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Parenting Series | Part IX: Teen Idols – Crushes, Love & Heartbreak

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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

What are the advantages of communicating with our children?

  1. We understand their lives better and what they face on a daily basis at school.
  2. We can give them confidence that they can approach us with any issue/problem.
  3. We can break cultural taboos and stereotypes.

Moving further on the topic of tarbiyyahinsha’Allah, of the many advantages of keeping open communication with patience, wisdom and understanding, preteens/teens feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with their parents, especially their mothers.

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“Teenage Privacy”:

I, personally, do not believe in offering preteens/teens “privacy.” By all means, give them their “space,” but it is not synonymous to privacy. You should have access to their room, closets, computers and all their other stuff. It should be matter-of-fact and peaceful, not antagonistic. Don’t be intruding when they are with the friends, but KNOW who their friends are.

Preteen/Teenage Crushes:

Preteens/teens should be at such a comfort level around us that they should not mind sharing their feelings/emotions and secrets with us, even if it is about their crushes. This is the kind of relationship we should aim for.

Do not react to every single crush. Hold yourself back, take a deep breath and know that it is actually unnatural not to have crushes. With that in mind, make sure you thoroughly teach them that they should:

  • Not trust every other friend with their crush.
  • Be shy and modest about it.
  • Never openly confess it or try to inform the one they have a crush on (it becomes common knowledge at school)
  • realize the fragility of a Muslim woman’s reputation.

Give them sufficient warning against falling in love with the wrong person. If you have any examples in the family or amongst friends, tell them about it and let them learn from others’ mistakes.

Though that age of romantic thoughts and emotions is inevitable, make sure they do not become obsessed with their crushes. If it starts happening, seek help. Observe what they are watching and reading, especially with their friends. Try to minimize the means and do not let the crush go to the next step.

Special Advice for Parents of Girls:

Females have a special chemical called “oxytocin,” also called the “love hormone,” and it plays a major role in what’s called, “the biochemistry of attachment.” That’s why a little attention from a good-looking, popular boy or just a boy can make them feel special and they can develop feelings for someone whose last intention is to bond with them.  Learn more about this.

There is a phenomenon rising of Muslim girls falling for non-Muslim boys (an obvious side effect of Disney movies). It is not only about haram and halal; it is also about falling in love and uncontrollable emotions. Unfortunately, I cannot prolong the discussion by offering solutions, this is a topic for another discussion, but I just want parents to acknowledge and be aware of what is happening. It is not limited to public schools (though it is more common there for of obvious reasons), but even homeschooled Muslim girls can fall in love online with non-Muslim boys because that might be their only “outlet” to get in touch with the opposite gender.

It is very easy to fool girls, especially the shy and naïve girls. For some boys, these types of girls become a “challenge to overcome” at schools, so load your daughters with sufficient warnings but do not set “double standards” for your daughters vs. your sons, please!

Let them Evaluate your Parenting:

There may be things you will do as parents thinking that they are helping to build a relationship, but they might be having a negative effect. Discuss your parenting techniques with your children. Tell them why you are taking a certain approach. Find different approaches. Put your child on spot; ask them: “what would you do if your child were to do this?”

KNOW HOW TO USE YOUR AUTHORITY:

Parents have been given authority over children but to use that authority wisely is a complicated issue. Allah ‘azza wa jall hates shirk but He allows it to happen; if He willed, it would have ended but He didn’t and there is a lesson to learn from this wisdom (though we cannot fully understand the complete and perfect wisdom behind it).

Sometimes as parents we CAN put an end to something wrong, but we must choose our battles wisely. Sometimes letting go of smaller issues helps you take control of bigger issues.

For example, a sister who had recently started practicing was once seeking advice about her daughter. I noticed the sister was using too much religion and parental control over a daughter who was in her 20s. When I talked to the daughter she had similar complaints. Of the complaints the daughter had was that her mother would not allow her to go to movies on the weekend with her friends. I advised the sister to be wise in her restrictions. By no means am I promoting theaters, but look at the time we are living in, surrounded with multiple fitan, such as the fitnah of the opposite gender, Muslim women having internet affairs, men’s pornography addiction, and the increase in gays and lesbians. A’udhobillah, but we certainly do live in strange times. Compare that to watching movies with same-gender-friends, and you can see the difference in the level of harm. The sister didn’t take my advice very well. To make a long story short, her daughter ended up moving out of the house.

Stay a Step Ahead of your Child:

Parents always have to be ahead of their children, to be smart and wise. Get technical, become familiar with computers, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, etc. Stay updated and upgraded!

Self Evaluation when Children behave badly:

When our children behave badly, it is a test from Allah, as it is a time to evaluate our actions and our relationship with Allah ‘azza wa jall.

  • Du’a: use this weapon.
  • Make yourself a role model for them: Good upbringing requires setting examples for our children. Whether we like it or not, parents remain the primary role models for their children.

Lastly, love is a beautiful emotion; let us not limit it to food, clothes, secular degrees, worldly status, and brand names. Give love its proper rights. None of us would like to see our children troubled, especially not on the Day of Judgment.

I have written this series as if I was talking to my own children, and I have shared the steps that helped me build a wonderful relationship with my children, alhamdullilah. There are some topics I left out and some I didn’t discuss in detail; I skipped the biological explanations. I am writing a book in which I discuss all these issues in more detail.

To conclude, I have only Allah to thank that I was able to compile this series whichinsha’Allah will be beneficial to the readers. Special thanks to my wonderful husband, who supported me throughout, regardless of the content that we discussed. Many thanks to Mona White for editing my articles and to Hebah, Haleh, Hena and Anonymouse for helping me word many difficult parts. Last but not least, special thanks to all my amazing MM-Sisters who showed tremendous support when on several occasions I found myself on the verge of quitting due to some blatant insulting comments.

Whatever good is in here is from the blessing of Allah, and all the evil and wrong is from myself and shaytaan.

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Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance." Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. 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 had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, she's been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage & family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. AnonyMouse

    June 22, 2011 at 12:21 AM

    BarakAllahu feeki for this amazing series. I consider it to be one of the best online resources that deal with sex ed. and parenting – may Allah reward you with the best of this world and the Hereafter, ameen.

    WRT to dealing with your kids during “crush” time, you really should sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with them (both girls AND boys). Ask them to think about why they “love” so-and-so. Ask them, do they think that this person is the best person for them? Is this person the type of person who will make a pious Muslim husband or wife? Is this the kind of person they want to live with forever and raise a family with?
    And also, what do they think the other person will offer them? Attention? Love? Respect?

    Many times, a preteen or teen will seek validation of themselves in someone of the opposite gender. Understanding this will help us to show our kids that they don’t someone else to “prove” how attractive/ talented/ worthy they are – because if we’re the right kind of parents, we will GIVE our children what it is they seek emotionally (attention, love, respect, etc.).

    As well, now is the time to start talking about marriage in Islam (NO, this doesn’t mean threatening to marry your daughter off to some distant cousin “back home” by the time she’s 14!). Explain that everything we seek from the opposite sex, both emotional and physical fulfillment, will insha’Allah be achieved in marriage. Talk about how marriage is a pure, blessed bond that Allah made special for each Muslim who protects themselves from fitnah before marriage.
    Teach your kids about how love and commitment come hand-in-hand, and that before they think they’re ready for marriage just because of their strength of their desires, they also need to be aware of and develop maturity in other important areas. They need to learn how to engage in a meaningful, trusting, loving relationship based on faith in Allah.

    Of course, they’re still going to have crushes, but I would much rather that it be a “natural” physical attraction rather than a complex one-sided emotional relationship where your child is craving for certain emotional needs to be met by someone other than you, the parent. At least when it comes down to purely physical feelings, we can teach our children how to lower their gaze, fast, increase in their remembrance of Allah, and channel their energy into more productive outlets.

    • Umm Reem

      June 22, 2011 at 7:28 AM

      thanks mousey! :)

      I totally agree.

      Real quick i want to add that talking about marriage is a tricky issue at some point. As much as we should teach teens to seek everything in halal way though marriage, they must also be reminded, from time to time, about the challenges of marriage, ups and downs and that things may even go wrong etc. etc. Just wanted to add this that girls should not have a “happily ever after” picture of a “perfect-flawless” marriage.

  2. Idris Ilmi

    June 22, 2011 at 12:23 AM

    Alhamdulilah very nicely written with many usefull tips

  3. A. of the Salikeen

    June 22, 2011 at 1:26 AM

    MashaAllah and JazakeAllah khair.

    Very enlightening series :)

  4. Shuaib Mansoori

    June 22, 2011 at 2:04 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    JazakiAllah Khair! May Allah reward you and your family with Jannatul Firdaws.

    Some sisters in India are already asking for the series. Just yesterday, I converted all the articles into a single pdf and sent them over to my mother who is in India at the moment (we live in Azerbaijan). Being an MM fan since its inception, I made sure that it contained all the acknowledgements and an encouragement to visit MM for other quality articles. I also added a request to keep the author and her family in the readers’ Du’a :)

    My Khalajaan might translate relevant sections from the series into Hindi for extra benefit to the people. I can contact Amad Bhai for suggestions if this project is started and I will definitely seek your advice before distributing them. (I have Amad Bhai’s old email address, got it a long time ago from a fellow Houstonian brother, not sure if it’s the same).

    Masha Allah the book will truly be a parenting gem! May Allah accept the efforts of everyone involved.

    Shuaib.

    • Umm Reem

      June 22, 2011 at 7:30 AM

      JazakAllah khiar for all ur dua’ and encouraging words.
      Sure you can email Amad inshaAllah :)

  5. Bushra

    June 22, 2011 at 3:45 AM

    Jazakallahukhayr for this wonderful article, Umm Reem. A timely, timeless article, masha’Allah.

    I wanted to add something:

    There is a phenomenon rising of Muslim girls falling for non-Muslim boys (an obvious side effect of Disney movies)

    In my time (which was about 10-15 years ago), this was typically an effect of watching too much Bollywood. Firstly, because of the whole boy-meets-girl and they live happily ever after, plus interfaith on-screen romances were becoming more and more common. The funny thing is that most, if not all Bollywood movies, show the girl is MUSLIM and the boy is HINDU. What are the Bollywood film industry trying to show us? That Muslim girls are loose. And this is where Umm Reem’s point about the fragility of the Muslim woman’s reputation is of the utmost importance.

  6. Mezba (Read with Meaning)

    June 22, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    I think the best advice is to make sure your kids (especially girls) have good friends. People become like their friends. If their friends are studious, of proper morals and good character, chances are your kids will also be like them.

  7. Nazia

    June 22, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Assalaamu’alaikum,

    As an avid reader of MM but infrequent commenter, I wanted to take a moment to thank you UmmReem for all the hard work you put into your articles. People like me truly enjoy and look forward to reading from your research/knowledge and personal experience, and since I know you on a personal level, I take your words that much more seriously. Not all of us are granted with the gift of hikmah and foresight, but articles like these will help prepare us for those times, and inshaAllah, you will get the reward if good comes from it. I hope this encourages you to keep working hard because I’m sure there are so many more like me that share my sentiments! All my du’aas are for you and your family, and that you all are reunited in the highest levels of Jannat-ul-Firdaws, in the company of the righteous.

  8. n

    June 22, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    ditto what nazia said

  9. Hebah Ahmed

    June 22, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    MA SHA ALLLAH!!!!!!!!!! This article brought tears to my eyes as I anticipate my own 7 years old daughters future. Excellent, excellent, excellent. May Allah multiply your rewards for the hard work and endurance throughout this series. May you see on the day of judgement all the good and influence you have had on this Ummah that you are not currently aware of.

    I love you for the sake of Allah. :)

    • The Arabian Mulan

      July 5, 2011 at 4:09 AM

      Ameen!

  10. Lana

    June 22, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    One of the major problems here is our expectations of our youth. Even if we work hard to make sure our teenagers never have an illigitmate relationship, we still have to face the reality that they will get lonely. Parents and friends don’t take the place of a relationship. They see all of their friends having the freedom of boyfriends/girlfriends and then at the same time so many muslim marriages in the community are falling apart. Having the freedom of being single plus having the joy of a relationship is what many young people seek. This is an unfortunate reality. Everywhere muslim youth look they either see someone condemning them for their behavior. But who is there to pat them on the shoulder when they do something right.
    What your seeing now from so many muslim youth is a severe backlash and protest due to the following:

    1) Double standard for girls and boys, while the author mentioned not to have double standards. She also chose not include “A Special Advice for Boys” section. What about muslim boys who have crushes on non-muslim girls, (sons do not need their parents final consent to marry). A high school crush can easily turn into a marriage in this case, but no one ever mentions that. How many young men are now married to a former girlfriend, and yet the focus here is on young girls because they can get pregnant. If their son gets someone pregnant, the parents can try and hide it… If their daughter gets pregnant how many parents will not force an abortion and bring their unmarried daughter, pregnant to the masjid….. while young girls are more at risk, I think future articles should deal with the reality of teen pregnancy/ STD’s other results of pre-martial teen relationships

    • AnonyMouse

      June 23, 2011 at 1:43 AM

      Agree with your point about double standards – it is SO SO important for parents to teach their SONS as well as their daughters that

      1) chastity is obligatory on every Muslim, male or female
      2) if a boy gets a girl pregnant, he may not think that anyone will find out… but Allah has known from the very first step that the boy took in committing zina.
      3) boys must be raised to become TRUE MEN: aware of their responsibilities and duties, esp. towards women (Muslim or not!). They should never feel that they have a “Get out of jail free” card just because they’re male!

    • Sabreena

      June 23, 2011 at 9:23 AM

      I totally agree; focusing on one gender and leaves the other behind to, basically, just fend for themselves, which leads us in this mess in the first place.

    • Umm Reem

      June 24, 2011 at 2:16 PM

      I don’t think by offering “special advise” i am setting double standards. I am simply presenting what medical evidence is out there…i can’t do anything if a special “attachment hormone” doesn’t exist in men!

      Besides (and may Allah protect all of us from being in this situation) if a daughter gets attached to someone, her parents cannot force the boy/man to marry her or make amends with her but if a son breaks a girl’s heart and the parents find out than they can advice the son to marry her…

      The advice under the “Preteen-Teenage Crushes” is for everyone, hence the girls and the boys equally need to acknowledge the fragility of a muslim woman’s reputation”!!

      • Burqa Barbie

        June 12, 2012 at 11:59 PM

        The “attachment” hormone DOES exist in men. Not to mention but women/men release oxytocin when exercising, ect, not just love. Females arent running to marry their stairclimbers anytime soon. Humans release oxytocin when sleeping and arent running to marry, buy rich dinners and expensive honeymoons to Paris for their pillows. Not to mention but women have more ability in their brains for controlling their emotions and more frontal cortex involvement which is the part of the brain responsible for logic and critical thinking. Females arent subject to their hormones like mindless drones which is what your article insinuates. Perhaps you should have written an article on testosterone for boys?

  11. dudes

    June 22, 2011 at 10:48 PM

    Salam

    I just wanted to add that the importance of parents monitoring; their children needs to be constantly monitered, the reason crushes develop is because of interaction with the opposite sex. If they were to see a boy/girl on the street or in the devil box, then the lust wont last long because the image will fade, but if that image was something more tangible such as a school mate or a son/duaghter of a friend, things can get out of hand very quickly…

    I also want to reiterate the importance of marriage, as a member of the youth of today, I cant help but cry because of the selfish ignorance of the older generations. Marry your son and daughter, if a boy comes to ask, if there is no legitimate (islamically – capability or personality) excuse, then denying them will only increase the fittan in our community. What do you think will happen when the elder generations of today make the hallal hard for us. The haram is already easy, may God bless the youth who seek marraige knowing how easy instant gratification is in this society is. Weve already lost too many youth to the arrogance of our elders.

    I agree for most parents- parents know best… but the the prophet knows “bestest” :)

    please humble yourselves and place some trust in the maturity and talents of our generation, even the most mature of us isnt ready for marriage, but you can bet that more than you think are ready to step upto the plate

    if we dont use our money and time building and working on a marriage, you better bet we’ll waste it on cars/games and other simple time wasting pleasures

    • Umm Reem

      June 24, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      Marry your son and daughter, if a boy comes to ask, if there is no legitimate (islamically – capability or personality) excuse, then denying them will only increase the fittan in our community. What do you think will happen when the elder generations of today make the hallal hard for us.

      I agree.

  12. Carlos

    June 23, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    Why would a Muslim woman’s reputation be fragile? If that is just a fact of life, why should it be that way? Why should other peoples’ unfair judgments affect the way a virtuous person behaves? Why should women be held to higher standards than men?

    • AnonyMouse

      June 23, 2011 at 1:46 AM

      I find myself agreeing with you. The way that society has placed a higher “value” on a woman’s reputation is really quite infuriating.

      Islamically, a woman’s honour is sacred and it is FORBIDDEN for anyone to mar her reputation with gossip or rumours.
      It is a punishable crime in Islam to accuse a Muslim woman of committing some kind of sin/ crime without legally recognized proof. Therefore, even if a girl has had boyfriends, people in the community CANNOT accuse her of zina (fornication) unless they are able to bring forth four witnesses who actually witnessed the act of penetration taking place!

      How many of us have forgotten the severe prohibitions about making accusations against women…

      • Carlos

        June 23, 2011 at 5:42 PM

        Thank you for agreeing with me.

        Why would anyone fornicate in front of a witness, much less four witnesses?

        • AnonyMouse

          June 27, 2011 at 4:38 AM

          The issue of having four witnesses is a point of Islamic law that reflects countless lessons about Islamic values and perspectives of crime.

          To begin with, chastity is a major part of Islam. That is, to protect oneself from any pre- or extra-marital intimate relations of any sort (this applies to men and women equally). The emphasis on chastity is doubled with modesty, which means not to be ashamed of one’s sexuality, but rather to preserve it and keep it pure. Islam holds modesty and chastity to such a high level that to break it – that is, to indulge in sexual relations outside of marriage – is a severely punished crime (flogging for the unmarried, stoning for the married or previously married).

          And yet, even with the dire consequences of that crime, Islam mandates that the honour and reputation of a Muslim CANNOT be taken lightly at all. A mere accusation or suspicion is not enough to convict one of fornication or adultery. Not even one or two witnesses is enough to hold up a claim of fornication in an Islamic court. Instead, FOUR WITNESSES who saw the act of penetration are required to swear, under oath, before anyone is able to take someone to court for the crime of fornication or adultery.

          As I said, the Islamic law, punishment, and the conditions surrounding the issue of illegal sexual relations reflect so many facets of Islamic beliefs and morals. Chastity, morality, an opportunity for the guilty to repent to God without being publicly exposed/ shamed/ punished, the preservation of individuals’ reputations in society… all these are just surface examples.

          • Carlos

            June 27, 2011 at 5:27 PM

            What are the official Islamic reasons behind the prohibition on fornication? Prevention of unplanned pregnancy? Prevention of teen pregnancy? Prevention of sexually-transmitted disease? Prevention of divorce and broken families? Prevention of unplanned marriage (“shotgun weddings”)? Prevention of uncertain paternity? Prevention of single-parent families? Prevention of crimes of jealousy? All of the above? Some of the above? Something else?

  13. ramadan

    June 23, 2011 at 2:12 AM

    Jazakillahu khayr

    I really like this part “love is a beautiful emotion; let us not limit it to food, clothes, secular degrees, worldly status, and brand names. Give love its proper rights.” It sad to see some people who think that showing love as a sign of weakness.

  14. Generation Single

    June 23, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Salam

    I just wanted to add that the importance of parents monitoring; their children needs to be constantly monitered, the reason crushes develop is because of interaction with the opposite sex. If they were to see a boy/girl on the street or in the devil box, then the lust wont last long because the image will fade, but if that image was something more tangible such as a school mate or a son/duaghter of a friend, things can get out of hand very quickly…

    I also want to reiterate the importance of marriage, as a member of the youth of today, I cant help but cry because of the selfish ignorance of the older generations. Marry your son and daughter, if a boy comes to ask, if there is no legitimate (islamically – capability or personality) excuse, then denying them will only increase the fittan in our community. What do you think will happen when the elder generations of today make the hallal hard for us. The haram is already easy, may God bless the youth who seek marraige knowing how easy instant gratification is in this society is. Weve already lost too many youth to the arrogance of our elders.

    I agree for most parents- parents know best… but the the prophet knows “bestest”

    please humble yourselves and place some trust in the maturity and talents of our generation, even the most mature of us isnt ready for marriage, but you can bet that more than you think are ready to step upto the plate

    if we dont use our money and time building and working on a marriage, you better bet we’ll waste it on cars/games and other simple time wasting pleasures

  15. fa

    June 23, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

    jazakallah khair for these series. its really helpful. i have nephews and nieces i live with but i dont know how to educate them. like how do i teach them quran? they are between 2 and 3 years old. they never concentrate when i try to teach them or read something to them. and another thing is how do i punish them when they dont obey or dont listen to what they are told. they can be so stubborn sometimes i lose my mind. some think beating them is the solution but i dont agree. i would really like advices and tips to help me in this issue

    • Carlos

      June 23, 2011 at 10:11 PM

      Here is an absolutely crazy idea:

      Don’t indoctrinate those children with any particular religion or philosophy. Only teach them things that can be proven by science. Teach them about morals, but keep it secular and non-denominational. When they become adults, let them choose what religion or philosophy they think is best for them, using their own knowledge and conscience.

      No, wait, that’s an insane idea. Sorry I even brought it up.

      • dudes

        June 25, 2011 at 4:04 PM

        Carlos, if you want people to take you seriously, then stop being so sarcastic..

        If you truly believe in your own ideas, then convey them in a calm collected and reasonable manner. If not, im sure there are plenty of other people out there willing to waste time with you hurling useless/unproductive comments back and forth at each other.

        Hopefully no one here takes that stance

        Also as a warning to you, wake up, the world isnt as simple and naive as you think.. mind your arrogance and for once assume you are wrong in this situation. Seek the truth, if you dont find it, then so be it, believe what you want. Muslims themselves despite our strongly held beliefs CONSTANTLY question our faith, and we continue to believe.. We are human just like you, please give us some credit.

        • Carlos

          June 25, 2011 at 4:19 PM

          My apologies, dudes. Thank you for the reminder about keeping my ego in check. I know I need to do that. And, you are right, the sarcasm is usually unnecessary. And, believe me, I know Muslims are humans just like me. That is why I am trying to communicate with you.

      • Think

        June 25, 2011 at 9:41 PM

        Now, Carlos, I realize that you’re clearly some kind of atheist or whatever, and I can’t force you to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Books he sent and the Messengers, the Unseen, and the Power and the Decree, so I won’t try to.

        But keep in mind- Muslims such as ourselves know that if we do not do our utmost to raise pious children, then it will come back to bite us. We are shepherds, responsible for our flocks, and this is not something we can do- your approach is pervaded with the Western paradigm of viewing all of reality through an empiricist spectrum and placing an extraordinary value on personal choice that, in all honesty, Muslims know to be false and illusory.

        Or at least they used to. Allahu alim.

        • Carlos

          June 25, 2011 at 10:49 PM

          I respectfully disagree with the idea that being pious and being good are the same thing, or that being pious is superior to being good, Think.

          I have a small flock of my own. From the time each of them was a day old, I have truthfully answered any question they have asked me, even about “adult” subjects such as sex, death, violence, addictions, politics, environmentalism, extinction, crime, racism, war and religion. I discuss these subjects with them regularly. I have never told them anything I know to be untrue, or sugar-coated or hidden things that are disturbing, ugly or frightening. I try to be sensitive about not unnecessarily scaring them, but my personal theory is that knowledge is the greatest vanquisher of fear. I have bought them numerous books of science, and use the internet to show them videos, to teach them about the world and the universe. I have taught them that I do not believe in the existence of any deities, because there is no evidence for such entities. I teach them that, as far as anyone knows, they have only one life, so to make the absolute most of it. I teach them that, since every person and every animal has only one life, there is no moral value higher than respecting life and the freedom to live it as one sees fit. I discourage my children from participating in religious activities, and discourage my wife from exposing them to religion, but I do not forbid it. For example, if one of my children wants to play with some friends or relatives at a local church youth group, I allow them to go, even though I know religious indoctrination is part of the program. I sent my kids to a religious preschool, where they learned to do things like sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, cause the Bible tells me so.” I sent them to this school because it is a good school, and it is close to our house, in spite of my desire to avoid exposing my children to religious indoctrination.

          How have my children turned-out so far? Everyone raves about how well behaved they are in public, like little adults. They are amazed we can take them to restaurants, and they will make barely any sound. My oldest is a prodigy by any definition. He has more trophies, awards and acknowledgements at his tender age than I have received in my entire life. (I was raised in religious indoctrination, and had to free myself from it through my own efforts.) He is at the top of his class, and is skipping his next grade, because the school system acknowledges, after extensive testing, that he is not being challenged enough. His teachers sit him next to problem children, because he has the effect of moderating their otherwise uncontrollable behavior. His peers look up to him like he is a rock star. He beats highly intelligent adults at chess. My personal theory is that his mind has been so free of the confusions caused by superstition and religion, and so filled with knowledge about science and the universe, that his brain has developed at an incredibly advanced pace. My other kids are advanced too, but are a little too young to measure yet. I have no doubt they will all grow-up to become great people, law-abiding citizens and moral pillars of society. Check with me in a couple of decades, and we will see if my failing to teach them to be “pious” in Islam or any religion has hurt them in any way.

          I get a little emotional when I talk about religious indoctrination of children. Richard Dawkins, one of my heroes, argues that religious indoctrination is a form a child abuse. I am not sure if I would go that far, but I see where he is coming from. He points-out that nobody refers to a child as being a Democrat or a Republican or a Capitalist or a Communist, so why would anyone label a child as being a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu, etc. Children are clean slates, and we can fill those slates with knowledge that helps clarify life and the universe or with falsehoods that cause them confusion and fear. I note that children tend to believe whatever their parents tell them to believe. It is not just coincidence that Christian parents have Christian children, Muslim parents have Muslim children, Jewish parents have Jewish children, etc.

          Thank you for having this discussion with me.

          • Think

            June 26, 2011 at 9:31 AM

            With all due respect to you, it is quite clear that we value different things. It is simple enough, we cannot look at it the way you do without putting our Islam as a whole in grave danger- and frankly, I do not find the way you have looked at it to really be comprehensive nor satisfying to me. It is all well and good that you have a child who is good at chess and intelligent- but to Muslims, this is of less value than pious children, because to raise an impious child is to endanger their hereafter- which we affirm to be existent.

            I have a friend actively engaged in the sciences (he is currently researching some form of cancer-causing gene at Cornell, I do not understand the particulars, being more inclined towards sociology myself) who is a devout Muslim- are you going to charge that he is ‘stupid’ because his ‘head is filled with superstitions?’ Has he really turned out so awfully?

            There is no indication that children raised by atheists are more or less intelligent than children raised by religious people, nor is there any indication that religious people are dumber as a whole than atheists. Whatever correlations do end up working in such a manner could be explained very simply through sociological facts concerning atheists over the age of 30: they tend to be middle-class, which removes the barriers to deepened understanding that would be set up in the face of someone born into a family of five in Louisiana; this ties into other factors which would promote brain development in children, such as proper nutrition.

            I am sad that you found your childhood to be one of ‘religious indoctrination.’ But your perspective is such that we are not really speaking in the same language. Even though we are, we are not. Your children are your children; go ahead and raise them how you like. Let us be to raise our children to love Allah and love His Messenger (salallahu alayhi was-salaam). To claim that this is tantamount to ‘child abuse’ is nothing more than the worst of first-world-privilege asserting itself in the discourse of Mr. Richard Dawkins, whose absurdly simple-minded stance with regards to this matter leaves him seeming (though I know him to be a strikingly intelligent person in other respects) to be nothing other than a manifestation of crude, one-note insults to anyone who holds that there is something other than what is immediately and outwardly apparent.

            Please keep in mind through all this that I was not raised Muslim- far from it. I was raised not-really-Jewish in a sort of cultural manner and my mother encouraged that I read constantly and question. I am where I am now nonetheless. I ask that you respect this conclusion, but will not be surprised if you refuse to.

            To you your way; to me mine, but do not speak of the way I will choose to raise my children (Allah willing) as ‘child abuse.’ I could charge the same for the way you are raising your children, for as the Prophet (salallahu alayhi was-salaam) said “Every child is born upon the fitra (natural inclinations of humanity to believe in One God) but its parents make it a Jew or a Christian.”

            A good day to you.

          • dudes

            June 26, 2011 at 9:33 AM

            Whats up fellow human Carlos,

            Im glad to see your so passionate about your children and your beliefs.

            Dont you think that raising your children not to believe is also a belief? Havent you indoctrinated your children into believing in a Godless world?

            Of course from my point of view it is wrong, but the matter isnt as simply as we see it.

            What are you doing in these comments carlos? you are trying to get people to think, trying to get people to see a bigger picture right? Great that is what almost everyone here is trying to do including the author of this article. We are curious creatures and in a curious world it is not uncommon to find many answers to those question. Most of which im sure you would agree to be false. So what can we do? It is not only our responsibility to raise our children but to preach and spread what we believe to others ( i speak for you and myself). In that process if we are sincere and seek the truth, we WILL find it. We believe that God gives everyone a chance to believe regardless of how he or she were raised or the experiences they went through. With this belief, we should as muslims understand that the reason our children are muslims is not through our own merit but through Gods mercy accompanied with our childs sincerity. Vice versa; your children’s beliefs are due to them accepting it as well…

            We are under the illusion that WE dictate our childrens religion/beliefs, yes we may provide them with ideas, but in the end no on can deny that it is they who accept them. We are just fortunate enough that our children believe what we believe in. How many children out there deny their parents completely and deny all beliefs associated with them? Plenty. Our job is not to raise pious children or even good children. Our job is to seek the truth and once found practice upon it. Doing so brings about the care and effort we put into children. Think about it, why do you teach your children? because you feel it is your duty… now, do you teach only your children? and that exactly is my point

            May God guide us all muslim and non muslim to the straight path

          • Carlos

            June 26, 2011 at 5:58 PM

            Thank you for your insightful comments, dudes and Think.

          • ahlam

            June 27, 2011 at 1:33 PM

            Richard Dawkins is one of your heroes? Bloody hell Carlos… I thought better of you, you know

    • AnonyMouse

      June 24, 2011 at 2:03 AM

      Wa ‘alaikumus-salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

      Sis, at the ages of 2 and 3, children are still way too young to be “formally” taught. Their minds simply aren’t developed enough at this point to comprehend formal education.
      Really, the best thing to do at this time is to teach them about Islam informally. Make it fun! When you go out on walks, ask them “Who created the sun and the flowers?” and let them answer (or answer for them after a few minutes), “Allah!”

      As for Qur’an, the best thing to do is to teach by example. As in, let them see you reading the Qur’an and spending time with it and enjoying it… or record a few simple surahs and read along with it – little kids love to join in with “singalongs” and they will no doubt enjoy reading these few surahs with you. If you’re able to spend time with them at night/ bedtime, sit next to them on the bed and read Aayatul Kursi, Mu’awadhatain etc. over them in a beautiful, soothing manner. It will bring comfort to them and their earliest memories will be of having their beloved aunty reading Qur’an to them!

      Toddlers at the age of 2 and 3 should not be “punished” or beaten; it will only cause them to hate whatever you’re trying to ‘teach’ them! Rather, you should encourage them with a fun and loving attitude. Think about how you learned your ABCs… it certainly wasn’t by being beaten!

  16. Mayubelle

    June 26, 2011 at 6:03 AM

    Great post UmReem,
    Sorry to use this space but i have a unrelated question. I have written an article for Muslimmatters which I am very eager to submit and publish right away, but am unsure of the procedure to do so. Could you or any of the other moderators please help me out. Jazakallah

  17. Ch Shahzad

    June 29, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    Asslam o Allaikum….i m Shahzad fm Pakistan…..m v mch happy after knowing that our girls know well,….amazing work…..I appreciate u for suc a wonderful blog…..this blog is really helpful for our Parents and child….May ALLAH give us hadaya and make us more firm in faith…May ALLAH protect u…..

    JAZAKALLAH KHAIR.

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  26. Nimot

    November 1, 2016 at 8:47 AM

    Ma Shaa Allaah! Tabaraka Allaaah. A very BIG jazakillahu khair Sis. you have done a very brilliant job here and something that is considered obnoxious in my society. Alhamdulillah for Islam for bring us light and hope. Though i have not thoroughly gone through all the series again and word for word but with the length i have gone through. I really thank God for your life and pray He reward you with goodness in this life and hereafter and make the goodness out come of this series on individual count on your scale of good deeds on the day of Qiyyam . Aameen!

    PS: Please i will like to seek your permission in using your write up to male my oral presentation(not text printing) in my Fiqh Nisa class, i think its a topic that really needs to be addressed and spread among the Ummah as the rate of immorality is becoming wide spread and saddening enough involving muslim children ): so sad!
    Will be glad to read your reply and any additional support you have/can to assist my presentation.
    Jazakillahu khair again Sis,

    Wa Salaam aleikum warahmotullah wabarakutuh.

  27. Saba

    January 24, 2018 at 12:10 PM

    Jazakallah Khair for this series. May Allah reward you abundantly for your work. What you did takes tremendous efforts and guts. It is actually very difficult to find islamic material on such intimate topics.

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