An overview of the condition of children and families in the world today leaves one bewildered and saddened. The family structure is falling apart, with divorce, separation, single parenthood, and fatherless homes becoming the norms rather than the exceptions.
Technology has resulted in families spending less time together than at any point in history. Children spend more time immersed in television programs and computer games (more than 20 hours per week) than in meaningful conversations with their parents (less than 30 minutes per week). Mothers are entering the workforce in ever-increasing numbers, often leaving their young children in the care of strangers for long periods of time. The list is endless.
The most significant trend in families today is a decline in basic morals and values. Immorality is becoming an acceptable and familiar way of life. Cheating, gambling, consumption of alcohol and drugs, premarital and extramarital relations, and others have become the norm in many countries of the world. In relation to children and families, disobedience, deceit, and disrespect are the three dangerous Ds of this era. Children and teens no longer find it important or necessary to obey and respect their parents. They will disobey or be deceitful in order to please their friends or to gain some worldly pleasure. They do this with little thought or feelings of guilt. This is an insidious and ominous concern that must be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, Muslim families are not immune to these concerns and phenomena. Many Muslims in the West struggle with these issues on a daily basis. And, as globalization sinks its teeth into every bit of area on the earth, Muslims around the world are affected to a greater degree. Although globalization is actually term that is meant to describe economic forces, it is having far-reaching effects on the social and moral structures of societies. Nations are not only importing goods and services, but they are also bringing in ideals, values, and morals that are often contrary to the traditional beliefs and practices of these societies. The main route of transmission is the media, including television, Internet, and magazines. A child halfway around the world is exposed to the same mind-numbing, valueless, morally corrupt material as a child in America. As children and youth scramble to become ‘Westernized‘, members of the older generation struggle to maintain their ethnic, cultural, and religious identities. This leads inevitably to all sorts of intergenerational conflict and, of course, to the three dangerous Ds.
The most significant worry is the impact that these events are having on the Islamic values of families and societies; for it is these values that are suffering the most. The long-term concern is that with each generation, these values will become weaker and weaker. It is not uncommon in Muslim countries, for example, to see teenage boys and girls hanging out together at the mall: the girls without Islamic covering, fully made-up and wearing perfume. Boys and girls communicate together through Internet chat rooms, email, and cell phones. Teenage smoking, drug use, and delinquency are on the rise in many countries. The extent of more clandestine diseases, such as illegitimate relations, is unknown.
We are all familiar with these images; but the focus of this book is not on the problem, rather on the solution. For the solution to these social ills and troubles is within the hands and hearts of each and every Muslim. It is within reach and can be accomplished with sincere dedication. The answer, of course, is Islam and a return to the virtuous and honourable principles of this way of life. This is, in fact, the only real and viable solution; for it has been ordained by our Lord and our Creator, who knows us better than we know our own selves. Any other solution that has been attempted has fallen short of its goals.
This is not a new notion or proposal, for people since the beginning of humankind have proposed the same. Prophets, righteous men and women, and scholars throughout history have called people to the true meaning and purpose in life and warned them about the deception that is present within it. This book is intended to repeat the call for a renewal of, and return to, those timeless Islamic values and the eternal Islamic way of life. This is the only genuine medicine for all of the social ills present in the world today; the only resolute protection against Satan. Deviation from Allah’s laws only leads to destruction and disorder, while a restoration of His way of life will bring the harmony and stability that are so needed. The challenge is in persuading everyone to take the medicine, for it requires effort and earnest commitment. Additionally, it is a lifelong process of treatment that does not end until the time of death.
The focus of this book will be on nurturing the next generation and instilling Islamic values and eeman (faith) in them from a very young age. Those who have taken the remedy from the time of birth will find it less difficult or strange to continue it throughout their lifetime. It will naturally flow and progress as the person develops and grows through each phase of life. In actuality, children have within them a very special seed known as the fitrah. The fitrah is the innate, inborn tendency to know Allah, to believe in the oneness of Allah, and to develop eeman. The seeds of eeman are already planted and only need to be nurtured lovingly in order to grow into beautiful, flowering plants. For this reason, the book is entitled Nurturing Eenuin in Children.
It is also hoped that over the course of this process, those attempting to administer the remedy will learn and grow in Islam themselves. People generally learn the most by teaching others, and this is one of the most significant outcomes of parenting. When we look at our children and think about what and how we want them to be, these questions should also arise regarding our own selves. When we see them imitate our behaviour we should ask if this is how we really want our children to behave. Is this the best behaviour for us as adults? What do we truly want for our children and our family in this life and in the hereafter?
This is not simply a book on parenting from an Islamic perspective, for there are many such books already available. It is not a book about how to be a Muslim, for most of us are already familiar with this. We all know how to fast, pray, give zaket3, and so on. Rather, this book is an attempt to educate parents about how to take their children and themselves to the next level. This next level is the level of eeman: of faith, of sincere devotion to Allah, and of fear of Allah. It is an attempt to influence and affect the hearts and souls of each and every Muslim, for strengthening of eeman and the heart is the only protection against the evils of society and the whispering of Satan. This is a call to teach our children how to be genuine believers rather than simply Muslims by name. We must educate them about what it really means to have faith in Allah, to comprehend the meaning of tawheed,4 and to be conscious of Allah in every decision and action. Our dream for them is to be exemplary callers to Islam, sincere seekers of knowledge, fearless soldiers, societal reformers, righteous wives and caring mothers.
It is this sincere faith that will lead the believers to implement Islam completely in life: within themselves, within their families, and within society. This implementation will lead to the restoration of values in society and a return to the authentic peace that Islam represents.
(Nurturing Iman in Children by Dr Aisha Hamdan)