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Making Families Work – Tips for Muslim Parenting | Yasir Qadhi

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Lecture by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Zara T.

[The following is the video and transcript of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s khutbah “Making Families Work.”  The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]

The khutbah can be viewed here.

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Islam, in  today’s khutbah inshaAllah ta’ala we will talk about the importance of parents and some of the Islamic principles and tips that we as parents need to know when we deal with our children.

We all know, my dear brothers and sisters in Islam, that children are of the greatest blessings of life. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us in the Quran “Al maalu wal banuuna zeenatul hayatid dunya”. Money and children, that’s what makes life beautiful for us. What makes life worth living even for those who don’t believe in a God – for us, of course we have the akhirah but even for those who don’t have any iman, what makes life sweet? Al maalu wal banuun. And Allah mentions this as a blessing for us, as a blessing that He has given us. Allah says in the Quran, Allah is the One who has given you, He has aided you, He has helped you , He has blessed you with money and with children and that is why having children, this is a natural desire in every human being. It’s ingrained  in us. Allah says in the Quran “It is pleasing to men, it is alluring to men that they desire women and they desire children.” Every single person, and of course the ayah is directed to men that they want women, and of course women as well want husbands, women as well they have the same desire, they want a loving spouse, they want a healthy relationship and they want children as well.

And in the Quran we have so many stories of those who did not have children and they want to have children, so much so that they will even adopt in order to have a child. The famous story of Imra’atul Aziz in the Quran, Yusuf, the story of Yusuf and the family that adopts him, they did not have a child. What does the wife say? And in fact the exact same phrase that this woman says, another woman also says in the Quran; and that is the wife of Firawn. Firawn and Aziz, two different people in two different time places, they both did not have children. When Asiya the wife of Firawn sees this child and when the wife of Aziz, when Aziz brings home Yusuf, they both say the exact same thing: “This child, hopefully he will benefit us and we will adopt him as a son, we will take him as a son.”

You see, parents, they want children that when they grow older, these children will benefit them. That when they grow older, somebody will take care of them. Parents, they have it inside of them to see their children flourish, to see their children grow. It is an amazing psychological reality that no human being on the face of this earth wants to see another human better than him except for the father when it comes to his son or the mother when it comes to her daughter. You don’t want to see your cousin richer than you, or your uncle smarter than you, even if you accept it grudgingly. But you’re not happy to see another person richer than you. You’re not supportive to see another person with a better job than you. You will accept it as a reality of life, okay there are people that are above, there are people that are below. But the only time that you will feel happy that someone is better than you is your own son or daughter.

You will genuinely feel proud. That’s my boy, that’s my daughter, he’s done this he’s done that. no jealousy at all, 100% support. And this is an amazing psychological reality that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created in every one of us. And that is why, as I said, it’s a natural desire to have children.

 

Ibrahim [as], he doesn’t have a son or child, he makes duaa to Allah. So Allah sends him an angel to tell him yes you’re going to have a child, you and Sarah will have a child and after this child you’ll even have a grandchild. And Zakariya [as], he’s making duaa to Allah, that beautiful, that poetic duaa. He makes duaa to Allah in a language that is so beautiful that we cannot even translate it into English, but he makes duaa that he wants a child, that I want a child that shall inherit from me, that shall carry my progeny on, and therefore it is indeed a sign of mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that He has allowed us to have children and that we take care of these children. And taking care of children as well is a human emotion. It transcends religion and culture. Muslim and kafir, we all love our children.

The famous story of the bedouin who came to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and he saw the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) kissing Hasan and Hussain, playing with them, throwing them up in the air -and this is his grandson. can you imagine what he would have done with his own children. We don’t have any stories of how he raised Fatimah and Umme Kulthoom when they were babies because this was pre-Islam. But we have stories of Hasan and Hussain, that he would kiss them and he would play with them and he would allow them to come on his back when he was in sajdah, the most humbling and the most religious position. But when Hasan is on his back, crawling, he allows Hasan to play even if this is kind of interfering with salah, but that love that he has for his grandson, it allows him to remain in sajdah longer so that Hasan is not harmed when he stands up. So he’s playing with his grandchildren, and he kisses them, and this Bedouin, he’s amazed, he’s astonished, and he says, “Do you kiss your children?” because in their culture, it was considered unmanly to show this love. It was considered a sign of weakness to show love to your children. Do you kiss your child like this? “By Allah, I have ten children and I’ve never once kissed one of them.” He’s trying to boast that he is so manly, he’s so macho that he’s never kissed any of his children. And the prophet [saws], even though he was the gentle rahmatal lil alameen and he had the height of adab, when he saw such callousness he could not help but give a callous response back. Because sometimes you have to be harsh and sometimes you have to be strict. This man is boasting that he is not merciful to his children. And he’s swearing by Allah, wallahi, and he’s using Allah’s name to feel a sense of pride that I’m so detached from my kids.

And what did the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) say? Do I have any control over your attitude, that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has snatched away rahmah from your heart? Is it my fault that you have no rahmah, that you’re boasting that you don’t kiss your own children? And this is a harsh response, this is a verbal slap on the face to this man, but sometimes harshness requires harshness. And this boast, it required a firm response back to it. That, are you boasting that you’ve never kissed your children, and then you expect me to sympathize or have mercy? Its not my fault, he said, that Allah has stripped your heart of any mercy. And this clearly shows us, brothers and sisters, that in our religion, to have a loving attitude towards your children, this is a sign that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has blessed you. It’s a sign that you have rahmah in your heart.

 

As we said last week, that it is not the sign of a man to mistreat his woman. Now we say in this khutbah, it is not the sign of a man or a woman, it is not the sign of a loving parent to mistreat their own children, to always be harsh, to always be strict on their children.

And indeed as Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has blessed us with children, with every blessing comes responsibilities. With every blessing comes responsibilities. There is no blessing that comes with no strings attached. Children are one of the biggest blessings of life. In fact they are really what makes life worth living for everyone amongst us who does not even, as we said, even people without any religion, children will make their life worth living. How about us who have iman? Of course children make our life much better living. So, with that blessing comes responsibility, and the primary responsibility that muslim parents have is to raise their children to be righteous muslims, to be good muslims.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Quran “Oh you who believe, it is your responsibility to protect yourselves and your families from the punishment of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)”. And our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said “Every one of you is a shepherd and you are responsible for your flock.” And number one, he said, the father is responsible for his flock and the mother is also responsible for her flock. The father and the mother, he mentioned the both of them in this hadith. They are both responsible for their flock and their flock is but one because their children are the same. Both mother and father are responsible for the same flock. They’re responsible for the same set of sheep if you like. And both of them will be asked by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) about how they dealt with their flock, with their responsibility.

 

And therefore in today’s short khutbah, I wanted to remind myself and some of you of some practical advice about tarbiyah, about raising children.  And today’s khutbah is primarily directed at the parents. Today’s khutbah, the emphasis is on the parents, so those who are parents, pay heed. Those who are not yet parents, pay extra heed; because every one of us, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) blesses and tests and tries through the issue of children.

 

The first advice to myself and all of you, and really the most important advice, the best way to raise one’s children is to be a role model yourself in their lives. If you yourself are not of good character, there is no way your children will have a good character after you. And this is the ultimate reality. Brothers and sisters wallahi the media is to blame a lot, television is to blame a lot, internet is to blame a lot, society is to blame a lot. But the number one blame for a disrupted family, the number one blame for a broken family is the parents themselves. This is the number one blame. And before any of us, and I speak to myself before I speak to any of you, before any of us is ready to point our finger anywhere else, be prepared to take a solid look in the mirror. Because the number one guilty person in any broken family, in any broken relationship is the person you’re looking at in the mirror. If you have not been a role model to your son or daughter, if you have not lived up to the ideals that you should live up to,  then how can you blame your own child for failing to live up to those responsibilities?

And there are two elements here by the way. When it comes to being a role model, there are two elements here. There’s a worldly element and there’s a religious element. There’s a deeni and there’s a dunyawi. There’s a psychological and there’s also a spiritual. When it comes to psychological, when it comes to the worldly element, there’s a simple common sense here; that as you do, it shall be done unto you. It’s not a coincidence, brothers and sisters, there are thousands of surveys done, it’s not a coincidence that children who grow up with parents who are smoking are much more predisposed to smoking. Children who grow up in abusive households, abusive relationships, when the husband is beating the wife, that these children will also beat their spouses when they grow up. It’s not something that takes rocket science. As you do in your family, your children will do when they grow up. This is the reality. This is the fact of science, of psychology, and it doesn’t take rocket science.

And the fact of the matter, husbands, if you’re mistreating your wife, if you’re abusing your wife, are you going to blame your son when he grows up and he also then starts abusing his wife? If all you do is scream and shout at your wife, ask yourself, do you want your daughter to have a husband like you? Ask yourself this. Do you want your daughter to be treated the way you treat your own wife, the mother of your daughter? So, relationships begin in the house. Relationships begin with oneself. As you do unto others, your child will learn to do unto others. And this is wallahi the fact that scientists, psychologists, everyone can tell you and it doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. So the first way to have good children is to be a good man or a good woman yourself. The first way to have children who are polite, children who are respectful, is to be polite and respectful in your own life to others.

 

And I have seen with my own eyes, brothers and sisters, I am now of middle age and I have grown up here. I’m of that generation that is of the first generation to immigrant parents here in America. And I have seen plenty of horror stories and plenty of good stories of the children of my generation that are now young adults, that are  now reaching their maturities and primes. I have seen with my own eyes, brothers and sisters, that every time a husband and wife, a couple, had good Islamic values in their life, the child eventually returns to Islam. Eventually. Yes I have seen some times children go away, especially in the teenage years, especially in the young twenties. But if the husband and wife raised them with an atmosphere of love, with an atmosphere of Islam, then when the child comes of age, when the child becomes twenty five or thirty, becomes a married adult, automatically they revert back to the only memory they have of living like a family, and that’s the memory of their parents. And I have seen with my own eyes so many of my friends go through rebellious teenage years, go through a lot of evil, dating, womanizing, drugs, alcohol, then they grow into young men and women, they get married, they start their careers, and all of a sudden, they turn over a new leaf.

And why is this the case? Because when they are blessed with children, when these children have children of their own as young men and women, and they realize, you know what, I can’t afford to let my son or daughter go. They have to change their own lives around. And how do they change it around? As I said, to the one memory that they have, the one role model that they grew up with, and that is their parents. And I have yet to see one example of a young man or woman who has grown up in a religious environment who permanently leaves that religious environment. I have yet to see one example in my own extended relatives and family and extended acquaintances that I knew growing up, this is the reality that I have experienced and of course there might be one or two exceptions, but the general rule of thumb: as the family is, so too when this child grows up, he will replicate that family in his own family.

And so, you want to have good children, start with yourself. Start with your own relationship with your spouse. This is the human level. There’s a spiritual level as well. And the spiritual level, I’ve spoken about it here on this mimbar many times. And the best example is the story of Khidr and the young boy that he killed. Why did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) spare those two parents from this boy? Why did Allah give them another boy that was better for them? Allah says in the Quran, the parents were righteous, the mother and father were good people, they were believers in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), so Allah did not want to test them with a rebellious, with an evil child. Allah wanted to give them a good child, a respectful child. And so Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) blessed them with another child that would be good to them, that would be righteous. Because they were righteous, Allah gave them righteous children. So you want to have good children, you have to start with yourself. You have to start at home. You have to start with your relationship with your spouse. This is number one and this is something that religion tells us, science tells us, psychology tells us, every single doctor, every single person who knows anything about sociology, humanities, will tell us. This is the way of the world. As you do unto others, it shall be done unto you.

 

The second advice to myself and all of you: As salah, as salah, as salah. This cannot be overemphasized. We need to make sure that our children grow up praying on time.

Why? Not just because salah is important in our religion. Of course that is a big issue which we can get into, but we don’t have time for this. Not just because our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,  make sure that your children are praying at the age of seven and then force them to do so at the age of ten.  Not just because we’re required to do so, not just because Allah says in the Quran, “command your family to pray and be persistent in that command”.  Not just because all of this, no. There’s also a selfish reason that every one of us should want our children to pray. When our children pray regularly, we are teaching them that there is an authority higher even than their parents. There is an authority that must be obeyed even more important than the authority of the parents.  And you see brothers and sisters, the one real authority to keep children in check when it comes to their parents is not the parents themselves, this is circular logic . The parent cannot force the child to respect the parent simply because it’s a parent. This is a circular logic. You have to go to a higher authority, and that higher authority is only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

So when your child knows there is Allah, and Allah is watching me, and I believe in Allah; when your child is praying regularly, when you child has that relationship with Allah, and then he learns Allah has told me to be good to my parents, our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has said my mother, then my mother, then my mother, then my father. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has said that jannah is underneath the feet of the mother. Now he learns the Quran and Sunnah. It has an impact on him. Why? Because you have taught him to believe in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). You’ve made him a good Muslim, you’ve given him those values. He knows who is his lord, he’s praying on time, and now when his lord tells him “be good to your parents,” he will listen to his lord because this is not circular logic.

The mother cannot say “be good, I am your mother.” This is circular, right, this is going back to her. The father cannot say “you have to respect me, I am your father.” These are going to fall on flat ear-sand by the time the kid is a teenager, khalas he wont care anymore. But when the child believes in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), when the child is regularly  praying five times a day, and he knows who is his lord, now you tell him, now he learns, now he hears in the khutbah, now he understands it is not my mother and father telling me to respect them. It is the Creator of my mother and father. It is my Creator, it is my Prophet, it is my book that is telling me this. Now all of a sudden the whole paradigm shifts, the whole reality shifts. And therefore, brothers and sisters, salah is of the utmost important element to make sure that your children are respectful, are good. And of course there’s a whole other set of issues with salah in terms of routine, in terms of punctuality, in terms of responsibility, in terms of habits. All of this we can talk about in a different khutbah. But the person who prays regularly, all types of blessings open up, including the blessings of having good children, and this again goes back to my first point. If you’re not praying five times a day, how do you expect your child to be praying five times a day?  If you’re not living the life of the Muslim, how do you expect your child to do this?

And realize in the advice of Luqman [as], that famous advice of Luqman, which is the most comprehensive passage in the Quran about parent and child relationships and parent and child advice and perhaps in one khutbah, that’s another khutbah to be done, the advice of Luqman; what does Luqman say to his son? Of the first things that he tells his son, my dear son, make sure you pray regularly. Establish the prayer on time. This is in the top three pieces of advice he gives: Believe in Allah, worship Allah, then right then and there, right on the top of page, “ya bunaya aqimis salah”. Oh my son, make sure you’re doing your salah. and therefore brothers and sisters, the second piece of advice to myself and all of you: the salah, the salah, the salah. if you’re not praying, make sure you start praying and then have your family pray as well.

 

The third piece of advice: Make duaa for your children. Regularly, sincerely, make duaa for you children. Let me ask you, and ask yourselves this: When was the last time you raised your hands up to Allah and asked Allah to make sure your children are good, asked Allah to guide your children, asked Allah to protect your children from the evils of society? Wallahi brothers and sisters, ask yourself this. If you’re not asking Allah for it, why do you think you’re going to get it? How do you think you’re going to get it? if you’re not asking Allah for good children, if you’re not asking Allah to protect your children, frankly, where is your love for your children? Wallahi one of the most important duaas you should always be making, the Quran tells you to make this duaa, its in the Quran, pick it up. “Rabbana hablana min azwajina wa dhurriyaatina qurrata ‘ayun wajalana lil mutaqeena imama”. Allah tells you in the Quran..make this duaa that “Oh Allah bless us with good wives and good children , those that give us coolness of the eye” (i.e they make our lives easy, they don’t make our lives difficult). Min azwajina wa dhurriyaatina qurrata ‘ayunin. This should be our regular duaa.

And our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the duaa of the father for his son, meaning the parent for the child, the duaa that the parent has for the child, Allah never rejects that duaa. Allah always accepts it. SubhanAllah one of the most acceptable duaas, one of the most highest chances of a duaa being accepted, the duaa of the parent for the child. When was the last time you made duaa? How often do you make duaa for your children? From now on, almost every duaa that you raise your hands up to Allah,  include something about your children. Make sure you ask Allah, oh Allah protect my children from this environment, protect my children from the evils. Oh Allah, make them good Muslims. Oh Allah, guide them and guide others through them. Make that duaa from the heart and you know what, once again there’s religious and psychological effects. Religiously, Allah will bless them. Psychologically, when you’re always asking Allah, then when you see an opportunity to protect your children from evil, you will do it. When you see an opportunity to help your children religiously, you will do it. Because its on your mind all the time. If you don’t even ask Allah, then how will it come? If you don’t even ask Allah, you yourself will forget about it and you’re not going to take advantage of every opportunity.

 

The fourth piece of advice, and I speak as somebody who straddles both cultures of the east and the west, as somebody who has lived for long periods of time in the east, and was born and raised in the west. As somebody who was born as the first generation, basically the first born generation here of my parents who came and I speak very frankly, that oh parents amongst us who have come from different cultures to America, realize that we now live at a different time and a different place and a different society and a different culture. Frankly, you cannot raise your children with the same rules and relationships that your parents had back home with you. It’s not going to work any more. It’s a different reality. It’s not just times that have changed. You have literally uprooted yourself from one culture and planted yourself in a completely different culture. The techniques and tactics that your parents used with you, you cannot replicate them for this generation in this land. And therefore, you are the ones that need to learn, not the other way around. It’s not your children’s fault that they were born and raised here. Frankly, it’s yours. You came here, not them. You’re the ones who decided to come to this land. They were born in this land, they’re looking at the society, they’re absorbing the culture, then you’re going to get angry at them, “how can you do this, how can you do that?” think about it brothers and sisters, who brought them here? Who’s raising them here? You are. So cut them some slack and realize you are going to have to learn more than they will. This is their culture, it’s not your culture. And in order for you to have an effective parent,  you will need to broaden your horizons. You will need to develop a new type of relationship with your children and that is a topic that is far beyond the khutbah  This is a life long experience, but I just want to point out certain elements here.

No doubt, and wallahi there’s no question the media, and television and the internet, but you know this khutbah is not about blaming them and blaming those things. That’s a reality. It’s a reality I cannot change, you cannot change. What can we change? Well, what we do at home. How we filter those things out. I can’t change the internet or Nickelodeon or whatever, the music videos  they’re watching. This is the reality of the world we are living in. So instead of just blaming everything on that -and it might be true, there’s a lot of blame there- instead of  blaming everyone else, ask yourself proactively, what can I do to better the situation? Yes the music videos are there, yes the evil stuff on the internet is there, yes drugs are everywhere, but instead of just cursing and slandering and blaming, ask yourself: what can I do to protect my son and daughter?

This is the proactive mentality. Instead of  just every pointing finger, see what is reality. See what is the best way to raise your child, and I have some basic points of advice here. First and foremost,within this area  of changing cultural paradigms, do realize, brothers and sisters  that our children, they do have a sense of  know it all, a sense of I know better than my parents . Understand this. And they get this sense because of many facts of life. I mean, lets be realistic here. Our children know better than we do about technology. Our children know better than we do about the latest gadgets, about the latest this and that. And I will tell you, I grew up here. I thought that I knew this society and culture. Now that Allah has blessed me with children of my own, believe me I don’t know the difference between this and that  and sometimes my kid comes and tells me oh you need to get the iphone 5 because this has this and this has that and I don’t know these things anymore, because now I’m getting out of touch. Even though when I was growing up, and I grew up in a western environment, I felt this way about my own father, that I’m more technologically advanced, that I’m in tune with everything. But this is a reality that when we reach a certain age, our children are more in tune with technology.

Now let me ask you, put yourself in the shoes of that 10 year old, that 12 year old. When he knows his father does not know how to operate a computer as well as he does, when he knows every single gadget on the market, he is more aware than his father, isn’t it natural for this 10 year old to think I know about life and reality and culture and society and people better than my father does? Put yourself in his shoes. Do you blame him? And then it is true: the media also, television also, it gives the sense that the parents are backward and the child is know it all and the child is right. Yes it is true we can blame the media, but lets also sympathize a little bit.  Is it really this child’s fault now, to think this way? It’s our job to educate the child: you know what? You don’t know everything. You might know the iPod or the iTouch or the I this better than I do, but you don’t know human society. You don’t know interactions. You haven’t tested humanity the way that I have. You haven’t lived amongst people the way that we have. And that’s your job in a gentle manner to teach the child.

 

And one of the best ways to do this brothers and sisters, and this is very difficult for those amongst us who have been raised in a different society and culture. We need to learn, there’s a common expression in America here that parents have to be friends with their kids. You know perhaps that’s not going to happen, let’s also be realistic, but let me tell you one thing frankly. Perhaps you’re not going to be friends with your kids, but you will have to learn to have conversations with them that are beyond just rebuking or ordering or commanding. You’re going to have to learn  to talk to them and not at them. Look now, examine your own life. When you talk to to your children, what is it about? Is it always “do this” “don’t do that” “how could you have done this”? if this is your whole relationship with your son or daughter, frankly you’re setting yourself up for failure .When is the last time you actually had a conversation that was not rebuking, not commanding,  not derisive, not sarcastic? Yes they deserve a little bit of harshness every once in a while but if that’s the only thing you can show them, what do you think their attitude will be towards you? Especially when they grow older, especially when they hit the teenage years, especially when they get their car and they get their first taste of freedom. I agree perhaps in our culture you can’t be a friend to the child, okay. But you must be friendly with them. You must have some positive relationship that is above and beyond just rebuking and always getting angry at them. Have a conversation “what’s happening?” “what’s going on?” “what did you learn in school?”

Take them out, spend some quality time with them. And this is one of the biggest differences maybe between the previous generation and our generation. That perhaps for many of us, our fathers didn’t really go out and play soccer and play basketball with us, with our friends. Perhaps. And you know I’m not criticizing them, maybe that works back there, I don’t know. But over here, in this land, over here where we are, you have to have some type of friendly relationship with your own son or daughter. Let me put it this way, let me be really frank here. If your son or daughter does  not feel comfortable coming to you for a problem that they’re facing because of a mistake they might have done, then wallahi this is a very big problem. If your son or daughter has committed a mistake, and lets be honest, they’re all going to commit mistakes because that’s a part of growing up. Did you also not commit some mistakes when you were teenagers? Let’s be honest here. If your son or daughter commits a mistake and then they don’t want to come to you for help to clear that mistake up, well then honestly how are you being a good parent there? You need to have the doors of communication open. If your son or daughter is going through a standard problem of the teenage years, when they reach 13, 14, hormones are going to kick in, they’re going to want to be interested in someone of the opposite gender, they’re surrounded by drugs, pornography is everywhere. If you’re not going to open up the channels of communication, if your son or daughter feels awkward coming to you, well then they’re going to go to another teenager, they’re going to go to the internet, they’re going to go somewhere else for help.

No doubt maybe our parents could never have spoken to us about these issues. But I am telling you as somebody who straddles both generations, we need to be frank with our children. We need to tell them about things and honestly they probably know about these things before you mention them. But the very fact that you open up the topic, the very fact you take your 13 year old son and you tell him about the problems of internet pornography -and believe me every 13 year old knows about pornography, believe me every single teenager knows about this- if you’re not going to open up  the door, if you’re going to be so taboo oh I cant do this, well then how do you expect him to come for help to you if something happens that he needs some help about. There has to be open channel of communication. Mothers, talk to your daughters about the realities of this world. Talk to your daughters about basic biological facts. Let them know that you’ll listen if they need any help, I’m here for you. Just give a generic statement like this. “If you need anything, come to me first, I will help you out”. Just generic statements like this so that they know that their parents are there to help them in case they need that help.

 

Few more points, point number six in our list here, the Quran tells us -to basically summarize- the Quran is saying test your children with responsibilities. Test the orphans in this case they’re being raised in the family, give them responsibility and see how intelligent they are. So a part and parcel of  raising children is to stop treating them like kids when they’re no longer kids. As our children grow up to become young men and women, and when do they become young men and women? According to Islamic shariah, when they hit puberty. And what that means at the age of 13, 14, 15 max, but usually 13, 14, Islamically speaking, these young children are now fully grown adults, according to the shariah; which means they are legally responsible for their sins, for their personal lives, for their salah, for their relationships, when they hit puberty they are young men and women according to the shariah.

And I have said this many times before, one of the biggest complaints that I have about modern culture is this period of adolescence, of teenage years where children are treated like children even though intellectually, biologically, they’re adults. Personally I don’t believe in this. You start treating a 13 year old like a young man or woman because they are, at this stage, a young man or woman. You give them responsibilities, now obviously not all at once, you test them bit by bit. As the Quran says, the verse is about an orphan, when do you return the money, but again it applies to our own children. Give them responsibility. And our scholars of fiqh explain this and they say so you give some money to the child and you say, when he’s in the marketplace, “go buy this” and then see does he buy the right item or not. And then you increase that responsibility. This is a part of our culture. You cannot pamper your kids until they’re 18 years old, it’s not going to work that way. Our children are going to face the real world, so we have to prepare them with responsibilities at home. And yes, you can quote me on this to your children: chores as well. It’s a very important part of growing up. They’re not always going to have their mother to clean after them. You have to have children learn to become self sufficient. This is a reality for their own good. You need to wash your dishes, you need to take care of your room, clean your room, do your clothes. This is a part of the responsibility to grow up. If you’re going to treat them like kids, well then don’t complain when they’re 18 and they’re still acting like kids. You need to start treating them like young men and women.

 

And the final point -time is of the essence here, there was much more but time is of the essence- the final point that I have for today’s khutbah: A good environment, Islamic environment, the masjid, Islamic classes, Sunday schools, and I put this the last because many of you put it number one and they don’t realize this is in fact the very last issue. Number one is yourself. Number one is your own house. Number one is the family environment. If that is in order, everything else is secondary. But many families, they literally think of Sunday school or the masjid one hour a week to be the magic cure. They drop their kids off, then they pick them up in an hour, and then they complain and they say “Sheikh, my kid is rude to me.” And that’s the only exposure they have to Islam is that one hour of Sunday school. No, this is the very last thing but it is also important.

Come regularly to the masjid. Let them see what is Islam. Let them see the Muslims. Let them interact with other Muslim children. And that’s why here we are very eager about not just building a masjid, we want to build a family center. We want to build a place where our youth, they are pushing us to come and go; they’re interested to come to chill out, to play basketball, to just socialize because we want them to be in this environment. Islam is not just about the salah, it’s about living your life and that’s what we want over here as well. So yes it is important, but I put this right at the end of the list because the most important is at the home. The most important is you and your wife, then everything else is secondary but outside of the house what can you do?  No doubt outside of the house the most important thing is to have a good environment for your children, to make sure that their friends are also Muslim children, that you go to the masjid as frequently as possible.

And realize brothers and sisters, a khutbah or two is not going to solve the problem. It is a change in my lifestyle and your lifestyle and the final point of the first khutbah: realize that SubhanAllah there is no magic cure, there is no solution to all of this. Even if you follow all of these guidelines, it is indeed possible that Allah tests people with calamities and difficulties. Look at the prophet Nuh [as] and his son and what happened with his son. And Nuh [as] is a prophet. And Nuh did all of these things and much more than these things but Allah chose to test him in a certain manner. So, do realize that there is no magic cure. It’s a learning process, it’s an ongoing process and we do what we can with duaa to Allah, with help from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He),with our own akhlaq and manners, and we put our trust in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

 

Brothers and sisters, the rewards of raising a good family, a righteous family, are too many to mention. And the losses for not doing so are also too great. I conclude this khutbah by simply reminding us of one ayah that talks about the blessings and one ayah that talks about the opposite of that. As for the blessings, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “those people who believed and their children after them, they followed them in that belief, we shall join those children with their parents up in jannah”. And Ibn Kathir comments and other scholars comment and they say what this means is that if the parents lived a good life and they tried to have their children follow in that life, then even if the children didn’t reach that high standard, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will bless them and upgrade them to be with their parents as they were like one family in this dunya they shall be like that family in the akhirah. And what a beautiful blessing that is. What a beautiful blessing that is.  That  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will bless parents through their children and children through their parents but if one or two of them was insufficient, was weak, then Allah will over look that because of the family. This is what the ayah is saying. That if the general family, they were upon a righteous mentality, they were good people, one or two of them fall short, we’ll raise them up, we’ll bring them back to the whole family. As they were in this life, they shall be in the next life. What a beautiful blessing is that.

And what is the opposite of this? If you don’t live up to this, Allah says in the Quran that, who is the worst loser, Allah says, “the worst loser is the one who’s lost himself and his family on yawmul qiyamah”. Neither did they benefit themselves, nor did they benefit their families because they had this materialistic, nihilistic, completely dunyawi lifestyle, not caring about Allah and His Messenger not having anything of Islam. They might have enjoyed this life  but then in the akhirah they lost themselves, they lost their families, they lost everything. That is the ultimate loss. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) protect us from ever facing that loss.

Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    mom of 7

    May 10, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    SubhanAllah, sometimes you do everything “right” and your children still go astray, Children are a fitna.. May Allah help us and them.

    • Avatar

      Umm ZAKAriyya

      January 20, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Our immediate descendants are not the end of our progeny.( inshAllah)

      What if Allah grants us some of the most righteous of people as our offspring.?who we may never meet in our lifetime but will meet in jannah.

      See how Allah rewarded Nooh (pbuh) for being patient from his rebellious son! Today all the people on earth are only from his progeny! And that includes Ibrahim and all the prophets in his line( pbut) , Muhammad pbuh, all the pious muslims . See how many pious children he has ! That one bad son is nothing when compared to what Allah blessed him with.Allahu Akbar .

      Surely, Allah would never let the efforts of anyone go waste. Which is why we should have hope and never give up.

      • Avatar

        Umm ZAKAriyya

        January 20, 2014 at 1:57 PM

        Typo. Patient with * his son

  2. Avatar

    Mohammad Rafique Etesame

    May 13, 2013 at 7:55 AM

    My Dear brother Yasir Qadhi Assalamoalikum! you are right in saying that the parents want children that when they grow older , their children must benefit them and when they grow older, their children should take care of them. Masha Allah, it is very informative islamic article.

  3. Avatar

    samia

    May 13, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    children are through parents but they are not the property of parents. we cant program them but we can only help them grow with their unique character.

    • Avatar

      UmmNusayba

      October 31, 2013 at 7:05 PM

      Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah Samia. Speaking of unique characters, I have daughters that have very annoying to say, characters. Does that mean I should not enforce more positive characters in them?

  4. Avatar

    smary, sting

    May 24, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    jazakAllahukhairn nice and useful

  5. Avatar

    Ismail

    May 27, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    hope i retain the message for future

  6. Avatar

    aliyasir

    June 15, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    its true and and as a parent we should practice the best way to be a better parent

  7. Pingback: Top 10 Parenting Tips - 1st Ethical Charitable Trust | 1st Ethical Charitable Trust

  8. Pingback: Parenting, Psychology and Islam: Notes from Haleh Banani’s Seminar | Eat, Write, Be!

  9. Pingback: Abang, kenapa Balik Lambat? | airmien

  10. Pingback: Comment on Making Families Work – Tips for Muslim Parenting | Yasir Qadhi by Abang, kenapa Balik Lambat? | airmien | Souqhub | Blog

  11. Avatar

    Muhammad Yusuf

    June 26, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    Baraka llahu fih,this article is more than enough for an intellectual muslim.

  12. Pingback: Making Families Work | catatan bunqil

  13. Avatar

    Mohamed

    November 4, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    Fantastic speech.May Allah reward all those involved abundantly.May I please request more transcripts to be uploaded.Many thanks

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#Life

Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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#Life

Advice To Students Starting A New School Year

Ammar Al Shukry

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students

I remember driving to college orientation over the summer with my father, may Allah have mercy on him. I was going to be going to school out of state, and at the age of eighteen, this was the first time that I would be living away from home. 

We talked about a lot of things, and nothing in particular but one of the stories he shared stayed with me. There was an Imam who had a close circle of students and one of them became absent for an extended period. Upon that student’s return, the Imam asked him where he had been, to which the student replied, 

“Egypt!” The imam said to him, “well how was Egypt!” 

The student replied, “Egypt is where knowledge resides.” 

The Imam responded, “You’ve spoken the truth.” 

Sometime later, the imam had another student who also was absent and upon his return, the Imam asked him where he had gone to which the student replied, “Egypt!” The imam said to him, “Well, how was Egypt?”

The student said, “Egypt is nothing but amusement and play!” 

The Imam responded, ‘You’ve spoken the truth!” 

There were students who had witnessed both conversations and asked the Imam later why he had borne witness to the truth of two antithetical statements to which the imam replied,

“They both found what they were looking for.” 

I got the message. University could be a place of incredible learning, engagement with ideas, and can push you and challenge you in the best of ways. It can also be a non-stop party. A blur of heedlessness and hedonism that will bring about remorse and regret for that individual in the Dunya and Akhira. 

I think back to that car ride fondly, and I appreciate the predicament of parting advice. A person who will be bidding farewell to someone so dear to them and wanting to give them something powerful that they can hold onto or wisdom that will guide them. Many students in the past weeks have been receiving similar parting advice from their families, and so in this article I wanted to share one of the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that he gave to a companion that he loved so much. 

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ جُنْدَبِ بْنِ جُنَادَةَ، وَأَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ مُعَاذِ بْنِ جَبَلٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْت، وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ”

رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ [رقم:1987] وَقَالَ: حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ، وَفِي بَعْضِ النُّسَخِ: حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. 

On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junadah, and Abu Abdur-Rahman Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said

“Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it, and treat people with good character.” (Tirmidhi)

The advice is comprised of three components

  1. Fear Allah wherever you are 
  2. Follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it 
  3. Treat people with good character 

Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are 

Taqwa is the crown of the believer. And it is the best thing that a person can carry with them on the journey of this life, and the journey to meet their Lord. Allah says, 

“And take provision, and the best provision is Taqwa.” 

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ أَكْثَرِ مَا يُدْخِلُ النَّاسَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ تَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ ‏”‏ ‏

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked as to what admits people into Paradise the most and he said, “Taqwa and good character.” (Tirmidhi) 

And so what is Taqwa?

Talq ibn Habeeb gave a beautiful definition and description of Taqwa when he said, 

“Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allah, upon a light from Allah, seeking the reward of Allah. And it is to avoid the disobedience of Allah, upon a light from Allah, fearing the punishment of Allah.” 

And so he describes taqwa as having three components; the action, the source for that action, and the motivation for that action.”

To act in the obedience of Allah..

To do the things that Allah commands you to do and to stay away from what Allah prohibits you from doing 

Upon a light from Allah..

The source for the action or inaction must come from revelation, a light from Allah. And this should stir us to seek knowledge so that our actions are onem guided by a light from Allah. You’ve made it to University, you are bright, gifted, intelligent and committed to education.  Do not let be the one thing that you remain uneducated about be your religion. 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, 

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِراً مِّنَ ٱلْحَيَاةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ ٱلآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ

They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware. (Al-Room v. 7)  

The prophet (S) said, “Allah hates every expert in the Dunya who is ignorant of the hereafter.” (Saheeh Al-Jaami’)

Make sure that you carve out time to attend halaqas on campus, seek out teachers and mentors who will guide you in learning about your religion even as you are pursuing your secular studies..

Seeking the reward of Allah..

The third component of Taqwa is the motivation:  that these actions that are being performed and that are sourced authentically in revelation must be performed for the sake of Allah, seeking His reward, and not for any other audience. That they not be done for shares, or likes or retweets. That a person does what they do of worship, that they abstain from what they abstain from of sin, seeking the reward of Allah and fearing His punishment. 

Fear Allah wherever you are..

Meaning in public and in private, online or offline, and when in the company of the righteous as well as when in the company of the wicked, in all circumstances a person must be mindful of the presence of Allah..

 عَنْ ثَوْبَانَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهُ قَالَ : ( لأَعْلَمَنَّ أَقْوَامًا مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِحَسَنَاتٍ أَمْثَالِ جِبَالِ تِهَامَةَ بِيضًا فَيَجْعَلُهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ هَبَاءً مَنْثُورًا ) قَالَ ثَوْبَانُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صِفْهُمْ لَنَا ، جَلِّهِمْ لَنَا أَنْ لاَ نَكُونَ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لاَ نَعْلَمُ ، قَالَ : ( أَمَا إِنَّهُمْ إِخْوَانُكُمْ وَمِنْ جِلْدَتِكُمْ وَيَأْخُذُونَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ كَمَا تَأْخُذُونَ وَلَكِنَّهُمْ أَقْوَامٌ إِذَا خَلَوْا بِمَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ انْتَهَكُوهَا

It was narrated from Thawban that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“I certainly know people of my nation who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawban said: “O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.” He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they are people who, when they are alone with what Allah has prohibited, they violate it.” 

This hadeeth is a warning for the person who is quick, eager and ready to violate the limits of Allah as soon as the door is locked, or the curtains or drawn, or as soon as they have arrived in a new place where no one knows them. We will sin, but let our sins be sins of weakness or lapses of taqwa and not sins of predetermination and design. There is a big difference between someone who sins in a moment’s temptation and the one who is planning to sin for hours, days or weeks! 

And follow a good deed with a bad deed it will erase it..

When we fall, as we must inevitably due to our being human, the prophet (S) instructed us to follow a sin with a good deed to erase it. 

Commit a sin, give charity. 

Commit a sin, perform wudhu as beautifully as you can and pray two rak’ahs. 

Commit a sin, seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent…

Our sins should not suffocate us from doing good deeds, they should fuel us to doing good deeds. 

Allah says,

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفاً مِّنَ ٱلَّيْلِ إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّـيِّئَاتِ ذٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ

And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. (Surat Hood v. 114) 

A man from the Ansar was alone with a woman and he did everything with her short of fornication. In remorse, he went to the prophet (S) and confessed to him. Umar said to the man, “Allah had concealed your sins, why didn’t you conceal it yourself!” The prophet (S) however was silent.

The man eventually left and the prophet (S) had a messenger go to him to recite the aforementioned verse.  A man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah is it for him alone?”

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “No for all people.” 

And so for all people, sin plus good deed equals the sin is erased. That is a formula to be inscribed in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Al-Hassan Al-Basri, the master preacher of the Tabi’een was asked,

“Should one of us not be ashamed of our Lord, we seek forgiveness from our Lord and then return to sin, and then seek forgiveness and then return!” 

He said,

“Shaytan would love to conquer you with that (notion), do not grow tired of seeking forgiveness”

But know that these sins that are erased by good deeds are the minor sins, as for the major sins they require repentance for the many verses in which Allah threatens punishment for those who commit major sins if they do not repent, and so repentance is a condition for the erasing of the effect of major sins. 

And treat people with good character 

And if Taqwa is the crown of the believer, then good character is the crown of Taqwa, for many people think that taqwa is to fulfill the rights of Allah without fulfilling the rights of His creation! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in many hadith highlights the lofty stations that a believer attains with good character, for example: 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، رَحِمَهَا اللَّهُ قَالَتْ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ لَيُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَةَ الصَّائِمِ الْقَائِمِ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day. (Tirmidhi)

عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ شَيْءٍ يُوضَعُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ أَثْقَلُ مِنْ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ وَإِنَّ صَاحِبَ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ لَيَبْلُغُ بِهِ دَرَجَةَ صَاحِبِ الصَّوْمِ وَالصَّلاَةِ 

Abu Ad-Darda narrated that the Messenger of Allah  ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said:

“Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character. Indeed the person with good character will have attained the rank of the person of fasting and prayer.” (Tirmidhi)

Let no one beat you to the taqwa of Allah and let no one beat you to beautiful character. 

You’ve come of age at a time in which the majority of our interactions are online, and in that world harshness and cruelty are low hanging fruit seemingly devoid of consequences. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever lives in the deserts becomes harsh.” (Abu Dawood) 

And social media is a desert, it is an experience where we are all alone, together. 

So choose gentleness over harshness, choose forgiveness over vindictiveness, choose truth over falsehood and protect people from your harm. 

For the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Jannah for whoever makes their character good.” 

May Allah make us from them. 

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On Divine Gifts And Tribulations: Reflections on Ustadh Nabeel al-Azami

Reflections on Ustadh Nabeel al-Azami

Dr H. A. Hellyer, Guest Contributor

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Nabeel Al Azami

In the early hours of the 14th of August 2019, corresponding to the first day following the ‘Eid al-Adha’ of the Muslim community, my friend Nabeel, son of Mamoon al-Azami, passed away peacefully in London. He was 39 years old. He honoured me by considering me a teacher to ask counsel of – but in truth, he himself was an educator par excellence by his words, his actions and his state of being.

I have nothing but good memories of this man. He was generous and kind, and personified good manners. A year ago, we were together when he was giving a presentation on his work, and we had lunch together beforehand. He was speaking to me about the subject of the presentation, and as we were speaking privately, I told him about my unease around a bit of the approach on a few points.

Nabeel was not only warm in private in response, but when we were sat in the public arena for his presentation thereafter, he, unprompted, insisted on giving me the floor, though I had no speaking role that day. He did so after addressing me and introducing me in a deeply respectful manner, so that I could offer my thoughts, even though he knew of my stance.

I no longer even remember what I said – I only remember the generosity of spirit he had. In this day and age, that kind of magnanimity is rare, usually absent, and evidence of something beautiful.

(You can see more of Nabeel’s work here — his final book, which he wrote on the Prophet and Leadership, with leadership professor John Adair writing the forward).

A few months ago, I asked if I might visit him, while he was in the hospital. He was in the midst of various obligations but knew my travel schedule would make it difficult to find an opportunity to allow me the privilege of his company, and he had some things he wanted to discreetly discuss. We had spoken a few times on the phone after he had learned of his illness, but we had not met since. We found a common time of 15 minutes to speak privately. It turned into an hour.

When I saw him, what are called the ‘signs of sainthood’ (wilaya) were deeply upon him. His riḍā (contentment) was evident to anyone who saw him, and his concern was not for himself. Rather, it was first and foremost for his family. Whenever people ask me about him, I immediately think of that word: riḍā.

Riḍā.
Riḍā.

I left his company with a sense I cannot easily put into words – he was a paragon of strength and fortitude, while simultaneously being a person of charity and concern for his wider community. The presence of contentment, harmony, self-composure, and quiet trust in the working of the Divine. In this are signs for the ones who are aware, for they represent the rising of station (maqam) according to the sages.

There will be others who will no doubt write about Nabeel’s professional accomplishments, of which there are many, not least the book he wrote and completed while he battled his illness. These are inspiring, and a testament to Nabeel’s deep commitment to the work he devoted himself to (his last work on Prophetic leadership can be purchased here from the publisher) – a work that all about serving the community which he so loved and cared for.

I knew about Nabeel’s work, but most of our interactions showed another side to him – a facet of his personality that will forever be instructive to me. It was the aspect of him that I mentioned to my students as we read through tracts of spirituality. It was the aspect of him that asked for prayers that God might allow him to see and meet the Prophet in his dreams. It was the aspect of him that sought out to understand and comprehend the meaning of what was happening in a deeply metaphysical manner, which was admirable in such an advanced way.

“But it is as though, Allah has given me this tribulation, as an unworthy servant, as a gift. And then He has given me some challenges, that I didn’t think I would cope with. And then He somehow gave me the resources as a gift…

And I feel as though I am being taken among individuals who must have taken this journey, who are much more worthy; I am left very confused as to why I am being given this privilege. Maybe you can help explain this confusion to me.

But that aside: I hope if it is benefiting brothers, to be able to talk about our conversations, then hopefully if there is any ajr (reward) for me there, that may be something I can hold onto in the next life, as a source of salvation.”

(Nabeel al-Azami)

In the hours that followed his passing, as his family and friends prepared to bid him farewell at the funeral service, I went through my recent correspondences with Nabeel, following and preceding conversations we had. There were perhaps three recurring themes I can mention. The first was the most pre-eminent, which I’ve alluded to above, in terms of his spiritual journey and path. His instructive comments reflected a serenity of soul, a strength of spirit, and a constancy of commitment.

The second theme was the concern he had particularly for his family. His father, his wife, his children, but really the entire family – his concern for them was touching, moving, and genuinely thought-provoking to any of us who get wrapped up in the mundane nature of this world. The very last message he sent to me was an ‘ameen’ to a du’a I sent him in response to his request I pray for his wife, children and family.

Finally, the third theme was care he had for his community, and that watchfulness was something he spoke to me about in his one of his very final messages to me – the rifts within the Muslim community more generally, especially among the ‘ulama, and how their differences needed to be bridged.

In all of these, Nabeel al-Azami’s considerations were deeply important. One of the final things he said to me was his hope that if his tribulation could serve as a lesson to others, may he partake in the reward for that, and maybe it would be something he could hold onto in the next life for his salvation.

It never occurred to me to share Nabeel’s thoughts while he was still with us. When we met and discussed, we did so privately. But after he passed to the mercy of his Lord, I remembered what he said about our conversations benefiting others – and thus took pen to paper, transcribing some of the notes he sent.

There was a message that related to knowing God, and spirituality more generally, which indicated one of the priorities he thought this community needed – this is where our relationship actually began, in a way. It is fitting that be the first tract. About half-way in, Nabeel responded to a message I sent him, where I had let him know I’d used his character as an example of how to respond to tribulations in a class I teach. That class was and is based on the works of one of my teachers, the Malaysian polymath, Professor Sayyid Naquib al-Attas. In response to Nabeel’s message, I told him the title of the work, at which point he expressed great joy, saying he had used the work as a reference in his last book.

That message was followed by a concern for the community writ large, particularly vis-à-vis the partisanship and conflicts the community had been riven by in recent years. We had discussed this in person, and he re-emphasised his point in this message – it’s a rare message indeed at this time, and important to share. He knew about my apprehension I had about partisanship driving our community apart, but he excelled me in focusing on the need to bring hearts together, rather than simply analysing the problem.

I close the below with two tracts that in particular related to trials and tribulations, to which I appended a short excerpt from the writings of Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani, the Persian saint of early Muslim history, and this represented the last of the transcriptions I chose. I believe I mentioned this tract to Nabeel himself, and it formed the basis of some of our discussions.

I pray the reader benefits from Nabeel’s thoughts and prays for him. For those who knew him, they should know that Sayyid Nabeel passed away in one of the four sacred months mentioned in the Qur’an – Dhu al-Hijjah. This is the month of the Hajj; it is the month the Great ‘Id, ‘Id al-Adha; it is the month of the passing of Sayyidina ‘Umar, Sayyidina ‘Uthman, and Imam Muhammad al-Baqir.

May we all benefit through Ustadh Nabeel al-Azami for a very long time to come.

I know I will.

On Spirituality

“Thank you for your message and thank you for the du’a (supplication) that you shared. SubhanAllah, the dua’ that you shared about Allah opening up the gates so that I may know Him better; it has been a part of my tahhajud (night vigil prayers) since you mentioned it.

And you know; these many small du’as that you hear and those that you end up memorising: this is one that I wish [had been] in my system. Because I knew the du’a – but it is so simple and beautiful – but insha’Allah, Allah will give you the ajr (reward) that you reminded me of the du’a which I memorised and now it has been normalised.

And it’s wonderful: because the ability to know your Creator and discover Him is that life-long journey. We try to learn about the 99 attributes to be able to understand the incredible nature of our Creator, whom we are blessed to be created from. And the quality of my prayers have been impacted as a result of this process of ibtila’ (tribulation).

Which is, in a sense, the only way you can really achieve and access the unveiling needed to know a little bit more about your creator. So, I feel I need to be in this ibtila’ longer! There is so much I can learn now that I have unlocked a few things, you know, through the wasila (means) around me, including yourself.”

“And it is wonderful to hear that you are teaching a text on taṣawwuf; I’d love to know which one it is. The need for teaching, tarbiyat al-iman, tazkiyat al-nafs, and the sciences of taṣawwuf; it is so, so urgent and so neglected. So, if it is a public class that I can promote, let me know: I’d love to send it in the network, because there are just too far and few between.

So, thank you for sharing: but the only thing I would say here is that I certainly wouldn’t be the precise example. But good brothers around me and my shayukh and my learned friends like your good self: with your help I am trying to be an acceptable example, insha’Allah.

But it is as though, Allah has given me this tribulation, as an unworthy servant, as a gift. And then He has given me some challenges, that I didn’t think I would cope with. And then He somehow gave me the resources as a gift; and then I feel the raising of maqam (spiritual station). Not because of anything from myself, but that Allah is just gifting.

Because I thought I just had to take one step towards Allah, and he would take ten steps for me. I think I managed to just think about one step. I don’t know what little iota of indication I gave to Allah that I am interested in guidance; and that was enough. That was enough, and Allah is just raising me.

And I feel as though I am being taken among individuals who must have taken this journey, who are much more worthy; I am left very confused as to why I am being given this privilege. Maybe you can help explain this confusion to me.

But that aside: I hope if it is benefiting brothers, to be able to talk about our conversations, then hopefully if there is any ajr for me there, that may be something I can hold onto in the next life, as a source of salvation.”

On Bringing Hearts Together, in a world where lines have been drawn

“In our community, the scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets: that we know. And amongst them, we need to build bridges, and we do know that for various reasons amongst the difficulties of the world, a broken world that we’re facing, there are lines being drawn even amongst the ulama (scholastic) community. And differences of strategy and direction, and differences in trying to say this is how we can serve the ummah (Muslim community) better can and will arise.

But all I can hope for is people like yourself, in a small way myself, if I can, and others, try to at least make hearts stay together…

There should never be an instance where people amongst the ulama, who are the inheritors of the prophets, who are at the heights of those who represent the prophets in their absence today —- at least the hearts and their brotherhood should remain there.

And I think that is the case anyway amongst the most senior ulama that we know. And without naming names, I think their hearts are clear in their interaction, but they may be operating in different platforms and structures.

But I think we need bridge builders, so we keep the ukhuwwa (brotherhood) and the conversation going, as we try to navigate ourselves across common challenges in the world and navigate our community towards a direction. Which is ultimately the same direction anyway, seeking the pleasure of Allah, and following in the footsteps of al-Habib al-Mustafa salAllahu ‘alayhi wa salam.

And that’s about it, in order to be worshippers who are keen only to seek Allah’s pleasure and have that kind of connection and rida (contentment).”

On Tribulations and Trials

“Al-salam ‘alaykum, shaykh Hisham: and thank you for your ongoing affection, care, concern and spiritual advice which I really, really value, and it does help me. At some point, it would be good to talk or see you just to share the seriousness of my condition.

But, alhamdulillah (praise be to God), this ibtila’ (tribulation) is a blessing, it has given me so much khayr, by God, so much khayr – and I am full of shukr (gratefulness). I have sabr (patience) when the pain is happening, but I have shukr for what Allah is doing for me spiritually. And as one of my teachers once said: when you are suffering from a physical illness, be grateful you are not suffering from a spiritual illness. And I am really feeling the benefits of that right now.

Alhamdulillah: jazakAllah khayr for sending me all the Prophetic supplications and invocations, and alhamdulillah most of them I have been doing already, but I haven’t actually been doing [certain elements of spiritual practice I recommended], so I will immediately add this into my practice on your advice; so, thank you for that.

And although I am in a wonderful spiritual place, you are absolutely right that the hardest thing is often for the family and for the wife and the children. They are struggling a little bit and I do try to give them strength, so please make du’a for my wife and my three young children: that Allah gives them strength in the midst of this ibtila’ that we are all facing. And insha’Allah I am confident that Allah will take care of us, and take care of our affairs insha’Allah.”

“Al-salam ‘alaykum, Shaykh Hisham – I hope you are well. Thank you for your ongoing enquiry and concerns about my health and your du’a. In terms of how I am, alhamdulillah, spiritually and mentally, I am in a really good place – I have this wonderful connection and relationship built with our Lord, subhanhu wa ta’ala. My tahajjuds (night vigil prayers) are beautiful, and I am just loving the experience of this ibtila’, taking as much benefit of it as possible.

In terms of the jasad, the body: unfortunately, that is choosing to go in a different direction…Suffice it to say my physical condition is extremely serious, and I need lots of your du’a.

But my spiritual condition, by Allah’s will, is in the best place I have ever experienced, and long may Allah keep that. So, I ask for your continued dua’ and insha’Allah I will update you more next week.”

****************

Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani (may Allah be well pleased with him, and may He grant him contentment) said:

“As for one who suffers tribulation, he will sometimes be tried as a punishment and retribution for an offense he has perpetrated or a sin he has committed, at another time as an expiation and purification, and finally, for the sake of elevation in spiritual degrees and advancement to high stages, to join those versed in knowledge, people with experience of all states and stations. This they have received through the providence of the Lord of creation and of mankind.

Their Lord has sent them to ride the fields of misfortune on the mounts of friendliness and kindness and refreshed them with the breeze of loving looks and glances while in movement or at rest, because their trial was not intended to destroy them and hurl them into the abyss. Rather did He put them to these tests for the sake of choice and selection, so drawing from them the reality of faith, which He purified and separated from polytheistic association [shirk], pretensions and hypocrisy [nifaq], and presenting them with all kinds of knowledge, secrets and enlightenment. Then He made special favourites of them, entrusted them with His secrets, and granted them the pleasure of His company.

… For those trials have the effect of making their hearts pure and free from sinful association, and from attachment to creatures, worldly means, wishes, and self-willed desires. They are instrumental in melting them and smelting out the pretensions and passions, and the expectation of returns for obedient behaviour, in the form of high degrees and stations in the hereafter, in paradise and its gardens…

The sign that the trials are for the sake of spiritual progress is the presence of contentment, harmony, self-composure, quiet trust in the working of the God of the earth and the heavens, and annihilation within them until their eventual removal with the passage of time.”

****************

Anyone who saw Nabeel knows what signs were most prominent upon him. I consider it my honour that I knew Nabeel al-Azami, and my loss that I did not know him longer and better.

May God have mercy on the soul of Sayyid Nabeel al-Azami; grant him the highest stations of Paradise; and give his family strength.

إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون

“And that’s about it, in order to be worshippers who are keen only to seek Allah’s pleasure and have that kind of connection and rida (contentment).” (Nabeel al-Azami).

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