The Creator and Our Kids

Image creator and kidsLove and recognition of Allah (swt) is not a cap that can be picked up from any store and worn on our heads. It needs to be grown gradually with care, wisdom and knowledge. It starts with the inception of life and not after one turns fifty, and heads towards the prayer mat. What our kids need is the right start in the right direction. Here is how we can achieve this goal:

Pre-birth relations

Allah (swt) breathes a soul into the unborn child in the fourth month of its conception in the mother’s womb. Allah (swt) states: “It is He Who fashioned you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no deity except Him, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (Al-Imran 3:6)

By the seventh month the foetus is able to respond to stimuli including pain, light and sound. By the end of the eighth month, it has undergone tremendous brain development and is now capable of seeing and hearing.

Besides nurturing a bond with her unborn child the mother may help her child develop ties with its Creator too.

The mother can recite the Quran aloud, or play an audiotape. This will provide solace to her, and also familiarize her baby with the Divine Revelation.

Much of the anxiety of a pregnant woman departs by praying to Allah (swt) for her own, and her unborn child’s health and safety.

The parents can give their child a head start by indulging themselves in simple good deeds.

Most significantly, the parents will have prepared a home environment, to welcome the baby, where everyone thinks and talks about Allah (swt).

Relations at birth:

Once the baby is born, as parents, we must thank Allah (swt) for the blessing bestowed upon us. The child is now admitted as the newest member of the Muslim Ummah by following Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) Sunnah, which is not obligatory but comes highly recommended. This includes the following rituals:

Adhan should be called out in the newborn’s ear. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “If one has a baby and makes the Adhan in its right ear and the Iqamah in its left ear, Satan will not disturb the child, Allah willing.” (Bayhaqi)

Tahneek refers to softening a date by any ordinary means and rubbing a small amount in the baby’s mouth.

Tasmiyah means naming a child. The Prophet (sa) said: “On the Day of Resurrection, you will be called by your names and by your father’s names, so give yourself good names.” (Abu Dawood)

Aqeeqah means to slaughter a sheep or other animal to celebrate birth of a child.

Relations in the first two years

A man came to Malik Ibn Nabiy asking for advice about his daughter’s education. Malik asked him: “How old is she?” The man replied: “One month.” Malik said: “You missed the train.” This statement may seem an exaggeration, but a child’s learning starts from the time it comes to this world. Our baby swiftly learns to cry for attention, food, a nappy change, and more. Parents can do much during these formative years:

The parents can continue reading the Quran, or playing an audiotape of it for the baby at least once or twice a day.

Parents become very upset when their child disturbs their prayer. The Prophet (sa) use to offer his prayers even while carrying his grandchildren in his arms.

Parents can set out a separate prayer mat and allow the kid to imitate them in prayers, as children love to emulate grownups.

Whenever the toddler does something deserving praise, he should always be told how Allah (swt) must be happy with him and will reward him, Insha’Allah.

As parents, we should not invoke fear of the Creator into children’s hearts by telling them how they will be punished for bad behaviour. The Prophet (sa) said: “There are three (kinds of people) whose actions are not recorded: a sleeper until he awakens, a boy (referring to children) until he reaches puberty, and a lunatic until he comes to reason.” (Abu Dawood)

Relations in the first five years

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “No child is born except on the Fitrah (of connectedness to Allah (swt)), as the animal gives birth to a perfect offspring. Do you find it mutilated? Then his parents Judaize or Christianize or Magianize him.” (Bukhari)

Norma Tarazi a writer, explains: “Being born in Fitrah does not mean being perfect. Our Fitrah prepares us to receive the guidance of Allah (swt) and to search for it, but we need that knowledge from outside ourselves in order to live in the best way.” The provider of this knowledge is the parent. Ibn Al-Qayyim rightly observes: “If you consider the causes of bad behaviour in children, you will, in general, find that the parents are the main cause.” Parents can play a positive role by following these steps:

It is best to teach children the Quran at an early age, since their minds are razor sharp and can pick new things easily and steadily.

Kids love bedtime stories, so this is an opportunity to narrate real life accounts of our prophets and their companions.

Parents can teach kids short Duas for different occasions, which help the child remember Allah (swt) at frequent intervals like, before eating, sleeping etc

We can inculcate gratitude in the child by helping him understand how the good food, toys, games, love, and everything in life comes from Allah (swt).

Whenever the child errs, parents may explain to him that he can mend ways by sincerely repenting to Allah (swt), and resolving to do better next time.

Relations in the first ten years

The companions of the Prophet (sa) took this great duty of child education at heart. They harshly reprimanded those who gave more attention to the grownups than to the children. Amr Ibn Al-As (rta) saw a group of men sitting next to the Kabah. They ordered the children to keep away from their gathering. He told them: “Do not do that! Let them join you and be near you, and give them guidance. They may be young today, but they will be adults tomorrow.” Parents can gear their kids’ energies in the right direction by doing much:

Once the kid is mature, we can explain him the purpose of our existence. Our mission to do good and stay away from evil. Once we return to Allah (swt), we will be judged for our deeds and accordingly rewarded for them.

We must teach the meaning of the Quran in any language of preference. We can only expect our kids to benefit from this knowledge if they are able to understand it and not by having just read it like a parrot.

The parents can invite their children to observe the wonderful creations of Allah (swt) and how the Quran defined them hundreds of years ago even before they were discovered scientifically.

As parents we must build our child’s trust in the Creator (swt). The kid must believe that it is Allah (swt) who can help him in any situation; He is watching him, and listening to him everywhere.

Assessing the prevalent scenario around us, Mounir Ibrahim a prolific writer comments: “Our children are indeed the future trustees of the Muslim Ummah. The importance of education should be even more emphasized in these times when falsehood is so widespread. If the parents do not rescue their children with a strong Islamic education, the children will melt in the pot and may join the ranks of those who wage war against Allah (swt) and the believers.”

The Islamic Finance and Banking System

Image finance“O believers, fear Allah and give up what is due to you from the interest (usury), if you are true believers. If you do not do so, then take notice of war from Allah and His Messenger. But, if you repent, then you can have your principal. Neither should you commit injustice nor should you be subjected to it.” (Al-Baqarah 2:278-279)

Riba in the Bible

One would perhaps be a little surprised to learn that the commandment regarding the prohibition of usury (Riba) also occurs in the Bible.

“Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything that is lent upon usury.” (Deuteronomy 23:19)

Key aspects of Islamic Finance

Islamic finance is popularly understood as that mode of banking, in which interest or Riba is forbidden. Although this aspect forms the crux of Islamic finance, there are also various other principles, according to the Shariah, that form the basis of an Islamic banking system which are:

Making money from money is not permissible: One of the assumptions on which all theories of interest are based is that money is a commodity. It is therefore argued that money can be bought and sold; bought in the form of deposits and sold in the form of loans. This is just as if a merchant can sell his commodity for a higher price than his cost, he can also sell his money for a higher price than its face value. Islamic principles, however, do not accept this assumption. Islamic financial institutions must trade in “real” assets or services. Money and commodity have different characteristics and therefore, they are treated differently.

Gharar (Uncertainty) is prohibited: Under this prohibition any transaction entered into should be free from uncertainty and speculation. Contracting parties should have perfect knowledge of the counter values intended to be exchanged as a result of their transactions. Thus, options, futures, and derivatives are considered un-Islamic and so are forward foreign exchange transactions because rates are determined by interest differentials.

Maisir (speculation or gambling) is not allowed: Transactions undertaken for purely speculative purposes are not allowed. Trading or investment transactions, which involve the risk of incurring losses as well as earning profits, do not fall under the definition of Maisir.

Investments should only support Halal activities: The Shariah does not permit Muslims to invest in any business or activity that involves the production of items or pursuit of activities that are considered to be Haram, or impermissible.

Role of a bank in the Islamic context

The functions of Islamic financial institutions can be divided into two parts: the safeguarding of deposits and the partnership of financial institutions with shareholders and depositors in profit-making ventures. Demand deposit facilities (called Amanah or Qard-Hasan deposits) are similar to safekeeping and transferable deposit functions performed in standard conventional banking. The Amanah or Qard-Hasan deposits pay no return and the financial institution is obligated to preserve the nominal value of the deposit.

The partnership activities of Islamic financial institutions have mixed features that include conventional bank intermediation, mutual funds or limited partnerships. To a large extent, Islamic financial institutions act as conventional intermediaries by issuing deposit-like instruments to the public in order to raise funds to finance commercial activities. The investments, many of which are negotiable and are known as “investment deposit certificates”, have properties similar to those of shares in a company or a mutual fund.

A Place for Pets

Image petsWhat type of animals can we own?

There are many types of animals that we can own, for example, cats are considered to be preferred pets. The Prophet (sa) liked cats a lot, and sometimes made Wudu from the same bowl from which a cat drank. He said: “It is not unclean; it is one of those who go round among you.” (Muslim)

Owning a dog however is a different matter and there are many rules and restrictions to owning a dog. Angel Gabriel (as) does not enter the house where a dog is, and so in order for angels to enter our home we must keep them free of dogs. The Prophet (sa) said: “He who keeps a dog other than that meant for watching the herd or for hunting loses every day out of his deeds equal to two Qirat.”(Bukhari)

Lessons for kids

Owning a pet gives us a prime opportunity to teach our children not only about responsibility, but also how to care for something other than themselves.

We can also teach our children not to be cruel to animals. The Prophet (sa) said: “Allah, the Blessed and Exalted is kind and loves kindness…” (Bukhari)

Children who are taught nurturing and compassionate behaviour are more likely to become kind and just adults too.

To buy or not to buy pets?

The Prophet (sa) has prohibited us from buying and selling certain types of animals. Horses are permissible to buy and sell; however cats and dogs are forbidden. In addition, the Prophet (sa) forbade the breeding of dogs.

Don’t go to extremes or be neglectful

In some western countries people buy gifts for their pets and take them to salons.

We should not go to extremes while caring for the pets. Allah (swt) has forbidden us to waste our money.

Similarly, we are also instructed not to become miserly. Allah (swt) states: “And those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor miserly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).” (Al-Furqan 25:67)

We should also not neglect the pets we own. We should give them proper shelter and food and adequate area to roam about. Keeping any animal tied or chained for long periods is inhumane and unnatural.

With regard to animal health care, all cats and dogs must have rabies shots, etc. It is a step like any other preventive measure that should not be neglected. Choosing not to provide pets with the proper protection from a dangerous disease would be irresponsible behaviour towards the animal and the surrounding community.

How should we treat our pets?

In Islam, even before we sacrifice an animal, we are to provide it with a drink of water, and ensure that the knife we slaughter it with is as sharp as possible so not to cause the animal unnecessary pain.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Once while a Prophet among the Prophets was taking rest underneath a tree, an ant bit him. He therefore, ordered that his luggage be taken away from underneath that tree and then ordered that the dwelling place of the ants should be set on fire. Allah (swt) sent him a revelation: ‘Wouldn’t it have been sufficient to burn a single ant (that bit you)?’”(Bukhari)

The punishment for mistreatment of Allah’s (swt) living creatures could be the ultimate price as in the case of the old woman that was sent to the hellfire for neglecting to feed a cat or allowing it to acquire necessary sustenance for itself. (Muslim)

It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children by example, to treat animals with kindness and respect. Insha’Allah, we will raise Muslims whose deeds are rewarded for kind treatment, rather then those whose mistreatment will be punished.

A Fresh Look For Your Child’s Room

Image kids room

Alhumdulillah, the Muslim Ummah does not seem to suffer from the decaying illness of low or even negative birth rates. Islam not only highly encourages the natural growth of population, but also promises abundant blessings to parents for raising their children in a good manner.

If you are among the blessed parents who have one, two or may be a house-full of kids, then at one time or another, you have faced the question of decorating a room for your children. If you have not got started on it yet, here are a few helpful tips that will effectively, and without much expense, refresh the look of the living space for your children.

1) Toddlers and pre-schoolers will surely appreciate a large white or black board that would satisfy their “artistic need” to write on the walls, without actually doing it. Make sure to hang the board at an easy-to-access level and adjust it when necessary, as your child grows taller.

2) School-going children can utilize the same white or black boards for working on their homework and displaying their school related projects. If the board is not large enough, do not hesitate to put up the projects on the walls directly. Nothing helps to remember the lessons more effectively than repeatedly seeing the material in front of your eyes.

3) Decorative shelving can add a pleasant touch to an empty wall. Since most kids love colourful things, let your children select the colours for the shelves and involve them also in the painting process. Depending on the age of your children, the shelves can display soft toys, dolls, cars, books, awards, etc. If you and your children feel ready for it, you can extend the painting project to the other pieces of furniture in the room!

4) Encourage your children to create their own personal wall-calendars. Give them a helping hand in arranging the number part of the calendars correctly and marking down all the important dates they need to remember throughout the year: Islamic holidays, starting / ending of school sessions, dates of exams, etc. The opposite opening of each month can feature a selection of your child’s best artworks.

5) Walls and doors can also serve for displaying the Arabic alphabets, Duas, Surahs from the Quran, names of Allah (swt), and other Islamic texts, depending on the age and the learning level of your children. Posters containing Islamic landmarks can help to familiarize your children with these important sites. Work with your children on creating project posters that would highlight the Sunnah related to the Islamic festivals as well as their daily activities. Encourage your children to write out all the texts in their own handwriting – this will make memorizing easier.

6) A colourful area-rug will brighten up almost any part of the room, where it will be placed, be it near the bed, at the door or by the study table.

7) If siblings are sharing a room, create a private corner for each of your children, where they can retreat for reading or quiet playtime. Once again, a small area rug would be perfect here, along with some large pillows for a relaxing setting. A toy box or a floor-based bookshelf at an easy-to-access distance will add a more personal touch to your child’s corner.

Do remember, however, to keep yourself away from “surprising” your children by arranging their room in their absence. Although children are under your roof and care, their privacy, preferences, and personal belongings should be respected. Also, do not get carried away in unnecessary and expensive extravagances – kids’ tastes change pretty rapidly, therefore, the room setting should be flexible enough to accommodate those changes.