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My Son Between Islam and Christianity

Questioner

K

Reply Date

May 03, 2017

Question

As-salamu `alaykum. I embraced Islam over 8 years ago. When I first learned about Islam I was in an unhappy marriage. I had one son. I eventually divorced this man and embraced Islam. Within 2 years I had met a Muslim brother and we were married. We now have one daughter. My son lives with us and sees his dad a couple of times each week. We are all very happy, al-hamdu lillah. My question is about my son. His dad has not been thrilled with my decision to convert and at one time told me he didn't want his son "associating with those people." Needless to say, I did not want my son growing up confused between two religions. (His dad is Catholic and has had him in Sunday school classes and takes him to church.) I felt that I would do a disservice to my son at such a young age who just needs to learn that there is a God and that He loves them. I thought that I would lead by example and answer his questions about Islam as they came up. I didn't want to focus on the little things, but wanted to make sure my son had an understanding of God. I thought that when he gets old enough, he would be able to answer his own calling in regards to which religion he wanted to practice and follow. Al-hamdu lillah, my son asks some very good questions and has some very deep concerns about the faith of his father. His father is unable to answer some of his questions. Here are my concerns as my son now becomes a teenager. I hope you can help address them. 1. First of all, am I justified in doing what I did with my son? As he is getting older, is there anything different I should be doing to help him understand Islam better? He does go to the mosque with us occasionally, I do have Islamic literature all over the house, and my husband and I are very open for discussions. (We are both converts.) 2. He is becoming a teenager and will one day become interested in girls. What would be the best way of handling "girlfriend" situations? He is living both worlds right now. We have our Islamic way of life, and he has another way of life at his dad’s. Does he need to seriously think about which religion he will follow now—at age 13? I just don't know how we are going to handle this as he gets older and wants to go out with girls and parties and all of that. While we may put our foot down here, it will be undermined at his dad’s. Will this create more confusion for him or what? 3. Would it be a good idea for me to sit down with him and explain all of my concerns to him? There is no compulsion in religion, but I want him to start thinking about Islam and if that is really something he feels he believes in or not. What might I want to say or make sure I cover with him? In sha’ Allah, my son will find his way to Islam. I only want the best for him. On the one hand it is a burden for him as he sees these two ways of thinking and living and this might confuse him. On the other hand, not too many teenagers in theUSA have had the experience of growing up learning about Christianity AND Islam. What a special thing that is. I do need some help, however, with these touchy teenage years and running an Islamic household while being mindful of his situation. Thank you for your help and support. May Allah reward you for your good deeds.

Counselor

and

Answer


son

Wa `alaykum as-salam.

My dear sister, I can understand the concerns you have as a mother and understand from your heart that you would naturally want what is best for your child. In the ideal sense, the child is and should be raised as a Muslim, and that does not necessitate the religion of his father being either reviled or misunderstood.

Many parents in this situation are often worried about the effects of exposure to more than one religion on a child. Children are quite resilient and with proper love, guidance, and parents who are open to questions, children will grow to have a more global perspective and understand how to negotiate the differences in their lives.

An Islamic upbringing will not devalue your child’s belief in Christ, the divine conception of Mary, and the second coming of Jesus. Rather, it should serve to strengthen the belief, as it is a main part of the Islamic belief system as well. This will also help him be able to deal with the questions he has about his father’s religion.

That being said, another reason Islam dictates that children be raised as Muslim relieves the stress that they may endure in a dual-religion home. At times it can be extremely difficult for children to understand why their parents are doing different things; it cannot only become a source of tension and confusion, but they can also feel trapped in a difficult family situation, especially if there is tension. It is important that the home environment is tranquil so as to allow the children to develop in the best possible environment for their benefit in this life and the next. Our duty as parents is to raise them with the tarbiyah (training and education for life) that allows them to know Allah and understand their relationship with Him.

You were open-minded with your husband, but I always encourage that parents try to learn and understand Islamic child-rearing practices. Parents will find that these practices truly will teach their children how to understand and accept differences of faith of all people and to become God-fearing and righteous individuals who would advocate for justice for all people regardless of faith or color.

As he enters his teen years, it is now important to befriend him and try to help him develop healthy relationships with other young Muslims who can be positive support to him. Try to teach him why you and your husband made the choices you made, and after this befriend him. Do not preach to him or nag. Encourage him to go to the mosque with you and to come to other activities he may enjoy. Explore some of the concerns he has about his father’s way of life and how you answered those or similar questions yourself as you were confronted with them.

The situation with his father is going to be difficult to negotiate because, without the Islamic conscience in his heart, your son can easily gravitate to his father’s allowance to do as he pleases. Because of this, you will have to always be careful about which battles you choose to fight.

Speak to him about these situations as they arise and let him know why you are averse to them, what your concerns for him are—spiritually, physically, emotionally, and socially as well. Always be firm and have high expectations, but reinforce the fact that you love him and want the best for him. DO NOT NAG him, as this can be a source of creating space between you all, especially in the teenage years. At the same time do not be scared to let him know your expectations.

Perhaps a good way to begin looking at these issues with him is to cover theseerah (biography) of the Prophet and Companions with him, as it can be told as stories, and answer questions as he raises them. Or you could choose to sit with him and tell him that you have always tried your best to give him space to learn and understand the differences in yours and his father’s lives and would like for him to spend a little time more learning about Islam so that he may understand it independently.

Tell him that you love him and want the best for him in this life and the next, and maybe then you can suggest covering the seerah.

One last note: Continue to build and increase your own knowledge so that you can deal with situations as they arise.

Counselor Abdullah abdul-Lateef

Thank you for writing us. Your situation is obviously very complicated — as I’m sure you don’t need me telling you that! I can only comment on the information you have provided so please bear with me.Let me start by saying that the marriage between you and your current husband, though permissible in Islam, represents the very reason why inter-faith marriages can be so tricky.

Issues of faith are very sensitive with most people because faith itself tends to mold one’s core beliefs not only about the Divine in a theological sense, but about our most basic and fundamental beliefs about reality, values and how we view the world.  In essence, faith often influences our worldview. As such, many people, especially those who consider themselves “religious” will only look to marry someone within their own faith in order to avoid the controversy that might result from discrepancies or disagreements about belief-related issues. Often, outsiders perceive decisions to marry only within one’s tradition as a form of prejudice, when often in fact, it is not at all, but rather a criterion for choosing a life partner with similar values and worldview in order to increase the chances for matrimonial and familial harmony.

Often, outsiders perceive decisions to marry only within one’s tradition as a form of prejudice, when often in fact, it is not at all, but rather a criterion for choosing a life partner with similar values and worldview in order to increase the chances for matrimonial and familial harmony.

In the case of you and your husband, clearly when you first got married, you had an agreement to share in each other’s religious traditions and celebrations equally, and teach your children according to both traditions. Typically, according to Islamic tradition, when a Muslim man marries a non-Muslim woman, it is done so with the understanding that the children will be raised according to the faith of the father, i.e. Islam. Unlike the Jewish tradition, where the children follow the faith of the mother, Islam follows a more patriarchal system by identifying the father as the head of the household in matters of religion.  However, since in your case, the children are not your current husband’s, the situation is obviously a bit unique.

Unlike the Jewish tradition, where the children follow the faith of the mother, Islam follows a more patriarchal system by identifying the father as the head of the household in matters of religion.  However, since in your case, the children are not your current husband’s, the situation is obviously a bit unique.

And Allah knows best.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides.




About Jeewan Chanicka

Jeewan Chanicka is from Toronto, Canada, and has been involved in working with youth, education, and social services issues since 1993. He graduated with a bachelor's degree with honors in individualized studies at York University with a focus on conflict resolution and culturally appropriate forms of mediation. He has done much work with both youth and adults, especially around parenting, teenage and youth issues, and bridging the gap between generations.

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