Monday, June 06, 2016

Is Your Child Evil?

When parents make du'a for their children, many of us often beseech Allah to protect them from all harm and evil, from being afflicted or oppressed, from being hurt or experiencing pain... but how many of us make du'a to Allah that He keep our children from *being* of those who harm others, who are sources of pain and damage to those around them?
In Surah al-Kahf, al-Khidr ('alayhissalaam) killed a young boy who had done them no wrong. In horror, Musa ('alayhissalaam) exclaimed, "Have you killed an innocent person?!" Unperturbed, al-Khidr only answered, "Did I not tell you that you will not be patient with me?"
It is only at the end of their journey that Musa ('alayhissalaam) is told that the parents of this boy were true believers, and that the boy would have grown up to be a source of disbelief and transgression.
As parents, we want to believe only the best about our children (and ourselves) - that they are pure and innocent, that we are raising them to be kind, honest, good people. Every once in a while, we might see something not so sweet and kind from them, though... an incident of bullying at the park, perhaps; a schoolyard spat that turns into something nastier; a tendency to be harsh or cruel or malicious. It's all too easy to insist, "It wasn't my child's fault!"
But the thing is... maybe it was. Maybe it *was* our child who was the bully, who deliberately did something hurtful, who saw a moment of weakness in someone else and took advantage of it.
In these moments, we shouldn't let ourselves be the people who stick their heads in the sand and deny that our precious little angels are capable of anything more than cherubic mischief. We should be the parents who are keenly aware that every tyrant on this earth was once a child; every abuser, every oppressor, every less-than-decent individual was once young, and had parents who were responsible for their upbringing (usually, anyway).
As Muslims, we know that we already have something at our disposal that others don't: the power of a parent's du'a. All the parenting workshops in the world, all the heart-to-heart talks and attachment parenting, all the love in the world cannot actually guarantee that our children will be pious, righteous, upright, outstanding believers and human beings.
Only Allah can do that.
So know that our parenting skills will amount to nothing if we do not also turn to the Creator of ourselves and our children, the Turner of Hearts, and beg of Him to protect our offspring not only from experiencing harm, but of being the cause of harm to others.
Rabbanaa hab lanaa min azwaajinaa wa thurriyyaatinaa qurrata a'yun, waj'alnaa lil muttaqina imaamaa.
{Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.}

To Be My Father's Daughter

One of the oddest, and best, things about growing up is developing my relationship with my father. I had started life as a daddy's girl and then, predictably as puberty hit, warred with him constantly about... well, everything, lol. (And didn't help that I shared his short temper, stubbornness, and refusal to admit to being wrong. Heh.)
It was only later - in fact, just a year or so before I got married and left home - that I found myself actually *wanting* to have conversations with him and spend time around him. Once I'd gotten over how (and finally understand why) we spent so many years seeing him for so little time due to his work as a grassroots imam, I started to notice so many other things about him. His killer sense of snide humour, his deadpan sarcasm at the most unexpected of moments (like in the middle of teaching 'Aqeedah or 'Umdatul Ahkaam), his eye for fashion (for a man who wears dishdasha and ghutra, and hasn't worn Western clothing in two decades, he knows an awful lot about men's clothing), his outdated Canadian slang ("why are you such a hoser, eh?")
It's funny, but I can honestly say that my father is probably most responsible for my evolution as a Salafi feminist.
He is a Salafi of the old school, who still gives side-eye to pants below the ankles and has an epic beard that gets more comments than his actual work. Thankfully, he has none of the takfeeri tendencies and worst character traits of our ideological tribe. (The word "bid'ah" remains a favourite, however - I would mimic his "wa kulla bid'atin dalaalah, wa kulla dalaatin fin-naar!" on the ride back from Jumu'ah with gusto.) I make fun of all his ‪#‎VintageSalafi‬ moments and troll his FB page gleefully because it's just too hard to pass up all the opportunities to point out how he lives in a little Salafi bubble in his head.
He also bought me my first (and currently, only) motorcycle - a battery-operated Fisher-Price Harley Davidson - and my first biker jacket. He took it as a given that I would study Islamic Studies (but forgot to tell me that the Islamic University of Medinah doesn't accept female students).
When I was a toddler, he used to take me with him to Masjid anNabawi, where he used to spend time with his friends and fellow students of the Islamic university; up until I hit 13, I used to accompany him everywhere - grocery shopping, Islamic classes, distributing sadaqah (charity) bags for the Muslim food bank he'd started. I listened to him, and watched him, and learned from him.
More than anything else, he ingrained in me the importance of grassroots da'wah: the importance of connecting to individuals and families, the power of a sincere smile and 'as-salaamu 'alaikum', the necessity of putting aside personal free time for the sake of Allah, the ability to develop a thick skin because in da'wah, appreciation is not something we should ever expect.
At the age of 14, I started writing articles for our local Muslim newspaper; I was outraged and offended when people would ask if there was a misprinting of names and if he were the actual author. I quickly realized that it was actually a compliment of sorts, if still offensive due to the sexist assumptions.
The more I learned about feminism and realized how strongly I identified with it, the more I spoke about it, and the more he would snort in annoyance and then say dumb things to make me mad. It took me a little too long to catch on and just roll my eyes at him. What he would never admit, though, is that occasionally I've managed to convince him of my own positions and prove that I'm right 
When I moved to Malaysia to live with my parents after my divorce, one of my first goals was to *finally* do Islamic Studies in some kind of formal capacity. My dad was the one who drove me for an hour to get to the Islamic center where Sh. Isam Rajab was teaching his first Diploma class, and drove back another hour to get home - 4 days a week, on top of his full-time job and his many other responsibilities.
During car rides, and before going to bed, I'd spend hours hanging out with my dad, making stupid jokes, showing him random stuff on the Internet, and talking about all the latest issues on the Muslim cyberscen and da'wah circles. I'd argue with him about women's issues, unsatisfied with the typical imam answers he'd give me; then he'd help me do the research for my next fiery Salafi feminist article and never admit that he was involved. (He'll forever deny that he has anything to do with my rants, but will tell me about how he has friends who read them.)
On road trips and visa runs to Thailand, Indonesia, and elsewhere, he and I would make a beeline for the malls and local markets, excited about all the fun stuff. My mom would trail behind us, complaining that she wanted to see nature, not do more shopping. Even now, he sends me pictures of all the things he knows I love and tell me that it's my mom who won't let him buy it for me.
Even during strained and tense moments - and there certainly been a fair amount of them - I find myself unable to stay furious at him.
Out of myself and my three younger brothers, we all know that I am the one most closely following in his footsteps (even if I don't have the male privilege he does when it comes to studying and opportunities lol). When he Skypes every day, sometimes twice a day, and says he really just called to speak to the Mouseling, she's the first one to point out that we're talking over her and not letting her speak. Oddly, I feel protective over him; I'd long ago developed a strong sense of gheerah for him, staring down women whom I felt were inappropriate in their interactions with him, and I have no problem sending a pointed FB message to anyone who takes their joking with him on his FB page a little too far.
I have been described as my father's daughter more than once - by masjid aunties pinching my cheeks; by my ex-husband, telling me that I'm a woman and can't get away with being as outspoken and stubborn.
Once, it used to bother me - I wanted an identity that was more than just "the shaykh's daughter" - but now, having established that individual identity of my own, I'm proud to hear those words. I know that I come nowhere close to him in the impact he has had on people's lives, that I know nothing in comparison to his Islamic knowledge, but I pray that one day, I can at least come close to it.
May Allah protect our fathers, increase them in good, forgive them their faults, and bring us all together in Jannah, ameen.

Just Enough

We are the daughters who spent our girlhoods watching our mothers teach us what it meant to be women:
Pretty (enough so that mothers-in-law can preen over their collection of aesthetically pleasing daghters-in-law; but not enough to be beautiful, lest she be accused of vanity)
Smart (enough to raise four children, to care for them and teach them, to learn the cruel lessons of the real world; but not enough to be educated, to ever have hope of sitting in a classroom and delight in debates on history and sociology and art and science)
Strong (enough to not cry when they left home for a new country of strangers; enough to give birth to one, two, three children alone; enough to not flinch at the casual callousness and unintentional cruelty of husbands; but not enough to say no, not enough to raise her voice, not enough to be her own champion)
Patient (enough to endure years of being taken for granted, enough to bear the burdens of everyone else around her; enough to be a loyal and faithful wife; but not enough to keep the taste of bitterness out of her tea and off her tongue, not enough to keep hope in herself alive, not enough to remember that patience doesn't always mean suffering)
We are the girls who watched our mothers and learned that to be a woman meant to be just pretty enough, just smart enough, just strong enough, just patient enough... but never more than that.
After all, a woman who is more than pretty and more than smart and more than strong and more than patient is no longer a woman - she is more than a woman, and for all that our mothers love us, they fear their daughters becoming more than the women they were themselves.
Remember, daughters: be just enough, and never more, lest you betray your mothers' sacrifices.