There is no question that the discourse on parenting in Muslim texts and tradition has centered on the status and role of the mother. The very real sacrifices which include emotional and physical care at all levels is highlighted by both the Quran and traditions of the Prophet (s), including a very vivid hadith stating the status preference of the mother three times prior to that of the father. The required insistence on the centrality of motherhood has been needed because of the patriarchal hierarchy that has plagued many societies including Muslim majority ones, where women are only seen through constructed social function (i.e. Mother, sister, wife, daughter etc.) and not as autonomous figures.
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 9, 2010
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.