Raising kids

A question that has always interested me is how much I would expose my kids to Islam/religion in general (assuming I have kids).  Growing up with a Muslim dad and an agnostic (born Catholic) mum gave very interesting experiences with religion. I wasn’t brought up to be either Muslim, Christian or agnostic.  I do remember learning how to pray Islamically at some point, although I was never told to pray; and we always celebrated Christmas, Eid, and all the other holidays (although they were more about presents than spirituality, haha).

I think that being brought up that way has been one of the best things that could have happened to me. It gave me much-needed clarity with regards to religion, and it also gave me the space to define religion/God/life the way I wanted to. Many of my friends were told to pray, fast, etc and thus it became a habit for them. Later it was difficult for them to stop because they felt guilty. For me that was never the case: when I began thinking about God and religion, I really felt like I was making a conscious choice (although of course we don’t make choices that are ever 100% “free”).  Because I felt like it was a choice, I never feel like I’m being constrained/controlled or that I’m giving up something.

I definitely think I would bring up my kids the same way. Of course it is impossible to not discuss religion at all, but I also don’t think I would tell them they should pray, or fast, or anything else. I really think rituals can only be meaningful when they’re coming from a place of freedom and choice.

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6 thoughts on “Raising kids

  1. Praise the Lord. I agree about the need for it to be a choice. I belong to a thread of Christianity which teaches that it is not even possible to be a Christian by any other means but by personal choice. Now it is true that even in certain circles among people who say they believe that, once you actually have made that decision, there is a lot of pressure to conform to certain norms of practice (prayer, study, attendance at religious services, missionary activity, even the way you dress and certain details of how you conduct your personal life). I spent many years in such circles and it took me a long time to get free. I can suspect that a lot of people don’t break free because they don’t want to live with the isolation that results from that choice…

  2. A question:

    How would you feel if, having given the freedom of choice to your children—which, I think, I agree absolutely—they ended up compelled to embrace a religion because they wanted to get married? It is their choice to embrace that religion, of course, yet actually there is no other choice, if you know what I mean?

    I raise this question because I am a Malaysian, and I have a daughter. And seeing what had happened to some of my own siblings, there is that possibility that my daughter may end up in exactly that situation one of these days. I think I would be very sad and devastated, not so much because of whatever religion she has to embrace. Rather because of the kind of sacrifice she has to make for the sake of the person she loves. But what about you; how would you feel?

  3. Sara,

    If that is how you feel, make sure you talk to your boyfriend before marriage, because in order for a situation like that to work, both partners have to agree on it. If he is one religion and did not grow up the way you did, chances are that he is not going to think your way is appropriate. Even open minded brothers can surprise me sometimes with their views on marriage and children.

    Sorry to sound preachy, I hate sounding like that. But I consider you a friend, so just wanted to say my piece.

  4. Hi Sara,

    Are you contributing something for the Online Conference on Islamic Feminism? You can send me an old favourite post if you like. Looking forward to hearing from you. I want to publicise the Conference and publish the essays/articles by the 20th.

    Thanks!

  5. Asalamu Alaykum Sara,

    I was raised exactly the same way and the question on how to raise my (future) children (insha’Allah), is important to me but at the same time also very difficult to answer. I guess I will obviously teach them about Islam, and convey the beautiful messages Islam carries without really forcing them. I wonder how and where we must draw the line?

    Anyways, I totally agree with you and thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!

    Ma’sallama

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