By: Yahiya Emerick
Islam teaches that tremendous responsibility rests with the parents to guide and nurture the family unit. Da`wah in the home consists of creating an Islamic environment conducive to faith, justice, love and learning.
0 you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is humans and the stones (of false idols). (At-Tahrim 66:6)
Some important features of an Islamic oriented home include:
1- The authority of the father and the respect of the mother must be maintained. The husband must consult with the wife and the wife must provide support for her husband.
2- Salah, or prayer, at its proper times, must be established in the home as well as fasting in Ramadan and the use of the Sunnah in day-to-day relations. Ethnic cultural practices should be distinguished from the teachings of Islam.
This doesn’t mean that there is no place for cultural expression in the home. What this means is that useless conflict can be avoided if the parents understand that there are some facets of life unique to their children’s environment that will be different from what they, themselves, experienced when they were young.
This can revolve around simple things such as food choices or hobbies or to larger issues such as spouse selection methods, educational opportunities, career plans, etc. …
If the parents come from another culture than what their children experience in their everyday lives, then it behooves the parents to ask themselves what they would like preserved in their corning generations. Styles of dress or specific cultural practices will likely die out by the third generation, but Islam can survive in each household’s family tree- if the parents settled on that being the priority they wanted to emphasize in the home.
3- Family study and discussion time must be budgeted into the weekly schedule. Each family member should be encouraged to lead in discussions and any disagreements of opinion must politely be referred to the Book of Allah and His Messenger. Proof for any position must be found in order to build a sense of certainty in the children. Islam is a rational faith and can provide rational answers.
4- The family, as a unit, should attend Friday (Jum`ah) Prayer whenever possible. Every family member must be regularly exposed to the masjid. If there are no youth groups, then push to have one created.
Don’t let your children see the masjid as a strange place that is only visited on `Eid. Remember also the famous hadith of the blessed Prophet when he said, “Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from going to the masjid.”
Some traditional Muslim cultures forbid women from the masjid, but this is clearly not a part of original Islam.
If women and girls do not go to the masjid, how will they ever learn to identify with Islam?
Consider what well-known author Jeffrey Lang wrote recently on the issue: ”At first I used to attend mosque for the five daily prayers and I loved going there, but once I got married and had girls, they were not welcome at the mosque.” He also wrote, “I would like to see mosques being more family friendly-presently they are like a men’s club.” Lang has three daughters and commented dryly,
“Without me, my girls would lose their only link with Islam and I don’t want that to happen.”
5- Islamic values must be ever present in the choice of furnishings, books and other materials that are brought into the home.
Don’t buy your child Grimm’s Fairy Tales or The Three Little Pigs, for example, when there are better books available from both Muslim and non-Muslim sources. This author has literally been amazed when visiting Muslim homes to see children playing with Barbie Dolls, reading Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham, playing endless hours of mind-numbing video games, listening to pop stars or other Top 40 music or even worse!
What do you want your child to be? Muslim or not! Remember that even though music and singing are conditionally allowed in Islam, the type of music choices available to our children today is often immensely un-Islamic in tone, message and allure. The types of attitude forming music, toys, magazines, movies, TV shows and other things you allow in your home can undermine whatever positive values you are trying to stress.
6- Each family member should study those areas of Islam that relate directly to the family and relations between the sexes in great detail. Muslim children, in addition, must be sent to private Muslim schools or taught at home using home schooling.
The educational system in this country will do everything in its power to take spiritual values away from our children. Even many sincere Christians have understood this and contributed to a rise in home schooling, for example, that has surpassed two million children in such settings according to the latest governmental statistics in 2004.
7- Monitor your child’s exposure to the secular, pleasure driven society around them.
Everything from cartoons, teen fiction, Rap, MTV, Movies, etc … is trying to influence your child away from his or her true self. This may sound alarmist, but if you have ever read or investigated the tools of modem American youth culture, you can see clearly the subtle values that are foisted upon young people.
Things such as dating, disobedience to parents, drinking, fighting, lying, permissiveness and a lack of respect for tradition and hard work are being offered to your child as an alternative to what you offer.
8- Expose your family to the wider world of Muslims. You must go to the Islamic conventions if for no other purpose than to let your children see a multitude of other Muslims, just like them, so they can appreciate we are a large community, not a perpetual minority always under fire and hiding in the comers.
Travel to Muslim countries, make Hajj and visit masjids in cities you vacation in. Send your children to youth camps, bring them to the masjids for youth programs and subscribe to as many different Muslim publications as you can afford.
If only you are exposed to the Ummah, and not the rest of your family, can you blame them if they come to identify with the non-Muslim society as their primary affiliation?
The article is an excerpt from the author’s How to Tell Others About Islam, 1994.
Yahiya Emerick is a former President of the Islamic Foundation of North America, vice-principal at an Islamic school, and a Muslim author. A prolific author, he has written several articles and works of fiction that have been published in North America and abroad.