As-salamu `Alaikum dear Jane,
As a revert who has raised three children in the UK, who are now raising their own children as Muslims, I do have some experience I can share with you of what the pitfalls are, as well as some ways to avoid them. You do have one big advantage in this, and that is that your husband was (presumably) brought up as a Muslim and will have absorbed some Muslim culture, including his Arabic language.
If he makes an effort always to speak to the children in Arabic, they should learn some at an early age, especially if he is around them a lot of the time. However, he may have cultural deviations from Islam that are part of his upbringing too.
In order to increase your own Islamic knowledge, to pass it on to your children, first of all you and your husband both need to study Islam as much as you can. You should get that through the Qur’an and hadith, as well as from reputable scholars. A good example or role model is very important to children. If you can provide that, it will be a huge plus. This means, for example, that you and your husband practice the salat (daily prayers), fasting and zakat (giving money in charity)regularly.
Teach the children du’as(supplications) for eating, sleeping etc. Involve yourselves in the Muslim community (try www.ICNA.org). Invite other Muslims to your house, including your husband’s family if possible and participate in any nurseries, playgroups or schools that Muslims set up.
Setting a good example also means that you treat each other and your children as the Prophet treated his family: with affection, patience and understanding, listening to them, communicating with them and playing with them. Too many families get involved in arguments and violence and this is the quickest way to drive children away from them and from anything they try to teach them.
“o by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].”(Quran Ali ‘Imran 3:159)
Definitely, you might be facing real stresses and strains for being in a marriage with an Iraqi in America, with the current US climate. I hope the situation where you will be living would be easier. Still, however difficult it gets, you will all need to exercise the utmost patience and steadfastness in your faith and practice.
If you have to send your children to non-Muslim schools, they will need constant debriefing and support from you. Children generally want to ‘fit in’ with their fellow pupils, and being a Muslim makes them ‘different’. You have to be able to tell them that it is not always a bad thing to be different and that Islam provides guidance for them that they can share with others. If they find Islamic teachings helpful in dealing with the problems they face, they will respect Islam more. One very useful and important point to remember is:
“Repel, by [means of] what is best, [their] evil. We are most knowing of what they describe.” ( Al-Mu’minun [23:96])
“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.”(Surah Fussilat [41:34])
Teachers (and pupils) in the West generally know little about Islam, and less about the requirements of Muslim pupils. IQRA Trust London can offer some books, which can help inform teachers of these needs. It can also suggest ways, through which Muslim parents are able to make their views known in the UK education system. Some similar statutory mechanisms may exist where you will be living insha’Allah. Again, much patience, politeness, energy and persistence will probably be required in dealing with the education system.
When your children are old enough, it is good to take them to visit a Muslim country, to see that not everywhere is like America. If you can’t go to visit your husband’s family in Iraq, you could try another country, like Egypt or Jordan, or take them on hajj or umrah to Saudi Arabia.
Each child has to find Islam for him/herself. No one can force a person to be a Muslim, not even the Prophet himself (saw). Only Allah can open their hearts to Islam. All you can do is to give them love and security, teach them what you know and try to answer their questions with wisdom, based on the Qur’an and hadith.
Here are also some books that might be helpful, which you might be able to find on the Internet somewhere, or ask your local Islamic bookstore to find them for you:
– The Child in Islam – by Norma Tarazi, American Trust Publications
– The Family Structure in Islam – Hammudah Abd al-Ati, American Trust Publications
– Islamic Parenting: The Natural Alternative – by Silma Buckley (BA Dip. Ed.), Muslim Converts Association of Singapore
– The Muslim Parents Handbook: What Every Muslim Parent should Know – by Shabbir Akhtar, Ta Ha Publishers Ltd, London UK
– Living with Teenagers – by Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood, Ta Ha Publishers Ltd, London UK
– Growing Up in Islam – by T.B. Irving, Islamic Foundation, Leicester UK
I hope you find this information helpful. Please feel free to write again if you ever need anything else.
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