When I moved to America fifteen years ago with my husband and our five-year-old son, I had no idea about how we would handle our lives. Our plan was quite simple: to educate Ali in the best way possible. He was everything to us. We spent all our efforts on making his life better. I was a little worried about how we would impart Islamic teachings to him, but then my husband told me it was not something to worry about. We would teach him whatever we could, and everything would fall in place with the passage of time. And to be honest, we did not really care; what difference would it make anyway? Well, it did make a difference, proving us wrong.
We were having a pretty normal life. I used to send Ali to school, and my husband spent most of his time at work. After school, I would let Ali go to the park with his friends, and I would mostly go to a friend’s house for tea or community service. We had our own space, we lived without interrupting each other’s routines, and I thought that was my best parenting tactic: to let my son grow the way he wanted to. However, after seven years, our lives started to change. Ali befriended all sorts of kids from school. Even though he was social in his circle, he was quiet at home. I ignored it because I thought it was a temporary phase. As long as he was happy, what was the harm in it?
When Ali was twelve, his father died in a car accident on his way home from work. I was shattered; I did not want life to go on. I did not care about anything or anyone, even Ali, mainly because I was confused as to what to do next. How would I raise a child alone in a city like New York? I decided I would do what I usually did, and let him find his way out. At times, I felt as if I was bailing out on him as I was busy working; but I kept an eye on him all the same. I joined different societies and clubs. I met new people. One of the clubs was the Muslim Women’s Club. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether I would be interested in its agenda, but later I decided to give it a try.
During my journey, I had learnt a lot of new skills, such as designing, knitting, baking, and gardening; but Muslim Women’s Club was different. There wasn’t one specific thing that I learnt from there; instead, I learned many. I learnt to be a better person, and to put others’ needs before mine. It was the most relaxing experience which made me realize that my past life had always been void and vacant. I took more interest in my son’s life now because I had to bring a change in my own home first; I had to correct what I had wronged in the past.
First, I observed my son very carefully. I watched what he did from a distance. Now, this may sound very fussy and sneaky, but you can never go too far while handling things with your children. I checked whether or not he did drugs, and whether or not the company he was in was leading him off the track. I made sure my son didn’t drink. But when I got tired of not finding anything major, I decided I would give up and just come out straight.
One day, when my son came back from work, we sat in the backyard. I told him I wanted to talk. He was a sweetheart. He did not argue, and listened to me as I started. I told him about my new life, and I asked him to come to some of the mother-son curriculum with me. He simply nodded in agreement. I was more than happy at his response. I could not believe that my son respected me even though I hadn’t given him enough time. I wanted to fall down in Sujood and thank Allah (swt) for everything He had blessed me with.
After a few days, my son and I blissfully attended some conventions. We spent quality time together. I learned more about my son. We shared thoughts with each other; we learned Quranic verses and Ahadeeth collectively. I loved to listen to him while he talked about his day. My son became my best friend, and I found peace within my small family.
Then the bubble burst. I heard that my son had fallen in love with his Native American classmate. I felt really sad. I thought I had already lost him, and I had failed as a parent. My son was going to marry a non-Muslim woman… how disgraceful! I was furious.
When he came back from work that day, I started throwing his stuff outside. I yelled at him at the top of my lungs, and he stood quietly. When I got tired, he hugged me, and gave me a glass of water. I glared angrily at him. Then he put his head on my lap and explained to me that the girl, Sandra, was his colleague and he did actually love her. He said that he hadn’t done anything to be ashamed of and that he would only get married to her if she converted to Islam on her own will. He looked at me, smiled, and told me that he loved me, and that I was the only one who meant the most to him. And that was all I needed to hear. My anger dissipated, and I felt much happier.
After a year, Ali got married to the girl he loved. She did accept Islam by choice and changed her name to Sarah – just like Ali had predicted. Thanks to my beloved, I have changed a lot, too. But my journey has not ended yet. I am still learning. I am done with crawling and have started walking a bit. And whenever I tremble and am about to fall, my son catches me and helps me move forward, like I did when he was young. I also found out that my son had been a better Muslim than I ever was. He knew more than I did. And I am not ashamed to admit it but I am glad that even if I wasn’t the one teaching him ethics, Allah (swt) had been there all along.