Monday, January 18, 2010

Our Basic Nature

I remember years ago having an absurd 'argument' with a 6 year old who insisted his mother was older than I. She was actually several years younger, but the child was very stern and insistent that she was older. Suddenly I realized that to this child, older, bigger, and wiser were all rather the same. He meant she was better than me. Of course she was. She was HIS mother.

I've seen two girls playing house. They disagreed on some house ritual. Each preferred her mother's way and each thought the other girl was  completely wrong. Then there was the little boy who announced fiercely that his daddy was so strong he could beat up anybody. His small slender father who spoke softly and gently hardly seemed the man to live up to his son's expectations. But in his son's eyes, he was THE MAN!

No child is born except on the fitrah (of connectedness to Allah)
(Bukhari) Fitrah is generally explained as the 'basic nature' of something, how it was initially. The hadith is usually used to explain that children have a natural need to seek out their creator, Allah, and to know the truth of His message when they hear it. But Allah has given them parents. Science has recently demonstrated that there is a natural drive in both the child and mother to bond with each other. This is also from the child's fitrah, and it is perhaps why the rest of the hadith continues: ..."as the animal gives birth to a perfect offspring. Do you find it mutilated? Then his parents make him a Jew, Christian, or Magian." The child is born to accept Islam, and his parents are the ones he looks to, to lead him there.

When the child bonds to her parents, she looks to them as the center of her world. Everything they do is the standard against which everything else is judged. So hasn't Allah really made this thing easy for us, to raise our children to be good Muslims?

But things can go wrong with this normal bonding. A child may be orphaned, or separated from a parent by divorce or illness. Usually these children find other adults in their environment to attach themselves to. Adults step up either from their parents or communities to give them the care and love they need to grow. Unfortunately in recent years, psychologists have recorded tragic results from children placed for years in some Eastern European orphanages, warehoused without any adult to cling to, no love and affection from anyone. These children are severely disturbed and, in the worst cases, they die from lack of human attention.

Another threat to the normal parent child relationship can come as the child grows up and starts out into the world, via school, the neighborhood, and, today more and more, via the media in the form of TV and internet. This is a very important large topic that needs to be addressed by itself. I'd like to make each of my weekly topics short, so people can think about them and respond, either to me or to those around them. So let's look at what should normally happen. Hadith tells us to have the adhan and iqamah recited in the child's
ears shortly after birth. It is the first effort we make to start teaching the child our religion. Then what? Well, be a Muslim in front of the child, to be a good role model. And let the child join in wherever possible.

So many people think learning Islam is something to be done in school.  But that should be butter on the bread. The bread is the manners, moral concerns, and actions of us, parents, in our everyday lives. On the one hand, this is an enormous responsibility for us. But Allah never gives us something harder than we can bear. (2:286) So if we work moderately, regularly, and with determination to raise our children, praying regularly for help and guidance, we should be able to do all right.

So if you read this piece, please leave in the comments one thing you do that shows your child how to be a Muslim. How are you being a good role model? How are you arranging the house or your family life to
show your child what being a Muslim is? Be specific, like you always remove your shoes at the door and have your children do so also so your house stays cleaner for prayer. Or you use routine car trips to the store or school to talk to your children about any topic they bring up, helping them to see the better, more Islamic manner of handling the disputes they get into with others.

1 comment:

  1. As many people already know, my family is a foster family. My family has been blessed to take in over 5 infants over the past 6 years. Most of the children we have taken in have been drug addicted, neglected infants. Each baby we have had, my husband recited the iqamah in their ears the day they were placed with us. We make du'a as a family that each child will stay safe and they will find their way back to Islam once reunited with their families. This has really taught my son very valuable lessons. To be thankful to Allah (swt) for our basic necessities. To thank Allah (swt) for his parents who are not drug addicted. To thank Allah (swt) that he has a roof over his head. To thank Allah (swt) that he has food in the refrigerator. To thank Allah (swt) for a safe environment and not one where he is in fear of abuse from adults. We as a family have drawn on our faith from Allah (swt) and have put full belief in Him when our little ones are reunited with their families. Allah (swt) knows best. This is one of many ways we have tried to teach our son generosity, tolerance, patience, and belief.