Living Islam Today
A Magazine for Muslim Americans
Vol. 1 Issue 2             Winterl 1421/ 2000

Feature

IFNA

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate Source of All Mercy

A Message to Parents

     As a student of my mosque for almost my whole life and a teacher now for the last 4 years, it is very wonderful to see how much this community tries to do for these students.  As such, I want to speak about the state of students and our young generation. This is especially addressed to parents.
     The subject is simple: the need to bring up a child Islamically, to prioritize this and do everything in your power as a parent and community member to inculcate true Islamic understanding and faith in our young people.  There is an extreme immediacy for this need, and it is important for all of us to begin making changes. I would like to offer some practical suggestions on how to do this.
     
At one time I thought that every parent would have the goal of raising his or her child Islamically, but now, through experience, I really have to wonder. I don't think some parents WANT to raise their child Islamically. They believe that if their child has basic knowledge and practice, it's enough. Islam, to them, should be in the background while other things, such as being a doctor, going to an Ivy League school, enjoying the good life with a big house, car, good job, is more important for their child in the future. They kill themselves so that their kids can have everything in this life.         

By Huma Ahmad

The Choice
This world or the Hereafter.

          There is something extremely wrong with this. I'll tell you why. How narrow-minded is it if a parent prepares their child for this life and does nothing for their child's Hereafter?  If a parent really, really loves their child and wants the best for them, their goal, first and foremost, will be to raise the best Muslim they can. This is the best you can ever do for your child in this life AND in the Hereafter, which is eternal. If your child is a good Muslim, they will want to do well in everything they do. They will want to attain knowledge, security, help those around them and become good people.  They will avoid the many harms and difficulties in this society.  Islam will NEVER, NEVER hinder your child from anything good. It will only enhance whatever they do.
     Let me give some examples of what happens when Islam is NOT the first priority in families. In college, where I attend graduate school right now, you find the most amazing things. I have met Muslims raised their whole lives in Muslim families who don't pray, date, attend MSA meetings, but go out to parties and clubs and drink, and take drugs. 
     I had a brother come to me and say how he thought he was homosexual. I visited a sister just a few weeks ago who had tried to commit suicide. EVERY single thing you can think of that is the opposite, the antithesis of Islam, our young people are doing them. It is to the point where you can't tell the difference between them and a non-Muslim.

Why is this happening? 

     These are not extreme cases. These are ordinary Muslims who were raised without Islam as their priority. They were taught, consciously or unconsciously, that Islam was cultural and secondary. They were taught Islam blindly and do not understand it and are lost.
     
     We should be concerned, if not alarmed. Do not shrug this off and say, "It won't happen to me.  It won't happen to my kids." Do not live in a fool's paradise and say, "Oh,  Ma'shallah, my son or daughter is an honors student.  They would never do anything bad." It can and it will and is happening now.

     We are too late to save Muslim college students. I say this even being an MSA worker for the last 5 years. I even would say it is too late for high school students. How many of them will ever come back to Islam? Very few. It's too late for them.  But it's not too late for your kids, the young generation we have today.  
     We need to raise them with Islam.  Being a good Muslim is the primary goal for the parents and our community. 
      So, how can we do this? I would like to give just 10 simple, positive, pro-active things we should all be doing.     



Attend Masjid Activities

 #1 Be consistent. Bring your child consistently to attend mosque activities. That doesn't mean every so often, for jumah, or every Sunday. I mean EVERY Friday and Sunday class. It is extremely frustrating for us as teachers to have students who come only Fridays or students who only come on Sundays or maybe every other week. It is unfair to the whole class and unfair to your child. It sends a message to your child of how important you think Islam really is. I really do see the difference (even between test scores) of students who come erratically or just one day a week with students who come consistently. This also cannot drop off when they are 12 or 15. It needs to continue.
#2 Get involved as a parent or community member. Take an interest in what goes on at the mosque and in their class.  Help them with homework; help them memorize; discuss Islamic issues with them; ask questions; answer their questions. Do not expect us, the teachers, to do everything. YOU, as parents, have the responsibility to give your child an Islamic education. How much can we teach 2 hours a week? We can only enhance what a parent is teaching. How many parents have volunteered at the Islamic school? How many have asked, "How can I help my child's Islamic education at the mosque?" How many single people have volunteered to teach, help out at the mosque or help build a badly needed school building/playground?


Get involved as a parent...


organize camping trips

#3. Create Islamic alternatives. Your kids should never think Islam is boring or dogmatic. It is a complete way of life, which is good and fun. Parents should help organize camps, festivals, sleepovers, fun days, sports, and Islamic movie days for them. 
#4 Buy Islamic books. How many of us have Islamic kid's books, tapes, games or videos at home? If you don't, buy some. IQRA, Soundvision, Astrolabe all produce excellent quality fun educational materials for Muslim kids. Why buy your kids Home Alone when you can buy Salam's Journey or Adam's World? Why buy a Barbie coloring book when you can buy an Islamic coloring book? We should take advantage of this to create a more Islamic culture for our kids. 


Offer Islamic books

Here's a list of Annual conferences:

ICNA: July 4th weekend
ISNA: Labor Day weekend

#5.Send your kids to Islamic camps, conferences and conventions. How many of you take vacations to Disney World or somewhere? How many of you send your kids to those 4-H or basketball camps? Why not go to ISNA together as a family or send your kids to MYNA where they can meet other Muslim kids from all over? Have a problem sending them somewhere alone? Go with them. I guarantee anything in public schools is 1000% worse.

Which brings me to #6, Be aware. I don't know if some parents are deliberately oblivious or just don't care. What is your child's public school environment like? Do you know? Do you know that what they watch on TV, sitcoms, and MTV, is just about 90% sexual and inappropriate in content? Do you know who their friends are? This is not to say go overboard. The best type of parent is flexible and not rigid over things that are not worth fighting over. Give alternatives. You can't forbid them from having any friends but must facilitate them having Muslim friends. Establish limits. Start with limiting TV to 3 hours a day maximum and watch WITH them.

Show an interest in your child's:

school environment
circle of friends
favorite shows, music
hobbies
REMEMBER: "The best type of parent is flexible and not rigid over things that are not worth fighting over."

Islam is a strong belief in ALLAH (swt)

Islam is NOT:

eating Tandoori chicken, 
Watching   ITV,
being an Arab or
speaking Urdu

#7 Eliminate the cultural baggage. Cultural baggage are all of those things that parents have been raised with which are not part of Islam but are part of their culture. Separate what is your culture from what is Islam. Cultural aspects only seem confusing, hypocritical and unreasonable to young people. Get rid of them now or else your children will equate them with Islam.
#8  Use the resources of this community. There are many experienced parents, teachers, and Imams in our communities that can help you if you are having problems with your child. They can help you if you are not sure how to incorporate Islamic education for your kids or don't understand its importance. You know how your child says: "But everyone else's parents is letting them do it." Now you can ask other parents if they are. :) Work with them to help solve any problems now. Do not wait until it gets out of control or when the child is 15 and refuses to listen to anyone.

Qul:  means "Say"

Huwallahu:  means  "He is Allah"

Ahad:  means "The One"

#9. Teach understanding not blind ritual. We can't keep teaching our children things without explaining why they should do them or what they mean. How many of your kids say Surah Fatiha in prayer and have no idea what it means. How many have any idea of what they are saying in prayer at all? This is very wrong. Saying "you have to pray and here is how to" is not enough. Islam turns into blind ritual for them, and they won't be able to transfer Islamic principles or practice to their daily lives.
Lastly and maybe most importantly, #10 be a good Muslim. You must be a good, practicing, active Muslim for your child to be one. If you have little knowledge about Islam your child will have less. If Islam isn't a priority for you, it will not be for your child. If you are not continuously learning about Islam, your child will not be either.

Inshallah, I pray I have conveyed the present need for making Islam a priority for young Muslims. I hope parents heed the true-life examples of the prevalent situation, which can only get worse. Inshallah, let's make the intention now to try to do some of these simple things to help our kids understand and practice Islam. Let's not leave this need unfulfilled for another generation.
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