Recently, after a long time, I bought something I was really pleased with. It was a dress. I was so happy to possess it that I wore it (as trial) at least thrice the very day I bought it. Realizing that I could not have had it if God, subhanahu wa ta`ala (Exhalted is He), had not given me the provisions to afford it, I looked myself in the mirror and said out loud, “Thank you Allah.” Upon hearing this, my younger sister (aged 15), who was sitting close, gave me a you-are-weird look, laughed a sarcastic laugh and asked me, “What was that about? You bought it with the money you have earned yourself, why would you bring Allah in here?”
Her question dumbfounded me, and I did not know exactly how to respond. Though I tried explaining to her that nothing good can ever come to us, except by the mercy of Allah (swt), but she did not look satisfied with my answer.
As someone who does not miss an opportunity for reflection, her question got me thinking. Thinking as to where the foundations of her beliefs went so wrong that even at such a young age, she is unable to agree with such a basic fact.
My sister is not the only teenager who has skewed beliefs. I happen to be a teacher and teach the same age group as my sister. Various class discussions have led me to believe that even my students (if not all, most of them) have confused ideas about God (swt) and this life. Now some may argue that they are very young, and it is okay for them to have weak beliefs, but what worries me is the possibility of them never being able to realize the truth. For whatever is adopted or learned firmly at this age becomes part of a person’s lifestyle.
To tell you the truth, as a child even my belief in Allah’s (swt) might and control was not that strong, nor did I understand what it actually means to be a Muslim. The struggle I had to go through to tame my nafs (inner self) was quite arduous. It took many painful experiences to get me to realize what it means to have God (swt) as the central focus in life.
Now as an adult, I feel one of the reasons why this journey had been so difficult for me was the way God (swt) was introduced to me in my initial years. I do not remember my parents telling me that everything they give me was actually given to them by God (swt). I do not remember my parents telling me that the way they take care of me is because of the love Allah (swt) has put in their hearts for me. I do not remember anyone telling me that God (swt) is the basis of life and everything I do, and everything I will do should be with Him as my focus.
Don’t get me wrong. My intention here is not to blame my parents (I love them dearly). But it is to highlight the fact that parents play a very important role in shaping our basic beliefs. If a child, right from the beginning, is taught to be socially acceptable only, he only learns how to win people’s approval, and God takes second place to the extent that a point comes when all he does and says is to please people and win their recognition. For such a child, it becomes very difficult to understand that God is not a distant entity who only keeps a track of our sins and good deeds but He is “The Nearest,” and all we have to worry about in this life is strengthening our relationship with Him (swt)—the rest will follow.
It is interesting to note that every family has a bunch of elders who make sure that the children know everything there is to know about their immediate ancestors. That is done so that these children carry the legacy of the family, and the values established by the immediate ancestors are carried on without any change. People grow up holding their family values very dear, to the extent that they often forget about the right path in order to safeguard them.
Everything we have in this life is “a trust”. A trust in a way that we will have to explain how we treated and used everything we were blessed with. In the same way, children are also a trust. What we teach them and what we do not teach them affects their entire lives. So instead of taking them as our possession and preparing them to carry on our so-called legacies, we should realize they belong to God (swt) (just like everyone and everything else), and having Him (swt) as the core of their existence, all their lives, is what they need to be prepared for. We need to realize that providing our children with food, shelter, and other comforts is not the only way to deem ourselves successful; we must also help them understand the real meaning of life, and that is how we can be successful parents and guardians.