Estimated reading time: 19 minute(s)
by Fudia Muhammad
The moment a couple realizes they have conceived, their innate instinct is to do anything within their power to protect the new life. The need to protect our children is an intensely powerful drive that really never goes away; particularly for mothers – though we have to keep it in check as our children get older. When our children are little, all of those first milestones are celebrated and welcomed – their first time rolling over, their first tooth, their first words, their first steps; being potty trained, their first day of school, taking the training wheels off the bicycle…you get the idea. Then, they get a little older and all those firsts now produce anxiety and trepidation for parents – their first cell phone, their first time driving, their first job, their first fight, their first unsupervised outing with friends…goodness!
I am sure that if parents were told they could keep their children in a protective bubble until adulthood and somehow, they would still come out sane and well adapted, we would have quite a bit of takers. Unfortunately, no such cocoon exists. The scope of our duty as parents is to prepare our children for adulthood. And since our children do not live with us in isolation, we know they will certainly develop relationships outside of the home. However, these friendships do not have to be scary for parents. In fact, they should be encouraged because the right friendships can be helpful and exceedingly valuable.
As our children approach their adolescent and teen years, the influence of their peers will rival the influence of their parents. This can be particularly challenging for the children of Believers because the vast majority of the world practices a lifestyle contrary to the one in which they are being reared. And quite honestly, it is not easy being different during your youth. This is a time in everyone’s life when the opinion of others matter. And the peers who matter most to our children are those who are most like them; same race, same gender, same age. This reality makes it crucial that the primary friendships for children of Believers be with the children of other Believers. The Holy Qur’an reads, “Only Allah is your Friend and His Messenger and those who believe, those who keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and they bow down”(5: 55).
We all benefit from having genuine strong friendships throughout our lifetime. But at the juncture of our lives when the thought of being left out may cause one to make poor choices with lasting consequences; it is even more important that those friendships be with young people who have a similar way of life, faith, intention, and mission. Our children’s friendships are simply more important than we may realize. Children are not excluded from universal laws and truths. When two persons who have diametrically opposed viewpoints, goals, values and ideas of morality become “friends,” their relationship can only be sustained within that framework for a short period of time before one of two things eventually has to happen. Either, one friend will have to adopt the other’s way of life; or the friendship will end – it’s that simple, birds of a feather flock together.
When our young Brothers and Sisters in the Nation of Islam go out into the community dressed in their sharp suits and beautiful garments, heads literally turn. Overwhelmingly, the response, particularly from our people, is one of respect, gratitude and admiration. There is nothing like the sight of well-dressed young Brothers and Sisters serving the community and being an example!When these young Brothers and Sisters are out inpublic together, we witness that they walk with more confidence, ease, security and enjoyment because, even though their attire and purpose is not the norm,there is strength in numbers. This is especially the case for our young Sisters, who choose to dress modestly and wear the headpiece; which unmistakably identifies the wearer as a follower of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. It takes a lot for our young girls to proudly step out in the garment solo; but put seven or eight of them together and watch them exude added confidence and pride, feeding from the power of the sisterhood.
Unfortunately, parents cannot make friends for their children. When our children are little we can set up playdates and outings; but as they get older, the most we can do is encourage good choices and help with arrangements and resources. This effort can also be fostered if the entire family attends the mosque or church together; along with other affiliated activities. Righteous families have to make a better effort of being around each other more often. As the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote, “Seek first the friendship of your own people.”
This is just one reason why it is so important to have a god-centered school in your city where natural friendships can develop. But whether that exists or not, as parents we have the right and a duty to inquire about the dynamics of all their friendships. And when necessary, as long as our children live under our roof, we still have a measure of control and should exercise it by forbidding those “friendships” that are clearly unhealthy.
We have to check-in regularly with our children and see if their friendships are honest enough to correct one another when needed; and strong enough to encourage righteous conduct. If so, they are fortunate because having friendship with others who are striving the same as them reduces stress, protectingtheir mental health. Teenagers are not going to come to their parents for everything; but it should give parents comfort to know they have positive friends to confide in – a peer who can relate to their difficulties and challenges. It is not necessary for our children to have a lot of friends, but the righteousness of those friendships is the key.
Have you ever noticed how happy teens and children are when they are with their friends? Quality friendships play a pivotal role in boosting happiness, developing self-confidence and solidifying a sense of belonging. We cannot stop our children from maturing to social beings, so let’s promote friendships that encourage healthy lifestyle habits, academic success, pursuit of their purposesand a love of God. Children are never too young to know the reality of God and His Messenger.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was asked about friendship during an interview. In part, he said, “Take Allah. Allah is—only Allah and His Messenger. Well, we know those Two. They have given us a supreme act of friendship. We know the Qur’an is right. ‘Only Allah and His Messenger are your friends and those who believe.’ But the question is who are they? So, in such a time of trial as this is and the sorting out that is going on, soon we will be able to unite believer with believer and we would know that the believer is the friend of the believer.”
(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.)