Raising Boys vs. Raising Men

FD

We’ve all heard the phrase “Boys will be boys” when a boy does or says something immature or silly. However, there comes a point when a boy becomes a man. However, having the characteristics and physical traits that a man has doesn’t make one a man it makes one a male. We need to make a distinction between men and boys. A guy can be well into his mid-20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s and still be a boy. This is due to the nature of his inability to emotionally, spiritually and psychologically mature. We cannot seriously say the phrase “he’s just a kid” for 18-40 year old guys. This phrase removes any responsibility or accountability for a guy’s actions by simply writing it off as “they’re just being boys” or “they’re just being kids.”  That argument won’t hold any water in the court of law and it most certainly doesn’t in our day to day dealings with others. Our actions and words have consequences. Every action has an equal or stronger reaction.

 

Yes, we’re all learning about life in every stage of our lives, but to not be in a mode of learning, self-reflection, self-improvement and introspection at every point in your life will not help you to mature. Many guys today simply live with their egos, lusts and desires. They seek to simply feed all three (ego, lusts, and desires) and don’t care if in their pursuit of self-gratification of harming others in the process. The guys I see today are obsessed with athletes, celebrities, movies, TV shows, food, and sports. This may not be the case for all youth, but is definitely a trend I see in our youth today. The question is how can we slowly transition these youth out of this mindset to a more mature mindset of thinking deeply about life, reflecting about how they’re living life, and how to better themselves every day? The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was surrounded by youth who took on positions of leadership, took initiative and were key figures in the early history of Islam.

The question is, do we see that same level of maturity in our male youth today?

Sadly, many youth are growing up with this mentality of fast and simple self-gratification. These youth then become college students, then young professionals, and then husbands of families. Yet, as they may have progressed academically and career wise they still are emotionally, psychologically and spiritually at the level of a middle school kid. It’s scary to think that one day the youth that I see at the masjid and in our communities will be future husbands and fathers.

 

It’s easy to think and acts like a boy for all of your life. You can think that your actions and words have no consequences. You can think that everyone needs to respect you, demand respect from other and if anyone disrespects you you put them in their place by cussing them out or yelling at them. You can think that everything must come to you immediately. It’s sad to say though this type of behavior will not fly in the real world. If you have this boyish mentality in your school work, your work life, your family life, and with others you won’t live a very happy life. You’ll meet conflict after conflict, drama after drama and get yourself into more trouble than you want.

 

This is why I say there’s a difference between being a MAN and being a boy or simply thinking you’re a man because you’re male. A man is one who has good character, strong morals, ethics, and principles. A man is someone who is self-confident, respectful to others, builds people up and doesn’t tear them down. A man is someone who doesn’t demand respect, but earns it through his actions. A man is someone who respects women and doesn’t talk about them in a derogatory manner. A man is someone who doesn’t use bad language, yell at others or lose his temper. My question is where are the men today?

 

When I actually sat down to think about why there is such a level of immaturity in our male youth today I can only find one problem: bad parenting. Yes, there are different cases here and there that may be contrary to my finding, but at a core level the level of immaturity stems from bad parenting. If the father or mother doesn’t play a big role their son’s life by teaching him early on about ethics, morals, principles and values then how do you expect him to start adhering to them when he’s well into his teens? If a father doesn’t encourage his son to come to the masjid in his son’s early years and stress the importance of deen (Islam) in their lives how do they expect their sons to know the importance when they become 19 years old? We have parents going to imams, youth directors and the “cool uncle” and ask them “can you speak to my son? Can you encourage him to come to the masjid and remind him about Islam?” It’s sad that it’s come to this point where parents can’t even talk to their own children about their concern for the way they’re living their lives.

 

Another issue that leads to this immaturity is that we’re pampering our boys.We provide them early on with the latest gadgets, clothes, toys and demands early on and continue this trend into middle school, high school, and college. They learn to expect to get their demands at the drop of a hat. They feel entitled to certain things. They feel connected or attached to their gadgets and clothes. They feel that the latest brands are what make them better than others. They feel that can do whatever they want with no consequences.

 

This sets up our sons for failure in life. You can’t expect by giving your sons every luxury in this life at their fingertips while neglecting their Islamic education that they’ll be good human beings and successful in their lives. If you’ve given all the luxuries in the world to your son and not a firm understanding, appreciation and love of Islam then you’ve given your son nothing. We stress the dunya (this world) to such an extent to our sons that their entire lives are consumed by gadgets, clothes, TV shows, movies, etc. Lastly, as parents we can’t demand our kids to be more “religious” if we aren’t even practicing what we’re preaching. If you aren’t going to the masjid on a consistent basis, not reading Quran, not learning more about Islam how can you expect your son to take your request seriously?

 

We can no longer afford to continue this trend or it will hurt our community and our world. We cannot look and say in retrospect “where did I go wrong?” when our sons don’t listen to us, or they go down the wrong path or don’t listen to you when you tell them they should go to the masjid. We reap what we sew. “It’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men” as Franklin Douglass said. We cannot easily reverse years of lack of guidance and nurturing after-the-fact of realizing the wrong we did. Sadly, for most of the immature boys we have in our community it will take a tragic event or a life-shaking event to open their eyes to change their ways, wake up and mature. I pray it doesn’t come to that and may Allah protect us from tragic events (ameen), but it will take something to shake them to wake them up to change their ways and become mature adults and men.

 

 

We need to begin raising men and not simply raising boys. We need well-balanced men who live their lives with purpose, with a vision, with a mission, and understand how to live their lives with balance. We need men who live with a strong understanding of their Islamic identity, morals, ethics and values. We need men who can become strong husbands for their families. We need men who can protect our women from the ugliness of the world. We need men who can become strong leaders for our communities.

 

We need men, not boys. No more “boys will be boys,” let them be MEN.

The Illusion of Freedom

Thinking

We all believe slavery is a bad thing at any level. The enslavement of a man or woman to another man or woman is the most degrading thing ever. However, while we may think slavery of this kind has been eradicated, it really is still very much apparent in today’s society. It exists not  only in a physical sense, but a more social and psychological sense. We very much have chains on our wrists, chains on our minds, and are told to live cookie cutter lives according to how corporations, brand names, music, and movies and societal and cultural trends want us to live life. This isn’t to say culture is evil or society is completely evil, but there are very dangerous cultural and social trends that go against common sense and human nature.

We need to begin asking ourselves before we beat our chests as Americans that we’re the only country with freedom, liberty and justice for all and the ability to pursue happiness—are we TRULY free? Are you living a live as a slave to your desires/lusts, brand names, political parties, media, movies, magazines and socio-cultural trends?

1)      Are We Really Free?

We all remember the illogical statement when it comes to the Muslim world and the West where neo-cons would say “they hate us for our freedoms!”  But the question is are we truly free? Let’s forget the law enforcement and government’s erosion of civil liberties, civil rights and human rights in the US, but let’s talk about the virtual enslavement of the American population to brand names, cars, clothes, electronics, celebrity-worship/obsession, political party affiliations, etc.

Let’s give a small example of people when they say “Oh my Gosh, I can’t live without my Starbucks Coffee in the morning” or they say “Oh my Gosh, I would die without _______” These statements while exaggerated tell a lot about our psyche. Have we truly become so dependant on THINGS that we NEED them to survive? Are they really essential to our lives?

The things we own end up owning us.

We’ve become virtual slaves to almost everything and lost our ability to think for ourselves and  reflect on our spirituality, our emotional and physical health and our overall meaning in life. We become consumed in materialism and consumerism and make idols out of virtually everything. “I would die without my Iphone” or “I would die without…..” Seriously, people are dying without a lot of things in Africa and the third world and they certainly are not because of their lack of Iphones. Our so-called first-world problems really aren’t problems at all.

If this is what we call freedom then we are sadly misguided. So when we say we are free, are we truly free? Are we forcing our definition of “freedom” on others?  What is true freedom? Why is your  freedom better or more valid than someone else’s freedom? If they decide to live their lives a certain lifestyle different than yours does it make it any less better than your freedom?

2)      What is Freedom?

 

Everyone’s definition of freedom is different. A woman who decides to wear hijab or cover themselves modestly decides to do so because that’s their definition of freedom. On the other side of the spectrum we have those who decide to completely walk around completely naked or decide to pursue a lifestyle of promiscuity. Other guys decide to live lives of promiscuity too and party and decide to sleep with every girl that comes across their path. These are all varying definitions of “freedom” of people.

So what is freedom if we force our definition of freedom on others? To be truly free is to be free from others’ definitions of freedom, freedom from desire, lust, evil thoughts/actions, political oppression, economic oppression. True freedom is when you break free from all of these things and become your own person and stop submitting yourself to brand names, social trends, political trends and submit yourself to Allah and His laws. This is not to say to do so blindly, but with deep reflection, introspection and thought. Many times people say “believe with blind faith.” In Islam, there is no blind faith, there is faith with introspection, thought, and reflection. You don’t simply just blindly believe in Islam. You experience it.

Allah is the only One worthy of praise and worship and transcends all other gods we put in our lives: our desires, lusts, job statuses, nationalities, races, etc. Islam solves the solution to all of these things and asks you to break away from nationalism, desires, consumerism, materialism, injustice, and oppression. If you don’t believe me, you don’t need to look farther than the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s last sermon:

http://www.iqrasense.com/about-islam/the-last-sermon-khutbah-of-prophet-muhammad-farewell-sermon.html

 

3)      Our Cattle Mentality

We as a people have lost our ability to think. We’ve lost our ability to be our own individuals. We are told what to wear, what to eat, what new electronics to buy, etc. We become so consumed by social trends and fashion trends that we completely lose our sense of thinking. Do we really NEED to buy that food, do we REALLY need to buy that Iphone, do we REALLY need to watch that movie on the opening night?

Is this really freedom or are you a slave to these things?  

We follow blindly without thinking. This is dangerous and can lead to disillusionment and virtual our emotional, spiritual and physical health diminishing greatly.

4)      Our Tribal Mentality

We often times call ourselves “modern” or “civilized” but in essence we very much so define ourselves by certain things. We define ourselves by race, religion, gender, age, ethnicity, city, state, neighborhood, schools, etc. When we live our lives we decide to amplify one of those many identities and it becomes our primary identity. It may be our religion, ethnicity, nationality or age or any other number of things and whenever someone doesn’t live the same lifestyle as you, you feel they’re odd, or a threat or a social outlier. What is wrong if someone simply is being. Can we not simply coexist and not let force others to be like us? We don’t need to actively go convert people to our lifestyle or religion. If you want to invite people to the beauty of your way of life, then do so with your character and manners.

Also, if someone doesn’t dress like you, drink and get drunk like you, party like you, smoke, and they don’t live your lifestyle then let them be. Simple let people be. Your definition of “freedom” is no better than any other person. If they decide to dress a certain way or NOT drink or party then it’s OKAY. There’s no need to attack, ridicule or mock someone.

It’s funny how we talk so much about peer pressure being a problem from Kindergarten to high school, but sadly, we still have this problem as young adults and adults.

5)      Cookie  Cutter Lifestyle

It’s sad that there is so much societal and cultural pressure to fit a certain lifestyle and if you don’t fit the mould you’re seen as a social outcast or an outlier. In today’s times the truth has become the lie and the lie has become the truth. So if someone speaks out against the dangers of interest in our banking system they’re seen as a threat, if someone speaks out against the dangers of drinking or smoking they’re seen as a Debbie Downer, if they speak out against social ills, civil liberties and human rights abuses done in the name of America they’re seen as unpatriotic.

What kind of society do we live in that we’ve got our morals, ethics and values so twisted?

We talk about peer pressure and tell our children to be themselves, but when we become adults we’re faced with the same peer pressure at an even greater level. For example, if you don’t drink or party you’re seen as a social outcast/outlier. If you don’t go to happy hour at your company you’re seen as weird and unable to socialize.

Who made these rules and who made these laws of society? Who made happy hours the epitome of social status or partying and drinking the norm of socializing? Who made these rules of how individuals NEED to live and HOW they need to live their lives?

 Is it really freedom if you’re forcing others to live the way you live?

Think people. THINK.

6)      We MUST Wake Up

We are all asleep and before it’s too late we’ll be lying on our deathbeds asking ourselves “What did I do with my life? Where did all of that time go? Did I live my life meaningfully? Was I slave to my desires and did I pursue noble goals or was I living solely for myself? Did I truly live a life of FREEDOM or a life of a slave to corporations, brand names,  my job, wealth, friends, etc.?”

Break free.  Break your chains and live a life of true freedom. Be a freedomfighter and break your chains from the illogical societal presures, your lusts/desires, the gods of materialism and consumerism, socio-cultural trends, brand names, and live a life of TRUE FREEDOM.

1. The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you,

2. Until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die).

3. Nay! You shall come to know!

4. Again, Nay! You shall come to know!

5. Nay! If you knew with a sure knowledge (the end result of piling up, you would not have occupied yourselves in worldly things)

6. Verily, You shall see the blazing Fire (Hell)!

7. And again, you shall see it with certainty of sight!

8. Then, on that Day, you shall be asked about the delight (you indulged in, in this world)!

-Surah At-Takathur (The Piling Up).

(Quran, Chapter 103: Verses 1-8)