Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Many of my friends, like me, are now slowly creeping towards that age when our children are about to go to college or University.
If its uni, your son or daughter may be leaving home for a while to study at a university in a different city, town, or even country.
If they haven’t already, I can guarantee you that they will be exposed to ideas and lifestyle choices that will challenge everything we have taught them as children.
Please ensure that your son or daughter has sufficient knowledge of Islam to stand up to these ideas. Over the years, during my time at Ebrahim College, my colleagues and I have often had to help young people who are themselves facing doubts about Islam or concerned parents whose children are having doubts. I have found that in most cases, the doubts exist because of one of the following five reasons. Sometimes more than one reason exists, while in extreme cases, all of the reasons apply.
1. Lack of Knowledge
They have little or no knowledge of Islam except cultural cliches. They assume what they know of Islam from their parents, from their maktab or evening classes, or the local Imam is all there is to Islam. Because they think they know, or they should know, they feel quite confident about their doubts as they are based on compound ignorance: ill-informed but believing they are informed. In their minds, their doubts must be valid because they know all that needs to be known about Islam.
I have also come across young people who know a great deal about the things that are causing them doubt such as science for example, but they don’t stop to think that they do not know enough about Islam to have a basis for doubt. It never occurs to them that the contradictions that exist, in their minds, might not exist at all. Many of their doubts, although very real in their experience, are completely unfounded.
They have serious grievances towards various people who have acted in the name of Islam. For example, abusive parents and teachers who justified beatings and cruelty in the name of Islam. This trauma creates a deep sense of grievance towards Islam that eventually leads to rejection. All the while its ignorant parents or a molvi/mesab with a bad attitude who is at fault.
3. Poor Intervention
When they initially had doubts they sincerely looked for answers but couldn’t find a good Imam/scholar who could deal with them or even listen to them with some empathy. Imams, teachers and even peers, often resorted to threats of hell fire or social disgrace, referring them to ruqya, or just telling them to make dua and seek Allah’s protection. This caused the doubts to fester and they are left wondering if Islam has an answer to their doubts at all!
4. Attraction to a Different Lifestyle
They are profoundly attracted to the freedoms of a Western lifestyle and feel deep resentment for being deprived of it by the discipline and conservative values that sheltered them. In some cases, they felt that their natural desire for fun and enjoyment had no outlet. The desire for a different life becomes fuel for doubts and their ability to be objective and balanced is seriously compromised. People like that can’t wait to leave home and go to Uni and start to live their lives on their own terms.
5. No Islamic Upbringing to Begin With
Islam was never important to them because they hardly saw their parents practise it. All their parents ever cared about was money and material success. They didn’t care about halal and haram or an Islamic lifestyle. So they grew without really valuing Islam even though they carried a Muslim identity and heritage. These children are likely to just wander out of Islam without even realising it. At some point if they are prompted to think about their faith, they realise that they have no faith and they are particularly concerned about it.
There are of course other reasons. I’ve come across people who have left Islam because they became attracted to other religions or offshoots of mainstream Islam, or they felt they no longer needed religion, or that religion is nothing more than a means to control the masses etc. But often, at the root of it are triggers such as the ones I describes about.
My question to you is, what makes you think your son, daughter, or younger sibling’s Iman is going to be safe at college or University? Do any of the above five points apply to you or your child in any way? Does your child have a strong Islamic education from teachers who themselves can tackle these issues?
Sometimes I hear parents say, my son/daughter is intelligent and will be fine. The truth is the intelligent ones are the most vulnerable. They are thinkers who will not ignore doubt. They will seek answers and silly answers will not satisfy them. I would argue they are most in danger. Equally, they have the potential to become great assets to our deen.
Be honest with yourself and take measures. Get yourself, and your son or daughter on to some courses so you know your deen better and have access to good imams and scholars. You can go to places like Ebrahim College for that. You should specifically aim to study a course that deals with causes of doubt such as the online course we have here at Mawarid Lifestyle called ‘How to Protect Our Iman in Today’s Climate’.
And deal with the past. If you know your son or daughter suffered beatings at the hands of backward teachers at the masjid or even from you, then its time to talk to them about that and engage in some healing. You have no idea what scars your children might be carrying. A good answer to doubts will not deal with the psychological scars.
If you’re thinking, ‘What’s the big deal? I got some beats and it was good for me’, think again! You grew up in a completely different era. Another world altogether. Our children are a different generation facing a completely different cultural and philosophical reality. Don’t let your stubbornness be the reason why your son or daughter loses their faith.
And for Gods sake! Let’s loosen up towards our children. Go on holidays, treks, walks, and picnics; have some fun together and break down those barriers. If you don’t know your children’s friends, you don’t laugh and joke together, if you don’t know your children like you know your best friends, and if you don’t ever talk about each others interests informally, then you might as well be strangers under the same roof. If your relationship is all about you providing for them and telling them what to do, then you have no relationship.
If you think I am scaremongering, then let me remind you that research in America shows that 23% of people born and raised as Muslims are no longer Muslim. That’s almost one in four. If you have four children, one of them would have already lost his/her iman according to this research.
It’s a massive problem. In fact it is the biggest of all of our many problems and it is completely avoidable. Islam has the answers. We never ask the right questions to the right people.
Allah protect us and our children.