Parents Oppressing their Children: Passing the Boundaries of Islam
(Part 1) (Total 3 parts)



It is easy to read about how Islam condemns oppressing others, yet not looking at our own parenting skills to see if we have done this to our own children in the name of "it's for their own good". Even animals know when they have been abused and oppressed. It is something that has been given to us by Allah to keep checks and balances to distinguish between right and wrong. 

If we mistreat an animal we know that there will be some trait in the animal that is dysfunctional. Whether the animal becomes withdrawn and submissive or angry and dangerous. From tigers to guard dogs when we oppress anything that has Allah-given rights, we have transgressed all bounds.

Looking at ourselves as parents we may not realize this because of the way we were raised. We may have a subconscious tendency to treat our children the same way. Many of us as children made secret little oaths that we would never do to our children what our parents did to us, yet find ourselves parenting in the same way. We have learned from our parents that following our desires is acceptable.

In order to feel better, e.g. if we are angry we can take it out on those who are "under" us, forgetting that we will be held accountable for every action we take and only wanting to "feel better" at any cost. The Prophet (PBUH) says "None of you is a true believer until Hawaa (desire) is in accordance with what I have brought forth."

Oppression is wrong no matter what the case may be. "It is said that Al-Hawaa is a hidden trap that one must not feel secure from. Ash-Sha'bee said "It is called Hawaa because it throws down its adherent." In its general and unrestricted meaning, it demands ready pleasure without thinking about the outcome."

Many times parents who had been oppressed end up one of two ways. Living out the promises to themselves and breaking the cycle of oppression (with Allah's help) while raising their children, or continuing the revolving door syndrome of the oppressed becoming the oppressor. How do we oppress our children? What acts could fall under oppression? 

1. Displaced verbal abuse: Being a parent, especially these days can be stressful. Many times the father comes home after a bad day at work and starts yelling at his wife. In turn, the mother becomes stressed out and yells inappropriately at her children and then the children end up taking it out on each other and the family guard dog. It is a horrible circle of oppression that most people accept as "normal" in families.

Of course, Allah knows why we are behaving this way: "And heal the breast of a believing people, and remove the anger of their. Hearts."(Holy Qur'an 9:14)

Though people make mistakes, this kind of displaced aggression is really a form of oppression. To oppress someone is to treat them unfairly and unjustly for personal satisfaction. We cannot believe that this kind of continual oppression will not have an effect on our children's character, self confidence and how they see the world. Allah, The Most High, says "That He may make what is thrown in by Satan a trial from those in whose hearts is a disease." (Holy Qur'an 22:53)

Children who are oppressed by their parents have to take it out in some way. In Western countries there has been a major breakdown in the hierarchy of parent/ child relationships where once "unacceptable" yelling and screaming back to parents is now more common.

Normally, though you will find children ventilating their anger somewhere. Maybe the child will start bullying at school or at home. Possibly the girl will start gossiping, name calling, being sarcastic to others. Lesser forms of this "pressure cooker", letting off steam, may be sulking, pouting, crying, doing poor in school, etc. 

There are some kids that end up taking it out on themselves. It is like their little "selves" have become buried alive. Where they are not allowed to feel anger and frustration it ends up manifesting deep into their unconscious. These feelings do not disappear; the feelings of guilt about having strong "prohibited" emotions turn on them so they believe that they are terrible persons. Self hatred is common. Many times the girl child will go the extra mile to please those around her by being over adaptive, submissive and compliant. Thus, setting no normal boundaries. 

These children believe that if you feel bad you must be bad. So they develop insecurities and "bad self image" of themselves. 

In part two we will cover what happens when a child is oppressed by physical abuse. May Allah let us see our true selves so we can correct our deficiencies that we have carried into Islam and our parenting skills.

He, The Most High says: "Whoever desires honor, power and glory then to Allah belongs all honor, power and glory."( Holy Qur'an 35:10)
 
 
 
Parents Oppressing their Children: Passing the Boundaries of Islam (Part 2)
 
Physical Abuse: In Islam we have been instructed to have patience and be merciful to our children. Yet how do we balance this aspect when we are held accountable to Allah for raising our children on the Day of Judgment as to not let them go astray? It is an enormous responsibility.

Yes, there are times when physical discipline is needed, but, like in all "last resort" methods, we need to insure that we have properly analyzed the problem and exhausted all other resources.

In a way we are like the judge and jury, handing out guilty or innocent verdict with the wave of a hand (or a spoon for that matter). Since this position must come with the proper Islamic perspective it is essential that we use our authority with taqwah (God-consciousness). For again it is easy to oppress our children by physical abuse.

What are these guidelines? What are our limits? When do we cross the boundaries of physical abuse? Like the shepherd who lets his flock graze too close to the edge of a mountain, the same caution needs to be exercised in physical discipline.

Everything goes back to prevention and oppression. We know that Prophet Mohammed (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) never raised a hand or hit anyone in his family. The only place that we know where Muslim parents are instructed to hit their children (as a form on discipline, not abuse) is when the child openly rebels and refuses to pray after being instructed by the parents. 

Many people think that Islam promotes hitting because it is mentioned in the Quran, but what is normally not realized is that Islam is the only religion who puts rules and regulations for every aspect of our lives. Up until 50 years ago, parents in Western countries were allowed to discipline their children in anyway they saw fit. 

That could mean beating children with a rubber hose, burning them with a cigarette, hitting them with sticks until they bled etc. Parents had "free rein" and no "man- made" rule could stop them because children were considered "theirs" and were given the right to "discipline" their children in anyway they saw fit.

This is why now there is a backlash of  stringent legal rules on child discipline to the point that parents in Western countries cannot even spank their child without the possibility of loosing the child to the child welfare system. But over 1,400 years ago Islam laid out guidelines very clearly that IF you have to physically discipline any living soul (includes anything Allah made with a soul: animal and human) you may not:

1. hit the face, head or tender parts of the body
2. hit hard enough to leave a mark on the skin
3. spank when you feel you may loose control

These guidelines were instituted in Islam long before Children's Advocacy or Animal Advocacy groups came in to existence. But along with these very simple guidelines that PREVENT physical abuse there is a God-conscieness that enters into it. 

Because the big question is are we hitting because We are angry or because it is the proper form of discipline that should be used after all other preventive means have been exhausted? 

When do we cross this spiritual border and begin to oppress when we physically raise our hand to our children? What spiritual state do we need to be in, in order to insure we do not pass the limits of Islam? 

Most of the time when people physically abuse their children they are in a state of anger, rage, revenge and emotional pain. This is the first cause for parents to "loose it" and cross the ocean of acceptable physical discipline laid out by Islam to physical abuse. What does Islam say about this state?

Though no child likes to be physically disciplined he certainly can tell the difference, if a parent hits in a state of rage; the child will not see it as physical discipline but as pure unadulterated oppression, bullying and abuse by their parent. 

"Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord and for a Garden whose width is that of the heavens and earth, prepared for those who are mindful of Allah: those who spend (freely) whether in prosperity or adversity, and who restrain anger and forgive people- And Allah loves those who do good: and those who, when they commit an indecency or wrong their souls, remember Allah and ask for forgiveness for their sins, and who forgives sins except Allah? And do not persist in what they did while they know (that it was wrong).(Holy Qur'an 3: 133-135)

A man said to the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) "Give me (some) advice." He said, "Do not be angry." He (the man repeated it several times He said, "Do not be angry." (Bukhari)

The strong one is not the one who throws (people) down, but the strong one is the one who controls himself in the face of anger." (Bukhari)

The guidelines are so simple: do not hit the face, head or tender parts of the body, if you left a mark on our child's body you have passed the line of acceptable discipline and probably had lost control. In Islam we are responsible for every word and action we take on our children.

We do not have a "passport" to rear our children any way we please. We know that even if we are not caught abusing our children on this earth that we will be held accountable to Allah on the Day of Judgment.

"And fear the Day when ye shall be brought back to Allah. Then shall every soul be paid what it earned and none shall be dealt with unjustly."(Holy Qur'an 2:281)

"Deal not unjustly and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly."(Holy Qur'an)
 
 
Parents Oppressing their Children: Passing the Boundaries of Islam (Part 3)
 
How is psychological and emotional abuse defined in Islam? What constitutes these emotional scars that cannot be seen on the skin? Emotional abuse is similar to verbal abuse but sometimes it can be more a little more twisted and suddenly alarming. 

It reaches into each fiber of self esteem, leaving the victim in deep emotional pain about his or her regarding the world around him/her. Usually children who have been so severely abused either grow up to be unable to set normal functioning boundaries or become emotionally abusive themselves. 

Al-hamdulillah, in Islam we have standards that guide us how to behave with one another. Yes, that also includes our children. 

Everything boils down to the heart. It is the most important part of our body. 

The Prophet Mohammed said, "Indeed there is a piece of flesh in your body which, if it be sound, then the whole body will be sound and if it be corrupt then the whole body will be corrupt. Indeed it is the heart."(Bukhari)

All of our actions stem from this part. If we have been raised in a emotionally abusive home, we may be carrying this excessive baggage into our hearts and homes without even knowing it. But, first we must know what emotional/psychological abuse means in order to exam not only the past, but how it is affecting us now.  

Allah looks into the heart of the each of us, not only at our outward appearance. Therefore, when we viciously attack our children emotionally by demeaning them, calling them names, telling them they are ugly, a failure, making them feel worthless we have started an arsenal attack on the heart. We have made them feel as though they are worthless and rejected. We are going deep into an area that we have no right to tread. Since Allah "scans" our hearts what are we doing to our children's?

"Allah does not look at our bodies or your faces but He scans your heart and actions." (Muslim)

The tongue is a great indicator of what is in the heart. When a parent's heart is good you can see it in their word. Yes, we all get upset with our children, but the parents who have a good heart will be careful and God-fearing.  Since we know that if the tongue is used correctly it will be blessed. So what about people not using their tongues correctly? Or the tongue of a hypocrite, speaking nicely only to the people outside the home but abusing children inside the home.

For some reason many parents believe they can say whatever they like to their children, without thinking of the consequences. These consequences can be more far-reaching than the child because the parent himself will be accountable to Allah for emotional/psychological abuse. 

"The Believers are successful, those who in their prayer have Khushu (fear Allah) and those who refrain from vain talkā€¦."(Holy Qur'an, 23:1-3)

Each and every act that we communicate, be it verbally or non-verbally, will be recorded. Just because we are in the confines of our four walls does not mean that we are "truly alone". Not only does Allah see and hear everything, Allah has also sent angels to record everything we say and do. So even if we do not use foul, destructive language to our children, if we withhold love and care, favoring one child over another etc. Doing anything that goes outside the boundaries of Islam is all being recorded.

"Not a word is said except that there is a watcher by him ready to record it." ( Holy Qur'an, 18:18)

Allah will call us to account with His Almighty Justice, not with oppression. Yet what are we doing to our children inside the home. Like the perished nations before us justified not believing in Allah alone because their parents worshiped others than Allah, is it right to abuse and ignore the emotional needs of our children because our mothers and fathers raised us that way? Are we so unattached to our feelings that we forgot how bad it felt when our feelings were discounted and we were emotionally scarred on a daily basis? 

It comes down to basics "Whoever believes in Allah and the last day should speak good or keep silent" (Bukhari)

Or do we only reserve this hadith to those we want to "show" that we are good Muslims ? On the outside are we pretending our hearts are clean but on the inside we are abusing our children on a daily basis? If our behavior with those outside is good, warm and loving but in our homes it is full of "emotional and verbal" filth, we have to look deep inside our hearts. If this is the case not only are we harming our children but are teaching them to be two faced or hypocritical with their heart and tongue. 

Imam ash-Shaf'I said "If you wish to speak then it is your responsibility to think before you speak. If you think there is good in it then you should speak and if not then do not speak."

This saying is for someone who is searching for salvation. Obviously, we need to discipline our children and reprimand them when they do something wrong, but how do we do it, what is our real intention behind it. Are we doing it as sincere advice because we love them for the sake of Allah or are we doing it for other intentions, e g. to humiliate them, to let off steam, to feel more powerful and to feel in control? For Allah's sake we must look into our intention for each and every move we make. 

Do we really believe that all these rules about manners and speech are only for those outside our homes? Do we really deep down inside live in a fantasy world that we are "kings and queens" of our home and we can do as we like, feeling no remorse?

Before we speak we should ask ourselves:

1. What is my intention?
2. Will this saying of mine please Allah?
3. Will this saying of mine bring me closer to Allah?
4. Does this saying earn with it obedience to Allah?
5. If so, then speak, otherwise one should keep quiet.

Our children are Muslims and the following saying applies to them."Those who do not harm the Muslims with their tongues and hands."(Bukhari)

We know from the section on physical abuse that we are not allowed to harm our children with our hands. Now we know that we are not allowed to oppress ourselves and our children with our tongue. This abuse of the tongue can actually harden the heart. This is obviously a very serious matter. May Allah protect us from this! 

"Do not speak much without the remembrance (dhikr) of Allah, for indeed much talk without dhikr of Allah hardens the hearts." 

We all want to taste the sweetness of faith: "If one were far from Allah then what good would reach him? By Allah, if the world was blessed and a person was far from Allah then he would still be the worst of creation." (Shaikh Ahmed Zamzami)

"Whoever guarantees me what is between his jaws and what is between his legs will enter paradise." (Ahmed and Tirmidhi)

If we don't take time to reflect and think about how we are acting towards our children we could be piling up sins and not even know it. It is not enough just to put a roof over our children's head and feed them. We are raising the next Ummah (Islamic nation) who need to be functionally active members. If we repress them emotionally and psychologically what kind of nation will we be? Do we really think that we can follow our own desires within the home and get away with it from

The One who knows and sees everything? One day those children may be changing our "diapers" and feeding us by hand. How would we like to be treated? Do we really believe we can abuse and expect them to care for us with deep love and devotion? Do we want them to only fear us, or rather to respect and love us? Do we believe it is enough to force them to parrot the hadith regarding obedience to parents. 

"Guard your tongue, stay in your home, and weep over your sins."(Ahmed)

"A man may be so close to paradise such that the distance between him and it is one derah (an arms length) and he speaks a word and he becomes distant from it further than Sana."(Ahmed)

If we find all of this hard to do, we need to soften our hearts and ask Allah to forgive us.