Fulfilling Our Destiny is Like Surfing the Waves

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Every living thing has an ideal destiny, because God created us to grow, learn, enjoy life, and improve our intellect, so that we may understand Reality, just like He wants the flowers to bloom. God made every living being with a blueprint of its true nature within its DNA. Sometimes flowers wilt, sometimes people become depressed, but that is not their true nature. Some kind of deficit has occurred, like lack of rain prevents the flower from living up to its natural potential. Unlike flowers we have choices, and the moral responsibility for those choices. We also have human rights.

In Islam, a woman has the moral responsibility for the spiritual status of herself, and her children. On the Day of Judgment a man will however be asked about the level of his wife’s faith. A woman will not be held morally responsible to the same degree if her husband went astray. That is because man has a degree of power over his wife that she doesn’t have over him, by nature. A parent only has moral responsibility up to a point. When the child becomes of age, he is responsible for his own choices. Prophet Noah (as) had to go through the heartbreak of enduring a disobedient son and then, he had to live with the knowledge his son had drowned in the Flood. What a terrible burden! But Allah relieved him of that burden. 

He (God) said, “O Noah, in fact, he (your son) is not a part of your family. Indeed, he is (a man of) bad deeds. So do not ask Me something of which you have no knowledge. I exhort you not to be among the ignorant.” (Quran 11:46)

Allah said it is ignorance to love and consider as family a man of bad deeds. The most sacred bonds such as between a parent and a child can be destroyed by bad deeds. When we continue to pray for something in a relationship that is not possible, we are living in ignorance. Yet, at other times, when we should be doing something quite possible, but we did not make the effort, we are also living in ignorance. How do we know if a situation is salvageable? How do we know when to give up on a person or whether to try harder to reach them? As long as we are acting from ego, we will never know.

Even our Prophet (s), as an example for us, asked for protection against his own ego, even for the blink of an eye; although he is perfect and preserved from sin by God, he taught us to be careful of our own egos. Prophet David (as) used to follow his prayers with supplications begging forgiveness for the inadequacy of his previous prayers, in case there was any pride mixed in for having performed them.

Every struggle, whether a relationship problem, cancer, or a war, presents us with opportunities to learn and grow, and to purify our souls. There is a special dwelling place in Paradise for those who are able to praise God in every circumstance no matter what. We will always experience hardship and loss and fear. Our ego can get in the way and make us afraid to take risks or conversely, make us react emotionally and destructively. Real devils will interfere in our lives and zap our ability to understand what’s going on.

Everyone has something that they are destined to fulfill in this life. Sometimes we stop the process of our own growth and degrade ourselves; sometimes we allow someone else to degrade us – because we have been allowing our ego to cover up the Truth deep inside that God wants us to be happy and healthy. It’s a delicate balance we must maintain, and it has to move with every wave, like a surfer. But if we can maintain that balance within, we can then with a clear head make the best decision for what will help us blossom in our true lives.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) said the struggle will go on until the Day of Judgment, like the ocean waves. There will never be a time when we don’t have to face trouble and make decisions about how to deal with these challenges. Until we get our own egos under control, we will face the same trouble over and over and over, regardless of how many times we run away from our problems.

All human beings are in a state of total confusion until we accept Grace. Verily all men are in a state of loss! Except those who accept that sunshine and rain from the sky, and share this Truth with others. They are the ones who can bloom. They are the ones who have learned to collect Power from the universe, circulate it within, and emit Light. They are the glowing ones.

When you see someone who is glowing, you know they are not wasting their day nursing resentments, you know they are keeping their minds clear and clean. They probably have a regular spiritual practice, because glowing takes regular practice. It doesn’t just “happen” just like music doesn’t just “happen.” Unless a musician regularly exercises the tiny muscles in his fingers, he will not be able to play you a song, let alone put feeling into that song. We must constantly work on perfecting ourselves, but we will never be perfect. We can never give up trying to be the best we can be, because that is the whole point of our life’s journey.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer.

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Parenting in America

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

There is a lot of uncertainty within the Muslim community about how to raise righteous children, given all the choices available within American society. How do we raise children who are honest, responsible, well mannered, never use bad language, are faithful friends, get good grades, and are not only polite but helpful with authority? Is it possible to raise children without any emotional problems and without any interest in drugs or alcohol or sex?

Sometimes immigrant parents try to be too strict, and then when that doesn’t work out, they simply give up and let their children be free like an adults. But did they even try to give clear guidance?

Children learn mostly through observation. The most important time to give a child a sense of moral responsibility is before the age of 5. After that, it’s all talk.

The “attachment parenting” philosophy of parenting gives babies their full Islamic rights. Two years or more of breastfeeding, and sleeping with the mother until weaning time. It is a huge personal sacrifice for the adults involved, but this will give children the foundation of confidence. No matter what else we did wrong, we can know that our children had plenty of skin contact with their mother at the most important time in their lives. They never have to doubt whether or not they are loved.

Skin contact with the mother at an early age will help prevent promiscuity in preteens and teens. I believe that most young (and older) people who irresponsibly search for a “friend” to give them comfort were denied a sense of comfort within their home life. If their parents’ love was conditional, they will search for unconditional love anywhere they hope they can find it. But if they don’t have a healthy example, they will likely never find true love.

Feelings do matter. If we cross the boundary of respect with our children (yelling at them), it is vital to always apologize and make friends again. It is emotional abuse to let children go to sleep feeling hurt and angry. Never expect them to just cheer up and accept abuse. Never call names.

Some children have strong fears of death due to emotional isolation and deep thinking. It is scary to imagine not existing anymore. Studying religion can just make them even more afraid of death and hell. Yet, it is so easy to help a child overcome this fear. If a child is having panic attacks, give him a hug!!! There is only one cure for fear. LOVE.

Truth matters. Never lie to your children. Don’t promise them things you don’t deliver, and that includes threats. Don’t make empty threats. When you promise something good, do it. If you cannot do it, apologize and explain. Be consistent. Don’t create surprises.

If we don’t give our children clear rules, it will be hard for them to take us seriously. We cannot leave our children alone to deal with this total emotional crisis of living in this world! If the child is seriously confused and then breaks the rule, he won’t understand the punishment. After that, we still have to protect the child in every way! We have to talk to our children about how to behave appropriately, and why.

If you want your children to be different from most children, never allow any TV station in your home. They will be exposed to TV programs at other people’s homes and this will help them keep in touch with what other people are thinking, but if they are not exposed to the continuous advertising and moral corruption of the TV at home, they will possess freedom of thought. They won’t have this need to be “sexy” or buy certain things, that young people usually learn they need to attain in order to be acceptable to society.

Above all, be home. Make huge personal sacrifices in order to be at home despite all odds. Being home makes a huge difference in children’s lives. If you are simply there, but teach them that you are not always available to serve them, they will have to learn how to cook and clean in reasonable amounts in order to help you get your work done. Any work they do adds to the strength of their family and home. This gives them a sense of accomplishment. The family must operate as a team effort!

This is so much more important than making huge demands on children that are often not moral or practical demands. Many parents waste huge amounts of money and energy forcing their children to learn how to ice skate (for example) instead of giving them the choice about whether or not they even want to ice skate.

Structured activities are not always necessary. Children really need time to do whatever they want to do. One must to steer them away from computer games and cartoons, of course; but once we deny them those options, they start being creative. They start making things with Lego’s or planting seeds in the garden or reading books. Sometimes they choose to do chores for small amounts of money.

Children suffer a lot when their parents are always driving them from this place to that place for all these structured activities. They need time to be left alone to do what they want in the home. Many children become exhausted from all these activities that are based on giving parents more free time without them.

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