As a Muslim parent, we teach our kids about their deen. We do the best we can to create an Islamic atmosphere in our home. We send them to madrasah or Masjid to learn Quran. Things generally are ok until they become teenagers: that’s when the problems start. We don’t expect them to have doubts about Islam.
As kids become older and go through puberty it’s natural for them to be curious and ask questions. They begin to think independently and question everything.
- Why do I have to study so much?
- Why do I have to tidy my room?
- What’s wrong with being on my phone till 1 a.m. in the morning?
Some questions will also be about Islam.
- Why do I have to wear hijab?
- I don’t think it’s fair that I should have to fast when I have exams.
- Why can’t I sleepover at my non-Muslim friend’s house?
Doubts about Islam
I don’t think it is a problem that Muslim teenagers ask these questions. I think it’s a problem when we can’t give them a clear answer which is based on Islam, this can then lead to them having doubts about Islam. What I have noticed in my experience is that parents end up reacting in three possible ways.
- Parents get angry. They may not have asked their parents these questions, so they find it outrageous that their children are questioning their authority and Islam.
- Give an unconvincing answer because they don’t know how to answer these difficult questions.
- Give in and let their kids do what they want because they have too many other issues to deal with in their lives and they don’t have the energy, time or patience to battle with their children.
Before I discuss a better way that we can tackle these difficult questions. I want to look at why Muslim teenagers living in non-Muslim, liberal societies are questioning and possibly having doubts about Islam.
What is causing our kids to doubt Islam?
I think it’s important to honestly analyse the un-Islamic influences they have in their lives. I’m not scaremongering or trying to paint an overly negative picture. I want to outline the factors that are subtly chipping away at our kid’s confidence in Islam and then give solutions based on Islam. As Muslims we know Islam is the truth and Allah gives us a solution to every problem, we need to do what is in our control (to help our kids face these challenges) and then do dua and trust in Allah to help us.
Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Prophet, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.” Tirmidhī
Let’s begin by looking at the reality of the liberal society that our kids are being raised in. When Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Somalia, etc. come to live in a country like the UK or US we can observe that they start dampening their cultural and Islamic identity in the following three areas:
They learn English, which is a good thing but in general, their children usually don’t speak their mother tongue in public, most often children can understand their parent’s mother tongue but cannot speak it fluently. For example, in my family my parents speak fluent Urdu and English, they made sure I knew Urdu, but my kids can’t speak Urdu, their first language is English. I am sure you know of similar examples in your own family. Many studies show that the heritage languages are almost entirely lost to immigrants’ grandchildren. With each generation, the connection to the cultural language is reduced and so is the connection to their parent’s cultural heritage. This trend amongst children is usually reversed if their mother was born in a Muslim country or they live with their grandparents who speak to them in Arabic, Bengali, etc.
“A study, published in the journal Demography in 2002, looked at the US censuses of 1940, 1970 and 1990 and the answers people gave about the languages they spoke at home. The 1940 and 1970 censuses revealed the pattern for the mostly European immigrants who had arrived in the US from countries such as Germany, Poland, Italy, and Greece.
Some of the immigrant generation learned English but preferred to speak their native languages, especially at home. Their children largely grew up bilingual, but many chose to speak English, even to their immigrant parents. When this bilingual generation established their own homes, they usually spoke English at home.
“Consequently, by the third generation, the prevalent pattern is English monolingualism, and knowledge of the mother tongue for most ethnics is fragmentary at best,” the study said. What the researchers wanted to look at, using the 1990 census, was whether the same applied to more recent immigrants from Cuba, Mexico, China, and other Asian countries. For the grandchildren of immigrants from Asia, the pattern was the same: more than 90 percent spoke only English at home.” Michael Skapinker
Shalwar kameez, khimar (hijab) and jilbab, saris, etc are all slowly swapped for trousers, shirts, and dresses, etc. Culturally traditional clothes are reserved for weddings, Eid and funerals. We can observe that the older generation who spent the majority of their lives in a Muslim country continue to wear their traditional clothes for example grandparents do not adopt clothing that they see as immodest and the clothes of non-Muslims.
In public, teenagers adopt the completely opposite view because they feel an acute need to fit in. They don’t want to look fresh off the boat. “Americans claim to love Indian fashion, food, and weddings, but don’t love them quite so much on Indians. Immigrant kids do not learn to flaunt what makes us different. We learn the language of Americana. We learn that we can only trust America with slices of ourselves.” T. Mathew
Every Western country is secular, that means religion is seen to be a personal matter and it should not impact public life. So, in the UK and European countries, we can observe a large proportion of people are not openly religious.
“For decades, the number of British people describing themselves as non-religious has grown steadily. New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) offer yet another piece of evidence for this trend. According to the data, the number of Brits who say they have no religion has increased by 46 percent over the last seven years. This makes non-religious people the fastest-growing group in the country. The data, which is taken from the Annual Population Survey, shows that 39 percent of people now class themselves as non-religious. In real terms, that’s an increase of around eight million people since 2011.” www.newhumanist.org
Church attendance is going down, religious people do not openly talk about their religious views. Hence, religion is very personal. So, when first-generation Muslim immigrants live in a secular society they are affected by this mentality and dampen down their religious identity in public. However, they do try their best to keep their religious identity at home.
Muslim countries have a stronger Islamic identity
So, based on the factors I’ve discussed so far, we can observe our kids are losing their connection to their cultural heritage and religion because they are living in secular non-Muslim countries and therefore this is a big factor in making them have doubts about Islam.
In Muslim majority countries, there is more support to encourage maintenance of Islamic faith and practice. A stronger Islamic atmosphere exists via mosques, religious education, religious holidays being celebrated for example during Ramadan offices and shops change their opening times, men have time off to pray jummah. Strong family bonds are nurtured as families generally live close by. The younger generation finds it easier to learn their mother tongue, they dress more modestly and overall feel more comfortable and confident about being a Muslim. In no way am I saying Muslim societies are perfect and there are cultural practices that contradict Islam, however overall Muslim teenagers raised in Muslim countries are proud of their cultural and Islamic heritage and have far less doubts about Islam.
You can listen to previous episodes of A Muslim Mom Podcast here.