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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Super-Muslim: In or Out of Home? By Brother Emerick

Keeping the Spirit Alive
I just read a very interesting story. A teacher gave her students the
following assignment: Ask a parent what their dream life was when they were
a teenager, and then write an essay comparing it to your own dreams for
your future right now. Accordingly, a teenager asked her mom about her
aspirations when she was young, and the mother replied, (reflecting her
Sixties hippie roots,) "I wished for a simple life, living on a farm
commune, growing my own vegetables and being happy."

The daughter paused for a moment and stopped writing down her mother’s
words. "What’s wrong?" Her mother asked.

"It’s sort of embarrassing," the teenager replied, "because all I want is
to drive a Lexus and get a good job."

In the first place, this may seem to be a harmless little story to elicit a
chuckle. But it got me thinking. How many Muslim "activists" have I met,
who spent all their free time doing Dawah and promoting Muslim causes, only
to lose their own children and spouses to the kufr lifestyle? It’s pretty
amazing that that would ever be the case. But I’ve seen it first hand and
it isn’t pretty.

Of the activist who is never home, we have no doubt about why he or she may
lose their families. After all, THEY WERE NEVER HOME. We all know at least
one person like this. Is it because it’s easier to be in the Masjid all
day, surrounded by things that are easy to control, at least easier than an
unruly child? Or has the activist become so filled with Islamic romaticism
they live in a dreamland of khalifah, movements and spiritual battles? Only
Allah knows for sure.

But what about the other kind of activist? The one who is so skilled and
full of energy that they can tear through any Dawah task outside the home
and still have plenty of juice left over to "do Dawah" in the home. I’ve
met quite a few of this category also. I’ve even taught the children of
such "Super Da’ees" myself in the various Islamic schools I found myself
in. Here are some interesting observations, but first, an introducing to
the topic of giving Dawah in the home.

Your hear a lot from people, from conventions, speeches, khutbas, etc…about
the family being the number one priority for Dawah. Few speakers, however,
give any realistic ways of doing it. It seems to me that the only method of
"doing Dawah" that most people are familiar with is the challenge them/give
a lecture format. In this format, one person assumes another is completely
wrong. Then he or she proceeds to lecture them endlessly to bring the other
person into enlightenment. Almost every Muslim activist I’ve ever met does
this type of Dawah. Does it work? I’m usually the only convert at most
gatherings I attend (male, at least). You decide.

How does the super Da’ee relate Islam in his or her home? I will describe
for you examples I’ve seen with my own eyes. A father and son come to my
book table. The son is, by all standards, an Americanized teen. The father
is an immigrant, middle-aged, Masjid-going and reasonably well-off
financially. As the son is looking at the videos, the father endlessly
lectures the son about why he should pray. It looks like a well-rehearsed
script. The son’s face darkens in annoyance and he whispers, "You don’t
understand." But the father, who is too busy lecturing on the merits of the
prayer, didn’t hear him. I suspect he has probably never really heard his
own son - ever.

A mother with a loose, see-through head-scarf, precariously, (and
obviously temporarily) perched on her permed hair, wearing the typical
colorful get-up replete with nail polish and Gucci bag, is walking near the
entrance to a Masjid during social gathering. Her teenage daughter is
standing near her, wearing nail polish, make-up, tight, tight jeans, a
short sleeve shirt and no head-covering at all. (Talk about dressed to
attract!) A group of teenage "Muslim" boys walk by shouting and talking
about sports and girls. This girl flirts with them and is about to follow
them when the mother calls her daughter back and gives her a long lecture
about why "Muslim girls shouldn’t hang out with boys alone.

Here’s a favorite of mine: I know of a father who literally terrorizes his
family with endless talk of Islam. To the point where pouring a cup of
water in the home is to invite a lecture on the merits of water in Islam.
Obviously, his children can’t stand Islam because they equate it with their
father’s droning, boring and endlessly running voice.

Each of the three examples has one common denominator: a parent who is
forceful about giving some Islamic teaching, but who then goes about it the
wrong way. The first parent never listened to his son, and instead, was
totally unaware that his son was complete won over by modern, popular teen
culture. If he would have developed a good relationship wit his son, and
been a consistent role-model for him form his earliest memories, his son
would have been praying all along. Lecturing a fifteen year old about
prayer isn’t likely to make him want to start.

The second parent didn’t follow Islamic requirements herself (and who knows
what other Islamic deficiencies there were) and therefore didn’t encourage
any sense of an Islamic identity in her daughter, at least as far as dress
is concerned. Instead, she allowed her daughter to develop a completely
non-Muslim style of fashion that apes the modern "liberated" woman who
dresses only to be seen of men. Most probably her daughter hangs out with
boys in her public high school everyday as well. If the mother allowed
these un-Islamic habits to develop, then what good would all the forceful
lectures do? Her daughter imagines herself to be a scantily clad beauty in
a Madonna music video while her mother envisions her to be an Muslim
princess ready for her marriage after eight years of college.

And finally, one parent took Dawah to the extreme and made his family tired
of Islam by his constant nagging. This is against Islam protocols of giving
Dawah as even the prophet, himself, used to scold those who made people
tired of too much "religious talk." Check out this topic and you’ll find
many examples.

So what’s the best way to give Dawah to your family?

Keeping the Spirit Alive
So what’s the best way to give Dawah to your family? The wrong approaches,
as highlighted before, include: not being open to your family members as
individual people with thoughts and feelings, being insincere or a
hypocrite and finally, going overboard.

The right way to do Dawah in you home is to start with yourself first. You
could literally spend your whole life working on your own faith and actions
without even talking to anyone else! You are the first priority in Dawah.
Are you sincere? Are you being true to yourself. Do you know something is
bad but then do it anyway?
What do you know about Islam? Is it possible that you may harbor feelings
of racism, hypocrisy or un-Islamic cultural traditions from your upbringing?


People know who is real. A popular American novel entitled, ‘The Catcher in
the Rye," has, as its main theme, a disillusioned young boy in a world full
of hypocrites. All he wants is to meet someone who is "genuine" and not a
"phony". Your own children know if you’re real or not. And it’s sad to say,
but it’s almost always true: the manners and attitudes of the child are an
uncamouflaged reflection of what is in the deepest heart of the parents.
Whatever is hidden in the core of your heart will come out loud and clear
in their demeanor and attitudes. If your kids are not so good Islamically,
be afraid of your own soul.

If you’re living as a true Muslim, not a perfect one, but a trying one,
then everyone sees it in your manners, speech and behavior. You’re not yet
saying a word to anyone, but you’re giving Dawah. The best Dawah is not
words- it’s actions, it’s attitude, it’s genuine. Knowledge of Islam is not
to be measured in how many du’as a person knows or surahs memorized. Even
parrots can be taught to say surahs but no one puts kufis or hijabs on
their feathered heads. Islamic knowledge is displayed in what no spoken
word can say. If you’re around a good-hearted person, you can feel it. You
want to be around that person more and to do what they do and to be like them.

Have you ever wondered why everyone wanted to be so close to the blessed
Prophet? Iman, goodness and wisdom emanated from him. Think of people in
your life who had these qualities about them. One student told me his
grandfather was the sweetest Muslim ever. A girl told me her mother was her
Islamic role model. A bunch of kids in a class named the local Arabic
expert as their favorite teacher to be around. What were the qualities in
all three of these individuals? None f them ever lectured anybody. (I’ve
met and known all three.) One was a hafiz, one a homemaker/Islamic activist
and the other a scholar. But when you met them, they often said very little
about Islam directly and they certainly didn’t lecture or come off as
arrogant.
What united all of them was that they were real sincere believers. So it’s
not how many "study-circles" you hold with your family, it’s not how many
surahs you make your children memorize. It’s not even sending your children
to a Sunday school or an Islamic school that is the key. Rather, the key is
you.

If you’re trying, sincere Musilm, you don’t talk too much- about anything-
and you perform good deeds as secretly as possible and you try to be as
peaceful and helpful to others as you can without asking anything in
return. (You also take your pleasure in simple things, not expensive
vacations and lavish living.) You prefer others over yourself and you don’t
display your wealth or worldly success by accumulating the finest cars,
homes and clothes. Anything else is folly and you’ll pay for it one day. A
good guidebook to Islamic humilty is called, "God-Oriented Life" by
Wahiduddin Khan. It contains the most beautiful hadith/Sahaba advice I’ve
ever seen.

Don’t be a Muslim "activist" if all your activity is going to be outside
the home. And don’t be an Islamic "terror" to your family: coming in like a
whirlwind, from time-to-time, upsetting the normal schedule of everyone,
even if you’re enraged by what you see your family doing. Because if your
family is doing things that are not good Islamically, then where were you
all those years when those things were being built up in their minds and
habits. A series of lectures or thrashings on your part won’t change their
attitudes.
Only when others see Islam make a meaningful change in your life will they
be willing to try the same. That is the real Dawah to the family, that is
the only message that they will listen to and the only way to make Islam
survive in your family tree. Think about it.

------------------------------------

Yahiya Emerick has been a prolific author and has written many articles
that have been published in local as well as national magazines, both in
North America and abroad. Amirah Publishing was founded by Yahiya Emerick
in 1992 in order to further his ideal of publishing American-oriented
literature on Islam. Much to his chagrin, Brother Yahiya found that many
traditional Muslims were quite content with the old, outdated books
imported from overseas and could not conceive of the need for literature
specifically designed for the North American environment.

After having written two books, which received wide acclaim in local Muslim
circles, Brother Yahiya looked in vain for a publisher willing to work with
him in this vision. After many promises and vague arrangements, he decided
to form his own company and work for Allah as best he knew how. Today, with
the addition of Reshma Baig, Qasim Najar and Samina Baig to the team,
Amirah Publishing is enjoying rapid growth and recognition among Muslims as
a source for original, as well as improved literature, for use in a
strictly American environment

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