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.


Spending Responsibly

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Intro to Surah Al-Furqan

Al-Furqan means The Criterion. The Qur’an has been called Al-Furqan because it is the Criterion for judging right and wrong, virtue and vice, truth and falsehood.

The first part of the Surah deals with the doubts and objections that were being raised against the Qur’an, the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his teachings by the disbelievers of Makkah.

In it, answers to each and every objection have been given and the people have been warned of the consequences of rejecting the Truth. Actually even today, when Non-Muslims mock and question the Quran, Nabi Muhammad (SAW), or the Sunnah, this Surah can help us to answer these questions and to see how we can talk to them.

In the 2nd part of the surah (in particular verse 63-75), the Quran tells us a couple of qualities of true servants of Allah.

  1. Being Humble – “And the servants of the Most Gracious are those who walk upon the earth in humility“.
  2. Forbearing or Patient – “and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace”. So for example when someone makes fun of them, insults them or hurts them, they don’t strike back or seek revenge. They forgive and overlook.
  3. Devotion in Tahajjud – “And those who spend [part of] the night to their Lord prostrating and standing [in prayer]”. The true servants of Allah pass their nights in worshipping and remembering Him as much as they can.
  4. Fear of Allah’s Punishment – Those who say, “Our Lord, avert from us the wrath of Hell. Indeed, its punishment is a grievous affliction. Evil indeed is it as an abode, and as a place to rest in.” For true servants of Allah, Hellfire is not a theoretical concept, but a reality.
  5. Moderation – “Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not miserly, but hold a balance between those extremes.
  6. Doesn’t sin – “And those who do not invoke with Allah, any other god, or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty. Multiplied for him is the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in ignominy or humiliation.
  7. Tawbah – “Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. And he who repents and does righteousness does indeed turn to Allah with [accepted] repentance.
  8. Doesn’t lie – “And [they are] those who do not testify to falsehood. The Prophet s.a.w.s. said: I guarantee a house in the surroundings of Paradise for a man who avoids quarrelling even if he were in the right, a house in the middle of Paradise for a man who avoids lying even if he were joking, and a house in the upper part of Paradise for a man who made his character good.
  9. Steer away from evil conversation – “and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity”. Here what it means is The true servants do not take part in gossip or obscenity or foul language, even if they overhear or chance upon it as an observer they would walk away.
  10. Accept guidance – “And those who, when reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not fall upon them deaf and blind”. The true servants of Allah do not behave like the blind and the deaf towards the Revelations of Allah when they are recited to them for their admonition. They do not turn a deaf ear to their teachings and Message and do not deliberately close their eyes to the Signs that they are asked to observe, but are deeply moved by them. They follow and practice what they are enjoined and refrain from what is forbidden.
  11. Turning to Allah – The most distinctive characteristic of the true servants is their eagerness for prayer to Allah. In verse 65 their “prayer” for their own salvation and in verse 74 their prayer for their wives and children have been cited: “Our Lord, make our wives and children true believers so that they should practice righteousness and become a source of comfort for us.” Their prayer shows that the true servants of Allah are more concerned about the salvation of their beloved ones in the Hereafter than the enjoyment of the world.

There are many other verses in the Quran itself that tell us what kind of qualities we should strive to have to attain Jannah.

Focus on Moderation – Verse 25:67

Today, I want to focus on number 5 – moderation.

Allah SWT also says in surah Al-A’raf verse 31:

O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess. [7:31]

According to Islam extravagance is:

  • To spend even the smallest amount of money in unlawful ways,
  • to go beyond one’s own resources in expenditure even in lawful ways, or to spend money for one’s own pleasure, and
  • to spend money in righteous ways not for the sake of Allah but for mere show.

On the other hand, someone is miserly if he does not spend money for his own needs and requirements and those of his family in accordance with his resources and position, or if he does not spend money for doing good.

Personally, I used to always browse shopping apps on the train to work, or before going to sleep, or even just waiting for a parcel delivery every other day. There was never a night I wasn’t browsing on shopping apps.

Doesn’t help that ZALORA, FashionValet or ASOS keep sending emails and notifications every other hour about another offer. And the thing is, I was well aware of this addiction.

Like, is there still room in my wardrobe for another dress or top? Do I need so many shoes? Do I need so many tudungs? I always have these thoughts, but every time I still hit checkout. Or in some cases try to justify my buying.

But the light at the end of this is: Somehow, once I started growing closer to Allah SWT, by his grace, these urges stopped. Instead of browsing online shops, I’m listening to khutbahs, or talks. Doing something more meaningful with my time.

Now I think back about all the money I spent, could that money instead be used for sadaqah?

I think I’m still a bit poor on giving to charity, either with money or time, but I believe other forms of sadaqah, like treating friends and family to a meal, or sharing food with neighbours are charitable deeds as well.

Debt and Loans

Sometimes in order to buy what we want, we use credit cards or instalment plans. Sometimes we hear of people who own luxurious cars or stay in big houses, and we think of them as rich. But we may not know the actual story. Those luxuries may be paid by credit card, so in a way they are accumulating a lot of debt as they are spending without any cash.

Personally, I had one experience with debt that made me really avoid it at all cost.

A few years back I think around 2012, some of us here had to work and study part-time. So university fees as you know are not cheap. So I took a DBS Cashline loan (don’t do it, it’s a trap) of about $4000. You may think it’s only $4000, but do you know how much I ended up paying the bank? Almost $10,000 with interest. It took me 4 years to clear the debt using money from every bonus I had. After I closed the account I was really relieved of this burden.

In the hadith it said Our Prophet, Nabi Muhammad (PBUH) did take loans from time to time. But in general he was wary of it. He used to make a lot of dua against incurring overburdening debts. Here is the du’a:

اللَّهُمَّ اكْفِنِي بِحَلاَلِكَ عَنْ حَرَامِكَ وَأَغْنِنِي بِفَضْلِكَ عَمَّنْ سِوَاكَ

O Allah [Allahumma] Suffice me with that which is lawful against that which is prohibited. [ikfinee bihalalika an haraamik] and make me independent of all those besides You [Wa aghninee bifadlika am-man siwaak]

In this, we ask Allah Ta’ala to help us pay off our debt using lawful and permissible avenues and not through impermissible resources. And to make us dependent on Allah and no one else.

Du’a for Sustenance

There’s also one more du’a I want to share. This is the du’a to give sustenance, found in Surah Al-Imran verse 26-27:

“O Allah! Lord of power and rule, You give the power to whom You please, You take away the power from whom You please; You give honour whom You please, You humiliate whom You please; all the good is in Your authority. Surely, You have power over everything. You make the night into the day and You make the day into the night. You bring out the living from the dead and You bring out the dead from the living. You give sustenance to whom You please without limit.” (3:26-27)

As we mentioned in our very first podcast, to ask for Allah’s help is to be grateful first so this verse is to encourage gratitude to Allah so that InshaAllah he will answer our prayers and increase our rezeki. InshaaAllah.