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Dealing with Indian Law Enforcement: The Motherland – Part IV

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Prelude | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

“The Motherland” series will go over the benefits and challenges of studying Islam overseas in India, institutions of learning there in, and Nihal Khan’s journey of studying at Nadwatul ‘Ulama in the 2014-2015 academic calendar year. The subsequent articles in this series will detail his experiences and reflections from his travels and studies in India.

. . .

After the Accident

When the car that hit me started to run away, I quickly wrote down the license plate number. I kind of understand why the driver ran though. In India, when it is pretty obvious who is at fault in a car accident, the public beats that driver up, to teach him how to drive. Now I do not know how beating someone senseless will make them better drivers, but who am I to judge? Anyway, I went up to the driver as he sat at a standstill after hitting my scooter. I pleaded and begged with him to pull over and not run. I guaranteed his safety, and it worked. He pulled over and no one  tried to beat him up, but I guess instincts are instincts, so he decided to run. There was a patrol officer present who called his colleagues ahead to see if they could catch him, but sadly they were not able to do anything.

Officers examining my FIR.

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Afterwards, the patrol officer told me “my job is to save your life, that is it,” and then he walked away. I took out my phone and dialed 100 – the 911 equivalent in India. I called the number five times in half an hour, but no police officer showed up to receive me or even bother taking my information over the phone at the least. Instead, I got a text message from them saying ‘Thank you for calling Lucknow police’. I ended up calling the Qidwais who picked me up and took me to a doctor, in the back of their car. After partially recovering, I filed a First Information Report (FIR-the equivalent of a police report) at a local police station in a district known as Gomti Nagar and reported the accident.

After almost seven months, the police finally contacted me to let me know that they had found the car that hit me. Yes, seven months! The law enforcement system is beyond slow in getting work done, so now I am figuring out how I will approach the whole situation from a legal standpoint. I ended up meeting the owner of the car who disassociated himself from the whole situation. We will see what happens as I only met him two days before leaving to the states. The owner happens to be a retired police officer, so I guess my mafia friends from New Jersey could not help me (that was a joke in case you were planning on incriminating me. For the record, i do not actually have any mafia friends.)

I was taken to the side in four ‘regular’ traffic stops in Lucknow. All of the four situations were similar. A cop stepped in front of my scooter to slow me down and had me park on the side. He approached me and asked for my license. I have an international license, so I was not concerned, but seeing how police brutality had skyrocketed in America,  just in case ,I exercised my American privileges and spoke only in English–even though the cop only spoke Hindi. I also refused to speak in Hindi nor acknowledge that I spoke Hindi. The junior officer then said I have to pay a ‘fine’ (which was actually a bribe) of Rs. 1000 and then directed me to the senior officer. I refused to acknowledge that I understood him nor was I planning on coughing up any of my hard earned money. The junior officer told his senior in Hindi that I do not have any paperwork (which I did) and that I only spoke English. The senior officer, who also did not speak English,told his other colleague to look at my license and see what the status of the situation is. The colleague looked at my license and asked only one question in his broken English: “Which country you from?”

The Bara Gumbad Masjid and madrasa in New Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens.

1024px-Bara_Gumbad

I responded by saying ‘the United States’, the officer’s face changed, he quickly gave me my license, and said I could go. He then told the junior officer something to the extent of not putting them in that situation again and to kindly escort me to my scooter.

In regards to the bribes that most police officers usually officiate, corruption is a huge problem in India. According to this India Times article, political parties and police are the most corrupt institutions in India. So much so that a little more than 1 out of 2 Indians have admitted to paying bribes to police officers–which is usually in exchange of not getting a court summons.  Current affairs show us that these are two areas which Indian citizens are actively working on fixing.

. . .

Stay tuned for Part V of this series!

Nihal Ahmad Khan is currently a student of Islamic Law and Theology at Nadwatul 'Ulama in Lucknow, India. He was born and raised in New Jersey and holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Business from Montclair State University and a diploma in Arabic from Bayyinah Institute's Dream Program. He began memorizing the Qur’an at Darul Uloom New York and finished at the age of seventeen at the Saut al-Furqan Academy in Teaneck, New Jersey. He went on to lead taraweeh every year since then. Along with his education, Nihal has worked in various capacities in the Muslim community as an assistant Imam, youth director, and a Muslim Chaplain at correctional facilities and social service organizations. Nihal is also an MA candidate in Islamic Studies from the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    M

    October 27, 2015 at 11:47 PM

    Salam brother. It’s really brave of you to go to a foreign land in search of knowledge, even if that foreign land is one’s motherland. Specially in a city where you didn’t know anyone. What was your family’s response to all this? They must have been really worried.

    • Avatar

      Nihal

      October 29, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      My family was fine as long as I was fine :).

  2. Avatar

    Khan

    October 28, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    I am really curious about the islamic knowledge you gained from this experience. And any other lessons you may have learned from your stay there, empathy/sympathy for muslims living there, maybe sabr?

    Also if you know Urdu, why would you lie and say you don’t?

    • Avatar

      Nihal Khan

      October 28, 2015 at 3:15 PM

      What I learned will be shared in the subsequent articles in this series. Be sure to follow along!

      The officers spoke to me in Hindi and I responded in English. I didn’t say that I couldn’t speak English, I simply refused to acknowledge that I spoke Hindi. And in that situation one’s options are limited as to what one can do to save themselves from having to pay a bribe, be sent to jail, beaten, or some other horrendous form of police treatment. If you have not done so, then read the India Times article I posted closer to the end of the article and also my comments as to why I chose to only speak in English.

      • Avatar

        Khan

        November 12, 2015 at 3:18 PM

        The picture “officers examining my FIR” indicates that, at least this encounter was not a “horrendous” situation.

        • Avatar

          Nihal Khan

          November 13, 2015 at 11:17 AM

          That’s not from when I got stopped and has nothing to do with any traffic stops. It’s when I walking in on crutches with a broken foot to report the person who hit me.

    • Avatar

      Abu Kanafa

      November 1, 2015 at 10:40 AM

      The brother did not lie and say he didn’t know Urdu. But even if he did lie, then that lie would have been a good deed. Please study Usul ul-Fiqh and the various ahadith pertaining to lying under different circumstances to understand why.

  3. Avatar

    safiya

    October 28, 2015 at 5:55 PM

    Nihal, definitely we have sympathy for your first time away from mother’s lap experience ! I read that the state of Uttar Pradesh for which Lucknow is the capital, has a population of 300 million and counting, which is probably higher than any muslim country in itself ! India and China are mammoths, and are a world of their own with their ways of life, yet being the beacons of progress for this century.
    I will say my disappointment here is,this seems to be a series that any tourist in any third world country goes thru.That people go to meditate in the Himalayas or the shaolin temple for martial arts in the mongolian mountains, is because, acquiring mastery requires patience and humility. Perhaps you should have waited a few years for maturity, to be able to imbibe the spirituality that comes with acquiring knowledge, from the East.My best wishes for your physical safety and soundness of mind before your return to the comforts of the west.

    • Avatar

      Abu Kanafa

      November 1, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      Al Salamu Alaykum,

      A few things :

      1. I am pretty sure brother Nihal has been ‘away from his mother’s lap’ before this. He’s graduated from Uni, done Bayyinah and other Madaris, held multiple jobs, etc. I am sure he’s not void of the experience any grown man would have.

      It seems quite rude to start off your comment subtly addressing him as a child.

      2. One can only consider these places you mentioned to be beacons of progress for this century on a theoretical level. If you, for example, lived in Lucknow you would vomit on that sentence (probably from the industrial age amount of dust that covers these streets).

      3. Please don’t be condescending in expressing your ‘disappointment’. Brother Nihal is not a tourist – despite having been through what most people would consider a nightmarish hell, he is still persevering through it for the sake of gaining Ilm. Why in heck would you be disappointed in that?

      4. Please don’t romanticized the pursuit of knowledge to that of practicing ‘martial arts in the shaolin temples of the Mongolian mountains’. This is not a Jackie Chan movie, nor is brother Nihal trying to become some sort of a drunken master. Stop living in a fantasy world where the pursuit of Ilm is a 2 hour long movie with a black and white plot. Where the Talib ul-Ilm is the unsung and disrespected hero that has to take on the world to prove himself and get the girl too.

      Reality is, this is far more difficult than a movie. When you realize exactly what is entailed in this journey can you truly respect the reward mentioned for it in our sacred tradition. It’s not for nothing that trekking this path is a road to paradise itself. And this road is littered with trash of all sorts which will prevent you from that ultimate goal.

      Which is why, unless you’ve been in the thick of it yourself, it would be best to refrain from criticizing someone who is on that path – lest you be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgement. Who are you to analogise the need for patience and humility with br. Nihal’s journey? I don’t know if I would be able to be patient through what he has gone through and still continue. I don’t know if most people would. I also don’t know if I would remain as objective as he has in expressing his journey. I don’t know if most people could have that humility.

      5. You state that people go through these trials in order to gain mastery, and then advise the brother to have waited to attain this maturity before taking such a journey. Then you question his spirituality – something entirely between him and His Lord. Are you serious? Can you even perceive the seething hypocrisy in those words?

      You have a warped definition of what spirituality is, and you have a warped definition of what maturity entails. To be frustrated at the injustices you see around you is not an expression of immaturity or a lack of spirituality. It is, in fact, the opposite. It is a testament to one’s spirituality and his or her maturity to be able to recognize and be disgusted with that. And it is an even greater testament of their maturity and spirituality that they have patience through it and continue on this path for the sake of Allah as brother Nihal is doing.

      My best wishes to you and your mental soundness of mind before you return to the comforts of criticizing others on the path of Allah from behind your computer screen.

      • Avatar

        Khan

        November 12, 2015 at 3:14 PM

        I can see where safiya’s comment are coming from. Br Nihal sure is a grown man and been through a lot.

        But, this series came off to me (too) as a complaint journal and this-is-what-I-endured mindset. Vast numbers of muslims have journeyed to far away difficult places probably in worse conditions. They produced research on Islam and ahadith, some even passing away before reaching home.

        I am sure Br Nihal gains were much more than his troubles.

        With due respect to Abu Kunafa’s reponse/defence, Br Nihal’s descriptions of his troubles are frankly (still) immature.

        And Abu Kunafa, the references to “mental soundness” and “comforts of criticizing others on the path of Allah from behind your computer screen” were harsh and unjustified.

        • Avatar

          Nihal Khan

          November 13, 2015 at 11:32 AM

          I’m sorry this series came off to you as a complaint journal, but I am happy to report that the feedback received actually shows the opposite. Part of it is definitely going over what-I-endured, as that is mentioned at the beginning of every series.

          What one reads here are narrated facts that people can interpret however they find based on their own biases. Yes, there most definitely are people that have traveled farther and went through worse than anything I experienced. One can probably find much more benefit in reading about their struggles compared to mine.

          The purpose of these memoirs was a personal insight into what life is like for someone that travels into a third word country to study their religion. It is supposed to be a noted explanation of experiences I personally encountered.

          I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “immature complaining” when Shaykh Anwar Shah kashmiri wrote about how his caravan was looted and he felt sad that he lost many books in the process or when Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal spoke about how he used to sell written manuscripts to fund his studies.

          There are other some other assumptions here that could be addressed, but it’s all good :).

          Salam.


          Nihal

  4. Avatar

    M

    October 28, 2015 at 9:41 PM

    I am wondering, you must have made friends with the local people at the Islamic Institution you were attending, didn’t they offer you help through out all these situations? Specially considering the fact that you were not local.

    • Avatar

      Nihal

      October 29, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      Yes, locals helped me. It’s in the article.

  5. Pingback: » Self-Revelations: Discovering Your Limits in India | The Motherland: Part II

  6. Avatar

    Nabil

    November 1, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    This is getting funnier, sorry.

    It is easier if you go with the flow. The quicker you adapt to local ways, the better it gets.

    And this may sound ironic, but enjoy the agony. I miss it now.

  7. Avatar

    Khalida

    November 15, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum Nihal,

    JazaakAllahu khairan for sharing snippets of your experiences in India. I’m sure it’ll be of great benefit to anyone visiting foreign or only somewhat familiar countries. I applaud you for how you acted with the police officers. This scenario is probably more common than we’ve seen in Central and South Asian countries.

  8. Avatar

    SP

    August 26, 2019 at 8:05 PM

    Assalam Alaikum Brother Nihal,

    It was very interesting to read your experiences in India, more so because it was in UP. I am from Mumbai, India but have spent a significant part of my life post bachelors in Engg in US for MS and PhD. I have lived in many cities in and around US. Its refreshing to see an American born and raised in US and his experiences to pursue deen in one of the premier institutions of ISLAM in the world.

    Coming from Mumbai, I do not have as much experience of the daily lives of people in UP/Bihar (your parents’ native place). Hence I was curious to know as to what your daily struggles and insights from these interactions have been. It would be great to know as to how curriculum helped you understand Islam, fiqh, usul and if possible to put them in some perspective with the rest of institutions in the world (specially the arab world or even in places like Pakistan/Malaysia etc) even if its secondary understanding via your friends/colleagues/teachers/or your personal take after researching about them.

    It seems you have not written anything after 2015. I dont know if you did not return to India at all after this or you simply discontinued writing or something else. I hope you have never ceased from pursuing ilm-e-deen, be it in India, US or anywhere else you were destined to live. Jazakum ALLAH Khairan.

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How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.

While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.

Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!

  1. Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.

In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.

  1. Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
  2. Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.

A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.

Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!

In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.

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Our Struggles – Mental Health And Muslim Communities | The Family and Youth Institute

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By Elham Saif, Sarrah AbuLughod and Wahida Abaza

Fariha just started her freshman year at university. Overnight, she was separated from her support system of family and friends and thrust into a foreign environment. She was facing many new challenges, including a heavier workload, new friends, student clubs and organizational responsibilities. She was drowning in endless assignments, exams, and meetings.

Fariha never thought much about mental health issues beyond the few “mindfulness” posts that she’d scroll through on her Instagram feed, but recently she was starting to feel out of sorts. She started to feel anxious as a hijab-wearing woman on campus especially after hearing about anti-Muslim incidents on the news. All of the possibilities of what could go wrong played over and over again in her head–and kept her up at night. Everything was beginning to feel overwhelming. She started having trouble getting out of bed in the morning and was losing motivation to complete her assignments. She felt confused and at times, even afraid. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, close to 50 million Americans suffered from mental health issues in 2017. One in 5 adults in America is living with a mental health illness at this very moment. American Muslims are not an exception to these statistics. According to different studies, like Fariha, 15-25% of American Muslims report suffering from anxiety disorders and 9-30% report mood disorders. Many of these mental health issues in the Muslim population go unaddressed and unresolved because of lack of knowledge, stigma and shame experienced in many Muslim households and communities. 

When these issues go unaddressed, people report that the pain and suffering they experience rises and that overall their problems tend to get worse. Sadly, their struggles can snowball into additional illnesses that were not present before, such as self-harm or addiction. According to the research, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are sometimes not considered to be “real” illnesses. Community members often see mental illness as a sign of weakness, a mark of poor faith, or something that doesn’t affect Muslims. They may also see it either as a “test from God” or sometimes as possession by evil spirits. Even when there is an awareness, many of these illnesses and issues are culturally stigmatized as shameful and kept hidden within the person or family. People may be concerned about the reputation of their family or their marital prospects should a psychiatric diagnosis be disclosed. 

The irony is that Islam ought to be more of a protective factor given how intertwined Islamic history is with the fields of psychiatry and psychology. The contribution of Islamic scholarship to the field of psychology is documented in our history and legacy from health promotion in the Quran and Sunnah, to early scholarly diagnosis, treatment, and intervention. Alaa Mohammad, FYI researcher and co-author of the chapter “Mental Health in the Islamic Golden Era: The Historical Roots of Modern Psychiatry” in Islamophobia and Psychiatry points out that,

“there was a lot of focus on concepts like ‘sanity’ and the significance of mental capacity as well as the general mental/emotional state in many of the early Islamic texts especially in regards to Islamic rules and law.”

Early Islamic scholars described the “cognitive components of depression and sadness, anxiety and fear, obsessions, and anger in detail and suggested a variety of therapies and treatments.” Learning more about this rich history and pulling from these stories in the Prophet’s (SAW) seerah is a key step towards opening the way for people to get the help they need and learning how to support one another. 

Fariha knows that she needs help. She was considering seeing one of the mental health workers on campus, but she’s afraid of what her parents would say if they found out she shared so much with a stranger, especially one that is not a Muslim.

What can parents do?

Research has found that in the face of rising Islamophobia, supportive parenting serves as a protective factor and helps strengthen young Muslims’ sense of identity while unsupportive parents who don’t help their children navigate their experiences end up weakening their identity, which then increases their chances of participating in more risky behavior. 

When Fariha finally shared her fears and anxieties with her parents, she was surprised and relieved to hear that they took her seriously. They listened to her and she didn’t feel like they were ashamed of her, only concerned for her well being. They were eager to find her the help she needed to feel like herself again. 

As Muslims, we need to shift our mindset around mental illness and the effects of Islamophobia. Like Fariha’s parents, it is imperative that we listen carefully and look more deeply at the issues facing our youth. It is through this openness that we can reduce the stigma and encourage more people to seek help. 

The Family and Youth Institute recently released an infographic that talks about some of the struggles facing our American Muslim communities. They teamed up with Islamic Relief USA to get this infographic printed as a poster and will be sending them to over 500 masajid/community centers around the United States in the coming months. 

What can you do to help?

  • Reduce the stigma by sharing this article and infographic and starting a conversation with your friends and family members. The more we talk about it, the more we normalize and destigmatize mental illness and move towards mental health. 
  • Organize a community conversation around the issue of mental health. Invite a mental health specialist to come speak to your mosque youth group or parent group. 
  • Seek therapy when needed. Connect with SEEMA and the Institute of Muslim Mental Health for a list of Muslim therapists. If you are seeing a clinician who is not Muslim, share this book Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues and Interventions with them to give them a better sense of the specific religious and cultural needs of their Muslim clients. 
  • Educate yourself – There is a plethora of information out there about mental wellness and wellbeing. For help navigating through it all, sign up for The FYI’s daily article share to receive vetted infographics, articles and videos on this topic. Mental health affects our whole life. Whether you are struggling with bullying, helping a loved one with depression, living with and caring for an elder or wanting to build the best environment for your new baby, we have a resource for you! 

These steps are just small ways we can begin to shift the conversation away from shame and stigma and towards help and healing. Mental illness and mental health issues can be scary, but they do not need to be faced alone and in isolation. As the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” Together, we can fight the existing stigma and misconceptions, provide support, educate the community and advocate for our brothers and sisters suffering with mental illness and their families. 

Sources:

Aftab A., & Khandai, C. (2018). Mental Health Facts for Muslim Americans. APA Division of Diversity and Health Equity, Washington, DC. 

Basit A, & Hamid M. (2006). Mental health issues of Muslim Americans. The Journal of Islamic Medical Association of North America, 42(3), 106-110.

Ciftci A., Jones N., & Corrigan, P.W. (2013) Mental health stigma in the Muslim community. Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 7(1), 17-32.

Hodge, D.R., Zidan, T. & Husain, A. (2016). Depression among Muslims in the United States: Examining the role of discrimination and spirituality as risk and protective factors. Social Work, 61(1), 45-52.

Zong, X., Balkaya, M., Tahseen, M., & Cheah, C.S.L. (2018). Muslim-American Adolescents’ Identities Mediate the Association between Islamophobia and Adjustment: The Moderating Role of Religious Socialization. Poster session presented at the biennial meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, Queensland, Australia. 

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Raising a Child between Ages 7-12

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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black preteen

From a cognitive-development standpoint, this is called a concrete operational period, according to Jean Piaget.

(N.B: Some adults never progress beyond this phase, while 15% of kids may reach the following formal-operational phase at age 9!)

The child now (7-12) may factor in two dimensions of an object simultaneously. So, the longer cup may have less water because it is thinner. However, this is still hard for him/her to perform in the abstract realm, so, they are still uni-dimensional in that respect. Concepts and behaviors are still black and white. It is also hard for the kids in this stage to imagine and solve the structure of a mathematical problem. They cannot think contrary to facts. In other words, you can’t get them to use as a basis for an argument a question like what if the sky rains sugar instead of water?

Socially, Erikson felt that in this period kids develop industry or inferiority. According to his theory, from age six to puberty, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. If encouraged, they feel industrious and confident in their ability to achieve goals.

Based on these observations, we may recommend:

1- Using a lot of hands-on teaching, since they still have limited ability with conceptualization and abstract reasoning.

2- Continue the focus on memorization. If you want them to finish the Quran in 1-2 years, 12 and/or 13 seem to be the prime years for that. This suits some children and some families, not all. If you like a more gradual approach, you should have them start serious memorization at 7, accelerate at 10, and finish by 15-17. Not all kids are meant to memorize the whole Quran though; they can still be educated and pious. Invest in their strengths, not your dreams.

3- Use concrete props and visual aids, especially when dealing with sophisticated material. Use story problems in mathematics.

4- Use open-ended questions that will stimulate thinking and help the child reach the following stage faster. Example: “What do you think about the relationship between the brain and the mind?”; “What do you think about the relationship between prayful-ness and piety?” Make sure you know the right answers!

5- More explanations will be needed, but keep them simple, and even though they should be more detailed than the last stage, they still need to be uni-dimensional. Examples: we obey God because he created us; if we disobey Him, we get punished, and if we obey Him, we get rewarded in this life and in the hereafter. Too early to teach him that “the brokenness of the disobedient is better than the haughtiness of the obedient.” Break it down. Humbleness and obedience are good, while haughtiness and disobedience are bad.

6- Encourage and praise their accomplishments, while making them aware that there is always room for improvement. Continue to encourage initiative-taking and leadership qualities, yet you may also set limits, and make them aware that they will have to always report to someone. Even if there are no people above them, Allah always is. They have to adapt to being leaders and followers at the same time, because that is the reality of all people.

7- This is still a stage of belonging and affiliation to the group, and the child will develop more or less attachment to Islam through his or her experience at the masjid and with the community.

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

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

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