Twenty-four/seven (reflections and humble advice to the homeschooling novice) *the complete post*

Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. (apologies, I accidentally posted a draft!)

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When my first child was about 3 and I was just preparing to home educate, I read something that stayed with me. It was a Facebook post by an experienced Muslim homeschooler who was asked “how do you do it?”. Her immediate reply was: “You have to not mind being with your children 24/7.”

This sounds a lot more obvious than it is.

Lately, I have been talking about homeschooling with several people I know; Women who have either just taken their child out of school, have decided to start with their little ones or are seriously considering not sending their big kids to secondary school. Each of them is in a very different predicament in terms of the age of her children and the extent of their experience of public school; what they have in common is that they all are entering uncharted territory. Their situations – different as they might be – all remind me of giving birth (and no – not in terms of pain!!!): the decision to take full charge of your child’s education has a certain solemnity to it. You just know that it will forever be intertwined with your experience as a parent. It is thinking about these friends of mine and their families that some reflections started bubbling up to the surface of my conscience.

I myself feel as though I have entered a new stage in my homeschooling journey. I have been so busy hiking up the mountain, that only now I pick up my head and notice the landscape has changed. I realised that, rather than being “resigned” to it, I have embraced the idea that my children will not go to school. I always vouched for home education but, deep inside, I have been somewhat affected by the notion that “school = real life”. I felt that, for me and my kids, homeschooling was just a temporary solution to the absence of a salafi school where we live; I thought I would hold down the fort as best as I could until this phantomatic move to a place where I could find the right institution to “offload the burden”. In the meantime, my eldest is almost through with primary school. Moving is a remote possibility; our homeschool, on the other hand, has been a reality. It has been so for 7 years and by the sole mercy of Allah. It has been, and continues to be, engaging and a little unpredictable. Fluid and changeable. Frustrating and fulfilling. Subject to moods, light-bulb moments, phases of near obsessive interest and a few fads too. It defines our family. It moulds our relationships with one another. It is heart-warmingly good, spectacularly bad and everything in between.

Before I share my two pence worth of reflection and advice about homeschooling, know that – 7 years ago – that “24/7” statement felt like a slap in the face, because the thought of my 3 year old boy being with me 24/7 for the foreseeable future terrified me. Not to mention the guilt aftershock.

So, new or aspiring homeschooling people, gather around! these are more M&Ms than pearls of wisdom, but here you go:

  1. LITTLE CHILDREN DON’T NEED A CURRICULUM, THEY NEED A LIFE.

A life with you, to be precise. The need to do what they love with the person who is their whole world. And tons of books, to be read to them by the aforementioned, who is also required to slow down and be present. They do not need instruction, but first hand experience. And, that way, they learn. “Learning through play” means exactly that. It doesn’t mean putting up a puppet show to teach a 4 year old to solve equations or write cinquains. Don’t do that. Please.

2. HAVING YOUR CHILDREN WITH YOU 24/7 DOESN’T MEAN THEY MUST BE ON YOUR LAP 24/7.

When people ask me,”So, basically your kids are with you all the time?” In my head I chuckle and answer,”Where else should they be?” (They aren’t by the way, not all the time). School is a perfectly legitimate solution for some families, but when did it become the default place for kids to belong?

Having said so, some sensible boundaries have to be set. My kids are with me all the time, but they are not engaging me all of the time. When I am busy (meaning: late) making dinner, and each of my 3 comes to me simultaneously with a very specific snacks request for the fourth time, I joke with them saying that I am not a tapas bar. Or one of those sushi places with the little plates of food on a conveyor belt. Kids tend to be what, in adults, we call “self-centred”. They expect it to be an “all day breakfast” kind of situation. And it is, except that it would be impossible for a Muslim mother to carry out her other duties efficiently if she went along with it 24/7. Children are quite unlikely to think, “Hmm… I see Mother is looking quite drained after spending all day responding to our physical, educational and emotional needs. She should have a quiet hour a day to deepen her knowledge of the religion without any disturbances or endless requests,” (right???). So, instead of ending up resenting children because they can’t give us a break, it is up to the parent to create that time and guard it, put it in place and make it a routine. These are some ideas:

  • Get up before your children. Snatch that hour even if you have to study in your pyjamas to save yourself the time it would take to get dressed.
  • Have a bedtime and stick with it. Bedtimes are cherished in this house (and not just because they usually mark the end of my working day). An adequate bedtime must apply also to older children, or at least a time when they are expected to be in their room for the night.
  • When a toddler outgrows the need for an afternoon nap, nap-time can evolve into “quiet time.” With the exception of prayer at the masjid or any scheduled activities they might have outside the house, our boys will spend a couple of hours in their room in the afternoon. They may rest, read, play, draw, do homework … anything, as long as it is quiet. They are not locked in, they simply know that is a time we spend doing separate things and whatever is not urgent can wait a little.

By the mercy of Allah, this can allow for part time work from home, online study, exercise and any job that is best done without kids around. It provides much needed rest if one is unwell/pregnant/fasting or simply in need to pull herself together if it has been a hard day. Creating these pockets of time help us being more available at all other times, to give every ounce of us when our kids are around (which is most of the time anyway) and achieve some of our personal goals.

3. EXPOSING OUR CHILDREN TO MASSIVE FITAN FOR THE SAKE OF THEIR SOCIAL LIFE IS AGAINST THEIR BEST INTEREST.

We wouldn’t give our children a tub of ice-cream at every meal time instead of proper food just because they like it. Nobody could accuse us of starving them if we did, or argue that ice-cream is not food. Yet we don’t let them have that for every meal. Similarly, we cannot cave on this: If we consider the school environment available to our children to be a highly toxic one, one that could tarnish their morals and attack their deen, then we cannot overlook this just so that they can hang out with a bunch of people their age. This is ice-cream for dinner, just with even more harmful and far reaching consequences. The aspect of socialisation for homeschooled kids is like broccoli: wholesome and as appetising as you make it! Few things make us happier than giving our children what they desire and – especially as they grow into teenagers – their need for their peers is real. But we also know that what we desire is not always what is good for us. Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:  “A man is upon the religion of his close friend, so let each of you look to who he takes as close friend.” This couldn’t be more relevant in the case of older children and teenagers, for whom Ummi is no longer the whole world! This is not to demonise school in general, nor to point the finger. It might be that a family genuinely does not have a choice, and surely all Muslim kids have available to them the guidance Allah and the teachings of His Messenger (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), whether they are homeschooled or go to school. Having said so, parents who send their Muslim children to school uniquely out of fear that they would not be able to provide an adequate academic or social experience otherwise, should re-assess their priorities and give themselves a chance in this sense. And never underestimate what we are up against, in terms of desires, as we strive to give our children a good upbringing.

4. WE DO NOT HOMESCHOOL BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID OF THE WORLD.

Homeschooled kids don’t live under rocks. The fact that we don’t just throw them out there in any environment and in any kind of company does not mean we want to keep them within our 4 walls. Where there are homeschooling families, there will – in sha’ Allah – be activities for your child to participate in with other kids. If something is not available, you can start it. Either way, your control over what kind of influences your children are exposed to will be far greater than in mainstream education. Beneficial companionship and friendship can and should be facilitated for our children and school is not necessarily the answer to this (in fact, for a Muslim in a non-Muslim land, it is hardly ever so).

5. HOMESCHOOLING OLDER CHILDREN MEANS TO BE THE MANAGER OF THEIR EDUCATION MORE THAN THEIR TEACHER.

You will not always have to sit and feel the sandpaper alphabet with them. As they grow, there seems to be less teaching and more organising. I sometimes feel like I am my 10 year-old’s secretary: Filling the calendar, setting the alarms on my phone for each activity (with one hour to spare – in case I completely forgot there was something and I need to give people lunch before it), remind them of any change of plans, liaise with other parents to plan activities, arrange meetings, outings, invitations, check that homework for other teachers is done, keeping an eye out on the local homeschooling community to see what is going on, etc. My 10 year old’s column in our family calendar is by far the busiest! Which brings me to my next point:

6. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL BY YOURSELF.

Usually a child would have two parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, older cousins, family friends: each of these people has something he or she could bring to the education of your children, some talents and abilities your children might be able to learn from. Then there are other homeschooling parents that may want to set up clubs about something that they are good at and/or that interests their children. There are homeschooling co-ops, tutors, online courses… There are countless ways out there to get help in teaching our children, if one can be proactive and a bit creative.

7. IF YOU FEEL LIKE NO OTHER OPTION IS GOOD ENOUGH, YOU WILL MAKE IT WORK – BY ALLAH’S HELP.

Being Muslim is not the easiest thing in the world nowadays. Our Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told us that Islam started as something strange and, towards the end of times, it will again be seen as something strange; that to hold on to it will be like holding on to hot coals… yet we wouldn’t consider any other way, because – alhamdulillah -we know that it is the Truth and nothing compares to it (may Allah keep us firm upon it). The status of homeschooling is nowhere as absolute as that, of course, but the point here is: If we feel strongly enough about it, we will seek the means to achieve it – even if it is not the easiest or most convenient option. Rectifying our intentions and seeking the help of Allah are the first and most crucial of those means, and with the help of Allah nothing is impossible.

It is by the help of Allah that not only am I no longer scared of being with my children 24/7, but I am grateful not to have to give a school such a large chunk of their time – their childhood: a precious time that passes quickly, as does our life.

Ramadan Family Journal: 30 days of prompts

Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

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Another Ramadan is fast approaching and I ask Allah to let us all live to see it through in His obedience and to let us benefit greatly from it.

The concept of a Ramadan family journal has been a rather shapeless idea of mine for a while. Ramadan is such a special time – despite the relative hardship that comes with it – that we cannot help having a special drawer of our memory full of “what we read that Ramadan” or “what we ate that Ramadan” and “… remember when you used to fast only until lunchtime?” All the memories related to our journey as slaves of Allah; the kids *and* the parents! All that Ramadan learning.

I mentioned the idea of a Ramadan scrapbook to some sisters, worrying it would be too open and slightly daunting; then my friend – and home educator extraordinaire (Allahumma baarik) – Umm Saphia suggested putting together a set of prompts that could help structure the activity. Some friends have helped with prompt suggestions, may Allah bless them.

Why is it called a “family” journal? because – I don’t know you – but this Ummi is totally taking part in sha’ Allah!

Below you will be able to download 30 journaling prompts for Ramadan, either as a list or in a chart (in case you want to make them in small cards, to be hidden in small envelopes, to surprise small people!). We will work on loose papers and then collect everything in a clear display book, which will accommodate (and in sha’ Allah keep in one place!) all the bits and bobs that my younger ones may want to include (dandelion heads from the garden anyone? I expect about 75 of them).

So… get your gel pens out! dig out your secret sticker stash! let the washi tape roll! And – in sha’ Allah – let us capture the benefits and the memories this Ramadan.

DOWNLOAD 30 Days of Prompts – Ramadan Family journal as a LIST

DOWNLOAD 30 Days of Prompts – Ramadan Family journal as a CHART

WORKBOOK COVER & INTRO – 30Days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

PLEASE NOTE, I removed all links to the old version of this notebook.

See www.salamhomeschooling.com for the new FREE version of the workbook and a SECOND one about the Names of Allah (both COMING SOON insha’Allah)

I perfect Umm Yusef’s style, the cover and introduction to the workbook come at the end!

Alhamdulillah.

Please, do NOT skip the introduction: the correct understanding of the Names and Attributes of Allah is vital to sound belief and so many in have gone astray because of deviant understandings of this topic…(may Allah protect us fro that). The following is a super simplified 1 page version of the guidelines on the correct way to understand the Names and Attributes of Allah according to the methodology of the salaf, alhamdulillah. I couldn’t make it any simpler. Alhamdulillah.

 

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I ask Allah to keep my intentions pure and for this little effort of mine to benefit my family and yours.

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PART 4 – Ramadaan: 30 days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum.

PLEASE NOTE, I removed all links to the old version of this notebook.

See www.salamhomeschooling.com for the new FREE version of the workbook and a SECOND one about the Names of Allah (both COMING SOON insha’Allah)

Please find below the last instalment of the Names of Allah workbook I will be doing this coming Ramadaan with my children, insha’Allah.

May Allah purify my intention and help my family and yours benefit from this little effort. Ameen.

PART 3 – Ramadaan: 30 days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum.

PLEASE NOTE, I removed all links to the old version of this notebook.

See www.salamhomeschooling.com for the new FREE version of the workbook and a SECOND one about the Names of Allah (both COMING SOON insha’Allah)

 

Following my recent posts on the Names of Allah Workbook I am putting together for my kids for the upcoming Ramadaan insha’Allah, here is the pages for week 3.

May Allah purify my intention and help my family and yours benefit from this little effort. Ameen.

 

PART 2 – Ramadaan: 30 days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum

PLEASE NOTE, I removed all links to the old version of this notebook.

See www.salamhomeschooling.com for the new FREE version of the workbook and a SECOND one about the Names of Allah (both COMING SOON insha’Allah)

 

Following my previous post on the Names of Allah Workbook I am putting together for my kids for the upcoming Ramadaan insha’Allah, here is the pages for week 2. Alhamdulillah.

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Ramadaan: 30 days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum.

Please note that the links to the old version of this notebook have been taken down. I have re-written it with new material and in a better format.

I also added a SECOND WORKBOOK on the Names of Allah.

Both of them will be FREE to download SOON (insha’Allah!) from my new blog www.salamhomeschooling.com 

 

In an attempt not to let it creep up on us, I started thinking about Ramadaan. As usual, I plan for it to be our yearly break from formal homeschooling insha’Allah, but with some sort of Islamic activity for the boys.

Masha’Allah, I have a 9 year old who loves learning (but hates writing) and a 5 year old who cannot sit down for more than 3 minutes at a time but would be terribly offended if I didn’t plan something for him to do too…. so I thought: meaningful & simple.

I am working on a little workbook on the Names of Allah, something that both boys can do to their level, insha’Allah. They will be given a page each day (in the usual Ramadaan mailbox, they don’t want to let go of it!).

My sources are:

Each page focuses on one of the Names of Allah (I chose 30 of those I found easier to understand and explain) and will include:

  • The Name of Allah in Arabic with some Arabic writing practice
  • The short translation of the meaning of the Name
  • An absolutely minimal explanation of the Name.
  • An exercise to find the shaahid (proof) of it being a Name of Allah in the relative ayah of the Qur’an (which they will be required to copy out in English translation too).
  • A small space for reflection on how to implement belief in that Name of Allah in their life.
  • Title, banner, and little things that can be coloured if the child is in the mood to do colouring (but not so much that it looks incomplete if left in black & white!)

No frills, as usual. Because I can’t and I don’t have time to learn right now .

Here is what it will look like:

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Alhamdulillah, I am posting a week’s worth of pages to stop myself making further changes or additions and spending more time than needed in putting this together (insha’Allah!). Click on the links for the PDF files insha’Allah. Don’t forget me in your du’a.

 

 

If they don’t love you, you will lose them

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(Assalamo ‘alaykum, like my previous two posts 1 and 2, what follows is a compilation of benefits transcribed from a tafseer class that I am sharing with the encouragement of my teacher, may Allah preserve her.)

Allah says:

وَإِذۡ أَخَذۡنَا مِيثَـٰقَ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ لَا تَعۡبُدُونَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهَ وَبِٱلۡوَٲلِدَيۡنِ إِحۡسَانً۬ا وَذِى ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَٱلۡيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلۡمَسَـٰڪِينِ وَقُولُواْ لِلنَّاسِ حُسۡنً۬ا وَأَقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتُواْ ٱلزَّڪَوٰةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيۡتُمۡ إِلَّا قَلِيلاً۬ مِّنڪُمۡ وَأَنتُم مُّعۡرِضُونَ (٨٣)

{And remember when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, saying: Worship none but Allah Alone and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans and the poor, and speak good to people […]}

[Surah al-Baqarah 2:83]

Sometimes parents feel as though their children are their personal property in such way that they feel entitled to call them a donkey, stupid, foolish or ignorant… No, they do not have this right! We have to protect our children’s dignity and emotions. Mocking, scolding and degrading your child will do nothing but bring about rebellion in him and harshness. He will not know how to be gentle.

The best way to teach your children is to set an example. They will not accept your advice if you are not good in yourself. Do not utter a bad word. No mocking. No sarcasm. No degrading words. Stop this and start saying good and encouraging words. Start showing your positive emotion. Start expressing your love and care for them. Start excusing them. Give them excuses: Excuse their weakness, their ignorance and excuse the fitnah they are living in. Bear in mind that they are not as willing as you are to give up their desires: you do so because you have ihtisaab, you know if you leave certain things for Allah’s sake there is a compensation. A child doesn’t understand that well yet. He believes what he sees right here right now, his belief in the unseen is not strong yet. “I want my pocket money. I want a chocolate. I want to go out and play…” this is what he can fully and strongly understand now. You may be able to say, “I will leave this for Allah’s sake because I want Jannah.” You want Jannah and your child might want it too but she is not able to comprehend this yet because a child will not comprehend except what he can see now and, step by step, you must start tying it up with Allah. Talking about Allah, telling her how, if she doesn’t pray, you cannot tell but Allah can see her and if Allah loves her, He will make everyone love her. If Allah is pleased with her, He will make everyone pleased with her. But tell her to remember that nobody can cheat Allah. And continue this way to create a connection, step-by-step. Don’t let your child fear you, let him fear only Allah, and that must be the correct fear: That fear that makes him go and say “Allah forgive me!” a fear which will make him take the right steps. Not a fear that will lead him to despair, but fear with hope.  So he fears Allah and he hopes that Allah will forgive him if he goes off the right track. This is our duty.

Take the means to make them love you. If they do not love you, you are going to lose them. Do not lose them! They have to really love you in order to listen to you, to imitate you, to love your way, to love the way you dress, to love your friends, to love your life…  first they have to love you and they have to know you are the first one to care for them ad have mercy for them. Get that security firmly established in their heart. Set an example first. They have to feel that the most disturbing and painful punishment for them is that you are displeased and unhappy with them. Tell them that. Don’t shout. The more you shout, the more you will lose their attention and the more they will lose their positive feelings towards you. And the more they lose these positive feelings the more you will lose them. The more you shout the more you lose. Allah did not put the khayr in shouting, Allah put the khayr in gentleness. Gentleness will bring every goodness. Being cruel and tough will not bring except disasters.  This is true especially nowadays: in the past children used to fear their parents and know their limits, but now there are no limits. The fitnah is very strong, the children now became extremely daring; they can talk back. We do not say we are going to be lax with them. There are still rules we must establish, but when we set and enforce those dos and don’ts we do so with respect. Tell them, “Promise me not to do this again” tell them, “promise me and I am going to believe your promise” and then when they do again what you made them promise not to do, say “… but you promised me and I believe you…” make him feel guilty for making you unhappy and doing something that displeases his Lord. Don’t make him fear you. Because when he is 12 years old he will not fear you anymore, he might be taller than you! And you are going to look up at him! From now, let’s follow the way of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): he did not hit, he did not scold he did not say bad words, yet he was the best teacher ever. Start by taking an oath never to say bad words to your children ever again; never to degrade them, never to hit them. They have to feel that are loved, cherished, respected. And when they make a mistake I am going to give an excuse: They don’t have knowledge, they don’t have our comprehension, they don’t have that desire for Jannah; they desire the pleasures of this world. Their heart is still attached to this world and not attached to Jannah yet. You have to understand this, and deal with it with wisdom and gentleness. We take the means and we bear in mind that Allah is the One who will guide their hearts to Him, to the Haqq, to the true Islam; but at least we tried for what we were able by educating him.

Take the means that will make them love you; and when they love you, they will love your way. When they love you, they will love Islam. They will know the beauty of Islam because they are experiencing the beauty of Islam. They are benefitting from his mother now, because when she understood about Islam, she changed. She is now respecting them, she is more loving, she is more gentle, she is more giving, she is more understanding… so you are now a reason for them to love Islam. And for you and me this is enough in front of Allah:  “Oh Allah, I have done my duty. I took the means. As for guidance, it is up to you Allah, but I did take the means.” Imagine if your child is 15 years old, and you used to beat him and shout at him and force him to go and pray and force him to do this and that…and you used to say bad words about him… and he now hates everything about Islam and you realise that you were one of the reasons for him not to be guided. You repelled him. This is a great pain and a great guilt.

Think of a mother who, even when she advises for the sake of Allah, is harsh, shouts, nags, tells her children they are going to the Hellfire … imagine what kind of marriage and what kind of home she is making. What kind life they are living. And then, she starts understanding that no, that’s not the way Allah has told us to deal with things! She starts being neat and presentable for her family. When her husband comes home she doesn’t start complaining immediately but she receives him with a smile; she lets the children receive him with a smile. She tries to make her requests to her husband minimal. She makes her child love to come home: to come home to a mother that loves him, to a nice and friendly atmosphere. So start promising: I will never shout at my children and disgrace them again. I will never tell them bad words. When they tell me something, I will not make fun of them or tell them it is nonsense. I will listen to them. And when I want to advise them, I will do so in a nice way, appreciating their innocence and that they have desires, appreciating the great fitnah they are living in, appreciating they don’t have my mind, they are not grownups, they don’t understand like adults can understand. So make sure you don’t deal with them as though they were you, but deal with them according to their state, their weakness. They are affected by the people around them, they might be confused: who is right? My mother or my friend? Or my friend’s mother? My friend’s mother is very relaxed, she says ok to everything, she is very loving. But my mother? Everything is “no… no… no, haram… haram … haram” and she is not flexible; she does not listen and she does not give excuses… and she is making my life so hard… This is what you will achieve: a child hating you and hating your religion and hating what you say. So there has to be strong determination: Allah is ar-Rafeeq, the Gentle. Allah loves gentleness, He commanded us to be gentle and the people that are most deserving of our gentleness are our family. There are sisters that are very nice and very friendly with their friends. They laugh and have fun and are easy going; they seem to know how to say good words, how to give attention and how to give care. They know how to pick presents and to make good food for their friends, but with their husband and children they are mean. Sure, each of those sisters loves her friends for the sake of Allah, but what about responsibilities? You are responsible to try to make your child love Allah.

Allah says:

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ قُوٓاْ أَنفُسَكُمۡ وَأَهۡلِيكُمۡ نَارً۬ا وَقُودُهَا ٱلنَّاسُ وَٱلۡحِجَارَةُ

{O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire whose fuel is men and stones, […]}

[Surah at-Tahreem, 66:6]

Protect yourself and your family. How can I protect my child if I don’t teach him to love Islam? He will love Islam through me and he will think practicing Islam has brought him this lovely mother, this considerate, caring mother. A mother that excuses him, a mother who defends him, a mother that is there for him, a mother who taught him how to love Allah, a mother who taught him about Jannah before talking to him about the Hellfire. It is more befitting for a child that you start telling him about Jannah and the mercy of Allah. The pen is not writing for him yet, so we must invest the first years making them love Islam: the rulings of Islam, the mercy of Islam, the gentleness of Islam, the giving of Islam… he will respect you and he will love you. And then if you are displeased with him, this in itself would be enough punishment for him. This is the best way to affect a child and work on his heart: for his heart to feel ashamed of himself; make him feel that in a gentle way, without shouting or hitting or severe punishment.

Some people, because of their zeal to do what is right, may act with excessive strictness towards their children. They might stress “no this and no that”… “No! a seven year old should not wear pyjamas, she should be in a night gown…” things like these (unnecessary restrictions for a child’s age and situation). The result on the children is likely to be bad. While, when they are educated and given the choice, they will start to correct themselves. But as long as you are nagging and forcing, they will hate it, and this is the human nature. Don’t ignore this fact. You need to wait for the right time for Allah’s sake. You need to know when to excuse, when to forgive. We need to rectify our relationship with our children because our children are our responsibility. We have responsibilities towards our husbands, for example, but we are not responsible for them. On the Day of Judgement you will be asked if you were a good wife to him but you will not be asked about him. Who will you be asked about? You will be asked about your children. It is a great responsibility, we ask Allah to guide them and we try to do our best. If you take the means and you do what you should do, this will make you feel calm. Allah knows you did all you were able to do. But if the means you took led to your children to repulsion, then you will feel immense regret. Your heart will be squeezed knowing you are one of the reasons for this. One of the reason they may hate to wear hijab, why they hate niqaab, why the hate memorizing Qur’an… imagine feeling it is too late and you were the one who participated in their repulsion! But when you take the means to try to make them love you, and love what you do, and love what you say, and love Qur’an, and love Allah and you are understanding and gentle and you are doing the best you can do, then your duty towards them will be fulfilled.

If there is a halal opportunity to make them happy, take it! Avoiding the haram is often a struggle in today’s world, but there is still a lot of halal! Taking them to a friend who has children the same age is halal; taking them to the park is halal; making them good food is halal; playing with them is halal; joking with them is halal; trying to be nice is halal; making them feel secure and happy with their family is halal… and so on. We have a lot of halal options. It is a battle we are living, but there is a solution. Allah wouldn’t put us in a situation to which there is no solution. So, do not allow the haram, but do try to make substitutions with the halal whenever it is possible.

This is what Allah says in the Qur’an regarding the way the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to teach the Sahabah:

فَبِمَا رَحۡمَةٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمۡ‌ۖ وَلَوۡ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ ٱلۡقَلۡبِ لَٱنفَضُّواْ مِنۡ حَوۡلِكَ‌ۖ فَٱعۡفُ عَنۡہُمۡ وَٱسۡتَغۡفِرۡ لَهُمۡ

{And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh¬hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over their faults, and ask Allah’s Forgiveness for them; […]}

[Surah Aal-‘Imraan 3:159]

By Allah’s mercy, he (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was gentle and lenient, so they loved him, they were very attached to him and obeyed hi lovingly. And if he had been harsh and strict they would have ran away from him and be repelled. Here’s the Qur’an: here is how to do da’wah.

You need to give your children confidence in themselves. Tell them: “You are a good Muslim,” “You will be a caller to the Haqq, insha’Allah,” “I ask Allah for you to be one who supports Islam. And you will show people the beauty of Islam by your manners.” Give them this kind of words, “I hope one day you will spread knowledge and the correct aqeedah”. Give them good words, encouraging words. They are in great need of this.

What a tragedy it would be if a salafi were to be the worst mother! A mother that – due to her grasp and understanding of the correct way – was intransigent with her children and expected them to immediately follow suit… all the while thinking that she is being pious to Allah by being inflexible to the point of hostility to her children and not talking to them. The salafi should be the best mother because she knows the guidance from Allah. She is the one who understood how to deal with these hearts. She has the tools to do so. So, salafis are the ones who should apply this. Yet people – except those on whom Allah has mercy – are away from Qur’an and Sunnah. They might choose what they like and leave what they are not convinced with or what is not compatible with their personality. “I know that I should not be so nervous and have unattainable standards with the children … but I am like that and they need to accept it… they need to change…” So, basically, their mother is a bad mother and they need to accept it?! You have to change, religion should change us. We have to change according to what we learn.

We have a lot of evidence on how the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) treated people: from his wives, to the children, to his little boy servant Anas ibn Malik .

Learning about the Name of Allah Ar-Rafeeq will give us great insight on how Allah commands us to treat the people.

Allah is the Gentle, this religion is based on mercy and wisdom. It is a great religion and anyone abiding by it will be great. The Sahabah (rady Allahu ‘anhum) became great – the greatest generation ever on this earth – how? By abiding to the Qur’an. So whoever abides by this great religion and practices it will take from its greatness. And greatness not in terms of prestige or fame, but in terms of a person’s reality and worth and of the strength and ability that Allah will grant him/her: a great Muslim that can change the world and can spread Islam. Islam will fix everything. Put it into practice and it will fix everything.

The excellence of a good word

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(As in my previous post, these are notes from the tafseer class I attend. May Allah reward our teacher and keep her firm upon the truth. Ameen.)

Allah says:

وَإِذۡ أَخَذۡنَا مِيثَـٰقَ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ لَا تَعۡبُدُونَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهَ وَبِٱلۡوَٲلِدَيۡنِ إِحۡسَانً۬ا وَذِى ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَٱلۡيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلۡمَسَـٰڪِينِ وَقُولُواْ لِلنَّاسِ حُسۡنً۬ا وَأَقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتُواْ ٱلزَّڪَوٰةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيۡتُمۡ إِلَّا قَلِيلاً۬ مِّنڪُمۡ وَأَنتُم مُّعۡرِضُونَ (٨٣)

{And remember when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, saying: Worship none but Allah Alone and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans and the poor, and speak good to people […]}

[Surah al-Baqarah 2:83]

وَقُولُواْ لِلنَّاسِ حُسۡنً۬ا (“wa qooloo lin-naasi husna”): Allah commands to speak well to the people. This includes reminding the good and forbidding the evil but also addressing and treating people in the best way. If you notice something good about a sister, say good words to her: “Allahummah baarik, you look good today.” Say encouraging words and say them in a pleasant way. When you do so, your face must also convey it with a friendly expression.

It is a fact that this is disappearing from society: What is prevailing is mockery, sarcasm and ridiculing people. The media and social media are encouraging it, giving endless ideas and opportunities to make fun of and degrade people. So much so that it has become the default attitude and we are forgetting how to relate to others with kindness and husna, we are forgetting we shoul try to make people happy. Social media teach to highlight any fault that is accidentally exposed or discovered, expose it, make fun of it and make people feel bad. This is not Islam! We are not even allowed to do something seemingly inoffensive as a sign with one’s hand to to signify a person is short or fat. Like when ‘Aishah (rady Allahu ‘anha) did a sign with her hand about Safiyah (rady Allahu ‘anha) meaning “short” (Safiyah the wife of the Prophet – salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam – was beautiful but short) the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) became angry and said : “You have indeed uttered a word which would pollute the sea if it were mixed in it.” She asked Allah’s forgiveness for that.

So وَقُولُواْ لِلنَّاسِ حُسۡنً۬ا qooloo lin-naasi husna: Fill your house with good words. Say good words to your husband; say good words to your mother. People have learned that – if they feel a good feeling and are inclined to say a good word – they become embarrassed about that, because it has become very strange; they fear people may be suspicious of them and wonder “what does she want from me???” No, for Allah’s sake, I will try to spread good words and be the first to set the example.

We describe ourselves as following the Qur’an and the Sunnah, then let’s make sure we follow it: “wa qooloo lin-naasi husna”. By realising the commands of Allah present in this ayah you will find the blessings in your life. By realising tawheed you will find the blessings in your life, by being good to your parents you will find the blessings in your life, by speaking gently to your children, by helping needy people… more and more blessings. Your life can change if you abide by these commands. Your life can change for the better.

Tawheed and goodness to our parents

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Assalamo ‘alaykum.

I do not take credit for the contents of this post. It is an almost word-by-word transcription from a tafseer class given by a student of knowledge that has encouraged me to share the benefits without ascribing them to her. She calls to Allah and not to herself  (may Allah preserve her) and teaches the tafseer of senior salafi scholars and this is the origin of what follows.

 وَإِذۡ أَخَذۡنَا مِيثَـٰقَ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ لَا تَعۡبُدُونَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهَ وَبِٱلۡوَٲلِدَيۡنِ إِحۡسَانً۬ا وَذِى ٱلۡقُرۡبَىٰ وَٱلۡيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلۡمَسَـٰڪِينِ وَقُولُواْ لِلنَّاسِ حُسۡنً۬ا وَأَقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتُواْ ٱلزَّڪَوٰةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيۡتُمۡ إِلَّا قَلِيلاً۬ مِّنڪُمۡ وَأَنتُم مُّعۡرِضُونَ (٨٣)

And remember when We took a covenant from the Children of Israel, saying: Worship none but Allah Alone and be dutiful and good to parents, and to kindred, and to orphans and the poor, and speak good to people [i.e. enjoin righteousness and forbid evil, and say the truth about Muhammad Peace be upon him ], and perform As-Salat, and give Zakat. Then you slid back, except a few of you, while you are backsliders.

[Surah al-Baqarah 2:83]

In this ayah, Allah commands: 1) Fulfil your Tawheed and 2) be dutiful to your parents.

First comes the right of Allah to be singled out with all worship. After this come the rights of the parents.  Why do they have this great right upon us? Because they were the reason for a lot of good for us. My mother carried me, fed me, spent time and resources on me; she cared for me. Allah is the One who gave you all these bounties, yet, because our parents were a means for us to receive them, we have to be thankful to them as well. We relate every bounty to Allah and every provision is from Him, but if Allah makes someone a reason for this provision to reach you, you need to be thankful to this person as well. If a doctor was a reason for your life to be saved, you should thank Allah and also the doctor, because the granting of life was from Allah but the doctor made an effort. Similarly, the parents made great efforts in the upbringing of their children. Especially the mother. Allah is All-Aware and Appreciative. He knows all about her pain in pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and so on. He is the All Knowing, the Thankful. Out of this knowledge He possesses, He commands us to be thankful to our parents.

Being thankful to our parents doesn’t just mean saying “thank you”, ” jazakum Allahu khayran.” Allah commands وَبِٱلۡوَٲلِدَيۡنِ إِحۡسَانً۬ا {… and Ihsaan (excellent behaviour) to parents}, but He does not specify exactly what to do, He doesn’t say exactly what ihsaan means in this case. This is because Ihsaan to parents varies according to the situation and the state of my mother as opposed to another person’s mother. Being good to my mother is different from being good to your mother. Maybe my mother likes me to spend time with her, another person’s mother likes to have help in the house and what really makes her happy is for her child to go and help her; another may care for and be touched by presents and other forms of financial help. Ihsan is not to do what *I believe* pleases her. I need to find out what actually pleases her the most and do it. Don’t say “I’m busy so I can’t come to see you, but I’ll buy you a nice present because I love presents!” if actually your mother doesn’t care for presents and all she wants is someone to talk to. When she calls you respond. If she wants your company sit with her. Goodness to one’s mother is one of the greatest acts of worship in Islam.

A killer went to Ibn Abbas (rady Allahu ‘anhuma) and asked if repentance was possible for him. Ibn Abbas said yes and asked him if his parents were still alive. The man said they were and Ibn Abbas told him that goodness to one’s parents is one of the greatest reason for sins to be forgiven.

One of the women of the salaf used to pray all night. Her son used to collect firewood for her and stand besides her to keep the fire going  and adjust it so it wouldn’t be too hot, go out or make too much smoke. She used to tell him to go to sleep but he was pleased with doing that for her because that was what she loved to do. Another of the salaf carried his mother all the way from Yemen to Makkah and did tawaaf carrying her. He then asked Ibn Umar “Have I now compensated her for what he did for me?” Ibn ‘Umar (rady Allah ‘anhuma) replied “No, the pain of delivery is more of what you are doing now!”

Imam Abu Haneefah (raheemahullah) was very good to his mother. He was the imam and the faqeeh, but his mother was not convinced and she would tell him that she wanted to ask a question and that she wanted to be taken to so and so to get a fatwa from him. This person was in fact Abu Haneefah’s student!  and he would say yes and take her. He would not say “There’s no need to go to him, I am the imam and the faqeeh!”… he humbled himself to her.

Another of the salaf was also an imam and was in the masjid teaching the people. While he was teaching in the halaqah, suddenly his mother calls him “My son, go and feed the chickens!” He would say “Yes mother” and he would go and feed the chickens and then resume the lesson.

Whatever you do for your parents, do it willingly.

Don’t show that you are bored or burdened. Show her that you are willing and pleased to sit with them and talk about their memories if that is what pleases them. Even if they keep talking about the same incident, they might repeat it every week, or every day. Listen attentively, don’t show that you heard it 200 times before. They must feel that they still have a role in your life. Ask their opinion about something, consult them. They should feel they still have a use in this life, that they are worthy.

They should never feel that you don’t need them.

Show you need their expertise and opinion. If it pleases your mother that she prepares a meal and you go and eat with her, don’t say “No, don’t cook! take it easy, you are too old.” She likes to do that, let her and show your utmost pleasure with what she cooked, show that it made you happy and reminded you of the days of your childhood! Make her smile. Make her life happy. Whatever you do for her, do it with enthusiasm. We need to find out what pleases them, of course within the limits of obedience to Allah. You cannot do something wrong for their sake. Never. If they commanded you with something wrong you would say “I am sorry mother but I cannot do this, but I can do anything else for you.”  Don’t tell them things like “I don’t care if you are angry or not! My Lord has commanded me so you suit yourself!” Don’t say this. Out of mercy lower yourself to them.

Don’t be busy with your mobile, if you are sitting with her look at her, engage with her, don’t look at your mobile.

If you are facing problems or you are not feeling well, don’t tell her. Don’t go and tell her “I am suffering such and such severe pain…” or “My husband did this and that to me…” because this will give her great sorrow and sadness and she would not be able to tolerate that you are in this situation. So, as much as possible try not to tell her about your hardship. Handle as much as you can handle without making her sad about your problems; unless you need her help to solve it, in that case let her know but otherwise don’t tell her just to vent or to get her sympathy. You have to appreciate her weakness and her love for you and the fact that not being able to do anything for you would make her suffer and make her really stressed. We must show mercy and spare her this worry if we are able.

This is part of what it means to have ihsaan towards our parents as Allah commands, and to be grateful to them after being grateful to Allah. Let’s not allow the business of the life make us neglectful of the rights we owe them.

And if our mother is not Muslim or she is not on the correct manhaj, then the greatest form of ihsaan is to do du’a for them and do da’wah to them. This must be done in the most gentle manner: showing your love and concern, trying to give the proofs in a very simple and pleasant way. Tell her “This pleases Allah,” teach her to love Allah. Use encouraging words to her, like “You love Allah, let’s do what pleases Him.” Don’t tell her that if she doesn’t abide you will cut her off. On the contrary: whatever she does – even kufr – show that you are always her daughter and that you have affection and concern for her. This is very important because we are doing this for Allah’s sake and sometimes mothers can be very bad. If your mother is kind to you, being good to her would be easy, but some mothers can cause a great deal of pain.Doing it only for Allah will extract the sincerity from your heart. The reward in case of the mother being bad will be much higher, because Allah knows you are doing it only in obedience to Him and you are not getting anything pleasant out of it in this life.

After their death, you still have a chance to be good to them by making du’a, and Allah forgives a Muslim mother due to the du’a of her son or daughter. Make du’a for them in each and every one of your prayers. And stay in touch with those friends and relatives they loved.