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Parenting Series | Part II: Change in Parents is Essential

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Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | | Part V(b) | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

The following practical parenting steps are not in any particular order, but the implications of them can start from a very early age, even before the children turn two.

Positive Change in Parents:

From the beginning of a child’s life, a parent should constantly be involved and must develop a habit of spending quality time with the family. It is essential that a parent must think of him or herself as a role model for his/her child. Once a child arrives in a household, certain changes must be made by: a) the mother, b) the father, and c) the family as a whole.

Let’s not worry about influencing change in extended family to prevent undesirable influence on our children. What impacts our children most is the influence they receive from direct family, mainly their parents. The battle that many parents feel obliged to take on with their extended family in order to “protect” their children is quite useless and uncalled for.  Of course, da’wah should be given to everyone but from different perspectives and with the correct intentions.

Hide Your Sins from Your Children:

Islam encourages us to hide our sins from others and that includes hiding them from our children too. Therefore, every time we commit a sin and hide it, not only we are reminded that we are indulging in a sin (which should, insha’Allah, eventually lead us to shunning it), but also we will not be setting a bad example for our children either. However, because of their close proximity to us, if they see us do something wrong and confront us, we should not become defensive and feel that our parental status is being challenged. Rather, we should:

  1. Show remorse
  2. Admit our mistake
  3. Ask them to make du’a for us that we cease this sin

In this way we are setting a guideline for them to follow in the future.

Instill Daily Habits:

Don’t think of instilling Islamic values as a part-time task like karate or soccer, which is done for an hour a few times a week at best. Rather, it should be a way of life, which may start off as a “task” due to our newfound eagerness, but should become more of a routine, like our daily athkaar when waking up, going to the bathroom, wearing the right shoe first, eating with our right hand, saying salaam, etc. We actually reach a point that if we forget, our children remind us.

Kindness & Tenderness:

The instinctive kindness felt towards our children should show more in our actions and our words. What can be taught with simple kindness cannot be taught with unnecessary strictness in the name of “teaching them to respect us”!

As the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

“Indeed gentleness is not used in any matter without it beautifying the task, just as removing gentleness makes the matter become  ugly”. (Muslim)

“He is not one of us who does not show tenderness to those who are young or respect to his elders.” (Tirmidhi)

In the same note, this applies to our methods of parenting, disciplining, and child rearing. Any Islamic value that we wish to instill in our child must be taught in a merciful way rather than a forceful way, especially when they are less than five or seven years.

Disciplining Children:

Nevertheless, it is not possible to raise a positive Muslim child without clear disciplinary measures. Setting consequences for their actions teaches children how to take responsibility for them. This may vary according to each action, sometimes being a firm reprimanding, time out, or temporary revoking of advantages (like play time or computer usage), all depending on the child’s age and the seriousness of the act of disobedience.

Positive Reinforcement:

It is highly advisable that we create a merit chart for children, on which their good and bad deeds are recorded. This idea can be adopted as early as two years of age. Parents can explore their arts and crafts skills and come up with different ideas to develop the behavioral chart. A friend of mine created a tree with ten branches out of construction paper and a bug with her child’s name. The bug would climb up the tree for every good point, and would come down for every bad one. Once the bug made it to the top, her child was rewarded. Sometimes she would switch the bug with a dollar so her child could earn the dollar at the end. For smaller children, set smaller goals with fewer steps to win the final reward.

Forgiveness:

Not every mistake has to be reprimanded, especially when they are young (up to around the age of seven). However, disapproval must be shown and a warning should be passed out so they don’t repeat the action, especially if it is a “first time” mistake.

At an older age, if the mistake is repeated, then as parents we should carefully consider how severe the mistake was, how disobedient they were and how much remorse they showed, judging of course by the situation and the child’s reaction. Once a fair appraisal is made, a parent can then consciously apply his/her punishment to teach them a valuable lesson and consequently end a habitual repetition of the ‘mistake’.

Lying, the Root of all Problems:

In my humble opinion, lying leads to greater problems and difficulty parenting. It is one of the most serious mistakes that my husband and I have personally been adamantly strict in forbidding, and hence have taken strict actions to prevent it from ever occurring in our household.

What we are not conscious of is that often times we indirectly teach our children to lie in the midst of ‘disciplining’ them! Mothers scare their children with imaginary monsters that will supposedly appear if they don’t finish their food, take their nap, or comply with their parent’s instructions. These are all forms of lies and we have been warned against it:

“Once a mother was calling her child and enticing him by showing her closed hand that she will give him something if he came. The Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalam, upon seeing this asked her if she really had anything in her hand. The woman replied that she had a date. And the Prophet, sallallahu alihi wasalm, warned that had she haven’t had anything to offer to the child, it would have been a lie.”

Truth must be upheld by parents first and foremost, and eventually will be acquired by children, insha’Allah. It has been my personal experience that although continuously observing the truth with our children takes effort and time, its benefits are great. It helps build parent-child trust, not to mention reflect proper Islamic tarbiyah. For example, when and if I had to leave my child home alone, from the time they were very young, I always gave them an honest report of where I was going. Some mothers prefer to give deceptive answers to make it easy on the child to stay behind such as “I am going to kill a lion” or “there are bad guys outside” etc. Quite frankly, these are all forms of lies.

This is not a trivial matter either because what we model for them is what they learn. In order to avoid a future problem of children lying to their parents, the initial steps of ‘always being truthful to our children’ must be taken. As I said, when a child is born, parents need to make specific positive changes in themselves.

At the same time, parents can be 100% honest, yet children will experiment with the idea of “lying to get out of trouble”. Stay prepared and be wise. As for me,I myself do not go easy when it comes to lying. On this essential belief, I have always made it clear that there are advantages to telling the truth. Thus, if:

  1. The children themselves confess to having done something wrong, then most of the time I let them off the hook. Depending on the error, I might show disapproval or disappointment. Remember, disappointment can hurt them more than anger would and drives the message straight home!  Nevertheless, I show my appreciation of their confession. Simple words of appreciation from parents have a tremendous positive effect on a child. We, as parents, often tend to underestimate the power of words. At times, consider “rewarding” you child upon their confession to encourage them to be truthful.
  2. If I find out about their disobedience or trick and confront them with it, and they choose to admit the truth, then they are lightly punished. Again, appreciation should be shown for their choice to admit the truth, followed by a reminder of how their punishment would have been far more severe had they attempted to lie to avoid it altogether.

When these measures are taken consistently from the time the children are at an early age, it is easier to instill the habit of honesty. This is not to mention the fact that it is easier to catch them in their lie when they are younger!

However, when they are too young (up to around age 5 or 6), we shouldn’t be too harsh but rather only be firm and consistent in our reprimands. After age 7, consequences will be necessary.

Be Flexible:

Let me conclude this part of the series by advising parents to be flexible with the children. For instance, sometimes we may punish them by revoking a certain advantage for a fixed number of days, but we may see a genuine effort from the child’s side in “being good” and trying to make up for their mistake. In that case, I do not feel necessary that the punishment must be applied as it was determined. I do believe that the good deeds remove the bad deeds,

“Verily the good deeds remove the evil deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful.” (11:114)

This principle should be applied towards the tarbiyyah of our children also. This will encourage the children to follow up their mistakes with good deeds from a very young age, especially when they are informed of why their punishment was lifted/lightened.

This idea may be in contrast to the principle of consistency, but I personally do not conceive parenting to be a “military ground,” and neither do I want parents to be dictators. Flexibility should be applied. Even when the children get older, they should be given room to disagree with their punishment, though with respectful and reasonable objection. This helps the children not harbor any anger against their parents and also enhances their confidence and helps build an understanding with the parents.

Again, every child is different and a parent must make an effort, from a very young age, to get to know his/her child. Parenting guidelines cannot be written in stone and at times we may have to experiment different methods to learn what works best for our child.

Insha’Allah, next week we will continue with more practical steps.

Umm Reem (Saba Syed) has a bachelors degree in Islamic Studies from American Open University. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Adam magazine and remained the publishing director until 2007. She had been actively involved with MSA, TDC, and other community activities. She has also been actively involved with the Muslim women of her community spiritually counseling with marital and mother-daughter issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities, including special workshops regarding parenting and issues related to women.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    AbuMarjaan

    December 22, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    أسلام عليكم

    “Change in Parents is Essential” ..because Our Actions speak louder than our words.

    جزاك الله خير umm reem for the tips

  2. Avatar

    Nayma

    December 22, 2010 at 6:23 AM

    JAK Umm Reem for the advice. I truly believe that when a child does something wrong, it is sooooooo much better to sit with them and explain why it was wrong to do it instead of just yelling at them.

    IT is much harder to do as we have so many responsibilities and don’t feel like we have those minutes to explain..

    But the result is much sweeter and the effect stays longer on the child’s mind.

    May Allah give us sabr and wisdom in dealing with our precious ones in the best of manners.

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      January 5, 2011 at 11:59 PM

      JAK Umm Reem for the advice. I truly believe that when a child does something wrong, it is sooooooo much better to sit with them and explain why it was wrong to do it instead of just yelling at them.

      True. It is VERY important to talk to them. A lot of times, children don’t understand why what they did was wrong. It must be explained to them.

      Plus the parents should also tell them what they could have done instead and would not have had their parents gotten angry at them.

      Just yelling at the children and then leaving them is very dangerous, because that is the prime time for shaytaan to play with their thoughts and arouse their anger and negativity in their minds against their parents. Instead if a parent takes out only 5-10 minutes to speak to them, inshaAllah, a lot of harm can be avoided.

  3. Avatar

    OM

    December 22, 2010 at 7:02 AM

    I am constantly looking for ideas to help educate children. The idea of rewarding the child with the bug-tree is very smart, Mash’Allah.

  4. Avatar

    Aly B - DiscoMaulvi

    December 22, 2010 at 7:11 AM

    Assalamu’Alaikum:

    Jazak’Allah Khairin Umm Reem for this series. Parenthood is a struggle and ensuring that your child is raised up in Islam is very important especially in today’s society where the moral fabric of society is degenerating.

    I look forward to reading more of this series, learn more and implement it as a parent.

    -Aly

    http://discomaulvi.wordpress.com/
    http://www.twitter.com/DiscoMaulvi

  5. Avatar

    Syed J.

    December 22, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    Parenting is an ongoing and daily struggle. I ask Allah SWT to help us raise children as he wants us to.

    Jazak Allah Khair.

  6. Avatar

    Abdul-Qadir

    December 22, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Assalamualaikum,

    @Umm Reem

    JazakAllah for the Article. The most important part for me was the section on flexibility. I have a question about something you mentioned.

    ‘Let’s not worry about influencing change in extended family to prevent undesirable influence on our children. What impacts our children most is the influence they receive from direct family, mainly their parents. The battle that many parents feel obliged to take on with their extended family in order to “protect” their children is quite useless and uncalled for.’

    I agree that one should not battle extended family. This does nothing but destroy family relations, and this is no good Islamically. I think some people are concerned that their extended family will expose their child to something inappropriate, like pornography. They want to be sure their child is not exposed to things they do not allow in the home. I agree that we do have the most influence, at the same time it only takes one incident for a child to pick up a bad habit from someone else.

    So how do you ensure your children have good relations with their cousins and other extended family without them being exposed to inappropriate things?

    • Avatar

      Umm Reem

      December 27, 2010 at 12:55 AM

      wa alaikum assalam

      Br. Abdul Qadir:
      We cannot fully shield our children from all the evil that is out there. The best we can do is shield them inside our homes and keep a VERY close relationship with them…so much so that they build a confidence with us that if they do something wrong they can always talk to us about it.

      Focus on building a very understanding and close relationship with them…talk to them and talk to them about everything…make them open up to you by you opening up to them first…this helps tremendously with the tarbiyyah because whenever they are exposed to some evil they come running to the parents.

      So, with the relatives, If the issue is small, then you may have to overlook and just keep talking to your children about it. but if it is something serious as pornography than i will be a bit more careful and try to minimize my child’s exposure to that family. But whatever decision i take as a parent, i will make sure that i explain to my child first why i decided what i decided and let them be a part of it.

      For instance, if a cousin has those evil magazines and shows them to the other younger cousin, then:
      * I will tell my child how and why pornography is evil. What it can lead to. Depending on the age, you can simply the terms.
      * Then I will explain to the child that it is better to keep away as much as we can.
      * If it is a matter of a VERY close relative, then it maybe better that we invite them to our house, than we going there (as much as we can reduce that)
      * Or try to do more outside activities with that family.
      * Encourage your child to make du’a for that relative
      * Lastly, encourage them to be thankful to Allah, that Allah safeguarded them from this evil, and that He gave them an understanding parent who they can approach to with their problems.

      Also, I like to be a step ahead…like when my son (10) started going to an all boys school, i warned him that sometimes boys bring magazines with girls not wearing proper clothes etc. he was shocked but i was content that i told him in my own words with a friendly motherly advise.

      I would rather be a step ahead and introduce a subject at an earlier age than wait, our of fear of my child “losing” his innocence, and let someone else corrupt my child.

      • Avatar

        Umm Reem

        December 27, 2010 at 1:00 AM

        And also just one more thing,

        I have actually discussed this in the series later, but this point can never be emphasized enough…

        we have to be a bit careful around the older or even same age cousins because a lot of time they are the ones, on many occasions, who end up introducing the “sex-ed” to the younger children. And not only it is wrong, it can even be psychologically damaging for our children.

        A lot of times those who develop sexual addictions, have an improper exposure to sex during their childhood. So this can lead to some serious consequences later in their lives…something we, as parents, tend to serious underestimate. InshaAllah I will have more discussion over this later in the series.

  7. Avatar

    UmmAdam

    December 22, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    JazakAllahKhair for this Umm Reem. Truly, parents are models for their children…the good and the bad. And if we see bad behavior in our children, we must first look to ourselves to see if it is something that they have gotten from us. May Allah guide us so we can raise good, pious Muslims, insha Allah.

  8. Avatar

    Holly Garza

    December 23, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    Great points and food for thought. JazakaAllah u Khayer for posting this, the reminders benefit the believers…thats for sure.

    I will be sharing InshaAllah

  9. Sarah S.

    Sarah S.

    December 25, 2010 at 9:39 AM

    Excellent points masha’Allah. I completely agree with the reward system you presented. I recently began working at as a Crisis Interventionist at a preschool and I have found that the classrooms that utilize a consistent reward system are creating a much more stimulating environment for the children.

    Great article! I am looking forward to the next one in your series :)

  10. Avatar

    amatullah

    December 25, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    A bit disappointed, didn’t find anything meaningful

  11. Avatar

    Abid

    December 25, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Salaam all,

    Jazakillah khair for the article sister, I’m grealty looking forward to the rest of the series.

    On the topic of parenting, you might want to visit:

    http://www.home-group.co.uk

    A new community project in the UK aimed at raising awareness of and improving muslim parenting…

    Check it out ia!

  12. Pingback: Nivac – Parenting Series | Part II: Change in Parents is Essential

  13. Avatar

    tanya zafar

    December 30, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    Dear Umm Reem,

    Assalaam alaikum,

    Jazakillah khair sister for your articles and feedback on some comments. I wanted to ask your views on TV watching, whether to have it at home or not. Although I can control so far what my daughter watches (she’s 2 & half now), I’m scared that there are still so many things that I can’t eliminate. I don’t want the TV at all in my home but this is a constant debate with my husband who wants it. He says we should control times & programs but not eliminate it. But I’m scared for most of the uncontrollable things that pop up from time to time (even in tv ads nowadays) that we can’t control.

    Also, my husband doesn’t want to believe in hadiths as he says they might be changed and not the real thing by the Prophet pbuh. I’m really struggling in my mind to make him understand. Also on the issue of music. Please help.

    Jazakillah khair, Salaam alaikum,

    Tanya

    • Avatar

      Hebah Ahmed

      December 31, 2010 at 12:56 PM

      Asalam ALikum Dear Sr. Tanya,

      We struggled a lot with the issue of the tv in our home. My husband and I finally concluded that we should not have a tv at all. These are the reasons we decided this:

      1. My husband and I have the tendency to become addicted to the tv and it makes us lazy. Instead of reading Quran or a book or taking care of things we need to, we take the easy mindless route of just sitting comatose in front of the tv

      2. We had a hard time figuring out how we were suppose to lower our gaze with the opposite sex and avoid seeing their awrahs when watching tv, especially non-Islamic channels

      3. American studies have shown that excessive tv watching can lower the IQ of children, reduce creativity, increases laziness, and increase aggression and risky behavior (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/09/27/the-debilitating-effects-of-tv-on-children/)

      4. Even if you find a decent program, the commercials are horrid. One lecture I heard said that there is deliberate placement of ads for breast augmentation in cartoons so that little girls will start thinking about it from an early age. I also think the extreme commercialization leads to increased materialism and will make any shopping experience MUCH more difficult.

      5. We have a computer with a DVD player so that the kids can watch things of benefit without worrying about commercials or them sneaking to watch things behind our back.

      6. I think that just like with alcohol, you can try to use it in moderation but the nature of the beast really does not allow for moderation, rather it seems for me at least to be a slow path to addiction and increased use.

      These are just a few of the many reasons we do not have tv although I believe there are many more.

      Allah knows best.

      • Avatar

        tanya zafar

        January 3, 2011 at 12:52 PM

        Dear Sr. Hebah Ahmed,

        Jazakallahu khair for you response on my queries. I will convey this message, InshaAllah. However, my husband & I are not on the same page & I’m still struggling with the TV issue – his issue is he wants to watch his games live!
        I have a new one to deal with, he has questions on hadith authenticity & so he says we should only follow the Quran. I’m trying to convince him to go to a sheikh but he doesn’t want to. He says that how do you know that the hadiths in Sahih Muslim/Bukhari or the other books are true to the prophet & there’ve been no alterations. is the Quran not complete enough just to follow it? why do we need to follow the hadiths when they might not have recorded correctly.

        Plz help.

        Tanya

        • Avatar

          Umm Reem

          January 6, 2011 at 12:02 AM

          sister tanya,

          You can get Jamal Zarabozo’s book, “Authority of Sunnah”. A lot of your husband’s confusions will be solved inshaAllah.

          • Avatar

            tanya zafar

            January 8, 2011 at 11:33 AM

            Jazakallahu khair – i will look into it InshaAllah.

  14. Avatar

    Anonymous

    January 5, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    jazakAllah khayr UmmReem, for this very practical and beneficial series!

    I am SO glad that you mentioned not lying to children. I really hate it when mothers say “if you don’t do such and such a man is going to come and get you”, etc. My problem is that I live with my in laws and they often tell the children these “small lies”. As soon as I have an oppurtunity alone with the children, I tell them that what they heard is wrong…but then, as you can imagine, it’s confusing for the child. Any practical tips for how to deal with that?

  15. Avatar

    Haya Shehzadi

    December 7, 2017 at 8:02 AM

    “Whoever builds a Masjid for the sake of Allah, Allah will build for him a house in Paradise” Hadith
    So Start Your Donation with trust and confidence.

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#Culture

How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

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Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

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#Society

MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

Bill Chambers

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“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within the Muslim community.

The first in this series, the MuslimARC Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. It is a tool and resource for engaging in conversations about racism and provides guidance in how to truly be a good ally to Muslims of color in this anti-racism work.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

We cannot always be aware when we say or write something that reflects our own white privilege and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of color. In our own experience in developing this Guide, we worked to practice that approach when we received feedback from other MuslimARC members and incorporated their analysis to strengthen this work.

My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of color especially women, when I had to not only check my white privilege, but also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you. As one behavior the Guide suggests we avoid, “Don’t assume what People of Color need and try to swoop in to deliver. Instead, ask what you can do.”

For the white Muslim audience of the Guide, in reading this you will automatically feel defensive either that others may do these things but not me or that none of this behavior is based on racism or white privilege. Our advice is to examine that defensiveness and take the opportunity not to act on it, but instead, consider some of the alternative approaches we recommend in the Guide. 

The Guide provides a review of our role in addressing racism in the ummah; description of some of the ways white Muslims perpetuate racism; and specifically, how to be actively anti-racist in our work. A list of educational resources is provided including available training; articles on white Muslims and allyship; and guides to anti-racist parenting. A last and very important part of the Guide is organizations like MuslimARC that you can be involved in to do this anti-racist work.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another.” (49:13) One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” the different races and groups Allah has put us in, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire self-knowledge about our white privilege as Muslims and help us to get to know how to be better allies to our brothers and sisters of color.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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