The Women in Your Life

Women in Your Life

  1. Centre of gravity

As a man, you must understand that every woman in your life wants herself to be the focal point of your life. This includes your caring mother, your loving wife and your affectionate sister. Give them all their share of attention and love and maintain a balance in it. It might sometimes feel like walking on a tight rope, but you will be able to nip many evils in the bud, if you can master this art of attention-giving. Chat with them, compliment them and make them feel cherished. Find out what they want to hear from you. Be expressive and warm.

  1. A bankrupt account

Too often, we are tight-lipped about matters that bother us. Learn to communicate this to your loved ones. Let the women in your life know what heightens your misery. It may include seeing discord at home, picking fights over trivial matters or expressing unnecessary criticism. Inform them that it breaks your heart when they behave in a certain manner. So the next time any one of them slips, she would know why you are upset and would not build tolerance for anti-family behaviour. When the Prophet’s (sa) wives requested him for a raise in their monthly stipend, he left them for approximately a month, as a clear indication that worldly affairs were not his priority.

  1. A place for all

As a married man, you will have to decide each and every person’s place and rights in your life. You will respect and care for your mother. You will seek her guidance, as she knows you well and is experienced about matters of life. Getting married doesn’t mean that you will not spend time with her anymore. Similarly, your wife is your trusted companion; she is the closest to you. You will shower her with love and provide for her needs. She will offer you support in ways that others can’t. In response, you will support her, especially in matters related to your own family and your kids’ upbringing. Your sisters will look up to you, if younger, or treat you like a boy, if older. You will have to love them back and be there for them, when needed. Communicate this to all the women in your life, so that none of them would try to twist your arm for dominating you.

  1. Old versus new

This is a challenge in which most men fail. At the expense of new relations, they sometimes abandon their old ones. A mother will always be a mother; no one has contributed or sacrificed what she has in raising you. As per the Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth, she does have the greatest right over you, while you have the greatest right over your wife. As you enter into the delicate marital relationship, you will have to get to know her better and not take your marriage for granted. Above all, communicate to all parties the importance of both old and new relationships. No one will be forsaken for the other one.

  1. Apples and oranges

The last thing you want to do is draw comparisons between the women in your life. If Aisha (rtaf), the fourth highest narrator of Ahadeeth, could not bear to hear our beloved Prophet’s (sa) praise for his beloved wife Khadijah (rtaf), after the latter’s death, can our women fare any better than that? Women are insanely jealous. If you ever try to compare your mom’s recipes with your wife’s recipes (even if you are right) or vice versa, you may end up in deep trouble.

Why People Cut Ties

Jan 11 - Why people cut tiesBy Umm Abdullah

Saeed, a self-made businessman, says: “What my brothers did deserves that I never speak to them again. After all, I’m not the Prophet (sa) – I don’t have unlimited patience.” For various reasons, he has completely boycotted his brothers and sisters for more than ten years, to the extent of refusing to talk to them, visiting them or letting his family meet them. He believes that what he has done is Islamically correct. His sons follow the same line of thought and action.

His son Rehan, a young husband and father, believes: “Staying away from my father’s side of the family is the only way to stay at peace.”

Such scenarios are becoming fairly common in every other family these days, although Islam places great importance on maintaining close ties with relatives and warns of severe punishment for those who sever them. Recall the story of Abu Sufyan and Heraclius, when he sent for him and said: “What does he (the Prophet) enjoin upon you?” Abu Sufyan said: “He enjoins us to pray, give charity, be chaste and uphold family ties.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

So why do people break off relationships? There could be a number of reasons for this:

Lack of awareness

Many people don’t know that Allah (swt) has not given us a choice, as far as maintaining of blood ties is concerned. There is a lack of awareness about just how important relatives are in Islam, what rights they have upon us and the punishment for those who sever these ties.

Expecting too much

We take it for granted that our relatives owe us a lot and are more aware of our rights upon them than our responsibility towards them.

Failing to forgive and forget

Perhaps the greatest factor for failing relationships is the failure to forgive and forget. We give ourselves all the benefits of doubt and give no allowance to others.

Current trends in society

Over the past years, the nuclear family has emerged and close-knit extended families are slowly becoming a thing of the past. People would rather unwind on weekends with friends than extended families. Family commitments have become chores that are fulfilled as a burden or abandoned altogether. The practice of elders resolving family disputes is also becoming extinct.

The blame game

It is always more convenient to place the entire blame for an incident at someone else’s door. We fail to realize that each one of us is responsible for our actions and that we always have a choice in a situation – to react positively or negatively.

Doing good for the wrong reasons

When we act kindly, our instant mistake is that we start expecting good in return from the same person. What that actually means is that we did not correct our intention – of doing good only for Allah’s (swt) sake, expecting return only from Him (swt), not our relatives. Repelling bad treatment with good is what is actually required.

The Messenger (sa) said: “The one, who maintains a relationship with his relatives only because they maintain a relationship with him, is not truly upholding the ties of kinship. The one, who truly upholds those ties, is the one who does so even if they break off the relationship.” (Bukhari, 5645)

“I’m not a hypocrite. I can’t be nice to someone I don’t like”

There is a difference between hypocrisy and courtesy. When we are meeting someone nicely but with an ill intention of causing harm to that person, it is called hypocrisy. But if we are being courteous to someone for the sake of Allah (swt), in spite of disliking certain traits in them, then we are actually earning Allah’s (swt) pleasure for our added effort and patience.

Taking the easy way out

When a problem occurs, the instant reaction is to break off and run. Escaping from uncomfortable situations and relationships is always easier than facing problems and resolving issues. However, Islam does not endorse living as a hermit in isolation, but rather living a life of struggle, in the midst of humans with contrasting temperaments and bearing their trials with patience and self control.

Scholars state that even under extreme circumstances, such as when the relatives are disbelievers or sinners, a Muslim is not allowed to cut off relations with them completely. After trying his best to advise and guide them towards the right path and making Duas for their guidance, if they persist in sin and are affecting his own Iman, then he is allowed to minimize interaction with them. So he can talk on the phone, instead of visiting, or shorten his visits or send an occasional gift, but maintain some form of contact nevertheless.

Forces of Change

Vol 3- Issue 3 Forces of ChangeA glance at the past would show urban Pakistani women involved in various extra-curricular activities: cooking classes, fitness programs, volunteer work or school-teaching to name a few. Studying the Quran and the Sunnah in a proper educational setup was not common. Today, a noteworthy and heart-warming trend observed among them is that, whether residing in their home-country or abroad, they are turning towards this fruitful endeavor in hordes. Attending Quranic Tafseer and Hadeeth classes as regular students, sitting in part-time as casual attendees, listening to audio tapes or taking Internet classes – most women can be found actively pursuing Islamic education at their own pace. Anyone we meet has a sister, daughter, aunt, mother-in-law, friend or neighbor absorbed in this pastime. The Hijab is randomly sprouting up in even the most ‘modernized’ of clans as an eye-opening reality that change is imminent.

The initial journey towards enlightenment for most of these women is, however, hardly a rosy one. The first challenge they face is the demand their studies make on their time: after coming home, they still have to study for the next day. Tests are routine. For most, learning to balance their time between studies and family is a difficult task.

Another obstacle they face is the mounting friction with family members. Since the Quran teaches them, what Allah (swt) has ordained and what He has forbidden, they get emotionally-charged with wish to change overnight into ideal Muslims, inadvertently feeling intolerance for some un-Islamic activities going on in their homes. Since their family is not being enlightened by the Quran every day, they cannot cope with the sudden criticism of their day-to-day activities.

“My husband has been drinking for years now, and I never used to object,” confides one well-off mother-of-two, “but ever since I have started studying the Quran, I cannot tolerate this habit of his. I keep telling him that alcohol is Haram, which is making things sour between us.”

“None of my teens perform Salah. This is agonizing me with worry, and often I end up shouting at them. They just don’t listen!” laments one mother.

“My daughters are under immense peer pressure – all their friends date boys. I am seriously thinking Nikah at 16 is the only option for my teenagers,” worries a Pardah-observing mother.

“My mother constantly chides me for having started Hijab. She only covers her head in the Bazaars and says I should do no more either; else, I will receive proposals only from Maulvi-type families,” says a young IBA graduate.

What can these well-meaning students of the Quran, desiring to see their family members join them on their path towards pleasing Allah (swt), do in order to maintain the peaceful atmosphere of their homes?

Remember your own past

For being more humble and less judgmental, a Mumin should recall his own past actions, realizing that only Allah (swt) can guide His slaves. Have you yourself become the best model of Islamic conduct that you can start criticizing everybody in sight? It is easy to judge and analyze others. Constant self-criticism and self-accountability will ensure that you approach your relatives with softness and humility.

Focus on giving the rights of others due on you

If an immense positive change will come about in you after studying the Quran, your relatives will also want to study it. Be giving in all relational aspects, returning bad behavior with good – extend good conduct towards the fussy husband, the nosy neighbor, the interfering sister-in-law, the lazy servant, and the rude teenager. Fighting and returning taunts of others with some of your own implies a need for improvement in your own conduct. Your children should have enough trust in you to come to you for advice, instead of maintaining a distance for fear of an onslaught. Be their friend and confidante. Cater to all their emotional needs.

Patience

Try to restrain the urge to lecture your family. You got there before them, but dragging them towards Allah (swt), when they are reluctant, will only make them turn away more diffidently. Control your reaction, when you see them doing something wrong. It’s difficult, yes, but don’t say anything then. Wait for the right time.

Learn Hikmah – the wisdom of Dawah

Educate yourself with the ‘what-when-how-how much’ of Dawah. The mood of the listener, the words you choose, the tone of your voice, and the length of time you speak are of utmost importance. A little imbalance can cause more damage than benefit. You can even convey the message via printed Islamic material, such as pamphlets, books or articles. If your daughter gossips for hours with her friends, give her material about proper use of the tongue; if your son gazes at girls, give him an article about lowering the gaze. Do it tactfully, at the right time. Most importantly, lead by example.

Refrain from negativity

Complains, taunts, sarcasm, insults, scolding and shouting constitute a huge mistake on the part of a Mumin desiring Allah’s (swt) pleasure. In fact, such conduct (Akhlaaq) fairs very poorly in our own scale of deeds. Our closest relatives, no matter what they do, are deserving the best conduct from us.

If you hold on to these golden rules of behavior with your family, time will show you, how they become your greatest friends and supporters. Your husband will clear the table, while you revise your lesson. Your daughter will help with cooking Sunday lunch, while you study for your test. Your son will rush to get your notes photo-copied for your classmates. More than that, as the years pass, they themselves will transform into the practicing Muslims you wish them to be!

“…Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e., Allah orders the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly) and verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)

Elderly Parents – Handle With Care!

Vol 3- Issue 1  Elderly ParentsYouth is a gift of nature; age is a work of art. The gray in the hair and the wrinkles on the skin reflect close encounters with life. Incidents and emotions many of us have just read about have been lived by many elderly people. Ironically, not much is ever said or done about the elder stratum of our society, though they form a nuclear part of each family.

The purpose of this article is to bridge the gap between adults and their elderly parents. How can we give an aesthetic and meaningful touch to the nature’s most treasured family ties? We can simply turn the occasional tartness into a treat by retaining our own perspective. Following are the tips that focus on the upside of positive attitude and the benefits we may reap.

Recognize the Child in Them     

An old man is twice a child, according to William Shakespeare. No wonder grandparents and their grandchildren often seem to get along so well. However, we apply a different formula to handle both. With kids, we tend to be softer and ignore many questionable situations, taking into account their limited comprehension and experience. Conversely, with older folks we adopt a much harsher attitude, expecting them to demonstrate grace and wisdom always. Just as a child at his worst behaviour needs to be loved and handled with patience, the same applies to the elderly. If we agree that the old age is the second childhood, we should gear ourselves to deal with both likewise – with tolerance!

Help Them Slow Down

If our parents have led a very energetic life, they sometimes refuse to accept that age is catching up with them. Just like any machinery works at its best when it’s new, it needs regular servicing as it depletes. We fail to recognize the signs, and our parents don’t listen to the signals of their body. As children, we also at times expect our parents to function like they did ten years ago. They simply feel frustrated, when they cannot operate with the same vigor and virility. All super parents do get old and need to condition themselves to a gradual slow-down. Children must help them re-schedule their lives with maximum support and assurance that they can still do much but at a slower pace.

Encourage Them to Live on

Age brings multiple complexities in life. Some elderly fall in the trap of taking a pre-mature retirement from the life itself. This may occur after retirement from employment, marriage of children, or death of one of the spouses.  Feeling redundant, they wait around for their candle to blow out. Here, we can give them assuage that if they are alive, they certainly are not worthless.  It means there is still a plenty they can contribute. For example, they can teach the basic language and mathematic skills to the household servants, pass on familial traits (such as cooking or gardening) to their grandchildren, and do much more depending on their interests, mobility, and health.

Pull Them Away from Dangerous Habits

Richard Carlson comments that the elderly have far more years of bad habits to overcome than youngsters. Having generous portions of time available to them, they occasionally negatively capitalize on it by indulging into gossips. This is an indeed hurtful habit for the ambience of the home. Try to explain to them politely, how such loose conversation invites Allah’s (swt) wrath. You may pretend to place the blame on yourself or other factors for enticing them into starting it. This will save them from embarrassment. In case they do not budge from their stance, distract them with other chores and divert the conversation to more general topics. If nothing works, stop lending them your ear.

Dodge the Criticism

Disraeli has said that youth is a blunder, manhood – a struggle and old age – a regret. Criticism is just a way that certain people express themselves. It says less about us than it does about their need to criticize us. At times, due to hardships of life, our parents become habitual critics. Bitterness entrenches so deep in their lives that they can never appreciate a kind gesture or sincere intentions. Here the job is certainly a tough one, as humans temperamentally demand reward and recognition for their efforts. In such situations, just remember that the One, Who really needs to know and see, is Omnipotent and Omniscient. With Allah (swt) lies our ultimate reward.

Give Them Time

Panin once said that in youth the days are short and the years are long, while in old age the years are short and the days long. Sometimes neglect causes parents to behave inappropriately to warrant attention. Especially, when they feel their worth is no more than an old piece of furniture lying around the house. The best way is to engage them in any possible way. We can ask them to play board games with grandchildren or to share some old tales. We can set exclusive time to have tea or snacks with them in their room. We may discuss current affairs, family issues, hobbies or even seek their advice on their areas of expertise. Besides, they may not be around for long.

Try to be in Their Shoes

Age is a wretched combination of sickness, hopelessness, and dependence. When a case of common cold hits us, we end up becoming miserable. Though with medicines and appropriate treatment it goes away, we are cured by the mercy of Allah (swt). In old age, most of the diseases become a permanent condition. The symptoms differ only according to days, nevertheless, they are to stay. It takes nerves of steel and an iron will-power to fight it daily. This may translate into irritation, which is thrown up on others. According to Simone de Beauvoir, it is this very awareness that one is no longer an attractive object that makes life unbearable for so many elderly people.

Recognize Their Resistance to Change

Michel de Montaigio says: “Has anybody ever seen old age that did not applaud the past and condemn the present?” Often, older generation refuses to acclimatize itself to new ideas. This is a natural phenomenon. The nostalgia is so overwhelming that it doesn’t let them part with their past, let alone bury it. This makes them overly critical of all that is new and associated with it. They visit down the memory lane and want others to appreciate it with the same zeal. We do not have to start a heated argument, shooting down their perceptions as being old and outdated. Just open up our mind and close our mouth to draw the best out of their experience. When we get off to a good start, our positive attitude feeds on itself.

Listen to Them

Regardless of age, human beings have an instinctual need to be heard. If we consider ourselves, we tend to like the most those friends, who have a heart to hear us out patiently. Schopenhauer said that the first forty years of life give us the text, then the next thirty supply the commentary on it. The elderly like to relive their memories and occasionally share them with others. This may mean having to listen to their tales over and over again. We should take it in our stride with a touch of humour. One day, we may sound like a broken record playing a song over and over again for our children, too. We can all unanimously attest to the fact that the clocks are ticking also for us.

Role Reversal

Mother in lawBy an appreciative mother-in-law

I must share, how fortunate I am to have a wonderful daughter-in-law. Alhumdullilah! I know that it sounds unbelievable, but it is true. No, she is not retarded. Actually, she is a warm and caring girl, just the way she was, when I chose her for my son.

What is the secret behind this relationship? I can think of many, the obvious being Allah’s (swt) mercy on us, and the wonderful friends around us. They are caring souls, who gently yet immediately point out to me every time I am being insensitive, and they also remind me of my days as a Bahu (daughter-in-law).

I think that this is the common problem we mothers-in-law have. We have forgotten our days, when we were newly married, very sensitive, eager to please, but were not quite sure how! Especially, if we were married into a joint family, we had to be very careful not to tread on anyone’s toes. If we showed concern for our mothers-in-law, our sisters-in-law would brand us as ‘Chamchis’ (flatterers). If we would mind our own business, we would be called ‘cold fish.’ It just seemed like a no win situation! But I want to remind us all of what we pledged to ourselves at that time – that we would never do the same to our daughters-in-law!

We pledged that we would fuss over them, when they would be newly married, for they were coming into a strange home, with people, who have different ways of life. We would help them through their initial awkwardness, encourage them when they would make an effort, over look or gently explain when they would make a ‘faux pas.’

We pledged we would make them feel special, when they would conceive. We swore that we would let them name their babies and invite all their friends and relatives to the Aqeeqah. We said that we would not interfere in the children’s upbringing, especially where discipline was concerned. If they are old enough to be married and have children, then they are old enough to make their own decisions. They will be questioned in the Akhirah about their children – not us!

Narrated by Anas (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “No one of you becomes a true believer, until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

I know, you are probably thinking this is a Bahu (daughter-in-law) writing, pretending to be a Saas (mother-in-law). Let me now turn my attention to the Bahus (daughters-in-law).

Try to visualize yourself as the mother-in-law, which you will, Insha’Allah, be one day. How this beautiful, young girl comes into your son’s life, and all of a sudden, you cease to exist for him. How you endured the pangs of childbirth, the sleepless nights, stress during his exams, kept a stiff upper lip each time he was bullied. Where will you be then? Old age and redundancy is not a very exciting prospect, is it?  I bet all the mothers-in-law are misty-eyed and are nodding their heads.

Seriously girls, are you so insecure that if your husband comes home from work and first goes to meet his mother, you feel he loves you any less? If he doesn’t do so, you should encourage him to start. Remember, we are role models for our kids. Our attitude and behavior will set the trend for theirs. If they have seen their grandparents being given respect, they will do the same for their parents and elders.

Anas Ibn Malik (rta) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “If a young man honours an older person on account of his age, Allah (swt) appoints someone to show reverence to him in his old age.” (Tirmidhi)

We are all humans and make mistakes; no one is perfect. If we want perfection in others, we should examine ourselves first. Are we perfect? Don’t we err? If we expect others to overlook our mistakes and forgive us, then we should do the same. Let’s not have any expectations from anyone, because we will always be disappointed.

How often we make excuses for our mother’s behaviour, where our Bhabis (brothers’ wives) are concerned; let us use that same compassion for our mothers-in-law.

Words of advice: Cultivate friendships with well-meaning, sensible, older women as I have with sincere younger friends. They will, Insha’Allah, help you understand your mothers-in-law. Don’t involve your mum, she will naturally be biased towards you and will then harbor ill feelings towards your ma-in-law, and that, definitely, will not help the situation.

Before signing off, I do not want to do any disservice to my late mother-in-law, may Allah (swt) rest her soul in peace. She was a wonderful mother-in-law as is my mother. I have been very fortunate to have such amazing role models, Alhumdullilah.

Friends Forever

Noorjehan Arif observes: “Making good friends is also a craft, partly learnable and partly a gift of Allah.”

While life takes us through the ups and downs, friends and family provide us with some sanity and stability to move forward. Relationship with friends is very unique. Peer influences can either direct us in the positive direction or damage lives brutally. The Prophet (sa) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” (Abu Dawood)

Choosing good friends is an arduous task but by no means an impossible one. One thing to bear in mind is that the person should be virtuous. Sometimes, we prefer hanging out with people, who are fun and cool! In due course, even if this means displeasing Allah, we simply do it. Allah warns clearly that these same friends will lead us to the Hellfire. Quran states: “Friends on that Day will be foes one to another except the Righteous.” (Az-Zukhruf 43:67)

The Day that the wrongdoer will bite at his hands, he will say: “Oh! Would that I had taken a (straight) path with the Apostle! Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken such a one for a friend! He did lead me astray from the Message (of Allah), after it had come to me! Ah! The Evil One is but a traitor to man.” (Al-Furqan 25: 27-29)

But, in order to find a good Muslim friend, it is imperative to be a good Muslim yourself. The Prophet (sa) said: “The best friend in the sight of Allah is he who is the well-wisher of his companions…” (At-Tirmidhi)

Conversely, Hassan Haidi states: “Some argue that our society has become too transient, and it is hard to invest our time in people who are only in our lives for short a while. Others will tell you that they got burnt once, and they are not going to let someone get close again. Many will say they just do not know, how to make friends, and some say they are just too busy.”

In reality, friendship is soul-based, as is proved by the Hadeeth: “Souls are like conscripted soldiers: if they recognize one another, they will become friends, and if they dislike one another, they will go their separate ways.” (Muslim)

TV, the Internet, or magazines can never replace a loving and believing friend. An accessible friend serves as a protection, especially for late adolescents and young adults against various risk factors, such as substance abuse and criminality (Fraser 1997).

Obviously, success will be the order for such people, as Allah states: “As to those who turn (for friendship) to Allah, His Apostle, and the (fellowship of) believers, it is the fellowship of Allah that must certainly triumph.” (Al-Maidah 5:56)

May Allah guide us to right companions, who can steer us towards success now and in the Hereafter.

Good Pickings

Can women find any good in their mothers-in-law, asks Uzma Rizvi

Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law share a special bond – a bond that is sometimes difficult to come to terms with. Some have it easy and adjust with one another from day one, while others have differences that are resolved over time. Some keep bickering all their lives, and some just learn to tolerate each other’s shortcomings. So, when I was assigned this article to dig up qualities that women admire about their moms-in-law, I took it up with some reservations – Would I be opening a can of worms? Will I get any positive replies? Well, read on and find out.

When I put the question to Samira, who lives in a joint family, she was quiet for a long time, then said: “Right now I just cannot come up with any thing I admire about my mom-in-law, except that … I can say, she is time-conscious. She does not procrastinate, whether it is visiting people, doing household chores, or just going to the bazar. As for her other commendable qualities I will call you back if I can think of more.” I have not heard from her since!

Rafiqua, remembers her mother-in-law quite fondly and answered readily, “My mother-in-law expired a few years ago, but before that we had thirty years together. The thing I liked most about her was that she did a lot of Ibadah, whereas in my family I had not seen elders praying so much or so regularly. I also appreciated that although I had four daughters she never ever taunted me, like many in-laws do. Though we had our share of misunderstandings, she would always make up some how through her actions. Like she would call me for a chitchat, or would just hug me for seemingly no reason at all.”

Mahnaz gave a meaningful smile, when asked to identify some worthy characteristics of her mother-in-law, “Umm…let me think. It’s a little difficult to come up with something.” Then she admitted, “Yeah, I know one thing, she is very patient with everybody – with her husband, with her son and with me. Even if she does not like something she usually keeps quiet and shows no reaction, no matter how much it bothers her. While I, on the other hand, am impatient. Now, I have learnt that her way of keeping quiet and letting things simmer down is a real asset in maintaining peace around the house.”

Sajida lived as a newly wed bahu with her mother-in-law only for a few months, before the lady expired. “Unforgettable,” is how she describes her mother-in-law, and adds, “She was very loving. The most admirable thing about her was that she would go out of the way to help others. She would pool in money for the needy. And yes, she also had wonderful tips and hints about house-keeping and interacting with people.”

Now, that was not too difficult, was it? It just takes some effort to focus on virtues. Whenever a misunderstanding occurs, let us remind ourselves that each one of us has positive and negative traits. If we focus on the good rather than on the bad traits of others (especially close relatives), we will not only make our lives stress-free, but will also earn Allah’s pleasure.

* (Some names have been changed)

Shaping Eternity

Nayyara Rahman writes, a teacher affects eternity and there is no telling when his or her influence stops

Our ninth grade teacher once told us during a lesson that, “A teacher is the one whose wisdom and guidance fills your time on this Earth with inspiration and contentment and makes the afterlife a place of eternal rest.”

At that time, there was a unanimous “hmmm” and we went back to our class work, but her words had sowed the seed. We often talked about the teacher-student relationship long after we passed out of school. And, although our opinions often change, there are a few things most of us agree upon.

For most of us, teachers have been role models and a source of inspiration. Textbook material is just a sliver of all that they teach us. Where would we be if our teachers had not spent precious classroom time telling us the importance of honesty, integrity, and dignity?

Because one’s relationship with a teacher happens to be an intellectual one, there is a great deal of mental intimacy involved too. We trust our teachers with ideas we would be embarrassed to express in public. There is an unspoken understanding of confidence and appreciation.

Many of us believe that we are the only ones sweating it out in schoolrooms. Conversely, most teachers I have had, had a policy of solving timed papers themselves before testing their students with it. Very often, they have gone to great pains to supply us with the latest developments in their subjects.

However, the real trouble begins when a teacher’s teaching style is not compatible to the student’s learning style. As they say, “In teaching it is the method and not the content that is the message… the drawing out, not the pumping in.”

With a bizarre concept of freedom of choice, students today also assess their teachers quite critically. They paint a specific picture of their mentor in their minds. It works like a computer identification seeking the right password. The minutest mismatch can deny the teachers, access to a student’s attention, respect and loyalty.

Sellar and Yeatman once quoted, “For every person wishing to teach there are thirty not wanting to be taught.” Very often, I wonder how teachers bear us. (No offence to particularly sprightly occupants of the classroom). Only Herculean efforts let them tolerate us when we ardently display our limited collection of some very distorted facts.

The bond between a student and education in earlier times was unique. Imam Su’bah said, “If I ever saw someone running in the streets of the village I would only think one of two things: He was either crazy or a student of Hadeeth!” Today we might do that for the premier of a movie of course.

Times have changed drastically. Students today treat their teachers as if they are going 10-pin bowling with them and they were not sure they want their teacher’s company. Whatever happened to deference? A thing of the past, I guess.

John Sutherland, a professor of English literature observes, “Now teaching is ‘sold’. Students ‘buy’ it. They are, in short, customers in a marketplace. Higher education, thanks to fees is ‘customerized’. This means the traditional relationship between lecturer and student has been irrevocably eroded.”

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. No matter how smart we may be, we cannot treat our teachers disdainfully. It is poor in taste, and reflective of a loser. It would be nice of us if we at least valued and respected them for who they are. Time only tells how teachers influence eternity.

The Glue Story

EPSON DSC pictureI have often wondered about people who change the world. What was so special about them? Why wasn’t everyone Aisha (rta) or Khalid Bin Walid (rta)? The only person I felt could answer my question was my Nanjaani (grandmother).

She looked at me in that quizzical expression so typical to her, from behind nose glasses. “Where do you come up with such questions?” Then without waiting for an answer she started: “You need to think about what drives them, what their passions are and what they have to give up for their achievements?” She often did that, she asked rhetorical questions, and then answered them with more questions.

Ammi, as we all used to call her, recently passed away. I had not met her in three years and I missed her, there was this terrible ache in my heart, till I wrote this. To me her passing meant a sudden loss of Chunni Munnu stories, the loss of delectable chutneys made from unimaginable items, the loss of my voice of reason, my source of questions and most importantly the loss of an era from my past.

I remember calling her from my dorm room in Detroit asking: “Ammi, when you were young, what were your dreams?” I had a history project to trace my family tree, to translate dreams into the architecture of the city. I have never heard such oblivion in a person’s voice and laughter as when Ammi recounted her childhood, the games they played, the food they ate, the books they read, and her dream.

Her dream was quiet ordinary; in fact it was truly simple. To lead a good life as a Muslim woman, wife and mother in post-Partition India, to educate her nine children so they had the faculty of reason and the power of Islam behind them in everything they attempted. I was stunned, I needed something exciting for my project and here all she wanted to be was a wife and mother! My eighteen-year old mind never realized that this was the greatest ambition any person could aspire to achieve. Now that I am thirty-something, a wife and mother I understand fully what she meant.

Ammi, all those years ago, defined me. My ability to distinguish right from wrong, my judgement of priorities in life and most of all my sense of humour. I remember one time I called her when I was three months pregnant, and started complaining about it. Her only reply was: “Honey, when you go through nine pregnancies, and thirty-six months of nausea give me a call.”

She called us her legacy; we her grandchildren are spread all over the earth. We range from architect to physician to PhDs and Insha’Allah much more. We are parents, friends and above all what she wanted. People identifying with Islam and not being swallowed up by the Generation-X hype.

It was just recently that I realized that old people are really ‘glue’. They are the ones who hold the family, the traditions and the stories that define you and your faith together. In fact they are essential to your beliefs and to the faith in your self. We must not only have faith, but also realize that faith in our innermost beings. Ammi stressed that, “…The chief objects of our Faith are Allah (swt), His Messenger, and His Revelations. To all these we must give a home in our hearts.” (An-Nisa 4:136)

I am really not sure how to remember her or how to forget her, how not to cry at odd moments. Moments when I see an old lady crossing the street, moments when my son smiles, moments when I am alone with my thoughts of this world and the Hereafter, just moments, that is all that remains. And Ammi’s faith in her legacy. I pray to Allah (swt) to grant her Paradise and that we are given a chance to fulfil her dreams, Insha’Allah!