By Hana Alasry
Abu Bakr bin `Ubaidullah bin Anas bin Malik narrated [from Anas] that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Whoever raises two girls then I and he will enter Paradise like these two.” And he indicated with his two fingers. [Bukhari]
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was exemplary in every role he held in society. This held true in his role as a father to his daughter Fatima radi Allahu `anhaa (may God be pleased with her), the wife of Ali ibn Abu Talib (ra). You need not look too far into the sunnah (way of the Prophet ﷺ) to find examples of the remarkable connection between the two. From the beginning of revelation to the days of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ passing, there is evidence of a love only found between a father and his daughter. The Prophet ﷺ said, as recorded in Muslim, “Fatima is part of me. Whatever upsets her upsets me, and whatever harms her harms me.”
The relationship between Muhammad ﷺ and Fatimah (ra) makes sense in light of what present day research tells us about this familial connection. Modern day psychology highlights the remarkable impact a daughter’s relationship with her father has on many aspects of her life, from her relationships with others, her career choice and even how she handles stress (B. Auer et al, Journal of Family Psychology, 2012). Unfortunately, sometimes in the Muslim community, rather than foster this love and empower daughters as the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had, we see cases where daughters are facing injustice in their own homes and the sunnah is being abandoned. This article provides advice to fathers on how to empower their daughters through understanding of Islamic principles and modern day psychology.
- If you have younger daughters, perhaps ages five to eight, take them with you to the mosque. Remember that the mosque is a place of worship and is just as much a place for women as it is for men. Establish your daughter’s relationship with the house of God early on. Take her with you and encourage her to perform salat (prayer), even though at this age, it is not required. Just imagine the message this act sends to other fathers. Even though it may be inconvenient at times, an effort to create fond memories is a great step in deeply bonding with your daughter. I speak from experience when I say that it will be something she never forgets. When your daughter grows up, perhaps she will be more willing to get involved in the mosque activities and it may be that you receive reward for that. Remember that the beloved Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whoever guides someone to virtue will be rewarded equivalent to him who practices that good action.” [Sahih Muslim].
- Adolescence is an uncomfortable experience for everyone. Particularly as a young girl, the frightening and sudden physiological changes are accompanied with societal pressures to “look like this” and “walk like that”. As a young teenage girl, dealing with all this pressure can be overwhelming. So when your daughter gets to her teenage years, be aware of the struggles she will certainly face and do not ever dismiss her as ‘emotional’. As a father, your psychological support is extraordinarily important. Be patient with her and let her know you are there for her. If your relationship does not allow for you to speak about feminine issues comfortably, then remember that your wife (or other important women in your daughter’s life) are your allies. Express your concerns to those women and ask them to be there for your daughter. This way, you are aware of the issues she is facing and if or when the time comes, you will be prepared to advise her, or even just listen.
- Tell her that she is beautiful at every age. According to the Journal of Pediatric Psychology (K. Boutelle et al, 2002), “35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives and overweight girls are more likely than normal weight girls to engage in such extreme dieting.” This statistic might shock you but as a woman and a mentor to many ladies, it does not shock me. In present-day society, all forms of media, be it Instagram, magazines or music videos, can have potentially devastating psychological effects. We cannot escape these subliminal messages that try to define beauty. Young girls and women are especially targeted by these messages. Although we cannot eliminate these influences, you as a father can act as a ‘stress buffer’ or someone who alleviates the negative psychological effects of such influences. So let her hear from the most important man in her life that she is beautiful. But remember to also stress the importance of inner beauty. We remind ourselves of the following hadith (tradition of the Prophet ﷺ): the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Allah does not look at your figures, nor at your attire but He looks at your hearts [and deeds].” [Muslim]
- Encourage your daughter to be active in the community. Be supportive of her activism. The women around the Prophet ﷺ were beacons of empowerment to other women in their communities. Encourage your daughter to be a part of this legacy, whether she is teaching other youth or volunteering at a local event. I urge all fathers to understand the incredible benefits of community involvement for Muslim women, and everyone else. It encourages empathy, God-consciousness, independence, time management skills, and so much more. I have watched so many women discover their passions and identity through this work and I have seen these same women break down when their fathers discouraged – or worse – insulted their community involvement.
- Be the best example of a man you can be. Why? Well, besides the obvious “you’ll be accountable for your actions,” your daughter will almost certainly use you as her standard when deciding on her future husband. As her father, you are the first man to whom she develops an attachment, whether the conditions of that attachment are healthy or not. Her expectations of a man will be affected by the way you treat her, her mother, and others, the way you deal with emotions, your work ethic and so on. This reminds me of the following excerpt of a hadith: the Messenger of Allah, ﷺ, said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them…” [Bukhari and Muslim].
I pray that fathers find this article helpful and that it provides insight and an opportunity to reflect deeply. No matter what age your daughter is, it is never too late to beautify and enhance your relationship with her. May Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) bless you with daughters who are the coolness of your eyes and carriers of inspiring legacy!