Halaqa Musings

By Umm Farouq December 14, 2006

Yesterday I attended a halaqa with some sisters I do not know very well. We were talking about raising kids according to Quran and Sunnah. Actually a week ago one of the sisters had asked me to give a short lesson, so this is what I was trying to do, using a book on raising kids that I have read many many times, but it’s one of those books that provides you with new info and insight each time you re-visit it. Anyhow, most of the attendees yesterday were Westerners or Indo-Paks or Malaysians who were raised in the West, with the exception of three Arab sisters who did not speak any English.

So I began the lesson, which dealt with the psychological rearing of the Muslim child. I was asked to translate for the non-English speakers. This made me nervous, to say the least, but I stumbled through as best as I could. I was trying to make the point that if we want our kids to be on the straight path, and to be honest and sincere and love their deen, then we have to do the same, within the confines of our homes as well as outside. We have to be the examples, and not expect our kids to turn out ok in spite of how we as parents behave. I kept getting interrupted by one of the Arab sisters in particular, who of course knew everything.

SEE! It’s that line of sarcasm I’m trying to get out of. But the gist of the interchanges was like this:

Me: Muslims today are lacking in good manners and moral character, and this can be seen in our children and how they deal with us and with others. [abridged]

Arab Sister: We have religion! We love our deen! In the 70s and 80s no one was wearing hijab! Now the streets are filled with women wearing hijab!

Me: Yes, but hijab does not equal religion. Islam requires us to teach our children the right ways to behave, and if parents are rude, using bad language, and treating each other harshly, the kids are going to do the same. [super duper abridged]

Arab Sister: (some sort of protest, I don’t really remember)

Me: I knew of a family in the US who really tried to instill the concept of thankfulness in their kids. Every time the father would come home with groceries, the wife and children would all pray two rak’ah of shukr.

American Sister: My son is getting threatened after prayers at the Masjid. There is a gang of boys who, after salat, try to mess with him, hit him, etc. And this is after they’ve just prayed in the Masjid! What is up with this?

Arab Sister: Just let the boys keep praying! Eventually they will realize that fighting is not acceptable!

Me: (thinking to self) These are 14 and 15 year-old boys. They are accountable. They should know that fighting is not acceptable. Something is wrong in their homes.

Me: (aloud) We also have to teach our children to be thankful for what they have and to not always covet other people’s stuff. When we ourselves are expressing thankfulness to Allah for his bounty, our children will see this. When, on the other hand, we envy our neighbor or our relative, wanting what they have, even sometimes putting hasad on them, our children will learn the art of perpetual discontent, never being satisfied. [big-time paraphrasing]

Arab Sister: If we see something we like that belongs to someone else, we just say ‘mashaAllah’ and Allah will protect them!

Me: Yes, but hasad is a rampant problem among the Arabs. We did not experience this in the West like we do here. Here we’re asked questions like “How much do you make?” and “How much did your house cost?” constantly.

Arab Sister: Just say ‘mashaAllah!’ ‘MashaAllah’ is all you need to say!

Me: We need to expose the kids to the truly poor, go to the mukhayyem and let them see the ones who maybe get one meal a day, the kids who do not have the choices our children have.

Arab Sister: Do you know why they are in mukhayyems? Because they got kicked out of Palestine in 1948! They all had land and homes in Palestine! Some of them could not get good jobs so they chose to live in the camps! Some of them are not really poor! My house and land in Yaffah is still there but the Yahud took it and now it’s ‘international land!’

Anyhow, it went on like this for about an hour. I tried to conceal any frustration for the constant interjections, and I know she was trying to contribute positively. There are mainly two kinds of (born) Muslims in Jordan, at least as far as I’ve seen: the ones who want to hear the possible solutions, and the ones who are in denial and will sugar-coat reality.

I have no idea why people ask me to give deen lessons. I really have limited, limited knowledge, and for the past 12 years have been kind of studying/reading on and off, but in no way have built a knowledge base that could, in my opinion, really benefit others. However, I keep getting asked. Perhaps others see in me the consummate teacher-lecturer, who is most at home standing at a podium with a dry-erase marker in her hand. It’s where I like to be. But deen is not Geography or TOEFL preparation.

May Allah give me the time and perseverance I need to learn this great religion, so I can be a worthy teacher.

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