Importance of Good Influence (for your child)

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What the Quran says

In Surah Al-Furqan, verse 25-29, it says:

And ˹beware of˺ the Day the wrongdoer will bite his nails ˹in regret˺ and say, “Oh! I wish I had followed the Way along with the Messenger!

Woe to me! I wish I had never taken so-and-so as a close friend.

It was he who truly made me stray from the Reminder after it had reached me.” And Satan has always betrayed humanity.

The company we keep says a lot about us. Friends have a tremendous influence over how we behave, think and even feel.  This verse comes to us as a warning to be careful of the type of people we choose to be our friends.

At the time of the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wasallam there were two friends among the polytheists named ‘Uqbah and ‘Ubay.  Whenever ‘Uqbah returned from a journey he used to prepare food and invite people to share in the meal.  Though he had not accepted Islam, he still liked to go to the Prophet (s) and be with him.

One day as usual when he prepared the meal to share, he invited the Prophet (s) as well.  When the food was ready to be served, the Prophet (s) told ‘Uqbah, I will not eat your food unless you testify to the unity of Allah and my mission. ‘Uqbah agreed.

Upon hearing this news, his friend ‘Ubay expressed his anger and disappointment and convinced him to stand against the Prophet (s) and insult him.  ‘Uqbah listened to him and apostatized.  ‘Uqbah was killed in the battle of Badr, and ‘Ubay was killed in the battle of ‘Uhud. This verse was one of three verses that were revealed to explain the destiny of a man who had a friend who influenced him and caused him to go astray.

Parable on friendship

In the Hadith, Abu Musa reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The likeness of a righteous friend and an evil friend, is the likeness of a (musk) perfume seller and a blacksmith. As for the perfume seller, he may either bestow something on you, or you may purchase something from him, or you may benefit from his sweet smell. And as for the blacksmith, he may either burn your clothes, or you may be exposed to his awful smell.”

The above hadith meant that if we are in the company of good people or friends, we’ll tend to follow his/her good character and are influenced by their good habits. If you’re hanging out with a good companion, it is equivalent to being friends with a perfume seller, you’ll smell good, pleasant and naturally feel good. The righteous person will bound to influence you to do good deeds and Insya Allah you’ll benefit from it.

During the days of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam), blacksmiths laboured for hours in a choking, smoky environment of extreme heat in order to design their desired object. In the company of the blacksmith one is permanently harmed by the heat or even the sparks resulting from the labour. This means one has adopted an evil habit from the one he keeps company. If not, then the very company of the blacksmith gives no relief to the conscience.

Guiding our children

When I selected this topic for tadabbur, it actually stemmed from what I have been pondering about since late last year. The backstory is my daughter is turning six this year, and if there are moms out there listening, you know this is THE Primary One registration year. Our education ministry says every school is a good school but in our minds I’m sure we also have some schools that we blacklist because they are notorious for being bad.

So while researching, I read a piece of writing by Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini who was a high ranking Iranian Islamic scholar. He wrote many books on issues including marital life, and bringing up children. Let me share a summarised version with you.

As grown ups we need friends, and we can know what kind of friends we want. Children also want friends, and at their young age they typically only choose a friend from their fellow classmates or the children they play with in the neighbourhood. Sometimes they may have acquaintances but no friends. Why they decide to choose a particular person as a friend we do not know but perhaps there is an affinity between them.

We cannot force them or stop them from being friends with anyone. The child must be free to make his own choice of friends. But this freedom will be with some conditions and restrictions:

The character and conduct of the friends will have to be observed by the parents before they permit the child to pick a friend. If a child selects a courteous and polite friend, he will definitely benefit by picking up his good habits. To the contrary, if the friend has undesirable habits then, naturally, the child will take to some of his bad habits. There are plenty of children and youths fallen into the morass of sin because of indiscreetly selecting bad friends.

Responsible and thoughtful parents will not be totally unconcerned with the type of friends their children cultivate. While the parents must know the type of friends a child has, they should not appear to be interfering in their personal matters.

If the parents can provide a good friend to their child, they have made a great contribution to his virtuous future. But this is not such an easy task. The best way is to acquaint the child with what is good, and what is not, when he comes to the age of understanding. They should explain to the child the defects that might be there in undesirable friends.

The parents must keep a subtle watch over the activities of the child and his friends from a distance. If they find that the friends are good, they must appreciate them. They should create opportunities for the child to meet such friends. But if they notice that the child has picked up an undesirable acquaintance, then they should discreetly try to cut this friendship short. If the child persists in such friendship, deal with the matter strictly.

The parents can help the child in making good friends by another method. They should pick children in their neighborhood with good behaviour, character and background. Create opportunities for the children to meet and react with one another. If they become friends, encourage them to cement the friendship. This way, even if there are some minor defects in their own child, they can be warded off in the company of good children.

For example, if a child is timid, he might overcome his timidity by being friends with a bold and courageous child.

The parents should not be totally oblivious of the type of friends their child has. Particularly when the child is on the threshold of youth. This will be the period in his life when habits take root. Any negligence on the part of the parents might result in irreparable harm to the character and conduct of the child, if he persists to be in bad company. They should remember the phrase: Prevention is better than cure!

You are the average of your friends

Have you heard the famous quote “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Apparently it’s not true. According to a Framingham heart study, if a friend of your friend becomes obese, your likelihood of gaining weight increases by about 20 percent — even if you don’t know that friend of a friend. The effect continues one more person out. If a friend of the friend of your friend develops obesity, you are still 10 percent more likely than a random chance to gain weight as well. Your friends make you fat, but so do their friends, and so do their friends of friends.

While the researchers looked for a variety of explanations, the most likely one appears to be norms. If your friend is obese or a friend of a friend is obese, that changes your perception of what is an acceptable body size and your behavior changes accordingly. This is the same when they did a study on happiness. People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future.

So actually you’re not the average of the FIVE people you surround yourself with. It’s way bigger than that. You’re the average of all the people who surround you. 

So this made me think that having good influence doesn’t just stop with friends, but also our surroundings. When we buy a house, do we intentionally choose to live in a good neighbourhood? As parents are we improving our own circle of friends to improve our child’s?

It’s a reminder for parents to make decisions wisely and purposefully.

Kinship and Family (Silat ur-Rahim)

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Introduction to Surah An-Nisa

Surah An-Nisa deals largely with women’s rights and the principles for the smooth running of family life and ways to settle family disputes.

Rules have been prescribed for marriage and rights of wife and husband have been allocated fairly and impartially. It also laid down the status of women in the society and the rights of orphans. It also teaches us the laws and regulations for the division of inheritance.

If you read the tafsir, it teaches Muslims the ways that unite a people and make them firm and strong to overcome the enemies of Islam who were hatching plots against Nabi Muhammad and the Muslim Community even at Al-Madinah. It is saying that it starts with a strong family foundation.

Islam places great importance on maintaining family relations. The first verse of An-Nisa says:

“O mankind, fear your Lord who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and spread many men and women from the two. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in whose name you ask each other (for your rights), and fear (the violation of the rights of) the womb-relations. Surely, Allah is watchful over you.” – 4:1

And Allah said this in first-person, not through our prophet.

In the HADITH QUDSI it is reported that Allah said:

‘I Am Ar-Rahman. I created the RAHAM (womb) and derived a name for it from My Name. Hence, whoever keeps it (the family ties), I will keep ties to him, and whoever severs it, I will sever ties with him.’.

So the act of maintaining family ties is an obligation in the Islamic faith. This is to have good relations with one’s relatives, to love, respect and help them.

But what if relatives are not good to you?

The Holy Prophet said “Do not ever sever your relationship with a member of your family even if he severs his relationship with you.”

Cherishing blood ties is not observed in anticipation of reciprocation; but the ties should be maintained for Allah’s sake only, even if this is done from one side only, and overlooking the behavior of the other side in return.

So there’s no need to point fingers saying he or she did it first, that’s why I do the same.

The Messenger ﷺ openly states that

  • Regardless of their behavior you should visit them;
  • Regardless of their detachment, you should maintain your ties;
  • Regardless of their offensiveness, you should reward them with forbearance,
  • And most importantly, never cease to include in your duʿa’ that Allah grants them a change of heart; for all the hearts are between his fingers, and He flips them as he wills.

The Holy Prophet also said: “He who wishes that his sustenance be increased for him and his death day be delayed, then he should maintain good relations with his kin.”

Severing family ties is considered one of the grave sins, which will not be forgiven except through a sincere tawba (repentance), the kind of tawba which involves other people’s rights, meaning that you need to mend things with them and seek their pardon so that your tawba may be accepted by Allah, the Merciful and Oft-forgiving.

Twice in the Quran, Allah severely warned those who cut off their blood relationships and family ties. Severing one’s blood ties is far from a trivial choice. It is an evil that may hinder you from entering Paradise.

Personal Reflection

Personally in my family, I have this uncle who hasn’t been showing up for Hari Raya for a long time since I was in secondary school. And one of the reasons was because he was upset with the rest of his siblings for visiting my first uncle. There was a long history of them at loggerheads, and that my first uncle chased this estranged uncle around the kampung for who knows what. Just imagine, he has been holding this grudge since kampung days. My first uncle is already so skinny and frail now.

Regrettably, the last I saw my estranged uncle was at my funeral of my late grandmother. I don’t think he talked to anyone either. Only his wife and children talked to us.

I feel this is the kind of mindset that is sad and pointless – to hold on to grudges until your old age. So I think even when we disagree with each other, we can agree to disagree respectfully. And it’s better to ask for forgiveness from each other as soon as possible instead of dragging it out. You know how the longer you wait to say sorry, the harder it gets.

Ways to Enhance your Relationships

Here are ways for us to fortify our ties and strengthen our bonds with our kinsmen:

  1. Arrange frequent visits with those who live close by, on a bi-weekly basis if they are in the same town or on a yearly basis at least if they reside overseas, depending on a person’s abilities. But always remember, the least you can do nowadays is to open your e-mail software and write to them how much your heart yearns for them and that they are not at all forgotten. Otherwise, pick up the phone and tell them how much you love them and cannot wait to visit with them. Little things can make a big difference.
  2. In a family gathering, do not let the opportunity pass you by to clear up all misunderstandings, and do show all of your relatives your love and concern.
  3. When conversing with them, take interest in what they have to say, even if it is not your cup of tea. Listen to their concerns, and help them if you can, and at least give them hope and your prayers—for sincere prayers, reassurance and love are worth much more than anything else.
  4. Have respect for all elderly people in your family, be all ears when they are telling their stories and try to learn from their past experiences.
  5. Bring joy to family gatherings by creating an atmosphere of fun, sharing jokes or even getting a bit playful at times—but always within the limits of decency and without hurting anyone’s feelings.
  6. Be there for them, and offer to help in every way you can.

Many good deeds bear fruit that will not be seen until the Hereafter. But keeping good family relations is something that will benefit you immediately, by making this life a lot happier, lighter, more pleasant and more rewarding. Most importantly, Allah will reward us generously for every smile, every hug, every act of generosity, every phone call, e-mail or letter, every word of encouragement, every suppression of anger, and every instance of forgiveness towards your family members. Who can afford to be deprived of such an immense reward? Do not allow yourself to be of those who sever what Allah has ordered to be joined.