Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post by Saadia Faruqi. Saadia is an interfaith activist, blogger for Tikkun Daily and The Islamic Monthly, and a speaker on American Muslim issues. She lives in Houston, Texas and is currently writing a collection of short stories set in Pakistan. Follow her on Twitter @saadiafaruqi
Today is Fathers Day: that very American holiday, second only to Mothers’ Day, when men all over the country are celebrated and appreciated. Department stores put on sale all kinds of male gear including golf clubs, barbecue equipment and tools. Is it a coincidence that Fathers’ Day arrives with summer, when all things outdoors are in high demand?
To my mind, we don’t do enough to celebrate Fathers’ Day, but perhaps more importantly, fathers themselves don’t understand what Fathers’ day is all about. Is being a father only about playing golf, cooking barbecue or fixing the fence? Or is it more? To Muslim men, at least, being a father is a huge responsibility, and fatherhood goes hand in hand with motherhood. Yet often we place importance – and hence responsibility – on mothers alone.
So to all Muslim Fathers today, here are some appreciative words as well as some notes of caution. You command respect and obedience for your children, so remember that respect needs to be earned. The kinder and firmer you are with your children, without raising your voice or your hand, the more respect and obedience you will attract. Shouting, screaming or hitting are not acts of a good father, nor should you place undue restrictions on your children. When they are little, they need to see you smile and laugh, spend time playing with them, taking them to the park, enjoying life with them as a family. Make their childhood memories happy and fulfilled, and that is how you will attain your lives’ satisfactions.
Islam requires that you lead the way in matters of moral training of your children. Mothers have a lot of this responsibility but the main accountability rests with you. If you are not praying or fasting, your children will not either. You are the guardians of your houses, the upholders of good moral and worldly values. Make sure you have those within yourself so that your wives and children are proud to follow where you lead.
A Father and Friend
Be friends to your children, especially to your sons. To them, you are not only guiding influences but also role models. Be as strict as Islam allows, but also understand that American teenagers living in this society have a myriad of pressures that you can only guess at. If you are immigrants, you cannot imagine what your American born children are going through as they reach puberty and navigate the waters between Islam and society. Go out there, learn about what they are facing, and give them your support. If you alienate them at this stage, you will lose them forever. Teenagers need tough love, with the emphasis on love. Be those kinds of men to them, not necessarily the men your own fathers were.
If you have teenage sons, know that the way you act with them will leave an indelible mark as they become fathers themselves. If you have teenage daughters, understand how important you are to them, for your interactions with them will determine how they interact with men later in life. In both cases, remember that they are watching you, especially how you treat their mothers. Islam presents a wonderful model of a husband and father in the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Try to reach that goal, even if seems impossible to achieve. Allah will help you if you keep that ideal in mind. Children who watch their fathers treat their mothers kindly and lovingly will not only have better relationships of their own but also appreciate you more. If they see you fighting, ridiculing, disrespecting or hurting their mothers, they will never love you, no matter how much you love them.
So my dear brothers, who have been given this precious award of fatherhood, take note. This is your most important job in the world, and don’t you forget it. The other, worldly job is important for the physical maintenance of your family, but being a good father is on a higher plane. Being a good provider but not a good father will result in nothing but regrets and shame, so remember to keep a balance between work and family life. Participate in household activities, don’t be so aloof that your children are afraid of approaching you. Show your smile more frequently than your anger, because then your anger will be respected and obeyed. Most of all, say ‘I love you’ as often as possible. Your fathers may not have said it to you, but please break the cycle of silence and be a different kind of father.
Fathers, please know that your families and communities appreciate you and what you do to keep our communities strong and safe. To all of you, and to my own father, who is no longer in this world, Happy Fathers’ Day.