By Dr. Aisha Hamdan
Have you had a meaningful conversation together? Do you know what your child accomplished today, how he may be feeling, whether or not he has any concerns? Does your child know that you care about him?
In Islam, the ties of kinship and family are very strong and something that will always be present throughout our lifetime. There are very serious consequences for someone who decides to break these ties. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says,
“Then, is it to be expected of you, if you were put in authority, that you will do mischief in the land, and break your ties of kith and kin? Such are the men whom Allah has cursed for He has made them deaf and blinded their sight.” [Qur’an 47:22-23]
The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said,
“Whoever severs the bonds of kinship will not enter Paradise.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
A major component of our familial ties is communication. In fact, without communication there would be little connection between people. Living together in the same household with limited, or even hostile, interaction would not fit the criteria for maintaining the bonds of kinship. To develop meaningful relationships within our families we need to know how to communicate effectively and sincerely with each other. A large part of this involves skills and principles that can be learned through practice and sincere effort. The following is a guide to strengthen these ties that bind.
1) Active Listening.
You may be surprised to discover that the most important aspect of effective communication is listening. This means that the listener pays full attention to the speaker and attempts to understand what that person is saying and feeling. The listener should suspend judgment, show interest, and respect what is being said. He or she may then restate the content and feelings to demonstrate that sincerity is present. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, always gave his full attention to anyone that he conversed with, even his enemies and those with whom he disagreed. When he addressed his companions, they listened intently and attached importance to everything he said.
2) Level of Understanding.
Parents should always keep in mind the age and level of understanding of their child and should speak with him accordingly. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said
“Speak to the people keeping in view their level of understanding. Would you like to see them think of what you tell them from Allah and His Messenger as lies?” (Bukhari)
This is important so that the child will be able to comprehend what is said, the expectations of the parents will not go beyond the capacity of the child and lead to problems, and difficulties will not be placed upon the child unnecessarily. This is particularly pertinent for sensitive issues such as death, personal modesty issues, and adult responsibilities. There are various levels of complexity with each of these and the correct level needs to be chosen for each child. One way to ascertain this is by the type of questions that a child asks.
3) The Manners of a Mu’min.
A believer is someone who believes in Allah’s Message and follows the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam. In relationships then, a believer would demonstrate honesty, kindness, patience, self-restraint, fairness, trustworthiness, etc. He would avoid teasing, blaming, belittling, mocking, excessive and idle talk, and fault-finding. There are many Qur’anic verses and ahadeeth that give detailed descriptions of this topic such as:
“Verily, Allah is with the patient.” [2: 153]
“Speak fair to the people.” [2:83],
“Kind words and covering of faults are better than charity followed by injury.” [2:263],
“A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim. He does not wrong him, nor insult him nor humiliate him.” (Muslim)
“The thing which will make the majority of people enter Paradise is fear of Allah and good manners.” (Tirmithi)
These principles should be applied in conversations with children and teenagers as well as adults. It is probably even more important with young people because we are setting an example for them. What do we want our children to learn? We can not expect kindness and respect from our children if we are not being kind and respectful toward them.
4) Avoiding Contention.
The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said,
“If a man gives up contention when he is in the wrong, a house will be built for him within the Garden of Paradise; but if a man gives up contention, even when he is in the right, a house will be built for him in the loftiest part of the Garden.” (Termithi)
The value of this advice lies in the fact that contention and disputes lead to a breakdown in the relationship, even rancor, enmity, and hostility. I have worked with many families where this has occurred and it can be very difficult to mend the wounds that have been created and to bring family members back together. It goes without saying that it is best to completely avoid reaching this low level.
Let us all work to improve our style of communication and our relationships with each other. When our children feel that their parents understand them and are willing to listen to them, they will open up their hearts and trust will develop. Effective teaching and discipline cannot be implemented without a certain level of trust, understanding, and mutual respect. If you are concerned about your children in a non-Muslim environment and it is affecting the way you interact with them, the best you can do is teach and advise them, give them responsibility, trust them, and let them know that you care for them. We can then make du’a and rely upon Allah’s Grace and Assistance. This is our best weapon in a world of non-belief. May Allah help each of us to strengthen the ties that bind us together as a family and bring happiness and contentment to our homes.
Set aside some time each day to talk with your child. If you have more than one child, each should have their own equal, individual time.
Read books with your child about Islam that pertain to relationships with others and stories about the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, and the companions, radiallaahu anhum. These will provide you with the necessary guidelines and inspiration.
Tape record one of your conversations and rate yourself or have other give you feedback. This is an effective method to determine your weak areas and to improve upon them.
Obtain advice from other parents when needed, especially those who have more experience. This may save time and avoid undue hardships and pain.