5 Leadership Mistakes that Parents Should Try to Avoid

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

I was relatively new to the parenting world until, well, my children started growing up. In particular, when my oldest started acting mature and ladylike almost overnight.

The awaited and cherished transition of your child from a baby to someone who can actually have a proper conversation with you, happens so fast that it’s actually quite overwhelming.

And the appearance of the lovely, hitherto-nonexistent, silver-grey hairs above your ears also reminds you that the beautiful journey of life is passing by faster than you think!

Anyhow, you find yourself morphing into an “aunty”. There is something so inherently quirky about this moniker, notwithstanding the underlying cultural personality that it implies. And to add insult to injury, it is sometimes distorted to be irritatingly pronounced ‘ainty‘ instead, and that too by local men who are no more than 10 years younger than the said ‘ainty‘ they are addressing.

Jokes aside, sometimes, in social settings, I find myself in that circle of “aunties”, you know, the ones who believe that without marriage and motherhood, a woman’s life is totally worthless.

The ones who talk only about how many children other married women have popped out, particularly the married girls aged 20-40; how many single girls are left in their circle to pity about being still unmarried; and the latest divorce scoop that generates even more pity towards the bechari who just got dumped by her husband (even though she was the one who willingly left him!).

Sigh, yes, aunties. If you are a female aged above 25 and do not (yet) have a husband or a son, you better steer clear of them unless you want to be made to feel like your existence is absolutely useless (not to mention very “unfortunate” a.k.a “budqismat“) here on earth.

Hey, you so-called “bechari“, go turn around and run the other way! :)

Anyhow, what I am beginning to realize more and more, much to my dismay, is that despite being a mother and an official 36-year-old Pakistani “aunty” myself, I couldn’t be more different from most of them, in particular, in my attitude towards parenting and raising children.

We should probably leave the topic of how different I am from them in my attitude towards single women and divorcees too, for another post, insha’Allah.

To start off, I am a mother, alhamdulillah, by full personal will and choice. I said it. There are three human beings currently living on this earth for whom, Jannah lies under my feet. I know that.

It is with that knowledge in my head that I am writing the points below, with the hope that other mothers will take heed and hopefully not do what many parents are unintentionally doing to their children.

Focusing on Their Rights More Than Their Responsibilities

Leaders should focus more on their responsibilities than their rights

When a parent, especially a mother, focuses more on the rights they have upon their children, instead of the huge Allah-given responsibility on their shoulders for their children’s upbringing, well-being, character-building, and moral training, they are definitely making a grave leadership mistake.

And by responsibilities, I do not mean those related to physical-work: such as providing children their food, clothing, healthcare, and admitting them into good schools.

I mean, the moral responsibility of raising them as conscientious Muslims.

Unfortunately, most parents nowadays focus their parenting efforts on fulfilling only the first three levels of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for their children: food, clothing, shelter, and education.

It is Allah’s immense favor upon us parents that He hides our early parenting mistakes and mishaps from our children, by removing those early childhood years’ memories from their brains.

Most of us, consequently, do not remember many details of our childhoods before age 6-7. That is due to Allah, the Hider (السَّتَّار), hiding our parents’ shortcomings from us. We do not remember if we were breastfed or bottle-fed; how soon and in what way we were potty-trained; whether we were bathed and changed on time or not; and what our eating habits were, before age 6-7.

All of us mothers know what havoc our home lives are like with several children under the age of 7 in our homes. Allah hides from our children the memory of their first fall, the first (and probably only) time we lost them in the market, or when we forgot to pick them up from somewhere and they waited alone for two hours.

Allah makes them forget how and when we force-fed them as toddlers until they vomited, or the nasty diaper rashes they got when we fell asleep without changing their diaper because we were too tired to, and had fallen asleep before we could do it.

Our children don’t remember the many mosquito bites they got on their chubby arms and legs because we forgot to put on the mosquito repellent before falling asleep. Nor do they remember how often we let them go to bed without brushing their teeth because they fell asleep in the car on the way home from weddings/parties that we forced them to attend late, late at night.

No, sir. Our children don’t remember our new-parent mistakes do they? Allah has hidden them all from them, much to our benefit.

Yet, after we mothers cross 50, we seem to forget ourselves how difficult those early years of popping out and nurturing babies were.

At least that’s how it seems when we sit in the company of younger women and lecture/tut-tut them, without being asked, about making the slightest parenting mistake!

It is when we approach age 60 that we start to act like we are entitled to the utmost good treatment from our children, as their mothers.

It is true: we are, but please get over it already, ladies.

What about our responsibilities?

What about the grave mistakes we made along the way, the results of which – in the form of adult children who mistreat us – we complain about to anyone who is willing to lend us a sympathetic ear?

When we see the negative results of our early parenting negligence in our (now) adult children, do we seek Allah’s forgiveness for the mistakes that we made as a parent when you were younger?

Do we admit to Allah that we neglected our obligatory duties first, as a parent, at least sometimes? That we made grave mistakes? That when our children were young and dependent upon us, and at home with us everyday, we often dumped them, against their will, with maids, nannies, and drivers in order to make our own lives easier?

Or do we perhaps pretend that we were perfect? That we fulfilled all our parenting duties with aplomb?

Which is perhaps why we seem to focus all our attention, now, on how much our children owe us in terms of kindness and good treatment, instead of how much we fell short in our responsibility of raising them according to Allah’s pleasure.

A mother who is humble, and who constantly seeks forgiveness for her sins from Allah will:

(i) Never focus just on her rights upon her children, much less publicly call them out for not fulfilling them (even if they aren’t), and

(ii) Never publicly chastise other young mothers when they see the latter making mistakes that Allah will eventually cover in time, such as force-feeding a baby, unintentionally dropping a baby, or (gasp!) giving the baby something out of a packet instead of what they cooked from scratch on the stove themselves.

Treating Children Like “Trophies” for Personal Glorification

“Age ___. Has a ______ (awesome-sounding trio of alphabets) degree from ______ (super duper college or university). Living in ____ (prestigious foreign location). Working at ______ (impressive-sounding company) as a __________ (covetous job title).”

Sigh. When will we mothers stop listing a set of acquired, physical credentials and attributes as a description of our children whenever we are introduced to others at social gatherings?

Will we ever? Can we ever?

Do you even remember the time when your son or daughter was just a wonderful little bundle of joy whom you loved unconditionally, without the added titles in front of his/her name?

Do you remember when she was just 7-year-old Maria? Or 4-year-old Zain?

Why does the passage of time make a parent talk about their adult son or daughter as if they are selling a piece of merchandise?

“100% pure cotton. Wrinkle-free. Iron on medium. Wash with like colors only. Do not wring. Tumble dry.”

Actually, one of my reasons for adopting the unschooling route is, that I don’t want to reduce — yes, REDUCE — the worth of my children to a set of physically acquired, worldly qualifications and credentials.

I get so miffed at the way I see adult sons and daughters being discussed in social settings, that I inwardly resolve not to do that with my own children once they are older, insha’Allah. May Allah guide me to remain true to my words. Ameen.

Even if my children garner many admirable achievements to their credit, and I pray that they do, I hope and pray that I do not become one of those mothers who lists those achievements in front of others as a measure of their child’s worth.

Which is what brings me to my next point:

Taking 100% Credit for the Good in Their Child, But Blaming the Bad on Other Factors

When a son or daughter does something extraordinary, in particular, if he or she succeeds at any level in the field of “education”, guess who comes forth in front of everyone as the receiver of credit?

Yup, you’re right. The parents.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Which parent wouldn’t love to tell the world about how awesome their child is? I know I would (although I do not).

But what I am talking about right now is, when parents willingly take credit only for their offspring’s positive achievements, yet shy away from taking any blame or responsibility for their negative actions or failures.

That is not good.

A son frequenting drink-and-dance parties/nightclubs with friends? Oh, it’s his friends at school who are taking him there.

A daughter discreetly left Islam to become atheist after going to study at a university abroad? Oh it’s the bad university environment around the poor little innocent girl that is responsible for that.

A son got into a gang fight and broke his nose (as well as another boy’s ribs)? Oh it’s his bad friends who dragged him into it, he didn’t even want to be there!

A daughter doesn’t know how to cook yet? Oh my poor baby girl is only 35, what can you expect? It’s her mother-in-law’s constant taunts and criticism of her culinary skills and Hitler-like control of the kitchen, which prevents my baby girl’s inner domestic goddess from coming out! I mean, she does know how to make tea and boil an egg though. Give her some credit!

There are many, many young boys and girls whose parents have no role to play in their achievements whatsoever: they become what they do totally without their parents’ contributions.

Just bring to mind Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Using Their Children for Personal Benefit, According to Need

I know, I know. There are Prophetic narrations or ahadith that clearly state how a Muslim man’s or woman’s children are the pure earning of their hands, and they can take benefit from them, as well as use their wealth, as they please.

However, deliberately using one’s offspring to glean a particular personal benefit according to circumstances, and using discriminatory, dishonest and unfair tactics to do so, is blameworthy and definitely not a good thing to do.

For example, a man and his wife are in good health and spirits, but they are feeling a bit tired of the relentless soaring summer heat in their country, and pining for a vacation abroad in a place with milder weather.

They promptly invite themselves over to the home of one of their sons, who is living in another country with his wife and child, and ask him to send them their tickets, intending to ‘visit’ him for several months, without asking first if their long visit will be welcome or not. They want his wife to serve (cook/clean for) them and take care of all their needs while they are there, such as taking them out for shopping and recreation whenever they want, while they enjoy the company of their grandchild.

Two years down the road, that same son’s wife is hospitalized long-term because of a high-risk pregnancy condition, and needs someone to take care of her older child. The season is winter, with the temperature several degrees below zero. Her house hasn’t been cleaned for weeks and is a mess. Her husband (the son) is jobless, low on money, and sinking fast into depression due to single-handedly taking care of his wife and child 24/7. His child is acting up and misbehaving due to all the stress. His savings have been all but depleted.

This time, the same son asks his parents to come over for a few months, for support and help, and to bring some money with them. But this time, they know that it definitely won’t be a vacation for them: they will have to chip in, with money, support, and physical work. And that this won’t be easy to do during the long, snowbound, “white” winter months.

Promptly, the parents, who are still in good health and spirits, decide to stay put where they are, with their other son, whose life is going smoothly (sans hardship) and who is not in need of their moral or financial support.

The son and his family in the other country who are going through hardship, will just have to learn to deal with their problems on their own, they conveniently say. They make up a flimsy excuse for not going, and thereafter ignore his appeals for help. They also stop calling him for fear that he’ll ask them for more money.

Such parents should fear Allah regarding their children!

And for those readers who are assuming that no parents are like that; that all parents are equally selfless and sincere towards all their children, well, take this from me:

I KNOW people who are like that; who have used their adult children for personal gain when the latter were doing well, but then dropped them promptly like a hot potato, as soon as the same adult child needed their help.

May Allah save us from ever becoming such selfish, gain-centered parents, who treat their adult children only as personal leverage according to the circumstances in their own lives at any particular time.

Disclosing Their Child’s Negative Traits or Behaviors to Others

The last leadership mistake made by parents that I want to discuss, which indirectly causes harm to their child, young or old, is when they mention their children’s misdeeds, negative habits and bad qualities in front of others, in a whining and complaining manner.

This of course doesn’t include the times when a parent seeks justified counsel and advice from trusted experts and wise people regarding the upbringing of their child, in which they are facing genuine problems.

This is not what I am condemning here, because it is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, given that it is done discreetly and privately, as an amanah instead of a public debacle.

All parents, including myself, often face challenges in their children’s upbringing, due to which they need to seek advice from others whom they respect and admire as mentors. There is nothing wrong with doing this, as long as it is done discreetly and with the fear of Allah in their hearts.

What is blameworthy is talking badly about your child (young or old) in public, and complaining about their negative behavior to others as a habit, or just to vent your frustrations as an exasperated, entitled parent.

Parents often do this to gain sympathizers and supporters on their side of the conflict with their child, and as a passive-aggressive emotional blackmail tactic to coerce their rebellious/recalcitrant child into submission to their demands, which might or might not be justified.

Parents who thus use their authority to gain power and control over their child, by airing their laundry in public, need to fear Allah and remember that what goes around comes around.

If you don’t want your children to mention you negatively; and to complain about you to others, after you have become old and weak (when they are the ones with more authority and power), then don’t dish out this behavior towards them right now, while they are young, weak and dependent, and you are in complete authority over them.

Fear Allah.

Conclusion

In Islam, all leaders have been granted tremendous rights: those of obedience in all ma’roof matters (those which are according to Allah’s pleasure), utmost respect, good treatment, and reverence.

Whether a Muslim leader’s role is that of khalifah, imam, mother, father, husband, teacher, or judge, they should never forget that this extra high role involves big responsibilities and duties in this world, and based on their performance of these duties, it will entail either an easy or a very difficult reckoning (process of questioning and accountability before Allah) in the Hereafter (Akhirah).

Let us all take a critical look at how we are accomplishing our role as leaders, especially those of us ladies who are the shepherdesses of our husbands’ homes and children.

Perhaps I might not be able to reach the niche of Pakistani “aunties” aged 50+ with my writings (as most of them don’t read English articles on online blogs, heh), even though I get to interact with a lot of them in social life, but I do hope and pray that by writing self-checking blog posts such as these, I can improve myself as a parent first, and also be able to advise the few readers of this blog, to not allow themselves to morph into entitled, discriminatory, unfair, and unjust leaders – who misuse and exploit the authority that Allah has granted them through their positions of leadership, in order to obtain personal benefits in the short life of this world.

Posted in homeschooling, Motherhood, Parenting, Pleasing Allah, Reflections and Reminders, Social Psychology, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Appreciating Life’s “Invisible Walls”

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Have you ever come across a situation in life, when you encountered a seemingly insurmountable problem or obstacle to your goals, which eventually got miraculously solved?

And at that moment, you knew, in your heart of hearts, that it was only Allah Who did it. o your faith in Him got reinforced, and you believed with full submission that, “Yes, He is there. He hears and answers.”

Then life went on, and you gradually forgot that epiphany-imparting moment of submission.

Then further trials, problems, and difficulties came your way, and you began to wonder again, if Allah really is out there, and He even hears when you call out to Him?

None of us likes or wants to be tested with sorrow, pain, loss, or other difficulties in life. We all want a smooth, happy, prosperous life devoid of problems.

Have you ever wondered though, if it is at all possible for someone to feel grateful to Allah, even for the pain and difficulties that they encounter in life?

You might think that sounds absurd, but for those who harbor deeper insights into the realities of life, it is actually true: when they encounter any circumstances or situations in life that are adverse and undesirable, they feel grateful to Allah for sending them their way.

Because they know that surely some great good will come out of it for them.

Why Dislike Adversity?

Ever since the month of Ramadan started occurring during the scorching summer heat and in the post-motherhood phase of my life, have I truly begun to appreciate the “positive side of pain”, as I choose to refer to it.

We have been told to not ask for trials or tests from Allah, which makes us believe that all tests, difficulties, and trials are a bad thing, per se. Well, while the former is true viz. we should never ask Allah to test us, the latter is not always true: that is, difficulties are not always bad for us, even though they appear to be so.

I mean, every year, when Ramadan comes, we force ourselves to tolerate hunger, thirst and a lack of night sleep for the sake of Allah, don’t we? We disregard how we would normally never want to fast 30 days in a row voluntarily, and instead, we force ourselves to do it during Ramadan, just because Allah has commanded us to.

Well, the difficulties and apparently ‘bad’ things that happen to us in life are also – always – good for us. The truth about life is that where ever there is pain, there is gain. So whenever you encounter any kind of pain in life, rest assured that some as-yet-unseen gain is also hidden around the corner, about to come your way insha’Allah.

It is up to us to acquire the discerning eye of wisdom that helps us figure out what the silver lining in every cloud is, once that cloud has disappeared and ease, normalcy, and well-being have returned to our lives.

Invisible Walls: Obstacles to Goals that We Do Not See

Now, what do I mean by the ‘invisible wall’?

There comes a time in your adult life when you begin to link/relate the apparently unrelated happenings, circumstances, and events in your life, and in the lives of people whom you know, to things that happened in the past.

You begin to see a direct correlation. You detect a clear cause-and-effect between the two.

Yet, sometimes, not everyone sees this as clearly as you.

You also begin to see how the ‘invisible wall’, which embodies the decree of Allah, manifests itself in a person’s life in order to give them a wake-up call, and a chance to turn back to Him in submission and renewed faith.

The invisible wall is what happens whenever a person follows every means to achieve an end, but nothing works out as they wanted.

Nothing.

Even though they have tried seemingly every possible means to get to that end.

We All Come Face-to-Face With this Wall

At any stage in life, each of us wants something really bad. Like, really, really bad. So let us look at a fictional example of how an invisible wall seems to appear suddenly out of nowhere, and prevents a person’s goals from being achieved:

Khadijah finally wants to conceive. She married her long-term boyfriend after a decade-long romantic relationship, during which she knew she had done many things with him that displeased Allah. She was actually secretly astonished that she was able to marry the love of her life so easily, without encountering any problems. She had expected Allah’s anger to prevent her from being able to bag him as her husband.

Then, in the beginning, they didn’t want to have children, so she spent some years just enjoying married life with him, which again turned out to be quite glorious. Basking in the happiness of worldly blessings, she drifted away from Allah. Until they finally started getting broody. Since everything she had wanted so far had come her way so easily, she thought a baby would, too.

But then, the “invisible wall” appeared out of nowhere in her life.

Years passed. No baby.

All medical tests showed that nothing was wrong, with either Khadijah or her husband.

She felt completely broken and crushed.

Until she started turning back to Allah in humility and repentance.

The above is just one example of how ‘the invisible wall’ appears in our lives to remind us that it is not us who are in control.

We are not in control of our destiny, our provision, or of what directions our lives take. But many a time, when we get whatever we want in life for a long time, especially material blessings, we begin to get deluded into thinking that we are, in fact, in control of everything.

We also assume that Allah is pleased with us; that He is not angry at us at all, for our sins, which is why He is granting us everything that we want in the first place.

We then start sporting an air of arrogant entitlement. Our opinions and egos start getting more inflated, louder and more in-others’-faces. We begin to remember our death and our return to Allah less and less, as we enjoy our worldly blessings and good fortunes. We also start getting lazy about following the commands of Islam, as we get busier and busier in living our ‘dream life’.

Until the blessing-in-disguise, which I am calling “the invisible wall”, hits us hard – like a slap in the face.

It sneaks up on us in our life when we least expect it. And it always takes the form of a sudden roadblock that we never anticipated, simply because we had not encountered any major roadblocks up till now.

Whether it is a lucrative job that eludes us, despite our pile of prestigious university degrees and our past successful career history.

Or the spouse who cannot be found, despite years and years of supplicating, searching and waiting for love, in vain.

Or the house in the suburbs with the SUV parked out front that still remains an elusive dream.

Or health issues and diseases that just won’t go away, after years of searching for a cure and trying different avenues of treatment.

Or that blue line on the pregnancy test that refuses to appear, as we try, yearn, hope and pray year after year for that first/second/third baby of that specific gender that we so desire

Whatever the case might be; when we feel as if we have tried everything possible in our human power to get what we want, and don’t.

When we get absolutely crumbled, crushed and broken from inside, realizing that we can’t get it.

That is when we should know, at that moment, that we have hit the “invisible wall”: the absolute power and will of Allah that we got deluded into undermining all this time, just because He showered us with all the material blessings that we wanted.

At this moment, when one feels crushed and powerless inside, in front of His Majesty, that one should realize: it is time to repent, turn back, and submit one’s will in front of Him again.

Posted in Inspiration, Pleasing Allah, Reflections and Reminders, Retrospection | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Keys of Provision

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Who doesn’t want an easy, happy, smooth life devoid of tragedies, calamities, grief and trials?

Which one of us would refuse to receive more blessings and provision? I doubt if anyone would.

However, there are few among us who truly understand the subtleties and nuances of the realities of the life of this world, through which Allah grants provision to His slaves.

Many human beings, as they age and garner wisdom through life experience, are able to get a small glimpse into the causes that lead to advancement in provision.

Truly, they are the wise ones, and the wisdom they possess is, in and of itself, one of the best forms of wealth:

وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا

“…and he unto whom wisdom is given, he has truly received abundant good” [2:269]

Below, I will list some of the “keys” to unlocking the provision which has already been decreed for you by Allah. This not at all an exclusive list. Its just those things that have been most pertinent/present in my own personal experiences.

But before I begin, I just want to clarify that, by mentioning “provision”, I mean all kinds of blessings, both tangible as well intangible in nature, namely: health, well-being, good looks & beauty, happiness, family, friends, money, clothing, knowledge & education, accommodation and property (housing), food & drink, popularity, love, respect, fame, fortune, peace and contentment.

Patient Hard Work & Enduring Hardship

We have all heard the adage, “No pain, no gain”. Well, it is true.

Nature has many examples of this phenomenon for us: one needs to work hard, remain patient, knock on several doors, and try many different avenues without giving up hope, before one gets one’s decreed provision.

The butterfly doesn’t emerge until the larva breaks through it’s cocoon first, which is a slow and painstaking process for it, through which it has to persevere. The good news is, that total freedom and independence lies ahead in wait, once it’s over.

Similarly, pregnancy and childbirth is a 9-month long process. No one can shorten this process in order to produce a child, no matter how hard they try or want to. However, the end result is (usually) a beautiful new life that brings new joys and wonderful discoveries for the mother.

Law of farm in place

The universal “law of the farm” is also a similar story.

According to this law, in order to produce a garden full of lush greenery and trees, first the farmer(s) need to put in hours of work upon the land to till it, without seeing any results at all, at first.

Hours upon hours worth of hard work goes into bare, un-tilled land/earth, long before any flicker of produce (seedling sprouts) is even seen.

However, once the plants come out and become trees, and the trees become sturdy, it (usually) translates to receiving an incessant gain of fruits (or grains) year after year, with a comparatively minimal effort put into the yearly maintenance of the garden/land after that initial “investment” phase (of hard tilling work) has been traversed.

Well, the same principle – of the law of the farm – applies to the world of human beings too.

You will get your decreed provision, yes, but not by just sitting on the sofa without working hard to find it first. You will have to endure months, if not some years, of hardship and hard work (and perhaps even poverty) before you see results in the form of ease and plenty.

But once you do, insha’Allah, then from that point onwards, it will get much, much easier for you, by Allah’s grace.

Age/Time in Decades (at least 3)

In the Qur’an, Allah uses the same Arabic words (more or less), in more than one place, when He talks about giving provisions to His slaves.

Allah’s choice of these Arabic words make me ponder upon the fact that, in life, no matter how hard you work, your decreed provision only comes to you once the time for it to reach you has come: which is, usually, once you’ve reach your full physical strength.

The Arabic words used by Allah in the Qur’an when He mentions the time at which He gave provision to some of His slaves, are:

بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ

(when) he attained his (full) manhood…” [12:22] [18:82] [28:14]

Allah is so merciful upon us, that He gives us what we want (and more) but only at the right time in our lives: when we have reached mental and physical maturity.

Yes, that means that He sometimes makes us wait to become old (and wise) enough first, before giving us the goodies.

And usually, our receiving the intangible blessings of maturity, independence, knowledge, wisdom and respect, happens synonymously with attaining our physical and bodily strength, which cannot be acquired by taking any shortcuts in life.

No one can go from age 12 to age 32 in a single day or a year. You have to let the mills grind.

Usually, this process involves patiently traversing three or four decades of our life, all the while working hard and weathering the storms that come our way, with Allah’s help and guidance.

Sincere Repentance

The advice of Prophet Nuh (عَلَيهِ السَّلَام) to his nation is enough evidence of the fact that once a believer repents sincerely for their sins, intending to never commit them again, Allah showers him or her with worldly blessings:

فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا • يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاء عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا • وَيُمْدِدْكُمْ بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ أَنْهَارًا

And I have said: Seek pardon of your Lord Lo! He is ever Forgiving. He will let loose the sky for you in plenteous rain. And will help you with wealth and sons, and will assign unto you gardens and will assign unto you rivers.” [71:10-71:12]

Spending What You Already Have According to Allah’s Pleasure

Although it sounds contradictory to say that by spending the wealth that one possesses, one will receive more, it is actually true.

Now wait, I am not saying that you go out on a huge shopping spree, buy whatever you want to, and deplete all your savings!

No, what I am saying is, that miserliness restricts provision, whereas spending the wealth that one already possesses: on one’s needs, necessities and other areas, wisely and within moderation (especially by spending it on one’s family, on whom Allah has obligated us to spend), in addition to paying obligatory zakah and giving regular charity (sadaqah) in the way of Allah — leads to immense expansion in one’s provision.

You have to give what you have, to receive more. It sort of works like a pipeline:

 وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ

“…and nothing do you spend in the least, but He replaces it..” [34:39]

Similarly, Muslims who make excuses and do not pay their zakah (especially those Muslim women who own gold but do not pay zakah on it, just because they do not earn money), as well as those who are generally very miserly about spending on their own selves as well as on their family, usually experience a constriction in their provision over the years: lack of blessings, unhappiness, loneliness, ill health, lethargy, and pain caused by rebellion/bad attitude of obstinate adult offspring.

This hadith best describes how an adult Muslim should spend their earned income, especially those who are business owners, or entrepreneurs:

  1. A third in the way of Allah,
  2. A third upon oneself and one’s family, and
  3. A third should be reinvested into their source of income (or saved for the future → for those who do jobs/work for others as employees).

The above hadith describes how Allah commanded angels to send clouds with rain upon the piece of land of an honest and hard-working farmer who spent his wealth in the above manner.

Gratitude & Gratefulness

لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ

If you are grateful, I will grant more (favors) unto you;” [14:7]

Being grateful for blessings brings more provision, but this entails more than just harboring a feeling of gratitude in the heart, or saying the words “alhamdulillah” repeatedly with the tongue.

Being grateful to Allah encompasses having a specific mindset, and having a way of life that reflects that mindset.

In a nutshell, being grateful means:

  1. Acknowledging Allah’s favors upon you by actually using (and benefiting from) His blessings, not keeping them stashed away. If they are not in your use, give them to someone who will be able to use them, appreciate them and benefit from them more.
  2. Using His blessings only in a way that pleases Allah. Not mistreating, misusing, wasting, or undermining any of them.
  3. Thanking those slaves of Allah i.e. other people, who are the means of bringing those blessings to you in this world e.g. thanking your parents by being good in behavior towards them; thanking the doctor whose guidance/help cured you, and thanking your domestic helpers for making your life easier.
  4. Giving to others; sharing your blessings with others. This is a way of acknowledging Allah’s favors upon you, by letting others have them too.
  5. Always, always, always, always looking at the bright side of everything. Be so positive, that your naysayers, haters, and critics, all start to think you are crazy, especially when you stubbornly remain positive even in the bleakest of situations.

When I was a student of the Qur’an, I was taught that the root meaning of the Arabic word ش ك ر (shukr) is, “That she-camel which gives more milk after eating less grass.” This definition has remained stuck in my head over the years, alhamdulillah!

If you are not a grateful person, you might not get vast provision in life.

To check if you are a grateful person or not, ask yourself:

  1. Do people often hear me criticize and belittle others?
  2. Do I talk more about negative events and news, than positive ones?
  3. Do I whine often to others about my personal problems?
  4. Do I waste my time, food, energy, and other blessings?
  5. Am I often impolite with my family and friends?
  6. Do I verbally thank those who are economically lower than me, for their services?
  7. Do I give back to the local or international community in any way? E.g. by teaching, mentoring, counseling, writing, helping, volunteering, participating in community/social welfare projects?
  8. Do I pick up after myself? A grateful person doesn’t possess an air of entitlement, leaving their litter for others to clean. They focus on giving back.

Joining Relations

Last but not least, keeping in touch with those blood relatives who classify as your ارحام “arhaam” (blood relations), who try to avoid you, do not want to talk to you, or are not nice to you, also causes an increase in one’s provision (Here is the sahih reference).

[Please note: in-laws are not included in the “ارحام” (arhaam) mentioned in the above ahadith. Rather, they are called “اصهار” in Islamic Shari’ah.]

By sending these relatives the occasional gift, email, smartphone message, or greeting card; by calling them up on special occasions, or visiting them when they are sick (only if they grant permission, because some people do not like anyone visiting them during an illness), by attending a funeral in their family, or responding to their invitations – these are all means of joining relations.

One important Islamic etiquette of joining relations that I’d like to point out, however, is that one should seek someone’s permission first, before calling upon them at their residence.

This is in accordance with the social etiquette of visiting others in Islam, which has been clearly pointed out by Allah in an ayah of Surah Al-Nur.

Similarly, if your calls and messages to someone go unanswered, then take that person’s silence as a refusal to allow you to visit them, or enter upon them in their dwelling, at that particular time, just like Prophet Muhammad ‎ﷺ remained silent when `Umar bin Al-Khattab wanted to visit him right after he left his wives for a month in anger.

The Prophet ‎ﷺ declined `Umar’s request for permission to enter upon him twice, by not responding to his greeting, nor granting him permission to enter upon him. Only after the third time, did he allow him to enter. [Sahih Al-Bukhari]

Conclusion

There are other keys to provision as well, which I have not been able to discuss here. However, as each of us meanders through life, we encounter our distinct challenges and lesson-imparting experiences regarding what provision came our way, at what time, and how.

What are yours? :)

Posted in Home and Family, Islamic Knowledge, Pleasing Allah, Quran, Reflections and Reminders, Retrospection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Going “Home”

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

The home is where the heart is. So you miss home. And you might feel very homesick when you are away from home.

What is it that makes a house a “home” for a person?

The aura in it? The people? The number, personalities, habits, faith, natures and lifestyle of it’s occupants? The activities that are carried out in it?

Or, how they feel when they are there?

I think the last one clinches it.

The House of Allah – My Second Home

I find it very endearing that Allah refers to Masjid Al Haram as “His house” in the Qur’an – “baitullah“:

    وَإِذْ جَعَلْنَا الْبَيْتَ مَثَابَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمْناً وَاتَّخِذُواْ مِن مَّقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ مُصَلًّى وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ

Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take you the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).” [2:125]

The holy sanctuary of Masjid Al Haram in Makkah, Arabia is peppered with beautiful remnants of the inspiring historic events related to Divinely-revealed monotheism (belief in one god) that have happened there over time. Such as the three jamraat, the hateem, the well of Zamzam, and the majestic structure of the Ka’bah itself.

Incidentally, the Arabic language uses same word to denote both a ‘house’ and a ‘home’ – bait, which is obvious from the above verse of the Qur’an, in which Allah mentions the word bait both with and without the prefix ال (al-).

In and around Makkah, there are historic places and structures that date back to the first Divinely revealed (Abrahamic) religion; that are related to events that took place thousands of years ago when Allah’s Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il (عليهما السلام) and their close family members made tremendous sacrifices to uphold and establish tauheed (oneness of Allah).

In fact, Makkah didn’t even exist as a thriving city full of people, until Prophet Ibrahim عليه السلام left his wife and infant son there, in the middle of nowhere. Read the full story here.

Allah has scattered throughout His house, and around it, the historic reminders of the efforts made by His close friend, Prophet Ibrahim, and his family: such as the house of Allah (Ka’bah) itself, which was built brick-by-brick by him and his son Isma’il.

Prophet Ibrahim’s footprints engraved in stone and metal near the ka’bah, which serve as the mark for a place of prayer (Maqam Ibrahim).

The hills of Safaa and Marwah between which his wife Hajrah ran 7 times in search of a source of water for her infant son Isma’il, when she was left alone with him in the barren desert at the command of Allah, and he started crying with thirst.

The inexhaustible Zamzam water-well that has been feeding millions of Muslims since thousands of years, which Allah sprouted miraculously from the ground for Isma’il and his mother.

And who can forget the special stone that descended from Jannah, Hajr Aswad (the “Black Stone”) that is nestled in one of the corners of Allah’s house?

Miracles happen in the house of Allah. Ask anyone who has been there and they’ll probably agree, especially if they practice Islam at superlative level.

Hearts, once there, are turned forever. Lives undergo radical change. Souls chained by devils for years are released from hell within moments.

Right there, nestled in the arid, barren hills of Hijaaz under the unrelenting heat of the tropical sun, is located the one and only special place on earth that Allah chose thousands of years ago to become the place for “His House”, and ordered his friend Ibrahim to build the house with his son.

Where the best man who ever walked the earth was eventually born and raised.

Where the symbols of tauheed have been standing firm since his demise.

And guess what? Going to Allah’s house is so easy. All you need is some money to buy a ticket, book an accommodation (an amount that can be saved easily over the course of a few years), then acquire a visa, and get a vaccination. That’s it.

So what are you waiting for? If you are an adult, independent Muslim who is reasonably well off and able-bodied, and especially if you customarily travel abroad once or twice a year (for either business or leisure), how come “going home to Allah” has not once come up in your travel plans, thus far in your life?

What’s stopping you?

Going Back Home

Time seemed to stand still when I visited ‘home’ earlier this month, this being my third visit to Allah’s house during my life (alhamdulillah).

 

And yet, the 9 long years that had elapsed since my last visit made my heart ache and my eyes flow with gushing tears as soon as I landed in Madinah, and at the moment I set my eyes for the first time (after such a long interlude) on the twin holy sanctuaries that Allah and His messenger  have each called their home, respectively.

I cannot express adequately in words what one feels when one is there. The unity in diversity of the Muslim ummah for one. So many ethnic colors, languages, cuisines, and cultures all converging in one place for the sake of one God, upholding and performing the prescribed rituals of worship of their shared, one religion.

You feel at home. You never feel like an outsider there, or even a guest (even though you are a guest of Allah). In Allah’s house, you feel perfectly ‘at home’, at ease, at peace.

No one treats you like an alien or an outsider because of the way you dress, speak, look, act, or because of the country of your origin/birth.

You are one with everyone else, and the single uniting factor that joins every pilgrim who visits Makkah and Madinah, transcending their diversity and mutual differences of race and culture, is their belief in Allah, His Messenger, and in Islam.

During every salah that you pray there, you stand next to a different person. Sometimes it is an Egyptian, sometimes a Malaysian, sometimes a Turk. Indians, Bengalis and Pakistanis can’t help but smile when they pass by someone else in the streets or public areas and hear them speaking their language.

Is it possible to be home away from home? Truly.

Because this time, after I returned, I sobbed and cried. I didn’t feel at home in Karachi at all for a day or two, which is very, very strange for me, as I am a born native of this city.It was as if my body was back here, but my heart and soul were left behind in Makkah and Madinah.

The echos of the call to prayer of the haramain reverberated in my mind for days after my return. I would close my eyes and imagine the black, awe-striking structure of the Ka’bah looming up in front of me, as it did when I would be performing tawaaf around it.

The Arabic that I had heard people speaking throughout my stay there, kept floating into my ears. Even the memories of the fresh pancakes and labneh (strained yogurt) that I would have for breakfast wouldn’t leave me alone! :)

 

My soul refused to let go of ‘home’ this time. And I realized that this time, my trip for umrah was different than my last two, and not just because all my three children were with me. It was mainly because I had changed significantly, spiritually, in the interlude.

Not only had I crossed the age of 33 (which I believe is the ripe age of maturity at which a young adult says goodbye to the naivete of youth forever), but I had also endured hardships in the years between: hardships that had taught me invaluable lessons that no book, course, or institution could ever impart.

I felt as if, when I went for my first umrah during Ramadan in December 2002, and then for hajj in January 2006, I went the way a moderately thirsty person walks over to a water fountain to get a drink of water. But this time, as I left for umrah, I felt as if I was running towards Allah the way a person who is at the brink of death due to thirst runs towards a source of water in a desert.

Yes, I was that desperate to seek Him!

Which is what brings me to my key point:

What you will bring back with you from your trip to perform umrah or hajj, will largely depend upon you: what your intentions were before embarking upon it, and how sincere your desire was to seek Allah’s forgiveness for all your sins, and to ask Him for the guidance to tread steadfastly upon the straight path of His Deen for life, after returning from your journey.

Many Muslims who go for haj and umrah come back spiritually unchanged, untouched, un-revitalized. Upon their return (which they really look forward to), they recall and list to others only the physical adversities of their travels and the hardships they faced whilst performing the rituals of umrah and hajj, instead of mentioning the beautiful spiritual and emotional experiences that their soul went through while embroiled in worship there.

Many mention the problems they faced due to the immense crowding and the illnesses/ailments/fatigue that they came back with. The journey is little more than a physical tryst for them, instead of a spiritual/emotional one that moves, humbles and changes the heart. And the reason for that is their intentions before going.

Since I hail from the region, I know that many Pakistanis perform umrah just to ask for a specific worldly gain, mostly related to health, marriage, wealth/career, or children.

So be it, there is nothing wrong with asking Allah for His bounties, is there? Perhaps Allah withholds some worldly blessings from people in order to make them visit His house, because He knows that they wouldn’t perform umrah or hajj if He gave those blessings to them without their asking. :) Such is His mercy and wisdom.

Nevertheless, we all should also perform umrah to seek forgiveness for all our past sins, and to ask for the steadfast guidance to act upon Islam for the remaining part of our existence/life. This is actually more important than asking for worldly blessings, though the latter count too.

Reflections on the Trip

There was selfies galore throughout both haramain, much to my surprise. Hailing from a city where cell phone theft is as rampant as the power breakdowns, where we avoid using smartphones in public, I was refreshingly surprised to see that most pilgrims had their own gadgets/devices that they actively used to take photos and videos in/of the haram, and that nobody in Arabia is generally interested in stealing another’s phone or tablet.

I had always intended/wanted that whenever my children step out of Pakistan for the first time, it should be to visit Allah’s house, and I am ever so grateful to Allah that He made performing umrah with three children under the age of 10 so much easier than my expectations.

It was our (my) best “vacation” yet! :)

Alhamdulillah, I had asked Allah for special ease and comfort before embarking on this journey, and Allah answered my dua’s to the extent that I would often say to my husband, “Umm, is it me, or was our umrah and travel on this trip much easier than we expected?”

Luxury and ease for pilgrims have made their way into the twin holy lands. Traveling to the haramain, staying at luxurious hotels, shopping for our needs, and eating scrumptious varieties of healthy, fresh foods every day, couldn’t be any easier for a pilgrim than it is today.

I seriously do wonder just how much more harshly us Muslims of this particular era, who were born within the last 100 years (i.e. after the industrial/internet/technological revolutions), will be questioned by Allah about performing hajj and umrah, than the Muslims who lived during the 1300 or so years before us,– simply because we have been blessed with so much more ease of traveling to Allah’s House than they?

We Muslims today can easily book and pay for airline flights/tickets, visas, and hotel accommodations online, even months in advance. We embark on humungous, air-conditioned Boeing airplanes, from and to air-conditioned airports, being served food by others during our flights, and are able to easily reach Makkah or Madinah in less than a day.

Sure beats riding a camel or a horse in the heat of the day, and setting up camp at night, for months on end, in order to perform one hajj or umrah,– doesn’t it?

We stay at carpeted, luxurious accommodations within half a mile of the twin holy sanctuaries, with cool marble tiling and thick carpets under our feet, and shade-giving, cool-air spewing, beautifully embellished roofs over our heads, as we pray/sit/recite Qur’an inside either Masjid al Haram or Masjid Nabawi.

Our taxi-cars, GMC’s and buses whiz us off at high speeds across smooth highways and wide roads, with (once again) carpeted and air-conditioned interiors that help us doze off comfortably during our journeys.

As soon as we come out from either of the two holy masjid’s, we can step into luxurious malls and restaurants that serves us a variety of cheap food in, once again, a cool and air-conditioned environment that dries up whatever perspiration came over our bodies in our short, 100 meter walk from the doors of the haram to the mall entrance.

Allah really did answer our father Prophet Ibrahim’s dua for us (below), that he made thousands of years ago in the barren desert, didn’t He?

رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَـَذَا بَلَدًا آمِنًا وَارْزُقْ أَهْلَهُ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ مَنْ آمَنَ مِنْهُم بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ

My Lord, make this a secure city and feed its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” [2:126]

Of course, pilgrims don’t always eat at restaurants. That’s when the sprawling Bin Dawood conveniently steps in!

Pun not intended. Because Bin Dawood is literally steps away from the entrances of both the haramain. :)

Ah! Don’t get me started on just how awesome Bin Dawood supermarket is! :) And Kingdom Dates too….and the variety of chocolates that have made their way into the holy twin cities, including as the delectable, gooey insides of traditional ma’amouls and other date confectioneries.

A chocolate and date-lover’s paradise, indeed! :)

Pilgrims emerge from their hotels after devouring lavish early-morning breakfast buffets, into fragrant, oud-infused outdoor souks (markets) that are constantly in a cool shade thanks to the many tall hotel buildings and malls around both the haramain, where everything the guests of Allah could possibly need and want during their travels is sold on the streets at dirt-cheap prices, by vendors who are eager to bring down their prices even more for the sake of meeting their demands.

So what are you waiting for?

If you are a Muslim who hasn’t yet gone for umrah or hajj, you really don’t know what you’re missing!

Posted in Home and Family, Inspiration, Parenting, Pleasing Allah, Reflections and Reminders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Parents, Can We Stop Judging Each Other?

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Misunderstood. Put on the spot. Challenged. Quizzed in public.

That is how I find myself feeling more and more often as an homeschooling unschooling parent, now that my children are older and meeting more people in social settings.

People are usually all praise for their demeanor and behavior, until the bomb drops.

What? They don’t go to school?!

By now, I have the sequence of questions that follows this opening one, along with the accompanying aghast and scandalized facial expressions, practiced and etched in my memory down to a tee.

It is always the same sequence of questions and exclamations, give or take a few exceptions. 

It seems that by choosing to unschool my children, I am not just consciously challenging other parents’ choice to send their children to school, but also choosing to be judged and labelled as a certified “crazy” parent in our ‘tolerant’ and ‘broadminded’ Pakistani society (sarcasm intended).

So be it. Every rose has it’s thorns.

question-marksBy the end of these unwanted, unwelcome “interviews” of sorts (which feel more like an interrogation or inquiry by police officers, for a crime that I am supposedly committing, according to their perception), I am left quietened by the questioners’ passive-aggressive remarks and half-accusatory stares of disbelief at what they have judged and passed off to be a totally ‘crazy’ decision as a parent.

What are you doing with your children!?

The older the female interrogator (I do not usually talk long enough to men for them to quiz me about my children, thankfully), the more quickly the accusations come my way, and the more quickly I become quiet.

I think I have mentioned before that I dislike engaging in arguments, defensive discussions, and debates with anyone – but especially so with opinionated, older Pakistani “aunties” (i.e. any lady whose oldest child is above 20 years old).

Truth be told, I consciously try to make myself ignore what they think of my parenting choices at this stage, in order to go on trying to raise my children with a healthy dose of positive enthusiasm that remains unmarred by the skepticism of critics.

However, my mental battle with their imposed negativity sometimes goes on for more than a few hours, before which I can declare complete victory, bi’idhnillah, and continue unschooling without any freshly-brewed “What if’s?” clouding my better judgment.

They will curse you after growing up for what you did to them!

It’s not like I was ever like the mainstream majority anyway. Ever.

Not when I was a child in school. Not when I was an unmarried girl (e.g. I chose not to go to a beauty salon for my bridal makeup – can any girl be weirder than that?). 

Not when I was a young married woman with small babies, and certainly not now, when I am the mother of growing children, two of whom will be at the threshold of teenage in a few short years, insha’Allah.

They can turn back their attention to saucy, superficial dramas, curry recipes, and morning cooking shows.

To each their own.

Being Different – The Road Less Traveled

This feeling – that I am different from others, to the point of being outright ‘weird’ – is nothing new for me.

From as far back in life as I can recall, I was always different from the mainstream, both in thought as well as action.

I still remember walking up to my Science teacher in 8th grade (Science was my favorite subject, which I usually excelled in grade-wise), to hand her back my marked/checked midterm examination that carried the score of 48/50 – the highest marks in class – and tell her, my lip quivering, that I had answered one question, carrying 7 marks, entirely wrong.

Flabbergasted more at the fact that I had actually pointed out my undeserved extra marks, than at how she had corrected what was an obviously wrong answer (it entailed describing a test tube experiment), I watched as she regretfully crossed out the 48 to make it 41, which ended up lowering my marks not just in Science, but also my overall position/rank in the class results that term.

I remember going back to my seat and crying my eyes out, as the other girls in class attempted to comfort me. The whole classroom was one giant face of pity.

So why did I do it?

No one had coerced me. It was completely my decision. And not an easy one.

I had done it due to the same reason because of which I have always felt very different from others: the moment I realized, with a sick feeling in my stomach, that I had answered that question completely wrong, but that the Science teacher, who was used to me getting good grades in her subject, had inadvertently marked it right, I just knew that I had to tell her.

I wouldn’t have been able to live with the guilt of dishonesty; of knowing that I got a rank that I did not deserve; of knowing that I kept quiet and did not do the right thing.

My ‘morals’ have actually always made me take many difficult steps in life, such as in the incident above, which happened when I was only 12.

My penchant for taking the higher road has also brought me considerable pain, truth be told, and mostly from other people; especially those who don’t appreciate or uphold 100% honesty in their own lives.

As I said, I am outright ‘weird’.

It is Never Easy to Consistently Homeschool Unschool

We decided to homeschool our children based on a sincere desire to provide them with the best Islamic upbringing, combined with the home-based application of those modern-day learning methodologies that encourage and facilitate natural knowledge-seeking based on fueling the God-given, innate flame of natural curiosity, unrestricted creativity, and the incessant drive to know more and to seek answers, which burns with ferocity inside all small children, before the early schooling system pats it down and fizzles it out forever.

I openly admit that this homeschooling decision was initiated by me, and is, by and large being sustained up till now as my choice (more than my husband’s).

When I mentioned above that my morals have always coerced me to take the high road, do the right thing, give the best due of any responsibility, and to tell the truth even if it causes me loss, etc., well, it was the same sense of morality that made me opt for homeschooling, rather reluctantly at first.

When my oldest was in school from the age of 2.5 to age 5, I came face-to-face with the grave realities and shortcomings of the contemporary schooling system firsthand, and there was an increasing number of things that I started to have major issues with, as a parent.

However, even though the thought of homeschooling made it’s way into my mind again and again, I kept repelling it, thinking that I didn’t have the guts to take the plunge.

However, a point came when I could just not take it any more. That is, my inner struggle with what I thought was best for my (Muslim) child(ren), as opposed to what was done as the norm by parents all over the world, would just not let my mind rest.

Correlating the present-day incidents that my oldest child went through during her short time at school, with my vivid memory-flashbacks of incidents that occurred at school during my own childhood, I just knew, as I did istikharah after istikharah — turning to Allah in an absolutely torn state of mind about what to do to raise my children ideally during the short time that I had with them before they became adults –, that homeschooling was something that I absolutely owed to my children.

This realization tied in well especially with my beliefs and thoughts about how a Muslim mother should parent her little children, which had formed in the light of the comprehensive study of the Qur’an that I underwent at Al-Huda (as a Diploma course), at the age of 21-22.

Would you believe, today, that I tried my best to resist the idea of homeschooling my children, before I actually took the plunge? 

For months, I ignored the recurring thoughts that Allah placed in my mind about how this was in their best interest as Muslims. I repelled those thoughts with, “But I cant do it! It is just too difficult! I am not patient enough. It won’t succeed. Everyone sends their children to school, how can I not?” etc.

But my penchant for taking the high road ruled. The nagging feeling of doing the right thing kept returning. The pinching guilt, that I was settling for second-best for them; that I was delegating my primary responsibility as a Muslim parent, of teaching/training/nurturing/facilitating the early education of my blood offspring (who are priceless gifts and trusts from Allah) during their early years of life to absolute strangers, just wouldn’t go away, even though I tried to repel/ignore it.

So anyway, I took the plunge by Allah’s will, knowing that there was no looking back, backtracking, or retracting after such a huge decision. Sort of like when I started hijab. Heh.

And I already knew that it would definitely not be easy. Nothing that is based on morality, truth and sincerity ever is. I anticipated many hurdles in my unschooling journey, but they were mostly related to my children’s “socialization with peers”.

How naive of me. :) Little did I know what lay stealthily in wait.

Being Questioned About My Parenting Choices

Almost 5 years down the road from that point in time, I definitely did not expect to find myself the target of awkward interrogative sessions and indirect, passive-aggressive accusations from other mothers.

My older children seem to be doing quite alright in the social arena; in fact, I think that my 9-year-old daughter is actually more confident in social gatherings than I was at her age (and I was a school-goer), especially when she is interacting with adults.

My older two children, aged 9 and 7 right now, actually prefer the company and conversations of adults, over that of children their age. And I am happy with that. That is actually what I want, because children their age are playing games and watching entertainment programs on screens that my children know nothing whatsoever about!

However, what I find increasingly disconcerting is how and why sisters (that is, other adult women) think it is perfectly alright to subject me to a barrage of questions about my choice to not put my children in school, whenever they meet me?

I know that our choice is a very different one, one that they know absolutely nothing about; perhaps even a weird one (wasn’t I always weird?! Heh!) and that is why they ask me these questions.

But why do they consider it alright to do that?

Why would any parent, myself included, think it okay to put another parent on the spot about the choices they are making regarding their children? 

And that, too, in random social situations where talking in detail about deep concepts such as children’s education is not possible or easy, such as during chance run-in’s at the mall, or at a noisy wedding.

All parents make individual, personalized choices regarding their children, whether by allowing them to do something, or by disallowing them from doing something. Each parent makes that choice.

Are we parents open to judge others’ choices? Are we? I ask this question because I see it happening all the time.

And sometimes I am tempted to return the favor. ;)

The only apparent exception is perhaps that of younger parents (of today) judging the parenting decisions, styles and choices of the older generation (the parents of yesteryear – who had children 30/40 years ago). Judging their choices doesn’t occur, for some reason, perhaps due to a commendable respect of elders.

Anyhow, while we are riding the “judging other parents’ choices” bandwagon, there is one particular issue that I have been confused about since the past 14 years. Perhaps I should talk about it now, since other mothers consider it perfectly alright to talk about my parenting style. Eh?

This is actually something that I have seen in quite a few religiously inclined families, which I simply do not understand to this day.

It is about the practicing Muslim mother wearing hijab and abaya (out of choice), carrying a toddler daughter to and from her Qur’an class and full-time job at the local Islamic institute/da’wah center on a weekly or even daily basis.

12 years later, the same mother, donned in the same attire (perhaps with an additional niqab), is still seen going to and fro from her Qur’an classes and/or da’wah center, accompanied by that same daughter, but this time, this daughter is wearing short shirts with skinny jeans and/or tights that outline in vivid detail every curve in her lower body.

I mean, who is buying this daughter these clothes?

And does the daughter know how to brush her teeth?

Does she know how to do her school homework on time?

Does she know how to clip her nails?

I am asking all these seemingly unrelated questions for a reason.

You see, even though I have seen so many such examples, believe me, I am at a total loss at being able to understand or fathom just how a mother, who observes strict hijab herself since before her daughter’s birth (and obviously because she believes that it is obligatory), can force her daughter – since before she hit the age of 7, – to get up before dawn to go to school, do her daily homework, and to brush her teeth every morning, but – for some reason totally unbeknownst to me – she did not “force” that same daughter (i.e. train her, as she is obliged to) to wear the obligatory hijab at the right age i.e. between ages 7 – 10.

Yes, you heard that right. If Muslim parents can and do begin to train their children to perform the 5 obligatory prayers, observe obligatory fasts in Ramadan, and to do all other socially obligatory things during the age of 7-10, as a character-building training for their child, then the training of girls in how to observe modesty in their clothing should also be begun during the same age range.

I mean, it is as clear as the sky – at least to me.

That if hijab is obligatory, it is not like our daughters have the option to not do it once they hit puberty, just like they do not have the option of skipping any of the five daily prayers or other obligations (such as final exams at school –>  which are purely academic ‘obligations’ forced on to children by society, not by Allah, yet all parents force their children to stick to them, as if their lives depended on it).

And just like we train our children to do ALL the other ‘obligations’ – social, cultural, or academic (viz. “Go and say salam to uncle”/”Go brush your teeth before you have breakfast”/”Go take a bath, you’re very dirty/”Put away your books/toys, NOW!”/”Go cut those long nails!”) – should we NOT train our daughters about the Islamic rulings of their clothing long before they hit puberty, too?

Just like we take great pains and worry about making them learn how to read and write as soon as they are able to (age 3-5 onwards)?

Right?

Or am I wrong here?

Don’t ALL mothers train their daughters in the art of removing their extra body hair by the time they are 16 (that’s quite late nowadays, I think. I’d go with a 12)?

Do they not train them in what to do when they experience menarche?

Then why not the obligatory hijab (Islamic standard of modesty in clothing)?

Just what excuses does a practicing Muslim mother make to herself when she allows her daughter, who is 10+ in age, to go out of the house wearing skinny jeans and a short shirt?

Surely these mothers are giving themselves some comforting excuses that allow them to get deluded into believing that training a young daughter in wearing the correct Islamic hijab from age 7+ – using love, wisdom, and gradual, step-by-step practical instruction – is NOT an obligation upon them, as a parent.

Even though their daughters’ daily brushing of teeth and sitting for/passing school exams IS an obligation, apparently, since long before that age.

Anyhow, rant over about my confusion. :) Now let’s get back to the point: why I am mentioning all of this.

Whenever I encounter such a mother-daughter duo, and obviously “judgmental” questions about their parenting style/choices do pop up in my head, I never corner these mothers and rudely ask them upfront questions about why they are not making their teenage daughters observe Islamic requirements of hijab, something which they obviously consider to be an obligation for themselves (since they are doing hijab and abaya since many years, and involved in Islamic da’wah work too). Heck, they are not even making their daughters wear modest clothing, let alone a head cover and an outer garment!

And even though I ‘judge’ them like this inwardly (ouch, how mean of me…what a typical, ‘judgmental’ Pakistani aunty I am becoming, eh? When in Rome….), I refrain from being rude and crossing the boundaries of social decency and maturity to ask them this question outright:

How/why can you do this to your daughter?”

I call my lip-biting, non-intrusive stance of not asking such questions, “respect” for their parenting choices, even though I am totally bewildered by them.

And by that I do mean, really, really confused and bewildered.

Since I did the diploma course at Al-Huda, I have known and seen many such mothers raise their children, since by Allah’s grace, I started to move about more in the social circles of practicing Muslims. Many sisters who studied the entire Qur’an and started practicing hijab themselves, happened to give birth to daughters a little before, after, or during their Qur’an studies/reversion towards Islam.

However, then I started to observe this ‘hijab contradiction’ parenting phenomenon, and to this day I am confused about it.

If you know the answer to this question, i.e. why a mother who herself observes hijab and considers it to be an obligation, since before her daughter hit the age of 5-7, does not train her daughter to observe hijab at the right age i.e. between age 7 to 10, the way she trains her how to perform the 5 daily prayers, brush her teeth, and take a bath, please comment below and enlighten me.

And do let me know, while you’re at it, why she buys her those skinny jeans and short shirts too. I mean, we know that most 13 year old girls don’t yet have the money to shop for their own clothes (and branded, expensive, designer clothes at that), nor do they go out alone to do the said shopping, do they?

Please Don’t Make Me Turn this into a Two-Way Street

Now, back to the said interrogations that I am subjected to, especially by older ladies.

“How can you not send your children to school, when you went to school/college yourself?”

Well, below are examples of a few questions that I want to ask them in reply myself, but I don’t (remember the deliberate lip-biting to stop myself?):

“Why do your children talk in English only, when you have conversed in Urdu throughout your life, yourself?”

“Why don’t any of your daughters observe hijab like you do, even though you have been observing it meticulously since long before they hit puberty?”

“Why do you hastily move your child away from cigarette smoke in public places, when you smoke(d) cigarettes for years yourself?”

“Why do you let your children drive a car, when you have never driven one yourself?”

“Why doesn’t your 30+ daughter make fresh chapati‘s twice a day for her family, the way you have done for decades yourself?

“Why do you let your unmarried children travel abroad for leisure, alone, on international vacations, when you never traveled alone yourself?”

“Why do none of your sons know how to fix the plumbing in your house, when you can easily fix it dextrously and easily yourself?”

“Why do you let your teenager pose for pictures arm-in-arm with their non-mahrum cousins and school-friends, even though you avoid all physical contact with non-mahrums yourself?”

“Why aren’t your children aged 30+ getting married, even though you both got married in your early twenties yourself?”

“Why have you kept a full-time maid for your only child, even though so many mothers today are raising numerous children without one? Why can’t you take care of just one child yourself?”

“Why are you working full-time even though you have small children, when you were raised by a stay-at-home mother yourself?”

“Why are you allowing your child to have his/her own tablet (iPad) and to play games on it for hours, when you grew up even without a television set, yourself?”

“Why are you raising your children in a conservative Muslim-majority country, even though you were raised in the secular West yourself?”

“Why did you send your children to University for a 4-year Bachelor’s degree, when you (and your spouse) didn’t get one yourself?”

“Why do you allow your small children to use Facebook and other social media, even though you don’t use it yourself?”

The answer to all the above questions is more or less the same, and let me give it to you all myself, sisters and brothers. The answer is:

Because, as my child’s parent in this era, and according to my personal circumstances (which are unbeknownst to others), I know what is best for my children, and I want nothing but the best for them. Whatever I have decided, is for their own best interests.

Please, my dear perplexed sisters and concerned mothers who wish to interrogate me about my decision to unschool, we are all in the same boat. We have all been tested by having children, and we all have to answer to Allah for how we raised them (especially when they little, and needed us more).

Please don’t make me turn your interrogations about my decision to not send my children to school, which are admittedly inspired just by your honest shock and wonder at this novel, unheard-of phenomenon i.e. homeschooling, into a two-way, “judge-fest”.

I don’t want to judge you, and I try hard not to.

So please do not judge me.

Can we please live and let live, as parents?

Conclusion: Degrees Don’t Guarantee Success, Divinely Inspired, Beneficial Knowledge Does

Yes, my husband and I have Bachelors and Masters degrees from accredited universities, and yet, it is possible that we might not send our children to either school or to college/university – ever.

Shocked? Please don’t be. Please take some time off from watching Pakistani dramas, sharing updates on social media, shopping, cooking, watching cheesy/idiotic movies and Geo News, to educate yourself about modern-day findings about education and schooling.

Also, do you really – honestly, and truly – idealize and epitomize the Prophets of Allah (عَلَيهِم السَّلام) and their Companions (sahabah), more than you do contemporary scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs, philosophers, thinkers, experts, millionaires, and other achievers of today?

Do you? Honestly?

When you leave your Qur’an class and come home to sit with your children, talking to them about their future over dinner, who is it that you want them to look up to? Who do you tell them to emulate? The successful, rich people today, who have professional degrees and live in huge mansions, right?

Or do you tell your children to always, always emulate Allah’s Prophets and their companions? To always idealize their way of life; their morals and values; their level of knowledge and it’s practical application?

Well, GUESS WHAT? They had NO DEGREES. None, whatsoever.

But they did have Divine, beneficial knowledge (العلم) that they sought primarily via the company of righteous scholars and through self-driven hard work.

Even if you disagree and insist that degrees are the only way to become educated, you have to admit that there is a big difference between the two kinds of knowledge: that which is structured and institutionalized, and that which is Divinely inspired.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with pursuing institutionalized education and degrees (especially for those want to become doctors and professors), acquiring these does not guarantee future success or the acquisition of beneficial knowledge.

Just look at the unemployed people in your own extended family, who have more than one ‘solid’ degree from accredited institutions under their belts, and yet, despite all efforts, they are unable to find gainful employment.

I assure you, you will not have to look far, or too long, to spot even one such individual!

No one knows yet what the future holds for our children (i.e. whether they will choose to pursue degrees or not), so we try to refrain from making any tall claims about this beforehand.

We do keenly observe our children, though. We monitor them all the time – did I mention that we have them at home, or with us, all the time, i.e. they have been raised with no maids, schools, or babysitters for the past (almost) 5 years? And yet, we sincerely seek Allah’s help in our parenting journey, today and in the future. We know that, as parents, we are merely the means, and not the source of the good that comes towards our children from Allah.

We try to keep abreast of latest beneficial trends and discoveries in the field of education, and about the changing dynamics of learning methodologies today. The Internet is an awesome source of information, you know. Perhaps you should do some similar research on education too, since you are obviously so keen and concerned about all children – including ours – going to ‘good’ schools/colleges.

So let me end by saying this:

Don’t judge and interrogate me about what I am doing with my children, and I won’t judge you for what you are doing (or have done) with yours.

Deal? :)

*Handshake* (with sisters only)

Posted in Education, Home and Family, Home Education, homeschooling, Motherhood, Reflections and Reminders, Retrospection, Social Psychology, Youth | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

My Interview at WordMothers.com

Sadaf Farooqi:

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

I was recently interviewed at WordMothers.com, a blog that showcases female authors, word artists, and book industry professionals.

Originally posted on WordMothers:

Interview by Nicole Melanson ~

Interview with writer Sadaf Farooqi by Nicole Melanson

Sadaf Farooqi is a freelance writer of Islamic non-fiction and a homeschooling mother of 3, based in Karachi, Pakistan. She has a postgraduate Masters degree in Computer Science and a diploma in Islamic education.

Sadaf runs a personal blog called Sadaf’s Space, and currently writes professionally for OnIslam.net. In the past, she has written for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine, Saudi Gazette and MuslimMatters.org. Some of Sadaf’s articles on marriage have been published as a book titled Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage.

Sadaf Farooqi’s blog

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A WRITER?

In 2006, I found myself staying at home with my first baby. Often, I’d Google solutions to first-time-mommy-related challenges and problems, only to land on and read personal blogs penned by experienced mothers. So I ended up reading many articles and blogs in my spare…

View original 1,045 more words

Posted in Motherhood, Muslim Women, Professional Work, Quran | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Timeless Pearls of Wisdom from the Qur’an

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Reciting the Qur’an is an act of worship.

Thinking deeply about the ayaat of the Qur’an whilst reciting them in Arabic (especially when/if Allah has blessed the reciter with enough knowledge to understand the Arabic of the Qur’an directly) can have many beautiful effects on the reciter, not the least of which is the acquisition of deep insight (تَفَكُّر), which enables him/her to closely relate the ayaat they are reciting to the currently-happening events and incidents in their own lives, as well as the lives of other people dwelling in the same era as they.

Here are a few such pearls of wisdom in the Qur’an that I’ve extracted (by Allah’s will) over time. Please keep in mind, that I cannot explain in full details how I gleaned these lessons through the course of many events in my own life, but rest assured, it was the Qur’an that was the source of the wisdom imparted through them, to me.

And all good is solely from Allah.

☞ Victory and Success Comes Only Through Pain and Hardship

There is no shortcut to success, either worldly or that of the Hereafter.

To attain any goal, blessing, status, honor, achievement, award, or a high level of intangible or intangible success, one must be prepared to toil hard, tolerate and overcome problems with strength and patience, and face the opposition of people with staunch, unswerving firmness.

Only successful people have haters and antagonists. It is the people who aren’t achieving anything special or extraordinary in their lives, who have no enemies, antagonists, naysayers and critics.

It took Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) twenty three years to achieve his noble mission of conveying Allah’s message of guidance to mankind.

Yet, the first incident in his life that signaled the descent of this special gift from Allah was anything but a pleasant experience for him.

After receiving the first revelation of the Qur’an through an unexpected meeting with archangel Jibreel, he was actually so overwhelmed and scared, that he started trembling with terror and sought solace with his wife. Yet, rather ironically, the cause of his fear was the beginning of the greatest blessing anyone could ever ask for – that of being chosen to do Allah’s work on earth as His Prophet.

The lesson here is the same that I have extracted from almost all of the stories of the other Prophets in the Qur’an: success, pleasure of Allah, and higher ranks come only through hardships and unpleasant circumstances:

Prophet Musa عليه السلام had to run away from a city/nation to escape the persecution of rulers because he had unintentionally caused the death of a man.

Prophet Yunus عليه السلام had to endure suffering because of his people, which led him to almost drown, and then get ingested by a huge whale, suffering physical injuries and isolation as a result.

(I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet someone who was swallowed by a whale yet came out of it alive! Talk about positivity! √)

Prophet Essa/Jesus عليه السلام was also persecuted by his people. We all know what happened to him. Despite being a chosen slave of Allah with whom his Lord was pleased, his miraculous birth, eventual (apparent) crucifixion by the Bani Israel, and the circumstances surrounding his apparent death depict a life picture full of pain, persecution and trials.

Prophet Yusuf عليه السلام was thrown in a well by his own blood-related kin when he hadn’t even reached adulthood. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet someone who was thrown deliberately, after devising a premeditated plot, into a well by his own siblings!

But it is not just the Prophets – who appear to be probably ‘out of reach’ for most of us, because we cannot even hope to reach a level of taqwa that is close to theirs – who endured extreme hardships and trials patiently for the sake of Allah, and were granted success in this world and the next, because of their endurance of the same.

It is also ordinary, fallible human beings like ourselves who have reached success in both worlds, who might grant us inspiration more easily, because more of us can hope to be like them.

Well, the Qur’an mentions a few of them as well.

There is Zaid, and the trial he endured when he divorced his wife Zainab and she was married by the Prophet ﷺ: this was an action that was considered very scandalous at that time, and carried great social stigma. Yet, Zaid endured the ensuing backlash for the sake of Allah, because through his endurance of this painful experience, Allah abolished a man-made social taboo/custom forever. Not to mention, he came out of it holding the exclusive honor of being the only companion of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ whose name is mentioned in the Qur’an!

Then there is A’ishah bint Abi Bakr and the incident of ifk. She and the Prophet ﷺ (and their loving relationship), were tested greatly through this trial. She spent most of the days that this trial lasted, weeping. Allah halted Divine revelation for a month, which further exacerbated the difficulty of the situation, and gave the mischief-makers and gossip-mongers in Madinah a further chance to show their true colors through the careless wagging of their tongues.

However, she and the Prophet ﷺ (and their marriage) successfully emerged from this test of their faith stronger than ever, and even though people who slander and curse her exist in the world to this day (thankfully, they are an exclusive minority), through this trial, Allah raised her ranks, and proved her innocence through a specific, acquittal-imparting – albeit indirect – mention of her in the Qur’an.

What could be a greater honor than that?

I can give other examples as well, of ordinary people who were sincere Muslims during their time, who endured trials and were raised in ranks because of their lofty level of faith for the sake of Allah, but I cannot go into details here because that will make this post too long.

There are the 3 believers whom Allah ordered to be socially marginalized because they didn’t go out in time for jihad with the Prophet ﷺ.

There is the man who was martyred when he tried to help the three Prophets who were being persecuted by his nation, and got killed by them because of it (the whole story is in Surah Yaseen, ayaat 13-27).

There is the man who publicly supported Prophets Musa and Harun in front of Pharaoh by making an impressive speech in their defense, after hiding his faith from Pharaoh (who was his relative) until that point i.e. he had secretly become a believing Muslim despite Pharaoh’s antagonism towards Prophet Musa, as narrated in Surah Ghafir.

There are the companions of the cave; the group of young lads who took a stand for the sake of monotheism; who received, as a result, Allah’s special miracles. One was in the form of ‘time travel': awaking to having traversed a 100 years without advancing in age. Another special miracle that Allah gave them was the bypassing of the sunlight from the mouth of their cave in such a way that they remained undisturbed; of His turning them over and over; and His casting special terror (of them) upon anyone who entered the cave.

And there is Khaulah, who has a whole surah of the Qur’an named in her honor because she stood up to the oppression of her husband when he first did dhihaar (a custom in Arab jahiliyyah) on her, then tried to be intimate with her later the same day, by stopping the Prophet in his tracks and complaining to him about her husband in an argumentative manner (جدل).

All of these believers have been granted raised ranks by being mentioned by Allah, either directly or indirectly, in the Qur’an.

But the point I am trying to make is: that if you want to be one of Allah’s ‘special’ slaves; someone whom He loves; whom He honors by making His close, special friend (ولى) – be prepared to be tested severely; to cry hot tears of grief; to feel isolated and ‘let down’ by people; to lose loved ones for His sake (and I do not mean by death); to be socially marginalized and persecuted (even killed) by ‘your’ people.

Be prepared for a life full of outer difficulties, but inner peace. Be prepared to feel like you are weird; that you don’t belong; that people hate you. Because they will.

And because victory (of both worlds) comes through pain, loss, grief, and hardship.

There are no shortcuts.

Never Say Die!”

The Qur’an has taught me that Allah’s help definitely comes for believers who are 100% sincere to Him.

However, sometimes, that help apparently ‘gets late’ in coming, because man is naturally predisposed to being impatient and full of haste.

People generally want to hasten outcomes in their lives according to their desires; whereas, with Allah, every decree and decision has an optimally-appointed time that is perfect and best for the believer’s own benefit in life.

stones in waterYet, whenever we encounter an apparent dead-end, or a seemingly immovable road-block in life (think: our dua’s for a particular blessing not being answered for many years), Shaitan tries to make us despondent, and entices us to think and say bad things about Allah, e.g. “Why isn’t Allah helping me?”

However, the sincere believer doesn’t fall into the trap of Shaitan, and forces himself to think positively about his Lord, even in the most seemingly bleak, hopeless, and rock-bottom circumstances and dead-end situations. He says with conviction:

كَلَّا إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ

By no means! My Lord is with me! Soon will He guide me!” [26:62]

I know that, as believers, we cannot hope to receive miracles from Allah the way His Prophets did during their lives and missions, but nevertheless, it is not totally untrue and unheard of for the friends of Allah (أولياء الله) to have inexplicable, apparently ‘miraculous’ incidents happen in their lives that personify the descent of Divine help from their Lord.

The Qur’an has taught me, and by the grace of Allah I have practically experienced this in my own life, to never, ever ‘say die’.

That is, to never give up, throw my hands up in the air, and quit doing something good,- thinking, “This is it. No way out from here”.

There is always, always a way out. And no matter how bleak a situation might seem, no matter how difficult and bad, there is always good in it for us.

Day always follows night. The light is always there at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel always has an end.

And Allah is always there for you.

☞ Our Enemies Are Very Near

One of the most amazing things that I’ve come across in more than one place in the Qur’an, is the warning Allah gives us about being careful of enemies in our midst, near us, especially in our families.

I mean, who would ever suspect a family member of being their enemy, right?

Yet, Allah specifically warns us about them in the Qur’an:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ مِنْ أَزْوَاجِكُمْ وَأَوْلَادِكُمْ عَدُوًّا لَّكُمْ فَاحْذَرُوهُمْ وَإِن تَعْفُوا وَتَصْفَحُوا وَتَغْفِرُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

O you who believe! Truly, among your wives and your children are (some that are) enemies to yourselves: so beware of them! But if you forgive and overlook, and cover up (their faults), verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [64:14]

Nothing can be truer than Allah’s words. No advice could be more sincere or beneficial for us than the advice and exhortation of the Lord of the Universe.

And He is telling us clearly in the above ayah, that we have some enemies among our own families. He uses the same Arabic word in the Qur’an, to call them our enemy (عَدُوّ), which He uses to refer to Iblees (Shaitan).

We spend most of our time with our families as we live life, and expect them to be pillars of support and a source of unconditional and unrelenting love for us.

Yet, some of them are our own enemies. And this is precisely because this love of ours for them, and their love for us, can often become an obstacle in our path towards success in the Akhirah, and a major roadblock in acquiring the pleasure of Allah in this world.

That happens when our family members cause us pain and suffering because of the level of our faith in Allah (religiosity), or when they act in a manner that it becomes difficult for us to act upon some commands of Islam.

Ask anyone who has come towards Deen, about who made it the most difficult for them to act upon Islam, and they will most probably name a close family member.

Also, here I’d like to add that, the pain caused by family members varies over the course of our lives. For example, during our youth, we might suffer pain because of one particular relative, whereas a few years or decades down the road, that same relative might have become our very close friend/supporter, and the source of our problems could now be another family member, who was hitherto cordial and nice to us. This happens throughout our lives. Certain relatives cause us varying degrees of problems at different stages in our lives.

As I mentioned above, it was the brothers of Yusuf who not only plotted to ‘get him out of the way’ in their endeavors to acquire their father’s exclusive attention, but actually went ahead, put their heads together, and practically achieved their vile mission.

It was Qabil who killed his own blood-brother, Habil.

It was Yusuf’s master Aziz’s wife who tried to cheat on her righteous husband, Aziz, behind his back, in his very house, by seducing his own slave, Yusuf. And even though he caught her red-handed in the act, she remained unrepentant afterwards, trying to garner her socialite girlfriends’ support in continuing to sexually harass the young Yusuf.

The wives of both Prophets Lut and Nuh (عليهما السلام) also proved treacherous to their husbands despite dwelling in their homes, because they harbored sympathies and love for their sinful, transgressive, doomed townspeople instead.

These are the few examples I could think of from the stories mentioned in the Qur’an, about how it is a righteous person’ own family members who become a trial of their faith and steadfastness upon the path of Allah, by dishing out actions and words towards them that makes it difficult for them to obey Allah and His Messenger ﷺ consistently.

And if we allow them to succeed in their opposition, they will truly prove to be our enemy.

So what do we do, when someone from our own family thus becomes our enemy?

Please proceed to read the point below ☟for the answer to that question.

Kill Them’ With Kindness

When someone – anyone – wrongs us, treats us badly, or oppresses us, the natural, innate, reactive urge within us entices us to strike back at them, and give them an eye for an eye, (perhaps even more)!

When the one who mistreats us is someone from our own family, and they unapologetically continue to mistreat us over time (knowing that we do not like what they are doing to us), it hurts even more, because they are close to us, and/or we love them.

For cases such as these, Allah has recommended a long-term strategy that will ‘kill’ the enmity for us harbored in the hearts of our enemies, especially those within our families:

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ

Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and you was hatred, become as it were your close friend.” [41:34]

Returning bad behavior with good is definitely not easy, especially when tremendous damage has been done.

However, it is possible, for those who are determined enough to continue forgiving their enemies, albeit without falling into the same hole twice.

The key to striking the balance between being a weak pushover who allows people to walk all over him by not taking a stand (mistaking this to mean “being patient”), and becoming a hostile grudge-holder and vengeance-seeker bent on taking revenge,– is to maintain a safe distance from those family members who have repeatedly wronged one, and from whose harm one still does not feel safe.

Those relatives who continue to pose a danger to our Akhirah, via word or deed i.e. they refuse to change their vile ways/habits over the course of many years,– we should continue interacting with them from a safe distance on our own terms – i.e. without compromising on our limits/boundaries.

It is very important for us to impose these strict boundaries; for us to remain careful and wary with such relatives, because this is what Allah has advised us (فَاحْذَرُوهُمْ) in the Qur’an, and it ensures our dignity, self-respect, privacy and emotional/psychological safety from their evil.

Returning bad with good can be achieved with such relatives as follows:

  1. Greeting them with a quick salam and a smile whenever you meet them in person (this doesn’t apply to non-mahrums), but quickly moving on.
  2. Visiting them briefly when/if they are ill. A phone call or text message can also accomplish this at a lesser level.
  3. Helping them financially if/when they need it.
  4. Accepting their banquet invitations, but keeping interactions therein business-like, limited and to-the-point e.g. by leaving soon and not allowing yourself to be drawn into long conversations with them.
  5. Giving or sending them occasional gifts.

Returning the bad deeds of one’s enemies with good deeds is possible without allowing them to go on harming you. All it needs is a little prudence, firmness and discretion. People treat us a certain way only if we allow them to.

The best example from the Qur’an of repelling evil with good that I can think of, is the way Prophet Yusuf handled his half-brothers on meeting them again, in Egypt, when he was in a position that allowed him to have the upper hand over them.

He used the wisdom, discretion, and shrewdness that he had acquired as a result of enduring years of hardship, to reveal his true identity to them only after he had made them agree to a business deal/contract, according to the terms and conditions of which, they had to leave his younger brother with him before returning home with the purchased grain.

Yusuf knew only too well how they had plotted against him when he was young, benign and naive. Once they came to Egypt after he had become (unbeknownst to them) the government-appointed treasurer, he didn’t do or say anything that would enable them to put him (or his younger brother) in a weak, compromising position again.

Rather, he used his knowledge of their mindset, nature and specific personal situation (viz. need of grains due to famine) to make them bring not only his younger brother to him, but also his aging parents.

As I said above, I have had life experiences that corroborate what I am saying here: using the strategy outlined by Allah in the Qur’an with our enemies in the long term, of returning their ad deeds with good (without compromising on our personal safety/distance/boundaries from their harmful actions), brings about surefire results: it is the single most wonderful way of ‘killing’ our antagonists’ enmity towards us, and making them our friends instead.

But it takes years; it doesn’t happen overnight. Very few people have the patience to go the distance with this strategy.

Maybe that is why most of our enemies remain our enemies throughout life, because we harbor grudges and indulge in doing their gheebah to let off steam, instead of following the recommendations of the Qur’an to get rid of the enmity between us and them for good.

The Mills Grind Slowly, But Surely

This is definitely not the last life lesson that I have gleaned from the Qur’an, but it is the last one I intend to discuss here, due to word-count and post-length constraints (this post has again become quite long by now, hasn’t it? So what else is new?).

To put it briefly, it takes a certain amount of time pre-appointed by Allah for decrees to happen; for things to reach fruition; for visions to be accomplished, and for missions to be completed.

As I said above, man is a creature of haste. Man wants to get what he desires quickly and immediately. Yet, the all-wise plan of Allah is based upon His limitless Divine knowledge of the Unseen (الغيب).

Many a thing that we desperately want can take years in coming, because Allah knows at what exact time that thing will be beneficial for us to have.

The Qur’an itself took 23 years to be revealed in totality. This process (i.e. the total revelation of Allah’s final message of guidance to all of mankind) also involved many ground-breaking and difficult events, incidents and situations in the lives of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companions.

Many, many a time, man wants to achieve his goal or attain a particular blessing as quickly as a snap of his fingers. However, the Qur’an teaches us that there is a law of Allah that cannot be changed, no matter how much we want or try to hasten outcomes: reaching a certain place, or acquiring a certain blessing takes time.

إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ

Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure.” [54:49]

Combined with apparent Divine ‘delays’ in the culmination of our desired goals, missions, and outcomes, man’s haste and impatience causes his own frustration and distress.

For example, a human baby can never be born in just a month or two. Creation of each human life that comes into this world, has been decreed according to a pre-ordained amount of time (9 months, give or take a little).

The same law applies to aging. A person can never grow up overnight and reach a certain age, without passing each and every year (365 days) in between. No amount of haste can allow a 10 year old child to become 25 years old overnight.

The above examples are just of the exact, known preordained amounts of time that is needed for obtaining tangible things/goals. But what about the uncertain time intervals that are needed to be passed before attaining certain other, more surreal blessings, which only Allah knows about?

E.g The time that is required to achieve or acquire intangible types of provision, such as knowledge, wisdom, and insight. Or the exact amount of time that has to be passed before a person’s marriage is decreed, or the birth of their child, or the acquisition of provisions such as a high-paying job, a house, and the car of their dreams?

Man can never ever be sure of the the exact length/amount of these preordained time intervals; only Allah knows.

وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ عِندَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلاَّ بِقَدَرٍ مَّعْلُومٍ

And there is not a thing but its (sources and) treasures (inexhaustible) are with Us; but We only send down thereof in due and ascertainable measure.” [15:21]

So when things appear to be taking ‘too long’ in coming to him, man begins to get hopeless and despondent.

The truth is, that no matter how hard he pursues the means to achieve his desired ends, man can never be sure that at the end of his toils, he will surely acquire those ends. For this, he is totally dependent upon the will of Allah; waiting needily for Allah to say “Be!” regarding his decreed provision, so that he can get it.

The Qur’an has taught me that delays (or what I perceive to be delays) in the acquisition of goals and blessings are always for my own good. There are many things that I now realize, as I look back at the approximately three and a half decades of my life, that they came at a preordained time that was just right, even though I was getting impatient to get them sooner back then.

Even right now, when there are apparent delays in some of my dua’s being answered, alhamdulillah, I seem to know better. I know that my Lord will never decree something for me before the time for it is just right – for my own benefit and good.

******

So there they are: five valuable pearls of timeless wisdom that I have gleaned from reciting and pondering upon the Qur’an, bi idhnillah. لَا قُوَّةَ اِلَّا بِالله

What have you learned? Please share. :)

Posted in Islamic Knowledge, Pleasing Allah, Quran, Reflections and Reminders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments