Friday, March 21, 2008

Challenges of young Muslim families: Making Masjids more relevant

By Guest Blogger Arif Shaikh

As other young Muslim families can maybe attest to, young children can give you both a positive, as well as a negative hit to your iman (faith). The joy and excitement of a newborn baby is a source of great inspiration and you can’t help but feel immense gratitude to Allah as a result. However, in addition to spiritual high that comes with parenting, many challenges also arise. For instance, taking part in community programs, going to the masjid (mosque) regularly, and other activities that were part of normal life before, become burdensome. In most cases, its simply the adjustment that causes the difficulties – looking after the needs of a child which is helpless, lack of sleep, new schedules to juggle with, etc.

My wife and I recently had our second child, al-hamdulillah (all praises are due to God Almighty). Since we are supposedly more experienced, we are trying to avoid some of the pitfalls we experienced with our first child, including, amongst other things, getting back to normalcy sooner. We have tried, on a few occasions, to attend masjid activities, and, I have come to some realizations that I wanted to share. I want to preface by saying that we are very blessed to have several masjids in my area which are fabulous. I genuinely enjoy and appreciate the work that our community members are doing to provide such great services to our community. One area of improvement, I believe, is that we need to make our masjids more friendly for young families, to encourage them to attend the masjid.

Babysitting needs to be overhauled.

The way babysitting has always been in the masjid, is to have some wonderful volunteer moms spend a couple of hours with a roomful of children, give them pizza, and hope that they don’t tear each others’ limbs off. Now, its great that we even have this service, as I’m sure not every community does. I think we can do better, however. I would think most parents wouldn’t mind paying for babysitting, if there were qualified professionals watching the children, providing them with beneficial, enriching activities.

In one particular masjid, I was fearful of leaving my three-year-old son in the babysitting environment. There were children of all ages, as young as one to as old as 13, all in the same room. The only “babysitting” was when a volunteer mom would yell at kids and threaten to kick them out of the room.

Now, to be fair, the blame is not on that mother, or the masjid, even. It is the responsibility of our community as a whole to expect, and demand excellence. We should all take part in committees to help improve our programs, and have babysitting not simply be a place where we “dump” our children so we hear a lecture; but rather, a place where our children can benefit, and gain an appreciation of coming to the masjid.

Relevant programming

In addition to the babysitting issue, another area of improvement is the actual programming our masjids provide. In order to encourage young families to continue to attend masjid events, the programs and activities must reflect their needs. For example, some relevant topics to address include:

- Balancing family life and din
- The perfect Islamic marriage
- Parenting in Islam
- The Prophet (pbuh)’s relationship with his family

Additionally, a special emphasis should be given to the unique needs, concerns, and issues faced by young Muslim mothers. Some of these issues include:

- Balancing motherhood and school/career
- Choosing the right school for your children
- Islamic education at home

These are just some thoughts I had on this topic, which is definitely more involved. May Allah reward the people who established our masjids, and allow our communities to continue to grow to meet the needs of our community.


Anonymous said...

thats a perspective a person with kids can offer. would never have contemplated this, but then again dont have kids. Thanks for sharing.

Yesi King said...

yeah i couldn't agree with you more. thanks for the post:)