What does it mean to be proud of who we are? At what age, at what point in our lives do we develop that pride? What does it take for that pride to be so strong it is unshakable? Is that even possible? What do we need to do to make our children proud of who they are? How do those around us, the media, the worldly event affect that pride?
As Manessa and I were playing at the park this summer this adorable, bright eyed girl stood smiling at us. I said hello and she asked me if I was Muslim. I assumed she would say she had a friend at school who was Muslim also but she surprised me. With a huge smile, she said so proudly “I am Muslim too!” This young girl was a light haired girl with colored eyes and I foolishly stereotyped her as a Non-Muslim even though my hijab is the only thing that would identify me as a Muslim. My fair skin and hazel eyes would say otherwise.
The thing that made me think was not that I stereotyped her but how pleasantly surprised I was at how proud she was to be a Muslim. Seriously, her face was glowing when she said it. I couldn’t help but think about how we can instill pride and confidence in our children.
I had a proud mommy moment on Wednesday. Manessa attends a very diverse school with children from all backgrounds. She was previously in a Muslim/Arabic school. As we walked out of school she said "Mama, you know that teacher that wears hijab?". "Yes". " She's Muslim!" She said it with so much excitement. I was surprised at how excited she was. She knew that Muslim women wear hijab and as she wore hijab, she must be Muslim. I asked her how she discovered this besides the obvious and she said "I asked her!" The innocence in her answer moved me. She was not ashamed nor was she aware of what being a "Muslim" in 2017 means. It was just who she was. It was like, saying "hey you have brown hair too!" She continued, "I told her I'm Muslim too!". Seriously, when I tell you she was so excited, I am not exaggerating.
How can we ensure that the young generation of our Ummah continue to represent Islam as it is meant to be represented? How can we ensure that they say their names, speak their languages and identify as a Muslim? How can we ensure that through times of struggle, through the glares, discrimination, and stereotyping that our children will continue to practice Islam openly without fear?
1. Give Them the Tools They Need:
This means teaching them the true practices of Islam. This is about telling them and retelling them stories about our righteous leaders; male and female; that stood strong in time of trials and tribulations. This means giving them the knowledge needed to answer questions in a mature, peaceful and constructive manner. For example, Thanksgiving just passed and we don't really "celebrate" Thanksgiving. Manessa asked me why and I told her what my mom had told us as children; we don't need one day to Thank God for our blessings, we thank him everyday.
2. Be Proud and Show Them Your Pride:
Children learn by example. The saying is “Monkey see, monkey do”. Isn’t that the truth?! If you pray, they will pray. If you say your obviously Muslim name with pride, they will too. If you treat those around you with kindness for the sake of Allah (swt), they will do the same. Elhamduallah I am in a position where I have the opportunity to share my love for Islam and being a Proud Muslimah with my community and the world. Everytime I go to speak somewhere about Islam, I tell her that's what I'm going to do. I tell her that I am going to teach people who may not know about Islam. I tell her what my blog posts are about, she hears me doing FB Live videos and she knows this is what mama does.
3. Surround Them with Community:
Everyone needs a shoulder to lean on sometimes. Giving your children a sense of community where they can freely be who they are is a great way to instill pride and confidence. With others around them, they will know they are not alone in the world. We make a big deal out of Eids. We get new clothes, go to Salat, go to eat pancakes, take pictures, go to carnivals, open gifts, the whole nine yards! Manessa and Malik are surrounded by so many wonderful friends that help us to teach them and guide them to be righteous Inshallah.
4. Give them Role Models to Look Up To:
It’s easy for us to tell our children to do something but we all know how well that usually goes. It is essential for us to show our children examples of role models. They can be the Prophets (Peace and blessings be upon them), Sahaba, Wives of the Prophet (May Allah be pleased with them), Scholars, Neighbors, Teachers, Community Members… ANYONE! Just give them someone to look up to. Someone who exemplifies what it means to be a Muslim. Most importantly, be sure it is someone they can relate to. If your daughter loves Fashion, have her follow a great hijab fashion blogger like Dina Tokio. If your daughter wants to be a journalist have her follow Noor Taghoori. Maybe your son wants to be an athlete, have him follow one of many Muslim athletes.
5. Do Not Give Up!
No matter what the world throws at you, no matter how many questions your young children have, no matter if your teenager pushes back, no matter what, do not give up.
Martin Luther King Jr said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!”
I too have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, by the God they wish to worship, by the clothing they cover their bodies with, by the origin of their name, by the land and soil from which their beautiful faces was sculpted but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
May Allah (swt)God bless and guide all our children. May he help us to send proud, confident and righteous children and adults out into the world.