Saturday, July 31, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
During the course of my life, my parents have taught me hundreds, if not thousands, of important things. From the most mundane skills to the most profound ideas, much of what I know comes from my mother and father. There are some lessons, however, that tend to stand out beyond the others; inspirations or examples that have become part and parcel of how I conduct my life, lessons I want to pass onto my children. I want to share the five most valuable lessons my parents taught me, and I urge you to reflect on what the five most important lessons are that your parents have passed on to you.
1. “Dogs bark, and Caravans Move On”
This is a rough translation of an Urdu saying that is near and dear to my father. He often repeats it to me when I feel frustrated at others, or circumstances, that seem to be hindering my progress or messing up my plans. In essence, my father is telling me not to be distracted by the many insignificant side-shows that line the journey of life. Whether I am suffering career or personal disappointments, my father is lovingly telling me to keep my eyes on the prize and move along. When others try to bring me down, this is my fathers way of telling me to ignore the barking dogs and keep my wheels rolling.
2. “Dry-Clean your Soul”
When I first was heading off to college, to live on-campus no less, my mother pulled me aside and told me the following: “We all make mistakes, and sometimes we sin. We get stains and soil our soul the way a shirt gets dirty from wear and tear. But what do you do with a soiled shirt? You clean it so that you can continue to wear it with your head up. In the same way, you clean your soul with salaat.” Before hearing this, I used to think it was hypocritical of people who sinned to then go stand in front of Allah swt and pray. But this beautiful lesson taught me two important things: first, none of us is perfect, but salaat helps us get nearer to perfection. Second, never to despair in the Mercy of Allah swt – knowing we are imperfect, He blessed us with prayer so even the worst of sinners can find redemption. No matter how low you may feel because of something wrong you have done, salaat can purify you and rectify your situation with Allah swt.
3. “Its all an Amanaah"
Ever since I can remember, I have heard it over and over again that any education or skills that I have are simply a trust, an amaanah, from Allah swt. My mother sweetly pounded into me the understanding that getting degrees was not about making money (after all, our sustenance is already decided). With education came the responsibility to use it to help the community, both Muslim and non-Muslim. God didn't give me those degrees for nothing. Thanks to this lesson, from a young age I have found myself constantly motivated to do community service work knowing that my knowledge and skills are not for my sole pleasure. Every single one of us has skills, knowledge, or experience that can be used in the service of uplifting others; we should all feel obliged to give back what we can. I hope to instill this lesson in my children so they become adults with a drive to serve others.
4. “Say Whatever You Want”
Ok, I admit, this is one lesson I am still struggling to implement. My father has always taught me and my siblings that its not what you say, its how you say it. Being pleasant even when telling the listener things he or she doesn't want to hear can make all the difference in your point getting across. Being kind in your speech not only increases your credibility and preserves the other party's dignity, it is also from the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the many Prophets before him. Remember, even Moses was told to address Pharaoh with gentle and kind words. Pharaoh – the most wretched man of all creation! Even for someone like him, Allah swt commanded a Prophet to use good and kind language. So go ahead, say what you want (with wisdom though!) but just say it nicely.
5. “Walk the Talk”
I have never forgotten an incident from when I was around 10 years old. I asked my father if I could have his pen. My father was an employee of the U.S. Government for almost 30 years. He always had a U.S. government-issued pen tucked in his front pocket. I knew he had countless of these black pens rolling around in his briefcase and car. One of those shiny official government pens could significantly raise my status in school (or so I imagined). My father said no, I couldn't have it. Why? He explained, “These pens are not mine. They belong to the government and are only for government use. Using them for anything other than work would be wrong. I never use them for personal business, so I'm sorry, you cannot have it. I will give you one of my personal pens”.
Another time, also when I was around 9 or 10 years old, we picked up some food from a drive-through and had driven half-way home when my mother realized that we had gotten too much change back. It was less than a dollar. We were all hungry and the food was smelling great, so it was to my great chagrin that my father turned the car around to go return the extra change.
The lesson I learned from these two events, along with many other similar ones, is that our children watch what we do and how we do it very carefully. We are teaching them morals and lessons, whether we want to or not, with our deeds and words. The fact that these incidents made such an impression, even though at the time I saw no lesson and was probably a little miffed, motivates me to try and always do what I preach. I know that my little girls will remember the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that the smallest act of good or evil that they witness could have profound effects on their character. Talking about morality or ethics with your children does not have nearly the same impact as acting in a moral and ethical manner. So be cognizant of the fact that you are always teaching lessons through your actions.
These are five of the most important lessons I learned from my parents. I hope they become valuable lessons for others too. Whether we realize it or not, we all operate according to principles and lessons imparted to us by our parents. Take an hour, jot down the five most important lessons your parents taught you, and email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “Lessons” in the subject line. I will be compiling them to publish so that thousands of others can benefit from the beautiful lessons of our parents.
-Rabia Chaudry, Esq.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
The above insistence should in no way diminish the discourse around the centrality of fatherhood and its importance in building a cohesive family unit and in turn a healthy pool of young people who can contribute to the larger society. Our fathers are key in engendering qualities, in both daughters and sons, that allow for a comprehensive and refined personality to take shape as we mature and become older. Studies have shown that fathers who are present in the lives of their children help build qualities such as affection, responsibility, moral compass, hard work commitment and so on.
In the past few days as I reflected on the Quranic and Prophetic outlook on fatherhood, I could not help but think of my personal experience with my father and father figures in my life. I lost my father at a tender age, before I reached my teen years; the sudden loss of my father at that age still has a most hovering effect on me. There had always been the thoughts of “what if” and how would my life have been different? But what inspires me today is the father figures I had in my life after the death of my father. My blood-brothers with their constant care, my brother-mentors in faith who I was able to take a moral journey with; and the countless number of other individuals who played a role in my development. I consider myself blessed because of the people I had around me, yet there are millions of children who do not have that network after their fathers are no longer present.
My recent reflections of fatherhood based on the Quranic and Prophetic model has illustrated three qualities that strikingly stand out. Qualities which if fathers are able to struggle with and help bring to the lives of their children would have a major developmental impact. The three qualities highlighted by the Quran and vivid life experiences of the Prophet are Loving-Affection, Presence and Guiding Hand.
The Quran so beautifully brings to life the many conversations that serve as a model between a number of fathers and their children. The current forum will not suffice all of the examples but one conversation that takes place in the 31st Surah will serve as a model. The conversation between Luqman and his son is advertently and inadvertently laced with references to the above three qualities. A father whose loving-affectionate language by the use of the term “boonaiy” referencing love, respect, humility and friendship to his son. A father who had worked and built the trust of his son, so when he needed to be a guiding hand in his life, the relationship was built on solid ground where his son would listen and take the guidance and moral compass to heart. A father who exemplifies his presence in the life of his son by understanding when and what type of friendship and advice is needed and provided it at that time. A deeper study of these “Ayaat”* will demonstrate a relationship that every father needs to reflect upon.
One challenge that I speak to young people about is how they personalize their relationship to the life of the man whom God used to send his revelation through. There are various factors as to why many people cannot connect to the Prophet (s) at a personal level, one being that many of the biographies written about him follow a very basic chronological order based on events that can at times diminish the very real person he was on a day to day basis.
When I sat recently to reflect “the father” aspects of his life I could not help but understand a little better the Ayat* where God refers to him as a “beautiful model”. I focused mainly on his relationship to his daughter Fatima, whose stature and love in the sight of her father was well known. The above three qualities are highlighted in this relationship. One common practice that the Prophet engaged in until he passed, was his insistence on standing and affectionately greeting Fatima anytime she entered the room. Accounts are told of so many times where he would be sitting and she entered the room, he would stand, greet her, kiss her and bring her next time to be seated.
This relationship that was build through the years, where Fatima saw her father go through the trying times of Makkah and the sweet times of Madina, helped solidify a solid bond. This bond was so unyielding that even after she was married and now had established her own family, she went to him and he came to her for things such as marital advice, securing a maid, dealing with foes, raising children etc.
There does not exist an ideal parent or father. Yet it is the struggle of constantly attempting to improve ones relationship that is seen and appreciated by children. Perfection is not a human trait, yet modeling and struggle is what makes us the best humans.
*In reference to a verse from the Quran I purposely use the Arabic terminology, as I do not believe the translation verse does justice to what an Ayat of the Quran means. An Ayat is not only a verse, rather a sign, a revealing of sorts, a discovery. The term verse does not do it justice. For a detailed discussion refer to Tariq Ramadan’s “In The Footsteps of the Prophet”
by Haris Tarin
Friday, April 2, 2010
I’ve been a monster reader my entire life. When I had my first born, I was determined to instill a love of reading in her as well. As she grew, so did her extensive children’s book collection. I spent countless nights reading to her, frequently took her to bookstores and libraries, and did my best to excite her about how books could expand her world, inform and entertain her. She was around seven years old when I realized it wasn’t working. After all my efforts, she seemed to take more pleasure in collecting books than actually reading them.
After thinking long and hard, I decided to try a different approach. I concluded that perhaps if my daughter engaged herself in writing rather than reading, eventually she would learn to value books beyond just being a collector’s item. So I pitched the idea of her writing her own book. The deal was that she could pick her own subject, use our computer to write a little bit each day, I would then “publish” it, she could illustrate it, and we would bind it into a real book to share with others.
She was thrilled and excited. She immediately chose to write about our pair of cockatiels and began spending about thirty minutes a day typing her story on the computer, which definitely sweetened the deal for her and made her feel like she was doing meaningful and serious work. A few weeks later the book, around six pages of very large type, was ready to be published. Two official copies were printed which she illustrated using crayons and markers. One copy was for the family and the other was proudly presented to a family friend who happened to be a professional writer. My daughter was rightly proud of her work and shared it with everyone who visited us for the next few months!
Knowing the point of this exercise was to foster a love of reading in her, you may be wondering if the objective was accomplished. In truth, it wasn’t. It turned out, according to numerous teachers and reflected in her grades, that my little girl was a bit of a math whiz. Reading and writing just weren’t her strong subjects but math came to her naturally and easily. So maybe she wouldn’t turn out to the great reader and writer I had dreamed of. Over time we had identified what she was naturally gifted at, math, and in the process she had fun in creating a book that will be always be a cherished memento for our family. A few years down the road, around the time she was 10 years old, she eventually did begin enjoying reading, but I had nothing to do with it. Many of her classmates and friends were avid readers and she became hooked to reading through their influence.
I encourage all parents to do a book-writing project with their children. The process, which can takes weeks or months, brings a great sense of empowerment and purpose to children and the end result, a tangible book, becomes a proud possession that can be shared with others for years to come. Here is how to do it yourself:
1) Have your child identify what they want to tell a story about. What are they interested in, what do they love doing? Whether the subject is sports, animals, music, cartoons, food, a friend or sibling, the vital thing is for them to write about something that they won’t lose interest in over the course of a few weeks.
2) Give your child access to a computer to type the story or buy them a special notebook that is dedicated only to drafting the story. If your child is too young to write or type on their own, have them dictate the story to you as you type or write it.
3) Set aside 10-30 minutes consistently (daily, every other day, just the weekends, etc), depending on your child’s age, for them to work exclusively on the story. Make the experience enjoyable -- I would make my daughter a favorite snack to munch on while she typed away
4) If your child seems stuck, spend time talking about the story and discussing what could happen next in the plot line. Help your child develop a start, middle, and end to the story and work on the characters by asking questions about how the characters feel, what their personalities are like, and what they would probably do next.
5) If it seems like your child’s attention is waning, try to wrap the story up. You don’t want them to get bored and abandon the project.
6) Once the story is all done, time to “publish”. This can mean printing and binding it in a clear project folder or, if it is handwritten, then help your child rewrite the draft on fun scrapbooking paper or plain paper that can be decorated. Get creative, you can use colorful construction paper as the front and back cover and bind the book by punching holes in the side and weaving yarn or ribbons through. Just remember to leave blank pages and space for illustrations
7) Have your child illustrate the blank pages using crayons, markers, stickers, scrapbooking cutouts, glitter, etc.
8) If possible make a few copies of the book to give to others – your child will be thrilled to show off their hard work!
9) Throughout the process, encourage and praise your child’s work while ensuring they complete the project. An important aspect of this project is teaching your child to commit to something consistently and following through to reach long-term goals.
10) Finally, remember to recognize that every child has natural abilities, talents, and aptitudes. Encourage them to try different things, but help them identify what they really do well and encourage and support it in creative ways!
-Rabia Chaudry, Esq.
Friday, March 26, 2010
My 2 cents: Father figures have a place in the human psyche that cannot be replaced by any other entity. The same, of course, goes for maternal figures. As the cliche goes, Fathers are role models for children, especially boys. While growing up and attempting to navigate through the massive overload of information and social pressures, a boy with a positive Father Figure will choose to latch onto Him and follow His lead. Without that positive Father Figure, boys are much more vulnerable to negative social influences. The National Child Development Study, conducted in the UK, has been tracking the development of 17000 children, all born in 1958. This quick overview lists a staggering set of positive outcomes for positive fatherly involvement. There are significant correlations for criminal activity, educational achievement, not being homeless, and mental health.
Another study, conducted by Swedish researchers and featured in a prominent pediatric journal, concludes that fatherly involvement has a key role to play in reducing behaviour problems in boys and psychological problems in young women. An excerpt:
"... children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes."
The problem with a website or campaign dedicated to Muslim Parents in general is that it allows the very specific problem of absentee fathers to be ignored. Go to any website, Muslim or otherwise, dedicated to the topic of parenting or children, and I can guarantee you that the majority of participants will be women. As the cited studies and our own reason and instincts indicate, you can't conceive a child without a father and you can't complete a child without a positive father figure.
Let us know your thoughts.
Friday, March 12, 2010
While I know of no statistics regarding this issue in the Muslim community, researchers say that "considerable evidence exists to show that at least 20% of American woman and 5% to 10% of American men have experienced some form of sexual abuse as a child" (D. Finkelhor, PhD, UNH). I do not believe that the frequency of occurrence in Muslim communities lags far behind. Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, a sociology professor at State University of New York, states the overall divorce rate among Muslims in North America is 31% whereas the overall divorce rate in the US is 49%. We are not immune to trends that affect mainstream US culture. Two articles recently published on the web make it clear that this disease occurs in "Muslim" countries as well:
We at MuslimFathers are attempting to develop an initiative to tackle this issue and engage local community leaders in helping Muslim familes to protect themselves. Stay tuned for further updates and please contact us if you have suggestions or want to get involved.
And Allah knows best.
Friday, February 26, 2010
The worship of Allah is not an event limited to specific times or places. It is a lifelong journey that you and your family have already embarked upon. In sha Allah, in future articles, I'll share some more verses from the Quran that lay the foundation for a sincere and beatiful relationship with our Creator. Check back in 2 weeks.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Our sisters were not meant to bear this tremendous responsibility alone. Children need the unique dynamics that a father and a mother bring to a family. Allah has created everything with an inherent nature and purpose, as indicated by the Prophet's statement (alayhis-salam), "People are minerals like the minerals of gold and silver, the best of them before Islam are the best of them in Islam when they obtain knowledge and understanding." (Bukhari and Muslim). There is a specific role that men are supposed to play in the family, modern gender politics be damned. Failing to live up to that role is failure to be a man. Our Creator said, "men are the caretakers (Qawwamoon) of women" (An-Nisaa', 34). I understand that this verse has often been used as a bludgeon to enforce female subservience to their husbands, but that is the result of a backwards and impotent culture, and has nothing to do with our Creator's intent in revealing this verse. As always, our salvation comes from the Sunnah of the Messenger (alayhis-salam). In dealing with his wives and children, the Prophet (alayhis-salam) demonstrated kindness, consideration, compassion, and patience that would put any modern relationship guru to shame. And he sealed the issue by saying, "The best of you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best amongst you to my family" (At-Tirmidhi, declared Saheeh by Al-Albaani) emphasizing that his implementation of Qawwamah is the only authentic one, and it is not open to a new American, Arab, Pakistani, or other interpretation. To reiterate: failure to be strong, kind, and caring to your family is failure to be a true man and Believer.
And Allah knows best.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse (mmada.org)
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Assalamu ‘alaykum; peace be upon you all. Last year, many of you joined Muslim leaders nationally and globally to speak out against domestic abuse. The wake-up call for many was the February 12th murder of Aasiya Zubair Hassan, general manager and co-founder of Bridges TV. Shortly thereafter, Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse (www.mmada.org)was established to promote domestic tranquility in our communities. As we approach the one year anniversary of Sister Aasiya’s death, and as a means of encouraging communities to continue to speak out against domestic abuse, Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse is organizing a Call to Action.
First and foremost, we hope that each community will devote one khutba (Friday sermon) this month to the topic of domestic abuse. To assist imams and leaders, we have created a document entitled “Talking Points (Khutba).” (This and other documents were compiled by our board members, a diverse group encompassing professors and students of Islamic studies, domestic abuse activists, and others.)
Attached you will also find five pledge forms at the very end of this document. We respectfully request that all communities participating in this campaign organize a pledge-signing campaign immediately following the khutba or lecture on domestic abuse. These pledges
represent a global Muslim stand against domestic abuse. Please feel free to make more copies if necessary. Once we collect your community’s pledges, all names will be transferred to the MMADA pledge on our website. We would kindly ask that you provide us with the signed pledges as soon as possible. These can be scanned and emailed, or sent to us as is. Our email and mailing addresses are listed in the attachment.
We have also included a “Domestic Abuse Fact Sheet” flier. We kindly request that you please hang this or a similar flier on your bulletin boards.
Finally, you will find two related MMADA articles, “Women and Men as ‘Garments’” and “The Healthy Community.”
Every community has our permission to copy and disseminate this Call to Action packet. With your commitment and, most importantly, Allah’s (swt) permission, the actions suggested above will strengthen our stand.
Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse
MMADA Document Link
Monday, January 18, 2010
NOTE: Father should be a model in this sunnah.
By Francesca De Chatel
“There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift [for which there is great recompense].” [Al-Bukhari, III:513].
The idea of the Prophet Mohammed as a pioneer of environmentalism will initially strike many as strange: indeed, the term “environment” and related concepts like “ecology”, “environmental awareness” and “sustainability”, are modern-day inventions, terms that were formulated in the face of the growing concerns about the contemporary state of the natural world around us.
And yet a closer reading of the hadith, the body of work that recounts significant events in the Prophet’s life, reveals that he was a staunch advocate of environmental protection. One could say he was an “environmentalist avant la lettre”, a pioneer in the domain of conservation, sustainable development and resource management, and one who constantly sought to maintain a harmonious balance between man and nature. From all accounts of his life and deeds, we read that the Prophet had a profound respect for fauna and flora, as well as an almost visceral connection to the four elements, earth, water, fire and air.
Read more: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1159951461738&pagename=Zone-English-Living_Shariah/LSELayout#ixzz0d1gO5zWW
Read more: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1159951461738&pagename=Zone-English-Living_Shariah/LSELayout#ixzz0d1gGD64h
Friday, January 8, 2010
As a reference, I used one of my favorite Arabic books, السيرة النبوية في ضوء مصادرها الأصلية, "The Prophetic Seerah in the Light of its Original Sources", by Mahdi Rizq-Ullah, and to put it simply, the experience has been absolutely awesome. Together, my son and I have experienced all the most dramatic moments from the greatest and truest adventure ever lived, toned down (and sometimes exaggerated for comedic effect) to a level that I felt was appropriate. We visited the Prophet's infancy and the loneliness of his childhood after the death of his parents, then his growing prestige as a trusted merchant of Quraish, alayhis-salam. We witnessed the awesome terror and power of the first revelation and the comfort given to him by his noble wife, alayhis-salam and radhy Allahu 'anha. The ups and downs, the joys and defeats, the sacrifices and the struggles of the greatest generation this world has ever seen became a part of our nighttime routine and I swear that at times I was so moved that I could barely continue ... in fact, out of all the ways that I have experienced the seerah of Muhammad, alayhis-salatu was-salam, through reading, listening to tapes, and even attending a seerah class as a student of Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Uthaymeen, rahimahullah, I feel that this has been the most rewarding... may Allah forgive my inadequacy at finding the right words, but all I can say is that it is one thing to learn the Seerah for yourself and an entirely other thing to learn it and teach it for the sake of your children.
My experience in re-delivering the Story of Muhammad, alayhis-salam, and his Companions has been one of the most positive endeavors that I have undertaken as a father. It provided me with an unique opportunity to teach my son lessons about perseverance, mercy, faith, bravery, and a long list of other virtues rarely talked about in today's society. I've shared this with you in the hope that there is something useful to be learned from it for yourself and your family. And Allah knows best.