The Greatest Gift: A Guide To Parenting

Some time ago a respected personality in the Asian community, invited to the author’s home, pleads, with swollen eyes and cracked voice for advice. The man tells how his daughter ran away from home and moved in with a non-Muslim man without marrying him. Stories like this are not uncommon in Muslim communities up and down the UK, being a clear symptom of poor parenting and a lack of community support. Abdul Bari, an educationalist, has written a timely and valuable book on parenting. The book highlights some of the social, educational and moral dilemmas faced by the diasporic Muslim community in Britain. This broad and comprehensive, sensitive and at times passionate reading makes for a thought provoking book as well as a practical guide. I can unreservedly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve his or her parenting skills.

Verses of the Glorious Qur’an, pearls of Prophetic wisdom, aphorisms of the pious predecessors (salaf al-salahin), personal anecdotes (which may be regarded as case studies), incisive analysis of social problems, and quotes from western sociologists, psychologists and educationalists characterize this book.

Several sections open with Qur’anic verses, which are then explained by modern tafsir.

Some of the verses are:

1. Our Lord, give us comfort in our spouse and children and make us a good example for those ward off evil. (25:74)

2. O you who believe! Safeguard yourselves and your family from a fire whose fuel is people and stones. (66:6)

3. O Lord! Grant me by Your favour an upright child. (3:38)

4. My Lord, bestow on me a right acting child. (37:100)

The book is composed of five parts consisting of eighteen chapters. Part one is an “obligatory task” which deals with purpose of life, the value of the children, and the importance of good upbringing. Part two extols the virtue of marriage and family life and its influence through pregnancy, birth and infancy on the child’s development. The author masterfully rejects Freudian premises and emphasizes the need to empathize with the child, instilling an Islamic spirit, understanding the child’s intelligence by rewarding, disciplining and building self-esteem, even at this early stage. Part Three addresses formal schooling from primary through to secondary. Discussing the choices at secondary level, the author makes a strong case for Muslim schools for, in his view, even secular single-sex state schools have their problems. As the environment of these schools is ripe with permissive values, and as the teaching and other staff have divergent educational aims, they can lead to an unhealthy life and double standards in a Muslim child. That is why Muslim parents are not the only people to insist on the right to send their children to denominational schools. In Part Four, the challenges of adolescence are highlighted. Consumer society and the powerfully influential media make this “period of commotion” difficult. This Part describes intellectual, spiritual, physical and social changes in the teenager. The author offers some useful tips for passing through these tumultuous times: being creative, developing good friendships, observing hijab, controlling the gaze, avoiding egotism, rudeness and distasteful styles and fashion and so on. The final Part, “The Prize and Price”, is effectively a commentary on the age-old adage “as you sow, you shall reap”. Good parenting is defined as “passing on values, ethos and a sense of responsibility to children. Parenting is an assertive, positive and innovative endeavour.”

Review:

This is a comprehensive study of parenting which presents the theory as well as practical tips on how to fulfil this important role in life. My only reservation with the book is that it is too lengthy for the busy modern parent. The middle part of the book in particular could have been published separately as a practical guide. This would have made it more accessible to a general readership. The author and the publisher deserve appreciation for this timely and reformative endeavour. Musharraf Hussain, Karima Institute, Nottingham, UK.

 

Race, Religion & Muslim Identity in Britain

This book offers incisive and comprehensive analysis of faith as a cornerstone of identity and possible solutions. A timely book after the recent tragedies in London which took place during July 2005.
With the rapid transformation within the Muslim community over the last few decades many young people are now finding it difficult to navigate between the demands of their religion on one side and social pressure on the other. Thus, working with them and addressing the issues pertinent to their daily life are challenging, to say the least.
This book is the outcome of Dr Bari’s long-term involvement with the young Muslims of London through his voluntary and professional work. This has put him on a continuous learning curve in assessing his personal situation as well. The foremost amongst the issues facing a young Muslim is of course one of ‘identity’, which the author has tried to address through the mirrorof Islamic principles.

Marriage and Family Building in Islam

Muslims are facing increasing challenges in building successful families and keeping them together. Some of these challenges are external in nature and are a result of the rise of extreme liberalism and materialism around us.

112 pages Paperback A5 ISBN 1 842000 83 7

 

A Guide to Parenting in Islam: Addressing Adolescence

Addressing Adolescence is a parent-to-parent handbook outlining how to tackle the challenges of parenting adolescents within an Islamic ethos ina pluralist society.

It covers:

– the unique nature of an adolescent and how this differs from younger children;

– possible problems that young people today may face in school and within their social life and how best to tackle these;

matters to consider when choosing a secondary school;

– creating the most nurturing home environment in which to bring up young people;

– preparing them for the adult world of responsibility.

“The book is very readable and once I had started I couldn’t put it down! It is full of good practical common sense and useful tips, against the background of the received wisdom of the Islamic tradition. One feels great compassion for those who have to live this life without the foundation of being born into and raised in loving family, so I hope that the message of your book will be widely influential.”

Professor John Adair, an internationally acclaimed leadership theorist and author of forty books on business, military and other leadership. He is currently an Emeritus Fellow of the Windsor Leadership Trust. His latest book is The Leadership of Muhammad.

British, Muslims, Citizens: Introspection and Renewal

Muslims in Britain have experienced considerable changes in all walks of life over the last few decades. From a small beginning in post-War Britain the Muslim community has evolved to be a diverse section of the British population.

With significantly higher proportion of youth within the community it is faced with tremendous challenges and opportunities, as is the case with any group of people settling in a new land.

For British Muslims, never before has there been a more urgent need for fresh ideas and new thinking on how they interact with each other, with fellow citizens and with the wider world. It is time the British Muslim community took a reality check of how it is doing in creating a universal, progressive and inclusive vision of Islam; a vision that will motivate and empower them to excel in the common good of all by remaining true to the deeper message of Islam. This book can be found and purchased online here.

A Guide to Parenting in Islam: Cherishing Childhood

Our children are the greatest assets that Allah has entrusted us with. We owe it to Allah and to our children, therefore, to invest our time and efforts into being the best parents we can be. Cherishing Childhood is a parent-to-parent handbook that outlines how to tackle the challenges (and reap the rewards) of parenting children from birth to pre-adolescence within an Islamic ethos in a pluralist society.

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It covers:

» The concept of Positive Parenting;
» How to welcome a child into the world;
» The unique nature of a toddler and how to manage the most common issues in the pre-school years;
» Matters to consider when choosing a primary school;
» How to support your child through primary school;
» Creating the most nurturing home environment for children to flourish in;
» Guidelines for discipline and dealing with difficult behaviour;
» Tips on how to build a Muslim character.

 

Below is a review written by historian and researcher Dr. Jamil Sherif (the original review can be found here):

 

In  Cherishing Childhood, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari draws on his experiences as an educationalist,  long-standing community worker and parent to offer a compassionate guide for good parenting.  Cherishing Childhood is a concise and easy read,  focussing on the steps to nurture a sense of spirituality from the earliest days.  There is much wisdom and practical advice to be found within its 100 or so pages: Chapter One, ‘A Trust from Allah’; Chapter Two, ‘Parenthood and the Age of Nurturing’; Chapter Three, ‘Infancy and the Pre-School Years’; Chapter Four, ‘Primary School Years’; Chapter Five, ‘Home Environment’; Chapter Six, ‘Building Muslim Character’.  The author’s own gentle and calm character permeates through the account.

The book is an amalgam of homilies and advice from an elder.  Above all it conveys the importance of care and love: ‘the relationship between parents and children is at the heart of the family. When this love is pure and strong, it filters out to encompass love for brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and so on’. Children bereft of such love often find it difficult in later life to love others. The book has many practical tips, such as the importance of putting up a timetable on the family noticeboard,  dealing with tantrums (‘calm and patient parents are more likely to breed calm and patient children’) and the importance of  joint reading. He warns against a permissive style of parenting – where there is a reluctance to make any demands on the children nor impose any form of discipline  or authority. He says that ‘this is tantamount to an abuse of the parent-child relationship. It is the duty of the parents to guide and nurture their children into the best human beings that they can be based on their greater life experience. To hand over the reins of responsibility to the children themselves is irresponsible and neglectful. As a result, these children tend to be immature and self-centred.’

Dr Bari  writes at a time when the stereotypical gender roles of the wife as the home-maker and child carer and the husband as breadwinner are increasingly blurred.  More and more young British Muslim girls are now in higher education, emerging with a university degree, often better educated than their spouses and with natural  career expectations. The 2011 Census indicates that there are parts of Britain where the number of Muslim women in full-time education is more than men.   Dr Bari however treads a conservative line on the issue, though well-aware of the tensions. In his view the ‘ideal scenario’ when a child is born is for the mother to stay at home with her child until the child is ready to go to school: ‘like a sculptor, the parent must take the raw material and carefully coax and soothe and shape it into a thing of beauty. This requires time and effort…Mothers that have worked full-time outside the home prior to having children may feel frustrated at the lack of intellectual stimulation and social life on becoming a stay-at-home  mother. They may also feel the loss of their own income and the independence that goes with it. These are valid and normal feelings. However, motherhood is an honour and privilege. It is not bestowed to everyone and the early years of child’s life pass very quickly. The mother can return to full-time work when the child goes to school.’ He accepts that  ‘…it may be that there is no other option except that both parents have to work in order to ensure a basic standard of living for the family. In this case there are a few options that can be explored in order to minimise the negative effects on children. It may be possible that one of the parents can work part-time or that both parents can work flexibly in order for there to be a parent at home some of the time. It is worth talking to members of the extended family such as aunts and grandparents, or friends, who may be able to offer childcare in a wholesome and Islamic environment’.  Dr Bari is very much against depositing babies with non-Muslim child-minders or for making  TV  a surrogate  ‘childminder’: ‘even children’s programmes may show inappropriately dressed people, permissiveness of pop music  and dancing, disrespect of elders  and wasting of food, to name a few. Over time these silently corrode the values and ethos that Muslim parents have worked so hard to instil!’

Good parenting is a challenge for the young nuclear family in the urban context where either by choice or necessity both parents have to be professionally active, either to make ends meet or to ensure their skills do  not become obsolete. Dr Bari’s own rule – ‘I have followed the broad Islamic principle that anything not forbidden in Islam is acceptable’ – is one that can guide families in making difficult decisions.  Muslim civil society is faced with many challenges in the decades ahead, not least in the need for systems that can provide  culturally sensitive child care at one end of the life cycle, and elderly care homes at the other.