Estimated reading time: 21 minute(s)
by Fudia Muhammad
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said that growing up, he believed that his older brother, Alvan, was their mother’s favorite. Alvan was dark-skinned like their mother so he believed this similarity made their bond tighter. Likewise, he would later learn that his brother believed that the Minister was their mother’s favorite because his skin complexion was much lighter, which was often preferred. It is probably safe to assume that she favored them both, equally.
Children cannot help but notice the obvious differences between themselves and others, particularly their siblings. They are constantly comparing and competing with one another. Therefore, if a parent overtly or even subtly differentiates treatment in any way and their children pick up on it, they will believe that favoritism exists. This will likely be based on noticeable superficial differences – gender, birth order, skin complexion, talent, height, etc. Most children do not look beyond the surface to analyze why there may have been a different reaction to what appeared to be the same behavior.
Let’s be honest, some parents do have favorites. Is this wrong? Or, is it natural to have a favorite? Is it possible to have a favorite without showing overt favoritism? Can we love equally and yet still have a favorite? As parents, we have tremendous power and influence over the lives of our children – these precious beings are from God, but He gives us authority and responsibility over them. In this preeminent role, Allah (God) authorizes us to serve as His ‘khalifah’ or successor. So daily, parents are required to make decisions and judgments concerning their children. We can answer the aforementioned questions by studying the words and the example of Our Father.
Does Allah (God) have favorites? According to the scriptures, yes He does; but not in the way we may commonly think about being one’s favorite. Allah (God) never treats those who are not favored by Him unjustly. His judgment is always right and exact. And those who are favored by Him are chosen for a divine purpose, which often includes more responsibility and more trials. Allah (God) does not favor us based on our wealth, our status, degrees conferred, our beauty or even our religion. The Book of Isaiah reads, “‘Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord. ‘These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word’ ” (66: 2, NIV)
Sometimes Allah (God) grants blessings and favors to some and not others to test both parties – and sometimes it is simply an expression of His Mercy. Throughout the Holy Qur’an and Bible we read of those receiving favor from Allah (God) for various reasons. It is important to remember that His decisions are never arbitrary – every favor granted, blessing bestowed, prayer answered, means amplified or rank elevated are all essential to His Master Plan. This does not excuse us from striving to position ourselves to be among His elect.
The Holy Qur’an opens with the oft-repeated prayer in which the supplicant closes with these words, “Guide us on the right path, The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.” According to Islamic scholars, Allah (God) favors the prophets, the truthful, the faithful and the righteous. It is in this path that the Believer should strive to walk in order to be favored by God. This is the purpose of Allah (God) raising messengers and prophets. They come to teach us the “Will of Allah (God) and to give us the privilege and the opportunity to submit our Will to do the Will of Allah (God) and come into favor with Allah (God).”
In a similar vein, if parents express favor it should be based on righteous behavior – respect, obedience, discipline, hard work and other favorable attributes. Unfortunately there are in fact parents who have favorites based on the superficial – skin color, gender, athletic ability or the like. There is no justification for this; it is improper and unjust. Indiscriminate favoritism can produce jealousy; and can even lead to envy and hatred. If our parenting practices are justified, then when our children reach the age where they are able to properly weigh cause and effect, we should take the time to explain our decision-making process. This way, our children are clear which actions reap punishment and which qualify for reward. Allah (God) handles us in a like manner. How can we strive to seek His favor if we are ignorant of what pleases Him?
It takes a conscious effort, but every child should know that they are undeniably loved, regardless to whether a favorite exists. Parents, especially mothers have a unique capacity to effortlessly love multiple children. Allah (God) expands her breast to love equally regardless to how different each child may be. Ultimately the unique differences of our children will garner proportionate responses. But if we were asked to choose between our lungs and our heart, we could not do it – both are vital. We require a beating heart as much as we need functioning lungs. Just the same, a loving mother cannot choose between her children, no matter their flaws – each is a part of her. Each child has strengths and challenges; skills and burdens – but each demonstrates functions and responsibilities that are integral to the balance of the family unit.
We may be familiar with the Biblical story of the brothers, Cain and Abel. The Bible reads, “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast” (Genesis 4:4, NIV). Although God does not explain his decision, He does give Cain a chance to be accepted if he “does the right thing.” Of course, Cain is overcome by his anger and instead, kills his brother. Cain and Abel were the children of Adam and Eve; but at this point, they were not children – they were adults, well over 100 years old. Envy led to murder. Even as an adult Cain could not handle his brother’s offering (actions) being favored over his; he saw it as a personal rejection.
If an adult could not handle what “appeared” to be a rejection without explanation, it is unlikely that a child would fare any better. Allah (God) was clearly testing Cain. However, if we are not intentionally testing our children, then we should help them in any way we can to understand our decisions. We have to listen to our children if they express feelings of rejection, abandonment, anxiety or pain. No child should feel unloved – real or perceived – by his or her parents. If there is a favorite and it is apparent to everyone; then as parents, we need to examine, analyze and correct how we parent. We may not be able to help having a favorite; but those close to us should be none the wiser.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) clearly had a favorite amongst his wives. A’ishah was reportedly his favorite. But Allah (God) warned him not to be “disinclined (from one) of them with total disinclination, so that you leave her in suspense.” In other words – don’t make it so obvious to the others that they are not the favorite.
Parents who practice extreme favoritism could be charged with abuse – nothing good comes from extreme favoritism. We must strive to be fair and just as parents, knowing that we will inevitably fall short. When we fail and our failure is pointed out, let’s humble ourselves – acknowledge our wrongs, then work to repair any damage that may have resulted. With the help of Allah (God) the pain inflicted will not leave any permanent scarring.
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)