It was the first night of Ramadan. I was so excited about going to the masjid for taraweeh and enjoying every moment of this month of forgiveness. But no matter how hard I tried to do that, my thoughts were continually disrupted. While I sat and followed the Shaykh’s recitation of surah al Baqarah, I had to continually glance up at a group of children, between the ages of three to seven, running wildly around the small Mother’s Lounge attached to the women’s prayer hall.
Was it because their mothers were praying, and therefore there was no one to remind them of the manners in the masjid? No. No it was not. The mothers of these children were sitting- literally- in the MIDDLE of the room, very closely behind the sisters who were trying to concentrate in their salah, talking. And loudly! And on top of not stopping their children from terrorizing the room, they were feeding their children (even though no food is allowed) and seriously leaving a mess for the poor custodial staff to clean up after them.
I tried not to say anything to them and just continued to concentrate reading the Qur’an. I mean, where would I have started anyway? And in the end, would they really have listened to my sincere plea for respect of the masjid and their fellow Muslimahs, or would they have felt annoyed, quieted down for a few minutes, and then continued with the clamor? (From years of experience, I already knew after a few minutes it would be the latter.) I knew that their behavior would not be affected by me telling them to quiet down a few times. This is something that must come from within.
What I find is scariest is that these are mothers. Look at the example their children have. Why should their children stop running around and screaming if their mothers are gossiping in the middle of the prayer hall during salah? Honestly, why should they listen to a stranger asking them to be quiet if their mothers are behaving in a worse manner? And then these children start growing up-in our country of the United States of America- and subhanAllah, suddenly, in their pre-pubescent years, even if they went to Sunday school every week and went to the masjid every night in Ramadan with their parents- they stop praying. They do not cover properly. They spend hours upon hours on My Space, watching TV, playing videogames, listening to obscene music, chatting with the opposite gender unlawfully (and about haram things) ….the list goes on and on and on…and the really scary part is that very often, they don’t even care.
I am so, so upset. SubhanALLAH. Parents: WAKE UP. Your actions are DIRECTLY affecting the Islam of your children in a country where they are already considered strange because of their religion. You might think missing a prayer isn’t a big deal once in awhile, or gossiping while the Qur’an is being recited is not that big of an issue (auothobillah). But the reality is that your children internalize and implement what they see and what they hear, and they can do it in ways that may have destructive effects on their hearts. As in, when you, Abi, or Baba, or Dad, backbite about a brother in the masjid, your son or daughter can take that and do the same to people they know at school, spread it all over My Space, and end up in so much drama that will affect their heart and will be apparent on their actions to an extent that you, O dear father, may have never expected. That is because of YOUR sin.
As in, when you, dear mama, or madar, or mom, sit for 3 hours straight and watch some TV shows that encourage gossip, music, vanity, and illegal sexual relations (just because it is not American does not make it halal!), your daughter or son can take that and start practicing it in her or his daily life. And we seek refuge with Allah from that for all our children and for ourselves! But you, mom, have no right to blame your child solely for his or her actions when you are the one encouraging it by your example.
And then there are parents who expect their children to do impossible, crazy things- like wear their parent’s (NOT their children’s) culture dress in the middle of public high school. Do you REALIZE what you are doing to your daughter when you do not let her out of the house except in cultural dress? As long as her clothing fulfills the requirements of the shariah, then why would parents force their children to dress in a way that their kids may come to despise? How would you feel if your spouse forced you to dress in a certain way from their cultural background to work? Would you love and want to obey your spouse more for it? Would you want to take your spouse’s advice when you have problems and need help? Why do some parents insist on cultural habits, that have nothing to do with Islam, and force them on their children, and make their children come to hate coming back to their parents when they need help? As Imam Suhaib said, “You cannot be more pious than the shariah.” Why do parents cause more difficulties for their children, when the religion is ease?
Why don’t some parents CARE about their own relationship with Allah? Do you know how scary that is? I know a Muslim girl who wanted to wear hijab and her parents did not allow her to do so because it was ‘extreme’. Not wearing it ‘helps her fit in.’ What about on the Day of Judgment? Where is she going to fit in there? With what group of people? Who is responsible for that? Don’t you care that your child doesn’t pray because you don’t pray? Don’t you care that your 9 year old does not know how to make wudu? Doesn’t that scare you? What are you going to equip them with when they face situations which will shake the foundation of their faith?
And what’s up with parents who say certain things are haram but allow them in other circumstances? Like parents who will not allow their children to work on a school project with the opposite gender because speaking to the opposite gender is supposedly ‘haram’, but will allow their daughters to take off their hijab in front of their post-pubescent male cousins? Or will allow their sons to go out until late in the night to ‘study’ with Sally ‘at the library’?
Or what about parents who put culture or personal worries about Allah (auothobillah)? One girl became involved in a relationship with a man and she told me that her mom kept telling her, “Don’t ruin our family name, don’t ruin our family honor” when the girl was not involved in anything. Finally, she just went out and got involved with someone. Imagine if this mother had instead raised her saying, “Grasp onto your relationship with Allah. Be mindful of Allah wherever you are.” Would she have purposely went out and gotten involved with someone if she was raised knowing that Allah Sees all things?
I am just frustrated. I’m frustrated because there are many, many young brothers and sisters whom I love dearly and who have changed drastically since they went to high school. And when I look at the parents of these children, I really do not know what else to have expected. The parents don’t pray… how do they expect their children to? Allah ‘Azza wa Jal tells us, “…and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds…” (Ankaboot, 45). Allah is Hakeem. He established prayer for us for our own survival. Prayer is the one thing we NEED to hold on to in a society which encourages explicit nudity and unlawful sexual relations.
Am I being tough on parents? Without a doubt. And I am not trying to undermine the efforts of parents who are working so hard to help raise righteous children in this country, or even those who aren’t trying so hard, but really wish for their children to turn out as good Muslims.
My point is just to bring up a reality that I have rarely heard mentioned: a plethora of youth do not seriously care about their relationship with Allah, the Most High. They do not PRAY. They do not CARE to pray. And parents, you need to seriously question yourselves. When they hit adolescence and they started acting rebelliously and diving into haram (that you may or may not know about), is it really because we are in America and we are not “back home”, or is it because of you?
And just a side-note: I wanted to clear my parents from the frustration I am writing about. Alhamdullilah Allah has really blessed me with them – this frustration does not come out of my experiences with their parenting; it comes out of this extreme hazn (grief) that I feel from seeing people whom I deeply, deeply care about, turn into ghafileen (those who are negligent, who just don’t care) after having been given guidance (may Allah protect us). And when I look to see why this happened, I find that it all started when my friend’s mother banned her from wearing hijab (did you just read that? May Allah forgive her), or my other friend’s parents bought her 2 seasons worth of Friends episodes. Man, what is going to go into this person’s heart after watching over 24 hours of Friends?
I mean, look at the condition of our ummah. Muslims are being slaughtered! And we blame this on American foreign policy? Wake up and pray tahajud! Imagine if 1 billion Muslims prayed tahajud. Or just prayed their fard salah. Do you think we could possible be in the same situation we are in? That is an impossibility. If 1 billion Muslims were serious about our connection with Allah 5x a day, inshaAllah every map would say “Palestine”, with nothing slicing through the middle of it.
Ummah- we can, inshaAllah, do this! Parents, don’t worry, we all make mistakes, but inshaAllah we can learn from them. Let’s just repent back to Allah, say sayyidul istighfar (type it in on the search of virtualmosque.com) with sincerity, make a serious intention to make an effort to change, and then just work to change. We take one step to Allah ‘Azza wa Jal, and He will draw so near to us. And Who is better to help us be victorious than the Master of the Heavens and the Earth?
Also, a few tips for parents [I’m not going to blast you and then leave you hanging] to help you have a strong connection with your youth, inshaAllah ta’ala:
1. If you are parents of young children (elementary school and below): spend massive time with them.
a) Be there for them. Establish salah in their hearts. Read them Qur’anic stories (there is a book series called Qur’an Stories for Little Hearts you can find online). Because a major mistake that parents make is that they wait until their child is 17 years old and then they say: man, I think my child is really going down the wrong path. And then they take the child to see an Imam hoping that everything will be fixed. That should have been done 10 years ago.
b) We learn in Child and Adolescent Development that the first five years of a child’s life are the ones which have the most impact on them. These are the years that their brains are growing and being molded. So help mold these brains in accordance to the pleasure of Allah, and bi’idnillah we hope they will continue to mold in that fashion.
2. Encourage open communication.
a) One thing that my parents would always tell me when I was in middle and high school is that they are here for me, that they have been through what I am going through, that they have experience that my friends do not have, that they can help me and they are ready to listen. And when I came to them, they were serious about fulfilling their offer. They did not blast me when I messed up (which still happens a lot), and they did not make me feel guilty about coming to them. They facilitated an open relationship, and they were like my backbone getting through the peer pressures of middle and high school.
b) And if you encourage open communication, make sure you are there to gently guide them through the difficulties of being youth. In high school there was a brother whom Allah had really blessed with beauty, mashaAllah. The non-Muslim girls literally would throw themselves on him. I remember walking by one time and seeing this girl less than 1 foot away from him, trying to come up close to him, and I remember seeing his struggle in fighting the temptation to be close to her. If your child comes to you, daughter or son, and tells you that they messed up, don’t blast them. It’s hard to deal with the hormones they are experiencing in a culture which encourages them to gratify their desires instantly. Tell them how proud you are of them for their struggles. Read to them the verse in which Allah tells us, “And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins. “And who can forgive sins except Allah?” and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.” (Alee Imran, 135).
c) Surely, Allah is Al Ghafoor, and He is Al Haadi. Help them know that they can always turn back to Him at any time, and that you will be there to help them through the struggles of turning back to Him through fighting their desires.
3. Relationship with the Qur’an- 1 page a day
a) Maybe your kids are already in high school, and are already showing signs of the diseases mentioned above. Do not worry… before death, it is never too late to change.
b) Encourage them to read 1 page a day (in a language they understand) of the Qur’an. Set some type of contract with them if they refuse to do it on their own. Reward them for their efforts. inshaAllah after some time, if they are consistent with just reading that 1 page, you will see major results, bi’idnillah. Why? Because the Qur’an is on another level, and inshaAllah eventually it will penetrate their hearts and you will see it on their actions. But they need to be consistent in reading it. This is not just a once every couple of weeks thing- it needs to be done regularly.
c) Make sure you also have a consistent amount of Qur’an you are reading in a language that you understand. Again, your example is key to the development of your children.
4. Go for UMRAH
a) If you can afford this, GO! Watch The Message together, plan Umrah together, and go together. I know many people personally who were completely not practicing to being involved in serious haram, whom Allah has taken to His House, and who have come back ready to change. This will inshaAllah help your kids feel the sweetness of the relationship with Allah.
b) But really, once you are back, and they are back in the same school, with the same friends, in the same environment, you have to really fall back on #3: establishing a close relationship with the Qur’an. Because umrah will inshaAllah help them want to change, but they need a teacher [the Qur’an] to help them maintain that change consistently.
c) What has happened with a couple of people that I know is that they have gone for umrah after living a lifestyle of never praying or fasting or caring, come back pumped to change, have made serious changes, but then slipped back to where they were before going [very, very scary]. In one instance, I really feel it was the parents who encouraged this slipping back. This is because they saw her making many positive changes in her life after attending halaqaat at the masjid, going to Muslim camp, hanging around Muslim sisters, and they started banning her from going to these programs and hanging out with sisters who wore hijab because she wanted to start wearing it. She slipped man… last time I was with her she did not pray maghrib, and only went to pray ishaa when I asked her to pray with me. I know she had a boyfriend recently, and her dress is… may Allah guide us all. She went to this state after praying regularly when she came back from umrah. May Allah guide her back to eman.
d) Point being: you need to help them through your example, and through encouraging them to do good- not prohibiting them once they desire to do it. Because if they are not strong enough to do what Allah has enjoined upon them regardless of what parents say, they can slip big time since their parents encourage them to slip.
5. Leave one sin
a) Many of us look at the mountain of sins we have and do not know how we can leave all of these bad habits- and even if we wanted to leave them, we do not know where to start.
b) Just pick one issue that is causing you to distance yourself from Allah (for truly we are the ones distancing ourselves. Allah is ALWAYS there to turn to us and accept and help us), and work on leaving that.
c) For example, if a Muslim is constantly finding him or herself lying, backbiting and wasting time, choose to leave lying, for example. Wear a small ring that reminds you that Allah is watching you every time you look at the ring, and every time you lie, give some money in charity and make istighfar. inshaAllah over time, you will find that doing good deeds is much easier than you once thought, and that lying is something that you try your best to stay away from. And inshaAllah you will see a positive effect on the relationship you also have with your family through your efforts.
d) Then, repeat with the next issue you need to leave.
6. Educate yourself about parenting teens
a) Dr.Ekram and Mohamed R.Beshir’s book “Muslim Teens,” is a great resource. There are many books that you will inshaAllah find beneficial in helping you work on cultivating the relationship with your children.
7. Let your children be American Muslims.
a) Your children are different from you. If they want to dress in a certain way, that is completely part of their culture as Americans, and is fulfilling the guidelines of the shariah, then do not stop them. Do not make a burden for them in areas where Allah and His Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallama have left wide open for people to express their individualistic styles within the principles and guidelines of the shariah. Let them see that how beautiful and easy Islam is through allowing them to do what the shariah permits.
8. Remember: Allah is ALWAYS there for you
“You might be far from Allah, but, He is close to you!
Turn to Him and you will find Him.”
If someone says, “I feel far from Allah,” ask them “Who moved?”
“Always remember whom you are asking.
You are asking Allah, Who loves to be asked, Who does not tire of supplicants, and He is Closest to you.”
Don’t lose hope. Allah is there 24/7 to help you through the trials of raising kids. And to help kids through the trials of random parenting. Remember Him, and He will remember you (Baqarah, 152).
And Allah knows best.
I ask you all to please forgive me if I have said anything to offend or hurt anyone. And please, by all means, add to the ideas above so that we can all benefit inshaAllah.
May Allah make me foremost in taking my own advice, and make us all successful parents, and make our shabab of the mutaqeen and the muhsineen. Ameen