Raising your Kids in the West

Tips for Raising your Kids in the West…
(Written on: 22nd March, 2010)

QUESTION: Salaam Alaykum. Ukhtee fil islaam, kaifa haaluk? I will like to ask these questions because I am not living in the west so I want to know how is the teaching and nurturing of kids in the western world. How is it to raise and nurture your kids in the western world, difficult , challenging? Does the influence of the kuffar ways and beliefs infiltrate into the home? Is it difficult to raise the kids among the kuffar residing in your country? I just want to know basically how the Muslim parents are raising there kids in the western world among the influences of the movies, music, disrespectful dress code on the part of the kuffar and having to deal with the friends of your kids some of whom may be muslims or may not be muslims? How the Muslim parents deals with the fitnah there kids are exposed to and what ways do the parents use to educate there kids about the environment they are exposed to and what do you think is of importance to teach the kids in the western world? [Umm Abdilazeez, France (Monday 22nd March, 2010 8:52 PM)]

ANSWER:
Wa Alaikumu Salaam sis’,

I’m doing well Alhamdulillah:)

This question is a concern of many parents and it is a worry for many, including myself and my spouse, as we continue to see so many Muslim families crumbling and failing in this part of the world. Although, as a ray of hope Inshaa Allah, there are many patterns and many warning signs that are easy to detect…but this is only easy to detect by those parents who take their deen seriously in this part of the world. That, in essence, is the problem in the first place!

There is the clear trend and similarity between those families who have and are currently failing to raise their children properly in Islam. It is this need to assimilate and this desire to ‘fit-in’ with the masses in the west that clouds the judgement of parents here. So many Muslim parents here worry about the ‘human standard’ that they forget about the ‘Almighty’s Standards’ of what is good and acceptable.

Now I cannot generalize and say that practising your Islam ‘uninterrupted’ is achievable in all parts of the west, as there are some countries that make it more difficult than others and some countries that are significantly more accommodating of Muslims than their neighbours.

Thus I will tackle each of your questions one at a time Inshaa Allah:

1) What is the teaching and nurturing of kids in the western world like: difficult or challenging?

* Teaching – Well like I said, it really depends on where you live. In terms of education, a person can even attain their degree over the internet if they wanted to. Access to information is vast and wide in the west. But with this may also comes several hardships. Many parents chose to home-school their kids and this is perfectly acceptable and encouraged. But, this is a very rough society and if children are not trained from a young age, how to interact with others in society itself(whether it be via play-dates, playgrounds, classes for kids, etc) living and growing in a western society can be very difficult for a Muslim child, depending on where you live. In my country, Trinidad, and generally in the Caribbean I would think, Muslims have it easier here than most other countries. For example, Muslims are not commonly branded as terrorists and ‘dangerous strangers’ because of their hijab or their clothing. They are not teased as much as you would find kids in American schools being harassed on a daily basis purely because of their religion. The law here actually acknowledges multiple marriages for Muslim men and does not frown unnecessarily upon it. It has become socially accepted and you would find Muslims criticising their own brothers for it more than the kuffar. So teaching your kids to exist in a western society is not too great a problem. There are many schools set up all over the western region just for Muslims, by Muslims. If one cannot find such a school or is unsatisfied with those available, there is always the option of home-school. Although, again I warn, make sure that your children are properly socialized, as this will boost their communication skills and ability to stand up for their religion when it is being criticised or attacked by others later on in life.

* Nurturing – This is absolutely not an issue for Muslim women who have their priorities straight. The problem is that, in the west, women have the temptation of this not so wonderful thing called ‘feminism’. Now I am not against the basic rights for women. Alhamdulillah the Prophet(sala allahu alaihi wa salam) was a major promoter of women’s rights and a woman’s status. But really and truly, feminism has become like a disease here. If you do not teach your daughters from a very young age that Muslims share an entirely different set of values to the kuffar women, they will very easily, through the education system, fall into this trap and jump on this ‘feminist band-wagon’ as they call it here. Women are too career-oriented here. It’s all they think about, all they desire the only thing that gives them satisfaction anymore. Amazingly, it’s family life and bearing children that have become the burdens and ‘keep-backs’ as opposed to ‘working all day long at an office’.

2) Does the influence of the kuffar ways and beliefs infiltrate into the home?

Oh Definitely! It is very very difficult to shield your children from the fitnah of this society. It’s everywhere! It’s on the news, it’s on the billboards, it’s on publics walls, posters, waiting rooms, etc! You cannot escape the music, the immoral dress, immoral behaviour of the people and particularly of school children on the roads. Yet, here is another ray of hope… in western society, you as a Muslim can now set an example to the kuffar of how a good practising Muslim family should live. You see, while their lives may seem so full of excitement, temptation and satisfaction of the flesh; people who live these lives are empty inside. Their hearts have become so bored with their lives and they have felt everything at 13 and 14 that the average 40 year old would only now be experiencing… They live these ‘free’ and so-called ‘liberated’ lives but their families are crumbling and suffering, their children are self-destructive and they just can’t seem to figure out why!?!

The following is an extract from an article that is based upon something stated by the Permanent Committee for Research and Verdicts in their fatwa no. 893 (Shaykh Abdullaah al-Ghudayan, Shaykh Abdullah al-Manee’, Shaykh Abdur-Razzaaq al-Afeefee), in relation to the call of a faction amongst mankind intent on moral and social degradation (source: wwww.dajjaal.com):

“Music stars specifically are chosen from a very early age, and groomed and prepared to become mega-famous pop-stars which children (out of their human nature) will idolize take as role models. It’s all fake and contrived. This makes pop-stars in particular the ideal route to pushing socialist agendas, and every genre will have its “pop-star” who is simply a pawn in the game, used to impart a certain social norm. This very early contact with sex leads to children having experienced, physically and emotionally – by the time they are only 13 or 14 or even younger – what in a normal society, an adult would not have experience well into their 40s. Thus, having got bored of life by the time they are only 14 or thereabouts or younger still, these children end up depressed, sick of life, with no direction and no purpose, and the only thing driving them on is the pursuit of pleasure.”

Thus, people in this society, eventually and ultimately, all reach a point where they want more… they want peace… and they just can’t figure out how to get it…

People respect and even envy Muslims more than most of us care to realise here. They look at us with our simple lives and cannot grasp why we feel so content with such a life. It make people curious and of course, being the kind of society that we are, people start to ask questions and we Muslims of the west have a chance here to bring many people to Islam Inshaa Allah. This is a blessing in itself and gives living amongst the kuffar some purpose. The number of reversions here in recent times have been phenomenal when Muslims become the major focus of the media. Although we are portrayed in a bad light, people still seem to be flocking to Islam. Thus living here has a purpose and we need to make our children aware of our purpose here; which is not to assimilate, but rather to disseminate.

In my country, Trinidad, Islam was largely brought to us from India. In America, Islam is usually propagated thorough reversion rather than lineage. Thus a lot of the Islam practised by Muslims of the west is tainted by pre-existing cultures and their ‘traditional’ practices. The Muslims in Trinidad have allowed many Hindu practices to infiltrate into their daily lives and the Muslims of America are greatly influenced and affected by the kuffar way of life and controversial value-system; or lack thereof…

For a long time, people in the West have not truly grasped what Islam really is and while many may have vast knowledge in areas of Qur’an and Ahadith, their foundations are weak… and as a consequence ‘knowledge of Islam’ and the question of ‘how we take knowledge’ has become distorted. Fortunately, Alhamdulillah, the era of technology has made true knowledge and the correct teachings more accessible and available to the upcoming generations of Muslims here. Thus Muslims here are slowly but surely becoming more conscious and aware of truth and innovated matters into this deen are slowly being ‘shaken off’ amongst the youth.

Thus it all comes down to you as the parents. You need to ensure that your children see the world through the eyes of a Muslim who loves his deen for what it is and not succumb to the mentalities of the kuffar for the sake of fitting in. You must encourage them to be brave about their deen, to be conscious of what is right and wrong and never be ashamed to speak of their deen freely to those who are willing to listen. I will give you an example of what I mean by this Inshaa Allah:

“It was a happy little family weekend at my home and two grown Muslim sisters had come over. One started wearing the hijab and the other sister had not yet started. My four year old son sat there observing them, was kind to them both and started a conversation with the one who was not wearing the hijab. This is how it went:

4 year old: “Are you a muslim…(smiling)?”

Sister: “Yes! Why???”

4 year old: “No…no you are not a muslim (still smiling)”

Sister: “I am!!(she was also smiling with him) My sister is Muslim and I’m a Muslim too:)”

4 year old: “But you are not wearing your hijab…?! (with a  confused looks on his face)”

Sister: (The sister laughed)”No my sister is Muslim and I’m a Muslim too:)”

Now this showed me something. Some parents would be angry with their child for making such a comment. But I was not. I was proud of him for trying to make such a distinction and being able to detect such a thing on his own. Now bear in mind, he is only four years old and he does not understand hikmah at this age. But because we were able to create this atmosphere at home with all the women of the house wearing the hijab in public, he found it difficult to accept that this sister could leave her home with her hair exposed. So much so that he could not stop commenting on how beautiful the ‘hijabbed’ sister looked…he actually found her more appealing and pretty. He always talks about marrying a girl one day and his description of her always includes a hijab. He sees nothing else for himself and we thank Allah(swt) for this. We obviously took him aside later that day and explained to him that not all Muslim women wear the hijab although Allah(Swt) said to. But that although some are just stubborn and don’t like to listen to Allah(swt), there are also the few that maybe don’t know the rules or maybe their parents wouldn’t let them or something like that. He understood and I never discourage him if he decides to ask a sister about why she doesn’t wear her hijab, as his innocence may actually be the source of some sisters taking a second-look at themselves and seeking more knowledge on the matter.

We never encourage him to condemn anyone, as this is a very tender age and ‘arrogance’ is a trait that can be easily picked-up if a Muslim child is not nurtured properly. Be very careful of this. When you teach him about people’s faults and short-comings, also mention the importance of people’s feelings…Always mention these things together and gradually the ‘hikmah’ will be mastered Inshaa Allah. This is why I was so proud of my little one…he was able to ask such a personal and controversial question to this sister, but they were still able to part smiling and laughing about it because of the way he asked and his level of innocence. Do not make your children feel responsible for condemning others at this age as it will take away from their innocence and that ‘transition’ period. At the same time, do not hold them back from asking questions and seeking truth…keep them brave about their Islam and this trait will grow stronger as they grow older Inshaa Allah.

3) Is it difficult to raise the kids among the kuffar residing in your country?

This becomes more a problem when the school years begin and they reach the ‘teenage’ time. But again, this is the fault of the parent when they leave off the Islam and adopt the ideals of the west. They prevent marriage for their children at this age and without the protection or anticipation of marriage when a child is of age, the temptations around become even more tempting. You need to stick to the priorities set by Islam and not those of wider society. Make marriage something desirable for your kids. Make them want it and yearn for it. Their goals must be different to the kuffar. Romanticize this idea for them and make it one of their ultimate goals in this dunya(world). With marriage at a young age, comes so many beautiful things for a Muslim. It opens so many good doors and closes so many bad ones…Alhamdulillah…

4) How do the Muslim parents deals with the fitnah their kids are exposed to and what ways do the parents use to educate there kids about the environment they are exposed to and what do you think is of importance to teach the kids in the western world?”

We live in such a complicated society here that sometimes you have to approach things from three or four different angles before your kids can properly accept and understand what you are trying to explain…circumstances, situations and conditions here are always changing, so parents here must be very careful with how they teach their kids about the fitnah and about this world around them. They best way to explain this to you would be to give a scenario when a child asks his parents a complicated question…..the hijab, again, is the perfect example. So let’s go:-

a) “Mummy, why do you wear a hijab?”

Well this is simple enough…”I wear a hijab because Allah(swt) said to in the Qur’an and he sent his Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (sal allahu alaihi wa salam) to teach us how to wear it properly. Women are made special, so Allah(swt) has asked us to cover our beauty and keep it secret and safe for special believing women and also the special men in our lives called ‘mahram men’. That’s like you daddy, your grandpa, your brother, your uncle Yahya and Yusuf, and the handsome wonderful Muslim husband you will marry one day Inshaa Allah!”

Most children accept this, but it’s not always that easy here…It would be great if this is the only question your child asks as this is the simplest question to answer, but unfortunately, because of where we live it never ends there…

b) “But mummy, Aunty Samara doesn’t wear a hijab!? How come she doesn’t have to wear one and you have to wear one???”

This is where things get difficult. It’s not the explaining that’s difficult, it’s actually the family that makes it difficult sometimes down here. Many, not all, Muslim women who don’t wear the hijab in the west have an attitude towards the women who DO cover themselves properly. And at the same time, some hijabees, not all, don’t make this very easy either… as they tend to speak in a condescending way to those who don’t wear the hijaab. Instead of advising and correcting, they tend to refute, insult and label. This happens on both ends and family, a lot of the time, would tend to be more vicious than when attempting to correct a stranger. When you tell your kids ‘no we don’t celebrate birthdays in Islam’ some aunts & uncles may tell your kids “your mummy and daddy are soo boring! Birthdays are fun!” So we live in a very difficult society, there is a lot of culture clashing going on here; both in wider society and particularly within our own family circles. So while it may be easier in some countries to just socialize amongst the practising Muslims and stay away from the kuffar and their ways, such a thing is not possible or even advisable here.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we join the kuffar in their ways or even to socialize with them in their gatherings…Astaghfirullah…Rather, what I am suggesting is that we CANNOT in this society just lock up our kids at home and hide them from the fitnah. It is essential here that we educate them about it, make them aware of it, because exposure to these things are inevitable. We must strengthen them against the temptation to be a part of these things by informing them of what Muslims celebrate and don’t celebrate from a very very very young age.

For example, my son is only four years old and he is clear in his mind that Muslims only have two celebrations, Eid & Eid ul Adha. He knows about birthdays, Christmas, Hindus, Divali, Christians, etc! He was able to accept this NOT because we locked him up at home every Christmas and Divali, but because on two occasions we took a drive around the town on those days and explained to him that this is how you identify these celebrations (Hindus with their lighted deyas and Christians with their Christmas trees). We did not partake of the celebrations or endorse them in anyway. We simply explained, informed and made him aware of the distinction between Muslims and wider society. We emphasized the beauty of Eid and we make a big deal out of the Eids for our kids every year to show them that we don’t need these other frivolous celebrations that are not from the Sunnah to enjoy life and family. Islam is sufficient and our blessing is in the hereafter Inshaa Allah.

Co-existing in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society is possible, despite the hardships. But too many Muslims don’t know and aren’t strong enough to know when to draw the line… In the western world, perhaps some of the most important lessons you can leave with your child is that:-

– “Good things don’t come easy and this world is a prison for the true believer…this world is a test, so don’t get sucked into this culture…stick to the rules of Islam and you will have an unparalleled reward in the hereafter. If you go to school, work hard, stick to the rules and pass your exams/tests, you will be one of the successful ones in the end. The same goes for life as a Muslim. ”
– “Be proud of your religion…Don’t be afraid of it…People don’t scorn muslims in this part of the world because we are wrong…it’s because we are right and the kuffar are afraid of the truth…Envy and hatred usually comes from those who are jealous of what you have…so instead of feeling ashamed you should feel important when the kuffar give the Muslims so much attention in the media…even if it is negative…”
– “Marriage to a pious muslim is a beautiful thing…make it a major goal in this life…it will bring you happiness in sad times, incomparable companionship and a little muslim family of your very own to be proud of Inshaa Allah.”
– Stay away from ‘one-on-one’ comparisons as much as you can when it comes to kids. If your child asks about Aunty Samara, don’t start talking about aunty Samara. Start talking about Muslim women in general and the fact that not all Muslims know the rules, some are stubborn and some just do not understand how important the hijab is. Make it an official lesson on the hijab and not just a direct explanation of Aunty Samara, as kids have a innocent habit of repeating what “Mummy said” and this in itself can cause fitnah within the family…

I hope this was helpful Inshaa Allah:)

“May Allah(swt) grant you ease as I know you come from a difficult country… Ameen…”

Yours Truly,
Azizah…

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