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An Evangelical Mother and a Muslim Grandchild

Questioner

A (34-female-Canada)

Reply Date

May 30, 2017

Question

As salamu 'alaykum, In sha 'Allah you can help me with my dilemma. This is in regards to my mother who is of a devout evangelical denomination [Christian], and I am, al hamdu Lillah, a revert to Islam. My mother has never accepted the fact that I am a Muslim, and continuously tells my daughter (because she tells me), that she (my mother), does not like Muslims, and does not think that I am Muslim. She keeps on insisting on taking my daughter to church with her, and has also asked her paternal grandmother to teach her the rosary (that side is Catholic). When I first reverted, I had told her, and because I was stil living at home, I was not as firm as I should have been, as I had to borrow some funds from her to help pay for a car I needed (I am a nursing student). I didn't want to rock the boat too much. In addition, her biological father has come back into her life (he comes and goes), and along with my mother, they are making life very difficult. I am getting very depressed, angry and frustrated, because now my daughter is asking me questions like why I became a Muslim, and how do I know it is the right way ; which I can anser but it countered by my mother. How can I handle this with my daughter to ensure that she gets the proper Islamic education, and confidence that she needs? How do I get her to wear hijab when my mother will not let her wear wear it, and sdays Islam is garbage? Children are very impressionable, and I don't want to force her to do anything, but I am not sure where to draw the line. I can't prevent her from seeing her grandmother, but what can I do? I livwe on my own, and I think the best thing perhaps is to move cities, and get some space, but as a parent to a child who is comfortable in her school,a nd in her neigborhood is that the best answer? I am making more Muslim friends in our neiborhood so she can have more people to identify with, but I'm worried that she will ant to leave Islam because of what my mother is telling her. Thankyou in advance – wa `alaykum salam.

Counselor

Answer


Mother

As salamu ‘alaykum dear sister,

There is a certain level of give and take in the interaction between two people. This is even more so with children, because they have come into the world through the mother , and are being raised in a social environment that will have the strongest influence on that child’s perception of self and perception of human relations. Therefore how a child relates to you, is much more related to you and the environment that you have helped to create.

A child who is nurtured amidst faith and with that faith, mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual love, and mutual compassion will naturally develop a sense of belonging as well as a sense of self. They will develop skills and abilities according to their inclination. With a sense of belonging, comes taqlid, emulation, and in sha ‘Allah, the child will have good role models to emulate.

However to protect your child from your mother’s family, one might as well protect her from life, because as we know, life is made up of all kinds of people, through whom, our deen, Islamic life transaction, stands tested. A person of a certain disposition, does not mean that they remain that way, they are allowed to change and evolve in the eyes of Islam:

(…and do not find fault with your own people nor call one another by nicknames; evil is a bad name after faith, and whoever does not turn, these it is that are the unjust…) (Al Hujuraat 49: 11)

The more you try to keep your daughter away from what you do not want her to hear, the more likely she will want to listen, and this can only be countered by your love and practice of Islam.

Sometimes, we fall into a trap and unconsciously we perceive Islam as a brand name, the content of which we feel has no meaning without the label. We take the label to be more important that the content of the package, and expect immediate results; then when things go wrong we wonder why, or we throw blame on Allah (SWT), or we simply become tired. We do not see that there is a lesson waiting for us in what has gone wrong.

Islam is life, and that life includes your mother whose only contact with Islam more than likely is you. Islam can defend itself without our help, because even after we have gone, Islam will still exist, because all life is based upon the same laws as Islam, and comes from the same source,Allah (SWT) Who created all that exists. Islam is in every living entity.

It is only a matter of consciousness that separates you from your mother, and why she has remained as she has, and you have moved on in part. When we are not familiar enough with what we believe to a point of knowledge, we become defensive, and reactionary about something we in fact know very little about – this is what has happened to your mother, and if you are not careful, this could happen to you too. One moment your mother had a child who was no different to her (in her mind), and then in the following moment, her “child” tells her that “I am different” to you, “I don’t believe as you do”.

There has been no period of adjustment, no time for your mother to get to know the you in transition from what you were to how you are now, hence your mother is fixed in time – the time you told her that you are a Muslims, and then and there she decided she did not like the brand label. You did not give your mother a chance to get to know you before telling her the reason behind your change. Your mother has been reacting ever since, and your fearfulness for your daughter is the rippling effect of that reaction.

Your maternal grandparents are orthodox Christians, namely Catholics, which your mother seemed to have turned from. She seems to have no stability in her life beyond her evangelism. Evangelism is very emotional, and in practice centers on the idea of receiving the Holy Spirit – in other words, much is centered on the personal, psychological interpretation, and experience of the Christian Gospels, Injil. This emotional attachment along with the desire to make everyone else believe the same, are all part and parcel of your mothers determination to evangelize her granddaughter, as she has failed with you. She may even feel deep down that she is fighting for her life.

With all of this emotional energy, one can appreciate the strain you must be under, and the strain is greater if one does not have the social support mechanism to counter-balance the psychology of it all. If anything, the most important question is why did you chose Islam? Recall all the reasons, and then look at if those reasons and see if they still exist within your life, and if they do, how do they reflect in your life – positively or negatively.

The reason why it is important to reflect in this manner is because there is a possibility that the way your mother related to her religion, is similar to the way in which you relate to Islam, hence the battle between the both of you for the religion of your daughter. This emotional, and psychological tug of war is forcing your daughter to make a choice, so inevitably she is asking questions about the belief systems of the 2 people she loves.

If you move to another city, there is nothing to say that your daughter’s attachment to your mother will not grow because your daughter will miss her. Along with that comes whatever your mother has taught her. If you remain, you will have to look at your lifestyle, and see in what way it is supporting your religion, and your daughter. It is important to make Muslim friends, because it is through them we develop our sense of Islam in our daily lives, but do not assume that because someone is a Muslim that they are better than you, or even your mother. You ended to be aware of these new found friends, and to what extent, and in what way Islam holds center stage in their daily lives, and if that is what you are looking for.

“O you who believe! Be careful of (your duty to) Allah and be with the true ones” (Al Baraat 9: 119)

When you are busy as you are, who is there for your daughter on an emotional and psychological level, and do they have a social support mechanism present in their lives which is stronger than yours. How are you supporting your growth and understanding in Islam, and is that reflected in your daily life in a positive or negative way, if so what is it that you are learning, and what is it that you are not learning?

When a child is impressionable, it is because they lean towards what gives them attention, as that attention is missing in their lives. A child is only impressionable, when they have not been given the unconditional love that they need, the kind of love that trusts that a child can differentiate between right and wrong much more successfully than adults – and maybe this is your starting point.

As your daughter approaches puberty, give her the space to question, and to discover those proofs that will help develop her own sense of discernment. It is important to address this now, because if she is left feeling the same as she does currently, a whole world can be turned upside down once a child reaches adolescence. If you are doing right by her, and right by Islam, you will have nothing to fear, but the fear of all parents.

Help your daughter to make the right choices means loving her unconditionally, because no matter what she may experience later in life, she will have the memory of you, and what you tried to teach her, and therefore she will have the means to find her way. For yourself, try to look at what evangelism and Islam has in common, and what the differences are, and the reason for those differences. And realize that Islam is everywhere, even in the water we drink, and the air we breathe, and that magic is a magic worth sharing with your daughter, and may help you a lot as well.

Avoid discussing anything Islamic with your mother, and under the conditions, allow your daughter to find her own way towards hijab. Hijab is not only the scarf on ones head, it all that one wears, so start from the bottom up, and allow your daughter to put the icing on the cake. Make the most of what you do have in common with your mother, and that you are still her daughter, and that Allah (SWT) encompasses everyone, including her.

Prophet Muhammad said: “He who does not respect our elder, or is not merciful to the young, or does not feel indebted to the scholars, is not of my Nation” (Abu Dawud, #4921, and At-Tirmidhi, #1925)

Salam

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About Hwaa Irfan

Late Hwaa Irfan, may her soul rest in peace, served as consultant, counselor and freelance writer. Her main focus was on traditional healing mechanisms as practiced in various communities, as opposed to Western healing mechanisms.

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