The days of dhul hijjah are upon us and this is normally the time that my wife starts to plan some activities to build within the kids the significance and relevance of Hajj. Hajj, we all know as being from the pillars of Islam, hence it is important to build the excitement and enthusiasm for this important obligation.
So we have put our thinking caps on and most likely we will end up watching Ibn Battuta’s “Journey to Makkah” again, our Zaky DVD, possibly re-enacting a mock hajj in our living room whilst trying to work out how much money we will need to save to go on Hajj again.
When I reverted to Islam, I had the pleasure of choosing for myself a new name. To be honest it wasn’t on the top of my priority list, but it soon elevated once one of the brothers took it upon himself to start calling me Najm (no offence to anyone called Najm). When another brother told me the story of Ibrahim (as) and the destruction of the idols I immediately connected with the story and moved from being Rajan, to Najm (for the day) and eventually to Ibrahim.
As my family has grown, the story of Ibrahim (as) has started to take on more significance. Ibrahim (as) had different family relationships which makes me reflect upon myself and my relationship with my family.
Son and father
Ibrahim (as) was born into a family of idol worshippers with his father being the chief idol maker. But what was the relationship with his father like?
And mention in the Book, Ibrahim . Verily! He was a man of truth, a Prophet. when he said to his father, “O my father, why do you worship that which does not hear and does not see and will not benefit you at all? O my father, indeed there has come to me of knowledge that which has not come to you, so follow me; I will guide you to an even path. O my father, do not worship Satan. Indeed Satan has ever been, to the Most Merciful, disobedient. O my father, indeed I fear that there will touch you a punishment from the Most Merciful so you would be to Satan a companion [in Hellfire].”
He (the father) said: “Do you reject my Gods, O Ibrahim? If you stop not (this), I will indeed stone you. So get away from me safely before I punish you.” Ibrahim said: “Peace be on you! I will ask Forgiveness of my Lord for you. Verily! He is unto me, Ever Most Gracious. “And I shall turn away from you and from those whom you invoke besides Allah. And I shall call on my Lord; and I hope that I shall not be unblessed in my invocation to my Lord.” [TMQ Maryam: 41-48]
There are two significant points observed in this relationship between father and son. Firstly, Ibrahim (as) challenged his father’s views at a time where people followed the views and opinions of their forefathers.
Challenging the norms of a society is an arduous task, but even more so for children who are unsure of their own identity. As parents we need to prepare our children so that they are confident to challenge anything that goes against seeking the pleasure of Allah (swt). Unfortunately, in seeking to protect our children from harm, we may seek to dilute or compromise on Islam for the sake of making life easier for our children. For example, when our children want to pray and start attending Islamic events we may discourage them because we feel they are ‘too young’ and that getting more into the deen will hinder them from academic progress and success. We use our authority to impose our views upon them even if those views are incorrect. However, I should love for my children to correct me and advise me should I be deviating from Islam. In this manner our children will be following the example of Ibrahim (as) when he advised his father.
Secondly, Ibrahim (as)’s relationship with his father was one of courtesy and respect despite the fundamental nature of their disagreements. When people disagree, respect and courtesy often go out the window, to be replaced with disrespect and ridicule. Often we find this behaviour exhibited within the family unit, where children have no shame in swearing, cursing and even physically abusing their parents and vice versa. In this society, children are encouraged to ‘rebel’ against their parents and exercise their own freedom . Children raised with such thinking can’t wait to turn 16, so that they can show the proverbial two fingers up at their parents. We have even seen examples where children have called the police when they haven’t got their own way.
There can be no greater disagreement than belief and disbelief. Indeed this is something that I have and still do experience with my family, but Ibrahim (as) example shows us that the family ties should be maintained without compromising your principles.
Husband and wife
As we know, Ibrahim (as) was commanded to leave his wife Hajar and young son Ismael (as) in the barren desert.
“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Kaabah at Makkah) in order, O our Lord, that they may perform As‑Salaah (Iqaamat‑as‑Salaah). So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks” [TMQ Ibraheem: 37]
Marriage is the union of two people. However, we often find that, even though the union of two people occurs, the husband and wife remain as individuals in the relationship. The husband will seek to assert his authority with no concept of accountability. Whilst the wife will seek equality by trying to match whatever the husband does. So instead of working together, they end up at loggerheads, in misery and often ending in divorce.
Marriage in Islam is about companionship, tranquillity and helping each other in gaining the pleasure of Allah (swt). Do I make it easy for my wife to gain closeness to Allah (swt) or am I a hindrance in her progression? Does my wife encourage me to become a better Muslim, or does she complain that I’m not spending enough time with her?
This is beautifully depicted in the example of Ibrahim (as) and Hajar. He (as) is commanded to leave his wife in the barren desert. She, naturally questions him, but once she realises that he is simply following the command of Allah (swt) she also submits to the decision of Allah (swt) and accepts her husband’s actions.
Mother and child
Once her limited supplies had ran out, Hajar ran between the two mountains seeking help and water to feed her baby. Hajar exhausted all her efforts in seeking to protect her child, whilst constantly seeking help from Allah (swt).
Raising a child is a full time job and something that we will be held to account for. This means that we should work to the best of our ability in culturing and educating our children whilst constantly seeking help and protection from Allah (swt).
My wife and I love our children, but do we view them as a burden and a hindrance to our own pleasure? Do we exhaust all of our efforts in building them with the correct thinking? Raising Islamic children in a secular environment is very demanding and challenging. It is easy to become relaxed, thinking that they will be fine with minimum effort. On the other hand we may make excuses and blame everything on the external reality, rather than working hard to nurture Islam within our children.
The example of Hajar shows us that we should constantly strive to the best of our ability in raising our children and not make excuses nor let our realities overwhelm us.
Son and father
Ibrahim (as) was ordered by Allah (swt) to offer his son Ismael (as) as a sacrifice
“Lord, grant me a righteous son, so we gave him the good news that he would have a patient Son. When the boy was old enough to work with his father, Ibrahim said my son, I have seen myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think? He said, father do as you are commanded and, Allah willing, you will find me steadfast. When they had both submitted to Allah, and he had laid his son down on the side of his face, we called out to him Ibrahim you have fulfilled the dream. This is how we reward those who do good. It was a test to prove their true characters, we ransomed his son with a momentous sacrifice and we let him be praised by succeeding generations, peace be upon Ibrahim! This is how we reward those who do good: truly he was one of our faithful servants” [TMQ Saffat; 99-112].
As a parent, I worry how my children will develop. Will they be righteous Muslimahs seeking the pleasure of Allah (swt)? or will they be seduced by the bright lights of the society, seeking their own pleasure and happiness at the expense of Allah (swt)?
Every parent has that concern, which is exacerbated by living in the absence of a true Islamic environment. The next generation of Muslims are going to face unprecedented challenges maintaining their identity. In the story of Ibrahim (as) shaytaan came to try to dissuade them from submitting to Allah (swt). Similarly, many shaytaans will seek to seduce our children away from the worship of Allah (swt). Peer group pressure, social media, government legislation are just some examples of the challenges our children face.
Through a sound upbringing and us fulfilling our parental responsibilities, our children will be able to overcome the greatest of obstacles. They will remain strong and steadfast and hence follow in the footsteps of Ismail (as).
Allah (swt) described the stories of the Prophets’ as being the best of examples for mankind. Such is the high status of Ibrahim (as) that in our salah we send peace and salutations upon him (as) and his family. Ibrahim (as) was a son, a husband and father; through him we learn how the foundations of the Muslim family need to be built upon love and sincerity to Allah (swt)’s commands above anything else.