Becoming the Servants of the Most Merciful Series
People have different notions of defining contentment when it comes to their family. Many people feel that their family’s ultimate happiness lies in the highest education, attaining professional status and/or becoming wealthy. No doubt these are great things which we should be happy about if indeed our beloved Creator and Provider did confer them upon us. The problem however is that most Muslims see this material success as the ultimate and only goal in life. It becomes ‘the reality’ that they would be most proud of and delighted to see in their family. The true Muslims who are the servants of The Merciful are those who supplicate with deep yearning and sincerity.
“Our Lord, Grant us the delight of our eyes in our spouses and children and make us leaders of the pious.’” (Qur’an, 25:74)
As Muslims, the ultimate pleasure and most delightful thing to see in our family is that we are living in obedience and servitude to our beloved Creator. There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing that our spouse and children really understand the truth of life and its purpose and live according to it. When we read time and time again in the Qur’an about “those are the truly successful”, we are reminded that success is first and foremost in having a lifestyle marked by devotion to God and His message. That devotion permeates all facets of one’s life to the extent that people become known for their spiritual discipline and commitment. What pleases God should be what pleases us.
How many educated or wealthy Muslims do we know who work hard to raise their son to be an Imam (religious/community leader) or their daughter to be a scholar and teacher of Islam? They instead direct their children down single-goaled paths to become doctors or engineers and it rarely crosses their mind that their children could become intellectuals of Islamic Law and spiritual guides. One of the reasons of our lack of intellectualism and extremist tendencies is that many current Imams are either uneducated or not properly “encultured” with their people. We are hunting for Imams and scholars who are both deep thinking intellectuals and with strong leadership skills. This reminds me of the famous hadith of the Prophet ﷺ,
“The final message of Islam started as something strange and will return as something strange. So glad tidings to the strangers.”(Muslim)
Strange indeed is the idea of raising our children with the utmost sincerity and hoping they become scholars of Islamic Law or leaders of the Islamic movement. I remember a sincere brother who explained this hadith to me by claiming that as Muslims in the West, we must “be strange”, we must wear clothing from the “Sunnah” and eat with our hands. After research into the real Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ, it became clear that this brother was mistaken. The Sunnah of our blessed Prophet ﷺ was actually to dress and eat according to the custom of his people except that which was revealed to be prohibited. What is meant by this hadith is that the sublime character, ethical standards and spiritual devotion of the Prophet ﷺ and his companions appeared quite strange to their society which was filled with moral corruption. By the Grace of God, for some time after this initial reaction; the norm of the land, way of life and the rule of law were all highly entrenched in compatibility with Islam.
In the 21st century, Muslims throughout the world have lost this spiritual awareness and the intellectualism needed in understanding what really is meant by the texts. The crumbled state of Muslims today is revealed in what we see as important priorities. We have either become literalists with no contextualism or we have assimilated into ‘modern liberal secularism’ and have become a materialistic people who pick and choose when and how we want to serve God at our convenience. These consumerist practices then, affect our families, our roles as believers and our happiness.
If we plan to truly succeed in life and become the servants of The Merciful, then we must make serving Him the main priority in our lives and in our families’ lives. As the hadith stated, Islam will seem strange at first, not a bad kind of strange, but a good one. Misunderstood at first sight, but respected and loved when understood. As a result of our current drained spirituality, many sincere Muslims have a hard time striking a balance between living in today’s fast paced materialistic world and preserving a lifestyle of devotion to God. The following are action pointers on how to preserve that balance here in the West:
1) Follow the Prophet’s ﷺ guidance and seek a spouse who is a determined Muslim with good character.
2) Immediately after marriage, read and discuss “The Ideal Muslim/Muslimah” by Dr. Muhammad Ali Hashimi and “Muslim Character” by Muhammad al-Ghazali together and share your goals and values.
3) Get a house close to a Mosque and attend it together as much as possible, especially for educational programs. Attend an Islamic conference together yearly as a minimum.
4) In the first year of your marriage spend time building an understanding and an open line of communication. My advice is to take the fatwa of our scholars according to the practice of the Prophet ﷺ and hold off on having children for 1-3 years or so.
5) Try and set one night a week to pray tahajjud together before fajr.
6) When you do have children make sure both of you say you are prepared for the challenges and responsibilities.
7) After having a child, share time in loving and nurturing the baby as much as possible. Read Qur’an to it while still in the womb and thereafter.
8) If you speak Arabic try using the pure Fus’ha Arabic more often. When speaking in English to younger minds talk about Islam without confusing them with too many Arabic words. If you are talking Arabic naturally you will say Allah, Masjid, Ibrahim, `Esa, etc., whereas in English you would say God, Mosque, Abraham, Jesus etc. Avoid teaching your children that Islam is something foreign or exclusive – Islam is natural to all people of all languages and cultures. We want to raise our children to be propagators of Islam as God said,
“We never sent a messenger except speaking the language of his people so that he may clarify the religion to them properly” (Qur’an, 14:4).
9) Never speak about your country and your people with hate – you have taken them as your home and neighbors. DO NOT create an “us vs. them” vibe about non-Muslims in your country. It is perfectly fine to teach your children about family heritage, but do not force it on them. Do not teach them that they are from a different country when they were born and raised where you live. Teach them that Muslims are blessed people who have the last message of God which most of our country don’t know about, and we must have compassion and empathy for them.
10) Always show more positive reinforcement than punishment. Do not teach your younger children deep theological concepts and DO NOT be hard on them about learning Islam quickly. Spiritual development is understanding and exacting; this is God’s Sunnah.
11) With children under seven (approximate), focus more on their moral sense and character rather than the memorizing of Qur’an, rules and regulations. If they can memorize and are willing then the praise is to God, otherwise do not be frustrated at their quickness to learn. Begin a library at home and buy Islamic children’s books to read to your children before bed.
12) Make sure you teach Islam more through action than preaching lest it fall on deaf ears. Children absorb more information through watching than listening so show them that Islam is easy and kind. Always own up to your own mistakes as a spouse and parent. Teach real leadership through humility and self-refinement. You are a teacher, and a student.
13) Have study circles with discussion at home at least once a week. Read Qur’anic commentaries, hadith, aqeeedah, the Prophet’s ﷺ biography, Islamic Law etc. Start their childhood with the Islamic curriculum.
14) If you’re in an English speaking community, teach your children salah and supplications in Engish first. After they undersand, teach them in Arabic. After children reach a maturer age between 10-15 years old, check that they can efficiently pray with love, and in Arabic. Supplications need not necessarily be in Arabic and in the case of Da`wah (inviting to Islam) it would be best if Muslims were heard saying all of the beautiful supplications of the Prophet ﷺ in English for others to understand.
15) Try to give your children Islamic schooling. Also, get involved in the growth of the nearest Islamic school with your free time and money.
16) Within Islamic schools you will see strong Islamic literacy and be aware of the different schools of thought (madhabs). Do not force your children to one way or one pattern of thought.
17) Be loose with your older children on learning matters of fiqh (jurisprudence/rules) and don’t make matters of disagreement haram. Let them grow into taqwa (implementing God consciousness) from their own desire. You don’t want your children to feel “religion” is for their parents and not from their heart nor for the love of God.
18) Try and be active with your children’s hobbies – the local youth groups, sports and free-time. Make it a point to keep them around other Muslims so they make friends and appreciate the diversity. On the other hand do not alienate them from society and meeting other people. Be understanding and wise when helping them deal with non-Muslim environments and all that comes with it.
19) You must study and realize with deep reflection the meanings in the story of Luqman and his son from the Qur’an. Apply these concepts as the fine points of focus in raising your child (monotheism, character, etc).
20) Do not get easily frustrated in your child’s teenage years if they do not respond like you expect. Always be loving, compassionate and supportive and keep the productive example alive. Only set firm rules against matters of clear prohibition in Islam. God willing, in the long run it will count.
God knows best, and these are the advices that come to mind from the knowledge and life experiences God has blessed me with. May we be counted of the servants of The Merciful and may our families be made leaders of the pious! Ameen!