Thursday, April 16, 2020

REFLECTIONS ON FROM SEED TO CEDAR















From Seed to Cedar is a book written by M. Fethullah Gulen who is also the inspiration behind NUSRET Educational and Cultural organisation with branches in about 130 countries including Nigeria. 



This is not a review of the book but as the topic implies, these are just my reflections on one of the books written by this great mind M. Fethullah Gulen. My purpose is not to criticise or bring out what I take exception to in the book. I have a lot of respect for a man who inspired this movement, the Nusret that aims at offering myriad forms of khidmah (services) to humanity - feeding indigent Muslims in Ramadan Iftar, interfaith dialogue, hospitals, schools, humanitarian assistance to those in need and whatnot. I am still studying this wonderful organisation and its charitable activities around the world, and shall soon write what my findings are. 


From Seed to Cedar is a guide for Muslim families towards nurturing the spiritual needs in children. As COVID 19 lockdown has brought parents closer to their offspring more than any other time in past, we shall derive immense benefit from the 130 or so pages of the book, though some of the admonitions like going to the Masjid for the observance of Salaah may not be practicable now that we are staying at home. The book, nevertheless, addresses all aspects of marital consortium - from the choice of a partner to procreation and spiritual training of the next generation. 










CEDAR TREE





MORALITY

‘Every nation has a rise and fall’ occasioned either by giving ‘this world and the next’ ‘their due values’ (al-Qasas 28:77) or by ‘moral decay’. A Muslim is not dazzled by the advancement in some ‘developed’ societies as they are bereft of real happiness as evidenced by the high rate of suicide cases among their inhabitants. Science and the Church were in constant strife until the former eclipsed the latter and with it the ‘moral values’ of the society. Real happiness resides in interrogating ‘progress in science’, the obedience of ‘Devine commands’ and ‘the awe of God’. 


‘How would we like our children to be brought up?’ From all we see around of children’s activities within and outside the home, ‘what is considered moral or immoral for us?’ Who are the friends of our children? We should have answers to these queries and ‘plans’ on how to address them otherwise we are planning to fall ‘into the same pitfalls’ as did those before us. 




MARRIAGE

The couple in a marriage, after satisfying all conditions, aim at increasing the number of children for the Ummah the numerousness of which the Prophet would be proud of. He, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam would not be proud of an evil and murderous generation of vagabonds ‘that is involved in terrorism and corruption..’ Marriage is a great step into life; the more attention paid to, and consideration made before it, the more are the chances of success and avoidance of discord after it. Children raised by a warring couple ‘will grow up insensible and hostile to their community, perhaps even towards their own parents.’


If both parents go to work and entrust their children ‘to the care of a nanny or a baby-sitter’, they have consigned their children to abandonment and loneliness. The presence of parents in relation to their progeny is not comparable to anything. ’Tenderness is the most natural and innate closeness, a closeness that a child can read on the face of the mother, or find in her heart, or feel sitting snuggled up next to his or her father. Other people cannot give this tenderness to a child; they can never satisfy the child with substitutes.’ 




FAMILY

The home is a classroom for the children; whatever they observe from the parents is imprinted in their hearts to adulthood. If the parents are benevolent the children will not be niggardly; they would ‘give freely to charity and be willing to do favours for others.’ Even what the children are fed with plays a role in their lives. If their nourishment, food, drink and clothing are from unlawful sources, we unwittingly ‘wipe-out the possibility of happiness for our’ children. A dishevelled and dusty person, whose clothing is unlawful, and who has been nourished unlawfully will not be answered by Allah when he calls upon Him. How can you go round the Baytul Haraam while your stomach is filled with Haraam

The children must be raised ‘according to our cultural and spiritual values’ otherwise ‘they will inevitably end up developing a personality that is alien to ours. You may become a father of an apostate, without even being aware of it.’ Therefore, nobody ‘should ever forget how important it is to nurture a great being, a being with the potential to move between the lowest and the highest stations of spirituality, a being that has the ability to elevate itself to the level of humanity.’

The story of Prophet Yusuf in the Qur’an teaches us to treat our children equally and not to prefer one to the other, and ‘demonstrating the extent of corruption that jealousy can cause, even in the household of a Prophet.’ 




AWARENESS IN EDUCATION

Even before marriage, you must not spare any effort in the choice of the mother of your children because she is ultimately the supervisor, the teacher and instructor in your household. 


Your children learn subliminally from your devotions at the middle of the night (tahajjud), your bowing and prostration, your weeping before Allah asking for His pardon. These images and their import would be locked deep into their subconscious even when they do not ask you any questions concerning these spiritual scenes. There should be harmony, therefore, between ‘our behaviour and words’ otherwise we will be guilty of ‘behavioural hypocrisy’. ‘Differences between our inner world and our external conduct will lead a child to hypocrisy, paradoxes, and dual perceptions.’


Let us respect the presence of the child in whatever we do or say. ‘All our thoughts, behaviour and even our discussions with our spouse should constantly be centred on issues that we think will enter the unconscious thoughts of the child.


‘Naturally, you will talk and discuss other matters in the home. But when you discuss matters in the presence of your child, you should pay special attention to the fact that he or she is there. If possible, issues which do not concern children and which are not constructive for them should not be discussed in their presence. Discussions of problems that would be depressing to children should be avoided. Children should not be exposed to problems which are beyond their capacity to bear and issues that may make an impression, negative or otherwise, on their minds and hearts should be carefully considered. When children are around, conversations, debates and discussions, either at home or in the office, should be conducted with their presence being taken into account.’


Education of the child should not be limited ‘to present information and learning’; it would be more beneficial to follow an educational course that moves beyond the present age and takes the future into account.’ 


We should, in educating the child, always look for something suitable and ‘a little advanced: If performing prayers is compulsory for a child at the age of fifteen, you should then teach him or her to pray at the age of ten. Similarly, you should teach children to fast before this duty becomes compulsory, allowing time for them to become accustomed to it. This principle can be extended to all the issues which mould the child according to his age.’




RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF THE CHILD

‘Marriage is a very serious affair in Islam and it must be dealt with due sensitivity. Couples planning to marry are not only future parents but also future educators. Therefore, marriage should not be considered until a suitable age is reached for fulfilling this important mission.’ It is only through this that ‘homes turn into an institution of education.’ 

Religious education dictates that when going to the mosque we take children along. ‘It is a pity that nowadays we think that we will violate the sanctity of a mosque by taking children along. Likewise, it is such a pity that in many mosques we see elderly people shooing children away, frightening them.


‘Unfortunately, these narrow-minded people think that they are preserving the dignity of the mosque by frowning on the children’s actions. In fact, what they are doing merely contradicts the tradition of God’s Messenger. He counselled Muslims that while standing in prayers in a mosque that the men should stand in front, then small boys, and then women and girls.’

We must avoid exceeding the due limit in our practice of faith so as not to make children hate religion. ‘The most meritorious kind of worship is the one that is performed steadily, even if it is of little amount.’ Allow them time for play, for learning and for worship without excesses. ‘If your primary topic of conversation is the celebrities who appear on TV, then these people will naturally dominate the imagination of your child. He will tell you the names of various movie stars, sportsmen, musicians and other celebrities easily, but he will be unable to memorise even a few of the names of the Companions of our Prophet. His memory and subconscious will be occupied by useless things.’

‘It is of utmost significance that the Qur’an, the life story of our Prophet and other books on the life of his Companions have a place of honour at home; our children’s heart will be saturated with and illuminated by our historical figures.’




DIMENSIONS OF EDUCATION

The company that the child keeps will help her in staying on or straying from the right path. Parents will do well to pay attention to who the friends of the child are. We can attend social functions and public lectures with children as that also exposes them to great minds among scholars and instructors in right conduct. That is another form of education.

‘I would like to take this opportunity to focus on a particular point. Accepting an invitation and attending its call is seen to be a religious duty. The Messenger of God is reported to have said, “If someone invites you to a wedding or engagement ceremony, you should attend it.” It is obvious that one cannot oppose this order, which comes directly from God’s Messenger. Facing such an order, every believer should say “I obey with submission” and comply with it. However, turning down an invitation to a wedding ceremony where sinful and prohibited evil acts are to be performed and where transgression occurs is also a reflection of a religious attitude. Children should not be taken to places that will corrupt their thoughts or confuse them by what they see.’




A COMPARISON BETWEEN QUR’ANIC AND NON-QUR’ANIC EDUCATION

What is important here is a blend of both the Qur’anic and non-Qur’anic education to avoid pharaoh-like tendencies, but have the best of both worlds, the mundane and the spiritual. 



4 comments:

  1. Whenever I see Nusret Khidmah for the benefit of Nigerians I feel guilty, very insignificant, that people have to come to us from another country to serve our communities in a way we have not done in the past.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Masha Allah. May Allah reward you abundantly

    ReplyDelete
  3. It must be a very rich book. Great "reflections!"
    JazaakAllaahu khayran!

    ReplyDelete