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Supporting Our Children’s Mental And Emotional Well-Being

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By Habeeb Quadri

The topic of mental health is still taboo in the Muslim community. Sadly, I know of five Muslims who recently took their own lives after suffering from mental illness for many years. These tragedies are often misunderstood and families of these victims of mental illness are left reeling alone in their grief coupled by the painful judgment of people who scorn these victims.

We need to bring this topic out of the darkness and shine a light on the facts. Mental illness is a disease. It can be treated, but with varying outcomes. Often times, it is a lifelong battle that despite even the most aggressive treatment and support of family members, victims succumb to their illness by withdrawing from loved ones, suffering in silence and, in the worst cases, ending their lives. Mental illness is often hereditary or can be brought on by life circumstances.

As parents, we should facilitate healthy emotional wellbeing in our children as a way to help arm them against the inevitable hardships they will face in life. While for some children even our best efforts will be futile against a genetic predisposition toward depression or a severe biological mental illness condition, we still need to do our part by being conscious of caring for this aspect of our children. We are so concerned about how our kids are developing academically and in their deen, but we forget about their feelings. We need to make certain our tactics and efforts gear our children toward developing a healthy mindset and positive self-esteem. For some, this armor can be a shield during times of difficulty. If our efforts at home are not helping, know when to seek help from a mental health provider. There is great wisdom in reaching out to professionals who can better assess what your child might be experiencing.

The US Department of Health and Human Services stated that the number of adolescents who experience at least one major depressive episode leapt by 60 percent between 2010-2016. Suicide deaths among people age 10-19 have also risen sharply according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our children are of a generation where they are programmed for instant gratification, parents tend to swoop in and solve problems instantly for their children, attention span is short, and they are constantly connected to the digital world with everything at their fingertips immediately. The result of this modern lifestyle in our children is that they are not learning to be resilient and they no longer learn to develop a natural ability to persevere, to have the ability to keep working toward goals despite setbacks and failures.  

So, how can we better raise our children to be able to operate at their optimal in today’s world, to have emotional strength and resilience? Here are a few tips and strategies I’ve compiled over the years from multiple sources that can help build confident children who know how to deal with today’s challenges:

Make Salah Part of Your Child’s Life: Allah swt will bless the lives of those who pray their daily prayers and your child will develop God-consciousness through this act. Teach your child to ask Allah for help daily. Pray with your children and remind them to pray. The gift of Salah was given to our prophet (pbuh) during one of the toughest years of his life, the passing of his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadija, and the severe persecution of Muslims. The act of prayer is a reminder to Muslims to turn to Allah swt during times of hardship.

Make Dua: By reciting the duas for everything from studying for test, to playing a game, to driving a car, to leaving the house, we are constantly remembering Allah swt. This is another way children find strength in their daily activities. By connecting all of our actions with Allah swt, we find support and strength in our Creator.

Let Them Go Outside and Play: Unplug your children and send them outside to play. Today’s youth spend on average just four to seven minutes outside each day in unstructured outdoor play such as climbing trees, building forts, catching bugs or playing tag, studies show. Yet, many children spend 3-4 hours each day in front of a screen. In recent years, the National Wildlife Federation released a comprehensive report showing the unique benefits of playing outside on mental health.  

Participate in Afterschool Clubs/Activities: Having children participate in a team sport or club where they have to interact with a group of individuals to achieve a goal builds confidence and promotes teamwork. These interactions teach children how to express themselves, how to take critical feedback, and how to accept failure. They learn that sometimes they might lead the group and sometimes they will fall in line and have to be a participant of the group. Kids learn how each person is part of the overall success of the group or team. This is especially important as we are living in a time when everything is “I” – IPhones, iMacs, iPads. We need to teach children more about “WE”!!!   

                                                                                                                                                           

Let Children Help Around the House: Stop doing everything for your kids. Let them clean the dinner table, put the dishes in the sink, throw away the garbage, make their bed, clean their room, put their homework in their backpack, etc… Children will not learn to be independent and self-functioning when everything is done for them.  

Stop Overpraising Your Child: A recent study done by Stanford University of toddlers showed that praising effort, not talent, leads to greater motivation and more positive attitudes toward challenges down the road. These findings are consistent with previous research, which has connected praise with increased motivation in children, but only when it is based on real attributes. Consider these making these alternative statements:

  • Instead of saying “You are so smart!” say “You work so hard in school and it shows.”
  • Instead of saying “You always get good grades. It makes me happy!” say “When you put forth effort, your grades show it. You should be so proud of yourself and I am proud of you.”
  • Instead of saying “You are a great athlete! You could be the next LeBron James!” say “Keep practicing and you will continue to see great results. Good Job!”

Let Them Fail: This does not mean let your kids fail a class. Encourage your children to try new hobbies or activities, like an art project, a sport, or trying to learn how to rollerblade. Kids who can’t tolerate failure are vulnerable to anxiety and this can lead to bigger problems when they do inevitably fail. Children need to know that it’s ok to fail as this will happen throughout their lives. They need to know that it is a brave act to try something new, knowing that it might not work out. Shielding children from failure can create a fragile sense of self-worth. Being able to recover from any setback will be a valuable tool in their life. Help them to reframe the way they view failure by suggesting new ways to assess the experience, such as:

  • If your child says “I’m so stupid” teach them to instead ask themselves, “What was I missing in that assignment?” or “What could I have studied more?”
  • Instead of “I’m not good at math (or any other subject)” – encourage them to say “I’m going to train harder in math (or any subject)”
  • Instead of “This is too hard” – help them instead to see the obstacle as “This is going to take some time and effort”
  • Instead of “I give up” – teach your child to say “I’m going to try again but this time I’ll use another strategy”
  • Instead of saying “I made a mistake” – instead say, “Mistakes help me improve.”

Teach Your Kids How to Express Themselves: Having daily conversations with your child and letting them talk helps children to know you value their thoughts. Individuals who bottle up emotions and don’t talk about their feelings are more likely to struggle with emotional wellness. Learning to identify and express emotions in a positive and healthy way helps young children build astrong foundation of success later in life.

Encourage Your Children to be Active, Exercise and Make Healthy Food Choices: This is another developmental area that we have to be careful how we use our words. Even physicians don’t use the words “obesity” and “overweight” with kids. Instead, talk about health in general. Say things like “Being healthy is important,” and “I enjoy getting outside and walking with you.” If your child brings up to you his or her discomfort with how they look, listen to what they have to say and offer solutions for how your entire family can improve their health and make healthy choices. When the entire family makes healthy choices, a child doesn’t feel singled out and he or she will feel supported in efforts to be healthy. Children are sensitive about their body image and what others think of them, especially in preteen years but even as early as age 6.  Develop healthy eating and exercise habits as a family even with your young children. Even very young children can develop low self-esteem about how they look. Make a habit of getting your kids moving for 30-60 minutes daily when they get home from school. Teach them to make better choices regarding food.

Community Service: Teach your children to share and help others.  Research shows individuals who help others and do community service are happier than others who don’t. Spend time as a family volunteering at a soup kitchen, cleaning the park together, or attending a social justice rally. Allah swt will always help a servant who takes care of His creation.

Show Love to your Children: Kids need to feel and hear how much their parents love them. Hugging and showing affection to your children is crucial for children in building a positive self-concept. Fathers, especially, make an extra effort to show affection toward both your sons and daughters.    

Do Not Buy Them Everything They Want: Life is not easy.  If children are always receiving every gift they want, they don’t learn to value even the most basic necessities in life. Mashallah, many parents who are financially well off want to give their kids what they did not have but this can take away the drive of children to work hard and appreciate hard work and gifts.

Build Good Character in Your Children Starting When They are Young:  If you instill good behavior and model good behavior yourself starting when your children are young, they are more likely to naturally develop good character. Learning to control one’s anger, to respect elders, to say please and thank you, to share, and take care of guests are all acts children must begin learning very young.   These selfless acts help children to know that life is not just about them.    

Teach Patience: Allah reminds us that Allah is with those who are patient. Life is full of ups and downs in health, wealth, family and more. All of us will be tested in at least one of these areas. Help your children realize solutions are not always going to be instant. Sometimes resolutions will take time.   

Finally and most importantly, if you see your child or family member really struggling, Get HELP!  Going to a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist is not wrong and can be life-saving. I have seen adults not receive help because of what people would say or because families discount the severity of a person’s symptoms, telling him or her that their emotional issues are because they lack imaan or that it’s black magic. Certainly seek spiritual help but, at the same time, get help from medical specialists who Allah created to help people suffering with mental illness. There are medications that can help treat mental diseases and counseling that can help alleviate suffering.  May Allah guide us and protect us all and grant us the ability to have compassion for those suffering from any illness.

NOTE: Many thanks to MCCA School Counselor Dr. Samar Harfi, PsyD., for her oversight and contributions to the content of this article.

Habeeb Quadri is the MCC Academy Principal and Chairman of Muslim Youth of North America Advisory Board. 

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jovariya

    January 4, 2018 at 11:29 PM

    This was a wonderful read! Jazakullah khair for sharing it! It’s very difficult sharing the struggles of living with a mental illness because it makes us feel vulnerable, but its something that needs to be discussed because so many Muslims are struggling with depression and don’t understand it or have access to the resources to heal themselves, so these tips for parents are helpful. However, having a professional involved is important, because whenever I discussed my depression (sort of indirectly) with someone who couldn’t relate or understand it, it felt like they dismissed it or believed that I was a weak person. Parents should pay attention if they notice their children being more reclusive or seem to be sad most of the time and seek help. I have been able to hide this illness from many people, because I’m usually described as a happy and positive person, so it’s an illness that can be hard to identify. Although when my depression was worst I would force myself to go out, sometimes it helped and other times it just made me feel worst. Alhamdulillah, praying and Islam itself has helped me tremendously coping with it, however depression is still there lurking in the background thats why seeking resources to heal it is absolutely essential. It’s a constant (daily) battle, I wish I didn’t have to deal with it, but alhamdullilah I am looking forward to a happy ending inshallah :)

  2. Avatar

    Amatullah

    January 8, 2018 at 5:26 AM

    This was an amazing read! SubhanAllah
    may Allah bless you for writing this. I was only wondering how to make sure my child grows into a not-only-righteous but also a healthy and responsible individual

  3. Avatar

    Monique Hassan

    January 8, 2018 at 4:20 PM

    Mental health is my field of specialty, it is all too sad and real that so many within the ummah from depression or anxiety etc. and often do not seek treatment or do not understand what it is.

    This is a great article that explores practical and real world advice. Our children need us to show them the best examples and be a real part of their lives. Pray with them, play with them, create with them, listen to them. They grow up before we know it.
    :-) Jazaki Allah Khairan

  4. Avatar

    Umm

    January 14, 2018 at 9:24 PM

    I just sent a private message to MM….please guide me by answering my question. If shayookh here can help or if u can pleaseeeeeee fwd my message to sh Yasir qadhi…birjas or walked basyouni….

    I’m desperately waiting for an answer. Please help

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      January 17, 2018 at 6:29 AM

      Dear Umm

      Where did you send this message? My advice to you would be to approach these scholars through their respective Facebook pages as it would be faster and more private for you.

      Best Regards
      Aly
      Comments Team Lead

  5. Avatar

    Hannah

    January 18, 2018 at 5:52 PM

    The mental health of children is very important. Parents must always listen to their children so that the children feel that their opinions, concerns and worries are worth considering. Parents must also protect their children from outside influences which seek to psychologically abuse or corrupt them. I say this a person who was very subtly psychologically abused by teachers as a child of 11/12 until I was 15. They did everything to make me feel unwelcome and as an outsider in school. I began skipping school and my education suffered. I wanted to move school but my mother said that I was just being paranoid so I stayed at that particular school for too long. At school gatherings some of the teachers would stare at me and smirks to each other and make snide comments. I developed anxiety and psychological problems later in life. I believe they will get their just desserts but you must be careful who you entrust with your children. Sometimes those who are supposed to nurture them can end up destroying them. It is the mental scars which are sometimes harder to heal than physical ones.

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#Current Affairs

The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’

Dr Joseph Kaminski

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As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.

While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:

The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.

I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,

The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.

First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.

Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.

More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:

Al-Arian mentions that,

“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.”  He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.  But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.

These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.

Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:

This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.

What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?

What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.

Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?

If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.

If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.

When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.

Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch

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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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Reflection On The Legacy of Mufti Umer Esmail | Imam Azhar Subedar

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“An ocean of knowledge which once resided on the seabed of humbleness has now submerged below it, forever.”

“Why didn’t you tell me!! You call me your younger brother, but you couldn’t even tell me you were ailing?!”

I could’ve called you or visited you so I could apologize for all the pain I caused you; thank you for all the good you did for me throughout my life despite all that pain. if nothing else, just so I could say goodbye to you.”

(My selfish mind continued to cry out as I stood in front of his grave— praying.)

As I sat down to compile my thoughts, upon returning home, I put my feelings of loss aside and tried to analyze your decision of not informing me about your illness from a different perspective.

Possibly, your own.

Why would you tell me?

This was just like you. You never wanted to hurt a soul; forget about making them worry about you, augmenting their own worries. For you were the sponge for our worries, the shock absorber of our concerns, and the solid wall that shouldered the pain of those around him.

You weren’t just a big brother, my big brother, you were a true human. A lesson on humanity.

You were always there for me.

“I GOT A QUESTION” sent at 2 AM.

“Sure” was your response.

We spoke for over 40 min.

That night.

Your strength reflected my weakness- always urging me to do better, be more like you.

I was told you were in hospital by a close family member early Friday morning before Jummah prayers. I was supposed to call you. That was my responsibility. However, the preparation of the Friday Sermon was my excuse not to do so.

As I exited from delivering the Friday services, I received a message from you, the one who was spending the last days of his life in a hospital, never to be seen outside of the confines of those walls ever again.

That message you wrote- you knew me so well.

“As-salaam alaikum, I thought you were already American?”

(You were catching up with me as I had become an American citizen the day before. You wanted to congratulate me, without complaining to me.)

“I heard you are in the hospital?! How are you? What’s going on?” I asked immediately.

“Getting some treatment done. Mubarak on your American citizenship” was your response.

Diversion. A stubborn man with a heart of gold. You wanted to celebrate people even at the cost of your own life.

Your last words to me were digital, even though your connection with me spans a lifetime. As much as I wish I had heard your voice one last time, I try to find the beauty in that communication too as I can save and cherish those last words.

We grew up together in Canada in the ’80s- Mufti Umer and I. Our fathers were tight- childhood buddies. He ended up becoming the inspiration for my family to trek towards a path devoted to Islam, beginning with my brother and then myself.

He was my support from the time when I came to England to study at the Dar Al Uloom and wanted to call it quits and go home, to when he hosted me when I visited him in Austin in 2002, all the way till 2019, after I was married and settled with kids he loved like his own.

He visited us here in Dallas and had met them in his unique way of showering them with love. And why wouldn’t he? My wife and I are here under one roof all because of his earnest desire to help people.

He introduced us to each other.

“I want you to marry my younger brother.” A message he sent to my wife over 17 years ago.

She was his student. He was her mentor, support beam, confidante, and best friend. (Well, we all feel like he was our best friend, only because he truly was.)

I am sharing my life story not only because he was an integral part of it, but throughout (he was also a major part of my wife’s life when she really needed him) but because that final text message wrapped it all up- the gift that he was to me and my family. It showed how much he was invested in us as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.

That message wrote:

“I thought you’ve been a citizen since marriage.”

(FRIDAY, AUGUST 30TH @ 3: 07 PM)

This is just my story featuring Mufti Umer Ismail.

I am confident that there are thousands more out there without exaggeration.

I’ll conclude with a word he corrected for me as I misspelled it on my Facebook page a few months ago when Molana Haaris Mirza, a dear colleague, passed away in New York. He didn’t do it publicly, he did it through that same Facebook text messenger that kept us in touch- with love and sincere care for me in his heart.

“As-salaam alaikum the word is Godspeed. Sorry for being [a] grammar freak.”

(MARCH 28TH, 2019 @6: 04 PM)

Godspeed, my dear brother. Godspeed.

Azhar Subedar

imamAzhar.com

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