Friday, February 26, 2010

The Art of Building Believers, pt. 1

Assalam alaikum,

There are so many areas of our children's development that need our attention: academic, physical, social, etc. But the most important area, and conversely the one least discussed, is their spiritual development. To quote Pierre Teilhard, "We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a physical experience". If we ignore this essential aspect of our children's psyches, we run the risk that this innate spirituality will be submerged by the materialism that has overrun modern culture. As a parent, with all the love, respect, and attachment that Allah has naturally created in your child's heart for his/her Mother and Father, you are the best person to nurture and inspire his/her faith; it is not enough to rely on your child's Quran teacher or other remote religious figure.

Where to begin then? From the tremendous religious heritage of Islam, where should a parent start? Some may start at Wudhu and Salat, or reading the Quran, or perhaps the Golden Rule. While those are all essential and must be addressed, why not start at the crux of the matter? Why not start with the reason for their existence? "I have not created the Jinn and Mankind except to worship me" is what our Creator informed us. Ingrain into your children from the very beginning that their lives have immense value and purpose, that it should not be wasted on self-indulgence. While play, material gain, and socializing all have their place in our lives, our greatest fulfillment and joy comes from knowing our Creator and devoting ourselves to Him. Get your child started on the path to Allah early by discussing with him or her the implications of this ayah, as well as what it means to balance life between play time and prayer time, homework and Quran. What a service you will be doing for your child! What Ihsaan! Imagine your boy or girl intent on self-improvement and advancement, because their minds are clarified by a sense of noble purpose. Recall the story of a young Yahya Ibn Sharaf, who at the age of ten refused to play games with his peers, telling them, "I was not created for this!" This Yahya, after years of nearly superhuman diligence, became the man better known today as Imam An-Nawawi, may Allah have mercy upon him. While not everyone will achieve or even desire that level of dedication, it is a powerful testament to what a sense of purpose can do for a child.

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.

And Allah knows best.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Why Muslim Fathers Have to Man Up

Assalam alaikum,

There is an old saying that goes "it takes a village to raise a child". To me, that statement emphasizes the tremendous impact that a child's environment and peers has on his or her development. In a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim, the Prophet (alayhis-salaam) mentioned that sheep shepherds are meek and humble, whereas the caretakers of camels are proud and arrogant, indicating that these human beings are influenced by the innate character of the animals that they take care of. In commenting on this hadeeth, the Ulama have long mentioned that if people are susceptible to being influenced by the character of animals, then how much more susceptible must they be to being influenced by other people and cultures? Now, please take time to think about this in relation to the situation with Muslim families today. Take a quick scan of mainstream culture; check out what is playing on TV or in the cinema, what are the popular stories on the internet, see what your average co-worker or potential classmate for your child is talking about. While there are positive nuggets to be found, the overwhelming majority of what is buzzing and rumbling in the cloud of mainstream culture is petty, selfish, and indulgent, and "Muslim" cultures are not exempt from this. This is our new, global village. Our children deserve better. And the only person that can provide them what they deserve is you, Allah willing. 

"Each of you is a shepherd and each of you shall be asked about his flock"(Bukhari and Muslim) is what the Prophet (alayhis-salam) told us. Was there ever a time in history where this hadeeth has been more pertinent to a Muslim parent? Has there ever been a time where adultery, disrespect for parents, heedlessness of the Creator, rudeness, and intoxication, which are sins condemned by all the world's major faiths, are not just accepted, but actually advertised to children? I dearly wish that I was exaggerating, that I was some turbaned version of Glenn Beck, but take one long, eye-searing look at the popular media that is targeted to youth, such as MTV and hip-hop, and you might get upset with me for understating the problem.  And as I often have to point out, the Muslim community is not mystically protected. Just because our children are named Aisha and Muhammad, or because someone's great grandfather was a hafiz of the Quran, does not bestow a quasi-magical barrier of protection from society's ills. Through research and personal accounts, I can guarantee you that our children fall prey to the same immorality that the children of all other communities suffer from. Permit me to lift the veil for just one moment: amongst Muslim youth, I know stories of zina, alcohol and drug use (including kids in Hifz school), apostasy, and even incest.  We are not immune! These children needed a protector. They needed a true Muslim Father. 

Let me address the inevitable question: Why am I talking about Muslim Fathers and not Muslim Mothers? The simple answer is that the level of involvement of Muslim Mothers in the upbringing of our Ummah's children is relatively high; look at Muslim parenting websites, masjid activities geared towards children, etc. and you will find that the majority of participants are mothers. Or even better, speak with the youth of your local community and ask them about their relationship with their parents. When it comes to their mothers, many may even complain that their mothers are too involved, "nosy", or "smothering". Ask them about their fathers and you will often get blank expressions, and vague, shy answers that they don't spend much time together.

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.

There has never been a time when families have been more in need of this strong, caring figure. We live in an age where we can take nothing for granted. Can you wholly entrust your child's education to the public school system, especially in such an evolving and dynamic world? Thousands of  educators and experts have written about the inherent flaws of our school system and those flaws are present in any school that models itself after that system (i.e. Islamic schools). Is the food in our supermarkets safe? Again, the testimony of countless experts highlights significant dangers in the way our food is produced. What about your child's physical development? Hours and hours of play every day were once typical for a child, but current cultural trends are more likely to steer your child towards hours in front of the TV or computer. And what about their spiritual life? Is it enough to send them to Quran class on Saturday and Sunday? Would memorizing and reciting lines from Grey's Anatomy be enough to make them competent physicians? What about the immorality promoted by modern media channels that I discussed earlier? The list goes on and on, the challenges are relentless, and Muslim families will be overwhelmed, unless they can come together, cooperate, and help each other in the path to their Creator. This endeavor, like all great endeavors, needs a leader. That leader is supposed to be the Muslim Father.

And Allah knows best.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Call to Action: Take a Stand against Domestic Abuse

Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse (

February 2010

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Dear Community,

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 ( 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.

Sincerely yours,

Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse
MMADA Document Link