It can be different to raise your children in a non-Muslim country, particularly if you want them to be good practicing Muslims. At the same time, it’s hardly impossible. Plenty of parents have done so and plenty of children feel none the worse for it.
Of course, to make sure it goes well there are some important tips you’ll need to consider. These will both make it easier for your children and for you. And that’s important, as life is often difficult enough already that we don’t want to add to it. Am I right?
Be a part of your children’s lives
The very first thing you’re going to have to do is make sure you’re actually there for your children. This means not falling into the materialism trap. It’s better to work a little less and not have that expensive car, if that means you can support your kids and give them the guidance they need.
After all, when they’re living in a non-muslim country there are far more temptations out there. And though they can certainly be guarded against those, this does take a more active parenting role than it might do elsewhere.
Read the Quran together
Also, bas they will not get any religious teaching at school, you will have to do so with them. The best way to start is to read the Quran with them often – preferably every day. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be done. Perhaps after dinner or before bed.
Allow them to ask questions – children will always be filled with curiosity. These questions could both be about what you’re reading as how what you’re reading will apply to what they’re going through.
Attend a Halaqa
You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, it is much better not to. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. For that reason, make sure that you engage with the correct village. If there is no Halaqa in your community, then communicate with your Imam about setting one up.
In this way, you’ll have a chance for your kids and you to engage with fellow Muslims. Even better, this will allow your children to have friends in these communities. These will be there to help him and support him with the questions and problems they don’t feel they can discuss with adults (there are always some) while still keeping to the teachings of Allah.
Understand how the children of the culture you’re in are raised
There will be cultural differences between countries. These differences will also be between how you were raised or how children back home were raised and how the children in the new culture are raised. This will happen whether you move to a non-Muslim country or another Muslim one. These differences create certain expectations and ideas, which your children will be exposed to – whether from other parents or from other children.
If you do not know what these expectations and ideas are, then there is a good chance they will blindside you. For that reason, be aware of them. Try to understand them. Discuss them with your Imam in necessary to find out what is okay and what is unacceptable.
Then, when the issue hits you’ll be in a much better position to make a fair judgement and defend it correctly. This will go down much better than a decision made in haste or in anger.
Collect religious teachings
There are many books, tapes and DVDs about Islam. So why not create a library?
By making your kids responsible for tending the library and even possibly suggesting new volumes and DVDs that you should collect, they’re going to have a much better idea what’s out there. Even better, they’ll be able to satisfy their intellectual curiosity by looking for materials which answer the questions they have.
Another advantage is that you can get an idea of what they’re going through and experiencing by paying attention to what they’re suggesting that you get. Of course this will only work if you do not automatically dismiss what they want to order or buy. Listen to them and consider what they’re saying. Because if you don’t and instead get angry, there is a good chance they won’t approach you with such a strange idea again – which will close this window into your child’s religious soul.
Be careful of ‘men’s Islam’
One particular area to be aware of is that in many non-Muslim countries there is a lot of stress about women and men being treated the same and getting the same rights and responsibilities. This needs to be accommodated into how you teach and pray in your home.
For example, make sure that if you read the prayer, it is loud enough so that everybody can hear, as well as allowing everybody to pray together.
There are going to be a lot of conflicting voices for your child in a non-Muslim country. That’s okay, as long as you make sure that your voice is the foremost among them. The only way to achieve that is to make sure you know what your child is going through and what they’re experiencing and to share that with them. As long as they trust you, they will bring their problems to you. And as long as they do that, you can make sure that Allah stays in their lives.