“If God made everything, the sun, the trees, the Earth, then … who made God?” “Where was I before God made me?” Zaynab, my five-year-old daughter, has been asking questions about faith, God and her purpose in the world at an ever-increasing rate. She is at that amazing, tender age where her universe of possibilities is expanding at lightning speed. . . . As a parent, my struggle is to preserve that innocence and keep her faith experience as joyful and wondrous as it is now. I realise, though, how difficult that is going to be.
Like children of all faiths, she is beginning to appreciate the other-worldly elements of her worldly experience—revelling, for example, in the Muslim belief that an angel sits on her left and right shoulders, hastily jotting down everything good and bad she does. She loves that God is omnipresent, protecting her from harms she does not even know exist. She loves that everything, even the seemingly meaningless, falls into a coherent, meaningful whole.
As a parent, my struggle is to preserve that innocence and keep her faith experience as joyful and wondrous as it is now. I realise, though, how difficult that is going to be.
I remember when I was her age. It was an exhilarating time of innocence and vulnerability. But I also remember when, for me, those questions about faith became more confused.
I dread the day Zaynab asks, “Why do they hate us?”
In mid-December, subway ads appeared depicting the World Trade Center towers in flames on 9/11 with a quote taken out of context from the Qur’an: “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers.”
These ads grabbed headlines and seeped their way into the public space—spaces where our kids can easily encounter them.
This rhetoric makes the world far more complex for Muslim American children like Zaynab than for those of us who grew up in earlier generations. However, in teaching her about her faith, my starting point is the same one my parents used for me, and that religious parents everywhere use for their children: a deep-seated knowledge that God is present—all the time, all around us.
As a teenager, that fundamental lesson helped me fend off the same temptations many of my peers succumbed to.
And in the days, weeks and months after 9/11, that certainty in God’s existence helped me make it through. I knew Islam’s teachings had been perverted by terrorists keen on twisting them to serve their own political ends.
God’s omnipresence is also the reason I continued to feel safe and confident, even as strangers stared at me, suspicious of the headscarf I wore at the time.
I want my daughter to have that same certainty.
As a Muslim American parent, I have unique struggles in the post 9/11 landscape. But like parents of any faith, I want my daughter to find in her faith a place of comfort and security, a refuge from harshness.
This is not a path I walk alone. I have learned from my friends and colleagues of other faiths that we share this struggle to raise our children in a nurturing spiritual framework. Each of us faces our own challenges, but sharing with one another, and learning from each other, may well help us all to create that safe refuge for our children.
Asma T. Uddin is Editor-in-Chief of AltMuslimah.com. This article was originally published on the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Image credit: FarazKhanArtStudio.com