Muslim Americans often blame others if their children go astray, Mufti Hussain Kamani told a packed audience Sunday at Masjid Al Noor (ISM-West) in Brookfield. “We blame schools, teachers, teachers, friends, the environment, America! Please stop blaming America. Blame yourself,” he said.

A capacity crowd of about 200 people attended Kamani ’s talk Family Storytime: Approaching Family Tensions through the life of Ya’coub (AS). He shared lessons from the life of Ya’coub (AS), discussed the challenges of raising Muslim children in America and fielded questions from the audience.

Kamani is an instructor at Qalam Seminary, a one-year Islamic studies program in Dallas, Texas, offered by the Qalam Institute, an Islamic educational facility that aims to make Islamic knowledge accessible to everyone. The institute also offers weekend workshops, educational programming in online classes, on podcasts and a YouTube channel, seminars, Haj and Umrah packages, and study abroad trips. 

Kamani also serves as resident scholar for the Islamic Association of Carrollton (Masjid Al-Rahman). The title “mufti” indicates he is a Muslim legal expert, qualified to give rulings on Islamic jurisprudence. He was invited to Brookfield by ISM Core, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee’s programming for youth and young adults.

The responsibility of parenting

Mufti Hussain Kamani of the Qalam Institute spoke about parenting at ISM-West in Brookfield.

“One day I was overwhelmed by the thought that my children won’t have the experience of hearing the adhan (call to prayer) over the load speaker and see everyone walking to the masjid like we see in some Muslim countries,” visiting Islamic scholar Kamani, a father of four, said. “And, I’m like, ‘Man, wouldn’t that be awesome.’”

He called one of his teachers and told him, “’I feel I should move to a Muslim country and leave what I’m doing.’ I was imam in Chicago at the time.”

His teacher told him these are all thoughts from the shaitan (devil). “You are on the frontier, representing Islam in a land where there are few of you. The idea of abandoning your post in the name of righteousness is a trap of the shaitan.

The Prophet raised his daughters in Mecca, a religious center for polytheists that persecuted Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers, Kamani noted. “Musa (SA) became a prophet after being raised” in the house of the pharaoh. Prophet Ibrahim (SA) was born among idol-worshippers, he added. 

Make home a safe haven

How can parents raise faithful Muslim children in America? The first step is to make a home that is a place of peace and tranquility that is filled with love, Kamani said. Home should be a place where your children find their parents and siblings as their greatest cheerleaders, a safe haven where they know they are loved, he said.

“This is what we see in Ya’coub (SA)’s love for his children. Every parent-child relationship should be so open. It’s such a free environment that when his son (Yusuf) has an overwhelming dream, the first person he goes to is Baba.

“This is a question for myself and for our families: when our children experience a big moment in their life or something happens to them, who do they go to first? Are they going to friends before going to you? Do they go to Mama instead of Baba or vice versa? This is something to reflect over.”

Before worrying about your children memorizing surahs, focus on making them feel loved, Kamani suggested. “That love is the foundation of all relationships.”

Kamani’s son is memorizing the Quran and “I have to struggle with him every day because he doesn’t always want to do it,” he explained. His wife was trying to push him to finish his lessons but it wasn’t working. “She called me yesterday and said, ‘He’s not listening.”

“You have to realize he needs space,” Kamani advised her. “Maturity comes when people want it to come; you can’t force it on them. You can’t tell them, I need you to do this right now. You can guide them to it, talk about the benefits of accomplishing new tasks, whether it’s reading 12 lines or 100 lines is something we can work on in life. But when you look at them as failures, when you cast eyes of disappointment on your child, a piece of their heart disappears. When there is no love between the parent and the child, your role as a parent effectively comes to an end.”

Someone recently asked Kamani what Quran class he recommended for the man’s 4-year-old son. 

“’Woah, slow down,’ I told him,” Kamani said. “Just have fun with your child. Love him. Embrace him.”

“My wife used to say to me, ‘That person’s child has 10 Surahs. Our kids don’t know 10 surahs.’ I told her we are not in the business of making scholars. They’ll become scholars when the time is right. We are in the business of making good human beings.

“Creating a good human being comes with a bucket load of empathy and so much love that you refuse to let your children lie down, regardless of their ages, without kissing them on the forehead and whispering in their ears, ‘Baba will always love you.’ And when you reprimand them, afterwards you hug them and say, ‘I’m by your side. When they fail, you lift them up. When they struggle, you coach them from the corner and tell them, ‘We’ll get through this together.’”

Be a patient nurturer

One reason young people sometimes leave the faith is because they don’t like what they see or experience at home, Kamani said. A sense of family love is inherited, he explained. If all youth see is a stressful relationship between their parents, that is not something they are interested in.  

Kamani referred to an analogy made by an Islamic scholar named Leila. She compares being a parent to being a farmer. Like a farmer, if you have compassion and love for what you are doing, you will create “something beautiful.” However, if you are in it just to earn money, your life will be miserable.

“Parenting, like farming, is hard work. You are not going to have your product right away,” Kamani said. “It takes patience and forbearance.

“And you can’t wait for things to go wrong or you’ll never have a healthy crop. You have to constantly anticipate so you have an edge against bad weather. You have to protect your crop, have knowledge about what you are doing and constantly look ahead and plan.”

Kamani share the example of speaking to his own elementary-school age children about sibling rivalry. He told them, “There’s something important I need to tell both of you. You are coming to the age where you will experience sibling rivalry. You’re not aware of it now but you are entering that phase of life. Take heed in my warning and we will work on solving this rivalry before it happens and you two are at each other’s neck.”

Likewise, before your children reach puberty, have a conversation with your children, he advised. “Tell them, ‘You are reaching puberty. This is the point in your life where attraction to the opposite gender comes into the picture. How about we talk about that situation right now?

“Or, you are about to enter middle school. The issue of drugs is going to come up. So, let’s have that conversation right now.”

Examples from the life of Ya’coub (SA)

The story of Ya’coub (SA) and his family is found mostly in the Surah Yusuf, Kamani noted. “By studying this surah, you’ll learn how Ya’coub interacted with his family, something he learned and inherited from his family, a long line of prophets.”

Kamani points to how Ya’coub’s grandfather Ibrahim (SA) engaged his own father, who was a caregiver to the idols. Ibrahim (SA) challenged him, “Why should God have any caretaker?”

“The phenomenal thing here is the tone of the conversation,” Kamani exclaimed. “Although it is a heated conversation, in every statement, Ibrahim starts with ‘my dear father,’ ‘my beloved father.’ He shows that despite their differences on matters, the love never ceases to exist. He shows us how to deal with tensions in difficult conversations.

“Fast forward to when Ibrahim (SA) faced a very challenging situation with his own son. He told his son about the dream where he is sacrificing his son. Then he says to him, ‘What is your opinion?’ He empowers his son to make the decision, who says, ‘My dear father, do as you were commanded.’ 

“Ya’coub, speaks to his sons using the same respectful language. Yusuf (SA) told his father Ya’coub (SA) his dream that was a sign he was chosen for something big.” The way Ya’coub handled hearing Yusef (SA)’s dream shows the love a father has for his child and the farsightedness a parent must have when dealing with their children, Kamani said. Ya’coub (SA) knew the dream would make Yusuf (SA)’s brothers jealous so he advised him not to share it with them.

He also did not call Yusuf (SA)’s brothers liars, even when he knew they had misled him and covered up the fact that they tried to harm him and leave him for dead. “When his sons came back and said, ‘We lost our brother,” did he disown them? No. Did he sever his relationship with them and say, ‘I’m not going to set eyes on your faces again? No. They lived in the same house.”

He had patience and relied on Allah to teach them. When you are patient, you teach your children to be patient. The language of respect continues when a child sees their parent be respectful.

“And parents need to be open to the idea that a conversation needs to occur.

“Now the ball’s in your court. What kind of relationship are you going to have? Raising kids in the West is hard because every child goes through a moment in life when they are skeptical of everything they’ve experienced.

“One of the most important lessons to teach your children is the Islamic worldview and religious philosophy behind the way they face the challenges of life. When they face a challenge and come to talk with you about it, it is an opportunity to teach the value of that challenge in Islam. It should start at a young age.”

When they are skeptical, hopefully they can draw on lessons from family and home, and find “breadcrumbs to bring them back,” he said.

Note: (SA) stands for Sallah Allah Alayhi Wa’salam, which means May Allah’s blessings be upon him and is used when mentioning a prophet.