our faith, our feelings, our hearts

When you think of eemaan (faith), think of “heart-sense.” The foundation of our emaan begins in the heart–with the speech of the heart, and the actions of the heart. The speech of the heart is it’s acknowledgement and affirmation that there is none worthy of worship but Allah. The action of the heart is the next step–it is when the heart overflows with submission, love, hope, and fear of Allah. From this starting point, when our tongue speaks or our body acts, they do so with this “heart sense” already in place.


So many times we live our lives on the surface level only. Our tongues speak, our limbs act, and yet the heart is silent and still. We do this with our friends and family, when we interact with them absent-minded and distracted. We do this with our lord, when we stand and bow like empty shells, lacking any sense of heart during our worship. We weren’t created this way. On the contrary, we were created with hearts that were pure and full of instinctive connection with Allah and with others around us. We came into this world truly feeling and embodying every moment from the depths of our heart. We quickly learn to shut down that heart-sense and create a shell of insincerity around us.

Here’s the amazing thing about kids, though: they are still pure and so their heart-sense radiates forth in everything they do. When they gaze with wonder at the heavens, their heart knows that this is the mark of their Creator. When they put their arms around you, those are not only arms holding you; it is a clasp that starts out from the depths of their hearts.

I realize this when my kids settle in for bed every night. I’m worn down and wanting to shut the light, offer a half-hearted “Love you!” and be done with it. I’m old and jaded, and my body is used to acting on auto-pilot without the heart-sense to guide it. Not for the kids.

When Abdullah hugs me, it’s with a hug so deep and an “I love you mama, sooooo much” that is so earnest it can’t be faked. And on cue, Zaynab calls out from her bed and there is always a catch in her voice, a crack. “I love you, Mama.” It’s a feeling so big she doesn’t know what to do with it, so her body shows her heart on it’s sleeve with that tremble in the voice as she speaks it.

I think about this now. How often do I ask my kids to betray their heart-sense and live inauthentically? It might be the time they are upset at something seemingly trivial and my response is to distract and deny: “Oh, come on, that’s not something to worry about; let’s do this instead.”

What if instead, I responded by going deep down to the heart-sense? “That really upset you. You are shaking. You must have been really hurt by what your friends did.”

If we abandon engaging the heart-sense with our children, it becomes harder for us to engage them in issues of faith. Over time, as we push away real feelings and anything that seems uncomfortable or awkward, our kids become jaded just like us. You see this when they start to not show the same enthusiasm that they did when they were younger, preferring instead to give a shrug and nod of the head. When you try to talk about virtues like courage and love, empathy and eeman, they are often hesitant and out of touch with these feelings. Often times, children don’t have the words to describe how they feel, because they haven’t been given ample opportunity to name and identify feelings in a non-judgmental way.

Eemaan is deeply tied in with emotion and feeling–in fact, true eemaan is rooted in a deep love for Allah, a fear of his punishment, and a hope for his reward. You can’t choose to ignore the heart-sense in some areas of life and then expect it to blossom in others. We need to encourage a heart-sense in both areas of life: in our dealings with our Lord, and in our dealings with our fellow humans.

Questions to ask ourselves would be:

“Am I focusing on outward appearances here, or on the khushoo’ (humility) of the heart?”

“Is my tongue the only thing moving, or is my heart being moved?”

“Am I comfortable talking about my inner life?” This includes eemaan, love, hope, and fear of Allah, as well as the myriad human emotions that we experience regularly.

You see, when you shut down any discussion on internal feelings with your children due to your discomfort, it becomes hard to discuss eemaan and taqwa. These things are deeply personal aspects of us that require great trust and courage to be vulnerable enough to share this inner life with others. If you are consistently brushing off, invalidating, and shutting down the conversation regarding feelings in your home, you simply can’t expect to have an open discussion regarding faith.

Advertisements

What are we doing to create Muslim thinkers that can see past a secular mindset?

By now you’ve heard of the obscene statements by Amina Wadud calling Prophet Ibrahim a “dead beat dad” because he left his wife and infant in the desert under God’s own command.

I don’t need to waste your time refuting this statement or discussing what a piece of work Wadud is. But don’t pat yourself on the back, either.

What we do need to talk about are the ways that we, well meaning teachers and parents, allow for this type of thinking to evolve. We are unwittingly sending our own children on this destructive path if we do not make major reforms in our pedagogy.

You may recall my discussion on children’s literature and secular thinking (refresh your memory here: http://bit.ly/2pNh023)

This early stage of life is where the problem starts–it’s when a child or youth learns about the world in terms of what she can see and think about. She’s not reading stories about relying on God’s plan, she’s reading stories that are devoid of any mention of God. She’s studying science texts that describe natural phenomena without delving into the creator of those phenomena. The student learns to be an analytical thinker, someone who can look at the world around him and logically analyze issues from language, literature, to science and sociology.

We think that a once-a-day Islamic Studies class is enough to remedy this, provided the child is privileged enough to be in an Islamic School.

We are telling this child to think, to analyze, to make inferences, to use “critical thinking” and be an independent thinker, and yet we haven’t given him the proper tools with which to do this within a theological framework.

We have enculturated the child in a completely secular humanist framework, so when he reads the Qur’an, he’s got those secular humanist lenses on. We prioritized this paradigm his whole academic life–is it any wonder that some of these kids completely lose the plot and grow up to be of the same mindset of the Amina Waduds of the world?

Do we think that we are so intellectually and spiritually superior that we have somehow inoculated our children from this mindset with little to no effort on our part? Can we possibly be this naive? Are a few sessions a week of an “Islamic Studies class” that is essentially fun-and-games time, plus the memorization of surahs they don’t know the meaning of, enough to create a whole worldview by which the student can then understand everything around her?

Meanwhile, they are receiving secular educations that will enable them to enter college and do any field of their choosing.

And lest you think that this secular education is merely for the purposes of employment, you must understand that everything has a worldview attached. And nature abhors a vacuum. If you fail to fill the mind of the child with the Islamic worldview and integrate this worldview into every single subject, then the natural consequence will be for the child to adopt secular norms and attitudes towards the world.

I tell my kids that our Islamic lens is like a pair of sunglasses that we have on all the time that affects how we perceive the world around us. This lens is comprised of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and everything that we hear, read, or see passes through this filter before it reaches us.

Where people go wrong, I try to explain to them, is when they put on other glasses first. It might be the glasses of their own cultural upbringing. It might be the ideas derived from their own logical analysis. Then these people will go read the Qur’an and Sunnah with the wrong glasses on, and start to understand the Qur’an according to their own preconceived notions.

I think most of us understand this analogy and yet what we lack is application, on the individual, family, and community level. This is beyond the scope of this post, but I hope to start reflecting on this more as an educator and parent. How do you propose we approach children’s education so that they do not develop a divided mindset of religious on one side, secular on the other?

Follow other posts at: #meriumnotesandthoughts andthemuslimeducator.wordpress.com.