Not long ago I saw an interesting meme on Facebook. It showed a mother and her young daughter, about age 10, and younger son, about age 6, sitting at a table. The mother says, “I don’t need a man.” The daughter says, “I don’t like men.” The son says, “I don’t want to be a man.” In the background there’s a man with a knapsack attached to the end of a pole swung over his shoulder – he’s headed out the door.
A picture is worth a thousand words and this one truly fits this cliche. If we want our sons to grow up as strong, committed, responsible and God-fearing men, we need to ensure that we set a suitable example in front of our girls as well as boys. This example should convey to our children that their father is needed, appreciated, and worthy of our respect. Creating this atmosphere in our home can accomplish two things, insha Allah. Firstly, it can present to our children an example of how they should view their father. And secondly, it can give the man of the house the encouragement he needs to continue to struggle and maintain his family in spite of the trials and difficulties he may encounter.
You might be wondering, how is it the wife’s responsibility to make her children feel their father is an indispensable member of the family? Why, that’s the man’s responsibility. It’s up to him to show his family that he’s a MAN. Well, here’s another cliché for you:
“Educate a man and you educate one person; educate a woman and you educate a whole nation.”
We women don’t realise how enormously important our role as mother, wife and caregiver is. We are teachers, mentors, role models and significant others for not only our children but our spouses as well. We aren’t compelled to live up to these ideals and aren’t always able to live up to them, but it will be beneficial if we try our hardest to do so.
When we attempt to behave as an exemplary Muslim mother and wife, we aid our daughters in taking on these characteristics, as well. They will eventually grow to be the wives of men, insha Allah; we want them to have successful marriages. They need to know how to show their husbands they appreciate their spouse’s time spent working for the family, providing groceries and being in the home as a father. The best way to help our daughters model this behaviour is by showing them our appreciation for their father.
Likewise, our sons need to feel they have an important role to fulfil once they mature and start a family. They need to know that this role of manhood is admirable by the women in their family. This is where they develop their initial views about life.
Most cultures have the understanding that the foundation of a nation starts with a strong family. How are strong families developed? They are developed first of all by remaining a family. Difficulties are going to occur in marriages. Some trials are going to truly test the inner strength of both partners. “Why should I put up with this trouble or that problem?”, you might ponder. Sometimes things just aren’t going to go the way you’d planned and hoped for when you first got married. At moments like this, strive to maintain your marriage at all costs.
Of course there will be times when you feel like you don’t want to tolerate certain problems within the marriage any longer. And divorce is allowed in our religion. There are of course going to be family set-ups where the father figure is not there for various reasons, and these will insha Allah be discussed in future articles in this series. But there’s no doubt that divorce rates tend to be higher in certain cultures than others. Traditional Islamic families had higher rates of successful marriages than present day Muslims living in non-Islamic societies. We are affected by the environment in which we live.
I remember a song I used to hear when I was young; it had the refrain: “You are everything, and everything is you.” Generations of young women have been deluded by misleading songs and phony tales portraying a false image of a life lived “happily ever after.” This misrepresentation of the real world does a true disservice to marital partners desiring to raise a healthy family. Few – if any – spouses can live up to the unrealistic expectations and false images portrayed by songs and movies. No – our husbands are not everything and everything is not them. They cannot fulfil our lives. They cannot bring us unending happiness. They are not Prince Charming. They are not superheroes. They are simply men. They will make mistakes and falter. They will behave in ways that we dislike. They are not perfect, and neither are we.
When you prepare a delicious meal for your husband or speak kindly to him and attempt to be the perfect wife, don’t expect your husband to appreciate you. Expect to be disappointed by him, expect to be unappreciated by him. This is a true marriage. People are imperfect – they fail, and they disappoint. But does this mean you should end the marriage? No. It means you should try your best to be an example for him. You can set a standard for not only your children as to how to behave, but even for your husband. Where will you get the motivation for this from? From your religion. According to hadith, narrated by Umm Salamah, the Prophet (SAW) said: “If a woman dies while her husband was pleased with her, she will enter Paradise.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
When your children see you overlooking trivial infractions committed by your spouse, they will learn to be patient. When they see you remaining in your marriage in spite of the difficulties you are experiencing, they will learn how to be patient with the difficulties they are bound to have in their marital relationships.
A person who has a high paying job but a difficult boss who hassles him is willing to overlook the boss’s rude remarks. He’s willing to make excuses for the boss’ bad day or simply accept the boss’ annoying ways even though the person is fed up with his employer’s temperament. This, he does for the sake of maintaining his job. How more noble is it to be tolerant with one’s spouse, to overlook his remarks and actions that make you angry? The Prophet (SAW) said: “I guarantee a house in the outskirts of Paradise to the one who forsakes argument even when he is in the right.” (Abu Dawood).
We have a nation to raise. Our responsibility is enormous, and it all starts in our home. Our husband needs to have a home in which he receives the reserves necessary to survive when he attempts to tackle the outside world. Our children need to see their father in the home, functioning as an important part of the family unit.
Ideally, our sons need to grow up in intact families with mother and father working together to establish a nourishing household. The home is their foundation. Their father is their role model and king. And their mother is their comforter and queen. They need both – their king and queen – to become the wholesome men that our families, communities and world need. If we want our sons to be the proud, responsible, providers and maintainers they should be, we must remember: they need to inherit a kingdom to become a king.
Umm Jannah converted to Islam in the early 80s. She lives in Southern California with her children and husband. She has been married for 34 years.
Read Part 1 HERE – What is a Good Muslim Man?
Read Part 3 HERE – The Fathering Role
Khalida Haque contemplates the complexities related to raising sons to be ‘good Muslim men’, focusing here on the role of the father.