Today, we Muslims are the second largest nation on earth, being 1.7 billion strong. Nonetheless, our problems and weaknesses are increasing by the day. On one hand Muslims around the world are faced with oppression; while on the other moral decadence has taken root in the Ummah. In the past, our predecessors were fewer in number but they excelled and led the world in every field; be it religion, politics, economics or education. We may be ‘successful’ in our individual lives; however, as an Ummah we are only as weighty as froth and scum.
Dr. Aisha Utz (formerly Aisha Hamdan) in her bookNurturing Eemân in Children has identified the solution. It is to raise ourselves and our children to the next level – the level of faith; from being Muslims by name to Muslims by belief and actions. Her book is unique in its approach to parenting. It gives an emphasis on moulding our children into ‘faith-driven’ kids. It focuses on the need to nurture and grow the seed of Eemân in our children, so they do not practice Islam just because the society demands it, but out of love for Allah and the religion. When children feel connected to Allah, the process of parenting becomes much easier.
There are four parts in the book, each subdivided into different chapters. The first part explains the foundations of Islamic parenting, the importance of knowledge and the meaning of Aqeedah, Eemâan and Ihsân. The author discusses how children are not merely objects of enjoyment for their parents (like toys!); they are a serious responsibility and a test from Allah (swt) for the parents. The importance of family as a basic unit, the distinct roles of the father and mother and the issue of women and work are also discussed in a brief yet precise manner.
The second part of the book highlights the basic tenets of faith in detail: belief in Allah, the messengers, the scriptures, the angels, the hereafter and the Day of Judgment, divine will and predestination. Conventional parenting books focus only on the ritual aspects of Deen and the pillars of Islam like praying, fasting and giving charity. This is a step forward as it introduces the pillars of Eemân, and gives practical advice on ways through which we can instill these in our children in our – and their – daily lives. For example, when talking about belief in the angels Dr. Utz shares how parents can connect their children to angels by relating the stories of Qur’an and Hadith that mention angels. Some of these stories are related in the book.
In the third part Dr. Utz sheds light on the tools that are needed to foster an Islamic personality in our children. Parents should teach their children to take pride in their Muslim identity and connect them to the earlier Muslim generation.
The fourth part titled ‘Environmental Factors’ explains how home, peer and community environment affect the Islamic personality of our children and what measures can be undertaken to ensure that the seeds of Eemân are being nourished well. Some of the author’s suggestions are to invite righteous people to our homes, establish Salâh and initiate and maintain an Islamic library at home. It also has some detailed notes on television and its negative effects.
An appendix of parenting resources has been given at the end of the book.
Dr. Utz is learned in behavioural psychology and is active in the field of da‘wah. Her book is simple yet engaging at the same time. She is also the author of Psychology from an Islamic Perspective. Dr. Aisha writes: ‘We must educate them (our children) about the meaning of tawheed, and to be conscious of Allah in every decision and action. Our dream for them is to become exemplary callers to Islam, sincere seekers of knowledge, fearless soldiers, societal reformers, righteous wives and caring mothers.”
Nurturing Eemân in Children is a concise handbook on parenting that one can read again and again, extracting new lessons from it each time. The book is a must-read for all parents and parents-to-be. Teachers, the architects of the Ummah, can also benefit greatly from this excellent guide.
[Zahra Anjum is an aspiring writer who loves to write about Islam, Eemân and the Qur’an.]
© IIPH 2014