I just read a very interesting story. A teacher gave her students
the following assignment: ask a parent what their dream life was when they were a
teenager, and then write an essay comparing it to your own dreams for your future right
now. Accordingly, a teenager asked her mom about her aspirations when she was young, and
the mother replied, (reflecting her Sixties hippie roots,) "I wished for a simple
life, living on a farm commune, growing my own vegetables and being happy."
The daughter paused for a moment and stopped writing down her mother's words.
"What's wrong?" Her mother asked.
"It's sort of embarrassing," the teenager replied, "because all I want
is to drive a Lexus and get a good job."
In the first place, this may seem to be a harmless little story to elicit a chuckle.
But it got me thinking. How many Muslim "activists" have I met, who spent all
their free time doing da'wah and promoting Muslim causes, only to lose their own children
and spouses to the kufr lifestyle? It's pretty amazing that that would ever be the case.
But I've seen it first hand and it isn't pretty.
Of the activist who is never home, we have no doubt about why he or she may lose their
families. After all, THEY WERE NEVER HOME. And even when they were, all their mental
activity was directed towards planning things or having phone conferences. We all know at
least one person like this. Is it because it's easier to be in the Masjid all day,
surrounded by things that are easy to control, at least easier than an unruly child. Or
has the activist become so filled with Islamic romanticism they live in a dreamland of
khalifas, movements and spiritual battles? Only Allah knows for sure.
But what about the other kind of activist? The one who is so skilled and full of energy
that they can tear through any da'wah task outside the home and still have plenty of juice
left over to "do da'wah" in the home. I've met quite a few of this category
also. I've even taught the children of such "Super-Da'ees" myself in the various
Islamic schools I found myself in. Here are some interesting observations, but first, an
introduction to the topic of giving da'wah in the home.
You hear a lot from people, from conventions, speeches, khutbas, etc...about the family
being the number one priority for da'wah. Few speakers, however, give any realistic ways
of doing it. It seems to me that the only method of "doing da'wah" that most
people are familiar with is the challenge them/give a lecture format. In this format, one
person assumes another is completely wrong. Then he or she proceeds to lecture them
endlessly to bring the other person into enlightenment. Almost every Muslim activist I've
ever met does this type of da'wah. Does it work? I'm usually the only convert at most
gatherings I attend (male, at least). You decide.
How does the Super Da'ee relate Islam in his or her home? I will describe for you
examples I've seen with my own eyes. A father and son come to my book table. The son is,
by all standards, an Americanized teen. The father is an immigrant, middle-aged,
Masjid-going and reasonably well-off financially. As the son is looking at the videos, the
father endlessly lectures the son about why he should pray. It looks like a well-rehearsed
script. The son's face darkens in annoyance and he whispers, "You don't
understand." But the father, who is too busy lecturing on the merits of the prayer,
didn't hear him. I suspect he has probably never really heard his own son- ever.
A mother with a loose, see-through head-scarf (dupatta), precariously, (and obviously
temporarily) perched on her permed hair, wearing the typical colorful shalwar get-up
replete with nail polish and Gucci bag, is walking near the entrance to a Masjid during a
social gathering. Her teenage daughter is standing near her, wearing nail polish, make-up,
tight, tight jeans, a short sleeve shirt and no head-covering at all. (Talk about dressed
A group of teenage "Muslim" boys walk by shouting and talking about sports
and girls. This girl flirts with them and is about to follow them when the mother calls
her daughter back and gives her a long lecture about why "Muslim" girls
shouldn't hang out with boys alone.
Here's a favorite of mine: I know of a father who literally terrorizes his family with
endless talk of Islam. To the point where pouring a cup of water in the home is to invite
a lecture on the merits of water in Islam. Obviously, his children can't stand Islam
because they equate it with their father's droning, boring and endlessly running voice.
Each of three examples has one common denominator: a parent who is forceful about
giving some Islamic teaching, but who then goes about it the wrong way. The first parent
never listened to his son, and instead, was totally unaware that his son was completely
won over by modern, popular teen culture. If he would have developed a good relationship
with his son, and been a consistent role-model for him from his earliest memories, his son
would have been praying all along. Lecturing a fifteen year old about prayer isn't likely
to make him want to start.
The second parent didn't follow Islamic dress requirements herself (and who knows what
other Islamic deficiencies there were) and therefore didn't encourage any sense of an
Islamic identity in her daughter, at least as far as dress is concerned. Instead, she
allowed her daughter to develop a completely non-Muslim style of fashion that apes the
modern "liberated" woman who dresses only to be seen of men. Most probably her
daughter hangs out with boys in her public high school everyday as well. If the mother
allowed these unIslamic habits to develop, then what good would all the forceful lectures
do? Her daughter imagines herself to be a scantily-clad beauty in a Madonna music video
while her mother envisions her to be an Urdu princess ready for her Raj after eight years
And finally, one parent took da'wah to the extreme and made his family tired of Islam
by his constant nagging. This is against Islamic protocols of giving da'wah as even the
Prophet, himself, used to scold those who made people tired of too much "religious
talk." Check on this topic and you'll find many examples.
So what's the best way to give da'wah to your family? The wrong approaches, as
highlighted before, include: not being open to your family members as individual people
with thoughts and feelings, being insincere or a hypocrite and finally, going overboard.
The right way to do da'wah in your home is to start with yourself first. You could
literally spend your whole life working on your own faith and actions without ever even
talking to anyone else! You are the first priority in da'wah. Are you sincere? Are
you being true to yourself. Do you know something is bad but then do it anyway?
What do you know about Islam? Is it possible that you may harbor feelings of racism,
hypocrisy or unIslamic cultural traditions from your upbringing? Nearly every (but not
all) immigrant Muslim I know, for example, has some seriously unIslamic cultural attitudes
or practices which are often right under their noses. And racism and hypocrisy can creep
into all of us if we aren't careful.
People know who is real. A popular American novel entitled, "The Catcher in the
Rye," has, as its main theme, a disillusioned young boy in a world full of
hypocrites. All he wants is to meet someone who is "genuine" and not a
"phony." Your own children know if you're real or not. And it's sad to say, but
it's almost always true: the manners and attitudes of the child are an uncamouflaged
reflection of what is in the deepest heart of the parents. Whatever is hidden in the core
of your heart will come out loud and clear in their demeanor and attitudes. If your kids
are not so good Islamically, be afraid for your own soul.
If you're living as a true Muslim, not a perfect one, but a trying one, then everyone
sees it in your manners, speech and behavior. You're not yet saying a word to anyone, but
you're giving da'wah. The best da'wah is not words- it's actions, it's attitude, it's
genuine. Knowledge of Islam is not to be measured in how many du'as a person knows or
surahs memorized. Even parrots can be taught to say surahs but no one puts kufis or hijabs
on their feathered heads. Islamic knowledge is displayed in what no spoken word can say.
If you're around a good-hearted person, you can feel it. You want to be around that person
more and to do what they do and to be like them.
Have you ever wondered why everyone wanted to be so close to the blessed Prophet?
goodness and wisdom emanated from him. Think of people in your life who had these
qualities about them. One student told me his grandfather was the sweetest Muslim ever. A
girl told me her mother was her Islamic role-model. A bunch of kids in a class named the
local Arabic expert as their favorite teacher to be around. What were the qualities in all
three of these individuals? None of them ever lectured anybody. (I've met and known all
three.) One was a hafiz, one a homemaker/Islamic activist and the other a scholar. But
when you met them, they often said very little about Islam directly and they certainly
didn't lecture or come off as arrogant.
What united all of them was that they were real, sincere believers. So it's not how
many "study-circles" you hold with your family, it's not how many
make your children memorize. It's not even sending your child to a Sunday school or an
Islamic school that is the key. Rather, the key is you.
If you're a trying, sincere Muslim, you don't talk too much- about anything- and you
perform good deeds as secretly as possible and you try to be as peaceful and helpful to
others as you can without asking anything in return. (You also take your pleasure in
simple things, not expensive vacations and lavish living.) You prefer others over yourself
and you don't display your wealth or worldly success by accumulating the finest cars,
homes and clothes. Anything else is folly and you'll pay for it one day. A good guidebook
to Islamic humility is called, "God-Oriented Life" by Wahiduddin Khan. It
contains the most beautiful hadith/ Sahaba advice I've ever seen.
Don't be a Muslim "activist" if all your activity is going to be outside the
home. And don't be an Islamic "terror" to your family: coming in like a
whirlwind, from time-to-time, upsetting the normal schedule of everyone, even if you're
enraged by what you see your family doing. Because if your family is doing things that are
not good Islamically, then where were you all those years when those things were being
built up in their minds and habits. A series of lectures or thrashings on your part won't
change their attitudes.
Only when others see Islam make a meaningful change in your life will they be willing
to try the same. That is the real da'wah to the family, that is the only message that they
will listen to and the only way to make Islam survive in your family tree. Think about it.