Dr. Safiyyah: One of the biggest challenges as a parent is figuring out how to navigate your child's relationship with Islam and how to not necessarily control it, but you also want to steer a child in the right direction. So Dr. Shehzad, what would you recommend in terms of the right approach?
Dr. Shehzad: Well, this is a very, very challenging question that stares us in the eye, and as much as it does, I think we need to really get hold of ourselves. And my personal experience is that parenting is an art. It's a skill that all of us need to learn much before we become parents. And I was just talking to you earlier on, and I said that we make blunders, and we realize those blunders, maybe with a third child, or maybe when we have grandchildren. And that is too late.
Our own children tend to suffer because of some of the preconceived notions that we have. And perhaps the main reason is that the way we have been bought up by our own parents, we tend to follow the same attitude that we perhaps were meted out.
The most fundamental question here is that when you have children who are now young adults, who have entered adolescence, and they are now people who think, who have their own worldview, who have their own views about various things in religion, that we must not impose our views on our children. Yes, we can suggest a lot of things. We can suggest all the experience that we have because the biggest thing in which we can really make them benefit is the experience that we have. So you can communicate your experiences, but we have to realize that the Quran has never, ever at any single place said that parents have to be obeyed come what may.
At every instance, what the Quran said is , that you treat your parents with kindness. There's just one verse in the Quran in Surah Bani Israel, which is generally construed to mean that you just cannot refuse your parents' verdict. And that is , which means that don't even say and do not be disrespectful. So the word in Arabic actually refers to the fact that you just cannot be unkind to your parents. You cannot be impudent to your parents. You must not be disrespectful to them, but people generally refer this verse to mean that you just cannot see anything in front of your parents.
If they have a particular view, you can discuss with them, but ultimately you'll have to follow your parent. This is a erroneous interpretation of this word. And if you have good Arabic, I mean, access to good Arabic scholars and Arabic dictionaries, you realize basically the word here is actually referring to the fact that you must not be disrespectful to them. So at every place, the Quran is basically telling us that you need to understand that, yes, you have to treat them with kindness, but, I mean, as far as the children are concerned. But on the other hand, parents themselves need to realize that as far as taking major decisions are concerned, like, for example, the career that you'd like to adopt or the spouse that you'd like to marry or any other big decision, that is entirely the prerogative of the child. I mean, when I talk about the child, of course, I refer to the grownup child. So you have to understand that he or she might be totally different from you. He would have a totally different worldview, a different economic view, a different religious view.
All that you can do is you can share your views with them, but the final authority or the final decision has to be made by them.
Whether it's the choice of career, the choice of spouse, the choice of selecting a country to live in, it's basically all their final choice. But because of the fact that we have been raised in a position or in a manner in which perhaps our own parents would have imposed their views on us, so we tend to do that as well. So even small things as what to wear, which color to wear, when to sleep at night, when to get up in the morning, all these things you'll find parents even telling their grownup children, which is like crossing the limits. So I think the way to go about in this particular manner is that the biggest thing that you can really equip your child with the way, when they're being brought up, is that to give them a very strong moral sense of right and wrong and to make them feel that the conscience that they have is the best judge of right and wrong. Support them in that, and secondly, make them find out a talent that they have. Every child has a golden talent, I would say, every single child. And one of the things that can really be helpful is that the system of education as well as the parents, they are made to, I mean, they are able to find out an aptitude at a very early age because if you are able to find out an aptitude, which is also apparent through hobbies, then you'll be able able to give the child a boost in which he or she has the capacity to excel and make a difference to the society that he or she lives in and really contribute. So if these two things are taken care of, that you are developing their moral sense and making them contributing individuals, then the only thing which now is left to us is to, I would say for want of a better word, to inculcate in them the desire for critical thinking. To critically evaluate views and to be a true seeker of the truth, to find out where the truth is wherever it lies.
If you have sharpened their moral sense, if you'd made them realize the aptitude that they have, and at the same time, you have been able to make them understand that, yes, as far as this life is concerned, you must have higher goals to develop on to achieve.
And at the same time, I mean, make them understand that they are independent human beings. They can take their own decisions. And personally, I would say that parents who impose their opinions on their grownup children, I have some harsh words to say to them, but the least harsh of them would be that they are violating human rights.
It's a human right that you were given this independence. Let go of them. Make them take that plunge. They learn. Don't become ambitious. It's not that they're gonna be perfect from day one. They are going to make mistakes, and let them make mistakes because all of us made mistakes.
So we are too ambitious in telling them to be righteous right when they are passing through adolescence. This is virtually impossible. And I think that the most successful of parents, if you ask me, would be those who, I mean, whose children when they commit any fault, do any bad thing, they immediately come to their parents and confess their mistake before them, not hide them or not disclose them to other people because this would mean that you have given them enough friendship and confidence that if they do something bad, they come to you, and you embrace them instead of scolding them or telling them off. You actually embrace them and tell them that, "Don't worry. These things happen. As long as you are ashamed of them, as long as you would not like to repeat them, all of us pass through these phases. It's absolutely fine." So I think another thing that we need to realize, is that just as spiriting is an art, correction is also an art, the art of correcting your children, when to scold them and if at all to scold them.
What to tell them, not be repetitive in telling them, praising them for their attributes. So you see what we parents do is without realizing the fact that they might be having a lot of good points, we make it an issue of maybe a small bad habit and keep on emphasizing that. So I think the best way is that you build their confidence. You boost their confidence by actually commending them for the good qualities they have, the good habits that they have so that they have this confidence in their own self and self-belief that, yes, I am a worthy individual. Because if you continue to condemn them, continue to criticize them, they're just going to lose hope and faith in their own selves.
They could really be pressurized and have a very weak psyche. So, yes, make friends with them. Let them make mistakes. At the same time, develop their moral being as far as you can. Make them true seekers of the truth. Develop this this thing of what we call critical thinking. And in matters of religion, don't impose your religious ideas on your child. So the best way to educate children, for example, if you want your children to pray regularly or to fast regularly is to tell them the wisdom behind praying. So instead of ordering them around to pray or to fast or to do that or this, the best thing is you make them realize that what is the wisdom, what is the philosophy. Why should we pray? Why is it that we should fast? Why is it that halal food is so important? Why is it that we should refrain from alcohol? So instead of just ordering them, the best way is to reason them out. I mean, every one of these directives, they are based on sound reasoning.
Parents themselves need to get educated first so they get to know that this is the reason why we are abstaining from certain things. And when they pass on this reasoning to their children, I have seen so many children when they are given the right reasoning, they don't say another word. They say, "Yes, this is something which I find in my own heart," because, you see, religion is something which is close to your own nature so much. God has designed religion on your nature. So if you give them the correct reasoning why you have to do something and why you have to abstain from something, they leap towards it and say, "Yes, this is something which I, it's already in my mind or in my heart." So it's like finding the right argument, the right reasoning, not imposing yourself, spending quality time with them, letting them make mistakes, and letting them take decisions about their lives which they can even later on regret. But then this is the best way for them to learn. And then develop that that superb affection in which they, when they come to you, and they say that, "I have made that mistake," it's not that you scold and just tell them off. It's like you embrace them and say, "Yes, this happens to everyone. It doesn't matter. We'll try again. Don't give up on yourself."