Friday, December 31, 2010

Effective Parental Influence - From a Kid's Point of View

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I remember when I was around 7-8 years old, my friends and I would sometimes go up to a young adult and ask them their age, just out of curiosity. Upon hearing their response, which was usually somewhere between 18-25, our eyes would pop out as we looked at each other in disbelief and awe, and we would always say the same thing in unison every single time, "woooah!" The higher the number, the longer and louder our "woooah"s. I find it funny that the situation has turned around now, and when kids ask me my age and hear my response, I get a "woooah" as well, and then they run away to play whatever games kids play these days.

However, having somewhat recently passed through the teenage years, I feel like I'm in a position where I can still relate to kids and teenagers, even though I'm considered an adult. The in-between stage - where I talk to the aunties in gatherings, but I also know what their kids are up to. Kids these days have complicated lives. Fitnah is increasing not only in the West, but on a more global level, and sometimes this leads to kids, specifically teenagers, leading double-lives. Parents do realize that times are getting worse, and they fear for their children's future. Generally speaking, they become more strict with their kids, restricting them completely from certain things. And it's only natural; why would parents want even a speck of harm to come on their children? Unfortunately, the approach being taken is ineffective.

What some parents may fail to realize is that times have changed since they were kids. Gone are the days when parents could easily dictate their children, and the children would respectfully obey each command without question. I am sure most of us have heard our elders tell us, "When I was your age, we would never object to what our parents had to say! We would obey them because we realized that they are more experienced than us, so they must be right!" Sure, life would be all fine and dandy if kids were so easy. But I would say that they are more inquisitive than ever before, having been exposed to knowledge from not only social interaction and books, but also the internet, television, and the media in general. We all know that the media can, in some ways, be more harmful than beneficial. That's why parental influence is an essential part of raising children. They need someone to guide them.

There is a distinct difference between guiding someone and forcing them to do something. It is a grave responsibility for parents in particular to mold their children into something they can be proud of, in both worldly and religious aspects. And this guidance doesn't start around age 10 or in the teenage years, it starts from the toddler years itself. You can't exactly start to develop a child's personality in one way, and then later on try to change it. This will eventually make him or her rebellious. If in the beginning the child is left alone with the TV on, being raised up by it, and later when you realize that his or her personality is becoming contrary to Islam, do you think you can easily just tell the older version of the child to stop watching it?

There is no point in being exceedingly strict. From what I've seen from kids these days, things will always backfire. You tell them not to watch TV or spend a lot of time on the internet, they will be doing it behind your back. Kids are smart these days. Smarter than one may think. They can do whatever they want on the internet and simply click "delete history" once and everything is erased. You force a girl to wear hijab in school and she will be taking it off as soon as your car is out of sight when you drop her off. You tell your son not to hang out with his female classmates and next thing you know he is out with a bunch of friends at the mall - girls included. These things are common in this day and age. So how can we try to stop it?

i) Start young.

If you want to see certain traits in your child then you'll need to start training them from a young age. Very young. I understand that this is the time parents are the busiest with their kids with so many responsibilities, but it doesn't hurt to maybe relate some stories of the Prophets and Sahabas from time to time. Make it interesting for them. Tell them that these are their role models. It could be during bedtime, when you read stories to your child. Apart from Cinderella and Jack and the Bean Stalk, you can have special nights where you tell *real live stories* of Prophets and Sahabas. The key here is to make it sound exciting, so this it what they will lean towards more. The main thing kids ever want is to have fun.

Also, it is utterly important that the right environment is given to the child right from the start. Letting them hang out with a decent, religiously-inclined family will help them mold their personality as well. After all, it is narrated that "The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend". [Sunan Abu Dawud].

ii) Give them fun alternatives

You go up to your child and see him or her wasting time on the internet or Wii. You tell them "get off that right now!" and walk away. If you don't provide an alternative, he/she has nothing to do. An empty mind is a devil's workshop, as they say. They need to be occupied! Include lots of activities in your daily life - going out, doing various projects at home that you know your kids will enjoy and basically just bonding with them. They need activities so that they are not tempted to do wrong things. A personal favorite of mine when I was a child was going to the kids section in the library or to a kids children's museum. I love to see parents go through each and every thing in museums with their children, explaining to them patiently and in detail what the specific exhibition is about. There's so much to learn in these places, which helps to expand a child's mind. Other kids might like other things, perhaps something more sporty. Enroll them in whatever they are interested in!

As kids get older into their teenage years, their interests may change. It's important to keep up-to-date with their interests especially at this age, and keep them busy in those.

iii) Be their friend when communicating

The first thing that has to be done is trying to develop an understanding - trying to be in your kids' shoes. What were you like at that age, what was of importance to you? Sometimes when we grow older we tend to forget that a few years ago something else was a big deal to us, and now, it's something else. If you expect your child to behave like how you do in your midlife, then a rebel is to be expected.

If a friendly attitude is used with children, they will feel more comfortable in talking to you as they grow older. As kids mature, they need a lot of advice on certain issues and they usually have no one to turn to except other friends, who may be giving the wrong advice.

Also, when communicating with your child of what to do or not to do, always give them reasons. If the reason is elaborated then it makes much more sense to the child.

iv) Respect

Treat others how you would like to be treated. Yes, these children may be the same people who you fed and cleaned a few years ago, but they still deserve respect. There's one thing I had experienced in my university back in the UAE. This was a university in which 90% of the students were local Emiratis, and their first language was obviously Arabic, not English. Almost all of our professors were either from North America or Europe. Most of them treated the Arabs like they didn't know much English (even though our major was English Literature!) and therefore they didn't have high expectations from the students. Sometimes these university students, half of them who were already married and had kids of their own, were treated like kids, just because of this generalization that Arabs probably don't know much English. Because of this, not much effort was put into their classes by the students.

However, there were a few professors who treated the students like adults. They gave them a lot of responsibility, treated them as equals, and helped them reach their highest potential. And this was all because of the respect shown to the students, rather than looking down on them. I was surprised to see the talent that was shown in these specific classes by the same exact students. They had so much potential, but the teachers' behavior in the other classes diminished their creativity. Similarly, if kids are treated with respect, they will learn to be respectable beings, through their behavior and responsibilities.

Another thing to remember is that children should not be degraded in any way in front of others. Too many times I see ladies in gatherings having a competition of some sort on whose kid is the least productive. They complain about their kids messiness, how they don't help out with the chores, how they basically do "nothing". This will not help the child to increase his or her chores in the house, if that's what you're thinking will happen. It will only draw them further away from you, and they will end up communicating less with you as well, thinking of you as a "tattletale". Positive reinforcement is a longer lasting solution than punishment, although disciplining children is an important part of raising them as well.

Finally, it is important that the respect is mutual. In Islam, respect towards parents is emphasized to a great extent. However, on TV shows and movies children are learning that parents are weird, backward, silly, and don't know anything. This is what a large number of kids are getting brainwashed by. If your child disrespects either one of the parents, then either the other parent should stand up for the one being disrespected, or the parent himself or herself should be stern with the child about this issue. In Islam there is no space for disrespect towards parents.

v) Monitor the monitor

Literally. The internet is getting worse and worse, and there's no sign of turning back. The computer or laptop at home should be placed in an area where it can plainly be seen by all walking past. I know laptops have become so common now that one laptop is given to each kid in a lot of households, and it is then taken to their own rooms, but this is not exactly a safe thing to do. Curiosity is at its peak during teenage years, and kids may end up on chatrooms and talk to strangers for fun, or they may learn a lot of inappropriate things.

However, it's not ideal to be exceedingly strict. Again, this backfires. Let's take the famous Facebook for example. There are numerous parents out there who completely forbid their child from opening a Facebook account. Are the kids going to listen? Let's be realistic, Facebook is the in-thing on the internet at the moment. Everyone is on it. 7 year olds and 77 year olds. People find their friends from their Kindergarten, schools, colleges, work, everywhere. They learn about school events. It's the new-age socialization. Of course the kids are going to open an account. We, as the youth, all know of dozens of kids who have an account opened without their parent's consent.

Now, I know a lot of kids are going to come running after me for saying this, but there's a better option, in my opinion. Please, let them open accounts. At least they won't learn to lie to you and hide secrets from you. But open an account yourself and add them on your list. That way, they can still socialize with friends, and they will be careful about not adding members of the opposite gender, about what groups they join, and the style they talk in, even if it's only because you added them. Also, it's important for parents to be tech-savvy in this day and age to keep up with the kids and guide them, so that they don't go astray.

By the way, monitoring the monitor is not equivalent to spying on the kids. If you see them chatting with friends then don't come super-close to the screen to read what they're writing - a little privacy is needed by everybody!

I have heard many parents say that raising children is the biggest burden in their life. Don't take it as a burden, take is as the biggest blessing, and be grateful for every moment with your precious child. May Allah (SWT) bless all parents immensely for their endless efforts in raising their children, and may all children learn to appreciate their parents' efforts. Ameen.

The Art of Making Dua

Dua is an essential part of deen. It is mentioned in a hadith that "Dua is the essence of worship" [Bukhari]. Every form of worship is a form of dua, be it prayers, reciting Quran, or dhikr. It is to beseech Allah, and reach out to Him. It is one of the easiest forms of ibadah, considering the fact that there are no prerequisites for asking from Allah - you don't need to be in a state of wudhu, you don't have to be in a specific place or position, and you don't have to speak in Arabic.

In the etiquettes of making dua, however, it is preferred that we first make some duas mentioned in the Quran and/or hadith in Arabic, then move on to our own language. It is also important that we first make dua for our deen and then the duniya. Also, we should ask for ourselves first then move on to making dua for others. We should try to begin our duas with the praise of Allah, then recite the durood shareef (salutations for the Prophet [SAW]), and also end our dua with durood shareef, because it is more acceptable to Allah (SWT) this way as we don't forget the Prophet (SAW) while making dua for ourselves.

Sometimes when making dua some of us might be a bit lost for words, not knowing what to ask for. In Surah Al Fatiha we are taught how to make dua - firstly, by praising Allah (SWT) and mentioning His blessings, then asking for guidance to the straight path and His pleasure, and seeking protection from His displeasure and Hellfire.

Below I've made a compilation of a possible way of making dua just to get an idea. This is by no means the only way. But when we get together in a gathering with Muslim brothers and sisters, it is a good idea to sit together and make dua after some Islamic talk. The Prophet (SAW) has told us to "Convey (the message) from me, even if it is a verse" [Sahih Bukhari]. The talk should ideally be followed by a dua. This writing is just a way to give an idea of how one can make such a dua in a gathering. May we learn how to ask from Allah with sincerity and may He grant our prayers.

To begin with, I would like to narrate a hadith in which the power of crying while making dua is portrayed, "There are seven whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade: a just ruler; a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic; a man whose heart is attached to the mosques; two men who love each other for Allah's sake, meeting for that and parting upon that; a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position (for illegal intercourse), but be says: 'I fear Allah', a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity; and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears.'" It is best to get as emotionally involved into our duas as we can. With that in mind, we can start our dua.

Start with a short Hamd: subHaana Rabbi al-A`laa al-Wahhaab

"Glory be to my Lord, the Most High, the Bestower"

Durood Shareef: Allahumma Salli `alaa MuHammadin wa `alaa aali MuHammadin kamaa Sallaita `alaa Ibraheema wa `alaa aali Ibraheema innaka Hameedun Majeed. Allahumma baarik `alaa MuHammadin wa `alaa aali MuHammadin kamaa baarakta `alaa Ibraheema wa `alaa aali Ibraheema innaka Hameedun Majeed.

"O Allah, let Your Blessings come upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as you have blessed Ibrahim and his family. Truly, You are Praiseworthy and Glorious. O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as you have blessed Ibrahim and his family. Truly, You are Praiseworthy and Glorious".

Recite Surah Fatiha

Recite a dua for both deen and duniya: Rabbanaa aatinaa fee ad-dunya Hasanatan wa fee al-aakhirati Hasanatan wa qina `adhaab an-naar

Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us from the chastisement of the fire

Continue on with dua in your own language, starting with deeni things

(Start off by praising Allah and mentioning as many blessings as you can that He has bestowed upon you. This varies from person to person. This includes family, friends, health, wealth and countless other things)

Ya Allah, You gave us Islam
Yet we wronged ourselves
We are distracted from You. We're in the trap of duniya and nafs
We ask that You send Your mercy and forgiveness upon us.
Forgive us for being lazy and breaking commands and thinking we could live without You.
Forgive us for our hypocrisy, the gaze and ears we misuse, forgive us for saying things without thinking of the consequences
We are the weakest of your servants
You Yourself have stated in the Quran " khuliqa al-insaanu Da`eefa"- that You have created us weak.
Ya Allah, Your Mercy encompasses all that exists
Wipe our sins, whether we did them knowingly or unknowingly,whether they were big or small
Guide us, give us hidayah to the straight path, ya Allah
We failed to love you as You deserve to be loved
Yet, we love You and the Rasul, Ya Allah give us Your love.
We repent for loving anything unlawful in this world
Save us from the calamities, `azaab and trials of this world and the difficulties therein
Bestow upon us a gaze of Your mercy
Ya Allah You know how to bestow blessings on us, but we don't know how to ask.
Give us what is best for us.
Ignite our hearts with love for You and passion for You. And love for Rasul Allah (SAW)
Let us be inclined to You more than we're inclined to anything else
Unlock all of the lock in our hearts
Let us live and die in Your love

Then, move on to dunyawi things:

Ya Allah, we ask for ease in this world.
Ya Allah, we ask for barakah (blessings) in our knowledge, in our actions, in our health, in our rizq (sustenance), in our work, and in our decisions.
Make every step of ours filled with Your blessings
Ya Allah, remove and keep away from us any worries and sadnesses
If anyone is worried due to domestic issues, free them of their worries
If anyone is worried due to their work, free them of their worries
And if anyone is worried due to financial issues, free them of their worries
Heal the ill from their illnesses, give them complete shifa ya Allah, and free them of their worries.
Ya Allah, make children a coolness for their parents' eyes, and make spouses a coolness for their spouse's eyes.
And for those who are looking to get married, grant them a righteous spouse who will accompany them in this world and the next
And those wanting to have children, grant them pious and righteous children.
Ya Allah, brighten the future of the children here. Make them an example for our Ummah.

Ya Allah, save our Ummah. Save those of our brothers and sisters suffering in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of world due to violence. Bring peace to these countries. Ya Allah, it is narrated in a hadith that "Believers are like a single person; if his eye is in pain his whole body pains, and if his head is in pain his whole body pains" (Muslim). Ya Allah, give us the tawfiq to realize this and feel mercy in our hearts for others in our Ummah, and help us do something for them. It is a difficult time that Muslims are going through in this day and age, ya Allah. Provide us with Your help in these circumstances. Let us pass through any time of difficulty with patience and with our imaan intact.

We are nothing but a droplet in the ocean of Your creations, yet we ask for so many blessings from You. We are not deserving of them because of all our wrongdoings, but Ya Allah, we turn to You because we have no one else to turn to.

Ya Allah, include in this dua all of our loved ones, and those who have asked us to make dua for them. And forgive those of our loved ones who have passed away, and grant us and them Jannat ul Firdous.

O Most Compassionate, have compassion on our weakness
O Forgiver, forgive our sins
O Concealer, conceal our faults
O Gentle One, be gentle with us
O Bestower of honor, bestow honor on our Ummah
O Granter of prayers, answer our prayers

Recite Rabbana taqabbal minna innaka anta Samee ul A'leem

"Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing" [2:127]

End with reciting durood shareef again

May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to call unto Him, both in times of ease and difficulty.

Note: Although this writing used a variety of sources including books, lectures and websites, it is mainly comprised of Mufti Kamaluddin Ahmed's general lectures, which can be found at

Actions are Judged by Intentions |

Photo credit: Seher Haque

Original link: Actions are Judged by Intentions |

I love Fridays. So much so that on Mondays I’m already eagerly awaiting the arrival of Friday. Sure, Fridays signal the fun planned for the weekend. But for me it also holds another very important aspect. This is the day I get a chance to hear my husband’s khutbas, either at his campus or at a masjid. Before preparing for it, he sometimes asks me, “So, what do you think the topic should be today?” Without hesitation the same response comes to my mind almost every time, “Innamal a’maalu biniyyaat!” meaning “Verily, actions are judged by intentions”.

This one hadith has affected me to a great extent. It is a line, a philosophy, which one must always bear in mind – every passing second of their life. Other ahadith we learn are also extremely important, but they come into play based on the situation at hand. Keeping our intentions in check, however, should take place all the time. It’s an ongoing, lifelong process, one where we need to remember that even if others can’t read our thoughts, Allah (SWT) always can.

What this hadith demonstrates first and foremost is the mercy of Allah (SWT). The outcomes of many situations are often not in our hands. All we can do is make an intention and follow through with an effort, but we never know whether things will turn out as planned. However, this hadith proves that what matters to Allah (SWT) are our intentions. Because that is the only real thing we have control over.

Another blessing derived from this hadith is that we can make any mundane or worldly activity into an act of worship, just by thinking about doing it for the sake of Allah. We can even have multiple intentions for one thing, and insha’Allah obtain the reward for all of them! For example, we, as students of sacred knowledge, can make intention that we are studying for the sake of Allah (SWT), to please Him. An intention can also be to correct previous mistakes made out of ignorance, and to learn new material in class for the purpose of dawah. There can be an intention of teaching our children what we’ve learned, making the process into sadaqa-e-jaariya, which is rewarding even after death.

Also, we can make our entire dealings with others a form of gaining rewards if we are conscious of Allah. The way we behave with our parents, siblings, spouse, children, neighbors etc. can all become ajar if it’s for the sake of Allah, and if we follow the sunnah. We can change any activity which has little value into something which would be considered ibadah. When drinking water, if we sit down and drink in three intervals, it becomes a sunnah.

There are also duas for practically everything, which we should strive to learn. There are duas for sleeping, waking up, eating, performing ablution, wearing new clothes, traveling, entering or leaving the house and so many more! These everyday activities, ones we barely pay attention to, could instead increase abundantly in barakah and reward if we only learned to recite the supplications for everything. We can make small acts a form of worship. If we are taking a shower with the intention that “Purity is half of faith”, it becomes an ibadah. If we brush our teeth thinking “The tooth-stick purifies the mouth and pleases the Lord”, it’s a means of earning reward. When greeting someone and saying salam, if we think “The one who initiates salam is free of pride”, we acquire Allah’s pleasure, insha’Allah.

We need to however, be cautious and always remember who our actions are intended for, because this can work the other way as well. On one hand, if we make intention to please Allah, we are going to be rewarded based on that. On the other hand, if we do good deeds in order to show off to others around us, that deed becomes reduced to something worthless.

A person may be a scholar of the deen, or he may be a martyr, or he may be giving an abundant amount of wealth to charity. After making so many sacrifices, if his intentions are to show off, nothing will count. On the Day of Judgment, it will be said to them that it was primarily people they wanted to please in the worldly life, and so they received their reward in the world. What we need to realize is that people come and go, but Allah is Eternal. To Him is our return. Obviously, we are supposed to please people, but with the intention of pleasing Allah (SWT). We get what we ask for – if we seek fame and glory in this world, that is what we will get. But if we ask for Allah’s pleasure, which, in my opinion, automatically leads to more respect in this life as well by following the Quran and Sunnah completely, then insha’Allah that is what we will get. We need to ask for the best in both worlds, as mentioned in a dua in the Qur’an, “Our Lord! Grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter, and save us from the chastisement of the fire” [2:201]

This is why we need to apply another hadith in our lives, “To seek sacred knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim”. Only when a person learns about these details in Islam will he be able to get closer to Allah (SWT). “A single jurist is more severe on Satan than a hundred worshipers”. Why is this? Because the more knowledge we gain, the less likely we are of getting tricked by shaitan. Ilm is noor – it is spiritually enlightening, and illuminates our hearts. If we didn’t know that our actions are judged by intentions, it would be possible to spend our whole lives worshiping Allah with wrong intentions, and everything would have gone to waste.

Or another scenario could be that a person does something unlawful with a supposedly good intention, because he does not have the proper knowledge. He may steal to provide for his family, thinking it’s something good. Or he may park his car in such a way that it blocks other cars while he’s at the masjid, and he may think it’s rewarding. We need to remember that apart from huquq-Allah, we also need to take huquq-al-ibaad into consideration, which is the rights of other people. There needs to be a balance. It is proper knowledge that leads to an understanding of what proper intentions are.

Allah is Merciful, and He does not want hardship for us. However, we need to remember that His quality of being merciful does not give us that extra margin to knowingly commit sins while trying to rely on his mercy. This hadithdemonstrates that if our intentions are evaluated regularly, we can easily seek rewards, and attain closeness to our Creator, which is ultimately the biggest reward. Allah’s (SWT) compassion is further portrayed in anotherhadith about intentions, which shows His immense love and mercy for His creation.

Abdullah bin ‘Abaas (peace be upon him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said that Allah, the Glorious said,” Verily, Allah has ordered that the good and the bad deeds be written down. Then he explained it clearly how (to write): He who intends to do a good deed but he does not do it, then Allah records it for him as a full good deed, but if he carries out his intention, then Allah the Exalted, writes it down for him as from ten to seven hundred fold, and even more. But if he intends to do an evil act and has not done it, then Allah writes it down with him as a full good deed, but if he intends it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

May Allah (SWT) give us the tawfiq to remember that “Verily, actions are judged by intentions” prior to doing any act, big or small. So if you happen to go to a Friday khutba and the topic turns out to be “innamal a’maalu binniyaat“, make sure that every detail is absorbed, because this is one topic for which we are always in need of constant reminders!