February 16, 2012
Sitting in my usual comfy chair at home, as I’d done for the past so many years, I opened up the Internet page and the same old heartrending stories kept re-emerging;‘Ongoing protests against the regime ends in violence’, ‘War and natural disasters leaves millions displaced from their homes’, ‘National obesity levels and crime rates highest in years’, ‘A veto has been passed against the Palestinians as Israeli oppression continues’, ‘Poverty soars as thousands in need of food and water’, ‘Conflict within the region causes disunity amongst the people’. I closed the page.
That was enough heartache for the evening. I felt frustrated, so far detached from these global and local affairs, as well as helpless, unsure of what impact I could make from my enclosed dwelling.
The thought re-played in my mind ‘What can I do to put a stop to all of these issues?’. An answer wasn’t coming, so I decided to go and ask my father. Drawing upon years of wisdom, he calmly replied:
“The foundations and roots of a society come from each collective family. Though you can try to change the current situation in society, the issues will still linger, as long as the next generation are not being raised with the strong tenets of a firm and holistic Islamic upbringing”.
The prevalence of Muslims in the West has soared over the past few decades, with the advent of increasing reverts to the religion as well as the rise in immigration, heralding the era of second generation Muslims. This highlights the matter in contention; of raising children with the judicious Islamic morals and principles of faith as relayed to us by our beloved Messenger (Peace and blessings upon Him), whilst tackling the challenge of some of the social ills prevalent within society today.
Many parents are unfamiliar with the reality of their surroundings, whereas Muslim youth are victims to an upbringing between two realms; an Islamic world at home devoid of the true teachings of this enlightened way of life, and the Western world in society, full of affluence and prosperity but simultaneously tainted with depravity.
For our children today, growing up torn between the cultural traditions of their home life and the secular pull of society can culminate in spiritual emptiness and disaffection towards faith if a balance between the two isn’t found. This often results in problems between parents and children with the all too common end result of inter-family disunity and disaffected youth.
The consequences of not supporting and guiding children at the most definitive stage in their lives are dire, the effects of which can be felt in all areas of a child’s life, be it academic development or moral and spiritual fulfillment. A damning statistic reflective of this endemic problem is that children of South Asian descent are the lowest academic achievers in the UK, with one third of Muslim students leaving school with no qualifications (Source: National Statistics, Focus on Religion 2006).
One might ask, my parents didn’t need to be taught how to raise me and I turned out just fine. So why should we bother about learning parenting skills and the like?
It is an easily overlooked fact that the world children are growing up in today is far removed from the world a few decades ago. Advances in technology and communication mean that children are now subject to major influences from television, the Internet and public advertising. Children in the UK are less healthy than they have ever been and rather unfortunately, self-esteem and emotional well-being has been constantly deteriorating for decades.
We must make a decision, whether to remain content in giving our children comfort and success solely within this life, or to aim for a higher goal, a goal endowed for eternal comfort and success. Whilst an acknowledged career and a drug/STD-free lifestyle are provisions amongst others often set for success in this worldly life, what reasons do we have not to raise the bar to achieve ultimate success for our child’s status in the eternal hereafter?
Why not aim for the most propitious position in the akhira, let alone prepare them for a comfortable final abode at the least.
For every deadline we have; be it for an assignment, a job interview, or a family gathering, we always prepare ourselves fully in advance to ensure success and avoid failure. However, death comes unannounced and can occur at an unforeseen moment, the most ominous of deadlines; yet is a reality we can sometimes be most heedless of. The question is; how many of us are preparing our children for that moment, and for the inevitable akhirah?
Without Islamically guided parenting in the home, many youth are left to the norms of the external environment to shape their lives.
There lies a gap in understanding between parent and child which must be bridged, and without stringent guidance, a child will be left to their own accords to mature; at the risk of being engulfed by some of the prevailing bad habits of society and impulsive whispers of shaytaan.
It is important to acknowledge that a child should be encouraged to know and learn the world within which they live in, and to interact with multi-cultural societies. It is in this way that one can understand those around them and then begin to envisage a cure for some of the issues prevalent within global and local society. A secular education can supplement this in giving the child a platform to excel academically and embark upon proficient careers of their choice, a value important for Muslims.
Yet, a balance must be found when raising Muslim children, not to focus too much on one aspect whilst neglecting the others, not to exhaust a youth in achieving the best academic accolades whilst overlooking their health and psychological well-being, their manners and etiquette, Islamic morals and principles, and their ultimate destination.
It is our empirical responsibility to help our children realize their potential and guide them towards becoming pious, responsible and productive members of society.
Our Beloved Prophet (Peace and blessings upon Him) said; ”All of you are shepherds, and each one is responsible for his flock. A leader of people is a shepherd and responsible for them. A man is like a shepherd over his family, and he is responsible for his flock. A woman is like a shepherd over her husband’s house and children, and she is responsible for them. And a slave is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. So all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
In addition to achieving our goal, insha Allah, our children will become a sadaqah jaariyyah (ongoing charity) for us, let alone being able to secure their own akhirah, by the mercy of Allah.
“When a person dies, all his deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge (which he has left behind), or a righteous child who will pray for him.” (Sahih Muslim)
This is the dichotomy that confronts us today: how do we raise a family and build a community firmly grounded in Islamic morals and values, excelling in education and social justice and acting as an example for others?
Your approach with your children, the example you set and the wisdom you depart to them will play a major role in shaping their personality and character. In addition to this, your child’s school, friends and what they see around their community all play a major role too. As with the Qur’anic example of Prophet Nuh (May peace be upon Him) and his son however, the influence of a parent is evidently limited, and so one should not feel pressurized into thinking they are completely responsible for a child’s outcome, with many factors taken into account, including the ultimate guidance of Allah.
Parents do make a difference however, and it is only through understanding how a child thinks and develops, and using tried and trusted techniques to raise and teach our children that we can, as a community, hope to yield a new generation of youth who are healthy, motivated and of upright character and morals, that will help them shape a better society for tomorrow.
“Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders of the Muttaqoon (pious)” [Surah Furqaan v. 74]