When I was a young mother, I had a lot of thoughts about other people's kids. Many, I now realize, were not very nice. Alhamdullilah I was not obnoxious enough to say my thoughts out loud, but I admit that I sat in silent smugness and judgment many times.
Here's a peek into my brain when I was in my late twenties and early thirties:
“That Muslim teenager is dressing so immodestly! Her parents must not have instilled proper Islamic values.”
“Those kids hardly know any Quran! Their parents must not have made Islamic Studies a priority.”
“That student is acting so disruptive in my child's classroom. Clearly his parents haven't taught him how to behave.”
I am ashamed, now, to reflect on those unkind, judgemental thoughts I used to have, even if they were often unconscious and unarticulated. I now realize those verdicts were coming from a place of arrogance and privilege. I wasn't privy to the life circumstances or unique challenges of the people I judged; I merely looked at the surface and concluded they weren't trying hard enough.
Here's one thing I've learned since then about judging others: the very thing you harshly criticize in someone else will very likely come back to bite you. It's probably Allah's way of teaching us an important lesson, and our job is to be insightful and honest enough to recognize it.
Please don't make my same mistakes. If you catch yourself frequently judging others – even in your mind – or comparing them unfavorably to yourself, take heed.
Recognize that your sweet, innocent eight-year-old who loves wearing her hijab is a blessing, not necessarily a reflection of your perfect parenting, and definitely not a gift to take for granted. Beware of feeling complacent or smug about her willingness to dress modestly; that same girl might become a rebellious or confused teen who begins to shun her faith despite your best efforts.
I can't tell you how many loving, pious, sincere parents I know whose teens have fallen off the Straight Path despite their best efforts. So make constant duaa for your children's guidance and adherence to the deen. And while you're at it, make heartfelt duaa for other people's kids, too.
And those kids who haven't memorized as much Quran as your children, or don't know as much about the deen as yours do? Well, maybe their family couldn't afford Islamic school. Maybe homeschooling wasn't an option, either for financial or other reasons. Maybe their parents tried their best to instill a genuine love of Islam, but they can't read Arabic, and their own formal knowledge is lacking.
Arabic tutors cost money, as do Islamic schools. Not everyone has enough extra money to invest in Quran lessons, or the Islamic knowledge to educate others. If your kids know a lot of Quran, thank Allah for the privileges that made that possible. Perhaps you can show your gratitude by volunteering to teach others. At the very least, don't judge the kids who don't seem to know as much. Perhaps they have a pure and true love of Allah and His Prophet, and they are elevated in His ranks.
And that misbehaving child? That "troublemaker" or "wild child" in your child's class? Well, if you were blessed to have children with no health conditions, no learning disabilities, no ADHD, no autism, no neurodivergence, then you might never truly understand why some kids struggle to sit still, focus, remain quiet, keep their hands to themselves, and act in socially appropriate ways.
If your children are healthy and their bodies and minds support society's expected behavior, you are immensely blessed. Do not take it for granted and please do not feel superior to others. By the grace of Allah your children have fewer obstacles.
If and when you have a child whose brain is wired differently, you will start to see undesirable or atypical (often labeled "bad") behavior in a whole new way. You will have much greater sympathy for those kids for whom daily life is a constant struggle. You see how they are often failed by a school system that is not designed to meet their needs. Your heart will break as you watch them try and fail at things other kids take for granted.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“He who has, in his heart, an ant’s weight of arrogance will not enter Jannah.” Someone said: “A man likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes?” The Messenger of Allah said, “Allah is Beautiful, He loves beauty. Arrogance means ridiculing and rejecting the Truth and despising people.” (Muslim)
The main problem with judgment is that arrogance often lies at its core. I hope Allah will forgive my past unkind thoughts and the smugness that caused them. I pray He will help me be a more grateful, humble, compassionate human. I hope that my honest words here will inspire others to nip their judgment in the bud before it blooms into a harmful habit.
[Author's name withheld by request.]