“Every one of your (people) is responsible, and everyone is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them” (Bukhari and Muslim).
I have had the privilege since coming closer to Deen to work with many children and adults, Muslim and Non-Muslim, Alhamdulillah. Speaking to children and their parents has been eye opening in regards to many issues that we seem to tiptoe around or ignore all together.
The conclusion is that the kids are all right, but we are not. As parents, we are the problem. We are constantly stuck in these vicious cycles of trust and mistrust, strictness and freedom, ignorance and nosiness, rage and unconditional love, fear and courage, boredom and heedlessness and the greatest of all: practicing Islam at times and completely disregarding it at others. In this struggle with our own desires and weaknesses, our children end up confused, looking for something solid and sensible to hold on to. Enter into the equation, this religion and culture annihilating atheistic system that is overtaking every country at a rapid rate leaving everything looking very identical and you have an attractive way of life. It is uniform in thought and doesn’t outwardly discriminate at any level, the “It’s All Good” attitude. It makes more sense to this new generation than our oftentimes unreasonably scattered adherence to Islam and wayward idiosyncrasies.
We send our kids to Islamic Sunday schools to memorize Surahs and learn recitation of the Noble Quran, but when it comes to Allah and His ordinance we don’t want our children to practice what The Quran and their teachers are preaching, the very resources they should respect and gather knowledge from. It’s the “I want them to be Muslim, but not too Muslim” mentality mentioned by Shaikh Hamza Yusuf in the lecture “Knowledge and Action” linked below. Disobedient parents will most often breed disobedient children.
I have heard several children complain about their parents’ dismissive attitudes towards their desire to change and follow Islam in their homes, because it would be an inconvenience. “Keep your Islam at school,” one girl is heard to have said about how her mother responded to her asking them to abandon watching Bollywood films as a Jum’uah (Friday) ritual.
Children have this beautiful nature that Allah has given them and when they hear His message and His commands it calls to their fitra (nature), they automatically want to comply, because they are not yet corrupted to a point of spiritual rebellion. By shutting them down, by silencing their wants and needs, by not personally practicing the very manners we want to see in them, we break this fitra down and hollow it out to the point that it is unrecognizable as submissive to His Creed and only submissive to individual desires. By submitting to our very selfish cravings, we strangle the very essence of their natural longing to love, please and fear Him in their time of mindfulness. They will do as we do now. They will be like us, ritualising our faith without any real spiritual fulfillment or understanding. We only reap what we sow. Just leaving it at sighing: “kids these days” and rolling our eyes is not good enough. Each generation is even more lost than the one before and we are responsible for this cycle, as we should be responsible for it’s undoing.
It is not our kids that are in dire need of Sunday school it’s us. We need to reconnect with our Creator and do some real soul searching. Really, we must ask ourselves the tough questions, beginning with the ones that will be asked of us when no man will be around to watch us, advise us or judge us. The questions we will be asked in the grave. Who is your Lord? Who is your Prophet? What is your religion? Simple, right? But the answers must come from the depth of our souls, when no excuses will be taken into account and the confirmation will come from Allah and Allah alone.
We must ask ourselves, why are we Muslim? Is it, because our parents were and that’s what we had to be? Well, our kids are not following this logic. With our blessed stamp of approval, they are being programmed to question everything and not just take it at face value. If we are knowingly committing acts and mistakes that are out of the realm of Islam our children are watching us and they are not above calling us out on our blatant hypocrisy and underwhelmed approach to Islam. To them, we should embody what we believe and when they go out to gain knowledge of the Deen as we want them to, many times they realize that there are definite discrepancies between the fundamental theory and our practice. The result can be one of three outcomes. Either, they replicate our behavior of heedlessness, or abandon religion all together as a disputable farce and ancient form of “mind control”, or rarely are enlightened enough to realize our shortcomings and practice according to true knowledge and pray that we will follow suit (most often causing heartbreaking rifts, because of our stubbornness and their passion for Truth).
Whatever the result is, in the end we all lose out. A time will come, where we will look back on what we have sown and what we have reaped. Most often, if we aren’t completely lost to self-righteousness and arrogance, we see our personal inadequacies or failures in our children by who they become, what they do and how they treat us. Is this really how we want to leave this world? Heading towards a time of Godlessness and self-worship? Allah’s religion will always live and overcome, but will our children be the chosen ones to carry on the light of Islam or will Allah finally grow tired of us and move on to greener pastures? Astaghfirullah. These are the questions that we must ask, that we must find answers to, that should keep us awake at night. Are we failing the test? Will our children fail, because we lost focus somewhere along the way?
We must take a fresh approach to our faith. Wipe away the cobwebs off of our Quran and our minds. Sacred knowledge is the most relevant knowledge to a Muslim. It is a way of life, a way of submission and a way to Allah and His Paradise. If the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was the most perfect of all of His creations, then wouldn’t his example also be the most flawless? We twist and turn things for our own agendas and desires, but at the end of it the Quran and Sunnah are the only real guides. Our desires cannot always be trusted to guide us to truth. Truth can only come from Al Malik: The King, The True. We must be true to ourselves and judge ourselves, before our children suffer for our mistakes and ignorance.
We are heading towards trying times for Muslims all across the Ummah. Some of us are already there, some of us are just beginning to feel the pangs of discontentment and some of us are living in the delusion that we will not be affected by the confusion and the chaos that is enveloping the world at a rapid pace, especially when it comes to Islam and Muslims. Perhaps, some believe that they will not live to see those trying days, but their children will and leaving behind children that are far from faith, who cannot even pray or cry out to the Creator, not only for their dead, but for their living, is a grave injustice indeed.
“By time, Indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (The Noble Quran – Surah Al-Asr)
These words are not just for those with children, but also for those of us who wonder how we can help our brothers and sisters across the globe that suffer persecution and starvation. The best way that we can help is to make changes for the better. No matter how pious we may think ourselves to be, there is always room to improve. Perhaps, once we begin to transform ourselves to please Allah, He will accept our prayers and sacrifice to heal the ones we want to aide. He has the power to heal, to better, and to transform; we just have to become true slaves who earn His attention with sincere tauba (asking forgiveness) and reform to His will.
Putting our egos aside, we really have to contemplate this seriously. We shouldn’t point fingers anywhere else. We have to change to bring change, Insha’Allah. When we follow the ways of the world, the ways of desires and ease, we only hurt ourselves. These are the children we will leave behind as a charity, they’re deeds and misdeeds will elevate us or destroy us when we come face to face with our Creator.
We must truly look upon ourselves, our children and our faith without excuse or social influences and really ask ourselves if we are on the Quran and the Sunnah, if we are sincere with Allah and most of all if we are ready to meet Him right at this moment with all that we are. Is this legacy of wayward and disconnected youth really what we want to leave behind as representatives of us and our faith? It isn’t enough to send them off to learn somewhere else, true Islamic education begins at home through our actions and knowledge, exactly the way they learn about the ways of the world through us.
We were also “all right” at one time as young people, but that changed along the way. What would our forefathers say if they could see us now? Will they suffer for our misdeeds? We have the power to change the future and to change this dialogue. We shouldn’t waste this opportunity. Allah is calling us to a higher purpose. It’s never too late; we should have mercy on ourselves, on our beautiful children and our Akhira (Life after Death).
Now that we know…what will we do?
“Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” (Quran 25:74)
Knowledge and Action – Shaikh Hamza Yusuf
Shaikh Hamza Yusuf – Addressing Children and Parents