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Choosing a Career:

The Clash Between Our
Children's Goals and Our Goals for Them

"Nineteen-year-old college student commits suicide because he received a C in Biology."

Although this was not an actual headline, it could have been. Over the years, we have seen suicides by students for similar reasons.

Parent' Expectations
Parents often have very high academic and career expectations for their children, which some children cannot live up to. Unfortunately, in some societies concern about disappointing one's parents is a tragedy the student cannot deal with, so he kills himself.

I remember an engineering student who lived next door to me when I was in college. He used to study all of the time, and it was rare to see him. Once I told him that he must love engineering to work so hard for it. He said that he didn't really want to be an engineer, but that's what his parents wanted him to be. He really wanted to be a photographer.

Children's Interests
This is not an uncommon situation. A child has a field of study that he is interested in, but the parent has a totally different goal for him. The child wants to be an artist; his parents want him to go to med-school and become a doctor. The child wants to be a political scientist; his parents want him to be an engineer. This clash seems to be especially prevalent in immigrant Muslim families.

In some cases, the parents mean well. They want their children to work in a profession in which they have a good chance of succeeding economically. They feel that the social sciences and arts in general do not offer as much potential for financial success as do engineering, medicine, business, and law. And they are right. However, many young people do not place the same priority on getting a high salary as their parents do. They might be more interested in a lower paying career that matches their interests or that provides spiritual, emotional, psychological, or social rewards, rather than monetary ones.

All Halal Occupations are Honorable in Islam
Unfortunately, many parents may want their children to work in a highly paid and prestigious field because of social snobbery or as a form of competition with their friends and relatives whose children may be studying or working in a prestigious field. In Living With Teenagers: A Guide for Muslim Parents, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood writes:

"Sometimes parents are rather snobbish---they only tend to think in terms of the highly paid, skilled salaried jobs for their offspring. Whereas it is true that Islam encourages every person to seek the most knowledge that they can, and to aim as high as they can, any social snobbery is totally against the spirit of Islam, which gives dignity to every honorable employment, no matter how lowly.

Parents have therefore to watch out that they do not push him or her above their capabilities. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, taught that there is no room in Islam for snobbery. The man who works as a simple porter or road-sweeper has as much right to his dignity as the manager of a great business concern (particularly in this age when the manager is deeply immersed in banking and interest transactions which are forbidden). What counts is honesty, and the attitude to the work one is doing.

Since society needs rubbish collectors just as much as brain surgeons, nobody need regard any useful employment as being beneath them---the prophet Dawud was a shepherd and a metalworker, Nuh and Isa were carpenters, and Musa was a shepherd, peace be upon them, and Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was a trader. Islam actually gave dignity to many professions which people had previously considered lowly and degrading, including, incidentally, being a housewife."

Luxury without Charity
is Discouraged in Islam

Although many parents push their children to study medicine, law, or engineering so that they will get a financially rewarding job when they graduate, many other jobs can adequately support a family. The family might not be rich, but it can have its needs met. Moreover, in Islam, even Muslims who have excess money are not encouraged to live lives of luxury. Rather, they are encouraged to help those in need with their excess money, and Muslims who are rich have an even greater responsibility to help others.

These jobs, as long as they are halal and do not involve the person in haram activities, have as much dignity as the higher paid, more prestigious jobs. So unless parents have better reasons than higher pay and more prestige, why should they pressure their children into pursuing careers that they are not interested in?

Important for Parents
to Consider Children's Interests

As previously mentioned, there is also some danger in pushing one's child into a field of study he has no interest in or which may be beyond his capabilities. Not everyone is meant to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. To pressure the child into studying something that is not really for him could merely insure his failure at it, which might also be followed by shame, depression, low self-esteem, rebellion, frustration, and even suicide.

Muslim Ummah Needs
People of Diverse Occupations

In addition, the Muslim Ummah needs people to work in a variety of other professions, such as social work, nursing, psychology, auto repair, farming, and education. Muslim leaders have long complained about the lack of Muslims pursuing careers in the media. Although in recent years, there seems to have been an increase in Muslims going into these fields, Muslims are still in no position to compete with non-Muslim media. America should be flooded with high quality Islamic publications and radio and television broadcasts. But still, only a small number of Muslims are going into media occupations.

A Career: More than Financial Security
In the past, just having a job and being able to support oneself and one's family was essential. People often went into the same profession as their father. A farmer's son became a farmer. A carpenter's son became a carpenter. Opportunities to advance or to go into a field of one's choice were quite rare. Today, we have a totally different situation. People have a much greater choice in the career they pursue. A career is no longer just a means of financially supporting one's family; it is a major part of one's life. To be trapped in a career one hates can be very difficult. To have a job one loves and enjoys can be one of life's great joys.

Career choice has become a controversial issue in many families.
Although many children may one day appreciate their parents' insistence that they study engineering or medicine, others may always wish that they had gone into the field "they" wanted rather than the field "their parents" wanted them to. But the real question is not whether the children will one day appreciate their parents' pressures to go into a certain career or whether they will resent them, the real question is whether or not the parents were right or wrong to pressure them into it in the first place.

Please share your ideas and experiences with others about career: career@soundvision.com


Your Comments

Sonia, Florida - wrote on 8/13/2012 5:34:43 AM
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Comment: @Raabia...My situation and urs is exactly the same. I wish to be in media but my parents :( ...i dont want to leave them and make mt career because they will be hurt. I need help how to convince them or else i'll go mad

Huda, Karachi - wrote on 4/22/2012 5:21:48 PM
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Comment: I read all the comments, and I understand where each one of you is coming from. Mainly because I feel like I'm in a bit of a similar situation, just recently I recovered from depression after going through the toughest times in in Pakistan at the university, not only did the teachers and environment make me miserabe, they put me into a nervous breakdown. I was bent on leaving the country to study abroad just to get away from everyone. But throughout the gap year that i applied to the University, I made friends, went out and relaxed at home. Now the thought of studying for Masters makes me feel sick inside, I start getting cold sweats. I am finally happy in life, I have friends, and go out, chill out with my family, dress up and enjoy life in general :) elhumdolila, but everytime my mother reminds me that not going abroad to study can out a person in ruins, it disturbs me to the core, At the moment I made it clear to my parents that I have studied and applied for an online course too. I am happy and don't want to be pressurized into anything, since my previous experience of things were horrible. I know how all of you feel. Except I take out my frustration though writing :), if any of you ever need any sort of support you can email me at: heart2woman@gmail.com My blog is http://rantsfromkarachi.wordpress.com http://heart2woman.wordpress.com al i can say is listen to your heart and mind, look for positivity. If all of you have thought of death or felt depressed you're not alone, I know you guys will get through it! Much love Huda

Raabia A., Dallas, TX - wrote on 4/1/2012 11:32:29 AM
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Comment: Thanks so much for posting this. Although I wish my parents would read it, there is no way. My parents raised me here in the U.S., but I don't think it helped me much because I'm not given much freedom in my choices. They don't allow me to get a job or relax with friends. I'm simply pre-medical student to them, and I have told my parents many times that I don't want to be a doctor. I hate hospitals, and don't like being around sick people or being sick myself. I've always told myself, and they have told me as well, that doing what I want is selfish and that I would contribute to the world and help people more if I was a doctor. My parents know that my heart lies in filmmaking, but they see it as a shallow phase that I'll get through eventually. The truth is, it's not a phase. I've dreamed of directing films since I was little. Every year I watch the Oscars and every year I cry afterwards because my parents remind me that it's selfish and shallow to create films. I have now realized, after many bouts of depression and moments where I've contemplated suicide, that Allah (swt) has given me dreams of filmmaking and media work for a reason. Obviously he wants me to get there, I'm just not sure how. I need advice on how to convince my parents that medicine is not my thing, and need help with getting out of my parents' house. I don't want to leave them, and desperately wish that they'd support my film endeavors. Any advice?

Chris, Cleveland - wrote on 12/20/2011 12:50:01 AM
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Comment: Have wanted to study medicine for a long time. Since second semester of college I wanted medicine. Parents never supported that decision and I was only 19 and didn't know better, continued on in engineering. Never liked engineering, the pay and especially the work. When I was very very young I wanted law, and was never encouraged. Now I still want medicine and am trying to get in after an MS in engineering and my parents still never get excited about it. They want me to be in a field I absolutely hate, and don't listen to what I say.

Ayah, San Francisco - wrote on 12/7/2011 9:38:20 AM
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Comment: To Mariam and everyon else who is also going through difficult times. I can definitely feel your pain. I have also personally struggled with this issue except that it was my husband who was/is pushing me to become a doctor (I know sounds weird but it's true). May Allah bless him for all the sacrifices he has made for me. Alhamdoulillah I am now at peace with the path I have taken. This only happened because I turned to Allah and asked Him to make me satisfied and to guide me to what is best. Remember, you are never alone. Allah is always there and he puts us in difficult times so that we may turn back to Him and depend on Him alone. My advice, therefore is for you to pray and seek Allah's help, that either He make you satisfied with your current path or that He guide you to something better and help you deal with your parents disapointment.

Mohamed Shahidi, - wrote on 11/1/2011 2:53:06 PM
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Comment: to Mariam and Safina: Allah gave you one life, one only. don't live the life of someone else; there's no "but it'll be worse, people will hate me if I do"; I'll assure you: people who hate or criticize will always do that; they'll find a flaw in your life. as for doing what your parents see in you, don't do that; nobody can make your life better except yourself, you do not have to live a miserable life, and I'm only saying this because I went through serious trouble, including nearly losing my faith in good... it's not worth it. do what Allah gifted you to do, find your purpose in life, and never settle for someone else's decision over your life.

Mohamed Shahidi, - wrote on 11/1/2011 2:48:22 PM
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Comment: I'm Mohamed, 22 from Morocco. when I was 18 years old, I made the choice of studying medicine because it was the most logical for me. I studied 5 years in Saudi Arabia, which is the reason I wasn't much oriented. my parents were happy with my choice and didn't consider me trying the field I love; filmmaking. in 2nd year of med school, I found out that it's not for me. my parents weren't positive, so I stayed in medicine because Allah tells us to give right to out parents. I just didn't consider the fact that some parents can be WRONG. mine manipulated me for 2 years. 4 years and few self-harm attempts later, I decided that Allah is above all, that parents can be wrong and that I will not follow a path that will lead me to kill myself. so I quit medicine, and my parents are still angry at me for doing that. I don't hope they understand one day, because they won't; they still see in me the person who could have been a doctor, although I'm doing great in filmmaking. some parents are just too stubborn to see the light; my way of life is respecting my priorities: Allah, my faith, then my health, then my work. this is for parents: please listen to your child before you lose him/her. consider his thoughts, forget that you're more experienced, and don't dwell too much in your ego. otherwise, you might not hear of him again, or, as a best-case scenario, you'll end up with a polite stranger who doesn't love you. kids are human beings too. you do not own your child.

safina, lagos - wrote on 8/27/2011 5:22:53 AM
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Comment: Salam!Im in a worse situation.I wl be 18 yrs old.I g?t admission to study medicine when ??I was 16.??I didn't want to,my father forced me to.Now,in my 2nd year,??? failed tests and dropped out of school.But my dad has decided to send me to egypt or sudan to study.??I know ??I will fail there to.??I have been depressed and frustrated and ??I see my whole future collapsing.

Mariam , Karachi - wrote on 12/22/2010 11:29:57 AM
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Comment: Asalamulaikum. I am a 25yr old female sent to study in Karachi by my mother. She is a doctor and forced me into doing medicine aswell. I have spend da worst time of my lufe in Karachi, met all sorts of selfish people who cheated me and let me down. My mother has never been emotionally available for me and she always degrafes me. I will be graduating in 2 months InshAllah. But to tell u the truth i have no satisfaction from my degree, i havw succumbed into severe depression lately, i can't study, i have forgotten happiness. I feel miserable all the time. I used to be such a healthy individual but over the years i started binge eating and i have gained 30 kilos, my mom wont stop criticising me, she says i will never find a husband because im fat. How do i get a hold of my life. Please help me. I m so lonely.

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