Raising kids anywhere in this world is evidently a challenge in today’s highly networked and visual world. However, being a Muslim and raising kids in a non-Muslim country can be quite tricky and disconcerting at times. Having grown up myself in a non-Muslim country, I find that it’s a matter of balance and getting one’s priorities in order.
What is important must always come first and I’ve found that everything else just falls into place. Faith also plays a big role, I believe. So, all young mothers out there, living in a world that has shrunk thanks to technology, don’t over-fret. Just remember your values and what your parents did to raise you and tweak things a bit and I’m sure the whole process of raising children will become a little easier.
However, to put your minds at ease, here are a few pointers to be a guide to raising kids in a non-Muslim country.
Children will only know what Islam is if you as parents teach them about Islam. So, from a young age teach your kids the principles and the practices of Islam. For instance, what is Halal and Haram, what is considered right in Islam, and what is considered wrong? You need not grill them, but ensure they understand there is a difference.
For example, one of the most important aspects of living in a non-Muslim country is avoiding food that is Haram and making sure we eat food that is Halal or permissible in Islam. So, through actions and words make them realize the differences and make them understand that even if their friends eat certain foods that are haram, it is important that we know our boundaries as Muslims and avoid this food.
In addition, start your kids learning about Islam at home. You have the knowledge, use it and teach your kids. For children who still cannot read, download a Quran recitation, or get a CD and play it for them daily for 15 minutes.
If you need more help, there are some online learning tools and activities that Muslim parents can use to slowly start building your kids’ knowledge of Islam at home. Here are a few to consider:
Try them and let us know how good (or not) they are. If you can find other online sites that are useful, recommend it thus on the HalalTrip App!
Of critical importance is the study of Islam in the atmosphere of a school. There are so many things to learn in the Islamic religion and this is quite impossible to do at home. Today, most countries with Muslim populations organized religious classes for the community’s children to attend. So, make the time, give Madrasa the same importance as a regular school and make sure you send your child there.
Attending a religious school will not only give your kids a strong foundation of the concepts and practices of Islam in addition to learning how to recite the Quran, recite dua and perform the 5 daily prayers, but it will also allow them to interact with other Muslim children and give them a chance to make friends for life.
Meeting and mingling with family and the Muslim community can shape and create a better understanding and acceptance. Kids will observe the interactions and actions of people, and by such gatherings, they can experience for themselves the camaraderie and closeness of the community. Also, if sharing a meal, they will learn that others also practice the same way their parents do, and this makes children accept such stipulations more.
Admittedly, at times, the older child may consider it a bit embarrassing to ask if the ingredients in the foods they have ordered at restaurants are all Halal, and observing others doing this will make them realize that it is not an unnecessary fuss but an accepted practice.
Attending Islamic events such as Eid, going to the mosque during the month of Ramadan, attending Islamic events, etc., and taking your children with you can be a great learning experience. This also makes kids understand that these days are important and must be treated as such.
As they get older, kids will have many different things pulling them in different directions. Attending such events as children will make them realize that it is important to go to the mosque during Ramadan and that it is also important to attend Eid prayers.
It is very important for parents to listen to what their kids are saying. When kids come home from school and discuss their day and what has happened in school, please listen, however, busy or tired you are. Listening to kids recounting their day can give insight on what his/her thoughts are on what someone (even friends) at school did.
Parents can also get a better understanding of the other kids your child is associating with. Listening to your kids can provide parents the opening required to bring up some topics or guide your kids in the right direction. Listening is not just for Muslim parents in non-Muslim countries but for all parents worldwide!
Talking is equally important, especially as your kids get older and are more exposed to the internet and everything else in the world. Talking to kids can bring parents closer to their children and allow kids the opportunity to ask parents questions. Today, the world has become an open place, and kids are very curious from a young age.
There is no such thing as a “taboo subject”. Parents must encourage their children to talk to them about everything and anything. Otherwise, how will you know your how your kids think or view a certain subject or scenario? Knowledge is power, and only if kids know that something is not acceptable being a Muslim, even if it is acceptable by their non-Muslim friends’ parents, can you give your children the ability to follow the right path.
Teaching your kids about Islam is great, but as parents you yourself need to practice what you preach. For example, if you are teaching your child that prayer is important five times a day, make sure that your kids see you praying at home. For older children, make them pray with you. For those who are still learning their Wudhu', ensure that you make them do Wudhu' during Namaz times.
If you want your child to recite the Quran daily, then you yourself need to recite the Quran daily – in fact, if you have small children who still don’t know to read, then sit them by you when you are reciting the Quran and let them listen to you. If you go out to a restaurant, make sure your child knows the food it is Halal, ask the maître d or the waiter in front of your kids.
These actions will show your kids the importance you place on the teachings and practices of Islam and will, in turn, instill these practices in them.
While it is important to teach your kids about Islam, its practices, its edicts, and the rights and wrongs (Halal and haram), it is also important that you DO NOT:
Sakina has over 10 years of experience in the field of corporate communications; having worked for a leading Annual Report Production House dealing with top corporates of Sri Lanka and overseas, and later as the Group Communications Specialist for a Sri Lankan conglomerate for their overseas plantations business. She is well-versed in the production process of annual reports, sustainability reports, corporate videos and other corporate communication media. She also has experience in Social Media Marketing and works to increase and improve social media presence of corporates and small niche market businesses. Today, she works as a freelance writer and undertakes consultations on corporate communications and social media related projects. She enjoys writing for blogs on topics of interest.