Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Me and the Moon

What is it about that beautiful white moon in all its phases that is so mesmerizing? That has enchanted mankind since time immemorial?

I stand under the night sky unable to stop gazing upon the moon. It is as if in the hustle and bustle of my life I had forgotten to stop and look up. As I gaze upon it, the moon almost pulls at my soul. Pulls it toward what is beyond this world. Pulls it to the Eternal, the Ever-Lasting. Suddenly everything under it is put into perspective. This big planet we live on suddenly seems so small.

In one single day, every place on this earth sees that moon. Lost in our busy lives, our stress, our screens....we have forgotten to connect with what is beyond this world. Let us take the time to look up, to gaze upon the moon and the stars. It brings such peace to the heart...

In this dense world, be light...

We live in world that has become so dense and so lifeless.  Roads, concrete, buildings, towers. 

We live in a world where people are imprisoned in their various screens. They don't see people unless they are contained in those screens.

All of the "advances" we have made, haven't made life easier, but absurdly, more stressful.

In all the hustle and bustle, amid all the stress of modern life, choose to stand still. 
Choose to hear that bird chirp, to watch the butterfly flutter its beautiful new wings, to hear the laughter of little children. Take a moment to feel yourself breathe, to send life into every limb and organ of your body. Breathe out all the stress. Your Lord is with you, He knows and He understands.

Find that beauty in this dense world, and take it with you everywhere you go...

Smile at people you pass by.

Ask the grocer, the barista, the security guard how they are doing -- and actually listen to the answer with your entire being focused on them.

Hold the door open for others.

Speak to your neighbours.

Care about people. 

When our cities leave so little life for us to see, we can at least see one another instead of our screens. Be a light person in this heavy, heavy world. Be someone that makes others' days lighter and brighter. 

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Ras al-Shaykh Masood -- Khasab, Oman (Musandam Peninsula)

Recently, we took a trip to Khasab in the Musandam Peninsula of Oman. It is a small piece of Oman separated from the rest of the country, by the UAE and is only about 2 hour (stunning!) drive from Dubai. Once you pass the border, you have mountains directly on your right and the Gulf of Oman immediately on your left...

Khasab is a beautiful little town that still has a rustic, traditional feel to it and is just so tranquil, masha'Allah. It's got mountains, it's got beach; the people are down-to-earth, kind, and friendly...

Khasab Fort


Views from the Dolphin Tour

Searching for where to pray Jummah, a google search gave me a result of an "ancient mosque" with a picture similar to this:

Naturally, this really piqued our curiosity, but the same entry had comments that it was now closed.  Other comments advertised it as being hard to get to, but a "private beach to camp out on". 

We decided to pray at the Sultan Qaboos Masjid and drive here afterwards to see it.  Following the GPS coordinates took us off road and after a point we didn't feel comfortable driving further. We decided to turn back and ask the locals at the hotel if a hike would get us to it.  

When in doubt, ask a local...!  Turns out that it isn't really an "ancient mosque", but the tomb of the patron saint of Khasab/Musandam.  "Ras al-Shaykh Masood" has been a pilgrimage site for locals as far back as they could remember -- nobody could give us a date, but we were told that this maqam has been there since before the Portuguese. The brothers at the hotel discouraged us from driving or hiking with the kids, and instead connected us to a local speedboat that took us twenty minutes around the mountain and brought us to this serene sight off the Gulf of Oman...

The smaller building with a dome (left) is the maqam of Shaykh Masood.
The rectangular building to the right is a small masjid built beside it. 
In front and all around, are graves (likely his family and students).

If you are ever in Khasab or can go, this is a place to visit, without a doubt!  We don't know anything about Shaykh Masood, but anyone who has visited maqams knows that there is a smell and feeling of other-worldly serenity that is common at the resting places of the awliya. Even this faqira had enough of a heart to feel Shaykh Masood's high station with Allah and even our children made comments and asked questions because of what they saw and felt at the maqam. It was the highlight of our trip. Please go and please send our salam.

On the other hand....we did see some campers' tents pitched by the shore... perhaps they didn't realize that all those stones are Muslim grave markers!  We heard that a group that was camping there recently hadn't noticed until at night the one of them that was on watch was throwing his flashlight around when he realized that they had pitched their tents beside a cemetery...he decided to wait till morning to tell the others. When the others woke up and saw the beautiful sunrise they started to talk about staying another night...that's when he told them what he discovered the night before...and they all packed up and bolted!  

Campers: Aside from the spooky factor of sleeping in a cemetery on an unlit isolated beach... it is my humble request that out of respect for this man of God and the deceased, people not come here to party, drink (we found lots of broken glass bottles), and camp...

A small window inside the masjid, looking out.

Door to the maqam of Shaykh Masood.

Inside the maqam of Shaykh Masood.

There is something so beautiful about a maqam that is so simple and so isolated. We have seen some very famous and very ornamented maqams, but the simplicity here was really breathtaking. Sincerity is often found in the greatest simplicity.

*Pictures here are my own and I ask they not be used without my permission*

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Bringing the Mercy of the Messenger to Our Children

Rabi ul-Awal Mubarak!

As we usher in the beautiful month in which our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), the best of creation and mercy to all the worlds was born, let us be joyous and celebrate!

This month is a perfect time to bring the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to life in the lives of our children.  They need him in their lives and in their hearts. To be the guide for them through his sunnah, through salawat, and through a living relationship with him (Allah bless him and give him peace). As Shaykh Yahya once told us, children need someone they love and can follow -- not just fear of punishment.

As a teenager when I knew little about anything, one of the greatest forces that kept me from doing anything I shouldn't was an image deep inside my heart, that if I did something wrong I would cause the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to turn his noble face away from me out of shame. I don't know where that image came from as I didn't grow up in a particularly "religious" home in that sense, but it has always stayed with me and protected me.

Create a family tradition. With little children who are in school, we don't have all that much time during the week, but we've decided we will take 10-15 minutes each night to discuss one attribute of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) as a family and talk about how we can bring it to life in our lives. I've seen some things being passed around online to assist in this. Others I know are doing a nightly mawlid as a family. Others are reading the sira. Depending on your time and family make-up, be creative! Nothing is too little.

We also do little things like dimming the lights, burning bakhoor or putting some light itr or rose water on the children to make them feel like it's a special time. We sing a song together. And we end by having the kids take a moment in silence to feel their hearts and know that Allah is with them and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is with them in their invisible hearts...and he loves them more than anyone in the world. Everyone kisses everyone and we head to bed.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Were it not for your generous gaze,
We would have been left beckoning at the threshold...

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

If you got it, don't flaunt it!

When we flaunt our blessings all over Facebook, Instagram, and the like, 
we are opening them up to the envy and evil-eye of countless people.

If we are truly grateful for them, we will place our foreheads on the ground and thank the One who sent them to us, rather than placing our hands on devices and showing them off to the world like children.

Envy is real.

The evil-eye is real.

And breaking the hearts of those who may not be as blessed, is real. And it invites the Bestower of Blessings to remove them from us...

That is enough to make the heart of anyone who has an inkling of experience as to the fragility of this life, tremble with fear.

Conclusion: Dr. Sax's and My Own (The Collapse of Parenting)

Dr. Sax's Closing Comments

As parents trying to raise our kids right in a culture that is likely to do the opposite. We must:

  • Re-evaluate our values.  Popular culture today no longer values character. It values money and fame. It belittles being "ordinary".
  • Be willing to parent differently. We must be okay with being uncool.
    • Know that our job is to be the authoritative parent not the cool peer -- understand this difference.
Know the challenges and be a wise parent:
  • Culture of Disrespect mingled with Live for Now. 
    • Introduce your children to a more meaningful worldview.
  • Medication in place of tough parenting challenges.
    • Resist the pressure unless it is a last resort.
  • Over-scheduling our children and ourselves. 
    • Take time to smell the roses. Literally.  Teach them that relaxed time with family is far more important than cramming in more activities.
"It is the parent's responsibility not only to feed, clothe, and shelter the child but to acculturate the child, to instill a sense of virtue and a longing for integrity, and to teach the meaning of life according to the parent's best understanding" (Sax 205).

Popular culture has undermined parental authority to do their job and led to an explosion in anxiety and depression for children and teens, and the emergence of a generation of fragile children.

  • Assert primacy of parent-child relationship over peers.
  • Teach your child that every choice they make has immediate, far-reaching, and unforeseen consequences.
  • Teach them the meaning of life as being their truest self -- not their accomplishments, looks or friends.
  • Judge your success as a parent by whether your child is on the path to fulfillment, capable of governing their needs and desires not being governed by them.  Don't look at the number of friends they have, their marks or achievements.
Do not be paralyzed by your own shortcomings. Raising a good person is a mandatory assignment -- you have to do your best despite your shortcomings!

My Final Comments


This is one of the best and most beneficial books I have read. Allah gives wisdom to whomsoever He pleases. This book is full of guidance and wisdom.  I have done my best to summarize and highlight its message as a reminder for myself as I have read the book it will jog my memory, and for Salik who I have been sharing the book with as I read it. However, reading my notes isn't sufficient. Get the book and read it so that you can benefit from it better and learn from its many stories and examples.

On Sax's final point above, I would say this is very true. We are crippled often by our knowledge of our own shortcomings on the path to being virtuous people. But this attitude harms our children. We must constantly strive to be better and share with our children the fact that we are not perfect and that we desire to be better each day. And that we desire for them to be better than us.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Third Thing: The Meaning of Life (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 10)

When students are asked about the purpose of school they generally tell you this:
  1. Work hard in school to get into a good college.
  2. Get into a good college so you can get a good job.
  3. Get a good job so you make good money and have a good life.
BUT in reality, 1 doesn't always lead to 2; 2 is no guarantee of 3; and 3 is by no means a guarantee of a good life.

We need to give our children a greater reason for education. One that doesn't fall apart so easily. One that has room for failure. Why? Because failure is a reality we all face at some point and often it is the springboard for growth on many levels.

School is a preparation for life. And the purpose of life, in Sax's example, is to do meaningful work, to have a person to love, and a cause to embrace.  

Personally, as a believer, I would say the purpose of life is to know ourselves, so that we may know our Lord and worship Him. And the purpose of an education is expand our minds to be able to understand with greater depth, the awesomeness of our Lord, Mighty and Majestic.

The Second Thing: Enjoy (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 9)

Most people will say they enjoy their time with their kids, but when surveyed on a range of enjoyable activities it actually doesn't score very high. Why? Because a lot of parenting is work, but...we need to PLAN FOR FUN. We must have fun with our children.
  • Go out into nature.
  • No devices at mealtime!
  • No headphones in the car.
  • Don't multi-task when you're with your child. BE with THEM! This means we have to try to do less ourselves and have our children doing less. Relaxed family time should not be at the bottom of the barrel of priorities. In North America, we have a culture now of boasting about how busy we are and how much we are doing.
Personally, living in the Middle East, I have to say people here really do enjoy their kids a lot more than in North America. There is something about the structure of society here that allows for that.

The First Thing: Teach Humility (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 8)

When parents are asked what is most important to them and what they are trying to help their children become, they will usually say they want their children to be happy, fulfilled and kind. When asked how they will do that, they usually don't know how to respond. Often fulfillment is confused with success.  When shown that professional achievement isn't a guarantee of personal fulfillment or life satisfaction, they are at a loss for words.

Sax argues that the first thing parents need to teach their children is HUMILITY!

Why? Because humility has lost its virtuousness in our eyes. We have confused virtue with success and the only real sin for so many of us is failure. The reason is that as a society we have come to think of humility as being self-abasing in a false way -- thinking you are stupid when you in fact you know you are smart. This, Sax says, isn't humility it is psychosis or a detachment from reality.

"Humility simple means being as interested in other people as you are in yourself. It means that when you meet new people, you try to learn something about them before going off on a spiel about how incredible your current project is. Humility means really listening when someone else is talking, instead of just preparing your own speechlet in your head before you've really heard what the other person is saying. Humility means making a sustained effort to get other people to share their views before trying to inundate them with yours." (Sax, 160)

The opposite of this he says, is an inflated self-esteem. "The culture of self-esteem leads to a culture of resentment" because when we are met with failure or a lack of recognition, we are angered. (Sax, 162) 

Conversely, "the culture of humility leads to gratitude, appreciation, and contentment" (Sax, 163).

Children today who are taught their own greatness from infancy, lack gratitude and humility. These are the lost virtues they need BEFORE they are met with disappointment so that they know how to handle it.

In the discussion that follows, one thing Sax emphasizes through stories of patients, is that we should have our children do age-appropriate chores.

The topic of humility in our current culture that is dominated by social media is one of great urgency and I am currently finding The Condemnation of Pride and Self-admiration to be an incredibly pertinent read.

Misconceptions (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 7)

In this Chapter Dr. Sax addresses some of the common misconceptions that he has found repeatedly arise in his practice and prevent parents from doing the right thing. He says parents are either too strict, too permissive or just right -- that balance is what needs to be struck!

1) The Rebound Effect

Parents fear that if they force their children to behave "virtuously", then when they have some independence they will go wild and do everything they were prevented from doing.

Longitudinal studies discussed in the previous chapter actually "show that, in general, well-behaved kids are more likely to grow up to be well-behaved adults. Kids raised by more permissive parents are more likely to get into trouble as adults: trouble with alcohol, trouble with drug abuse, trouble with anxiety and depression". (Sax, 140)

2) My Child will be a Social Outcast/Unpopular

Parents fear that if they don't let their children do what most others are doing they will be made fun of, socially outcast, etc.

Sax says there are three assumptions at play here:

  • It's important for my child to be popular. You need to first be clear in your mind about what is a priority for you: raising a good person or a popular one. Being popular today "entails unhealthy behavior and attitudes, beginning with a disregard for parental authority" (Sax 146).
  • It's unrealistic for me to hold my child accountable for behavior outside my home. We must teach our children INTEGRITY. This means they are expected to behave outside of home as they do inside and there is nothing wrong with checking up on your child unannounced to teach them this.
  • Parents should find a balance between "too hard" and "too soft". Yes, but this doesn't mean they have to be either strict or loving. This is a major misconception today. Both things are possible and that balance makes "just right" parents.
Do what is best for your child. Do not concern yourself with what other kids or parents say. 

3) My Child's Disrespect is a Sign of their Independence.

It is NEVER acceptable for your child to be disrespectful to you! They can disagree, but their language and tone cannot be disrespectful.  Use dinner time or car rides to have conversation on age appropriate topics of disagreement and teach them how to RESPECTFULLY disagree.

4) My Child's Happiness is Paramount, Even if Different from My Happiness.

"Pleasure is not the same thing as happiness. The gratification of desire yields pleasure, not lasting happiness. Happiness comes from fulfillment, from living up to your potential..." (Sax, 151). Redirecting your child from pleasures such as video-games or selfies may not be easy or fun, but it is your job as a parent to EDUCATE THEIR DESIRE. They may not appreciate it now or even in five years -- but you're job isn't to win their approval it is to do your job as a parent and help them find and fulfill their potential.

5) If I Love My Child, I Must Trust My Child.

False. The rules of love between adults differ from those of love between parent and child. For instance, don't think your child never lies to you. They want to please you and if they have fallen short of that, they will often lie.

6) If I Follow Your Advice, My Child Won't Love Me.

Your job is to raise your child to be the best they can be and your reward is in knowing that you have done your job well -- not from hugs or words of affection. We often seek love that was unfulfilled in our other relationships, in our children but this often comes in the way of doing what is truly best for them out of our fear of losing that love.

What Matters? (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 6)


After a delay due to the summer holidays and a move overseas, I have finally had the chance to sit down and continue reading the book that I have been just itching to return to -- and I have devoured the second half of the book so quickly, but will try to now summarize some of the highlights here.

Chapter 6 is the first chapter in Part 2 "Solutions" (Part 1 was "Problems").

This Chapter explores the question of what factor measured in childhood and again twenty years later, is the greatest predictor of happiness and overall satisfaction. Sax offers some possibilities to start the chapter off: IQ, grade point average, self-control, openness to new ideas, or friendliness. The result of long term studies and the new understanding (scientifically) that your personality is separate from how smart you are is that the answer to this question is SELF CONTROL.

The five dimensions of personality:

  1. Conscientiousness (self control, honesty, perseverance)
  2. Openness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Emotional Stability
Conscientiousness is the key trait when it comes to predicting happiness and wealth and life satisfaction. (Sax, 117-119).

The chapter is full of studies and examples of why this is proven to be true, even when adjusted for intelligence, race, ethnicity, and education.

I would be reproducing the entire chapter if I was to highlight all the great points made here, the book really must be read. One thing that really stuck out to me was that he says when it comes to smarts, it's better to praise your child's behaviour (that they are working hard) than to link it to their identity (they ARE smart), but when it comes to virtue, it is better to link it to their identity (they ARE kind) because in the first instance they will then fall apart if they don't succeed at something, but in the second, they will identify themselves with those virtues and hold them in esteem.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why Are So Many Kids So Fragile? (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 5)

In the last of the chapters discussing the "problems" today, Sax looks at something that I hear more and more from teachers and professors:
"Many college faculty and staff report a noticeable fragility among today's students. Some describe them as "teacups"-- beautiful, but liable to break with the slightest drop" -- Jean, Twenge, San Diego State University (Sax 93).
  • Fragility has become a characteristic of American children and teenagers to an extent unknown 25 years ago (Sax 99).
    • Unwillingness to work on something they are weak at, in order improve. Instead, they will avoid such situations where they may fail or look weak.
    • Self definitions of greatness resulting in complete breakdowns at the slightest blow to their ego.
"...something inside seems to be missing: some inner strength that we took for granted in young people a few decades back..." (Sax 100).
"I have seen the same process in young adults--more often young men than young women--who come home from college, or drop out of college, to retreat into the bedroom with a computer screen or a video game. That's often the final common pathway which I have observed in twenty-somethings: young people whose dreams don't come true, who then give up, retreat, and return to live with their parents or (if their parents have the means) live separately from their parents but remain supported by their parents." (Sax 100)
  • Phenomenon of fragile young Americans who quit easily and have little ambition has huge economic consequences, but the cause isn't economic it is American parenting.
    • Weak parent-child relationship.
      • Kids need to value their parents opinion first, not that of their peers.
        • A good parent-child relationship is robust and unconditional.
        • Peer relationships are by nature fragile. This is why if emphasis and value is placed on peer opinions, the child will easily break because the relationship of value is inherently weak.
"That's one reason there has  been an explosion in the prevalence of anxiety and depression among American teenagers, as they frantically try to secure their attachment to other teens, as they try to gain unconditional love and acceptance from sources that are unable to provide it." (Sax 105)
  • In other places, people aren't look at as "generations" that creates a gap beween ages. They just do things together as a family.
  • Need for commitment to children in public places -- play areas, highchairs, milk/food, nursing rooms, diaper change stations.
  • Emphasize primacy of parent-child relationship over peers, academics, and other activities.
    • Family only vacations!
  • Connecting with adults should be a higher priority than connecting with peers, academics or activities.
    • Prioritize extended family and close adult friends in the life of the children.
"Part of your job as a parent is to educate desire. To teach your child to go beyond "whatever floats your boat." To enjoy, and to want to enjoy, pleasures higher and deeper than video games and social media can provide. Those pleasure may be found perhaps in conversation with wise adults; or in meditation, prayer, or reflection; or in music, dance, or the arts." (Sax 109).
  •  Educate desire! Teach your values so they don't adopt the values of popular culture!
  • Technology and devices further divide generations and undermine parental authority because then peers/friends know more about "important" things than you.
The Upshot
  • Fight for time with your child even if it means forgoing extra curricular activities so that meals can be had as a family! Attachment is vital and cannot happen if kids don't see parents and spend time with them! Primary attachments should be to parents not peers!
  • Decline in parental authority is directly related to weakening attachments to parents/adults.
  • "Failure comes to us all. The willingness to fail, and then to move on with no loss of enthusiasm, is a mark of character. The opposite of the willingness to fail. When kids are secure in the unconditional acceptance of their parents, they can find the courage to venture and to fail. When kids value the good regard of their peers or their own self-concept above the good regard of their parents, they lose the willingness to fail. They become fragile." (Sax 113)

Why Are American Students Falling Behind? (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 4)

As a teacher, I would say this chapter is very much applicable to Canada as well.

Academic Performance and Creativity  are both on a sharp decline. Why?

  • Over investment in technology (tablets, smartboards, laptops).
    • The best countries (academically) have classrooms that are "utilitarian and sparse" with old fashioned chalk boards.
  • Overemphasis on sports.
  • Low selectivity in teacher training.
  • Culture of Disrespect.
    • Schools seeking to make education cool and fun because it then requires less classroom management.
      • No! Solution isn't to make school an arcade. It's to create a culture where students want to please adults, not look cool to peers!
    • There is a decline in college degrees and critical thinking barely improves over four years even when they do go to college -- the education is mediocre.
"Simply being exposed to American culture in the interval between 2000-2012--the era of Lady Gaga, Akon, Eminem, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus--might have a corrosive effect on rational thinking (Sax 90)
The Upshot

  • Don't jump on the tech bandwagon by being fooled by its proposed "educational value".
  • Inculcate the desire to please adults not peers.
  • Creativity is necessary for success and academic performance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Why Are So Many Kids On Medication? (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 3)

I have been engrossed in this book every moment I have, but haven't had a chance to sit down and share some of the highlights. Here are some of the main points he makes in Chapter 3, entitled "Why Are So Many Kids On Medication". Moreso than the previous chapters, here the statistics and comments made are based on the USA compared to other nations, however, as a Canadian I still found it very useful even if we statistically rank better than our neighbours to the south.
  • I cannot restate the number of alarming statistics he provides in this chapter!
The root of the Problem
  • Not all bad behaviour needs medication.
  • Respect, courtesy, and manners are not longer taught in Kindergarten. This along with the previously discussed "culture of disrespect" means the responsibility of teaching these is (more than ever before) on the shoulders of parents!
Cultural Shift between 1994 and 2003
  • Between these years there was a forty fold increase in childhood bipolar  diagnosis.
    • Doctors who "discovered"  childhood "rapid cycling bipolar" were paid $4million by the drug companies that produced its medication.
  • ADHD, Aspergers, Bipolar all being used for bad behaviour because parents want a quick fix that avoids putting in the work required to change the child's behaviour by asserting authority. This is not the case in Europe -- UK, Germany, Spain.
    • My own thought is that this may also have to do with the growing number of families where both parents are working and are too busy/exhausted/guilty to do this.
  • Sleep deprivation mimics ADHD almost perfectly!!
    • "One of the basic duties of a parent is to ensure that a child gets a good night's sleep..." (Sax 57). The need to assert authority in this regard is most necessary now because of wifi devices that never existed before.
  • Dramatic increase in ADHD is because of "the medicalization of misbehaviour" (Sax 61). Instead of correcting kids' bad behaviour parents are more likely to medicate the child with the hope of fixing behaviour.
    • "We parents in the United States are not doing our job of enculturation, as I explained in Chapter 1. Neither we the parents, nor the schools, nor the TV shows, nor the Internet are adequately teaching Fulghum's Rules, such as "Play fair./ Don't hit people./ Put things back where you found them." As a result: kids born in the United States are now many times more likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, and to be treated with powerful medications, compared to kids living elsewhere" (Sax 61-62).
  • At age 20, medications go up and academic achievement goes down.
The Problem
  • Instead of removing cell phones and laptops from bedrooms to allow for adequate sleep, parents look to brain based explanations that require medications. Why? Because it shifts the burden of responsibility from parents/child to the doctor!
  • It is frightening that medications are being used to modify behaviours!!
    • Long term use leads to being disengaged and less motivated to achieve in the real world, obesity, diabetes...
The Solution
"When the teacher and parents exercise their authority, most students will develop better habits and show greater self-control, because the teacher and parents require it, because they expect it, and because the student really cares what they think" (Sax 68).
What to Do

  1. Command. Don't Ask.
    • ? mark undermines your authority!
    • Sometimes with teens you can offer an explanation -- but it isn't to convince or negotiate.
  2. Eat Dinner with Your Kids.
    • No cell phones, no TV.
    • Each dinner counts! Statistically proven! So don't let anything trump dinner together:
      • Mistaken North American belief in importance of extra-curricular over family time. Family should be a higher priority!
    • Decreases internalizing problems like being sad, anxious, lonely.
    • Decreases externalizing problems like fighting, skipping, stealing.
    • Decreases obesity in the future.
    • Increases likelihood of helping others and being satisfied with life.
  •  Instead of investing the time to correct bad behaviour we are shifting the burden of responsibility to medications that seriously mess up the future of the child in every way (academically, psychologically, emotionally, physically and spiritually)!
  • Family time trumps everything, especially peer-time!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Why Are So Many Kids Overweight? (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 2)

Bismillah. As promised in my previous post on Dr. Leonard Sax's insightful book The Collapse of Parenting, here are some notes on Chapter 2 "Why Are So Many Kids Overweight?".

The number of obese and overweight children are on the rise. Even children who are 'slender' are increasingly unfit compared to their counterparts in decades past. 

Three-fold explanation of why:
  1. What Kids Eat
  2. What Kids Do
  3. How Much Kids Sleep
What Kids Eat
  • It used to be that parents decided on meals and told their children they would get no dessert unless they finished their meal, veggies and all!
  • It used to be that parents enforced a "no snacking between meals" policy.
"Ad lib feeding throughout the day appears to disrupt circadian rhythms, interfering with normal metabolism and disturbing the balance of hormones that regulate appetite" (Sax, p.40).
  • In the culture of disrespect where there is no parental authority, however:
    • the frequency of pizza, potato chips, fries, ice cream and soda have replaced fruits, vegetables, and milk.
    • soda consumption is on the rise, especially in teens
    • fast food consumption has increased by 200% over a couple of decades
  • Even on short car rides home from school, parents pack snacks for their children. Can children not endure hunger for 30 minutes? Will they die of starvation?
"Kids who have never been hungry will grow up to be heavier; yet psychologically they are likely to be more fragile. They haven't learned to master their own needs" (Sax, p.41).
  •  Food choices are the first thing to slide when parental authority is compromised. The ultimatums of previous generations: "no dessert until you finish your broccoli" has morphed into questions like "How about if you eat three bites of broccoli, and then you can have dessert?" or requests for kids to do the parent a "favour" by eating...and the children really believe they've done the parents a favour that must be returned...!

What Kids Do
  • Kids are no longer outside playing, but increasingly watching TV or on some screen inside.
    • In 1965 the average person watched 10.5hrs/week of television. Today, the average 9 year old has 50hrs/week of screen time and the average teen has 70hrs/week of screen time (!!!)
  • Televisions used to be one per household and shared by the family to that it was supervised by parents and often a family pastime. Today, screens are individualized and private, with more and more parents knowing little of what their child is doing or watching on the screen. (Scary!)
  • Turn of your screens! Go outside and play with them! Walk to school or the grocery store!

How Much Kids Sleep
  • Kids' sleep is on the decline. One major factor is screens in the room that distract children and lead them to delay going to sleep.
    • According to the experts this is how much sleep kids need:
      • 2-5 year olds: at least 11 hours a day
      • 6-12 year olds: at least 10 hours a day
      • 13-18 year olds: at least 9 hours a day
    • The majority of kids today cite sleep as their favourite pastime. Why? Because they are sleep deprived!
  • Less sleep leads hormones that regulate sleep to get messed up and confuse our brain in bad ways. It starts to say "I am tired...I need chips, cookies, cake....NOW!".
  • Culture of disrespect is connected to fatter kids because not eating well, not being active/doing chores, sitting at screens. Therefore, the more disrespectful the child, the more likely they are to be fat. There are many studies to prove this.

The Upshot?
Eat Right. Veggies before pizza and ice cream.
Eat Less. Don't supersize. Prepare small servings that need to be completely finished before taking seconds.
Exercise More. Turn off devices. Go outside. Play.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Leonard Sax: The Collapse of Parenting


In a recent talk on nurturing children, Sh. Zahir Bacchus recommended the book The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax. Having previously read Boys Adrift by the same author on the recommendation of Sh. Nuh Keller, I ordered a copy right away. I suggest you do that right now as well!

On the request of Salik, I will post highlights from each chapter when I get the chance, however I highly recommend reading the book itself as it is peppered with real life stories and examples we can learn from.

Chapter One: The Culture of Disrespect

  • The purpose of childhood is to teach children the rules of good behaviour and what constitutes good character in our culture.
    • In North America and Western Europe, schools began to back out of this responsibility in favour of emphasizing numeracy and literacy. Therefore placing the burden of responsibility to teach this culture more so on parents than ever before.
  • The second half of the twentieth century saw the empowerment of the previously disenfranchised: people of colour, women, employees, and children.  While the first three give equality to mature adults, the last one takes away parental authority. Without parental authority, deference to parents is gone.
  • TV shows in the past always depicted parents in a positive role as consistently reliable and trustworthy. Sax examined 150 of today's most popular shows and found that not one of them shows parents in this light -- even on the Disney channel. It is difficult to parent in a culture that is constantly undermining parental authority.
  • Songs used to be loving and positive, now the vulgar ones make it to number one.
  • Look at the messages on shirts: "Do I look like I care?", "Is that all you got?", "Out of your league". I even see little children with shirts like "Too cool for school" or "Dad's the boss, Mom is his boss, and I'm their boss". We laugh these off, but the messages are real and affirming the culture of disrespect all around them. As a high school teacher myself, I am shocked at how much vulgarity students insert into their everyday, casual conversations. They refer to friends or beckon them with curse words, and this isn't taken offensively. A child who is taught to have self-respect could never tolerate this or dish it out -- it's not normal, but for youth today it has become normative.
  • The notion of history being a smooth trajectory of progress is false to say the least. And yet it has trickled into North American society in such a deep seated way that a product need only advertise itself as "new" to be synonymous with "better". This easily transfers to people so that youth is better than being older, which is why elders aren't respected or considered valuable and relevant -- again, undermining parental authority. It's no wonder that North Americans are obsessed with anti-aging products.
"Two hundred years ago, it was reasonable to trust in the future without being utterly stupid. Who can believe in today's prophecies, seeing as we are yesterday's splendid future...'Progress' means, in the final analysis, taking away from man what ennobles him in order to sell him cheaply what debases him."      - Nicolas Gomez-Davila
  • Have fun with your kids. Don't let them opt to spend time with friends instead. "Why? Because having fun together is one of foundation of authoritative parenting in the modern world" (Sax, p.28). If fun is only found with friends, they won't want to spend time with adults. Without that time with adults, the culture of respect cannot be imparted.
  • Parents today want to please their children because of their desire to be loved by them, but this backfires. "The child expects to look up to the parent, to be instructed by the parent, indeed to be commanded by the parent. If the parent instead serves the child, then that relationship falls out of its natural balance" (Sax, p.30)
Upshot of it all? When there is no parental authority, children seek that authority in their peers who are children themselves.



...seeks to eliminate the feminine.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Sh. Yahya on Seeking Knowledge

Bismillah. Alhamdulillah, we were blessed this past weekend with a visit from Shaykh Yahya Rhodus to SeekersHub, and I was able to attend the session on Seeking Knowledge.

Your entire life is learning: either formally or informally.
  • Book Recommendation: Mindset. Speaks about people being of two mindsets: Growth Mindset (belief that we have the ability to change and examining life experiences with this in mind so that we can learn/grow from all experiences) and Fixed Mindset (people who think you cannot change yourself). Our deen, he said, is of a Growth Mindset. Our varying temperaments and personalities will respond differently to various virtues, but we can learn how to attain them by tuning into ourselves.
Importance of foundational learning.
  • Take formal learning and solidify it through informal experiences.
  • We don't learn our  foundations and then never return to them again. As we grow, Insha'Allah, the Ihsan dimension of our faith will help to perfect the Iman and Islam dimensions.
If you don't preoccupy yourself with good, you will be occupied with evil. Don't waste time. Make a schedule. Prioritize learning. Imam Shafi'i said, "make knowledge and excuse for other things, don't make other things an excuse for knowledge".  You will never truly learn until you make knowledge a priority.
  • Slow & steady wins the race! Some examples of how to incorporate learning into your busy day:
      • Keep a book of hadith in your car. Resolve to read one each time you get in the car.
      • A book by your night stand that you read for X number of minutes each night or read X number of pages each night.
      • Listen to a lecture or podcast while you drive. If not the entire time, then at least for ten minutes each time.
  • These are points of contact to stimulate you throughout the day!
Four Components of Learning
  1. Shaykh Fattah. A teacher who can unlock the treasure chest of wisdom for you.
  2. Aql Rajjah. Intelligence/discernment.
    • Think about the knowledge you are learning. Knowledge is a great companion!
    • Always keep a notebook! Take notes, review them within a day or two. When it is full, transcribe it into another notebook or digitize it.
    • We should all have a daily time for reflection. This is the forgotten sunnah!
      • Book of Assistance. Chapter on Reflection. Do the exercises.
  3. Kutb Siha. Correct books.
    • A qualified teacher to guide you in this regard.
    • Respect for the matn (textbook) tradition.
  4. Mudawwama wa Ilha. Perseverance.
    • Fight your nafs! We have energy for tv, but not for books.
    • Consistency is the key to the great station of istiqama (steadfastness).
Allahuma ilma lana illa ma alamtana, rabbi zidni ilma.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Evil Eye and the Blessed Eye

The evil eye is real. Our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught us so and also gave us the prevention and cure for it through the recitation of surah al-falaq and surah al-nas, three times in the morning and three times in the evening. Yet, we hear people obsessed with "nazar", even to the point of paranoia.

My Nanni (Allah be pleased with her) was a very righteous woman, masha'Allah. One day her neighbour saw her and in a bout of frustration, shouted "what is with you? I do so much black magic on you and wish you ill, but nothing works!". Imagine that. Most of us would be frightened to our core! My Nanni? She calmly replied, "I say my five prayers and read Quran and have complete certainty that my Lord will protect me".


Let us also consider however, that if the eye of the evildoer, a heart filled with greed or envy or hate can be powerful, then what about the heart of the wali, a heart that knows Allah?  How powerful is that blessed eye? Should we not then seek to place ourselves at the feet of such people, exposing ourselves to their blessed gazes?

Surrounding Little Ones with Sacred Symbols

Salik and I have always felt that our immediate spaces should be beautiful because of the affect this has on the soul. When we became parents our consciousness of this became heightened as we looked at the impact all things would have on the pure souls presented to us as a trust from our Lord. When I was expecting Salik Junior I remember sitting in the majlis al-dhikr one night and being overcome with the understanding that this baby soon to be in my arms was coming to me from the Divine Presence and it would be my responsibility to remind him of that Origin and protect him from all that seeks to make him forget that Origin.

Our sensory experiences should not be belittled. As a high school teacher I see how much young people fill their souls with images, sounds, and other sensory experiences with no regard to the impact of these on their heart, and on their soul. They are unaware of the damage they do to themselves and of how much work in the Path is required to undo this damage.

Salik and I were speaking a few days ago to one of the fuqara who has a toddler and he also mentioned that he believes it is so important to surround their little girl with the symbols of worship. Indeed we do this as well. Exposing children to musallas, misbahas, Quran, dhikr, sacred art, and awliya from a young age will, insha'Allah, have a profound affect on their souls because these are the formative years of their lives. Placing these things in their rooms and in our homes is important.  Think of a song your parents played when you were a child and the affect of that song on your heart when you hear it now.

There's something about those early years.

May Allah protect all children from that which distracts from their true purpose. Ameen.