Growing up in a Muslim household, we were often reminded, that every day is Mother's and Father's Day. There is an oft repeated, but seldom - respected hadith, of the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) that tells us, "heaven lies under the feet of mothers." While another hadith, mentioned in friendly competition between mothers and fathers, tells us that those dearest to a Muslim after Allah (swt) and the Messenger, are mothers (emphasized thrice), and then, the father. So, in reality, Muslim children are supposed to be busy celebrating Mother's Day and Father's Day throughout the year. But is that the case? Are Muslim children really being socialized any differently than their non-Muslim counterparts?
USA Today (5/10/01) reported, in a nationwide poll conducted for Hallmark Cards, that nearly 507 children, between the ages of 6-11, were asked the question: "If you had all the money in the world and could pay your Mom for everything she does for you, how much money would you pay her?" An interesting proposition indeed.
The results were reported according to four regions; namely Northeast, North-Central, South, and West. We have no information about the specific boundaries of these regions, nor do we know if the children were told to consider payment by the week, month, or year. However, children in the South wanted to pay their moms only $250 while those in the West wanted to pay almost a 100 times more ($25,000). Children from the North-Central region wanted to pay $999 while children in the Northeast wanted to pay $3,000.
I wonder how our Muslim children would respond to the same question. Something tells me that they might not respond very differently. Why? Their primary source of socialization is the public school system. Yes, I am quite aware of the rise in the number of Islamic schools around the country, but unfortunately, I am equally aware of the fact that only 5% of Muslim children are actually enrolled in these schools. The rest go to public schools. Whether we admit it or not, our children spend between 6-8 hours a day, five days a week, and almost 9 months out of the year in the non-Muslim socialization machine. If that isn't enough, add on an additional 2-3 hours a day, on average, spent watching television and surfing the Internet. Compare all of that time to the amount of time they spend receiving socialization about Islamic values, like…honoring and respecting one's parents. If you consider the average week, children spend about 30 hours in school and another 14 hours in front of the television or the Internet. If they are lucky, they spend about 2-4 hours on the weekend in an Islamic school program. So for every one - hour of Islamic exposure, children are exposed to four hours of socialization to non-Muslim values.
It should come as no surprise that our children are mimicking non-Muslim values, which emphasize concern for oneself much more than concern for parents, let alone others.
Is there hope?
Back in 1872, Julia Ward Howe first suggested observing a Mother's Day as a day dedicated to peace. Today, Mother's Day seems anything but peaceful. One is bombarded with loud and obnoxious announcers trying to sell us everything from a new necklace to buy - one - get - one - free dinners at Mom's favorite restaurant. There is nothing wrong with buying our parents gifts or taking them out to eat at restaurants, but the fundamental question remains, what next? What about the day after Mother's or Father's Day?
Muslim families owe it to themselves to plan an aggressive campaign to impart Islamic values to their children. Rather than berating the non-Muslims for their behaviors and values, we should encourage our children to aspire to emulate Islamic values. Among these values, there has to exist an emphasis on year round respect and honor for parents. Using examples from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and the stories of the companions, parents can help young children understand the importance of love for one's parents. In addition, parents should actually share memories of positive experiences with their own parents. This method is helpful for three reasons: it helps the children visualize some of the Islamic values that are so rarely present in contemporary society; it helps the children appreciate their own grandparents so much more; and most importantly, it helps the children see that their parents have actually put into practice what they are trying to teach.
Rather than blindly accepting all the holidays that are marked on our store - bought calendars, it is time we started to develop a culture of our own that is based on the teachings of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). Although there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the great discounts for Mother's and Father's Days, we should initiate a renewed emphasis on honoring and respecting our parents throughout the year.