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Child Rearing

My child-rearing techniques are directly influenced by being a Muslim. Islam touches all parts of my life and as such I try to raise my children in the most Islamic way possible. My children came into this world as Muslims, innocent and submissive to the will of Allah. It is our great responsibility, indeed both a trust and a test from Allah, that my husband and I raise them to remain Muslim. The most easily observable Islamic influences on our child-rearing techniques include encouraging the children to follow us in prayer, teaching them Qur'anic verses, using traditional Muslim greetings and everyday phrases, encouraging them to dress modestly and behave with compassion and kindness. We use a lot of modeling and verbal encouragement and reminding, but the children are never forced to join us in any given activity as Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion. We do, if necessary, insist that the children remain near our activity (while quietly occupying themselves) so that at least they have exposure to the activity and understand that there are some minimal family standards that they must adhere to. We try to be tactful and discreet when enforcing these standards to avoid provoking outright rebellion.

The major way in which Islam influences my child-rearing techniques is that I try to remember that I am always within Allah's sight. Allah has set high standards of personal behavior for humans, not because He is vengeful, but because He knows that we are capable of rising to meet those standards. I am also always aware that my two recording angels are ever watchful! I try to be patient (this one can be quite difficult!), polite, and respectful; and to act with compassion, sincerity, and understanding towards them [the children]. I encourage them to value education and view learning as a life-long endeavor that is not limited to school hours or "school topics." We put great emphasis on doing their personal best at school and elsewhere; to be helpful and kind; not to lie or cheat; to value Allah (and therefore Islam), their family, and their fellow human beings; to stand up for what they believe in, to combine personal piety with outward action; to be sincere and straightforward; and to be generous in thought as well as in action. We also try to view each child as an individual, to view them outside of the influence of birth order, to try not to compare them to their siblings or to ourselves, to try to accept and value those personality traits that are irritating to us but part and parcel of who they are.

Insha' Allah, our children will grow to be compassionate, productive Muslims. To that end we are always re-evaluating our progress and our child-rearing techniques. We always try to follow the specific Islamic injunctions, but also attempt to follow the "spirit of the law." My husband is very involved with the care of the children. I work part-time, and while I am at work he is their sole caretaker. He also is with the children when I go to meetings or study groups. He takes the kids to the doctors, takes them out on excursions, takes them on errands, goes to the swimming pool with them, and any number of other activities.

My rights and obligations with my children? When people mention Islam/mothers/mother's rights, they are usually referring to child custody in the event of a divorce. Both my husband and I are of the opinion that the children should go with whichever parent is better able to care for them. Of course, in Islam, divorce is allowed, but exhaustive efforts to keep the family unit intact should be made first. In most cases, it is the mother who is better emotionally equipped to raise the children. Unless circumstances warrant differently, the non-custodial parent has the right to frequent visitation. The custodial parent should be helped financially to raise the children, if it is necessary. All divorces should take place in an Islamic family court with a qualified jurist making the decision.

My obligation to my children is to love them, respect them, and help them grow to be Muslim adults. This is as much an obligation to my children as it is to Allah, who placed these children in my care as a trust from Him. I am obliged to remember that my children belong to Allah, not to me-and I must treat them accordingly.

As specified in the Qur'an, my children's obligations to me are that they should respect me (but I must be worthy of that respect), obey me (as long as I am within the bounds of Islam in my request), and care for me if I attain old age. They have the right to expect love, good physical care, and guidance from me. They have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, as I do. What I Would Like to Express to Others I would like the American public to know that I am a Muslim by personal choice. I am a fully mature, intelligent human being, capable of making rational decisions. My decision to embrace Islam is not an effort to fit into my husband's culture or family; it is not the result of too little self-esteem; it is not the result of pressure from my husband. I would also like people to understand that Islam is not repressive of women, it does not condone terrorism, and that it is squarely within the Judeo- Christian tradition. I would like people to realize that Islam stands for moderation and modesty and that there are often great discrepancies between the practices of "cultural Islam" and the directives of Islam.

Adapted from: "Daughters Of Another Path (Experience of American Women Choosing Islam)" by: "Carol L. Anway"

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