The Positive and Negative C's of
By Shahina Siddiqui
Reprinted from as-Sahar al-Islamiyah, October 1999
One of the greatest challenges a Muslim will ever face is being
a parent. This is one challenge, however, many of us are least
prepared for. Allah tells us in the Quran that our children are
our trial and as such we should take the task of parenting seriously,
and start learning from each other. In my experience in dealing
with my own family and counseling other Muslim families, a model
has developed based on what I call "The Positive and Negative
C's". I pray to Allah that this humble contribution will
help parents and children alike in diagnosing and repairing the
health of their families.
The Positive C's
The Prophet Muhammad (saas) stated that "He
is not of us who does not have compassion for his fellow beings."
It is interesting to note that when it comes to Hadith like this
or Quranic quotes dealing with human behavior, we never stop
to think that our children and family members are also our fellow
human beings and that these golden rules must also be applied
to them. Compassion is only one component of the concept of mercy
(rahmah) - the others being kindness, respect, and of course
love. Remember the displeasure of Prophet Muhammad (saas) when
Al-Aqra ibn Habis told him how he had never kissed any of his
ten children. Upon hearing that the Prophet Muhammad (saas) told
him, "You have no mercy and tenderness
at all. Those who do not show mercy to others will not have God's
mercy shown to them."
The Prophet (saas) has related that Allah says,
"Oh My servants. I have forbidden
oppression for Myself, And I have forbidden it for you. So do
not oppress each other."
When we consult with each other in the domestic realm, both
husband and wife must show respect for each other. This is one
of the best ways to bond and to learn and listen to each other
and to resolve conflicts. However, the consultation will only
be fruitful if it is sincere and not merely a formality. Imposition
of one's ideas with scant regard to the welfare of the whole
family unit defeats the purpose of the most important Quranic
The concept of cooperation in Islam is most beautifully illustrated
in sura Al-Asr : "Counsel each other
to the truth (haq), and counsel each other to patience and fortitude
(sabr)." When a family unit cooperates in this manner,
they truly capture the spirit of Islam - the welfare of each
member of the family becomes the concern of the other.
It is extremely important that our families commit themselves
as a unit to Allah and His Prophet (saas):
"Obey Allah and His Prophet and
those in authority over you." (Sura An-Nisa).
This collective commitment gives us an identity and maps out
our purpose - namely that we all belong to Allah and are accountable
and responsible to Him.
Communication is more than talking. It is an essential part
of family life. It is both talking in a manner in which others
can understand you, and hearing in a manner in which you can
listen and understand others. So many times people claim that
they have no communication problem since they are always talking.
However, the majority of the time they are talking "at"
and not talking "to" the other person. This mode usually
results in the recipient tuning out. Many children learn at an
early age to tune out their parents. When communication is a
means of listening, understanding, and exchanging ideas, it is
the most powerful tool to effective parenting and the best shield
against peer and societal pressures. It also teaches children
skills to problem solving. An important component of positive
communication is a sense of humour when parents and children
can laugh together. Communication can also be instrumental in
passing down family history and thus creating oneness and togetherness
by sharing a mutual heritage (children love to hear about family
Effective parenting requires that we are consistent in our
value judgements, discipline, and moral standards. Many parents
inadvertently apply double standards to boys and girls when it
comes to social behavior and domestic chores. This is unacceptable,
and leads to sibling rivalry and stereotypical males and females.
Family is with whom we can feel safe and secure. Where we
know our secrets are safe and where there is mutual trust. Unfortunately,
we parents often betray the trust of our children when we discuss
their concerns which they confide in us to outsiders. This leads
to mistrust, and sooner or later our children will stop confiding
in us. This leads them to find confidants outside the family,
sometimes non-Muslim peers, and this can be detrimental to their
spiritual and moral growth.
The greatest gift we can give our children is that of contentment.
This can be developed very early in life by encouraging our children
to give thanks to Allah for all they have by discouraging materialism
by word and example, and by counting the blessings every night
and remembering the less fortunate.
It is the duty of parents to build confidence in our children
through encouragement and honest and sincere praise. By developing
confidence, we give our children the courage to stand up for
themselves and their beliefs and to be able to deal with opposition.
By teaching restraint and avoiding excess we develop in our
children control so that they do not become slaves to their desires
By encouraging and showing calm in matters of adversity and
in times of panic we improve our taqwa and teach our children
to rely on Allah and to turn to Allah alone for all needs. Allah
says in the Quran that the best statement of the believers in
times of adversity or musibah is, "Indeed
we are from Allah and to Him is our return."
Courage of conviction can only be achieved when we have been
able to teach our childrentrue Islam. We should take advantage
of every learning opportunity as a family so that our faith (imaan)
flourishes and evolves towards ihsaan as a family unit.
In this manner we can be a source of strength to each other.
The Quran encourages us over and over again to think, reflect,
ponder, understand and analyse. However, very rarely do parents
encourage children to question. Our response to difficult inquiries
from our children is to say "do it because I said so."
This discourages the children from developing critical thinking.
They become lazy and complacent and easy prey to cult type following.
To take things at face value makes us vulnerable.
The most important attitude of a Muslim personality is, as
Prophet Muhammad (s) stated : "Do
you not wish that Allah will forgive you? Then forgive your brothers
and sisters." Many relationships break because people
are not able to forgive each other. It is important that parents
make up in front of their children by forgiving each other after
an argument. Prophet Muhammad (s) stated "like
for your brother what you like for yourself." So
if a husband and wife expect respect from each other they should
give respect. A charitable nature also encourages us to overlook
people with their shortcomings and to be sensitive and to have
The Negative C's:
There are many negative C's which should also be identified so
that we can avoid them or at least be aware of them. As you will
notice when you go through the whole exercise, the presence of
one negative C cancels out a positive C.
In an authentic Hadith the Prophet Muhammad (s) said : "Look up to one who is greater in piety
so you strive to be like him and look upon one who is below you
in material status so that you may be thankful to Allah's Grace."
As a Muslim community we are experiencing the opposite. We
are literally killing ourselves to gain bigger and better material
goods than others and passing this same materially-oriented competitive
spirit to our children. If Brother X's son is going to Yale,
my son must go to Harvard otherwise he is a failure, no matter
how good a mu'min he is in comparison to Brother X's son.
We are inadvertently putting so much pressure on our children
to compete in dunya that we are actually hurting their self esteem
and pushing them away. For remember, if children don't find acceptance
of who they are and what they are capable of at home, they will
find it elsewhere.
Comparison is an outcome of negative competition. It is cruel
and breeds resentment and anger. Many husbands and wives compare
their spouses to others and get in the habit of complaining.
Grass always seems greener in the neighbour's yard, but closer
inspection may reveal the opposite. None of us are perfect, and
therefore we should stop looking for perfection in others.
The negative aspect of control shows in the form of a controlling
personality e.g. I am the boss so you do as I tell you. In extreme
cases this need to control leads to abuse and neglect. Anger
is also a weapon of a control freak. In most cases it is the
father, however mothers also exhibit this trait.
Constant, destructive criticism is a sign of dysfunctional
parenting. Continuous put downs and verbal clashing destroys
the tranquil atmosphere at home. The self esteem of the recipients
of this criticism is extremely low developing in them a victim
mentality. They will either seek abusive relationships or turn
their backs on their families. Many runaways come from such a
"If the truth were to follow their
whims, the heaven and earth and all their inhabitants would be
Weak nafs and diseases of the heart lead to poor character
which of course is the result of grudging submission and conditional
faith. When we corrupt our deen by picking and choosing what
we want, practicing what suits us best and resisting and out
right opposing what does not suit our fancy, we pay an enormous
price by loosing ourselves to the dunya, and driving our children
away from Islam.
Some parents are confused about their identity and their values.
They have not been able to develop a structure of right and wrong
based on Quran and Hadith and as such when it comes to implementation
give conflicting signals to their children. We must as parents
develop an Islamic frame of reference which would serve to develop
a Muslim conscience in our children and a basis for judgement.
This can only be achieved by sifting through our cultural baggage
and increasing our knowledge.
Contempt for others is a result of pride, arrogance, and conceit.
We must discourage arrogance in children and be constantly vigilant
about it as many Muslim youth are falling prey to this trait
and developing contempt towards their parents. It is one thing
to praise and quite another to set them up on a pedestal. We
should always remember that "knowledge is proud that it
knows so much, but wisdom is humble because it knows no more."
Consumption, a vice of this society, is creeping into Muslim
communities. When wants become needs, and parents start compensating
for their lack of time spent with their children with material
gifts, we are perpetuating consumerism - anything can be bought.
This, however, is not true. So many young people I counsel always
say, "I could do without this new computer if only my parents
would spend more time with me."
The legacy of materialism survives generations since it caters
to our baser selves. Watch out for it.
When there is contradiction in word and deed it is called
hypocrisy. Children are very sensitive to this vice and can spot
a hypocrite a mile away. When we behave holier-than-thou in the
masjid but present a different side in other settings, we are
giving our children the message it is OK to be a hypocrite.
As Prophet Muhammad reminded us in his last sermon that Shaytan
cannot mislead us in major issues of faith but in minor issues.
This is where our carelessness and lack of diligence can lead
to weak character.
This is a mind set that many immigrant parents have passed
down to their children - a sense of inferiority, a complex as
such, that European and Western cultures are superior and better
than that of their country of origin. This is a mentality that
encourages imitation, following and serving rather than leadership.
There are many more positive and negative C's that I could
discuss but perhaps it would be entertaining if families could
sit together and see how many they can come up with, and perform
a diagnostic test of their own families based on this humble