Teaching Kids to Own the House

Own the House

Imagine going into the kitchen one afternoon to find that your daughter has already laid down the dining table! Or, you enter your son’s room and discover he has tidied it, without you having to nag him. At a time, when it’s difficult to get your children to fetch their own glass of water and place their books and bags in place, and when even picking up their chocolate wrapper is the maid’s duty, this sure is a farfetched thought. Or, is it really?

To raise self-sufficient and responsible children, with a sense of belonging to their home, parents must ensure their kids lend a hand with the housework. When kids do chores, they learn that life requires work; otherwise, they never learn to appreciate what others are doing for them. Studies show that kids who help around the house have better management skills and are more considerate and supportive. However, the question remains: how to motivate them?

Let us travel back in time and enter the home of our Prophet (sa) to witness his daily life. A man asked Aisha (rtaf): “What did the Prophet (sa) do at home?” Aisha (rtaf) replied: “He kept himself busy with housework. He patched his clothes, swept the house, milked the animals and bought supplies for the house from the market. If His shoes were torn, he mended them himself. He tied the rope to the water bucket. He secured the camel, fed it, and ground the flour with the slave.” (Bukhari)

Despite having the responsibility of prophethood, this is how the Prophet (sa) spent his time at home – doing things many of us look down upon. Living in the world of maids and servants, we assume that everything should be done by them. We tend to forget that even though all this was readily available for the Prophet (sa), he preferred to ‘own’ his house. Here are five handy tips for engaging your children in owning their house:

  1. Be the role models: Children watch you closely. They learn less from your verbal shots and more from your actions. If mother relies on servants for every odd task, children will learn the same. If father does not take any interest in housework, bringing in the grocery and tending to other needs, sons are sure to imitate him. In order to teach your children to own their house, you need to own it first!
  2. Teach the ‘theory’: Discuss with your children the examples of Muhammad (sa) and his companions. Impart Deen to them; teach them compassion; teach them the concept of Sadaqah (pouring from your vessel into the vessel of another), and teach them the virtue of helping parents and servants (helping with servants is more virtuous! Muhammad (sa) used to mill flour with the slave). Teach them the theory, guide to the practical, and watch them emerge as obedient, helpful kids, Insha’Allah!
  3. Delegate tasks: Assign age-appropriate tasks to each of your kids. Explain to them specifically what chores they have to do and what they should not expect their parents or servants to do. Keep your word about it. Encourage them, praise them and at times, even reward them. If they mess up, do not condemn their efforts. Give them chances to improve next time.
  4. Teamwork: Pick out a day, preferably over the weekend, when all family members work on different chores together, like washing the car, tidying up the cupboards and the like.
  5. Give the hired help a week off: Yes, if all else fails, simply tell the servants to take a week off. Resist all urges to pick up after the kids. This will surely give a strong message to them that they need to take responsibility for specific tasks around the house.

In the end, remember that children are children. You cannot expect them to work around readily all the time. However, when they grow up, they will be grateful to you, Insha’Allah!

Maryam (as): A Source of Inspiration for Single Women

Single Women

Marriage is an essential ritual of our Deen. However, for various reasons, many women remain unsuccessful in tying the knot. Consequently, they face social and physiological problems. These issues can be solved easily with guidance from the Quran. Surprisingly, one of the women mentioned by the Quran was not wedded; rather, she remained single all her life. She is Maryam (as), whose complete life is a source of inspiration.

Since men and women are created differently, their capabilities also vary. Maryam’s (as) mother might have thought of this when she gave birth to a girl, instead of a boy. Previously, she had vowed to give away her child in service to God. In her view, a male was more suitable for this purpose. The Quran records her bafflement in the following words: “Then when she delivered her [child Maryam (Mary)], she said: ‘O my Lord! I have given birth to a female child,’ – and Allah knew better what she brought forth, – ‘And the male is not like the female…’” (Aal-Imran 3:36)

Nonetheless, when there is firm faith in Allah (swt), women can achieve superior goals. Being a woman is not a weakness; rather, weakness is failure to recognize the abilities bestowed by Allah (swt) and to utilize them in a positive manner. In spite of being a female, Maryam (as) was readily accepted in the Temple of Sulaiman, where she was put under the care of Zakariya (Zachariya) (as). “…Every time he entered Al-Mihrab to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: ‘O Maryam (Mary)! From where have you got this?’ She said: ‘This is from Allah.’ Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills, without limit.” (Aal-Imran 3:37)

Unmarried women generally have two kinds of fears: the fear of protection and the fear of being financially dependent. A believing woman must remain sure of the fact that Allah (swt) is Al-Hafeez (the Supreme Protector) and Ar-Razzaq (the Provider of Provisions). Obedience to Allah (swt) is the key to attaining peace of mind. Allah (swt) has His special ways of giving provision to His creation. Humans are only required to strive. It is Allah’s (swt) responsibility to grant them their sustenance.

The most crucial moment in Maryam’s (as) life was the birth of Isa (as). Maryam (as) was extremely pious as well as a staunch worshiper of Allah (swt). Conception of a child without marriage by such a pious lady was indeed a huge trial from Allah (swt); yet, she faced it with complete steadfastness and patience. Remaining single is a trial in itself. For dealing with this trial, firstly, a person must accept it as a decree from Allah (swt), and secondly, it must be faced with patience. Patience implies discarding all kinds of negativity from one’s life and moving ahead with a positive attitude.

The noble character of Maryam (as) is portrayed in Surah At-Tahrim: “And Maryam (Mary), the daughter of Imran, who safeguarded her chastity…” (At-Tahrim 66:12)

Humans have desires embedded in them. Thus, it is natural to look for ways to satisfy these desires. Nikah is the Halal way to satisfy sexual desires; however, there are some who are unable to get married. Allah (swt) has specifically highlighted this characteristic of Maryam (as), because it is the kind of behaviour that is required from bachelors/spinsters. Islam not only delivers commands but also helps in their implementation. According to Islamic teachings, a person should ward off erotic thoughts from one’s mind and should keep one’s sight and hearing safe from Haram and everything that can lead to Haram. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The Zina of the eyes is looking, the Zina of the ears is listening, the Zina of the tongue is speaking, the Zina of the hand is touching, and the Zina of the foot is walking. The heart wishes and longs, and the private part confirms that or denies it.” (Muslim)

Secondly, a person should fast as Prophet Muhammad (sa) instructed: “O young men! Whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, and whoever is not able to do that then let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.” (Bukhari)

The latter part of the verse depicts more superior qualities of Maryam (as): “…and she testified to the truth of the Words of her Lord, and (also believed in) His Scriptures, and she was of the Qanitin (i.e. obedient to Allah).” (At-Tahrim 66:12)

Undiminished belief in the scriptures can be attained only by a thorough knowledge of them. This suggests that Maryam (as) strived hard to acquire knowledge. Single women usually don’t have many responsibilities; hence, they have a prime opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills. However, many women waste this precious time, and the resulting idleness becomes a cause for many physiological problems. Often, such women suffer from mental illnesses, which create difficulties for their families.

A general advice for every woman is to reflect upon and ponder over the noble character of Maryam (as). She is a source of guidance for success in both this world and the hereafter, as told explicitly by Prophet Muhammad (sa): “Many men reached the level of perfection, but no woman reached such a level except Maryam (as), the daughter of Imran, and Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh.” (Bukhari)

A Meaningful Life

Meaningful Life

“If what we do today doesn’t impact this world a hundred years down the road, then it is simply a waste of time!” Suleman Ahmer, CEO “Timelenders”.

This rings true for parents, especially when we consider our parenting priorities and what we envision for our children. Are we simply feeding and schooling a child to become another ordinary but self-centered individual, who would depart from this world having contributed nothing to it? Or, are we moulding our kids into extraordinary individuals, who will impact the Ummah with such dynamism that its echo will sound hundred years from now?

How many of us even know what we want out of our own lives? Planning is a Sunnah of the Prophet (sa). Allah (swt) put in six days to meticulously create the heavens and the earth. What should be a meaningful life for us? Suleman Ahmer offers four key elements.

Strategic vision

There is no wrong or right definition of the word ‘vision’, as every person perceives it differently. However, it means ‘the picture of the future we want to see’. A long-term sound vision is a life which has clarity and correctness.

A parent might wish for his/her child to grow up to be a good Muslim. However, although correct, this vision is unclear. Do they want him/her to serve the Ummah, while pursuing religious education? The child may become a Khateeb (speaker), an Imam, a Mufakkir (thinker or scholar), or a Mufti (religious law expert), etc. Likewise, do the parents wish for him to become a doctor, a lawyer, an economist and serve Islam and Muslims in these spheres of life? We should try to balance out what we want for the lives of our children with what they want to become. If we want him to become an engineer, while he would prefer to be a writer, there would be a clash of visions the parents have and the child has. Parents should be facilitators, helping their children to move towards their own goals. It is also the responsibility of parents to train their children such that it makes them wish for worthy goals.

A clear vision helps parents prepare and train their children towards their ultimate goal. For instance, a father wanted his son to offer Dawah at an American island. He taught him Deeni (Islamic/religious) knowledge and Dunyawi (worldly) knowledge. Plus, he made him learn how to swim, in case his son ever needed to escape in order to save his or others’ lives.

With a clear vision, you will eliminate all time wasters from your kid’s life. You will not fall prey to popular trends of the society by shifting your kid’s goal and confusing and frustrating him, too.

Imam Abdullah Johini’s mother admired Imam Sudais for his melodious Qirat and his other religious accolades. It was the power of this vision that helped Johini’s mother to train and educate him to become an Imam at Masjid-ul-Haram for five years.

Importantly, one should not be afraid to think big. With consistent efforts and sincere prayers, much can be achieved. And if one falls short, he still learns and acquires something worthwhile on his way. The journey towards learning is never futile.

Strategic time management

This has been defined as our ability to prioritize our lives in the light of a long-term vision and then to drive these priorities with Azm (determination).

A farmer tills the ground and weeds out any extra growth that could hamper a thriving harvest. Similarly, in our lives, time wasters are like the weeds that eat away the good energy and food of plants. The plants then eventually wilt. Once we have a sound vision defined for our children, we should constantly check how their daily activities will take them closer to their vision.

As parents, we have to help children choose and utilize important time slots of the day for critical actions. For example, the time preceding Fajr is immensely productive for memorizing, focusing, and planning. If we waste it through sleeping, it is a grave loss for them. Similarly, early noon is suitable to meet people for discussions, negotiations, execution, etc. If they plop before the screen and kill hours, it is an irreparable loss for them.

We must also spend quality time with our children. That doesn’t mean lecturing them, tutoring them, serving them their meals and seeing to their other necessities. It simply means doing what the child wants us to do with him/her. It could mean playing cricket, having a chat or enjoying an ice cream cone.

Competence

This means the knowledge, skills and abilities that are required for our vision. For example, a vision to scale Mount Everest requires a minimum set of skills, for instance, development of a physically strong body and specific muscles, knowledge to read weather changes, and ability to brave harsh climatic conditions and survive accidents, among others.

Dreaming and wishing is only the first step. It must be followed by an honest assessment of self and circumstances. What are our strengths, weaknesses and our developmental opportunities? Hence, a humungous task is broken into small chunks initially and progress is monitored. This gradually builds competence and trains children for their future responsibilities and challenges.

Leadership

It is defined as the ability to share our vision with others and to inspire and facilitate others in pursuing the shared vision.

An excellent way to develop leadership skills among children is to make them in charge of chores at home. They can become care-takers for younger or dependent siblings or older grandparents.

A family had an autistic boy and a normal girl. The boy was approximately eight years older than his sister. Once the girl was around fifteen years of age, she was trained by her parents to look after her much older brother by giving him his daily medicines, helping him shower and change, serving him meals, taking him for walks, playing games with him, etc. This training helped her mature, think sensitively, plan ahead, execute with diligence and empower others, too. She eventually rose to become an entrepreneur for a small company. The training to assume the future role as a leader began at home.

As parents, we are the shepherds for our flock. No school, college, tutor, trends or strangers can decide for our children. We do. And it does require Taqwa (God consciousness). Our children are not gifts from Allah (swt). They are a trust (Amanah) handed over to parents for a specific time period, after which we will have to return them to our Lord (swt) and be accountable for their conduct. It is the most pivotal job we have been entrusted with in this world. It requires patience and sacrifice on our part.

Will we train and enable our children to live a meaningful life or are we just going to let them graze the meadows, while they are here in this world and be gone one day, long forgotten?

Adapted from a workshop conducted at “Fajr Academy”, Karachi.