Amina and Redha were immigrants. As a doctor and a pharmacist, they were successful professionals who had a comfortable home and financial security.
Their biggest challenge was raising their children as practicing Muslims, particularly as their oldest child, Basma, entered adolescence. Basma was thriving in school, academically and socially. While it was positive that she had so many friends and activities, her parents began to be worried about the kinds of events she wanted to attend: co-ed parties, school dances, outings to the mall or movies where boys and girls from school would hang out together. At the age of fourteen, most of Basma’s friends had boyfriends. They began to wonder if Basma secretly did, too.
Amina and Redha decided to draw the line firmly. Basma would only be allowed to spend time with her female friends. There would be no boy/girl outings for her, no co-ed parties, no school dances . . . and definitely no boyfriends.
Amina and Redha spoke about their decision with an older couple from their homeland who had already raised three children in the same non-Muslim country. They expected to receive approval and support, so they were surprised when the couple took a different tack:
“You should not make her feel different from her peers,” protested their friend. “She will resent you and Islam.”
“But dating and free mixing are clearly prohibited in Islam,” argued Amina.
“When you chose to move to this country, you surely knew that this behavior is considered normal for youngsters?” probed the other friend.
“We are still Muslims, no matter where we live,” explained Redha. “We need to follow our beliefs no matter what others are doing.”
“Don’t be extremist,” advised the first friend. “Don’t you want to assimilate? Don’t you want your children and grandchildren to fit in? Besides, Basma is a good girl. I’m sure she won’t get into any big trouble. But,” she added, “Have a talk with her about safe sex, just to be cautious.”
For the first time, Amina and Redha wondered if they were making the right decision for their teen-aged daughter. They did not consider themselves extremists, but would others? Would their own daughter begin to resent them and her faith? Would they ever fit into this country if they adhered to their Islamic beliefs?
The Prophet (PBUH) said,
“There will come upon the people a time when holding onto the religion will be like holding onto hot coal.”
For Muslims in the modern age — in almost every country and culture — there are innumerable obstacles and temptations. The world around us seduces us with almost everything that is prohibited in our deen, and following the rules of Islam can feel like a constant, uphill battle.
One might think that the biggest influence that pulls Muslim away from their deen is non-Muslims. However, for many Muslims the enemy is within; it is their own brothers and sisters in faith who make them question their beliefs and compromise their values. In many cases, younger or less experienced Muslims will turn to their elders for advice, trusting that the elders have both knowledge and their best interest at heart.
Unfortunately, many Muslims (no matter their age) lack a correct understanding of their deen. Some are negatively influenced by cultural norms that are un-Islamic. Other times they have very weak imaan (faith) themselves and are in no position to give advice to others. Sadly, sometimes they are even motivated by jealousy or pettiness. They know that they are sinning and wish to draw others into the sin with them. Some people with tainted hearts cannot bear to see someone with a pure heart, and they strive to misguide that person.
If you are a Muslim who is struggling with your practice of Islam, be very careful whom you turn to for advice. Also, do not place too much value on a Muslim’s opinion, unless that person is known to be firm in their Islamic knowledge and pure of heart. Just because someone is older, outspoken and opinionated, or a born-Muslim does not mean that they are knowledgeable or pious. Once they start expressing opinions that are contrary to Islam, you should know that pleasing Allah is not their first priority.
If you are the kind of person who gives others advice that contradicts Islam, you should think deeply about the ramifications of your choice. Of course it is our free will to disobey Allah. Whether we choose to submit or rebel, all of us will find our hands, mouths, eyes, and ears testifying to our actions on the Day of Judgement.
It will be hard enough to answer for our own misdeeds. But what if we also misguided a pure soul who trusted us for advice? Would any of us like to be responsible for a sister removing her hijab, or a family buying a house with haraam funding, or a teen-aged girl committing zina? What if all those sins — and the sins that branch off from those sins, multiplying and intensifying– end up on our scale of bad deeds on the Day of Judgement?
We must not let our arrogance, ignorance, recklessness, or stubbornness affect another person. It is far better to remain silent than to give advice when one does not have a thorough understanding of Islam and pure intentions. Therefore we must think very carefully before we advise others. We must purify our own heart so that we do not corrupt the hearts of others. May Allah SWT keep us all firm in our belief and humble in our words and actions. Ameen.
First published: January 2018