Child safety in the virtual world (Friday Khutbah)

Unknown-9

Friday Khutbah, May 22, 2015 at Kanata Muslim Association

Parents often go to great lengths to ensure the safety of their children in the real world. But when it comes to the online world, many children are hardly protected from lurking dangers. We discuss children, upbringing and internet safety.

Child safety in the virtual world (Runs 30:44 ~ 7.4 MB)

Share

Family ties forever (Friday Khutbah)

family

Friday Khutbah, February 20, 2015 at Kanata Muslim Association

Family used to, and still does, play a major role in the lives of many. But with the rise of individualism, the value of family is diminishing. We explore the correct attitude towards family relationships.

Family ties forever (Runs 28:16 ~ 6.8 MB)

Share

Media, entertainment and our spirituality (Friday Khutbah)

Friday Khutbah, May 2,  2014 at the Islamic Centre of Kingston (Ontario)

Allah instructs us to consume food that is permissible and wholesome. While food goes to our stomach, what we see and watch goes straight to our spiritual heart. What risks do our current media and entertainment diet present? We discuss current media consumption trends, spirituality and our future.

Media, entertainment and our spirituality  (Runs 31:23 ~ 7.18 MB)

Share

Embracing the strangeness of Islam (The Bond)

Originally published in the February 2014 issue of the Islamic Society of Kingston’s newsletter, The Bond.

One of the things I enjoy about my work is the opportunity I have to interact with the children in our community, especially during our evening classes.

I recently asked our older students, mostly between grades 4 and 7, to write about three things related to Islam or Muslims (including beliefs and practices) that they are most shy or embarrassed to mention to their non-Muslim friends and classmates.

The most common ones were belief in one Allah, dietary restrictions and hijab. Coming to the masjid, studying Qur’an and guidelines on gender interaction also made the list.

One of the reasons why our children are reluctant to talk about these and other Islamic teachings is because they are seen as being different and strange in our society today. Some of our children may already be so deeply influenced by the prevailing winds of secularism and the encouragement to follow one’s desires – and at their tender ages, it really doesn’t take much to influence them – that they may already be seeing Islamic teachings as being strange.

This phenomenon of Muslims becoming alien to Islam is not limited to children. Even as adults, we sometimes come across teachings, sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and perhaps even verses of the Holy Qur’an (the actual words of Allah) that appear strange to us. This could be due to our lack of understanding, the extent to which we have become used to non-Islamic norms, or simply due to the lack of strength and conviction in our iman (faith).

In the past, the teachings presented by the Prophets of Allah (peace be upon them all) were received with suspicious and unfamiliarity by many. After all, they went against society’s norms at the time and people were generally more comfortable holding on to the status quo, likely because they were used to it, it seemed easier and it allowed them to do what they pleased.

Referring to the idol worshipers of Arabia who were opposed to the message of Islam, Allah says:

They follow not except assumption and what [their] souls desire, and there has already come to them from their Lord guidance.” [Qur’an – 53:23]

When Prophet Shu’aib (peace be upon him) preached the message of Allah to the people of Madyan:

They said, ‘O Shu‘aib, does your Salah (prayer) command you that we should forsake what our fathers used to worship or that we should not deal with our wealth as we please? You pretend to be the only man of wisdom and guidance.’” [Qur’an – 11:87]

And:

They said, ‘O Shu‘aib, we do not understand much of what you say, and, in fact, we see you are weak among us.’” [Qur’an – 11:87]

Even the final Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) faced a similar attitude from the disbelievers of Makkah:

But they wonder that a warner has come to them from among themselves; so the disbelievers said, ‘This is something strange. Is it when we die and become dust (that we will be brought to life again?) That is a return, far (from understanding).” [Qur’an – 50:2-3]

The worship of idols, female infanticide and the consumption of alcohol were deeply established customs of Arabian society in the period of ignorance before the advent of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Eradicating them was strange. Yet, the believers were able to shun these then-popular practices due to the strength of their faith and the understanding that “Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) know best,” as they would often say.

Even in the few instances where the believers were reluctant to embrace an order of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) based on seemingly sound reasons, they immediately relented when they realized the importance of following the command of Allah and the instructions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Allah says:

It is not open for a believing man or a believing woman, once Allah and His messenger have decided a thing, that they should have a choice about their matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His messenger, he indeed gets off the track, falling into an open error.” [Qur’an – 33:36]

True believers know that Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) are the ultimate source of Truth and Wisdom. For them, the words of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) are supreme, even if we, as human beings, aren’t always able to understand the wisdom behind them. After all, human wisdom and understanding are of no match to Allah’s Wisdom and Knowledge.

When it comes to applying the guidance of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), there can be legitimate differences of opinion and interpretation. In that case, the true believer always turns to those with knowledge and taqwa (God-consciousness and piety), who have inherited knowledge of Qur’an and Prophetic traditions, and whose demeanour most closely resembles that of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the description of the believers and the pious in the Qur’an.

Islam, its teachings and its followers may be seen as strange today, but this should not come as a surprise. After all, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has said:

Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” [Recorded by Muslim]

Yes, Islamic teachings are seen as strange and the Muslims who act upon them are considered to be strangers. However, we must not be afraid of being associated with strangeness, as there will definitely be goodness in being associated with the strangeness of Islam, insha’Allah!

Share

Opinion: Finding the safest path for our children (The Bond)

Originally published in the April 2013 issue of the Islamic Society of Kingston’s newsletter, The Bond.

By Sikander Hashmi

We all want our children to succeed in life. We believe that our children’s future quality of life and overall success depends mainly on their schooling, so we put tremendous effort in ensuring they attend good schools, get good grades, participate in extra-curricular activities and are able to obtain admission in the best universities and in the fields that lead to the most lucrative and prestigious professions.1319861_children_crossing

We do this because we feel it’s our responsibility as parents and rightly so. But that’s not our only responsibility towards our children. Our children have a number of rights upon us. One of them is the right to proper upbringing and training.

There used to be a time when sending your child to a public school would not only ensure a decent to good education, but also that the children were nurtured in an environment where morality and traditional values were emphasized.

While the former may still be true in some cases, it’s the latter that is clearly missing from public schools today. Frankly, the values children are being taught and are picking up from their peers, as well as the experiences they are living at school, should be very alarming to parents.

Just in the past couple of weeks, there have been two tragic cases of teenage girls committing suicide, one in the United States and one here in Canada, because they were sexually assaulted and then cyberbullied, with photos of the attacks posted online. Reports indicate the girls were also repeatedly bullied at school.

Even within our community, students have shared with me the troubles they are experiencing at school because of their faith and their skin colour.

The Ontario government’s Accepting Schools Act, otherwise referred to as the anti-bullying legislation that has now become law, takes an important step in creating a safe environment for all children. It makes it clear that bullying will not be tolerated against any student on the basis of “race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.”

No person with a conscience, let alone a true person of faith, would want innocent children (or even adults) to be bullied or tormented. Hate must not be tolerated in any form, so the effort to stop this is commendable.

However, it is clear that the application of this legislation is going much further than protecting children. It is being used to promote values and lifestyle choices that are inconsistent with the beliefs of many parents.

For example, large pink posters have been put up in some local elementary and secondary schools, posing the question, “What’s wrong with being gay?” If you are a parent who doesn’t believe in homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle choice, this presents a very troubling scenario.

Children often see their teachers and schools as trustworthy sources of guidance, looking up to them and believing whatever they say. Parents have the challenging task of broaching the topic with their young children and convincing them that what they’ve learned in school isn’t actually so.

Another troubling example came to light recently that highlighted the challenges our children face in the classroom, especially when the teachers are biased or ignorant. The class was studying a text in which the setting was a Muslim country. A practice that our faith promotes, covering for modesty, was identified by the teacher as being a “problem.” For Muslim children, incidents such as these can contribute towards an inferiority complex that leads them to see their faith and culture as being problematic and flawed.

These are just a couple of examples of the contradictions that our children face when attending public schools. Others include unnecessary showing of indecent material to high school students as part of instruction, celebrating holidays that promote beliefs and practices that are contradictory to Islamic teachings, dealing with events that go against modesty and morality (such as dances and proms) and completely unrestricted contact (including physical and sexual) between genders.

Now the Ontario government is planning to reintroduce a revised sex education curriculum that was shelved three years ago due to strong opposition from religious groups. Opponents had decried the fact that the curriculum would introduce children to homosexuality in grade 3, masturbation in grade 6 and oral and anal sex in grade 7.

In a Toronto Star article published last fall, Dr. Bruce Ferguson, director of the Hospital for Sick Children’s Community Health Systems Resource Group, was quoted as saying: “But do people think Grade 7 is too young to talk to kids about oral sex? A group of Grade 8 girls at a Toronto school a few years ago were running a little lunchtime business giving Grade 8 boys oral sex for money.”

He went on: “The girls thought if they had toothpaste in their mouth while they gave oral sex they wouldn’t get AIDS — as if the boys had AIDS, and as if toothpaste would prevent it.”

It appears that part of the rationale for feeding children this type of information is because some of this behaviour is already being practiced. In that case, the argument is that children would be better off knowing the facts so they practice safe sex.

The bigger question is: Why is such behaviour being practiced by children in the first place?

Some will argue that children will face these challenges in life, so it is better to expose them now so they can learn to make the right decisions. While there is some truth to it, this is not how parents normally prepare their children to deal with dangers. We first stop children from bodies of water and fire because they’re oblivious to the inherent dangers (i.e. drowning and burning) that lie therein. Then as children grow older, we slowly educate them about the dangers and then train them to deal with the dangers. No parent allows children to be exposed to obvious risks until they are confident that their children are equipped to deal with them safely.

Preparation and education are important and our children must be equipped to cope with the trends and challenges found in society. But they must be educated in an appropriate manner – using the right approach in the right setting and at the right time.

Unfortunately, the methods being used today in public schools to achieve this lack all three.  This doesn’t mean that all children who attend public schools will be lost and yes, significant strides have been made to make schools inclusive and welcoming towards all, which is wonderful. But as Muslim parents, we must ask ourselves: Is it wise to place our children in such a risky environment at such a tender age? Is doing so really in the best interests of our children? Or should we be putting a greater effort towards finding, or even creating, appropriate alternatives for our children?

This can be a difficult task and there are no guarantees that it will be enough. But I believe we must first try our best then leave for Allah the rest. Working on a suitable alternative is simply part of that effort.

Share