I live in New York and have two teen age daughters. Unfortunately, even though we tried to raise both of them with Islamic values but they think there is nothing wrong with going out with boys and even dating them because everyone is doing it. They do not listen to us at all and go out anyway from school or make other excuses. We are very concerned and fear the punishment of Allah that we did not control our children and raise them properly. What do you suggest we should do in this situation. How far are we responsible as parents? What can we do?
Thank you in advance for your time and advice.
After having grown up in a particular socio-cultural setting, it naturally becomes extremely difficult for a person to not adhere to and own the norms and the values of that culture, unless that person has a very strong philosophical basis and intellectual commitment of refraining from it. Obviously, if the growing child lacks the value-based foundations upon which a desirable behavior is going to be shaped – as is the case of Islamic norms – and is then additionally made to grow up in a socio-cultural setting, which – in our perception – promotes such behavioral norms that we feel are contrary to the ones that we hold as desirable, then it would only be realistic to expect a behavioral norm from the child, which is deviant from the one that we hold as desirable.
Forcing a growing child into adhering to a particular socio-cultural behavior for which it neither finds any intellectual commitment or internal motivation nor observes it being practiced by the society in general, is not likely to produce a long term positive effect. In fact, on the contrary, forceful implementation of these norms, even if it is apparently successful is more often than not going to prove a mere face lifting without adequate foundation and is more likely to instill in the child a hatred towards these norms and values.
Under such circumstances as you have stated, I would recommend that the teacher of Islam should ignore the apparent deviations of his/her pupils and concentrate solely upon reviving in them the spirit of recognizing, understanding and adhering to Islamic beliefs and values. If the teacher is successful in his efforts, then sooner or later these Islamic beliefs and values would themselves affect a modification in the behavior of the pupil.
Keeping the foregoing observations in perspective, I would strongly advise you to carefully plan a detailed course of action for correcting the situation. Some of the important points that you should keep in mind are as follows:
To be able to effectively teach anyone about Islam, one will first have to thoroughly learn what is to be taught;
Propagating adherence to certain norms and etiquette is more likely to be effective if it is done through the role-model approach rather than through intellectual discussions and debates;
The socio-cultural norms promoted by Islam are based upon the corpus of beliefs and the values promoted by Islam. For a person, who does not adhere to, is not convinced of or is not even fully aware of the beliefs and values promoted by Divine religions, it is extremely difficult to adhere to the socio-cultural norms promoted by the religion;
The Qur’an should always be used as the primary text in teaching Islam. The target of the teacher should be to develop a permanent habit of reading and deliberating over the Qur’anic teachings among his pupils;
The target of a good teacher of Islam should not be to extract obedience towards his personal interpretation and understanding of the various directives of Islam from his pupils. On the contrary, the target of a good teacher should be to motivate his pupils to study and understand the teachings of Islam with an open mind and then to live a life which is consonant with their own honest understanding and interpretation of the directives of Islam;
An effective teacher of Islam should be perceived by his/her pupils as their greatest well wisher on the face of the earth;
Sincere prayers for the guidance of one’s loved ones and pupils should be an integral part of one’s efforts in teaching Islam. We must remember that our efforts of teaching Islam are only going to be fruitful and our pupil is only likely to be blessed with God’s guidance if – and only if – that pupil is found deserving of this great blessing by the All-knowing and the Merciful God. Our prayers indeed can do wonders and can still produce miracles;
Parents and teachers are made in charge of the moral, ethical and religious training of their children and their pupils respectively. Each parent should be deeply concerned about doing his/her best in this respect, as soon as he/she realizes this responsibility. Nevertheless, parents – being human beings – are prone to human errors and mistakes and sometimes even negligence towards their responsibilities. Under these circumstances, as soon as we realize our mistakes we must not only seek forgiveness for our mistakes in the past and try to reverse their effects wherever possible but should also make a firm commitment to rejuvenate our efforts in effectively teaching Islam to our children and to instill in them the spirit of living a life targeted towards their success in the hereafter and, thereby, save them as well as ourselves from the eternal punishment of hellfire.
I hope this helps.
October 13, 2002