The Ideal Home

vancouver_house_sizeWhat makes a perfect home? Must it be designed and landscaped by a renowned architect and interior decorated in line with the principles of Feng Shui? Should it be located in idyllic surroundings or must it be in an upscale suburb with easy accessibility to health and education facilities?

The man, as Ameer of the family, must provide for a suitable accommodation for his family. Physical comfort, social status and budget constraints dictate our choices, but as a Muslim, we need to consider the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah when building our home and laying the foundations of a harmonious family life and thereby a stable society. As a wise saying goes: “A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.”

Proximity to the Mosque

We tend to consider our physical and emotional well-being when locating a house, ignoring our spiritual needs. For a Muslim household, proximity to a mosque where the Imam has a sound knowledge and understanding of Islam is essential. The male members of the house must perform obligatory Salah in the mosque; this interaction with fellow Muslims of the neighbourhood leads to strengthening of the bonds of brotherhood and unity. Whatever they learn from the mosque and the Khutbah of the Imam, they are likely to convey and implement amongst their family. Living away from a mosque puts our Deen in danger of succumbing to the numerous Fitnah of this world. Likewise, given the current situation of the Muslim world, a misguided prayer leader is likely to lead astray the youth of his neighbourhood towards incorrect ideologies.

Good Neighbours

This is often difficult to judge, but it is important to choose a locality that is well organized and maintained and where the families seem educated and interact with each other. The community in which your family will mingle will greatly influence their speech, interests and manners. Neighbours can be a source of great comfort and support, especially in times of need. According to a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa), one of the blessings (Khair) of this life is a good neighbour.

Internal Harmony

Physical comfort and beauty are never everlasting, but the effects of strong Iman on our personal relationships and ensuing good deeds can be felt across time and generations. A house can never be a home- if it is not a source of love, comfort and solace to its dwellers. As Ameer, the man must endeavour to be an exemplary husband and father. The Prophet (sa) said: “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi)  Avoid parental confrontation in front of the children to your utmost, since it undermines the children’s self confidence; and shatters their trust in you to protect and nurture them; besides setting a bad example of argumentation and display of temper.

The Ameer is also answerable to Allah (swt) for those placed in his care and trust. He is enjoined to spend for their Halal needs and wants. The Prophet (sa) said: “The best Dinar is the one a man spends on his dependants.”(Muslim)

The Prophet (sa) was gentle and loving not only towards his wife and children, but also towards his relatives, his in-laws and his slaves. From the Seerah of the Prophet (sa), we find countless incidents where people not only altered their behaviour and changed their habits, but also accepted Islam due to his patience, leniency and sympathy towards them. As the Ameer of the family, the man should be easily approachable; willing to listen to the daily achievements and problems of his family in a way that helps build a relationship of mutual trust and affection. He should ‘use soft words but hard arguments’ to convince and cajole his family.  Communicate and play with your family- this was what the Prophet (sa) did with his wives and children.

Spiritual Nourishment

The glittering world beckons us and leads us astray without us even realizing how far we have deviated. Take out time for your family and establish routines that build and sustain your Iman and beliefs. The most important is to develop a routine for congregational prayers even at home. Set aside one time when your entire family prays together. Children learn by example- and especially, in places like Pakistan where women rarely, if ever, pray at the mosque- it teaches the rules and etiquettes of praying in congregation. There is a  family that prays Fajr together. And then on a turn basis, each child is assigned learning and then explaining a Hadeeth. They learn a Dua each week, with the elder children helping the younger ones learn; and during holidays, they are encouraged to prepare and deliver short sermons.

The Prophet (sa) has said that the best thing a man can give his children is to teach them good manners; and one of the most enjoyable ways of doing this is by story-telling. Sharing Ahadeeth and success stories of the Prophets, his companions, and other eminent Muslim men and women will help inspire and motivate impressionable minds. Also, it will be a wonderful means of encouraging them to question, and share their own ideas and experiences. Read extensively and encourage your entire family to do so too. Remember, a book is a man’s best friend- especially if he is hemmed in by people who can act as negative influences.

Likewise, it is the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah for women to have a weekly religious gathering at their own houses. This helps bond the community and brings the Barakah of knowledge to each house, for it is the women who play pivotal role in educating and character building of children.

Social Interaction

One of the most common problems of households is the unchecked frequency of visitors. As Ameer, you may find it difficult to achieve the fine balance between being hospitable and maintaining your family’s privacy and routine. Convince your wife to limit socialization so that her own responsibilities and pursuits are not affected. Most importantly, though, is the need to discourage non-Mehram male relatives and friends from visiting your family in your absence. Try to deal with the servicemen who come to your door yourself; and try to set appointments for maintenance or repair at a time when, either you or your grown up son, are home to interact with them yourself.

TV is The Virus

The television has become more than just an entertainment tool. It acts as a babysitter, masterchef, an opinion-maker, and tends to occupy a central position in our family rooms and bedrooms. Assert yourself as Ameer, and monitor what and how long everyone watches the television. Break your one bad habit of ‘unwinding’ in front of the idiot box. Twenty-four hour news and endless talk shows on politics, and current affairs rarely offer anything a half hour perusal of newspapers will not divulge. Encourage your family to seek entertainment through outdoor sports in the evenings if possible, and through board games. If you can’t chuck out the cable, then at least limit the screen time.

The iFad

The internet, smart phones and other handheld devices- such as the iPad and PSP are ‘terminators’ of family peace and unity.  I have often noticed at family gatherings that each individual is wrapped in his or her own ‘bubble’ of communication gadgetry. Fingers itch to keep checking that message or sharing statuses. In fact, family members living in the same house often interact via social media, instead of sharing anecdotes and exchanging news or thrashing out arguments in person. Face-to-face interaction lets us judge, and thereby, alter our communication through non-verbal signals too, and this often prevents misunderstandings. Our physical beings are a gift from Allah (swt); and the human ability to talk is one of His greatest signs. But successive generations are losing the art of conversation, and also their memory skills because of greater reliance on artificial intelligence.

Hence, curtail the use of all such gadgets yourself and lead by example. Set aside time slots for internet surfing, and carefully monitor your child’s usage. Discourage the use of laptops in bedrooms, and think hard before handing over a smart phone or iPod to your child. Peer pressure does create problems, but try to develop a social circle where you socialize with like-minded families.

Caution!

Finally, we need to remind ourselves that children are a trust from Allah (swt).  In the Quran we have been commanded to save ourselves and our families from Hellfire; and the best way of ensuring this is by trying to provide an ideal Muslim home.

“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” (At-Tahrim 66:6)

‘The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end and by posterity.’- Jean Paul Richter

(Adapted from a Peace TV lecture by Abdul Azeez Umari Madani)

Ask the Savvy Parent: Best Age to Send a Child to School

school1Dear Savvy Parent,

What is the best age to start school for kids – is it a good idea to send them to a playgroup from 1.5 years onwards?

Dear Parent,

Islam says that a child should not begin formal learning till age seven. This does not mean that the child should not learn at all. There are many things one can do to prepare a child for school in their formative years (under the age of 7). Keep in mind to present things in a way that is fun. People this day and age tend to focus on academics, and often pressure and push their child into rigorous educational training at an early age. Why are such parents so eager to rush their children? I know a child who learned to read at the age of 9. How does this compare with a child who learned at the age of 4(probably because their parents/schools pushed them more) for example? Has it or will it hinder him in any way? Certainly not! This 9 year old child is now 11 years old and on the honour roll. So why must we put so much pressure on sending our kids to school as early as possible? It’s the same when it comes to Islamic education. Parents push their sons at such a young age to be a Hafiz of the Quran; meanwhile their child throws tantrums and doesn’t respect or listen to his parents. What is the point of being a Hafiz, which is amazing Masha’Allah, when he hasn’t learned how to behave appropriately? We need to shift our focus on the important things first, which is to lay the foundations to prepare them for formal academic learning. Begin by focusing on the basics of our Deen in terms of personality and attributes of a good Muslim. The academic stuff will come later. Laying a good, solid foundation is much more important and WILL have an impact on them in the future.

As for sending a child to a playgroup, the important thing to remember is that a young child needs to have social interactions with their peers. It has many benefits such as learning appropriate ways to interact with others, sharing, conflict resolution, appropriate language, respect for others etc. One doesn’t necessarily have to send a child to a playgroup. You can go to weekly mother and me programmes, or plan play dates. Also, keep in mind to expose your children to families that are like-minded and people of good character. This will ensure that your child will benefit from their influence in a positive way.

Besides making sure your child has the opportunity to play and explore. Here are some things as parents one should focus on with their children at an early age, before they reach school going age:

1. Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Be a role model to your children in the way that you treat them and others. Be honest and fair. Treat your children kindly by showing compassion towards them. Be mindful of what you say and do. Establish good habits such as what one says before and after eating, or reciting the Dua of travelling for example. Say them out loud so your children hear it. You will be surprised how quickly children catch on.

2. Instill the love of Allah. Children should both  fear and love Allah, but teach them about love first. They can learn about fear when they get older. I have noticed in some cultures people often use a negative tone and fear to get children to listen. For example telling a child if they don’t listen, Shaitan will come get them. Why must we focus on the fear and negative side? Why can’t we train our children to do something out of LOVE for Allah (swt). For example, “Let’s put these toys away. I’m going to help you because Allah loves those who help others.” Doesn’t this sound so much nicer than threatening Shaitan on a child? To be honest, in my opinion, one should not even teach a child about Shaitan till at least age 7. You can also lead by example. Practice acts of kindness such as helping other, visiting sick friends or relatives for example. Giving Sadaqah in front of your child, or better yet, involving your child in regular but small acts of Sadaqah, is another example. Explain to them in simple language why you are giving Sadaqah. You will be surprised how quickly children pick up these good habits.

3. Expose your children to the Qur`an. By this I don’t mean sit there and force them to keep reciting and repeating. Just make sure that there is recitation of the Quran in your home. Let them hear Quran being recited in beautiful voices. Read the Quran yourself regularly, and make sure you read aloud so that your children can hear. Being in an environment where one regularly listens to and recites the Quran has a strong effect on the child’s life. This also helps to create a connection between them and the Arabic language, and instill a love for it in their hearts, because it is an important key to understanding and loving Islam.

4. Develop an attachment to the mosque. Take your children (especially sons) to Jummah if/when possible. You can go as a family or you can have your husband take them. This is a great time to introduce and teach proper mosque etiquette. Encourage them to sit quietly beside you, rather than allowing them to run up and down the rows disturbing others. It may be helpful to bring a quiet activity such as a puzzle or books to keep your child busy.

5. Pray and practice your Ibadah in front of them. The Prophet (sa) has told us to teach those who reach the age of seven to pray and to make them do it; before this age they may be taught but not by way of making them do it. A child that young doesn’t have to pray, but develop a habit of having them beside you when you pray. Lay out a prayer mat for them to sit on while you pray.

Be mindful that young children absorb everything around them. Their ears and eyes are always listening and watching and taking everything in, even when you think they aren’t. Include them in your acts of Ibadah.

Insha’Allah I hope this helps! Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent