One of the most challenging parts of motherhood lately, has been to simply sit back and allow my children to choose their own friends. It put into sharp focus my own shortcomings, and perhaps even my need to control and micro-manage them, and made me realise that even though I want to raise, strong, independent thinkers, how very difficult it is to watch it actually bloom.
I think especially now as the tween/pre-teen years are literally on our doorstep, I find myself very concerned about the impact and level of influence that my childrens (my sons especially) peer groups will have on them. Some friends I initially thought were too loud, too boisterous, too much into pop culture, too focused on sports, not quite academically inclined ect.
It was hard to sit back and not edit his friends, as I did do when they were younger, and it was MY social circle that influenced THEIRS! I decided though, that this was the only manner in which he would learn to read people, to trust his gut, the only way that he would truly be exposed to different cultures, to follow his instinct, and in the end, recognised too that in fact, it was my by own parenting influence of always encouraging him to be open-minded, that in fact led to these friendships.
As predicted, some of these didn’t last, and he saw for himself that certain friends personalities didn’t quite match up to his personality and interests, but other friendships surprisingly did, and more than that, they flourished! And as I listened to him talk about them, about what they did at school, and their discussions on movies, and how they motivated each other at soccer matches, I realised that what I may have perceived as a negative influence was actually a positive one. It was just that the positivity was not in a field I had imagined.
I love learning from my children, and the big lesson I learnt in this instance to stop pre-judgement! Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and my son was big-hearted enough to embrace this. Now the kid who wasn’t academically inclined, trades soccer tips with Little Man, in exchange for a weekly Maths lesson; the loud boisterous child, was the one being picked on, but I’ve learnt he’s also the one who has a HUGE dose of compassion and kindness.
As a muslim, we’re reminded of the importance of keeping good company at all times, and also how the company one keeps actually influences your behaviour.
In a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows (respectively).
So as for the seller of musk then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
We are however, also reminded that its our daily constant responsibility, to promote dawah. Most of my sons friends had never been to a muslim home before, or had any contact with muslim people. In fact this is true for both my children. This caused me too, to consider the flip side of this equation. Maybe by stretching across the divide and actively befriending others, he could influence them, motivate them, and simply by being a friend to a wide spectrum of people, this too could be dawah in its own right. I think the manner in which we live, how we portray our values and ideals, have even more importance when one lives in a multi-faith society.
Allah commands us to invite people to Islam with hikmah (wisdom) and beautiful preaching. Allah says:
“Invite (all) to the Way of your Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer) with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and explain to them in ways that are best and most gracious…” (Quraan 16:125)
Maybe, simply by interacting with people of other faiths, and by befriending them, while still maintaining a strong hold of our own eemaan, we can LIVE deen, and this can in turn become, a gentle and consistent form of dawah! Remember, when Islam was first revealed, it was the character of Nabi(saw) that caused people to accept Deen, and we can only hope, that it is too, by the character of our children, if we manage to raise them correctly and with a good akhlaaq, that they can in turn influence others, and make a positive impact.
Let your child explore! Places, experiences, travel, food…and yes friendships too. Let their ideas be heard, it may just change the world