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Family Life

Islamic Training Emphasized

The women expressed their concern about child-rearing in several areas. They especially want to pass on to their children the values of the Islamic community and religion. Living in a non-Muslim country makes it a little more difficult, and they feel they must train their children carefully. *Since I have become Muslim, I am more concerned about what my child sees and hears, and how that affects her. I want to raise her to choose Islam for herself, not force it on her. Of course, while I am raising her, I am making decisions I feel are right. I am teaching her values that are rarely taught to the children today in this country. I think it is my obligation as a mother to raise the next generation of Muslims to be good Muslims, good daughters and sons, good sisters and brothers, good husbands and wives, and good mothers and fathers.

My husband is the male role model for my daughter. He is not her natural father, but she loves him almost as if he were, and he loves her almost as if she were his own. I feel that he wants to impart good values to her, and on the children we will have, insha' Allah. But I will be with them the majority of the time, so what they learn will come mostly from me. I do want him to be active in raising our children because I think they need active Muslim male role models. We need to give them love and kindness, and try to shape them gently so they will grow up knowing they are part of a loving Muslim family.

+As Muslims we must raise and teach our children to the best of our knowledge and more. In Islam we are encouraged to seek knowledge. Everything that I do as a mom has something Islamic involved: teaching love, Qur'an, prayers, manners, cleanliness, etc. It really comes easy when you have Islam in your heart! There is more to child-rearing than I said, but all of my techniques come from Islam. My husband plays a big role in childrearing-more than is to be expected from a dad working eight to five. I must be more than an example and do my very, very best to give the best care.

+My husband and I try our best to raise our children by the tenets of Islam. It is very difficult, however, once the children reach school age. They are exposed to so much that we would rather them not know about at a young age. Alhamdulillah, however, we have two hijab-wearing daughters, so I don't feel we're doing so badly. I hope my children will always feel free to come to me for support with any Islamic question. In turn, I expect them to listen to any guidance I may offer. Many of the women expressed that their parenting wasn't so much different than how they were reared except they are emphasizing the Islamic principles and training. They are very aware of and attentive to the influences in their children's lives and try to keep them from harmful influences even as they are guiding them toward an Islamic path.

+My children are being raised very much as I was except I hope to home school them. As a child I was raised in a very tight family, restricted TV, lots of books, lots of camping, restricted friends and associations. Sunday was family only. My husband works 5 or 6 days a week, 12-14 hours a day. When he has time off, he plays with the children and often takes the three-year-old out for awhile to give me a break. I'm with them 24 hours so most of the education and discipline falls on me. We must raise our children to have a strong sense of self and self confidence. They must know Islam as based on principles, values, and logic not just halal, haram, and wajeb. We must help them find their best life's work and set them on the road to achieve it.

+Though some of my child-rearing practices are family traditions from my childhood, even these are influenced by Islam. There is no way to separate one from the other. We must raise our children Islamically if we are to fulfill part of our obligations as Muslims such as teaching them how to pray and fast. My husband is very helpful but most of the time he is away from home. Therefore, much of the responsibility for teaching the children is on me. I expect my children to respect me as it says in the Qur'an and to obey me. +Islam has been my guide in raising my boys. They were born Muslim. They know, respect, and practice Islam. They pray five times a day just as I do. They study Islam with me on a weekly basis. Islam is our lifestyle. My husband is an equal partner. He wants to be an important part of their life and is. They have a great relationship. We have a strong family. There is no danger of problems of straying. Our boys are well-grounded in a time when gang violence and other peer pressures abound.

The parents tend to express a "tough love" policy by expecting the children to respect them and to respond. Discipline is extended but usually in a loving and guiding manner. Severe and harsh punishment is not reflected in the statements of these women, nor do they perceive harshness and abuse in discipline as Islamically acceptable. The following response gives an overview of the theory and practice of discipline as interpreted by one woman. +Parents must be loving and kind to their children. In Islam, the slapping, hitting, spanking, or shaking of children is prohibited. These are forms of abuse that Muslim parents must not use. We have numerous traditions against abuse from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his holy family (pbut). Because of this, I have tried to verbally explain to our children if they misbehave and demonstrate to them the correct behavior. Children so young cannot be expected to do what is correct and cannot benefit from a spanking because they do not understand it-they only know that they are being hurt. If the child runs into the street, hold the child by the hand or pick them up and hold them in your arms. Take the child to a safer place and watch them so they do not do it again. Spanking will not deter the child. It will just make him or her angry and then they will become sneaky, trying to do things when the parents are not watching.

My husband discusses the events that sometimes occur and the actions of our children. He points out their mistakes in judgment because he loves them and wants them to learn how to do what is right whenever they are presented with a similar situation in the future. He wants them to learn that they are responsible not only for their actions but also for the consequences of actions. I also discuss problems with our children; however, the two of us never reprimand our child at the same time. If one of us is discussing, the other one will stay silent because we do not want to gang up on him. Then we hug him and comfort him, reminding him that criticism of his action was done in love and we want only the best for him; that he should learn from his mistake and must not repeat the behavior. Of course, we forgive our children's mistakes and we do not keep talking about it over and over again. Parents should not constantly pick on their children. Children need to feel safe in their homes and not be nervous about everything they do. Some children may be more sensitive. than others and cannot accept criticism very well. They may need extra praise for their achievements to assure them that their parents love them. Praise can boost their self-esteem and then they may become more confident about themselves and their abilities.

As parents, we only ask that our children have respect for us, other people, and themselves. If a child is disrespectful of another person, it can become a habit that is hard to break. Our children are young and cannot make adult decisions. My husband and I make decisions for them. For example, we decided that when our children are promoted to junior high school, we would teach our children at home and they do not have any choice about this. As their parents, we feel we know what is best for them. The public school system constantly exposes our children to talk of (or activity in) alcohol, drugs, sex, and violence. After three months of home school, our middle child told me that he was glad that he was in home school because he had remembered the bullying he endured on a daily basis by a classmate the year before.

We also encourage their physical well-being by scheduling thirty minutes of exercise every morning. They have thirty minutes of free time after lunch to play basketball, work on the computer, or read. After school they may play soccer in the backyard or ride their bicycles on our street. They choose what kind of snack to prepare and then they must clean up the kitchen before leaving. With each responsibility that they take on, our children make us glad that they are learning and growing to be independent. Education for the children is a top priority, but it has to be in the right setting. Some have chosen to home school their children, others have the availability of an Islamic school, and some feel the public school setting is acceptable with the backup in values they give at home. The Islamic guidelines for education for children allows them to not start being "book" educated until after age six. But other training and education for life should be going on during the early formative years.

+My child-rearing techniques are to instill family values and Islamic values into my children and if that means living in a closed situation (no public school, neighborhood friends) then so be it. Muslim children do not require formal education until age six or seven where they are required to sit and learn. I will not put them into a school of this type until then. I am not against exploring Western child psychology methods for behavior and learning, but they should correspond with Islamic ideas.

My husband helps with the children and stays with them when I am working or in class. He is interested in the children's upbringing, is very loving and kind. He is also somewhat strict, too, and that is good. Islamic schools are private schools and tuition is charged to help meet costs. In addition to tuition, transportation to and from school becomes a concern to parents and involves many miles of travel. Those who are able to arrange for Islamic schools for their children seemed very satisfied and very supported. Arabic, which is the religious language of Muslims, is taught as well as good discipline with kindness, the Qur'an, how to wear hijab, and the practices and obligations of Islam. Children in Islamic schools also build friendships with other Muslims their age and learn a peer standard that is different from that in the public schools.

+Of course being Muslim has influenced the way we raise our children. My kids go to Islamic school even though I have to drive 15 miles to get them there. My husband is at home so he is very involved. My kids know that they owe me great respect and that paradise is under the feet of the mother. My obligation is to care for them and to raise them to be the best Muslims. +We follow Islamic principles so our child-rearing techniques are completely influenced by Islam. Again, we have the Islamic school to thank because we have support from them. My husband is very involved in child care. He likes spending time with the kids and that gives me a break. Also he likes spending time with me, so sometimes the kids go to a babysitter (a Muslim friend).

An alternative to attending an Islamic school is home schooling. This is working very well in some families where the mother is home and has the expertise and patience to do so. Sometimes the mothers share in the responsibility of teaching each other's children. A support group of and for parents of full-time and part-time home-educated Muslim children, The Islamic Home School Association of North America (LHSANA), assists by producing a newsletter. +In Islam, the raising of children is one of the most important things. Rearing one's children is the best possible way to bring a person closer to God. The first thing is to respect your child and his/her opinions even though it may be difficult. Because we want our children to grow up being good Muslims, we keep them away from negative influences as much as possible. In our case we decided public schools with the peer pressure and other negative teachings was not an option for us. Instead we home school. I do want them to have the freedom of friends so I let them meet American children (non-Muslim) but if I see anything negative, I pull them back and involve them in other activities.

The father of the children takes an active part in child rearing. He is involved in education with them-Islamic teachings, Qur'an, prayer, Islamic stories. He spends much of his free time with them. Raising children in any society takes a commitment from both mother and father. +Because of "negative" influence from the outside world, my husband didn't want the children to go to public school. This forced me to find an alternative, which existed in home schooling. Most of the child-rearing is my responsibility. He helps when he is asked, but not on a self-initiated "wanting to spend time with them" level.

My obligation is to discipline them toward one model, the Prophet Muhammad, and my right is to expect their submission and cooperation in this. Their rights are to expect shelter, food, clothing, and education; their obligation is to make this chore enjoyable to give, for them to be thankful for what they receive. +How I raise my child is very much influenced by being Muslim. I'm more cognizant of the satanic influences that come from all sides and, therefore, as of six months ago, we have no television. I've taught him in home school since he was in second grade and plan to continue. My husband is as involved as he can be. He helps when he's not working. Having a big extended family around (seven adults) also helps. My child is to obey me and remember God. He has chores and duties around the home. I am to provide love, food, clothing, teaching, and a balance of play to his life to give him as much God-conscience and Islam as I can.

Only one of the women commented about the experience of having a child in public school even though the objective part of the questionnaire indicated that 47 percent of the families had children in public school. Sometimes only one of the children in the family attended public school, and it varied as to whether the students attended public school in high school or elementary. There were also those who sent their children to private schools that were not Islamic. +Both my husband and I are trying to raise our children to be good followers of Islam. We take our girls to tafseer classes and do a lot of things with our Muslim friends. We try to provide good role models for the children, believing it is important to keep them close to us and thus close to the faith. We also encourage outside activities like preschool and gymnastics so they will not feel isolated. We will provide alternative activities throughout their "growing-up" years so they will not feel alienated when not allowed to participate in activities at school which we feel are inappropriate for Muslims (eg. Christmas concerts, dances, mixed slumber parties, etc.). We believe it is possible to raise faithful followers of Islam in public schools for we have seen success stories firsthand, but we will seek alternative education routes if severe problems arise.

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