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Making Men Out Of Boys

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rami View Drop Down
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    Posted: 05 April 2006 at 2:58am
Bi ismillahir rahmanir raheem

assalamu alaikum

Making Men Out Of Boys

The choice of Zayd, son to Harithah of the northern Arabian tribe of Kalb and a mother from the great tribe of Tayy, is legendary in Islamic history.

Zayd was taken into captivity and acquired at the great fair of ‘Ukaz by Hakim, the nephew of Lady Khadijah. As a token of his appreciation to his aunt, Hakim asked her to choose one from among his newly acquired slaves. She picked Zayd and on the day she was married to the Blessed Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, Khadijah presented him with Zayd. And that’s how 15-year-old Zayd entered the household of the Messenger of Allah.

Not long thereafter his father and uncle caught up with him in Mecca and approaching the Prophet they offered to pay whatever was required to secure his release. The response of the Messenger: “Let Zayd decide; if he prefers you, he is yours without ransom; but if he takes me, I am not the man to set any other above him who prefers me.”

Zayd was called to identify his father and uncle and he did. “Choose between me and them,” the Prophet said to him. Zayd’s response: “I would not choose any man in preference to thee. Thou art unto me as my father and my mother.” Outraged at his answer, his father reminded him what his choice entailed: “Will you choose slavery over freedom?” Zayd’s response: “I have seen from this man such things that I could never choose another above him.” And so from that day onwards until revelation came to clarify the matter, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, dubbed Zayd his son before an assembly at the Ka’ba.

Zayd’s choice of the Prophet over his biological parents and the Prophet’s public embrace of him as his son speaks volume. Their mutual embrace defines the precise relationship between fathers and sons in Islam and becomes the model which repeats itself with every male companion that comes into the presence of the Blessed Messenger.

Sons, like Zayd, ought to see in their fathers everything they want to be when they grow up and fathers likewise should see in their sons righteous and strong men who will honor the wisdom of their fathers. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where fathers are failing their sons and sons in turn have reduced their fathers to figures of ridicule and rejection.

Being a father today is an uphill battle but being a father to boys in particular is a live minefield. Fathers are often regarded as ‘Mr. Sperm and Paycheck Donor.’ Young fathers, raised in homes where their own fathers have been absent, turn to the Cosby Show to learn appropriate paternal behavior. If the Cosby scenario doesn’t work there is a range of others to choose from such as Tim Allen in “Home Improvement” or Damon Williams in “My Wife and Kids.” When dad tries to apply techniques learned from watching sitcoms, his son responds with one standard he has learned from being raised on a daily diet of The Simpsons --- my dad, and by extension all fathers, are as dumb as Homer. For Muslim fathers living in Canada, the United States and the UK, the problem of fathering boys is challenging. And that’s putting it mildly.

First generation Muslim dads are most often immigrants who in almost all cases suffer from the symptoms that accompany social dislocation. To make ends meet they are forced into dead-end jobs working long hours. Stressed out of their minds, they suffer silently in a state of mild depression longing for a past that’s most likely impossible to relive.

Fathers in these conditions return home in the evening tired, irritable, touchy or remote. He is numb with hate for his job; ashamed to tell his children what he does in that little cubicle in the tall glass building downtown. With his foul mood he can’t teach nor can he impart wisdom to his children. He imparts instead his temperament.

In the few hours he’ll spend at home he grunts and shouts inaudible orders staring at a television screen or from behind crumpled newspapers. Not surprisingly when his sons become fathers the troubled pattern is often repeated. Better educated and perhaps making more money while doing the same dead-end job at a bigger corporation the new generation of fathers soon become golfaholics making lame excuses to spend time away from home. Much like his own dad, the young father becomes a self-absorbed man who insists on sitting at the head of the table but has done nothing as yet to earn the right to do so.

Muslim fathers rarely spend quality time at home to put their children to bed, read them books or play games with them. Fathers are often shocked at how little they actually know of what’s going on in the lives of their sons. They fail to realize that being involved in their sons lives means paying attention to the small details, relevant or not. That way, when the son gets to be a teenager he will feel comfortable telling his father things that he might otherwise hold as deep dark secrets.

Muslim boys today are raised in a climate where their sense of manhood is wrapped in a cloth of ineptitude from a young age. If they are in their 20’s men would remember the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Kosovo and the ongoing crime in Palestine. If they are older, they are most certainly going to recall 10 years of Russian occupation and destruction of Afghanistan, a majority Muslim country. To make matters worst, his Muslim sisters are banned in France from wearing the hijab in public schools and now the United States of America has occupied Iraq, once the seat of Muslim global power.

As a man coming of age the question of what to do under these circumstances rings loud. Unable to do anything tangible to alleviate the suffering of his people some men will accept defeat, sink low and drop out of sight. Others however will soar to great heights becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers as so many sons of immigrant parents are doing today. But sooner or later the kite must land and the young man is going to want heroes and when he can’t find any he will invent them. In his early teens the son will first look to his father as the hero but if his father is off playing cricket with his friends, the son, if the family is religious, will turn to the Imam at the mosque, the Shaykh everyone admires, or the brave mufti from his father’s village who gives strident khutbahs and issues empty fatwas. If he is weak of faith he will hold on to an older man who gives him a good turn or a beautiful woman he will marry and obey her every wish and command. All of these may or may not offer temporary solutions in a time when men are required to be men, but none will or can replace the role of the father in teaching boys how to be men.

I am the father of five children, two girls and three boys now all in their teens. My parents raised two boys and two girls and in dealing with my sons I often find myself turning to my relationship with my father for lessons in what to do and not do in raising my boys.

For example, my 13-year-old son recently decided he could drive. His experiment didn’t go well. He caused five thousand dollars in damage to our van and the garage door. Had I done something like that when I was his age I could almost be guaranteed of a sound trashing and that wouldn’t be the last I’d hear of it. I didn’t scold my son but threatened a spanking if he didn’t give me a clear explanation for his motivation to get behind the wheels at least four years before he is legally entitled to.

I used to spend long hours with my father carrying his tools as he mended the fence and replaced the old with the new. My father is the quiet efficient type who does a lot without saying much. I learned by observing him. From time to time he would let me hammer the nails in place or saw pieces of wood. Just as I came to know my mother’s rhythm when I was a child, the hours I spent with my dad helped me to learn his rhythm as well.

My father took me to his place of work often on Saturdays. Off from work by midday we strolled over to his barber shop where I too would get a haircut. I knew well what he did for a living and I knew the people he worked with. I still remember with pride the respect the owner used to show him because he was a reliable employee. How much money he made was never relevant to me but more important was the fact that he was a living presence in our home and in my life.

I am not deluded into thinking that everything in my relationship with my father was all positive. I could spend days focusing on the negatives in my father’s life or on the many apparently unjustified spankings I received from him when I was growing up, but I know that even though he scolded me my father never shamed nor insulted me.

As I became older I would sometimes get glimpses into dark areas in my father’s life but because my positive experience with him outweighed the negative I refused to dwell on the negatives, the “Darth Vader” or the “Dark Father.” And I know now that it is because of my overwhelmingly positive relationship with my father that as an adult I have never desired another father figure.

In my relationship with my three sons I try to open windows and doors for the kings, the men, inside of them to emerge and gain self-recognition. This process is arduous and it requires showing patience while learning to inhale – the good – and exhale – accepting the bad --and all the while teaching my sons to do the same. I understand that everything can’t be positive all the time and neither can they be negative all the time. I teach my sons, like my father had thought me, not to barter their independence to anyone, either man or woman. I do this because I believe it is the best way to ensure, like Zayd, that in life’s many unexpected twists and turns, they will endeavor to make the right choices.

Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.
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Angela View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Angela Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 April 2006 at 9:12am
  Wonderful post, Brother Rami.
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herjihad View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote herjihad Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 April 2006 at 7:57am


JazzakAllahKhayr, Brother Rami. 

Who wrote this, please?  I am crying as I read this.

No matter how hard it is brothers, keep trying.  Give your boys your love, not your insults and bad tempers.  If you think you deserve everything good from them, reflect on what you have actually given to them.

I know a father/son, mother/daughter relationship set is the motivation for this article as many people forget how important the role of a father in a daughter's life is.  When he insults her, judges her, makes her afraid to talk to him about her ideas, she is affected by this as much as boys are.  A daughter needs her dad's love as a son does.  Neither can be replaced, but when dad is so remote at times and so cruel and denigrating at others, children look for others to replace him in order to maintain their own self-respect and sanity.

Al-Hamdulillah (From a Married Muslimah) La Howla Wa La Quwata Illa BiLLah - There is no Effort or Power except with Allah's Will.
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