By Umm Zakiyyah-saudilife.
“I’LL never do to my children what my parents did to me,” Salman fumed, kicking the ball against the wall next to his friend in the istiraaha.
“They were only trying to look out for you, man.” Abdullah’s voice was low, partly because he didn’t want their other friends to overhear and partly because he didn’t believe in what he was saying. He had always felt Salman’s parents were raising him wrong, but what place did he have to say that?
“That’s easy for you to say,” Salman shot back. “Your parents made you pray with them.” Salman huffed in anger. “But mine wanted me to come to it on my own.” He sang out the last words sarcastically a moment before retrieving the ball and kicking it fiercely against the wall again.
“And you know what?” Salman said, turning to face his friend. “Yesterday, I went out to the desert with some friends and they asked me to lead the prayer.”
Abdullah kept quiet, already knowing the end of the story.
“I told them I didn’t want to,” Salman said. “But they insisted because they’d overheard me reciting some Qur’an and liked my recitation.” He grunted. “I felt so stupid refusing, so I finally told them why I wouldn’t lead.”
“Because I didn’t know how to!” Salman cut off his friend, thrusting the ball against the wall again.
“Now tell me,” Salman said, his angry eyes on his friend, as if daring him to refute his words, “what kind of parent is going to force their son go to the best schools and learn perfect English—whether he liked it or not. And by the way, I hated it. They even chose my’ college major, for God’s sake—But when it comes to Islam they’re going to say, Let him come to it on his own.”
There was a marked silence as Salman’s friend looked away, embarrassed to hear his own thoughts on the tongue of his friend.
“Wallaahi,” Salman swore by Allah, raising his voice. “If there’s anything they should have forced me to do, it should have been to follow my religion.”
As a teacher and counselor of youth, I cannot recount how many times I’ve received phone calls, e-mails, and requests for confidential meetings from teenagers and young adults struggling with some of what Salman is struggling with in the fictional account above.
But what’s worse than this fact is that there are those countless other youth whom we’ll never hear from—because they’ve merely inherited their parents’ lax attitude about things like praying the five prayers, wearing hijab, and mixing with the opposite sex.
One of the biggest culture shocks I experienced when moving to Saudi Arabia from America was many Muslims’ admiration for disobeying Allah (and I’m not just talking about Saudis here; I’m speaking also of the plethora of Muslim expats from Muslim countries whom I met when I settled here).
This admiration has reached such an extent that in “higher classes,” the concepts of men praying in the masjid (or at all), women wearing hijab (especially when traveling to Western countries), and men and women not intermingling are considered lowly behaviors in their circles.
As a result, many youth (who happen to be their children) fall into any one of these categories:
They don’t how to make wudhoo or pray.
Their parents tell them not to wear hijab when they travel abroad (or more often, they tell them not to wear it at all).
They’ve never entered a masjid in their lives.
They are severely struggling in their faith (and private lives) and feel there’s nowhere to turn.
And the list goes on.
But what was even more shocking to me than these sad realities was the growing popularity of “practicing Muslims” who, like Salman’s parents, imagine themselves to be doing a good thing…
By instructing their children to disobey Allah…
Why this reality is more shocking than the we-love-to-disobey-Allah classes of people is that that those from Salman’s parents’ group do not imagine they’re doing anything wrong…
Yet Allah says,
“Say, ‘Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of [their] deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted while they thought they were acquiring good by their deeds!” (Qur’an, 18: 103-104)
What’s amazing amongst these self-proclaimed “practicing Muslims” is this…
In an effort not to “force” prayer or hijab on their children (who are actually young adults with the angels recording their deeds) they encourage these “children” to not pray or cover “until they come to it on their own.”
Yes, it is true that we should do everything for the sake of Allah.
And we certainly must inculcate this lesson of ikhlaas (spiritual sincerity) into the lives of our children.
But how? is the question.
Ironically, in answering this, so many of us turn to our opinions, “experiences,” and nafs instead of to the One whose pleasure we’re claiming to seek.
In the Qur’an, Allah describes the believers as those who say “We hear and we obey.”
Why then are we telling our children to say, “We hear and we disobey”?
…Even if we imagine that this initial disobedience will somehow lead to some lasting sincerity in obedience in the future…
Until, when death comes to one of them, he says: “O my Lord! send me back (to life), so that I may do good…” (Qur’an, 23: 99-100)
…Suppose your young adult daughter or son never sees that future of obedience you’ve planned out for them?
What if they die not praying or covering?
…Having died obeying you supporting them to disobey Allah.
What have you gained then?
What then have they gained?
“Actions are by intentions, and every soul shall have what he intended…” (Hadeeth, Al-Bukhari, 1:1:1)
Yes, Allah judges us and our children on our intentions…
But let’s not forget what this really means: If I know I’m supposed to do something, and I don’t do it, then I intend to disobey Allah…
No matter what colorful language or “semantic acrobatics” we use to wriggle out of this plain fact.
And the same goes for our age-of-puberty “children” who are fully aware of Allah’s instructions for them to pray, cover, or what have you…
…Regardless of whether or not they intend to obey Him later on (as you told them to do).
Telling our children it’s okay to do wrong today because they’re not “ready” to do right is like telling them it’s okay to commit zina so long as they intend to get married one day in the future…
After all—if I follow the line of reasoning employed by the parents who profess “I want my child to come to it on her own”…
…Why guard my chastity if I really don’t want to?
So often we shudder when we read the words of those suffering in the grave after their life on this earth has ended…
Yet so often we forget that amongst these sufferers are not only those who heard of Islam but delayed becoming Muslim (or turned away from the religion altogether)…
But also, there are those among them who were Muslim but delayed obeying Allah.
Those who are teaching their children to pray and cover only after “they come to it on their own” should reflect on this reality for a long, long while.
I just pray that this “long while” doesn’t stretch out longer than your life on this earth…
Or the life of your children.