Although it has been seven years since the birth of my first child and five years since my second, I still struggle with being a mother in a world where it seems like everything is going wrong all the time. The desire to shelter and protect my children from all the world’s evil is constantly at odds with my understanding that in order to truly protect them, I must teach them how to best protect themselves. So I strive every day to instill in them the ability to root themselves in the one constant truth amongst the ever-changing sea of values and ideals that our society upholds as being correct.
Allah (swt) says in Surat al Maidah,
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (5:3)
This, I believe, is the essence of stability in a world often characterized by chaos.
But how on earth do I as a parent keep my children connected to their religion in a country where Islamic ideas and values are attacked from every side?
I don’t claim to have all the answers (or any, honestly) but here are some things I try to practice consistently in my own home to help foster my children’s personal connection with their faith.
1. Perform prayer and supplication
Because my children are as young as they are, this takes on different forms in my home. We practice two out of the five daily prayers as a family and make time for dua daily. I encourage them to talk to Allah often, depend and trust in Him. It’s never too early to create that direct connection.
2. Express gratitude
In this house, we say “alhamdulillah” often and always. Everyone, including our children, will have their fair share of ups and downs during their lifetime. One of the practices I believe in most is teaching them to be grateful no matter the circumstances. We talk a lot about what it’s like to grow up in different parts of the world and I try to show them, at their own pace and at a level appropriate to their ages, how privileged we really are, and how we should always be thankful to Allah (swt) for everything we have.
3. Honesty is the best policy
When they do something wrong but are honest with me about it, my children aren’t punished. As they leave babyhood behind and inch closer to their teens, I think open communication is essential. It’s so important for our children to feel like they can come to us, confide in us without fear of judgment or punishment. As young Muslims growing up in a predominantly non-Muslim society, they will be exposed to ideas and practices that contradict our own. The ability to ask questions and understand why we uphold the values we do is critical if our children are going to develop their own inner moral compass anchored within Islamic teachings.
4. Space for curiosity:
There is always some kind of learning happening around here! We have read every night as a family since my oldest was just four months old. We have more books that toys in our home and we’re all the more happier for it.
While we do the typical movie theater and playground outings once in a while, we spend most of our days at history and art museums, going to protests and marches and exploring everything my littles are curious about.
I have found, in my own life, that the more I learn the stronger my faith in Islam becomes. When we speak about racism my children are confused as to why people hold the belief that the color of your skin indicates who you are as person because they know our Prophet Muhammad taught us, “All humankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Also, a white person has no superiority over a black person, nor does someone who is black have any superiority over someone who is white — except by piety and good action.”
Connect their day to day experiences with Islam in showing them how to find answers within their deen. They will always be there. Keep em curious!
5. Have respect for others:
I’m a single mother raising two young children in Brooklyn, New York. Every day they meet and interact with people who live in ways very different from our own. And that’s ok. I try to reflect often on the fact as Muslims it is not our responsibility to judge whether others are doing life “wrong” or “right” but rather to work on bettering ourselves, our lives and our hearts. Our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) lived amongst people of all different faiths and backgrounds and treated them all with utmost respect and compassion. That is the prophetic example that I try to instill in these little guys.
6. Take responsibility:
As a Muslim, I believe it is our responsibility to leave this world better than we received it. So whether it’s while teaching my children the importance of taking care of our earth, participating in social justice efforts or taking a stand when they see someone being bullied at school, I remind them of this hadith often: “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”
This is not by any standard an extensive list and is certainly not a complete recipe. Every family dynamic is different, but these are some ideas that seem to be working for me and my little ones. I hope you find benefit in them too. And please, share any ideas of your own with me in the comments below!