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An Exhausted Mother’s Eid Reflections, from Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil gives thanks for the little things in life.

As I began to write this from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, my daughter sat beside me, playing with her Lego Duplo train set. Alhamdulilah, she turned two on Eid, and I am constantly reminded of the innumerable blessings and changes she has brought into my life.

On the morning of Eid, we drove to the nearby Kampung Tungku mosque to pray. I smiled at the families walking to the mosque ; young children were carried by their parents, the elderly were supported by their children, and everyone wore festive traditional clothes cut from the same bolt of cloth,

When we approached the mosque, the elderly were given the ground floor to pray, while the rest of us went up the stairs. To save time, I carried my toddler up, and got her settled in before Salatul Eid began. I sat closer to the back, next to another mother with her small children. My daughter was eager to wear her small telukong (prayer garment) after she saw me put mine on, alongside all the other women.

Right after I raised my hands in prayer, my daughter’s telukong slipped off her head. She’s still figuring out how to put it on by herself, so she repeatedly called out to me,  “Mummy, help Taskeen wear telukong.” I worried that ignoring her could lead to a tantrum, so I made dua that the imam would read one of the shorter chapters. I was reminded of this beautiful hadith:

It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin Abi Qatadah, from his father that the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “I stand in prayer, then I hear a child crying, so I make my prayer brief, because I do not want to cause hardship for his mother.” [Sunan An-Nasai]

This is the mercy of our Beloved Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) who acknowledges the helplessness of a praying mother while her baby cries.

Last year, when my daughter was one, she cried and cried as I performed the Eid prayer. She was still so little then, so I broke my prayer, out of my own distress and my fear of distracting the rest of the congregation. Alhamdulilah, one year later, there was no crying, and she was able to wait until I finished two cycles of prayer. Progress! This is how I measure how far we have come: how much uninterrupted time I get in the bathroom; how many cycles I can pray before she starts calling for me, how long she can play with her toys on her own – these are the fruits of our hard, loving, real work together, as a family. My part-time jobs as a teacher and writer are my break from my full-time job as a mother.

Sadly, across the world today, we live in a time that does not value women’s work. There is no GDP or dollar sign attached to the countless tears we wipe away, the meals we lovingly prepare, and the endless diapers we change. And yet, these daily, loving acts of nurturing helps to build secure and loving human beings.

I am intimately connected now, to the brutal truth that comes with raising a child. It is relentless, everyday toil that brings both joy and pain. On good days, my toddler warms my heart with her memorable antics. On bad days, I struggle to stay calm in the face of the emotions that overwhelm her.

In the light of my all-consuming stage of motherhood, I look back wistfully to my past Ramadans of long nights of worship and Qur’anic recitation. I cannot help but compare these blessed times to the bare bones Ramadan since my baby was born. I can only pray and hope that Allah will accept the little that I do now, help me do better, and overlook my imperfections.

There has been so much tragedy this past Ramadan. I reflect on the violence perpetrated by ISIS and other extremists, and I wonder what went wrong. What broke inside these young men, to make them such vessels of violence? How can they commit these atrocities, in the name of a religion that cares deeply for the welfare of plants, animals, children, women and men? I can only pray that the light and mercy of Islam reaches their veiled hearts.

If you are an exhausted mother reading this, then trust that Allah knows every ache of your tired heart. Nothing is lost on Him – every tear you shed, every smile you bravely wear for your children, and everything you have sacrificed for them. God willing, your loving presence with your children will plant seeds of Prophetic mercy in their hearts. Your innumerable hours, days and years with them are never, ever wasted.

May these seeds we plant sprout strong, deep roots. May our children be the vanguards and sources of light and peace in a world so fractured by hatred and violence.

Resources for seekers on motherhood and parenting

How Can I Raise My Children in the West? [Video]

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalamu alaykum

How can I raise my children in the West?

Answer:  Wa’leykum Salam,

Here is a video answer by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani to this question:

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a scholar and researcher of Islamic law and Executive Director of SeekersHub Global After ten years overseas, Shaykh Faraz returned to Canada in the Summer of 2007. In May 2008 he founded SeekersHub Global to deal with the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge—both online and on the ground—in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He has been repeatedly listed as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims (The Muslim500).

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

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

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

 

Resources for Seekers

Rethinking How Our Actions and Habits Affect Our Children, by Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

When adults, and parents in particular, fiddle with their smartphones are every given opportunity, what example does it set for the children watching us? It is that we know no better way to fill our time when we’re bored. Ustadha Shireen Ahmed uses this example and others to remind us how important it is to examine our habits and actions in front of those who look up to us.

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

My Husband and I Argue a Lot in Front of Our Small Daughter and It Scares Her. What Should I Do?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: My husband and I argue a lot in front of our 3 year old daughter. She often gets scared seeing this. Many times my husband has called me names or told me to shut up in front of her. I am very worried about the impact this will have on her.

What should I do to protect her?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah lift this tribulation from your family.

Professional help

Dear sister, it sounds like you and your husband need professional help. It is traumatising for your daughter to see your husband disrespect you so openly. Unless this changes, when she grows up, your daughter will expect the same from her husband. Kind and respectful treatment from a husband will be strange to her. May Allah protect her and all children from this.

I urge you both to see a culturally-sensitive counsellor and get help. Your husband needs to learn anger management strategies, and you both need to learn conflict resolution skills.

Solutions

Please perform the Prayer of Need in the last third of the night and ask Allah to help heal your marriage.

When registration reopens, I encourage you and your husband to complete Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life. You must both learn and understand the spirit and law behind a successful Islamic marriage. Shouting matches have absolutely no space in a healthy marriage.

Please visit the #staymarried blog and study their resources, especially on conflict resolution.

Oppression

Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” [Bukhari]

Allah has entrusted your daughter to you and your husband. If staying together will only cause even more oppression, then it is time to look at the future of your marriage.

Although divorce is the most hated of all permissible things to Allah, if it means your daughter will no longer be exposed to the trauma of watching her father oppress her mother, then it could be a mercy. That being said, please exhaust all options – counselling, dua, mediation by a trusted local scholar etc. Divorce is a last resort for you and your husband. You and your husband must do your best to make your marriage work. That being said, please don’t wait for decades before ending a destructive marriage.

Please write back if you have more questions.

I pray that Allah heals your marriage, and blesses your daughter with a loving and peaceful home.

Please refer to the following links:

A Little Fiqh on Controlling One’s Anger
Staying Connected to Your Purpose Even When Your Marriage is Rocky, by Ustadha Anse Tamara Gray

Raidah Shah Idil

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

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

I Regret Leaving My Well-Paid Job to Raise My Small Children. What Do I Do?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: I regret leaving my well-paid job to stay home to raise my small children, and I am angry at my husband for encouraging my decision. I don’t like depending on him to provide for me. I don’t always agree with his decisions and as he brings the money in, he gets to decide. What do I do?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah grant you a solution to this predicament, and place contentment within your heart.

Decision-making

I strongly encourage both you and your husband to enroll in Islamic Marriage: Guidance for Successful Marriage and Married Life

A successful Islamic marriage is a partnership based on sincere concern for each other, for the sake of Allah Most High. Leaving all decision-making to your husband is causing you grief and resentment. It’s time to reassess that approach, and replace it with a more Prophetic strategy of mutual consultation. Even though you are not bringing in money to your household, you are bringing about tremendous good by raising your children.

Support

Dear sister, you have the hardest job in the world. You get no sick leave and no end of year bonus. You are on call 24/7, seven days a week, for your small children. You also juggle your roles as a wife, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, friend – the list goes on.

Who do you have to call on for support? Are you able to schedule regular time away from your children, so that you get a chance to rejuvenate? Even if it’s one morning or afternoon a week, please arrange for your parents, in-laws, or husband to look after your children. Schedule a massage, read a book, have coffee with friends, go for a walk – whatever it is that brings you joy. Nourishing your soul is also important. Strive to schedule in daily spiritual refreshers such as listening to or reciting some Qur’an, making dhikr, and so on.

Contentment

On the one hand, many single mums who are forced to work would envy you. But each of us has our tests, and this is yours.

Is it possible for you to earn a small income working part-time? Would you consider working from home? It won’t be the same as your previous, highly-paid occupation, but perhaps this will provide you with some relief.

Please perform the Prayer of Need as much as you need to, and ask Allah for contentment, and a way out of your difficulty.

Istikhara

Please perform the Prayer of Guidance up to seven times in regards to returning to work. If Allah makes it easy for you to return to work, then that is an answer for you. However, if Allah blocks off your return to work, then that is an answer for you. The test is in submitting to whatever Allah wills for you.

Take responsibility

Abu Huraira reported that Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “A strong believer is better and is more loved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the Hereafter) and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don’t say: If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so, but say: Allah did that what He had ordained to do and your” if” opens the (gate) for the Satan.” [Sahih Muslim]

Shifting the blame to external factors will only increase your frustration. Instead, take ownership of your decision to leave your job. Acknowledge the role that others played, especially your husband, and accept that you are now struggling with your decision. Trust that everything happens for a reason. Work on moving forward instead of ruminating on the past. Don’t give Satan the opportunity to create a rift within your marriage.

Solutions

1) Learn how to effectively communicate your concerns with your husband. If you struggle to do this on your own, then see a therapist, life coach, or counsellor to help you learn better communication skills. It is important that you feel validated, and not only when you bring in an income.
2) Practise asking yourself, “What is my contribution to this situation? How am I making this better or worse for myself?”
3) Make daily shukr for the blessings that you do have.
4) Look into part-time work from home options.
5) Reach out for support from loved ones.

Please refer to the following links:

What Are Some Prophetic Supplications That Can Help Me Deal With Trials in My Life?
A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

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