Opinion | Letter to Muslim Parents

by Femi Abbas
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Preamble

Dear Muslim Parents,

This is not a parents/teachers association meeting in which new school fees or new calendar year is to be discussed. It is rather a meeting of positive and constructive minds over one of the most fundamental issues in the life of man. And, it is to be moderated by the conscientious guideline divinely revealed in the Qur’an by the Almighty Allah. In relation to the well-being of children, the joy of parents is manifest just as their grief and fears are secret. Hardly can you hide the one or openly express the other.

Happy are parents whose children tread the path of their divinely guided dream. And, sorrowful is the portion of parents who end up regretting bringing certain children into this world. All of them will account either for what bring them joy or push them into sorrow.

Prophetic Admonition

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had admonished on this situation when he said: “all of you (parents, teachers and leaders) are shepherds and all of you shall be asked to account for the herds you guard”.

Children are the most invaluable gift of Allah to man. In a sane society, children cannot be bought. They cannot be sold. Even adoption or exchange of children for money is only a temporary illegal act which will become a permanent question later. One day, the child will know his parents or know that the foster parent or slave driver who took charge of him at a time in life is not his real parent. Then he will ask the permanent question: “whose child am I?

Thoughts and Ideas
You may give your biological or adopted children your love and your ideas but not your thoughts. They have their own thoughts which you may never be able to alter.

Life of Vanity

You may clad those children in the most fashionable dresses. You may house them in the most comfortable residences. But you can never, never gain a way into their souls in the absence of the divine instruction of Allah. While you are interacting closely with the bodies of your children today, you may not discover that their souls dwell in the abode of tomorrow which you cannot see even in your dream.

Children are a bundle of joy. But they can also be a load of grief. At least, they form the source of both in the life of parents.

Manual of Life
No man or woman becomes a parent without first being a child. What is perceived as experience today sprang from the childhood pranks of some years back. And the cycle continues.

Everything in life has its own manual. The general manual of life is the Qur’an, that anchor message of Allah, which leaves no stone unturned in the life of man. In chapter 31 verse 13 of that divine Book, Allah relays to us how Prophet Luqman counseled his son thus: “And (remember) when Luqman said to his son while admonishing him: ‘My son, associate none with Allah, for to associate others with Him is a grievous iniquity’…. (Go and know that) Allah will bring all things to light, be they as small as a grain of mustard seed, hidden inside a rock or in the earth. Allah is All-wise and All-knowing.

My son, be steadfast in offering Salat; enjoin justice and forbid evil. Endure with fortitude, whatever befalls you. That is a duty incumbent upon you. Do not scorn fellow human beings nor walk arrogantly on land; Allah does not love the arrogant and vainglorious ones. Be modest in your gait and lower your voice when talking, for harshiest of voices is the braying of an ass….”

The above verses of the Qur’an are a good example of how Allah teaches us what to do in each circumstance of life and how to do it.

Harmonious Life

Prophet Luqman and his son were just used symbolically. What Allah wants us to know is how to bring up our children as gentle and responsible men and women on earth, if only for nations and tribes to live harmoniously in peace? But that cannot be achieved without the fear of Allah which every parent is expected to preach practically to his or her children from the very early age as did Prophet Luqman.

Elite Parents

It is quite ironic that most parents especially in the elite class do not see life as a queue which ought to be followed scrupulously. They rather believe that any queue, at all, is a fool’s rout to success where shortcut is available.

Those are the parents who create special class for their children right from birth. They show them how superior they are to other children and tell them the category of children with whom they should be friendly. They provide for their children what those children do not need. They take them to schools in very expensive cars and create in them the impression that money is not their problem. And when, occasionally, their children refuse to ride in old cars brought for them by their drivers, the parents quickly apologize and send new cars to convey them.

Easy Money Syndrome

These are children who have never worked for one kobo (or a cent) in their lives. All they know is that there is money. And they don’t want to know where the money is coming from. And here are parents whose source of money is stealing public funds either by pen or by gun. With such dirty money, they sponsor their children in the most expensive schools abroad or at home. They follow them to their schools to grease the palms of the teachers. At times they buy cars for such teachers just to ensure that their children secure the required certificate or marks for promotion into the next class.

It does not matter to them much whether those children know what they are taught or not. What matters to them is the shortcut which will see their children graduate at an early age of 19 or 20 so that by the age of 23, such children would have become Chief Executives of banks or multinational companies where the cycle of fraud would continue for the family unabatedly.

Now, why wouldn’t such a brazing desperation lead to mass cheating in examinations and greedy stealing at work as now being experienced in Nigeria? Are the children to blame? What else is expected of them when their parents will buy anything for them including live examination papers? And the children of the less privileged parents will also want to take advantage of the terrible rot to succeed in life.

Adorned Children

Some parents have taken their children for an adorable ornament which nothing should tamper with. Such parents often treat their children like fragile eggs. They lavish stolen money on them and give them the impression that they were not born to be poor. They often forget that no amount of fraudulent spending can make any child rich in life.

For such parents the Qur’an has the following advice: “Are they the ones who apportion your Lord’s blessings? It is ‘WE’ (Allah) that apportion to them their livelihood in this world, exalting some in ranks above others so that the ones can take the others into their services. Your Lord’s mercy is better than all their hoarded treasures”. (See Q. 43: 32).

Implication

The misfortune or calamity afflicting the world today, especially, that of Nigerian society, is mostly caused by the elite parents. Right from infancy, most children of the elite, particularly the white-collar jobbers, would have the impression that they are born to be masters. And they behave as such at every stage of their lives.

It all starts with unwarranted lavish spending on children’s birthdays which has virtually become the past-time of those parents. Sometimes millions of naira/dollars may be spent by parents to celebrate the birthdays of their toddler children. The implication of this is that such children are being taught how to spend money without being taught how to make money legitimately. And by the time they grow up, they would have been so much used to easy money that they quickly resort to desperation in the absence of easy money. By that time, the parents would have forgotten how they inadvertently indulged those innocent children in such act of prodigality.

Advanced Level Fraud

Today, what used to be examination fraud in the primary and secondary schools has gone beyond that level. We now have black market certificates issued in most of our federal and state universities. We also have election frauds at all levels of governance practically supervised by those who are supposed to be umpires. We also have lawmakers who must take bribe before voting for or against any bill. We also have law enforcers in the name of police whose main source of income is open corruption audaciously committed even on the roads. As a matter of fact, nothing symbolizes the extent of corruption in Nigeria than the uniformed government enforcement officials called Policemen or Policewomen. We also have the unrepentant civil servants who live like kings and queens while milking the society shamelessly without any regard for their legitimate earnings. We also have the half-baked lawyers who are feeding fat on fraudulent opportunities while capitalizing on the deliberate lapses created by our so-called constitution.

In all these, who will curb the ever-rampant examination fraud spreading like bush fire in Nigeria? Is it the parents who are so desperate that they would do anything including illicit sex to see their children through? Or school Principals and Proprietors who are the real architects of examination fraud? Or the officials of the various examination bodies who often facilitate and help to perfect the act? Or the police whose orientation is to call a spade a hoe where money is involved? Or the legislators who will prefer to keep mute on anything fraudulent, having dipped their hands so much into illegalities?
All of these and others not mentioned here are elite parents who can hardly come up with a clean hand on anything. How can they curb the largesse from which they benefit so tremendously?

Agonizing Result

Many Muslim parents have, in defiance to Allah’s instruction, joined the terrible cartel of the above listed crimes. They feel satisfied with their children’s mundane lives which entails no care for their spiritual lives. This has caused some temporal agony in certain lives and spiritual melancholy in others.

We were in an Islamic meeting at the University of Lagos Mosque sometime in the early 1990s when a septuagenarian parent of four grown up children suddenly burst into tears. He sobbed painfully like a housewife who just lost her first child at the point of delivery. Surprised and embarrassed, we inquired from him what the matter was since the issue under discussion had no sad angle. In his response after calming down, the man who was a former Nigerian Ambassador said he had lost his entire life. He narrated his pathetic story in a very sober mood and concluded that he had lived his entire life in vain.

He told us how three of his children (all boys) had their secondary and university education in London. The fourth child who was a girl joined them after her secondary education. And after graduation, they all got juicy jobs and settled permanently in England. But by then, they had all crossed over to the other side of the spiritual bridge having married spouses from outside Islam.

This was however not the cause of his regret. The real cause of the man’s regret was the attitude of those children to his religious life which he claimed to cherish so much. First, the children never thought it right to pay him a visit in Nigeria despite his old age. Secondly, whenever he visited them, in London, none of them allowed him to observe his daily Salat as they told him that it was uncivilized. After all efforts to persuade them failed, he had to abandon them and live like a man without children.

The old man’s most agonizing point was in seeing the children of his friends practice Islam very well even as they were all doing fine in their various careers. That is the plight of a man who had the courage to voice it out after admitting his guilt. There are thousands of others like him who would prefer to lick their messy wounds secretly till death comes to strike.

Despite the Qur’an

If this can still happen in a Muslim home despite the Qur’anic lesson, what is the value of life? Why would any sane person want to lose his life and his life hereafter just to gain vanity? See what avarice is doing to Muslim parents?

It is only for the reason of avarice that most Muslim parents do not see any necessity in giving their children such qualitative Islamic education as they do in the Western way. But Allah has a wonderful way of doing things. Some of the children who could not be given secondary education some years past, because their parents were too poor, are professors in the universities today. What else is worthy of pursuit in life? You are your children’s real school. Let them learn the value of real education in your conduct.

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