“Kids have a hole in their soul the shape of their dad and if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed” – Roland warren
There is no easy answer to this question. Traditionally, it has been the duty of a father to raise his son in the proper way of becoming a Muslim man. If not the father, than the task should go to the grandfather, or the uncle, or to the older brother who has grown up as a Muslim and had become a man in the true and proper sense. However in today’s time we are crippled with the sad reality that many men who provide the sperm are absolutely worthless as fathers. Many are in jail, others are drugged out, selfish, lazy, absent, and many are dead, either through unforeseen occurrences or risky behavior and street life. Still the fact remains that there are many Muslim women with sons and no husband or man available to help them raise him in the proper way to manhood. So the question is; what is such a sister to do? Ideally, every sister should have a guardian that can check the brother our before marriage to test his worthiness not only as a husband but as a potential father. Real fathers know that it is absolutely essential that they pass down manhood and Islam to the next generation, and they will do what they can to see that this occurs. However, this rarely happens these days so let’s deal with the reality.
Like I said, there is no easy answer to this quandary and my heart goes out to all the single women out there who are struggling to raise their sons in Islam. The following are a few salient points to consider if you are one on these women. These points provide no guarantee that your son will survive street life, drugs, gangs, and the type of behavior that will inhibit his reaching maturity. However, if you follow these guidelines, you will increase the likelihood that your son will learn to be a Muslim man.
- Teach your son about Allah, as early as you can and about the shaitan. Let him know that there is a heaven and a hell and that he is subject to go to either. If he becomes afraid of Allah’s wrath, or afraid of going to hell then that is a good thing. He will learn to love Allah at the same time he learns to fear Him. Your son should learn early on that after it’s all said and done, he will have to stand before Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and that you will not be able to help him when that time comes.
- Make your son responsible for his prayers and his religious obligations. You have to start this early on without hesitation, and you must enforce it. You must do it before the street gets a hold of him. If you wait too long, then you will have problems.
- Understand that you do not own your son, and that he is only placed in your trust. Our children are a trust, entrusted to us from Allah. Some women think that they own their sons and do not let them up from under their skirt, even after they become adults. It is important that if is father is willing and able to play a part in his raising, that you allow the father that opportunity and not let your feelings from a failed relationship get in the way.
- Do not treat your son like he is your husband. Some sisters raise their sons to take on a almost husband role in the family, and when that happens, they are afraid to let him go or have him stay on out of a sense of guilt. This have proven to be a bad situation for many Muslim men who find themselves well into their thirties living under the mantle of their mother. After a while, they lose the will to be men on their own. Remember that the window of opportunity for raising a boy to a man is short, and you don’t want to overstep that window by making him like your husband because if he is the role of your husband, it is likely that he won’t be able to be a good husband to anyone else.
- Reject the mindset that says that a woman does not need a man to help her raise her son. This mindset is completely false. Men have been raising boys ever since human beings populated this earth. That doesn’t mean that a woman cannot successfully raise a boy to manhood by Allah’s permission. However, the standard remains that men are best suited to raise men; and that will never change.
- Teach your son to take care of himself. Teach your son how to bath, wash and iron his own clothes, how to cook, how to make up his bed, how to put out the trash, how to clean his room, how to comb his hair, how to use deodorant and how to shine his shoes. Of course these things are taught in stages. The rule here is to be careful not to mommy him all of his life, especially once he reaches puberty.
- Make sure that your son respects you and your authority. From a very young age, you must make it clear to your son that you are in charge of him and that he must respect your authority. You must raise him in the atmosphere of Islamic discipline and reverence for the mother. Don’t tell your 10-year-old son that he is the man of the house and give him equal decision-making capacity as his mother.
- Make sure that your sons gets a basic Islamic education and start early as possible. Make certain that your son is somewhere learning about his religion. Whether it be at home, at the masjid weekend school. Jum’ah khutbas, videos, paid tutors, brothers at the Masjid, lectures, family nights at the masjid, or a full-time Islamic school, if available and you can afford it. However, do not hesitate to make some sacrifice so that your son can learn about who he is and should be as a Muslim. Don’t raise him on toys and television and then later lament the fact that he doesn’t know anything about his religion.
- Teach him that he is responsible for the consequences of his actions. Don’t take the attitude that his lapses in judgment are cute, or that he can do no wrong and don’t make excuses for him all the time. Give him a little room to make some choices but let him realize that he has to live with the choices that he makes. This way he will learn early on that perhaps he should make better choices. The first time he runs afoul of the law, don’t rush to his rescue. Let him deal with the consequences.
- Teach him good adab and character. Teach your son how to say please, thank you, yes mam and yes sir, how to give and respond to salaams, how to say excuse me, how to say I’m sorry, how to speak clearly and not mumble, how to give a direct answer, the importance of telling the truth, how to wash before eating, how to make wudu, and how to take a ghusl. Adab and character are the means by which a person can accumulate knowledge, good habits, attract good people, and absorb religious teachings seamlessly. If he has no adab and bad character then he will repel good and absorb evil.
- Do not give him an allowance that he does not earn. Teach your son that he has to earn his way through life. Teach him that he is not entitled to anything more than food clothing and shelter and that everything else above that must be earned either by behavior, or by hard work. When your son lands a part-time job as a teenager, make him pay rent, pay a bill or contribute in some financial way to the family. One of the first things that a man leans is that he must share his wealth, and that he must spend money on other than himself.
- Stay close to the masaajid and to congregation. I realize that many Muslims, especially converts are not a part of any Muslim congregation or extended family unit. Raising your son by yourself outside of a Muslim congregation or an extended family unit will almost insure that he will have a hard time becoming a man. Many times he will end up a ward of the state. The only people today who actively engage in maintaining Muslim communities are grown Muslim men because that is a task that only men can do. Boys do not maintain communities and masaajid; that is a man’s job. When you become part of a Muslim community led by men, then your son will learn from them, learn their ways, and listen to their conversations and in many cases there will those who take him under their wing for a time to teach him this or that because that is what Muslim men do. Most qualified and enlightened Imams are very sensitive to the issue of our Muslim boys. Find an Imam that you can trust and make him aware of your son’s presence.
- When your son is ready to take on the responsibility as a man, let him do so. Here I am talking primarily about taking care of himself, paying his own bills, and marriage. If he feels ready to move forward as an adult, then make sure he understands the things you taught him and let him go. Don’t hold on to him for fear he will fail or because you still want to be the mommy that provides his every need. Let him go forth with what he has learned and meet the challenges of life head on. It is natural that as a mother you will be afraid for him and have your concerns, but you will have to put your trust in Allah.
I wrote this in response to a sister’s query on social media. The above mentioned points are not a catch-all solution for how to raise Muslim boys into men; however, they are proven principles that will greatly enhance your son’s chances at not ending up another statistical joker in sha Allah. Wal allahul Musta’aan.
Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
Imam Luqman Ahmad is an Imam at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam in Toledo Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org