As-salamu `alaykum Dear Brother,
Thank you for sending us your detailed question regarding the problem that you are experiencing with your 12-year-old son, Omar. The question that you have posted is complicated and requires a multiple approach. Please take note of the following guidelines and suggestions:
1-Al-hamdu lillah, your son shows an active interest in the deen from an early age.
2-In general, from what you have described, the actions of your son are commendable and courageous.
3-I do not want to speculate as to the reasons why he has changed from a quiet boy to an activist. There could be many factors: He could have met some new friends; he could have gained insight from TV or newspapers, etc. So the cause or stimulus that triggered the change is not so important so as to seek an explanation as to the merits of the case.
4-Let us first try to examine some of his actions and whether or not these actions are good, bad, or neutral and what impact can they have on him, your family, and the society in general.
5-Your son has shown increasing awareness and concern about issues in Iraq and Palestine, and concerning hijab, etc. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Many millions of people all over the world have become exposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ongoing struggle for liberation in Palestine, as well as many other issues relating to Muslims in general such as hijab, “oppression of women in Islam,” and many other issues. The media plays a very powerful role in all of these matters.
Unfortunately, however, the media, though pretending to be just and fair, can sometimes present or package the truth in a distorted way or with misinformation or completely false information. This is especially true after September 11 and, unfortunately, Muslims throughout the world have become victims of a malicious media campaign that is trying to paint a violent picture of this peaceful religion of Islam. Fortunately, however, many people in the Western world are now realizing that a lot of falsehood has been spread. The truth is slowly emerging.
6-As Muslims, our duty is to recognize that we are one Ummah (nation) and that the pain and suffering of one person affects all of us. If we are living in peace and comfort, we cannot ignore the pain and suffering of people in other parts of the world.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.” (narrated by Anas, Sahih Al-Bukhari, hadith 1.12)
“Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter.” (Al-Baqarah 2:217)
7-However, it is also important that Muslims are the followers of the middle course and do not go into extremes on any matters.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ”Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists.” (narrated by Abu Hurairah, in Al-Bukhari, hadith 1.38)
8-However, it is good to note that your son is not seeking violence but would like to strive against injustice and oppression by using his intellect and his pen. This is a good method to follow and in today’s technological and Internet age, it is a very powerful and effective way to strive for truth and justice.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue; and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart and that is the least of faith.” (narrated by Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri, in Muslim, hadith 79)
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also advised, “The best fighting (jihad) in the path of Allah is (to speak) a word of justice to an oppressive ruler.” (narrated by Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri in the Sunan of Abu Dawud, hadith 4330)
9-However, even though your son is feeling compassion for the suffering of the people in other countries, he should realize that he cannot change things overnight. He should persevere in what he is doing but seek the help of Allah Most High in everything that he does.
“Seek Allah’s help with patient perseverance.” (Al-Baqarah 2:45)
10-Your son is absolutely correct when he refuses to eat any food that is suspicious or haram; however, it is good to note that you have stopped visiting such places where there is doubt about the meat.
Suggestions and way forward:
*Your concern regarding his sudden change is understandable. You want the best for your son and you are also concerned about him. It also depends on what has caused this sudden change; perhaps you can try to find out whom he is associating with. Da`wah should be done with hikmah (wisdom), kind and beautiful words without offending anyone. Furthermore, there is no compulsion in religion. One should not bother neighbors by going to them every night and explaining to them about the deen or forcing them to change. To explain the deen is very good, but one cannot force anyone:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error” (Al-Baqarah 2:256).
*However, one has to be cautious regarding what information one wants to convey. There are many countries, like the United States where you stay, that have devised the Patriot Act and other similar acts that are drawn up as pretexts for the government to arrest anyone on the grounds of suspicion. And usually the first people they contact are your neighbors to see what kind of people you are, what you do, whether you are regarded as “fanatic,” and so on. So even if you are innocent and you are simply trying to speak the truth, your activities may arouse suspicion if you do it in the wrong way.
In some other countries, however, there is total freedom of speech and people write letters to the newspapers, phone the radio stations, and write letters to the government without any fear. So it depends on where you are staying and what restrictions there are in your own country. It is, therefore, very important for you to be familiar with the laws and rules and regulations of the country in which you are staying. There is a common saying that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
*However, please bear in mind that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), while he was a youth, joined an organization that looked after the rights of the weak and the oppressed. To look after the widows, the orphans, the poor people in the community, the oppressed people of the world is a very commendable act.
*Perhaps you can encourage your son to get involved in humanitarian relief agencies and other organizations that have to do with the uplifting of society. It appears that by nature he is kind, compassionate, helpful, and concerned about the suffering of other people. These are very good qualities, and he should be encouraged to keep helping other people. It is much better than going out on dates or shopping or playing video games as some kids would do.
*However, there is a time and place for everything. He is still very young. Let him seek as much knowledge as he can. Let him develop his writing skills and perhaps pursue a career in journalism and the media. However, as a child he should have a balance in his life and also make time for his youth “before his old age.” His body has a right over him, his parents have a right over him, and so does the community. His passion, energy, and enthusiasm for human rights and justice and unification of the Ummah should be encouraged but channeled in the right direction.
*Communication with your child is important. Try to understand the world from his point of view. Then let him try to understand your concerns as a parent, and, in sha’ Allah, both of you can come to an agreement or compromise that is beneficial for everyone. Understanding each other is the main thing. Please remember to build bridges with your son and avoid building walls.
*Al-hamdu lillah, your son has gained a mature insight at a very young age. May he, in sha’ Allah, grow up one day contributing positively to the deen.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.