Advent calendars. We borrow from the culture we are in and start to replicate the festivities, but just on Eid and Ramadan, instead of during Christmas. We spend money on gifts and want to make these festivals a real part of our children’s lives. We want to create memories, make that clever homemade eid craft, take that perfect holiday family photo.

Eid was super duper cool – akin to going the moon

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. The imam of our local masjid, himself brought up here in the USA, led a halaqa (learning circle) recently on parenting. He reminisced about eid, talked about how exciting his parents made sure eid was for him and his siblings. He described his childhood eid as being  ‘…super duper cool – akin to going to the moon’.
I  love all of this and I am one of those mothers scouring Pinterest for ideas, and wondering if I too can be that cool parent and pull of something spectacular for my children. However, I do worry that we might fall into the trap of the dreaded c-word: commercialization.
Indeed, in our own house, there is our five year old, who has been adding toys and coveted items to his Eid list all year! He loves to draw, so his lists are actually illustrations of the things he would like, being sure to include his two year old sister, he will ‘draw’ eid lists on her behalf too!
“Oh mama HOW MANY days till Eid?” he will ask or “How many more days? Is Eid after tomorrow’s tomorrow?”

 “How many more days?

On one such occasion last year I found myself telling him Eid was only 100 days away…and with that came an idea so exciting that I set to work straight away. We would have a tree – it would be a learning tree, a growing tree and with each leaf that opened we would count one less day till Eid but one more inch closer to Allah. I proposed to my then-four-year-old that we would have a “99 Names of Allah Tree.”
And here dear reader, I invite you to join us! This year on the 29th of March, it will be approximately99 days till eid.

“There are ninety-nine names of Allah; he who commits them to memory would get into Paradise. Verily, Allah is Odd (He is one, and it is an odd number) and He loves odd numbers,” the Prophet said, as narrated by Abu Hurairah (Sahih Muslim 6475).

This could be your small way of off-setting the superficial rigmarole that has started creeping in on us, and focus your whole family back to our Creator. It would be a way to practice reading out the names of Allah on each day of Ramadan – a spiritual link – an opening for discussion of the beautiful attributes of our Lord. A way for our young children to know and start to appreciate the spiritual essence of our deen, to make insight a habit, and a realization that remembrance of Allah is at the crux and heart of not only our worship, but also our celebration.

Our 99-Names Tree

So we started making a tree template, and stuck it up on the wall. Then we planned to add a leaf with one of Allah’s 99 names everyday until Eid. And because I am not the most organised person – we didn’t finish doing it all last year but we did start and we aim to continue this year inshallah. May Allah accept it from us as worship (ibadah).
While I was writing this article, shut away in the spare bedroom with strict instructions to the kids that mama was working, there was a knock on my door. In came my five-year-old.
“Mama what are you writing about?”
“I am writing an article” I replied.
“What is it about?”
I believe in answering all questions truthfully but in the capacity of the child to understand. So I replied, “I am writing about how when I was a little girl I really liked Christmas trees, and how when I grew up I loved making a Ramadan 99 Names of Allah tree with my children.”
A sweet smile of realization spreads across his face…
“That’s you and me!”
“Yes it is…”

How to make your own Ramadan Tree

If you are a methods and materials person then here are the details ;
Materials:

  • a tree template/cut out/ cardboard
  • coloured paper to use for cutting out leaf / blossom / apple shapes
  • (depending on the season you can make leaves or flowers or apples for the tree.)
  • scissors
  • glue/ blue tack

Method:

Step 1: Cut out the tree shape

Step 1: Cut out the tree shape

 

Step 2: Glue on to cardboard

Step 2: Glue on to cardboard

 

Step 3: Paint/colour it in

Step 3: Paint/colour it in

 

Step 4: Make a leaf or fruit-shaped template

Step 4: Make a leaf-shaped template

 

Step 5: Use coloured paper to make your leaves/fruit

Step 5: Use coloured paper to make your leaves

 

Step 6: Write out or print the names

Step 6: Write out or print the names

 

Stick name onto leaf

Step 7: Stick name onto leaf

 

Step 8: Stick leaves onto tree

Step 8: Stick leaves onto tree

 

Our growing tree

Take it further

If this piques your interest, here’s how to expand the tree into something bigger:

  • Practice writing in Arabic,  forming letters and sounding them out
  • Provide a simple translation of the meaning of name and attribute it alludes to
  • Try to instill a sense of awe inspired by the names in your children.

I always find it useful when real examples are given of how to talk with your child (because we all have moments where we are stuck). So, here’s an example of how you might initiate a conversation.
‘AL BASIR’ ‘All Seeing’
“Look around you – at this room,” I start by addressing my son. “Allah has given us two eyes with which we can see everything in this room. Isn’t it amazing? All we have to do with our eyes to make them work is …. What?”
“Erm I don’t know?”
“…open them!”
“Oh yeah!”
“… and we can enjoy all the beautiful things around us.. so what about Allah? Allah is the one who Created us and our eyes that work so perfectly. Allah is the all seeing. Do you know what that means?”
“That he can see everything?”
“Yes but not just everything here right now – but everything everywhere all the time! That means not just in this room but in the whole wide world and universe.”
“And in the galaxies and Milky Way?”
“Yes!”
“Even under the sea?”
“Yes!”
“And all at the same time?”
“And guess what? He can even see inside…your…heart! And inside the heart of every single creature. He is the All Hearing and All Knowing. He never sleeps or feels tired like we do. He can hear your prayer and the prayer of all living things in all the universe – look outside at the trees – see the leaves falling? Can you imagine all the leaves that fall in all the trees and forests of the world – did you know that not even a single leaf falls without first asking Allah for permission?! How many leaves do you think there are in the world?”
“Wow! Infinity! Even more than infinity!”

The tangible beauty of the Quran

And there you are – full circle back to the leaf on which you are about to write down this beautiful name.

“And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darknesses of the earth and no moist or dry [thing] but that it is [written] in a clear record.” (Chapter 6 Verse 59)

Take out the Quran and show your child this verse. Read it together and show your child the tangible beauty of the Quran.

Other fun activities

Leading on from this, there are an overwhelming amount of crafts and activities for children associated with Ramadan and the two Eids. I have singled out three I find particularly beneficial, because they actually link the child to the Quran and Hadith. This is especially important during the month of Ramadan ‘the month of the quran’ and during the last 10 days of Dul Hijjah.

  1. Gilded Dunya has a lovely informative post about introducing the Quran to a very young child. She talks you through ‘baby steps towards the Quran’ complete with an adorable ‘quran pointer’ craft that you can make with your child.
  2. Sumaya-Teli-22Parenthoodmuslimstyle has some wonderfully versatile flashcards that invite children to ‘(Let’s) find a word in the Quran’  – which they  generously offer as a free download. These can be printed and laminated to be used in numerous ways – from very simple word association for very young children to more complex discussions with older children. They even provide an excellent PDF of some direction in which one can take the discussion for each word inspired by the Quran.  this really is a brilliant resource and I can’t commend the sister duo behind this, enough on their work!
  3. 10 day Hadith compilation encouraging good deeds on the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah, as a free download.

It is during special times in early childhood that if associations are formed, then they may carry on into the future, inshaAllah.

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

Resources for Seekers

How Should I Handle a Teenager Who Wants to Give up on Islam?

Answered by Ustadha Umm Umar

Question: How should one handle a teenager raised in a practising environment from a young age, but now unsure as to whether he wants to remain a Muslim due to all the restrictions in Islam?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah

I pray this message reaches you in the best of health and iman.

There have been several posts about how to reach out to teenagers lately. I think we need to realize that there is no such thing as the perfect parent out there, i.e. if I do my job perfectly as a Muslim parent that will result in my child becoming a strong and pious Muslim for the rest of their life.

Wrong. Consider that iman (faith) is a gift from Allah Most High which He bestows upon His beloved servants. There are supplications such as “O Allah, Make my heart firm upon your religion.” Even in the very Fatiha we read daily, we ask for the path of those Allah has favored, not the path of those who earn His anger, nor of those who go astray. Reflect on what this means.

There is no one immune from losing their faith, so we need to turn to Allah Most High with humility and need, asking Him to strengthen and preserve faith in our hearts, and in the hearts of our children. Even some of the prophets were tested with regard to their children. Consider the example of Prophet Nuh (upon him be peace) when he asked his son to get on the boat and how he refused.

Also realize that once your child has reached the age of maturity, they are now accountable for themselves before Allah Most High. You have done your best in raising them, so now it is up to you to help them like a friend in staying on the right path.

A couple of tips I can recommend that I learned from my mother who went through these same struggles in raising my brothers and I:

1) Have a general set of house rules for one’s children. We were not allowed to go out with friends after school and certainly not parties. We could join after school clubs where there was a staff supervisor on hand, so we still had the opportunity to benefit from the additional clubs the school had to offer – and get in more social time with good friends.

2) Keep close tabs on your kids. I remember once asking if I could go for additional tutoring for Math (while also planning to meet up with some friends), and my mom saying something like that sounds great, that she would take me there and wait for me during my appointment. I went to that appointment with my teacher and straight home afterwards : )

3) Take your teenagers to classes or conferences with teachers that can seriously affect their hearts. Some teenagers really turn off when listening to different lecturers speak with a thick accent about things that don’t seem to make sense to them. I still remember vividly, to this day, the first time my mom took me to a Shaykh Hamza Yusuf lecture. Seeing Islam explained (I think for the first time) in a clear, logical and sophisticated manner made me realize that I did not fully understand Islam and needed to get more serious. This can help bridge the gap from learning about outward rituals of Islam to imbuing a state of having true love for Allah the Exalted and seeking His pleasure in every moment, and through one’s worship.

4) Strive to have a good relationship with your teenager. Be open to talking to them about anything troubling them without making assumptions or being judgmental. Take them on outings that you would both enjoy, even if it is just to your local coffee shop. Ask them for advice on how to handle situations you are not sure about, such as “What would you do in X scenario?” and allow them an opportunity to give *you* advice. Give your own advice sparingly, and at times when they seem open to listening.

5) Turn to Allah Most High at night, especially during the tahajjud prayer (i.e. before dawn) and beg Allah Most High to protect your children & descendants from the path of misguidance, and to guide them in ways pleasing to Him and protect them in their dealings with the dunya.

I know some of these rules seem kind of restrictive, but alhamdulillah my mom really did hold me in check at all the right times through the grace and mercy of Allah Most High. She always told me I would thank her later, and many years later that was exactly what I did.

May Allah Most High have mercy on us and help us all to guide our children onto the straight path, and may he protect them from the trials & temptations of the dunya, ameen.

Please see also:

Islamic Parenting: Raising Upright Children

How Do I Protect my Children from Bad Influences in Society?

Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children – Faraz Rabbani

Parenting: Planting the seeds of prayer in our young ones

Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya

The Powerful Dua of a Parent

“Where are the fathers?”

Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children

Traditional Methods of Raising Children

Raising Children With A Sound Heart

Infertility: Why does Allah Not Bless Some With Children?

Raising a Muslim with Manners

The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children

Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow

On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children

Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Umm Umar (Shireen Ahmed)

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Guilherme Yagui

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:

What did Abdullah Ibn Masud leave his daughters?

Abdullah Ibn Masud and his Daughters

What did Abdullah Ibn Masud leave his daughters? This was the question he was asked on his death bed to which he gave an astonishing answer. Watch Shaykh Hamdi Benaissa as he emphasizes the importance of taking of spiritual means, along with the physical means.
Sincere thanks to the Rhoda Institute of Islamic Learning for this recording.

Resources for seekers:

Cover Photo: Heidi Lalci

The Blessing of a Muslim Doula

“Doula” is an ancient Greek word meaning “a woman who serves”.

Three days of conversing with women of different faiths and nationalities, left me, a mom of seven, inspired and ready to help women in their pregnancy and birthing experience as a Muslim doula. And it all started with one blessed experience.
Over the summer, I enjoyed a three day intensive training with Birth Arts International. Originally I went to the classes to help the instructor, with no intention of becoming a student, but Allah had other plans! After beginning my doula training, I started my own doula services called Higher Purpose Doula Services, based in Georgia. I called it “Higher Purpose” because I believe that everything we do should have the higher purpose in mind—to get closer to the Creator.

 

Serve Allah by serving His creation

As a Muslim woman, training to become a doula meant something very special to me.
More than just giving women information and showing them different breathing techniques, it was one of the ways that I could serve others. Service (khidma) is part of our beautiful religion. Imam Tahir Anwar once said, “Serve Allah by serving His creation.”
In the Quran, Allah reminds us of our purpose in life: “I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me.” (Quran 51:56)
I am not the only doula-in-training, who has found a connection between my work and my faith.  Sister Alexandria, a Maryland-based doula from Heaven Beneath Your Feet Doula Services speaks about her experience.
“It’s deeply spiritually rooted for me,” she says. “I wanted to do something that would be a beautiful and humbling reminder and that I would enjoy. As I researched what a doula is and what we do, I felt in my heart a little light go on that felt just right. I want to be able to help women utilize their pregnancy, birth and overall family life to get them closer to Allah.”
“For me Islam is an empowerment to women,” says Umm Suhaib, a doula-in-training based in Canada, “and that is exactly what a doula tries to do. Allah  Most High has made the journey into motherhood a sacred and powerful one and a doula is there to hold space for a woman on this journey.”
Sister Aishia Muhammad of Al Muslima and Motherhood Birth Services, who serves in Philadelphia and abroad, said, “Becoming a doula wasn’t a decision I made. Rather, it was a position I found myself fulfilling 17 years ago. I saw a large number of my sisters craving for assistance with love, care and spirituality while giving birth, particularly in hospital settings.
“(For example), while some laboring sisters remember their Lord (dhikr), chanting His name and making supplications (dua) other need to be reminded to do so, and some maybe too winded to speak. Your Muslim Doula will understand your dhikr and duas, can help you recite them and even encourage it further. This is the huge difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim doula. Birth is a spiritual event—a Muslim woman cannot give birth without the acknowledgement of that fact. ”

What would a Muslim doula do for me?

A doula is a blessing. Not only does she provide emotional support, but she also can provide physical and educational support to an expectant mother.
According to Birth Arts, a doula provides:

  • up-to-date, evidence-based information to the parents
  • information on birth options
  • uninterrupted labor support during delivery
  • emotional, physical and personal support
  • help to the mother to attain and maintain proper nutrition
  • a presence in the environment that helps the mother feel secure and confident

During the birth, a doula’s presence helps in many ways.

doula

Credits: Sarah Hopkins

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth

  • tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
  • reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
  • reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals

In addition, research shows parents who receive support can:

  • Feel more secure and cared for
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
  • Have greater success with breastfeeding
  • Have greater self-confidence
  • Have less postpartum depression
  • Have lower incidence of abuse

(Source: www.dona.org)

For a mother in her most powerful and vulnerable state

“A doula is a professional who holds space for a mother in her most powerful and vulnerable state,” says Umm Suhaib.  “She teaches the mother about informed consent, and works towards building a birth plan that puts the mother in charge of her body as much as possible. She helps the husband to build a toolbox for supporting his wife physically and emotionally, to keep the family feeling safe and loved before, during, and after the process of childbirth. She provides prenatal education, natural coping and pain relief, breastfeeding and bottle feeding support.”
“The top benefit of having a doula is having constant and consistent support for you during this sacred, beautiful and sometimes stressful time,” adds Sister Alexandria. “Through all the ups and downs that might come up with your family, your doctor trips, and life in general, the doula remains a consistent and constant source of support for you.”
The doula’s role is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience, and that is truly invaluable.

“We need more Muslim doulas…”

doula

Credits: Nic Taylor

Sister Alexandria feels that it’s very important to have more Muslim doulas in the community.
“As a Muslim, it’s absolutely wonderful to have a Muslim to accompany you and your family during this sacred time. It goes back to the various sunnah that go with the whole process that might not be established or properly understood in someone who isn’t Muslim. Regarding getting the dad involved, as Muslims, we understand and are used to the boundaries and thus are perhaps more capable of facilitating dad being hands-on while respecting his space, etc.”
Sister Aishia shares similar sentiments. “Indeed we need more Muslim doulas. Many Muslim woman face ridicule, criticism and harassment birthing in non-Muslim environments. But as sisters in deen (faith) we share a common duty to help and protect one another in those situations.”

My Doula Diary

Doula training has taught me more on how to be supportive and helpful. I’m thankful I can be of service to help women have the experience they desire. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf puts it beautifully when he says, “Real pleasure is in the service of others, and that’s why the happiest of all people, in our belief, is the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ .”
He also says, “No one served people more than the Prophet ﷺ. His life from the beginning to the end was a life of service.” SubhanAllah, how befitting is it to take part in a service that literally means “a woman who serves” or also said to mean a “woman’s servant!”

A calling I did not hear, until He made it known to me

Training to become a doula, became another way for me to perform service (khidma). It is a calling I did not hear, until He made it known to me. As I continue my training, I take clients, and I pray that not only am I helping them, but also giving them a better representation of Islam than what the media is showing.
It is a pleasure to help women in their pregnancy journey. As a mom, I also feel that Allah has blessed me to be able to share my experience with other women, share some of the tips and tools I have used and learned along the way. One of the reasons we go through things in life is so that we can be able to help others. Entering the world of birth work gave life to something inside me that I had not previously recognized.
There have been many mothers in the Muslim community who could have used that support when they were pregnant. They may have needed more information or that gentle voice that tells them “You can do this,” or just be in that room so that mom doesn’t feel alone.
That’s what a doula is here for.
Ameera Rahim

Resources for seekers

A Ragged Shirt and Toast Crust: Raising Successful Children

We want to give our children the best that we can give them. But what exactly makes children successful?

Talk to child development experts anywhere in the world today, and the words that will be on almost all of their tongues are “overindulgent” and “overprotective” parenting.

Over the last few decades, the natural parental drive to help children succeed has transformed into an almost irrational desire to shield kids from any discomfort that might momentarily undermine their happiness. That, however, is being deeply criticized in child development circles as ultimately impairing children’s chances at success.

Classical Muslim scholars would agree.

Keep it simple, make them successful

In the tradition of Islamic scholarship, countless texts have been written on the best practices of raising successful children.

One of the most important of those works is the poem by the tenth-century Shafi’i scholar, Imam Muhammed b. Ahmad b. Hamza al-Ramli. I came across the poem in SeekersHub’s course Islamic Parenting: Raising Upright Children ,which is based on that work and its commentaries.

Throughout the course, I saw Imam al-Ramli’s text directly address the issues that contemporary child development experts have highlighted as deep problems in parenting today; warning parents against letting children live in an atmosphere of overprotection and overindulgence.

Imam al-Ramli offers some practical, everyday examples on how to keep children from being given too many comforts, which will help them become more resilient to the ups and downs of life, as well as instilling concern for those less fortunate than them—ultimately making them more successful in this life and the Hereafter.

Below are two excerpts from the poem that present some of those examples. While they may seem very basic, they show that big lessons can come in small packages.

Dress for…success?

successful children

Credits: Joel

Imam al-Ramli recommends that clothes and sleeping arrangements—often status symbols in society—be kept simple.

“Their body isn’t clothed in the best clothes,
All the time, nor their bedding always made soft”

While children’s clothing should generally be becoming and clean, wearing an old shirt every once in a while will help the child learn to not be overly attached to beautiful things.

SeekersHub instructor Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explained, or to associate the value of a human being with the type of clothing they can afford. If they ever end up in a situation where they cannot afford a certain standard of living, they will likely be much less affected by the lack of those things than people who expect nothing less than total comfort and a high level of luxury.

Additionally, children who are overly attached to the beautiful things of this world begin to chase material gain at the expense of working towards pleasing God. Parents can weaken this attachment by gently taking away some of those beautiful things periodically.

Of course, this must be taken with balance, emphasized Shaykh Faraz.Dressing in less than beautiful clothing is something to be done only occasionally as part of a regimen to break the ego. The standard clothing a Muslim should wear generally should be neat and comely in accordance with the practice of the Prophet. In addition, dressing shabbily in our society can lead to being perceived as unprofessional or uncaring. However, a good balance should be cultivated between being joyful of Allah’s blessings, and being humble.

The most important thing to remember is that children learn from parental leadership. Parents must ensure to incorporate these guidelines into their own lives, showing the same self-control, humility, and gratitude they wish to see in their children.

Feeding Frenzy: Are we setting them up for failure?

In another section, Imam al-Ramli discusses simplicity in food; an issue high on the mind of many parents dealing with a generation marked by notoriously picky eaters.

“[Children should be] eating the dry parts of food
To become accustomed to dry food without sauce.”

successful children

Photo credit: Isriya Paireepairit

 

Here, Imam al-Ramli indicates that it is important to not always give a child what he or she desires in terms of food. In many Eastern cultures, a typical meal consisted of some bread or cooked grain served with a stew or sauce. To just have the plain bread or grain was considered less than luxurious – it was what many of the poor ate. It was also more difficult to chew and consume because of its dry, hard texture.

SeekersHub instructor Shaykh Faraz here explained that by keeping children from becoming accustomed to having what they desire every day, they learn self-restraint and self-control, which are critical characteristics in successful people. They also learn to not become too attached to a certain level of lavishness that leaves them looking down at those who cannot attain that level or feeling paralyzed when confronted with a situation in which they themselves cannot attain it.

So, should we move into a cave?

While not all of us may subscribe to the grain-and-sauce mealplan, the Imam’s advice can be applied in other ways, such as occasionally preparing a very basic meal of plain whole-wheat pasta or even just keeping the crust on our children’s sandwiches.

Yes, even if they complain it’s too dry to eat.

By giving them less than what they desire every once in a while, our children learn to truly appreciate delightful food, clothing and other such blessings when they are next available and to give thanks no matter how much or how little they have.

How do I raise successful children?

To learn more about Imam al-Ramli’s advice for parents who want to raise balanced and successful children, sign up for SeekersHub’s free course on Islamic Parenting: Raising Upright Children, this upcoming term. It offers access to other great tips and guidelines for raising upright children.

By Nour Merza

Resources for Seekers

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.