Pro-activity = A Peaceful Marriage


By Umm Isam – Writer and human resource trainer

A world famous business and family consultant was in the middle of an important meeting and things were running behind schedule. He received a note from his wife that she needed to speak to him urgently. The counsellor stepped out to take the call. His wife impatiently reminded him that they had invited guests that evening and that she needed him to be home on time.

The counsellor, already facing a tough day at work, gave into the pressure of the moment and rudely told her off. While he was walking back to the boardroom, he realized his mistake. But the curt words had already been spoken and the relationship was stressed.

He tried to wrap up what he could and hit the road to reach home. In the privacy of his car, he stepped back to observe his behaviour without being defensive. As he stood apart from his own life, and replayed the conversation in his mind, he realized he had been wrong. He understood his mistake and prepared himself to make necessary changes and improvements.

He realized his wife had only made a reasonable demand, as she was in a tough social situation. Expectations had been created, and he wasn’t there to help fulfill them. Instead of understanding, he had reacted abruptly.

The more he thought about it, the more he realized that his actions had been off track. This was not the kind of relationship he wanted with his wife. Then, he began to think of what he wanted out of their relationship. It was care, empathy, love and patience. If he wouldn’t have been sucked into his worry for work and would have responded to his wife with more consideration, the results of the incident would have been completely different. As he reached home, his irritation had disappeared. The counsellor didn’t think of his work worries, but about his wife only. His heart was filled with feelings of love and understanding. He immediately apologized to his wife. She reciprocated. The closeness and warmth of their relationship was restored. And they enjoyed a lovely evening together.

Isn’t this a very common pitfall for all of us in our family life experiences? Whenever we are caught in the heat of the moment, we almost instantly explode, instead of responding on the basis of our deepest values. The counsellor suggested that “what we all need is the pause button – something that enables us to stop between what happens to us and our response to it, and to choose our own response”.

As individuals, we have the capacity to develop this ‘pause’ button. It can be done by acting pro-actively, using the ability to act on principles and values, rather than reacting upon emotions or circumstances. The four unique gifts that Allah (swt) bestowed upon all the human beings are: self-awareness, conscience, imagination and will power. These are the gifts that we saw the counsellor apply in his example, too.

Initially, it may take time to develop them and undo the habit of reacting. With time, with conscious effort and constant reminder to oneself, spouse and family, it can be possible to control one’s angry thoughts and choose a more decent response.

These gifts can be developed and used over time to improve the quality of family relationships. The counsellor suggests that some families should even determine a signal to help them cut through or prevent angry responses.

Just as the heat is turned on and an argument is imminent, we can say a chosen phrase or word out loud, switch the lights on and off, gesture a thumbs down with our hand. This could compel all to stop and disengage immediately.

As Muslims, for us, the best guidance comes from the Prophet (sa), who advises us to either recite ‘Aoodhu Billahi min As-Shaitan nir Rajeem’ or hasten to change our position, or get a glass of water or proceed to perform Wudhu. This space gives us time to get a grip on ourselves and understand the circumstances better in the privacy of our thoughts before we respond negatively.

It is said: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”

The marriage counsellor went on to describe how this one paragraph has been so compelling, so memorable and so staggering that it has influenced the rest of his life. In his own words: “I cannot begin to describe the effect that idea had on me. I was overwhelmed by it. I reflected on it again. I revelled in the freedom of it. I personalized it. The more I pondered over it, the more I realized that I could choose responses that would affect the stimulus itself.”

Animals have no space between stimulus and response. They are totally a product of their natural instincts. We need to understand this difference very carefully and behave in a manner that befits Allah’s (swt) best creations in the world – us. May Allah (swt) grant us the strength to be pro-active and help our spouse and families imbibe it, too. Ameen.

Characteristics of Principle-Centred Leaders

Characteristics of Principle-Centred Leaders

What comes to our mind, when we think of an effective leader: a dynamic and diligent individual who has solutions to every problem; a person, who is courageous and capable enough to take his team to new heights of self-discovery; maybe someone, who is an epitome of self-motivation and high principles?

Anyone, who is entrusted with the responsibility to lead, should possess the eight discernible characteristics of principle-centered leaders. If we wish to excel in our role as a leader, we need to develop the following fundamental principles:

1. They learn continually

Our beloved Prophet (sa) continued to receive revelations till the very last days of his life. His entire life was founded on personal learning and divine guidance. Similarly, it is Sunnah to expand one’s competence and ability to do things. Effective leaders read, seek training, and listen to others. They are curious and eager to develop new skills. They are humble enough to learn something valuable from every person they meet. Most of their learning is self-initiated.

2. They are service-oriented

Remember the time of Masjid-e-Nabawi’s construction, and how the noble companions worked industriously? But rather than just delegating tasks and dispensing orders, who carried heavy rocks right by their side? Who led by example and experienced the same hardship, assuring his team that he was there with them every step of the way? Our beloved Messenger (sa), of course.

The next characteristic tells us the same. If we strive to become principle-centred leaders, we must see life as a mission, not as a career that will begin at the age of twenty-five and end at sixty. An effective leader has nurturing sources within him that prepares him for service. Every morning, he puts on the harness of service, thinking of others.

As leaders, we must have a load to carry. If we only attempt to have an intellectual or moral exercise, we will never develop a sense of responsibility, service, or contribution towards our people.

3. They radiate positive energy

Smile, it’s a Sunnah! It is also a Sadaqah! Principle-centered people have cheerful and pleasant countenances and an optimistic attitude. Their spirit is hopeful and believing.

It is important for one to be aware of his energy; he must understand how to radiate and direct it. When the situation becomes confusing or contentious, a principle-centred leader strives to be a peacemaker and a harmonizer, to undo or reverse destructive energy.

4. They believe in other people

Principle-centred leaders are aware of human weaknesses. Hence, they don’t over-react to negative behaviours. They neither feel vulnerable upon discovering another person’s human weakness nor build up stress within them. They understand that behavior and potential are two different things and believe in the unforeseen potential of all people. Remember Prophet’s (sa) belief in people like Umar (rta), who were initially bitter enemies of Islam? But it was the Messenger’s (sa) belief in Umar (rta) that carved him into the leader, who later conquered that time’s super powers of Rome and Persia.

These leaders also feel grateful for their blessings and compassionately forgive and forget offences. They do not label, pre-judge, stereotype or categorize anyone.

5. They lead balanced lives

Principle-centred leaders are not extremists. They don’t immediately divide everything into either good or bad. They think in terms of priorities and hierarchies, have the power to sense similarities and differences in each situation and the courage to condemn the bad and champion the good. Their actions and attitudes are proportionate to the situation – they are moderate and wise.

They don’t condemn themselves for every mistake. They learn from errors and march on. They live sensibly in the present, carefully plan the future and flexibly adapt to change. For them, success is on the far side of failure. The only real failure is the experience not learned from.

Such leaders read the best literature. They are active socially with many friends and a few confidantes. They share intellectual interests. Physically they are active people as per their age limits. They have a healthy sense of humour; they laugh at themselves and not at others.

They do not intimidate others and are genuinely happy for others’ successes. They are well aware of their own worth; hence, they do not need any manipulative measures for success.

All of the above were modeled by our beloved prophet Muhammad (sa), which makes them absolutely doable and possible!

6. They see life as an adventure

Principle-centred leaders savour life. They do not depend upon the safety of their homes or comfort zones. Their real asset lies in their ability to initiate things, be resourceful, exercise will-power, exhibit courage, march on with stamina and their native intelligence.

They are prepared to rediscover people each time they meet them – they are able to do that by listening, asking questions and involving themselves. They do not label others according to their past successes or failures. A very important quality that they possess is that of flexibility, which enables them to adapt to virtually any situation.

They do not see anyone larger than life. They do not feel an urge to be in awe of the rich, the influential or the famous. They are secure about themselves. They don’t stereotype and categorize people to give them a sense of predictability and certainty.

7. They are synergistic

Synergy is defined as a state, in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts. For instance, two and two make four, but when principle-centred people are synergistic, they create more than four – maybe five or six.

Such people are agents of change. They are able to improve almost any situation they land in. They are productive and creative in ways no one ever thinks of, because they work as smart as they work hard.

When it comes to team initiatives, they delegate work, as they believe in other’s strengths and capacities. They build on their strengths and strive to complement their weaknesses with the strengths of others. They do not feel threatened by their team members, if they happen to excel in some particular area; hence, they do not need to supervise them all the time.

When they negotiate or communicate with their team in any adversarial situation, they always remember to separate the people from the problem. They can focus on the other person’s areas of concern, rather than fight for positions. Gradually, others discover their sincerity, stop holding back and give all they have got. Together, they arrive at a synergistic solution.

They have the courage to work with different kind of team members. Take the example of Prophet’s (sa) companions: Suhaib (rta) from Rome, Bilal (rta) from Habsha, Salman (rta) from Persia and Umar (rta) from Arabia. They had very little in common in terms of ethnic backgrounds and social status. Yet, by celebrating those differences and applying them as strengths, our beloved Messenger (sa) was able to create incredible results. He was able to create synergy!

8. They work on self-renewal

Principle-centred leaders practice regularly and consistently the four dimensions of the human personality: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

They exercise to improve their physical capacity. They exercise their minds by reading purposeful material, solving creative problems, writing and reflecting upon their surroundings. Emotionally, they make an effort to be patient with others, listen to them, offer genuine empathy, love unconditionally, and accept responsibility for their own lives, decisions and reactions.

Spiritually, they focus on prayer, study the scripture, fast and offer charity. They are connected to the Lord on a twenty-four hours basis.

Initially, including these four activities into our schedule take time, but, eventually, their wholesome impact will begin to save our time.

Mission Statement for Two

Mission Statement for Two

All couples begin their journey with the sacred ceremony of Nikah. Regretfully, since most of us are non-Arabic speaking individuals, it is considered more of a religious ritual meant for the Imam to conduct. It is critically imperative to understand Allah’s (swt) expectations of the couple about to tie the knot. As they move beyond, they also must invest time in preparing a mission statement for themselves to be content and contributing partners.

Why do we need a mission statement?

The point is to bear the end in mind. With this intention multitude organizations form and frame their mission statements. It not only assures productivity and success for high performance organizations but also the satisfaction and happiness of the people, who work in it.

Stephen Covey states: “Even though families don’t have the kind of mission statement so critical to organizational success, yet family is the most important, fundamental organization in the world. It is the literal building block of the society. No civilization has ever survived its break up. No other institution can fulfill its essential purpose.”

What happens, if we don’t have a mission statement?

To many spouses, creation of a mission statement seems like a dreaded or redundant job. The reason, why it is critically needed in any given marriage, is because no two people are completely alike. There are always differences. And if the couples do not take the time to explore these differences and create a sense of shared vision, then these differences can eventually drive them apart.

We will try to understand the gravity of the situation by considering two people called Asif and Shehla. Asif comes from a very supportive family. When Asif was in college, if he had said to his mother: “Today I lost my badminton semi-final,” his mother might have responded: “Oh Asif! Inna lillahi wa inna illehi rajioon. You must be really disappointed. I am really proud of your effort and love you!” If Asif had said: “Oh, another thing, I scored the highest in my statistics exam.” His mother might have replied: “Subhan’Allah! I am so happy for you. I am proud of you and love you.” Asif’s success or failure made no difference. His parents were unconditionally affectionate, proud and caring.

Shehla, conversely, belongs to a family that is not supportive. Her parents are generally disinterested, unaffectionate and conditional in their love. If Shehla had said to her mother: “Today I lost my badminton semi-final” Her mother would have replied: “Well so what happened? Didn’t I tell you to exercise and practice more? Your brother was a badminton college champion. He also exercised and practised a lot more than you. What am I going to tell your father?” But if Shehla had said: “Mom, I scored the highest marks in my statistics exam!” Her mother would have replied: “Oh great! I’m really proud of you. I can’t wait to tell your father.”

Observe how these two individuals have had totally different nurturing experiences. One has learned to love unconditionally, while the other seems to love conditionally. Their families meet and propose an arranged marriage. Asif and Shehla both approve of the proposal and Nikah is performed. They both fall in love with each other. But within a few months of living with each other, the tenderness, sensitivity and intimacy of the relationship is challenged.

Asif expects Shehla to be expressive about her love. He also complains that Shehla expects him to be perfect all the time, otherwise she is very upset with him. Since he comes from a very positive family, he also doesn’t feel the need to discuss reasons for issues at length and is in the habit of brushing stuff under the carpet, as if all is hunky dory.

Shehla, on the other hand, assumes that since she cooks, cleans and looks after Asif’s family, she doesn’t need to validate her love for Asif continuously. She also feels that Asif is too casual about his shortfalls and should work harder to perfect himself. She claims that occasional yelling, accusing and fighting is all part of conflict resolution so what is the big deal about it?

See how these two individuals, due to their own childhood experiences and learning, have completely opposite ways of recognizing and addressing problems. If they both do not come to resolve these differences their relationship will deteriorate further. The attraction will turn into accommodation, then to toleration and finally to hostility.

The crux of it all is that mostly the problems that people face in their marriages is due to conflicting role expectations and by conflicting problem-solving strategies.

How will you make one?

Giving into our customs, the newly wed couple is seldom given a chance to be alone for quiet thinking and planning for their life ahead. Not at least until the umpteenth family dinner is over. And generally by then the first baby is already on the way. So many couples feel way too overwhelmed by the pace of the rapid changes taking place one after the other.

Nikah is a beautiful relationship any man and woman can enjoy. It is indeed a responsibility, too. The couples should plan and try to get a grip of things, before they impulsively start happening, as they can frustrate the partners.

Ideally speaking, the couple should take some time off together to be alone after the wedding ceremony is over. It could just be for a few days or a few hours a day. They may choose a relaxing place. (It doesn’t have to be the Swiss Alps but any place of retreat their pocket permits.)

They can envision together, what they realistically want their relationship to be like after five, ten or twenty years down the road.

What should it contain essentially?

Basic guidelines can be sought from the Quran and Sunnah. Following critical questions need to be answered and documented as early as possible in any marriage:

  1. What kind of marriage partners shall we be?
  2. How are we going to treat each other?
  3. How shall we resolve our differences?
  4. How shall we manage our finances?
  5. What kind of parents shall we be?
  6. What principles we shall teach our children to help them become responsible and caring individuals?
  7. How shall we help develop the potential talent of each child?
  8. What kind of discipline shall we use for our children?
  9. What roles (earning, financial management, housekeeping, etc.) will each one of us have?
  10. How shall we best relate to each other’s families?
  11. What traditions shall we continue that we shall bring from our respective families?
  12. What new traditions shall we want to create in our new family?
  13. How shall we give back to our family?

What are the cautions to look out for while writing a mission statement?

  1. Don’t announce it. It should be remembered, that the final product must represent all that is in both spouses mind and heart. Only then they will own it up.
  2. Don’t rush it. They are pivotal issues and need a deep interaction hence they should not be rushed simply to quickly whip up a mission statement.
  3. Don’t ignore it. Writing a mission statement is only the beginning. The richest fruits will be born, when it is lived on a day to day basis. The statement must be put up some place prominent, reflected upon and used as a compass for direction in marital life.

What if you never made one and have been married for some time now?

It’s never too late. If you and your spouse realize, what has been missing in making your marriage more successful and comfortable, prepare a mission statement now. May Allah (swt) be your guide. Ameen.

Adapted from “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families” by Stephen Covey.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 8

July 11- 7 habits

The Personal Bank Account

You might be thinking that we are talking of your bank balance or your jewels in the locker. Actually, we are discussing something even more priceless and invaluable. We will be looking at some ways to build self-confidence and a strong character that will help you embrace the first three habits of highly effective teens, as suggested by Sean Covey.

Just as you can deposit and withdraw from your personal bank account (PBA), you can similarly do so with the stuff you think about, act upon or do to others – they, too, impact your PBA. For instance, when you honour a commitment or keep a promise, it becomes an instant deposit into your PBA. Why? Because it makes you feel good inside and happy outside. It boosts your self-esteem and you feel in control of your life. On the contrary, if you break a promise or stand someone up, it’s a withdrawal because you feel disappointed. Later, you try to defend your wrong behaviour through excuses and justifications that nag you from the inside and make you miserable on the outside.

So, are you ready to evaluate your PBA, just to check, if you are loaded or bankrupt? Following are some signs, according to Sean Covey, of both conditions (sounds like a disease). Take the evaluation:

Signs of a poor PBA

  • You cave in easily to peer pressure.
  • You wrestle with feelings of depression and inferiority.
  • You’re overly concerned about what others think of you.
  • You act arrogantly to hide your insecurities.
  • You self-destruct by getting heavily into drugs, pornography, vandalism, etc.
  • You get jealous easily, especially when someone close to you succeeds.

Signs of a healthy PBA

  • You stand up for yourself and resist peer pressure.
  • You’re not overly concerned about being popular.
  • You see life as a generally positive experience.
  • You trust yourself.
  • You are goal-driven.
  • You are happy for the successes of others.

If your current personal bank account is low, don’t worry about it. Just start making small deposits right away. This will eventually win back your confidence. Small deposits over a period of time will make you rich.

Following is a list of some initial yet meaningful deposits you can make to build your PBA. Similarly, an opposite action would end up in a withdrawal from your PBA:

PBA Deposits

  • Keep promises made to yourself
  • Initiate little acts of kindness for others
  • Handle yourself gently
  • Be honest with yourself and others
  • Renew yourself
  • Let your talents bloom

PBA Withdrawals

  • Break personal promises
  • Be a loner and keep to yourself
  • Beat yourself up
  • Be dishonest with yourself and others
  • Wear yourself out
  • Neglect your talents

Keep promises made to yourself

Have you been friends with people who say one thing and do just the opposite? They promise to pick you up for a party at such-and-such a time but never show up. How humiliating it is to deal with people who take their promises so lightly and habitually break them! You end up mistrusting them.

The same goes for commitments you make to yourself. I will finish my homework as soon as I get home. I will stick to my diet. And when you break a promise to yourself, you stop trusting yourself.

Start making small deposits into your PBA by keeping small promises to yourself, such as: I will eat healthy food for lunch; I will not answer my cell phone until I have offered my prayers, etc. You can make bigger deposits into your PBA once your self-trust is built and you feel more in control of your life. Then, ignoring a nagging brother or sister or sharing with them will be possible, too. These and similar bigger deposits will make you emotionally richer.

Initiate little acts of kindness for others

Psychiatrists state that if you ever feel depressed, try to do something for others. It will lift you up, maybe because you will focus outwards rather than inwards. When you serve someone else, it generates a natural feeling of goodness inside, as is the law of Allah (swt).

Sean Covey shares a personal example. Once, while travelling, he was upgraded to first class. He was very excited at the prospects of wide seats, edible food, courteous stewardesses, etc. Among the passengers, he noticed a lady travelling alone with a wailing baby. She was clearly in distress.

After battling inside his head for some time, Sean decided to swap his ticket with hers. She was quite surprised at his kind gesture and thanked him profusely. Throughout the flight, Sean kept on thinking how the baby and mother were doing. Unable to curb his curiosity, he went up to the first class just to check on them. The sight brought a smile to his face, and he immediately knew that he had made the right decision. The baby was warmly snuggled up to his mother, and they were both in peaceful slumber. Their peace meant a great deposit for Sean. Kindness always brings comfort that selfishness cannot.

Handle yourself gently

Rita Mae Brown once said: “One of the keys to happiness is having a bad memory.” Some of us are very self-critical. We expect perfection from ourselves; thus, when we make mistakes, we are least forgiving and most uptight.

Especially if we are late bloomers, we should not expect perfection the very next morning after making new attempts to improve. We should be patient with ourselves and give ourselves time to grow. We should also learn to laugh at our mistakes and not repeat them.

Sean Covey shares another example. A ship at sea for many years picks up thousands of barnacles that attach themselves to the bottom of the ship and eventually weigh it down, becoming a threat to its safety. Such a ship ultimately needs its barnacles removed, and the least expensive and easiest way is for the ship to harbour in a freshwater port, free of salt water. Soon the barnacles become loose and fall off. The ship is able to return to sea, free of its burden.

Are you carrying barnacles in the form of mistakes, regrets and pain from the past? Perhaps you need to let yourself soak around in fresh water to rid yourself of the barnacles, too. Letting go of your burden may just be the deposit you need.

Insha’Allah, in the upcoming issues we will discuss the remaining three ways to deposit into your emotional bank account and build self-esteem. Be on the lookout…

You will Reclaim Them!

July 11- You will reclaim them

We all realize that this world can be a better place, so we begin to fix what is wrong. Essentially, we start with others. Why do we do that? Why can’t we fix our own self first? It makes more sense to work within our ‘circle of influence’ rather than fret about our ‘circle of concern’.

Family life is no different. Something or the other constantly hinders it from attaining a beautiful ‘we culture’, where family members deeply, sincerely and genuinely enjoy being together and have a shared sense of beliefs and values.

Do you know how a Chinese bamboo tree grows? After you sow the seed of this tree, you see absolutely nothing for nearly four years, except a tiny shoot emerging from a bulb. But during those initial years, all the growth occurs underground. A massive and fibrous root structure spreads deep and wide in the earth. And take a guess at what happens during the fifth year? The Chinese bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet tall!

This is also how our family life works. We invest valuable time and tireless effort to nurture growth. But we don’t witness any results for weeks, months and sometimes even years. However, if we have patience, we will see phenomenal growth, change and results in the fifth year. The problem is that we don’t persevere long enough and abort our hopes long before our efforts can bear fruit.

Doesn’t the Holy Quran say that the road to Jannah is through Sabr and Salah? Then, how can we imagine achieving anything worthwhile in this world, without exhibiting patience? Especially as parents, doesn’t it mean to suffer inside, so that others can grow? It also facilitates the understanding of our inner weaknesses and true motives behind each action. Patience truly means faith in action and emotional diligence.

“Inside each of us is this deep longing for ‘home’, for the rich, satisfying relationships and interactions of quality family life. And we must never give up. No matter how far we feel we’ve gotten off track, we can always take steps to correct the course. I strongly encourage you: no matter how far away a son or daughter seems to be, hang in there. Never give up. Your children are bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, whether physically by birth or emotionally by the bonding of the family commitment you have made. Eventually, like the prodigal son, they will return. You will reclaim them.” (Stephen R. Covey)

Means to Reclaim Your Kin

Principle of self-improvement

Sometimes, as parents, you have had no role-models, or worse, bad memories of your own parents’ fights. In such situations, you are either clueless or repeat the same mistakes they made with you. It is highly recommended that whenever you get into a frustrating situation, pause. Examine your tendencies. Compare yourself with your vision. Avoid speaking impulsively. Retire frequently to the solitude of your inner self to recommit to winning your battles. This will keep your motives straight. It will also give you a clearer perspective and greater control of your own thoughts and behaviour.

Principle of honesty

When implementing change, involve your family and honestly admit the mistakes you have made in the past. This does not mean that you compromise on your values or principles to please them. If you slip into your previous nasty behaviour – apologize. Also, never lie. Their young minds evaluate you on these supposedly insignificant gestures which, in reality, have a long-range impact on your relationship with them.

Principle of respect

Just because you are in charge, you do not have the right to be disrespectful to your children, even when they are off-track. Remember: your children will internalize the very modes you use to resolve conflicts. If that includes name-calling, yelling, threatening, using physical abuse or foul language, it is a clear violation of the principle of respect, whether you are in public or private, regardless of your child’s age. The Prophet’s (sa) winning card was treating others (foes or friends) with courtesy, respect and honour, all the time.

Principle of trust

Do not label your child. If he has been labelled in the past, now is the time to unfreeze it. Your child draws his security from you as a parent, and if you don’t trust his inner strength and capability, he has nowhere to turn for support. Never break promises you make to him. It is one of the greatest withdrawals from any emotional bank account. Weigh your words very carefully. If you are unsure, do not commit.

Principle of empathy

Listen to your child attentively and sincerely, without interrupting, passing judgements and accusing with curt remarks. One of the deepest hungers of the human heart is to be heard and understood. Sometimes, all that your kids want is your time and understanding to de-stress themselves. Give it to them. Your schedule, house keeping, guests, in-laws, etc., should be secondary in priority when your child needs you emotionally. A successful way to do this is to keep a one-on-one meeting/outing/leisure time (of your kid’s choice) at least once a week, so you can find out what’s happening in his life. Please remember this is not sermon time! This is just to figure out where your child needs help. Otherwise, just chill and have fun with him.

Principle of love

Lastly and most significantly, the primary laws of love mean love in its purest form, which is unconditional. It means acceptance rather than rejection, understanding rather than judgement and participation rather than manipulation. This is any parent’s pro-active choice. It is very much within your circle of influence. It is not dependent on anyone else’s behaviour, social status, education, wealth, reputation, etc. When you live according to the primary laws of love, you encourage obedience to the primary laws of life, such as honesty, responsibility, integrity, service, etc.

Most of us wrongly live by the counterfeit laws of love, which is being conditional. We will love him only if he “behaves”. We cannot separate behaviour from the individual and, hence, do not believe in the unseen potential. Goethe said: “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can or should be, and he will become as he can and should be.”

Your greatest joys and your deepest heartaches surround what is happening in your family life. As someone said: “No mother is happier than her most unhappy child.” When you sense a gap between your vision of a rich and joyful family life you want to have and the reality of your everyday family life, you feel disappointed. But do not despair. There is hope, tremendous hope, especially if you have faith in Allah (swt). Just keep working at it and do not give up. The Chinese bamboo tree will eventually grow!