Muslim Children in American Society
- :Carol L. Anway
We had taken our children with us to the church campgrounds for annual family church camps during the years our children were growing up. Jodi also went to these campgrounds for youth camps. These were the grounds where many good growing experiences in her spiritual life had occurred during childhood and youth. At the campfires, at the prayer services, in the classes, in the study of the scriptures, and in the good fellowship of other Christian friends her life had been impressed by challenges to worship and to follow God. It was when she was fifteen and attending a youth camp that she wrote a poem that she felt came to her as inspiration. This poem speaks to her life in a very special way.
Wherever I'm at, it is my home;
The people I'm with, my family.
There'll be different things
Wherever I roam,
Wherever I go, I'll go happily.
Don't worry about me-I don't walk alone For God is walking beside me,
And as we walk along
We speak in soft tones; Together we keep each other company.
I'll go where he wants, wherever I'm led- Though the roads may be long and dreary. I'll not remember the harsh words that are said, But the people I've sought to help Who are weary.
The times I'll remember will be happy ones, No matter what others will say. The bad that there is Will not overcome For God's with me all the way.
Jodi C. Anway June, 1978 We were going to the same campgrounds again for the weekend, but it was different this time-a different group of people. Jodi and Reza had scheduled the campgrounds for their Islamic group. We were invited to go, and it would be fun to help with some of the cooking, visit with the people, and be there to help out with our grandchild. We were the only non-Muslims present and no one seemed to care that I wasn't wearing a scarf to cover my hair.
The weekend with the Muslim people was very comfortable. These were mostly young adults with their children. The women all covered their heads with the hijab, the men were modestly dressed, and the children loved being in the out-of-doors. The swimming pool was a great attraction, but the rules were special this weekend. Blankets were hung on the fence to give privacy as the women went swimming together with the younger children. The men and older boys went in at a different time.
At meal times we all ate together in the mess hall enjoying the interaction of visiting and sharing. There was an air of friendliness and cooperation as both men and women worked in the kitchen, took care of children, fished in the lake, took walks, and generally enjoyed each other. Both men and women showed care and respect in their relationships toward each other as they observed the Muslim code of conduct. I really wasn't even aware of how that was carried out except that the men seemed to congregate together as did the women.
I saw them at prayer in the dining hall several times as they lined up, men grouped together with the older boys, the women together, and the young children merrily going their way among the people but disturbing no one in their prayers. This was the same dining hall where I had come to women's retreats and studied and prayed and had fellowship. I felt a kinship with these people. They were people of God who had come to these grounds that were sacred to me, and they too were offering up their prayers, their commitment, their desire to live a good life, just as I had done so many times in the years past.
It pleased me to know that our grandchildren were being raised in a family with that kind of commitment to God and to family. One day at my daughter's, I was sitting on the bed by grandbaby Fatemeh. Jodi was in the same room doing her noon-day prayers recited in the Arabic language. She had her prayer garments on and was performing her prayers on the special prayer rug. My grandson, Emaun, almost four years old at the time, crawled up by me. He had listened to Baba (what he calls his father) and Mama recite the prayers to God in Arabic several times a day in his few years of life. Emaun said to me, "Grandma, do you do namaz?" "Are those the prayers, Emaun?"
"Yes," he answered. "Well, I pray to God, but I do it in a different way." "What do you say, Grandma?"
I answered that I make up my own prayers to God. Now Emaun knew that I only speak English and not the language of his Baba, which is Farsi, or the language of their prayers, Arabic. So to my reply that I made up my prayers to God, Emaun said, "But Grandma, God doesn't know English." Later Jodi talked with him to help him understand that God knows all languages.
Islam is introduced to the newborn in the earliest moments of the child's life as the father or other able adult whispers into the child's ears "God is the Most Great. . . . I witness there is no God but Allah. . . . and Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah. . . . Hasten to prayer. . . . Hasten to success. . . . God is the Most Great." A sheep is often sacrificed during the early days or months after a child's birth, and the meat is distributed to the needy. The choice of a good name is important so that it might influence the child in a positive way. It is recommended that boys be circumcised. The parents are responsible for teaching their children to pray and to preform the proper ablutions by age nine. It is a Muslim belief that the parents will be rewarded by God with many blessings and forgiveness of sins if good effort is made in child-rearing.
The responses of the women who have children indicate that one of their most important roles and obligations is to be a responsible parent. From modeling behaviors to their commitment and daily training, they want to raise their children to continue the tradition of being Muslim and to practice those beliefs in a committed way. I see that daily training and modeling evident with our grandson.
The women indicated that the responsibility they have in their roles as wife and mother is to provide a peaceful, comfortable home environment in which to nurture the husband and the children. If she works outside the home, it should not interfere with her responsibilities as wife and mother. Her right to maintenance (that it is the husband's responsibility to provide for all financial support for the family) is mainly to free her in her roles of giving birth, of breastfeeding, and of rearing the children.
+As for raising children, I am the primary caretaker being with them twenty-four hours a day. I'm mostly in charge of education and discipline though the father does play a very active role in the children's care and education, etc. +The Qur'an teaches the child that he (or she) must honor and obey their parents unless they are told to do something that goes against Qur'anic teaching. They are taught in Islamic school to be obedient and to respect their mother. There will be a time when I am old when it will be their turn to take care of me. They are also told to kiss the hand of their mother, as I am the one who will ensure their entrance into paradise.
Adapted from: "Daughters Of Another Path (Experience of American Women Choosing Islam)" by: "Carol L. Anway"
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