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The Positive & Negative C's of Islamic Parenting

by Shahina Siddiqui

One of the greatest challenges a Muslim will ever face is being a parent. This is one challenge, however, many of us are least prepared for.

Allah tells us in the Quran that our children are our trial and as such we should take the task of parenting seriously, and start learning from each other. In my experience in dealing with my own family and counseling other Muslim families, a model has developed based on what I call "The Positive and Negative C's". I pray to Allah that this humble contribution will help parents and children alike in diagnosing and repairing the health of their families.

POSITIVE C'S

Compassion (Rehmat)

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) stated, "He is not of us who does not have compassion for his fellow beings".

It is interesting to note that when it comes to Hadith like this or Quranic quotes dealing with human behavior, we never stop to think that our children and family members are also our fellow human beings and that these golden rules must also be applied to them.

Compassion is only one component of the concept of mercy (Rehmat) — the others being kindness, respect, and of course love. Remember the displeasure of Prophet Muhammad when a Bedouin told him how he had never kissed any of his ten children.

Consultation (Shura)

The Prophet has related that Allah says "Oh My servant. I look on high handedness as something not permissible for myself, and I have forbidden it for you. So do not oppress each other".

When we consult with each other in the domestic realm, both husband and wife must show respect for each other. This is one of the best ways to bond and to learn to listen to each other and to resolve conflicts. However, the consultation will only be fruitful if it is sincere and not merely a formality. Imposition of one's ideas with scant regard to the welfare of the whole family unit defeats the purpose of the most important Quranic principle of Shura.

Cooperation

This concept of cooperation in Islam is most beautifully illustrated in Sura Al-Asr: "… counsel each other to the truth (Haq), and counsel each other to patience and fortitude (Sabr)".

When a family unit cooperates in this manner, they truly capture the spirit of Islam — the welfare of each member of the family becomes the concern of the other.

Commitment

It is extremely important that our families commit themselves as a unit to Allah and His Prophet(s): "Obey Allah and His Prophet and those in authority over you" (Nisa). This collective commitment gives us an identity and maps out our purpose — namely that we all belong to Allah and are accountable and responsible to Him.

Communication

Communication is more than talking. It is an essential part of family life. It is both talking in a manner in which others can understand you, and hearing in a manner in which you can listen and understand others.

So many times people claim that they have no communication problem since they are always talking. However, the majority of the time they are talking "at" and not talking "to". This mode usually results in the recipient tuning out. Many children at an early age learn to tune out their parents.

When communication is a means to listening, understanding, and exchanging ideas, it is the most powerful tool to effective parenting and the best shield against peer and societal pressures.

It also teaches children skills to problem solving. An important component of positive communication is a sense of humor when parents and children can laugh together. Communication can also be instrumental in passing down family history and thus creating oneness and togetherness by sharing a mutual heritage (children love to hear about family stories).

Consistency

Effective parenting requires that we are consistent in our value judgments, discipline, and moral standards. Many parents inadvertently apply double standards to boys and girls when it comes to social behavior and domestic chores. This is unacceptable, and leads to sibling rivalry and stereotypical males and females.

Confidentiality

Family is with whom we can feel safe and secure. Where we know our secrets are safe and where there is mutual trust. Unfortunately, parents often betray the trust of their children when they discuss their concerns, which they confide in them to outsiders. This leads to mistrust, and sooner or later our children will stop confiding in us. This may take them to find confidants outside the family, sometimes non-Muslim peers, and this can be detrimental to their spiritual and moral growth.

Contentment (Tawakkul)

The greatest gift we can give our children is that of contentment. This can be developed very early in life by encouraging our children to give thanks to Allah for all they have by discouraging materialism by word and example, and by counting the blessings every night and remembering the less fortunate.

Confidence

It is the duty of parents to build confidence in our children through encouragement and honest and sincere praise. By developing confidence, we give our children the courage to stand up for themselves and their beliefs and to be able to deal with opposition.

Control

By teaching restraint and avoiding excess we develop in our children control so that they do not become slaves to their desires (Nafs).

Calm

By encouraging and showing calm in matters of adversity and in times of panic we improve our Taqwa (God consciousness) and teach our children to rely on Allah and to turn to Allah alone for all needs.

Courage

Courage of conviction can only be achieved when we have been able to teach our children true Islam. We should take advantage of every learning opportunity as a family so that our faith (Iman) flourishes and evolves towards Ihsan as a family unit. In this manner we can be a source of strength to each other.

Critical Thinking

The Quran encourages us over and over again to think, reflect, ponder, understand and analyze. However, very rarely do. Parents must encourage children to ask questions. Our response to difficult inquiries from our children is to say "do it because I said so". This discourages the children from developing critical thinking. They become lazy and complacent and easy prey to cult type following. To take things at face value makes us vulnerable.

Charitable

The most important attitude of a Muslim personality is, as Prophet Muhammad stated : "Do you not wish that Allah will forgive you? Then forgive your brothers and sisters". Many relationships break because people are not able to forgive each other. It is important that parents make up in front of their children by forgiving each other after an argument. Prophet Muhammad stated, "Like for your brother what you like for yourself". So if husband and

wife expect respect from each other they should give respect.

A charitable nature also encourages us to overlook people with their shortcomings and to be sensitive and to have empathy.

NEGATIVE C'S

There are many negative C's, which should also be identified so that we can avoid them or at least be aware of them. As you will notice when you go through the whole exercise, the presence of one negative C cancels out a positive C.

Competition

In an authentic Hadith the Prophet Muhammad said: "Look up to one who is greater in piety so you strive to be like him and look upon one who is below you in material status so that you may be thankful to Allah's Grace".

As a Muslim community we are experiencing the opposite. We are literally killing ourselves to gain bigger and better material goods than others and passing this same competitive spirit to our children.

If Br. X's son is going to Yale, my son must go to Harvard otherwise he is a failure, no matter how good a Mumin (believer) he is in comparison to Br. X's son. We are inadvertently putting so much pressure on our children to compete in Dunya (this world) that we are actually hurting their self-esteem and pushing them away. Remember if children don't find acceptance of who they are and what they are capable of at home, they will find it elsewhere.

Comparison

Comparison is an outcome of negative competition it is cruel and breeds resentment and anger. Many parents compare their children to others and get in the habit of complaining. Grass always seems greener in the neighbor's yard, but closer inspection may reveal the opposite. None of us are perfect, and therefore we should stop looking for perfection in others.

Control

The negative aspect of control shows in the form of a controlling personality e.g. I am the boss so you do as I tell you. In extreme cases this need to control leads to abuse and neglect. Anger is also a weapon of a control freak. In most cases it is the father, however mothers also exhibit this trait.

Criticism

Constant, destructive criticism is a sign of dysfunctional parenting. Continuous put downs and verbal clashing destroys the tranquil atmosphere at home. The self-esteem of the recipients of this criticism is extremely low developing in them a victim mentality. They will either seek abusive relationships or turn their backs on their families. Many runaways come from such a family background.

Corruption

"If the truth was to follow their whims, the heaven and earth and all their inhabitants would be corrupt" (Quran part of 23:71).

Weak Nafs and diseases of the heart lead to poor character, which of course is the result of grudging submission and conditional faith. When we corrupt our Deen (religion) by picking and

choosing what we want, practicing what suits us best and resisting and outright opposing what does not suit our fancy, we pay an enormous price by losing ourselves to the Dunya, and driving our children away from Islam.

Confusion

Parents are confused about their identity and their values. They have not been able to develop a structure of right and wrong based on Quran and Hadith and as such when it comes to implementation give conflicting signals to their children.

We must as parents develop an Islamic frame of reference, which would serve to develop a Muslim conscience in our children and a basis for judgment. Sifting through our cultural baggage and increasing our knowledge can only achieve this.

Contempt

Contempt for others is a result of pride, arrogance, and conceit. We must discourage arrogance in children and be constantly vigilant about it as many Muslim youth are falling prey to this trait and developing contempt towards their parents. It is one thing to praise and quite another to set them up on a pedestal. We should always remember "knowledge is proud it knows so much — wisdom is humble it knows no more".

Consumerism

Consumption, a vice of this society, is creeping into Muslim communities. When wants become needs, and parents start compensating for their lack of time spent with their children with material gifts, we are perpetuating consumerism — anything can be bought. This, however, is not true. So many young people I counsel always say "I could do without this new computer if only my parents would spend more time with me".

The legacy of materialism survives generations since it caters to our baser self. Please watch out for it.

Contradiction

When there is contradiction in word and deed it is called hypocrisy. Children are very sensitive to this vice and can pick a hypocrite a mile away.

When we behave holier than thou in the Masjid but present a different side in other settings, we are giving our children the message it is okay to be a hypocrite.

Carelessness

As Prophet Muhammad reminded us in his last sermon "Shaytan cannot mislead us in major issues of Faith but in minor issues". This is where our carelessness and lack of diligence can lead to weak character.

Colonization

This is a mind set that many immigrant parents have passed down to their children — a sense of inferiority, a complex as such, that European and Western cultures are superior and better than that of their country of origin. This is a mentality that encourages imitation, following and serving rather than leadership.

There are many more positive and negative C's that I could discuss but perhaps it would be entertaining if families could sit together and see how many they can come up with, and perform a diagnostic test of their own families based on this humble contribution.

 

 


Your Comments

silent brother, london - wrote on 5/13/2010 5:45:36 AM
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Comment: This is a very good article and gives me great heart and comfort. You see I have always been a muslim who tries to pray for others and be grateful. But throughout my life i have lived with the terrible burden of always being treated badly in comparison to the other 3 children in my family by my mother and father. This has taken the form of initially always being told i would have to be subservient "and stand behind" my brother who is 1 and a half years older than me, in life. I was told this from an early age. ON his part my brother abused this situation and his constantly being pampered and told he was the first son and hence "the chosen one", to always tell tales on me to my parents and get them to beat me for any act of disobedience to my brother right or wrong. I was the only child who was beaten. On the other hand my younger sisters were also made to grow up with no respect for me but respect for my older brother. I was alwasy used as the families attack dog. My father would force me to fight anyone who caused trouble to our family but when i did so instead of being grateful he would tarnish me as "impatient and aggressive" when all i was doing was following his orders.As our adult lives have developed this has continued. I come from a pakistani family of tremendous business wealth (thanks to allah). My father has discriminated against me throughout adult life. My brother has been groomed to be the head of our businesses which employ 75 people while i have never been given training and instead reduced to subservient menial tasks under my brother. Ten years ago at the age of 26 i grew tired of this situation and left the family business to go and work for others for 7-8 years for menial pay and insults as i couldnt bear the injustice on a day to day basis. I didnt know that this act would harden my arrogant fathers resolve even more that I was "no good" and had "deserted" the family business even tho i had been subjected to unfair treatment and humiliation on a daily basis. As our adult lives developed my brother was allowed to choose his wife and house and would buy luxury cars every year as my father deemed "he was running the business". I did not receive any such gifts. My father bought a much smaller house for me and went against my wishes in how it should be and demolished part of it against my wishes lowering its value and appeal. They also unlike my brother who choose his wife and was married at the age of 26 , tried to against my stated wishes first force me into a marriage with my cousin, and than later gave my pledge of marriage to a girl i had never met or spoken to. The marriage failed after 1 month as we had nothing in common and the girl would not speak to me unless i spoke urdu which i cannot do well. I did not consumate the marriage on the grounds of my personal code of honour. The other family took 80,000 off my family in payments and my father and mother blamed me for this as well even tho i had said i wouldnt marry this girl and had endured their persecution even prior to the shame marriage, where they would not cook ,clean for me and threw me out of the house to live in isolation. Of course my brother was secretly gleeful at all this as it enhanced his position as the "chosen one" and me "as the bad child born bad". I am now 36 years old no marriage no kids and am addicted to anti deppresants which no one knows of. because of the credit crunch i lost my job elsewhere and was forced to return to my father business. My brother used this to further humiliate me,and oppress me. he is well aware that my father has given him a 70% favourable inheritance plan and 30% to me. I never cared about money or such things and always was happy to allah for the blessing of life, limbs sight and food. But I cannot stomach these injustices and as I age my parents have created an atmosphere where if i even voice any polite disagreement on anything they complain i bother them in their old age of ill health. They will not allow me to find a wife of my own as They fear the "scandal" i married outside my caste and people will gossip as they are a prominment business family. My brother continues to lord it over me. He has had 7-8 luxury cars but when i tried to ask for one he vetoed me and behind my back told my father i was wasteful. he is utterly devious and nawab like in his demeanour. despite his character throughout my life i have defended him against the occasional attack at work from employees etc. But my loyalty is unreturned. As I near 40 i look at my life, no marriage, no children, humiliation amongst my relations and relatives where i am seen as "the poor relation" and relative. When i was initially turned out of the family business 10 years ago I worked damned hard to go back to uni in my mid 20s and got my chartered accountants qualifications. But this has not bought me any respect from my family instead my father lets mere administrators and underlings in the company take decisions over me, he has no respect for my qualifications and routinely humiliates me, by calling in outside accountants, one of whom used to work under me in a company , in order to humiliate me. Outwardly to teh world he is the devout haji who goes on hajj every year but I see the materialistic bully who favours one child over the other having created the cancer of competion and criticisum towards me which is haram. I have little money to just walk away from them and marry a muslim women and live an islamic life elsewhere. even if i did so i would be criticised no doubt "for walking out on my parents" even tho they have 3 other children who unlike me they gave more love and affection to, and have marshallah 5 grandchildren. I feel sometimes if i am the cause of disapointment to them i should walk away. feelings of suicide are whispered to me by satan but I ignore them and thank allah. But this dependence on anti deppresants has destroyed my mind and i have difficulty coping. What can you say to me ??


Abdul-Azeez, Nigeria - wrote on 9/28/2005 8:59:03 AM
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Comment: This is best described as the the basis of human existence. Allah (SWT) created human beings to worship HIM alone. True worship encompasses all the positive Cs where justice and fairplay will always remain the rule of the game. The world today is heavily characterised by negative Cs, hence the elusive peace, unabatted bombings, war, crime etc


Mahmoud Eid, Alameda, CA USA - wrote on 7/30/2005 7:07:03 PM
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Comment: Very well done diagnosis to an illness in the parnting process, but as a patient I go to a doctor because the symptoms of the disease force me to seek a treatmet. I need soluatin for a problem I know that it exist. You point to the source of the treatment (Quran & Sunnah), but what we need is iducting it and the personals to provide this service and kown address for this hospital to go to when we seek cure to our illness.


OhmIrisRaheema, Boston - wrote on 7/26/2005 11:14:53 AM
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Comment: Asalam-U-Alikum: What a truly well thought out, well written article. May Allah see to it that you continue in this manor of beautiful literature, and may they be published in one concise book.


Syed Zainulabeddin, Toronto - wrote on 4/9/2005 11:01:48 PM
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Comment: The article covers a wide breadth and depth of issues and solutions based on Quran & Sunnah. The issues remains that we as Muslims in North America are looking for solutions outside of this context. Having been in the West for nearly 4o years, I have seen the both the development of Islamic values (among the youth), as well as the dilution of Islamic values among our generation 50 plus as a means to appease the locals. This dichotomy and duality of standards has created a significant gap between generations and more specifically among the parents and children. We cannot expect our chidren to follow a religious creed while we as their mentors and guides cannot do the same and set examples. The advice in the article speaks for itself as an excellent chronology of issues and solutions. May Allah give me and all of us to sek Allah guidance and render our trust in terms of our responsiblity to our children and our families.


Zailani A.M, Singapore - wrote on 7/15/2004 11:31:33 AM
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Comment: Alhamdulillah, a really great article that really reminds me of my mistakes as a parent. Simple and practical, albeit hard to strictly follow, but InsyaAllah I will try my best!!! May Allah s.w.t reward you!


Mrs Fadl, Germany - wrote on 7/15/2004 7:48:38 AM
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Comment: Very thankful for the article. I am a first time parent, and already worried about the challenges I am to face, especially that my daughter's first few foundation years is here in the West. May Allah Bless your efforts. Also, any recommendation of good english books on parenting I can get my hands on?


, Canada - wrote on 4/2/2004 6:16:38 PM
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Comment: Very good information to raise your children on islamic values but not to thrive in a North American culture. Most kids in north america are raised to be self centered, that life is all about gaining wealth and climbing up the ladder, no matter what it takes. As grown ups, they do it through sweet talk, through bullying, dishonesty, diserspect, they have no shame when they hurt another..etc. Imagine those kids as grown ups that you're children will have to mix with in a workplace. We need information to prepare our children to be able to live in an environment such as this where they can build a career and look forward to be even better as a person on the personal level, financial level and professional level. We have to teach them that the world is not a fair place and to equip them with what it takes to strive in an environment such as this.


Entisar, Canada - wrote on 9/30/2003 12:32:25 AM
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Comment: What a wonderful piece of work. I found it simply and yet so deeply to the point. I started off reading it as, perhaps other do....looking for something to show my spouse ....to say look...this is how it should be...and Thank Allah, I see what "I" need to see and do also. May Allah guide us and forgive us all. Bless you for your work and praise for the one who created us all, to help ourselves and each other- Incha Allah


Iman, England - wrote on 9/17/2003 6:00:24 PM
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Comment: I found the article very interesting and thought provoking. As a parent, it made me evaluate my relationship with my children and family. Unfortunately, although correct in reflecting the values and morals of our beautiful religion, with the pressures on my life and no doubt countless others it is very idealistic when compared to the harsh realities of life. Modern living has given us untold pressures in achieving the right balance between work commitments and a harmonious family life. When having to work is a financial necessity (or is it?), this becomes a real conflict even within yourself never mind the time constraints. I would like to thank you for the article.


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