Essential Tips for Raising Muslim Children of Converts, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

There is no perfect way to raise Muslim children in America, or in anywhere else, and in a complex society such as the United States, there are a lot of different elements which factor into the overall process of healthy child-rearing for Muslim American children; neighborhoods, education, background, family support, community participation, parental involvement, income, experience or lack of, knowledge of the deen, common sense, the role of father, as well as other factors.  Some of these things we have control over and others, we have no control over. However, there are principle elements of child-rearing that are based upon the Quran and the Sunna, and that have proven effective for children of American Muslim converts to Islam. Similarly, there many things that have proven not to work and that have shown to be destructive to their religion.

Imam al-Qurtubi says; “knowledge is acquired through two means; nusoos (textual evidence) and tajriba (trial and error)”. Something very disturbing is happening in Muslim America amongst children of converts; many of them are either leaving Islam altogether, or at least abandoning the meaningful practice of Islam.  Some of them are speaking out about how growing up in dysfunctional Muslim homes where there was extremism, abuse, conflicting religious messages, moving from sect to sect, or living under ridiculous, imported fatwas and rulings made their lives difficult. Some are even converting to Christianity and heading for the churches, and others grow up confused about their identity which is something that should never befall a Muslim child. This generational backlash is widespread, and warrants that we need to take a look at what has and hasn’t worked as far as raising Muslim children in America because judging by the lack of the generational continuity of Islam in many new Muslim American families, we indeed have a problem.

Islam has been in the United States for a long time now, and people have been converting to Islam in high numbers for the last fifty years or so. Since that time, what we have seen is that a high percentage of the people who converted to Islam, failed to pass it down to their children in a healthy, seamless way that their children continued to practice the faith into the next generation and the generation after that. There is a great disconnect between those who convert to Islam and the ability to pass it on to the next generation. At this point in our juncture it is only prudent that we take a good look at what we are doing and how we are going about raising our children and what are we raising them upon.

From what I have seen over the last thirty years, parents who have had the most success in maintaining Islam within their children have been the ones who kept their Islam simple and emphasized following the Quran and the Sunna, without any additions. The parents who complicated their Islam with too many foreign elements, or who neglected their Islam, and replaced it with secular teaching and ideas, or who mixed their Islam with Christianity, tend to raise children who are very confused about their Islamic identity (if they still have one), and who opt not to practice their religion. By simple Islam, I mean the emphasis upon what was contained in the hadith of Jibril (AS) regarding the five pillars, and basic beliefs; (Allah, the Prophets, the angels, the Day of Judgment, and the Books). When the importance of the primary foundations of Islamic belief and behavior such as prayer, fasting, family bonds, goodness to neighbors, charity, honesty, loyalty, taqwa, kindness, family, the Masjid, and brotherhood, were stressed, children seemed to have an easier time coping in the long term, and maintaining a healthy and active Islamic identity. I’m not talking about a perfect Islam or perfect child because there is none, but there is such a thing as an active and healthy Muslim identity.

It is important for Muslim parents to keep in mind that it is absolutely vital that you make sure that your children have a secure foundation in their deen. Giving children a foundation in their religion usually takes the entirety of their growing up under you. It is not something achieved in one sitting, one experience, in one month, one summer, or one year, and it’s not something that you can buy, or contract someone to do for you. You as a parent must do it yourself, starting at home. Children are born in a state of fitra, and by their very nature they are predisposed to take the path that their parents put them on. When they are exposed by the parents to too many different truths, or too many different religious sub-ideologies, they will tend not be secure in their faith. Faith insecurity is something that you do not want to happen with your children under any circumstances because once they become insecure in their faith, they are likely to fall for anything.

The Prophet (SAWS) wasn’t a complicated person. He didn’t preach or teach in a complicated style, and he didn’t like excessive questioning about matters which is why he said; “It was only their excessive questioning and their disagreeing with their Prophets which destroyed those who came before you[1]  He (SAWS) never liked when the deen was made burdensome, and he said; “The practice of religion is easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will be overpowered by it. Therefore, be moderate, try to be near perfection but within your capacity and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” [2] Instead, our beloved Prophet (SAWS) preferred simple messages of guidance that were simple to grasp and easy to implement, as long as you didn’t complicate it. For example when asked what the best type of Islam was, he replied: “Feeding food, and spreading salaams[3], when asked for advice he simply replied in one tradition: “don’t get angry”.

When children are put upon simple, firm and true deen from the very beginning, it is likely that they will not be swayed or moved by anything different; whether it is a different madhaahib, deviant ideologies, or faddish Islamic sects. You don’t want your children to end up being like the people who spend more time researching and arguing about the deen, than they spend practicing it. This is why the Prophet (SAWS) said: “I’m leaving you with two things that if you hold fast to them you will never go astray after me; the Book of Allah and my Sunna”. [Bukhaari] Holding fast to anything else after that is just a gamble, and gambling is haram in Islam. Keep in mind is that the true religion of Allah will always be Islam and the only one of our ummah who is ma’soom (free of error) is Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, the Last Prophet (SAWS). So teach your children to live according to the Quran and the Sunna beloveds, anything else is just someone else’s experiment, for which Allah has revealed no authority. Let your children identify themselves as Muslims. It is the Sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) to call yourself a Muslim, and that is the best possible identity for them.

وَجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ هُوَ اجْتَبَاكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ هُوَ سَمَّاكُمُ الْمُسْلِمينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِي هَذَا لِيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِاللَّهِ هُوَ مَوْلَاكُمْ فَنِعْمَ الْمَوْلَى وَنِعْمَ النَّصِيرُ

[“And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the cult of your father Abraham. It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witnesses for mankind! So establish regular Prayer, give regular Charity, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protector – the Best to protect and the Best to help![4] ]

Indigenous American muslim converts, mostly whom are African American, have a unique and distinct history in that we are the descendants of slaves and are historically and fundamentally cut off from the rest of the Muslim world to a very significant degree, and we need to recognize that and stop trying to fit into everyone else’s reality. Indigenous American Muslims ascribe to groups and ideologies in different ways that people generally do from the Muslim world, which is a subject by itself that I won’t address here, and I’m not saying this in a good or bad way except to say that the American Muslim convert community has a uniqueness that warrants we keep our assimilation of Islam, very independent and progressively simple. Principally because since many of us are converts, and second generation, we should assimilate into Islam in the same simplistic incremental way the first converts of our Umma i.e. the companions of the Prophet (SAWS) did.  This was to keep their Islamic identity, simple enough to minimize complication and flexible enough using principles from the Quran and the Sunna, that it was inclusive of everyone who came to believe laa ilaaha illa Allah and accepted the basic principles of Islam.

Therefore, do not teach your children that they are, Shaafi’ee, Qaadiri, Tijaani, Tablighi, Salafi, Hanbali, Maaliki, or any other designation. Teach them that they are Muslim. Even if you happen to follow a particular school of thought or a tariqa be it Shaafi’ee, or Maaliki, or Shaadhili, or if you ascribe to a group such as Salafi, or a Tablighi, or anything else, don’t let these designations become your children’s principl identity. Do not, and I repeat, do not teach your children that anything represents the totality of Islam, other than Islam.  If you teach them that your group are the only true Muslims, or that if they follow this or that tariqa or madhhab, there Islam will be better than everyone else’s, then you will only confuse and mislead them; as many people are already doing.

Islam, as an identity, has more depth, more security, more longevity, and more spiritual potency than any of the other sectarian additions to it. This is because Islam, in its pure form is sanctioned from above seven heavens and is supported by the authority of wahy (divine revelation). The Prophet (SAWS) was sent to all of mankind by agreement of the scholars. قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعً” [Say: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah,][5] However, this or that sheikh, or that companion, or that taabi’ee, were not dispatched to all people as a mercy to mankind. In reality; people are only commanded to worship Allah Alone, and to make the religion for His sake only, and that is the most important message that we must pass on to our children.

The point is, that if you teach your children the truth, (the Quran and the sunna), you don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching them about all the falsehood that they may or may not encounter during their lifetime, or teaching them about all the different sects and ways that people do this or that. Truth is stronger than falsehood, and there is no end to the amount of falsehood, differences of thought, deviant and orthodox ideology, and opinions in circulation amongst the Muslims. It takes years for most people to sift througfh all that. Their time on earth is limited just like ours, and the more truth they know (from the Kitaab and the Sunna) and the more they are aware of what is important, then the more time and energy they can devote to practicing it and preparing for their hereafter.

There are so many sunnan and vital aspects of deen that Muslim children grow up knowing nothing about.  Whether it is family issues, moral value issues, character issues, adaab issues, belief issues, fiqh issues, social issues, or simple lifestyle issues upon which Allah and His Messenger have rendered guidance. The idea is to pass the deen down to your children in a way that they will remain firm in their faith, and in their practice of Islam, and not find themselves running from one thing to another thing to another thing. Or constantly questioning this and then questioning that, and questioning what they believe, every time something new comes on the scene, like many Muslims are doing today. It’s really a sad situation. However, it can get better in sha Allah but we have to go back to the basics.

You don’t need advanced and complicated aqeeda books to teach children their belief. People have been doing it for years, with simple, basic instruction and by word of mouth from parent to child. If a parent really wants their child to learn aqeeda, then read the Quran to them. Everything they need to know about Allah is contained in His Book, and whatever essentials that are left undisclosed in the Book, the Prophet (SAWS) has covered it abundantly. When they grow up and want to get deep down in theology, or if they want to become polemicists when they get older, and debate back and forth about aqeeda on the internet, then let them do that on their own, but let not you as the parent, be the one to start them off on this path. For most parents, you will find that the Quran and the Sunna is more than enough for your children. When it comes to religion; teach them exactly what the Prophet (SAWS) taught us.

Simplicity and the fundamentals are the first step in restoring order amongst indigenous American Muslims, and most vital in that is in establishing the prayer with your family, your wife and the children of your household. Your children must see that you bow your head down to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. That way, they will know that you are accountable to Him.  If they see that you are accountable to Allah, they will find it easier and more palatable to be accountable to you as a parent. If there is no prayer in your home, then it is almost assured that Shaitaan will soon become the imam of your household.

Imam Luqman Ahmad

imamabulaith@yahoo.com


[1] Collected by Bukhaari.

[2] Collected by Bukhaari.

[3] Collected by Muslim

[4] Quran, 22:78.

[5] Quran, 7:158

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The Islamic Ruling Regarding Muslim Women Following Funeral Processions, by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Al-humdu lillahi Rabbil aalameen, wa salaatu wa salaam alaa Rasoolilllah, wa alaa aalihi wa sah’bihi wa sallam

A short time ago there was a death in our area and after the janaazah prayer, the women were told to stay away from following the funeral procession to the burial site. Among those present were the wife and female children of the deceased. The announcement was disheartening to them, and to others who then asked me what my opinion on the matter was. Al-humdu lillah we were able to redress the issue and allowed them to accompany us to the grave yard to offer their du’aa and to pay their last respects to their husband and father, and they did so without any wailing, any misconduct and without losing control of themselves in any way. However, I became aware that this is a prevalent understanding of many Muslims in the United States that women are not allowed to accompany the funeral procession to the grave site under any circumstances. Thus, we release the following statement in order to clarify the question. Wal Allahul Musta’aan wa bihi tawfiq.

Women following the funeral procession and going to the grave site

This issue is both a matter of urf (local custom) and fiqh (Islamic law). The part of it that deals with urf , is; what is the local custom amongst Muslims in America is with regard to women’s role and behavior at funerals, and whether or not that behavior is permissible based upon the Quran, the sunna and the analysis of our scholars.  The other part of the matter is the definitive understanding of this issue by our Prophet (SAWS), his companions, the Salaf of our ummah and the people of knowledge. Wa Allahul Musta’aan, wa bihi tawfiq.

The objective of understanding the religion and the proper practice thereof is not served when we apply a ruling to a condition that does not exist. When people say: women following the funeral procession, and going to the grave site, what is meant here in the United States and elsewhere is when after the janaazah prayer is over, they follow the burial procession to the grave site, and stand and be witnesses to the body of the deceased being lowered into the ground and put to rest while they make du’aa, and stand quietly, and allow the men to do the actual lowering and speaking if any. This is the practice as it occurs here in the United States and therefore this is what the ruling needs to apply to.

The reason women were prohibited from the graves

The prohibition and disliked nature of women attending the gravesites is not simply a matter of a female presence at the grave; it is a matter of unlawful and unislamic behavior, some of which would harm the deceased and add to their punishment, as mentioned in the hadith; “Indeed the deceased will be tortured for those who wail over him.”[1] This understanding is also taken from the hadith; “There are four things from the affair of the days of ignorance that my nation will not abandon; boasting about one’s status, criticizing people’s lineage, seeking rain from the stars, and wailing over the dead. And if the wailing woman does not repent before she dies, she will be made to stand on the Day of Judgment wearing a garment of tar and a mangy coat of armor.”[2]  In the days of jaahiliyyah (ignorance), before the guidance of Islam, the women during that time used to tear their clothes and beat their cheeks and make unlawful utterances upon the death of someone, and the Prophet (SAWS) used to disavow such behavior; “They are not from us; those who beat their cheeks, tear open their garments, and call out with cries from the days of ignorance.”,[3]

Understanding of the scholars regarding this prohibition

The textual prohibition of women going to the graves is found in the hadith of Umm Atiyyah; :”We have been forbidden to accompany funeral processions but it wasn’t strict upon us[4] In explaining this hadith, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani says: “The phrase ‘but it wasn’t strict upon us’ [wa lam yu’zam alainaa] means; he didn’t make it a firm prevention for us like he made other things that were prohibited. So it’s as if she [Umm Atiyyah] said; he disliked for us to follow the funeral procession without making it prohibited”.[5] In this respect, Imam al-Qurtubi said: “the apparent wording of Umm Atiyyah indicates that the nahiy [prohibition] here is nahiy tanzeeh[6][prohibitively disliked]. The hadith is also a daleel (proof) that there are degrees in prohibition and that not all statements of prohibition from the Prophet (SAWS) have the same meaning. Imam al-Qurtubi goes on to state: This is the position of the majority of people of knowledge, and Imam Malik leans towards it being permissible outright, which was the position of the people of Medina.

The permissibility of women attending the gravesite is further supported by what was related by Ibn Abi Shayba in the hadith of Abu Hurraira that the Messenger of Allah was at a funeral and Umar saw a woman (following the funeral procession). He yelled at her, but the Prophet (SAWS) said to him: “Leave her alone, `Umar! Verily her eyes shed tears, the soul feels the pangs, and the promised hour is near.”[7] According to Abu Hasan ad-Dawudi[8] the meaning of the Prophet’s statement “and it wasn’t strict upon us” is so that we do not go to the family of the dead, console them, and invoke blessing upon their deceased and then not follow the funeral procession. The majority if not all of the hadith regarding the prohibition of women attending funeral processions, except for the hadith I mentioned from Sahih al-Bukhaari, are weak. However what it prohibited, is unlawful behavior such as wailing, tearing the clothing, jumping into caskets, cursing Allah’s decree, beating one’s self, and like behavior.

The Islamic ruling regarding women attending the funeral procession and visiting the graves

Following the body of the deceased to the grave yard is a right of the dead upon the living according to the hadith: “the right of a Muslim over a Muslim are six” and at the end of the hadith is the phrase; “and when he dies, follow him”. This is the agreed upon position of Ahlus sunna past and present. The ruling of whether or not women should be allowed to accompany the funeral procession to the gravesite is predicated upon whether or not unislamic behavior will occur as a result of their grieving. What constitutes normal behavior occurring during funerals varies from country to country and sometimes even from region to region. Because of the tumultuous conditions in many parts of the Muslim world, many deaths of Muslims are a result of bombings, terror, war, retaliation and factionalism. These are all circumstances where emotions may run high and wailing is more likely to occur. Additionally, many funerals accompany protest which is another reason for high emotions.

In the United States, at this juncture in our history, most deaths of Muslims are due to illness, old age, accidents, and natural causes. In cases where death is from homicide, it is usually one or two persons. Amongst American Muslims, there has never been an accepted tradition of wailing over the dead, tearing clothing, jumping into the casket, cursing Allah, or questioning His decree with regards to someone’s soul being taken. Some of these practices did exist in jaahiliyyah before people entered into Islam, and some of it still exists amongst non-Muslims. However, this type of behavior amongst Muslim Americans was addressed and stamped out early on, and the Islamic prohibition on these things has been pretty well known across the board by the general Muslim population here in the United States.

Furthermore, we do not have a history of paid mourners, wailing parties, and mass hysteria during funerals amongst the Muslim women folk here in our country.  Although it has happened on occasion that one or two persons would get out of hand, this is has been usually corrected immediately by others who are present. I have been present at scores of funerals and have seen the women present at scores of burials and have never witnessed or even heard of women wailing, yelling, cursing, tearing their clothes, or beating their cheeks at funerals.

Similar moral progress occurred during the time of the Prophet (SAWS) with regards to visiting the grave sites. In the beginning of the Prophetic era, there was a need to prevent the women from the gravesites because of their recent habit to jaahiliyyah practices, and later as people gained greater understanding, the prohibition was rescinded. In the hadith of Abu Hurraira, the Prophet (SAWS) said: “I used to prohibit you from visiting the graves, now (I say) visit them for verily it will remind you of death[9]. In another tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) saw a woman crying at a grave so he told her: ‘Fear Allah and be patient.[10] It is duly noted in this hadith that the Prophet (SAWS) did not forbid her from staying at the grave. The Mother of the Believers, Aisha (RA) continued to visit the graves after the death of the Prophet (SAWS), as mentioned in the hadith of Abdullah Ibn Abi Mulaykah, who said: `Aisha came one day from the graveyard, so I said: “O Mother of Believers, from where have you come?” She said: “From the grave of `Abdul-Rahmaan Ibn Abi Bakr.” I said: “Did not the Prophet (SAWS) forbid visiting the graves?”She said: “Yes, then he commanded us to visit them.”[11]

Therefore, based upon the fact that Muslims in America, as a rule do not engage in the practices of wailing, tearing clothing, beating the cheeks, and hollering out bad statements at funerals, and the evidence from the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and the view of the scholars we have mentioned, it is not haram for Muslim women to accompany the funeral procession to the grave sites as long as they are able to control themselves from the unlawful types of behavior that we have mentioned in the hadith. If there is a probability that attendance at the burial will stir emotions to a degree where unlawful behavior will likely occur, and If the standards of adab and decorum cannot be maintained when following the funeral procession to the gravesite, then it is prohibitively disliked. And Allah knows best.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, a Philadelphia native, is a writer, a researcher and Imam of the Islamic Society of Folsom, in Northern California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation (NAIF), and the CEO of ‘Mosque Without Borders’, an organization that address Muslim sectarianism in the United States. He is also and the author of the new book, “Double Edged Slavery “, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States, and the book: “The Devil’s Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect “, a look at the ideological underpinning of modern Salafist extremism. He blogs at imamluqman.wordpress.com, and can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.

 


[1] Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim.

[2] Collected by Muslim.

[3] Collected by Muslim.

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.

[5] Fat’hul Bari, vol. 3, p. 489.

[6] The difference between nahiy tah’reem [prohibitively unlawful] and nahiy tanzih [prohibitively disliked] is that the former makes something haram and therefore a sin while the latter makes it disliked but not sinful in and of itself.

[7] Collected by Ibn Majah and an-Nisaa’ee.

[8] Abu Hassan Abdurrahman ibn Muzaffar ad-Dawudi (d. 467).

[9] Collected by Abu Dawood in the Sunan and by Imam Ahmad in the Musnad, this hadith is also in Sahih Muslim but with a slightly different wording

[10] Collected by Bukhaari.

[11] Collected in the Mustrad’rak of al-Haakim, and in the Sunan of al-Baihaqi

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