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Lessons from the Story of Ibrahim (AS) and his Son Preface: We are all familiar with the story of Ibrahim (AS) and his story as mentioned in the Quran. However, the aspect of the story that will be focused upon is the relationship between Ibrahim AS, his father and his son.
In recent times we’ve seen a growing trend in issues facing our Muslim-American youth we haven’t seen in the past. This is not surprising as second generation Muslim-Americans are struggling to define themselves and hold fast to their Muslim identity while reconciling their beliefs with socio-cultural norms in America. Muslim-American youth face the same youth issues as any other religious, cultural or faith-based community here in America. These issues include rape, depression, anxiety, dating, drugs, etc. Like any youth they grow through growing pains and make mistakes some more serious than others. However, this is not to say these youth are “lost.” On the contrary, we must face these issues and engage these youth in order to rectify and guide them to a positive path. We also must not make the mistake of thinking that these serious issues can’t happen to our own sons and daughters. If we fail to take action now, then not only will our own sons and daughters suffer, but our future generations will also suffer even more. We must open our hearts and minds to our sons and daughters and listen to their problems with an intention to help them and foster trust and mutual understanding. We must begin to listen with sympathy and empathy , because if we fail to do so then we risk alienating our children and exposing them to negative influences. If they don’t talk to their parents or loved ones, then they will seek help elsewhere. As the Companion of the Prophet SAW, Omar (RA) said, the approach to raising children should be as follows: “From the age of infancy to the age of seven play with your child, from the age of 7 to 14 teach your children, from the age of 14 and beyond befriend your child.”
It is important to follow this same thought process when dealing with our own children. As we know at a certain age children become set in their ways and it becomes difficult to change behavioral patterns. Thus, the 7 to 14 year old range becomes crucial in instilling the correct morals, ethics, spiritual education, etc. It also becomes crucial in this development stage that the parent foster a positive relationship with their child and create loving atmosphere, not one built on fear and punishment. The relationship with a child should be based on understanding ,love, mercy and strong communication. If we create a environment of fear , punishment, and one-way communication then we risk the possibility of losing our children’s love, respect, and trust. The truth is that our children (will and) are finding other sources of influence, understanding, etc. be it through friends or other people outside of their families. This in turn makes us lose our youth and creates families in which there is no bond of love or mercy. Essentially these families become empty relationships based merely on blood relation. It is with the hopes of paralleling the relationship between Ibrahim AS, his father, and his son that hopefully we’ll be able to derive the benefit of how to foster a productive and positive relationship with our youth.
II. The Prophet-Counselor
The Prophet Muhammad SAW played many roles during his lifetime from a statesman, a husband, a warrior, a counselor, a friend, etc. However, one of the most powerful characteristics of the Prophet SAW was his knowledge of how to deal with individuals in an intelligent and practical manner based upon their own unique backgrounds and circumstances.
The early Muslims used to come to the Prophet SAW for advice ranging from fiqh issues to mere day-to-day issues they were dealing with. He never turned away anyone based upon the nature of their question, the simplicity or complexity of the question, or the seemingly ludicrous nature of the question. In one instance one young man came to the Prophet SAW and asked permission to commit zina (fornication):
Abu Umamah reported that a young man came to Messenger of Allah and said, "O Messenger of Allah, give me permission to commit zina." The people shouted and the Prophet said, "Stop it!" The Messenger of Allah said, "Let him calm down. Calm here." He came and sat in front of Allah Messenger who said to him, "Would you like it for your mother?" He said, "No." He said, "Likewise, people do not like it for their daughters. Would you like it for your daughter?" He replied, "No." (And Rasulullah asked the same question but to sisters and aunts in which the person answered no for each questions). Then Allah's Messenger put his hand on his chest and said, "O Allah, forgive his sins, purify his heart and make him chaste." (AlTabarani, Al-Mu'jam Al-Kabeer).
If we just look at this instance where an individual came to the Prophet SAW to ask a question regarding a seemingly ludicrous request and question we realize the wisdom in which the Prophet Muhammad SAW reacted. Often times when our youth bring up issues they face at school (or life) parents react harshly to them and place restrictions on their children to such an extent that the child doesn’t feel comfortable coming to their parents for advice again. This is dangerous and not in accordance to the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW. His response in this instance shows that regardless of the inappropriate nature of the question it should be dealt with a calm demeanor and with wisdom rather than harshness or repulsion.
So as elders in the community we must overall create relationships with our youth built on trust, comfort, understanding and respect. We should never speak down to our youth as the Prophet SAW in this instance shows he gave the respect to the youth by advising him with knowledge and reasoning. The Prophet SAW knew the reason of the youth’s question in the first place was to acquire knowledge and understanding. If he hadn’t come to the Prophet SAW he would have merely committed zina. The fact that he had approached the Prophet SAW shows that he came to acquire knowledge, not publicly declare his defiance of a clearly forbidden matter. Likewise, we must reach out to our youth with the same knowledge and wisdom when they come to their elders for advice regardless of how complex, ludicrous, or seemingly haraam their problems may seem to us.
Ibrahim AS and His Father
If we remember the story of Ibrahim (AS) advising his father in the Quran not to worship idols, we remember the harsh words said to Ibrahim AS:
He said, "Have you forsaken my gods, O Abraham? Unless you stop, I will stone you. Leave me alone." (19:46)
Likewise, the elders reaction today to our youth is similar. If we see in our own families we see when our own children advise our elders they are told they are being disrespectful or insolent when they advise their parents on various issues be they speaking against cultural norms that are in contradiction to Islamic beliefs or day-today advice. This is not to say we allow the youth to speak disrespectfully to our elders, rather if the youth are speaking with knowledge and respect, we should listen to them.
The youth are our future and if we do not take their advice and/or thoughts seriously then we will lose our future. In addition to the family dynamic we have the phenomenon in our masjids where the youth are shunned from involvement in the masjid. Very few masjids in America have strong youth programs or youth groups that cater to the youth. A voice and outlet must be given to the youth so that they feel a part of the community and strengthen their Muslim identity. We must give roles and responsibilities to the youth in our masjids to build leaders who can serve our community in an effective manner.
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