Saturday, March 12, 2011

Parenting: If You Can't Make it, Fake It

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

I believe that the responsibility of parenting is an extremely big thing. It isn't just about feeding a little body until it grows big or teaching them life skills, academics, and basics of Islam. It is about modeling Islam for them every day of their little lives so that it is the most natural thing in the world for them. It definitely is a subject that can be viewed from the cost and debt approach.

I once wrote a post, How Our Children Help our Islam, and this post ties in with that...with a very specific difference. This one is about our responsibility to model Islam correctly, even if we don't feel it. I have a couple of examples that are extremely prominent in my mind: hijab and social situations.

I have, all thanks to Allah, worn the hijab for 22 years now. I have also worn niqaab for the past 7 years, but in this case it is not relevant, because I'm only talking about hijab - the minimum obligatory Muslim female cover. For sisters who wear niqaab, however, I suggest you include it in the term of hijab. While my mode of covering has changed over the years, I have worn a loose overgarment on top of my regular clothes and a hijab that comes down over my chest ever since marriage (at the least) and that is what my children know of me. They have learned, according to their level of understanding, why women cover and that it isn't a choice, it is a must.

So what happens if I have a crisis of faith, (may Allah protect me from such misguidance and trial - ameen!), and I feel like removing my hijab? Absolutely nothing.  I am the primary model of Islam for my children, and regardless of my feelings, inshaa'Allah I will continue to wear the hijab for their sake. I do not want to send a message to my child that if they don't like a thing that Allah has made fard for them, that it is okay on their own whims to discard it. I don't want to show them a manifestation of weak faith. What is inside me, what I struggle with, will be between Allah and myself.

What is the result of my "faking it"? My children have that same, consistent role model and I am not outwardly disobedient to Allah. Even if I had a candid talk with my children and told them about emaan increasing and decreasing, I would be able to tell them that what goes on inside us doesn't mean we can disobey Allah's commands. Regardless of my inner turmoil, I don't have the sin of zina or tabarruj to carry alongside it. In protecting the example my children look to, I protect myself.

Anas, radhi Allahu anhu, reported that the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said, 

"Islam is public, whereas iman is in the heart."  (Ahmad)

Allah, azza wa jal, says,
"The desert Arabs say, 'We have iman.' Say: 'You do not have iman. Say rather, "We have become Muslim," for iman has not yet entered into your hearts. If you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not undervalue your actions in any way," (Surat al-Hujurat: 14)
Although their iman was weak, adherence to Islam showed enough iman for their actions to be accepted.

This also relates to social situations, because our children's Islamic confidence comes greatly from seeing how we conduct ourselves publicly. I lived in a city where there were perhaps only 3 or 4 niqaabis. I never saw any on the street and I was the only woman in my college with hijab, let alone niqaab. As I homeschooled my children, often we would be free to take a walk during the day to the park, the library, or the thrift shop. I drew plenty of attention and was questioned by people in supermarkets, at the park, and even from their front porches about why I cover my face.

I have always welcomed the chance to explain hijab and niqaab, so in my short, simple, and friendly way I would explain. However people looked or reacted, I went about business as usual with my daughters and purposely spoke to the librarians, shop keepers, other mothers in the park, and cashiers. Hearing my accent alone dispersed preconceived ideas. Being my usual friendly and bubbly self further lowered the walls, until the cashiers started asking my advice about healthy foods and the librarians warmly welcomed our sunshiny smiles. 

I have attended school functions, the only niqaabi and my daughters the only Muslim children. When school picnics came around, we packed up our basket with all manner of healthy, halal foods because we knew we weren't eating the hotdogs. Other families commented on how delicious our food looked, and we offered around homemade cookies, bread, etc.

Of course, there have been a few negative moments that I've had to simply sail along and ignore. When my daughter asked  why people always had their music blaring, I calmly explained to her that they put music as an essential priority in their life. Much like we  remember Allah in all that we do, they listen to music. I explain that for us, remembering our Creator benefits us now and the aakhirah, but for them, the music is only an enjoyment in this life. Our walks are endless opportunities for comparing and contrasting. They are valuable learning experiences.

Do I always feel confident and look forward to those events? No. I often dread them, considering how I will make the experience enjoyable for my children, represent Islam well, and not compromise our practice or morals. Most surely I could avoid the social situations and save myself the effort. However, I must do all this because my children need to see me act with confidence and conviction. They need to see me take questions in stride and explain our practices engagingly and effectively. They need that for their own self-confidence and conviction that pleasing Allah is foremost, something to be proud about, and not to be compromised.

My modelling teaches them how to act with conviction, not only around non-Muslims but also around Muslims who don't have the same standards or practices. For every question and every life practice and behavior, they are given proof in the form of Quran or hadith.  In this way, they too will know how to establish an unshakeable foundation with the ability to answer questions without fear or intimidation, inshaa'Allah.

By practicing Islam you benefit your children, and by having children they help you practice your Islam. Maintaining your outward Islam frees your mind and heart to nurture your inward emaan.


  1. Alhumdulilah Mai, Jazakallah Kharian for your efforts. Honestly you know I was really struggling with the veil, and letting the Shaytan whisper to me just to take it off. Not my hijab, but my niqab. I really took your advice to heart, and I make my intentions to wear the face veil for my own protection, and as dawah for others. I've always been a very friendly, and outgoing (before niqab) so that's how I am even in my veil now. I notice too the reactions from people when I interact with them. I think it is sometimes an issues within myself. My naufs, and me still wanting to feel "normal" or pretty. I know my beauty is for my husband only, and I feel so much better about covering now. If I think about it as a protection and not an oppression than it is not so heavy upon me. I want to be a good role model for my kids as well. I was wondering with your girls what do you think is a good age to start the hijab? I'm thinking of starting my daughter next year, she's 7. Inshallah I pray my husband, and I will be able to send our kids to Islamic school SOON! We don't currently have one in our city. Inshallah soon though.

  2. Assalaam Alaikum Mai,

    I've been a silent reader of your blog for some time now, and just want to say, MashaAllah, your posts are excellent. May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala reward you immensely for sharing your beautiful experiences and life lessons with us. I've benefited so much from reading your blog and always look forward to your entries. =)

    Your post are an inspiration to young and older Muslimahs alike.

  3. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Umm Assad.

    You know, different angles reach different people and mindsets. I write, but I never know if the outlook I present will "reach" people or not. Al hamdu l'Illah that this is nudging your brain in a good direction. I pray that it will "sink in" and every ounce of you will feel the beauty of the veil from every aspect - ameen.

    As for hijab, we do a gradual thing from the age of 7 to 10, and by ten the girls should be established in wearing abaya and hijab. At that stage, they are already developing so they need to cover and be ready for the onset of menstruation.

    My 7 year old doesn't wear it on a daily basis. However, from toddlers the girls wore long dresses and skirts, so they are used to covering their legs outside. The tops always have some sleeve, whether short or long. They wear hijab or a prayer dress to the masjid.

    It is different here, because most of the girls from around 7 or 8 onwards wear an abaya and hijab. By the time she reaches 8, she will gradually increase her abaya and hijab use so that it is established and natural by the time she is 10.

    For my step daughter, we were in the States up to her being 9 years old, so we gradually changed her wardrobe over the ages from 7 - 9. Hijab became permanent in public by age 8 and a half. She would wear modest clothes with it and nothing shorter than 3/4 sleeves. By 9, the sleeves became full length, and she increased her use of abaya so that by 10, she wears abaya and hijab all the time.

    Personally, I think that during the years they are learning and establishing prayer, it is good to gradually make them aware of different aspects of hayaa. When the changes are gradual, they are more natural and comfortable. By the time they are commanded that they must pray (10) they also have usually started developing, so it all ties in nicely with hijab, and Allah knows best.

    May Allah give you an excellent solution to their schooling that will develop and nurture their Islam - ameen.

  4. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh Sara.

    Ahlan wa sahlan! Jazaaki Allahu khayran for your words of encouragement; they are much appreciated. Ameen to your dua'! Inshaa'Allah, our blogs will benefit others and please Allah.

    Barak Allahu feeki wa fee hayaatiki.

  5. assalamu aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu,
    I just found myself explaining the same thing to a friend of mine who is getting married. I can say without a shadow of my doubt having children has definately helped me become a better muslim both outwardly and inwardly. As my children are both at the 'sponge' age they watch, and imitate everything me and my husband do and say, after seeing how easy it is for them to pick up negative comments or ideas, i found i would constantly check my actions, is this step that im going to take, or this statement that im going to make, will it benefit me, my deen, my children? This has really helped change me. Yesterday i got angry at my son for doing something, so he says to me
    ''أمي لا تغضب, الغضب من الشيطان, قولي أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم, ثم الغضب يذهب"
    just hearing that extinguished any anger in me, and made me happy.
    I also owe my lifestyle changes to the birth of my son. I was never fat alhamdulillah but did eat very unhealthy anyway i had my first son via c-section and it was abolutely awful the way the hospitals co-erce you into all these procedures and really hinder the birthing process, and then at the end say well unfortunately we have to do an emergency c-section. well when they got me into the operating room, and i recieved the injection for the anesthesia and they lay me flat, before they could even put the knife to me, i found one of them saying ''she's fully dilated, can you push sweetheart'' it was a very painful experience as i could had no sensation in my lower body and no control over any muscles, alhamdulillah. I was extremely happy at my sons birth but i felt somewhat marred. Anway thereafter i knew i wanted more kids in the future and having one c section puts you at a higher risk of having another, and there's only so many of those a women can have. so i started looking into homebirth, change in diet, regular excercise, as a result i had my second at home, no pushing even though he was such a big baby, he slipped right out, no tears or anything alhamdulillah. since then we have come a long way, we try to purchase organic whenver we can, we no longer buy anything white, so no white sugar, flour etc, no processed items, we are only allowed to buy raw ingrediants, so our rule is if we cant make it, we dont buy it. with the exception of dairy. which for us is just youghurt,milk, butter and mozarella. it has been great learning and bonding experience for us, my son does everything with me from baking bread, ketchup, mayonnaise, this weekend we made strawberry jam!

    jazakullahu kheyran for the reminder

  6. ps: My neighbour has a 5 year old girl and a 2 and a half year old girl who both wear niqab. I was really taken aback when i saw them for the first time. the oldest has a thing about copying mum and wants to act grown up so her mummy made her an elastic niqab, well when she first wore ite outside the younger one cried and cried for one the whole outing, and when they came back her mum made her one too. they are so adorable. what's amazing is that people stop her at malls and tell her she is opressing her children, in a muslim country. I dont have any daughters but seeing them made me think i hope allah grants me daughters as enthusiastic about hijab and modesty.

  7. Wa alaykum as salaam wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh wa maghfiratuh yaa Umm Abdurahman!

    Wa iyaaki, wa barak Allahu feeki wa fee hayaatee my sweet, sweet sister. What a blessing is is to have your valuable contribution to this subject.

    I think a major factor in modelling successfully and doing right by our children is ignoring other people's opinions and influences. It's about doing what is pleasing to Allah, not what is normal or pleasing to the people. Whenever I feel surrounded by practices and manners outside of what I'm adhering to, I remind myself that I will never find any proof of it's correctness in the Quran and the Hadith for my children. At least, with proof behind me, I can rest assured of Allah's support in my efforts.

    Ahhh, so that's why you needed those strawberries, LOL! Wonderful concept. I feel so relaxed making everything from scratch. I know exactly what is in it, can control the ingredients, and it tastes so much better. May Allah bless all your efforts with the ultimate success in this life and the aakhirah - ameen.

  8. Thank you Mai for your dua and Ameen to it. I appreciate your time and response. I think that is a good idea what your doing to gradually start your girls with hijab. Inshallah I hope to start my 7 year old this summer. I remember my mom started my sisters and I when we were just 5 years old, lol we only were in kindergarten. I think that is such a benefit to live in an Islamic county, and all the young girls are wearing Abaya, and hijab. I hope my girls will ease into abaya as well as they get older, Inshallah.