Connecting with Children – Handy Tips for Dads

In today’s globalized society, we often see that upon entering teenaged years, kids become strangers to their parents, especially the father. This was not the case in the past, as demonstrated by the relationship between Prophet Yusuf (as) and his father. We see that even as a youth he confided his secrets to him and came to him for advice. Why are our teenagers ignoring their fathers today? Perhaps it is due to some deficiencies in the ways fathers connected with their kids in their early years.

Listen to Them

Perhaps the most important factor is for a father to listen to his children. He must try to understand their psychology and unique personality. He should endeavor to understand what motivates and discourages his child. By doing so, the child will develop a trust for his father. He will see him as someone he can turn to for comfort, advice, guidance, support and empathy.

Play with Them

As many of us grow old, we lose the zest for life that is a vital characteristic in children. Fathers should attempt to regenerate that enthusiasm, while interacting with their children. While visiting a public park in New Jersey, I read a sign, which said: “Families that play together stay together!” Play can be traditional games like Oonch Neech, Baraf Pani, Aanch Macholi, four corners, tag or regular sports, or such board games as chess, scrabble, snakes and ladders, etc. By playing with children, fathers are strengthening their relationships with them.

Teach Them

Part of considering a father as a source of knowledge and wisdom comes when the father regularly engages in teaching children. He should not only help them with homework, but read to them beneficial books, and take them to museums, science centres, libraries, book fairs, planetariums, zoos and botanical gardens. When the child asks him for something he does not know, he should admit his ignorance and research the topic with his child using references and the internet. Among the subjects he teaches, he should not neglect religious subjects, as most answers to difficult questions that a teenager goes through are found in our beautiful Deen.

Take Them Out

Fathers should take children outdoors to beaches or parks on a weekly basis. This not only refreshes the children, who are cooped up at home throughout the week, but also makes them realize the handiwork of our Creator all around us. By sharing their amazement of marvelling at flowers, birds, trees, sea, sand, shells, stones, fish, animals and changing seasons, a father implicitly emphasizes his natural relationship with his children.

Worship with Them

Lastly, a father should establish worship with his family.  He should regularly take his children to Masjid for prayers, and make them participate in the Friday prayers, Takbeerat of the Eids, the Taraweeh prayers, Qiyam al-Lail, Salat ut-Tasbeeh, lectures and Halaqas. He should sometimes pray at home as the Imam of his family. By doing so, a father sends the message to his family that although he is in charge, he is also ultimately answerable to Allah (swt).

We do not know what destiny Allah (swt) has written for each child, but by taking the above steps, fathers will be assuring themselves that they have attempted to fulfill their responsibilities in the child’s early years. The only recourse left after that to fathers is to make supplications for their children, as the supplication of a father for his child is accepted.

The Four Orange Rinds

Orange Rinds

Suleman loved fruit, and there was plenty of it to enjoy in Pakistan. Living in Karachi, he enjoyed mangoes, oranges, pomegranates, pears, peaches, grapes, melons… such a wide variety of fruit, which came one after the other throughout the year from all parts of Pakistan. Today, after a heavy dinner at home, he had an orange. It was so sweet and juicy that Suleman, not a very religious person, spontaneously uttered ‘Alhumdulillah’ with pleasure. Suleman then forgot all about it. His career, work and entertainments kept him very busy and happy with his life.

Zaheeruddin Niazi was very grateful to Allah (swt). His orange orchard had 742 trees on his 20-acres farm. He loved each tree like his own child. His oranges with sticker “Shireen Sweet – Niazi Farm” were the best oranges in the entire Attock Mianwali area. They fetched the best price and were sold out in advance well before season.

FSC113 was the angel responsible for fruit supply to Suleman. There were hundreds of angels with all types of duties for fulfilling the needs of each individual on earth. Some angels were providing the exact Rizq appointed each year for a person; some were protecting the body, ears or eyes, while others were responsible for all types of food supply. FSC was an easy designation for the angel in charge of ‘fruit supply chain’. Since there were hundreds of fruit varieties, there were over 150 angels for bringing different fruits to Suleman. Allah’s (swt) vast network worked day and night for bringing Rizq and sustenance to His creation. All was planned to perfection and ran like clockwork.

Currently, FSC113 had the single duty by his supervisor to supply the best oranges available in Pakistan to Suleman. He had to supply 240 oranges in that particular season, which was not a bad bargain for offering Shukr for one orange! Suleman had shown gratitude, and Allah (swt) never forgets such things. FSC113’s job was not easy. He targeted Zaheer’s farm, since it was the best. Next, he targeted trees number 303, 304 and 305, which were in the best location and produced the most succulent sweet oranges in the entire orchard.

FSC113 settled next to these trees, in order to oversee their production for the next four months. He was dozing, when the hot sunrays jolted him awake; too much sun, he noted. The oranges will dehydrate and lose some glucose content and sweetness! FSC113 rushed skywards and instantly arranged for a cloud cover from his fellow cloud angel, which cut down the sunrays to just the right amount for providing sunlight, but not too harshly. FSC113 sighed with relief. He was well in control. He handled numerous daily challenges, such as ensuring the right amount of water supply, fertile soil conditions, absence of disease, and pest control when needed. He either brought the matter to the attention of Zaheer through intuition or whisperings or took help from his fellow angels, like he had done just now.

Finally, the oranges ripened and were packed and ready to be sent to Peshawar. But, at the last moment, the wholesaler called Zaheer that he had lots of stock, so if he wished, he could send it elsewhere. Zaheer had bookings from everywhere, so he directed the fruit to Quetta. Suddenly, it started to rain heavily in Quetta valley and the truck driver was instructed to change the route to Karachi. The Shireen Sweet were meant for a Gulshan fruit vendor. The truck driver, however, was obliged to grant a favour to his friend in the DHA fruit market. He promised the Gulshan vendor to bring his oranges on the next trip.

One day, Suleman got out of his office, intending to head straight home. But, as he approached the high street, he remembered that they were out of fruit. At the last moment, he turned his car, parked in front of his fruit vendor, and called him through the car’s window:

“Oranges hain (Do you have oranges)?”

“Jee Sahib; abhi taza aye hain. ‘Sweet Shireen’ bohot aala aur meetha hai. (Yes sir. Fresh oranges are here. ‘Sweet Shireen’ are very high quality and sweet.)”

“Theek hai, theek hai bhai, do dozen do – aur jaldi. (Alright, alright, brother. Give me two dozen and hurry!)”

He pays and drives home.

After dinner, Suleman asks his wife for an orange, but she is busy enjoying her banana. He tells his daughter, Sharmeen, to bring one for him. She picks one up, her phone rings, and she puts it down again. Suleman grunts and picks one up for himself. He cuts it in his usual four slices and eats it. No doubt, it was absolutely delicious. Suleman gets up to wash his hands, when he hears the Adhan and suddenly remembers Mufti Sahib’s talk of last Friday on Shukr. He sits down again, brings his hand together and says: “Alhumdulillah”.

More than 150 angels, who had worked hard to bring these oranges to Suleman’s plate, were all standing by the table, waiting to see the effect of their handwork. Suddenly, all of them broke out in a thunderous applause and bowed down to Allah (swt) saying what they said, when they bowed in front of Adam: “Allah Almighty, yes, You know what we know not!”

Allah (swt) then signals to His Archangel, who then just for a moment lifts the veils of ignorance from Suleman’s mind, giving him the gift of understanding and perception. In a flash, Suleman sees where his oranges were grown, how they were protected from sun, rain, disease, and pests and how they were switched from going to Peshawar to Quetta to Karachi and then from Gulshan to DHA. He saw how, by the greatest of miracles all the way from Mianwali traveling over a thousand miles in a period of four months, the oranges landed on his plate!

The veil lifted, and he was back in the world, sobbing like a child. He could barely make it to his bedroom, where he fell on his prayer mat, his body racking with sobs of Shukr, Shukr, Shukr – Alhumdulliah. “Oh Allah (swt), in my slumber, I did not know, but now I know how Rahim how Karim and how Rahman You are. Oh, the Mighty One! Oh, the Great One! Accept my thanks and also accept my repentance for not being grateful for my daily blessing. I know now, and I will be your true and grateful servant for the rest of my life.”

Suleman then collected the four rinds of the orange. After drying them in the sun for a few days, he had them carefully placed in two jars. One jar sits on his plush office desk and the other in his study at home. They serve as constant reminders to be grateful and not to forget his great enlightening experience, which changed his life forever!

Reinforcing Spirituality in the Workplace

Workplace spirituality

I did not realize that relationships at the workplace could be so gratifying in terms of Ibadah, until I sat down with my father to delve into his experiences about human resource management. His answers left me inquisitive, and I set out to search for the ideal virtues of a Muslim employer and employee.

Motivation, communication, cooperation, conflict management, wage compensations, promotion, job description, rotation and enrichment are the key components outlined in an employment agreement. To fortify the faithfulness in daily roles played by a manager, a supervisor and a subordinate, I rummaged through the admirable work of Imam Ghazali to the rejuvenating lectures of Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan.

To begin with, Ayah 57 from Surah Yusuf is of utmost significance for both the manager and the worker.

Allah (swt) says: “And verily, the reward of the Hereafter is better for those who believe and used to fear Allah and keep their duty to Him (by abstaining from all kinds of sins and evil deeds and by performing all kinds of righteous good deeds).” (Yusuf 12:57)

Thus, a mandatory virtue for both parties is to never lose sight of the perpetual mission of life. The subordinate should trust Allah (swt) as the Ultimate Provider for hard work and service, and the supervisor should learn from leadership qualities exhibited by Prophet Muhammad (sa), the four caliphs, Prophet Yusuf (as) and all the beloved messengers of Allah (swt).

Consequently, the Muslim manager ought to devise the employment agreement around the five prayers (Salah), negotiating time management, submission deadlines, rest pauses and work shifts.

Another principle characteristic is built upon Ukhuwat or Islamic brotherhood. Both should know the fruits that lie beyond this temporary life of a heart-warming brotherhood.

An important lesson taught by this Ayah is that when Satan intrudes the mind of the employee in the absence of the supervisor, he should remember that Allah (swt) is All-Seeing; He knows the conflicts created by the Nafs. Such a self-reminding habit ensures that one understands the importance of honesty and sincerity to his leader.

This verse steers to an aspect, which is also mentioned in Ihya Uloom Ad-Deen (“The Revival of Religious Learnings”) under “Seven Things That Make the Religion of a Businessman Perfect”, meaning the worker and the manager should both remember that they are setting up accounts with everyone they deal with. Allah (swt) will have the debit/credit records on the Final Day.

According to Abu Hurairah (rtam), Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Allah (swt) said: ‘I will be an opponent to three types of people on the day of Resurrection: one – who makes a covenant in My name, but proves to be treacherous; second – who sells a free person and eats his price, and third – who employs a labourer and takes full work from him but does not pay for his labour.” (Bukhari)

This Hadeeth shows the intensity of love that Allah (swt) has for the hardworking person. The employees offer their services in return of remuneration and benefits. Also, the religious-mandated practice of abiding by the agreement has been emphasized. A Muslim naturally tends to get psychologically attached to his Muslim brother. Reviewing the Prophet’s (sa) management skills, we see how Allah (swt) wanted him to boost the morale of the companions (Sahabah) at all times and listen to their concerns. Our Messenger’s (sa) life reveals his highest regard for employees’ services; their covenant was uncomplicated but magnificent in the context that the volunteers were the most important asset in the mission.

Isn’t it miraculous how our Creator, the most Magnificent and the most Merciful, has paved way for our self-evaluation in every field of life? Alhumdulillah! Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do.” (An-Nisa 4:135)

The know-how of justice, self-acceptance, embracing of criticism, being truthful and avoiding discrimination lies in this verse. The righteous employee should keep an eye on any acts of discrimination around him; this divine code of life also defines discrimination in terms of favouring the rich staff over the poor. The intention (Niyah) of the employer of any organization should be to facilitate his employees and make them intellectual and highly productive Muslims, securing an abode in the loftiest compartments of Jannah.

At our workplace, we should remember the value of a smile, which is also a form of Sadaqah or an act of charity. Such cheerful habits make us beloved in the eyes of Allah (swt).

Purification of the soul can also be conquered at work, which brings us to yet another attribute of an employer – the ability to pre-plan training programmes. Integrating Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan’s lecture ‘People of Substance’ into the employment bond, positive and negative reinforcement done in accordance with Shariah will yield awe-inspiring results.

For example, in a Lahore based firm, the supervisor sends his employees to a holistic nutritionist on performance-based work; she devises plans based on Prophetic medicine and quantum health sciences, which bring them closer to Allah’s (swt) creation, their body systems and the lifestyle of the Prophet (sa). Another effective bequest to be given for employee’s recognition could be a book on Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) Seerah. Regarding training programmes, employees deserve a chance for rejuvenation of faith; thus, they can be registered for workshops, Quran and Hadeeth boot camp courses and conferences.

I believe that becoming a beloved of Allah (swt) requires mastering the art of forgiving. It is perhaps the most fulfilling attribute to apply at the workplace; the employer should forgive the errors of employees as frequently as he can, looking ahead to the riches of the hereafter. On the other hand, the employee should forgive the judgements made about them and accept demotions as a form of test from Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) says: “For such, the reward is Forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing underneath (Paradise), wherein they shall abide forever. How excellent is this reward for the doers (who do righteous deeds according to Allah’s Orders).” (Ale-Imran 3:136)