For me, being a stepfather is not something easy or to be taken lightly. Once I had accepted it, it was a huge responsibility. I was raising a son who had already been raised by another man who had his own way of doing things and since that man wasn’t Muslim it was even harder. By the time my stepson came to live with me, he was 12, so he already had a lot of his own ideas about how to deal with things. As a Muslim man from the East, it was a big challenge to raise him after he had grown up in the West and had a totally different mentality. Cultural differences also made things difficult; what I saw as a big deal wasn’t and vice versa.
I believe my intention had a huge impact on our relationship. My intention was to raise him for the sake of Allah (SWT) and help him become a Muslim. I wanted to be a good example of a Muslim man, husband, brother, friend and son so he knew what to do and how to react as a man in general.
The biggest challenges I had to face were having a stepson who wasn’t a Muslim, sometimes he disobeyed me and sometimes he simply ignored me. He was used to being on his own a lot because his mum had had two jobs in the past. I had to be careful to balance my discipline; not being too firm so I wouldn’t push him away and also not being too soft so he wouldn’t take things too lightly. His attitude was a huge challenge. In the East, we do not talk back to our parents or older people, so when this happened between us, it was a huge struggle for me. This caused a strain on my marriage and sometimes my wife and I would get into arguments. She was used to being the sole disciplinarian and we didn’t always agree on how to deal with situations. Being patient and remembering it takes time is a key step in adjusting.
Patience brought rewards
My biggest reward was helping my son say shahada – Allahu akbar! After several months of living together, he came to me and told me “I consider you as my blood father”. I could not ask for better son. He now runs to the door to greet me when I come home. He is concerned about how his actions affect me and his mother and worries that if he does something wrong, we will get upset. To see him being responsible, genuine and really caring is so rewarding. Most importantly, watching him practice Islam – praying, fasting and being a good Muslim, Alhamdulillah, masha Allah – makes all the struggles and hard work worth it.
I am also blessed with two other stepchildren who do not live with my wife and me. I do my best to be in touch with them as much as I can through email, phone and social networks. I cannot expect from them what I expect from my stepson who lives with me and sees me every day. I try to make sure I’m a good example. It’s not necessary they will see it in me, but they will insha Allah see it in my stepson who’s living with me.
I don’t want anything from this life except to be a good Muslim and see my kids being good Muslims. This is what I have been working on with my stepson; for him to grow up to be a good Muslim, choose the right Muslim partner and to start a good Muslim family so they can raise strong generations of pious Muslims who fear Allah (SWT) insha Allah. Having the honour of being a part of another child’s life and seeing them worship and obey Allah (SWT) is such a beautiful result of being a stepfather, Alhamdulillah.
Ahmed Zahr is the husband of SISTERS writer Zahirah Elsayed. He is an ambitious entrepreneur who loves animals and travelling. His favourite destination so far is Medina.