Before Losing Your Kids

“Brothers, I lost him – I lost my son!”

In the introduction to his book, Even Angels Ask, Dr Jeffery Lang mentions this story about a religious man who was leading them in `Isha’ Prayer one night, and then conveys to them the sad news about his son, 16 years old, who has abandoned Islam and adopted a completely different lifestyle. Dr. Lang comments on this event – which is not uncommon these days in many cities and mosques across the nation – saying: “I was not convinced that he lost his son, because I was not sure that he had really found him”.


Protecting Our Kids

As parents, we want the best for our kids; we strive for them to live a happy, healthy, and enjoyable life that is full of achievements. Allah Almighty mentions in the Quran that this intrinsic concern is actually afitnah (trial) from Allah to the parents:

{And know that your wealth and your children are nothing but a test, and that with Allah is a mighty reward} (Al-Anfal 8:28)

While we tend to protect our kids from physical and emotional harm (cold weather, bullying, peer pressure, unhealthy food or excessive candy, etc…), Islam turns our eyes to a greater danger that needs a bigger plan that includes the worldly life and the hereafter:

{Oh you who believe, protect yourselves and your families from fire, the fuel of which is people and stones; the guardians of which are angels who are tough and strong; these angels do not disobey Allah in his commands and do whatever they are told to do.} (At-Tahrim 66:6)

Our mercy and care towards our kids dictates us to care also about their spiritual health, their connection with Allah, their understanding and practicing of Islam, and their relation with the Book of Allah.

We have to understand that our kids are human beings who are composed of a body and a soul, and both components need their own health plan; both components need their medication; both components need their “diet” and “exercise”.

Many parents – and please allow me to say many mothers – define their role towards their kids as being a baby sitter; someone who changes diapers, puts the kids to sleep, cooks and feeds. These are only the “logistics” related to child care, which are essential but only represent a small portion of the bigger role that Islam wants the parents to be.


Outsourcing the Tarbiyah (Islamic upbringing) to others

After years of involvement in youth activities at different Islamic centers in the US and in Lebanon, I became used to the following scenario: A parent bringing (or to be more accurate: DRAGGING) his/her kid to a weekly lecture or Saturday school. After that, the parent expects miracles from the youth counselor of teaching:

My kid does not pray; my son does not respect the elderly; my daughter started saying bad words; you did not teach him Quran; she still does not memorize a lot of Quran, etc…

Brother!! You did not hire me to do your job! I cannot become a parent! I can only compliment the role of parents by providing a clean and (relatively) fun environment where your son can find (relatively) good friends and interact with them. If we use the same analogy of “feeding” and “nurturing” our kids on the physical and the spiritual side: those parents want to send their kids to a soup kitchen ONCE a week, and expect them to be fed FOR FREE and to have that meal fill them up for the rest of the week!!!

Not only that, they want that food to be organic, healthy, tasty (according to McDonald’s or Burger King standards), and would love this meal to carry some medication for their kid’s particular problems and diseases!!

I hope that I am not being pessimistic, and I know that there are always good parents and educators who truly care for their kids and do their best to raise them, but that perception in the minds of parents and that idealistic expectation from youth counselors and educators should be corrected, even if we were a little bit harsh but honest in our advice


Guidance: The secret light

As harsh as it sounds, the fruits of your Tarbiya and my Tarbiya is not guaranteed at all. You might be the best parent ever, and spend a lot of time and money in raising and educating your kids, without getting anything in return. The Quran tells us stories about great Prophets, whose curriculum, activities, and personalities were indeed better than any teacher or any Islamic education program:

  • Prophet Noah and his son (Hud 11:42-47)
  • Prophet Ibrahim and his dad (Maryam 19:41-48)
  • Prophet Lut and his wife (Hud 11:81)

All of those stories prepared Prophet Muhammad ( peace and blessings be upon him) to the very sad experience that he encountered: The death of his beloved uncle Abu Talib without converting to Islam; when he was on his deathbed, the prophet was begging him to say “La Ilaha Illa Allah” so at least he can argue on his behalf with Allah on the judgment day. Abu Talib, influenced by the presence of other disbelievers in the room, with Abu Jahl on top of them, had his last words in this world: “I remain on the religion of `Abdul Muttalib”. Allah told the Prophet – and us – about the reality of life:

{You do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills, and HE knows best those who are guided} (Al-Qasas 28:56)

This rule applies to me and you, and our kids are no exception. However, let’s look at the other side of the picture: Allah judges us depending on our actions, not on the results. We get to make the right choices for our kids, and provide the right environment for them, and this is exactly what Allah will hold us accountable for.

Working for Allah is similar to working as a marketing person in this huge company, where your paycheck, your commission, and your salary are all guaranteed, whether you make the sale or not, whether you win that customer or not. You are only asked to put your maximum effort. In case you were blessed to SEE the fruits of your effort, then it is only due to HIM and HIS mercy, not because of your efforts and choices.

I know that I did not provide solutions and practical steps in this article, but let’s agree that the first step in the solution is to have the right diagnosis. Assuming responsibility and realizing the magnitude of the threat that our kids’ faith is facing is indeed the beginning of the road. While I am in no way near to being an expert in giving educational and social advice to parents – and to kids, I will try to follow up with another article that suggests some steps to do with kids, before we end up being in the same shoes as the parent that Dr Lang talked about, and say: “brothers, I lost my son”