Apostasy and atheism have been on the rise in America in the past decade. Although Muslim families transmit their religious affiliation to their children at higher rates than Christians in America, approximately 20% of those raised as Muslims do not identify as Muslim in adulthood.
In this episode, host Mohamad Zaoud talks to Dr. Osman Umarji, author of the Yaqeen Institute paper “Will My Children Be Muslim? The Development of Religious Identity in Young People,” about how families can socialize their children to develop a healthy Islamic identity.
it's a rough world out there and with all the pressures put on our children how can we be sure that they will be muslim
welcome to double take a podcast by yakreen institute where we look into ideas and questions in islam that give us pause if you haven't already done so please subscribe on youtube apple google or wherever you get your podcasts i'm muhammad zaw and today on the show dr uthman umarji author of the paper will my children be muslim dr uthman assalam alaikum and welcome to double take well i think what happened it's an honor to be here today honestly the honors out because you're going to teach me a lot inshallah today um dr uthman you've got a phd in educational psychology um and you also studied at uh al-azhar university in cairo you practice as an imam and you're a director at jacquin institute it's really early in the morning here in sydney so i'm gonna start off with a very basic simple question if that's okay i'm gonna pose a scenario and hopefully you can answer is that okay of course okay so here's the scenario my daughter is born alhamdulillah and uh i read the adhan uh i recited in her ear um and i read quran to her as she's growing up we play surat al-baqarah every single night i pray in front of her i teach her how to pray i send her to korean school and then in her teen she kind of rebels a little bit and then in her late teens she tells me she's she's really not interested in islam or practicing islam and she just turns away completely so as a softball question to start off with where did i go wrong i'm just joking i want to answer that question hopefully this episode like softball
that's a knuckleball so i'll um hopefully get some clarity on on a scenario like that throughout this episode but literally to kick off we'll say how did you get interested in the topic and what led you to to covering this topic of whether or not a child will become muslim when they grow up
to be very honest this is the question that i wanted to answer this is why i work with joking i joined european under the premise of trying to answer these questions because we all deal with these as parents as committee members but the initial motivation for this entire topic came from my work as an imam almost a decade ago and i was just incredibly fascinated and simultaneously perplexed by the types of interactions i would have with muslim parents and their kids so a couple of antidotes that might just kind of situate this one day i remember i was sitting in my office a few weeks before ramadan and a mom walks in with her about 18 19 year olds uh son he's an undergrad and the mom is very distressed and says okay you know tell tell tell the sheikh what happened tell him what's going on and so the son he looks at me and he says you know what man i just i don't want to fast this from hold on so i said okay like what's what's going on he's like yeah you know i fast since i was like you know my whole life you know everyone around me fast you know my aunts my uncles my cousins my friends everyone in the community but you know what just fasting doesn't do anything to people these people fast every single year and then right after ramadan they're the exact same person and i looked at him and i kind of processed it and i said you know what you're that's actually a very intelligent answer like i think you're you're on to something in some ways so the long she looked at me like very confused like what are you doing trying to tell my son not to fast so i told him i said look i said just because people don't benefit from their fasting doesn't mean the fasting itself is not beneficial and we know we talked for a while about the same thing if you go to the gym and you don't lift weights properly you're not going to get fit right if you um go to school but you don't study properly you're not going to learn and i said even the prophet muhammad told us that some people will get nothing but hunger and thirst out of their fasting if they don't do it properly alhamdulillah he decided that he would go back to fasting and didn't kind of throw throw it out the window because he didn't see people benefiting but again that that interaction shows me something about how adolescents are grappling with this issue of their faith and even if they practice their whole life that what role does it play in their life and how central is it to them another story i had this kid who used to come to sunday school the sunday schools are a youth group on a weekly basis he would come to our weekly basketball game kind of fun fact when i was in imam uh we used to have this thing where every mondays the youth would come and they play basketball against us and it was me and the old people versus these high school kids we never lost to them so it was a really big deal in the community to always come on mondays to try and beat the imam and his uh uncle friends but anyway so this kid shows up and his mom is also distressed and he's like look uh sheikh i don't think i believe in god anymore so what do you say what's going on he's like yeah my friends showed me these youtube videos uh you know some of my high school friends and it shows that you know god is not real so he literally spoke for five minutes deconstructed some of those things and he stopped and said you know what yeah those were not really good arguments to begin with he's like yeah i still believe in god and it was again just like man like in five minutes five minutes yeah yeah like i mean this kid was fine he goes to school hangs out hear some weird things watch the youtube video he's about to leave islam and then like five minutes of basic back and forth he's back to his time so it's how sensitive you know the topic of identity is and that's kind of what led me to this this lifelong pursuit of studying the topic so thank you so much for devoting your life to it to be honest uh it's such an important um part of our lives and you know i can just imagine you know that woman coming to the basketball court and bringing her son and just thinking oh my god after all of that effort um and all of my focus on islam and and teaching my child islam that they decide you know what i'm thinking of leaving islam i can just imagine the the distress in that woman um and so your work is absolutely paramount to to her and and to me and and to muslim parents in general um you spoke about identity do you mind just explaining what you mean by by identity because we hear a lot about it and and you write a lot about it extensively in your paper so identity and then more specifically what you mean by religious identity as well so identity is this very heavy term that has a lot of meaning to different people but at the core of it it's all about understanding who we really are and so for youth and for adolescents identity is fundamentally about answering questions like who am i what is my place in this world what do i value who do i want to be when i grow up what i want to do with my life so these are really heavy questions that in across someone's life adolescence is a time where they try to answer this question so that age between about you know 10 and 20ish is when they're really deeply thinking about these topics about what is who am i at the core and so identity formation uh in the west especially uh for religious identities they have found that adolescence is very very sensitive because there's so many things happening between what parents are telling them what their peers are telling them how they're being socialized in schools and so it's really because confusing yeah so and they're also connected with the rest of the world as well so it's not just their immediate context that is pulling them but they're connected with you know subcultures in the us or in the uk or australia or even in other other parts of remote corners of the world yeah everything is intertwined especially because of technology today so i could be living here in southern california but i could be heavily influenced by australian culture that's what i'm absorbing online so you know for me um it wasn't until i was probably 26 27 um when i was handed a book about identity that i actually understood how to define my identity like i knew i was muslim um but was i'm more muslim than i was australian am i more muslim than i was kind of lebanese and and it was all of this kind of concoction of identities that really confused me in all honesty and so i was leaning in leaning out of identities in in different circles but it wasn't until i got a book by um written by amin math called on identity and i've read it like several times and and he says something in there that just kind of the penny dropped for me which was that everyone's identity is like their their thumb thumbprint um so you can have multiple identities there's no such thing as just one identity um and there's there's a whole bunch of identities and every single person's identity is unique but i just thought i'd say that because it was something and i i was a practicing muslim growing up and i you know my culture really influenced me as well um and i thought you know this would be a simple thing that i could answer but i really struggled with it up until the age of say 27 you know yeah and that's because as you mentioned it's it's such a complex topic we have these personal identities that kind of make us stand out and then we have these numerous social identities which we kind of make us belong and fit into kind of a greater narrative and so youth are literally trying to figure this out i mean actually we all are is that how do i simultaneously fit into the world that i'm in well also i'm not just kind of a pawn i'm actually have some level of uniqueness and so ultimately the goal of identity formation is to have this settle as to what really is more salient to you versus kind of yeah like i am i have this ethnic identity but it does it's not as prominent for instance my religious identity or some other identity that i wear so when you talk about identity so what are the factors that affect like you mentioned subcultures around the world you mentioned um you know our families our friends our school what are the kind of things that that influence someone's identity and help shape it through the years yeah um well before i answer i want to go back to your last question i don't think i finished speaking about well what is religious identity yeah and because ethnic identities or certain other identities uh they might manifest themselves differently than a religious identity and so just to be clear from a religious identity we're speaking about at least in this paper that i wrote three different kind of dimensions one is that what do i deeply believe in what are my deepest convictions or my deepest values and the second dimension is well then what do i do with those convictions and values what does my day-to-day practice look like and the third thing which is very important in in eastern cultures more so but also in the west is who do i do these things with so who do i believe these things with and who do i practice with so in other words what community am i a part of and these three kind of collectively build a religious identity which is why you notice every religion has some communal aspect around it right there's either uh you know these holidays that you celebrate or there's a religious space that you attend together and there's a shared notion that we do things as a group rather than just as autonomous beings so for the context of your work to be identified as a muslim i have to deeply believe in islam and the values of islam i'm practicing the rules and you know the the rituals of islam and then i'm practicing that with muslims basically and that kind of helps define me as a practicing muslim yeah that would be on the higher end of identification so like any identity it can be either very strong within you and very salient or it could be very weak sure okay so so how is that shaped over the years then what are the factors that play a role in shaping whether or not i identify with a group or a set of values yeah so this is the term that um we use the word socialization to describe the process by which any individual absorbs the beliefs the values the practices and the traditions which they're ultimately going to enact in life and so i like to think of this uh this kind of analogy or uh heuristic of thinking about that we live in these nested environments so a child is raised in a home with parents and siblings and that home is in a neighborhood that's got peers it's got neighbors it's got the school which they go to it's got libraries it's got the masjid that neighborhood is in a city that city has a certain culture to it has certain norms that's in a state that has its own norms that's in some sort of a national climate so these are all the different types of socializers that are out there it could be individuals or it can be institutions and each of them with every interaction with the child will leave some effect so if it's frequent then it can have a larger effect if it's infrequent it's going to have less of an effect which is why school is so powerful because it's something which we spend so much of our life in so you know five days a week for you know how many years of your life 18 years of your life you're getting that reinforcement of what values the school is transmitting to you i'll get to the point about you know the role of parents in in a few moments but so when you're talking about all of those layers that affect someone's identity it just kind of rings alarms bills that i have to learn all of that because the context that my daughter is raised in is probably a little bit different to the one that i was raised in so i have to learn all those layers and all those facets that affect her her uh identity so it seems like a daunting task and and we'll talk about um how i can play more of an active role in my daughter's life in a few moments but um this concept of dual identities that you talk about um that someone can have a muslim identity and then something else can you talk to that in light of what you just said which is that you know everyone has a unique identity that has multiple dimensions yeah so if you think about any individual they're going to organize these identities within themselves so we all have some racial and ethnic identity we all have some type of a gender identity about how much masculinity or femininity matters to you or you enact in your life we have uh social class identities about whether we're from the elite and wealthy or the middle class or from the poor we have our different cultural identities we have our family identities we have our religious identity and so many more so what ends up happening is that all of these organize within the individual's mindset in a certain fashion i like to use this word hierarchically so it's organized from kind of most important to least important but also what makes this tricky is that certain identities turn on or off depending on the climate that you're in or the environment you're in so to give an example imagine that you're if there's a woman right a sister and she walks into a space where there's a say like a hundred men and she's the only woman in that room all of a sudden her gender identity might become far more salient because she stands out at that moment now that's one way you can enact an identity or that it becomes salient another way is actually to be with people who share your identity so if i walk into the masjid all of a sudden my islamic identity becomes very very salient because everyone is doing islamic things everyone kind of understands what's kind of the shared norms here which as if you flip it you'd say when i walk to school is my islamic identity going to be the most sailing probably not it might be my student identity so the issue of dual identities what we're trying to get at this notion is that there are things and dual is probably not the right word it's going to be just multiple but what is the true self that one has what is the ideal identity that one is hoping to enact in life and i think with your question what um i'm getting at is this duality that people often have as a prophet muhammad spoke about it in hadith he said that you know the worst of people is the one who's two-faced right you know he kind of has one one way of being with one group of people and then kind of another way of being with another group of people and i think what this is getting at is that uh you'll find often times that you might have a child and that child will walk into a space with mom and dad aunt and uncle at the masjid and you know they'll say you know masha allah this kid is such a good kid he's so righteous he's so innocent and he always does the right thing he says the right words but then when that kid is with his friends he's a completely different person the entire islamic identity has been removed right and and he is enacting something totally different and we have to wonder why is that happening why is the islamic identity so much lower in the kids hierarchy why is it where he's willing to dump this to really show his true self and what are we doing to socialize a kid that he has chosen identity a over the islamic identity and that's really the crux of what i i think we need to understand i also struggled with this not just as a as a kid but in my early 20s um if you if you don't mind me sharing this story um i was working at mcdonald's in the in the head office as a as a brand manager and i used to give hotba at the same time so every friday i would take off two hours with my environment in the corporate world and i drive to the closest place to give khutbah because there was no there's no one to give khutbah and i would be wearing in my you know just normal kind of corporate way um but as i'm driving to the place to give hotbar i'm and it's just a small hall in in some community hall in in like woopwoop uh every every single traffic light i was practicing my uh cutback because i didn't like to read it um i was changing my clothes in the car um i'd roll up my my jeans make sure that the um the thumb was on i'd get there and talk about you know heaven and hell and whatnot and then you know a few minutes later i'm back in the corporate world and honestly i felt for for months that i was two people like two people in two complete different groups and that made me feel uncomfortable um but i guess you know when you're talking about you know having multiple identities and leading in and leaning out ultimately you need to ask yourself who are you but there is no harm in as i'm understanding from you in leaning in and leaning out when you're talking about your own identity no absolutely not in fact it's very adaptive and normal to do that and that's how all human beings are in and you think about when you're with your family you're wearing your father identity probably first and foremost or your husband identity and you're not acting like the branding manager at mcdonald's with your kids and your wife at least i hope you're not right and that's so you don't want to be like hey this is who i am and i'm going to be this person all the time no matter what but what you want to be clear about is that in this kind of global hierarchy that your islamic identity is secure enough that it will manifest itself appropriately even when you're at work with your co-workers so it's not like it gets dumped but i'm going to make sure that i don't do anything that's on islamic i'm going to make sure that i still practice my faith in a certain fashion and so that's what we hope and a strong islamic identity does is that it manifests itself appropriately no matter where we are whether it's school work with friends it with family right it's not going to be it's not going to drop down to the point of being non-existent so so then in that case dr utman what if my my daughter comes to me and she's in her early 20s um and she kind of identifies as muslim she's not practicing at all but she's kind of like culturally muslim um and she's you know she celebrates eid with us but she doesn't really do anything else and in kind of the corporate world she is she's a completely different person than the one i know um at home uh can you talk to that that concept of being culturally muslim is that you know does that fit in this concept of being you know religiously muslim so if you take our definition again that it's what you believe and your deepest values kind of what you do and kind of who you do this with for someone who's simply a cultural muslim who shows up on eid who will you know 27th of ramadan you know they'll do the bare minimum that fulfills their desire to enact that identity but we know that it's not a complete manifestation and we would say that person has a very weak islamic identity and it's the very bottom of the hierarchy and what we find is that when that occurs the benefits of islam will not be realized by that person in this life so when we talk about all the things that spirituality gets you when we get about all the things that i don't mean this from like a very self-serving sense but even from the perspective of like allah subhanahu wa he expects certain things out of us and if you are not fulfilling those things because that is not the extent by which you're fulfilling this identity then one should not be surprised if all the fruits of religiosity in terms of like contentment in this life in terms of uh in terms i don't wanna say the word happiness that's not the right term to use but just um you know being able to to grapple and cope with whatever may hit you that will not be the buffer because you have not enacted that identity to its fullest so i wouldn't those people are still muslim and human beings exist on a spectrum of being very practicing to not so practicing but we want to convey to people that doesn't that doesn't actually bear the fruits of islam to enact an identity in such a weak fashion so um dr uthman like i for the rest of the interview i'd like to pose a scenario the same scenario i had earlier which is my daughter kind of me trying to influence her religiosity or you know her religious identity growing up and taking her to sunday school and whatnot can you just go with me on this journey for the next few moments she's born and we believe as muslims that prophesy said that everyone's born uh with the fitra um and it's it's their parents who pull them to you know christianity or judaism or whatever um so so that concept of fitra you mind explaining that and then what what do i do as a parent in the early years to make sure that i'm not intention or unintentionally negatively influencing my my daughter's identity religious identity because i'm trying to do the basics yeah um well there's there's a lot to speak through my childhood on but i mean the first thing to just reiterate is that yes there are all these socializers in our children's lives there's friends there's there's there's schools there's neighborhoods there's tv but at the end of the day the overwhelming empirical evidence and religious guidance tells us that no no one other than the parents will have such an impact on the kids religious identity and development they are without a doubt the most important lever in the religious life of a kid so now we say well what do parents do what should they be doing uh one of the most common things that's found in literature on socialization is that people do things are they internalize behaviors and beliefs based on the frequency of the interactions and the connection they have the person who's socializing them so for a parent i would say the very first thing is to practice what you preach this is like should just be almost like all over your you know everywhere you can just like put that somewhere like as a as a reminder that a child will pick up on hypocrisy in the most subtle of ways and so we want our kids to be religious we ourselves need to be religious if we want our kids to pray we ourselves need to pray and if a child witnesses the incongruence between what a parent says what a parent does then they're going to say well you know this is this this this is not that important right if my my mom and dad don't do it the second thing that is extremely important is to have this warm loving relationship with your kid because all the literature finds and the prophetic guidance as well that we find is that that quality of the relationship between a parent and child establishes the bond of whether a child ever wants to follow what their parents tell them so you told me in your beginning you know you talked about let's say that you recite the advantage and you you know you um read so i told them all the time they're listening to it but if you're if you're just passively doing this to them right go listen to this you know go and pray drop you off at sunday school and there's no warmth in this relationship if there's no uh love and affection in this relationship then the child is not likely to want to imitate what they even see mom and dad doing even if the mom and dad are praying even if mom and dad are going to what else what is warmth sorry like what does warmth look like like uh because i'm i'm putting effort into my kids you know religiosity and i'm dropping them off and for me that's warmth uh you know taking them to sunday school to learn that's warm it's like what's warmth in your mind yeah warmth is having authentic genuine interactions and i'd say mostly it's it's between parent and child so a child doesn't perceive it as warm to drop them off somewhere else now i'm not saying don't drop them off for sunday school but what we're speaking about is that do i have an enjoyable day-to-day interaction with my kid leave a religion aside just in general and then with religious activities so does mama and baba tell me bedtime stories about the prophets that's a warm interaction which is very different than saying you know what here's the kindle here's the ipad it's going to read to you the story and you feel like you know i did my job so outsourcing religious identity development or religious socialization is not going to work so do i read quran with my kid and am i warm with them or do i pull their ear when they make a mistake with their tajweed right that's cold so it's what we're really trying to get at is i use this term affective experiences that you know at the end of the day kids are going to forget the particulars what we did with them but they're going to remember a memory about you know when i did things with my mom and dad we went to the masjid or we would do something religious edward being an enjoyable activity amber being something which you know we were we were both having fun with together and that's what i mean by warm so okay is there a way other than kind of the the hypocrisy you mentioned like you know i'm not practicing what i'm preaching um am i doing anything unintentionally that kind of deters them away from from islam when they grow up yeah i'd say the biggest thing that i find is um when parents subtly send signals to their kids that the islamic identity is not the most important thing in life and the way we do this no parent would ever say you know what son daughter islam doesn't matter but our words you know that you know our actions speak louder than any of our words and so it's these subtle cues that we send to children which they pick up on to say you know what religion's not that important give some examples what i typically find is that most parents are very keen to have their kids let's say in sunday school or some early childhood religious education elementary school sure and then their kids get a little bit older kind of maybe teenagers and the parents pull their kids out of everything and they say this is time for academics now i need you to get the best grades to get the best college and have the best jobs you can make the most amount of money now what's really ironic about this is that that time period of adolescence is exactly when the kid needs religious socialization and they've been pulled out of it but they've also picked up on mom and dad don't think islam is that important but it's math and science and engineering and all the other subjects that matter to me a whole lot that's one example another example is when they see for instance when a parent uh and we all do that as parents we want our kids to succeed in school so you might wanna we might get very upset and angry that if a kid comes home with like a c or the kid comes home with like a bad grade or doesn't do their homework but if the kid doesn't do his islamic studies homework if he doesn't read quran that day if he misses a prayer it doesn't get a professor it's like not a big deal so they can sense that where do mom and dad get angry they get angry with the things that i mean we usually get mad at things that matter to us at least we should right that's kind of adaptive human behavior and they're saying well mom and dad are getting mad at what matters to them which is school and education they're not getting mad when i don't do islam so as that must not be that important and and so and the last thing i'll mention is this is something very explicit is that parents will then actively tell their kids like don't get involved in like the youth group or msas in high school or in college because you need to be laser focused on becoming a doctor a lawyer an engineer or something else so all these subtle things are doing sometimes not so subtle the kid internalizes that religious identity is much lower in my parents needs or their preferences and they're going to absorb that as we shouldn't be surprised then when they hit college and they hit these older ages and they get confused we say well where were we you know socializing them when they had all these questions on their mind fair enough um so like yeah i can see i can see how that makes sense it certainly makes sense to me in a very controlled environment like in in home i can build that really warm um relationship with my daughter i can read bedtime stories about the prophets point taken in the car when i'm driving to sunday school point taken but what if um you know when we're when we're faced with kind of mainstream challenges you know the the shows we're watching or their friends at school who are pulling them in in really kind of opposite directions um to that kind of warm and cozy uh feeling that i i was able to to build at home um what can i do when when i'm facing those challenges because sometimes the wave against me is bigger than than what i can handle as a parent so how can i how can i face that yeah that's a that's a big daunting question um there's a couple of things that i think that the research points to and that kind of uh common sense experience might also um give us some insight into so the first is that parents have to recognize that they don't raise their kids in a vacuum and just that awareness that look it's not mom and dad we're gonna raise this kid but we have to have community around us and that community will help reinforce some of these values so that it becomes easier for these kids to enact it so even when they're outside of your space they're outside of the home if they're uh you know with friends right if they're out in the neighborhood if they're in spaces but those spaces are wholesome spaces if there's places where i feel comfortable with the religious values that are being transmitted there that's a step in the right direction but that can always be the case right i mean we live in the west many of us are in public schools so i would say in this situation what's super important it still goes back to warm parenting is that do i keep a line of communication open with my kids so that no matter what they're going through they're comfortable speaking to me about it and i'm also in touch with what they're going through so i can bring it up proactively so for instance i know for instance that kids who are in middle school in high school and now are getting into the age of thinking about uh you know intimate relationships they're starting to think about or be exposed to drug and alcohol and so do i as a parent proactively even bring these conversations up or do i create a climate so that my child if it comes up in their life they can come back to us and say you know what mom i don't i don't understand why i can't do this you know i really want to do x or y and i don't understand why if they can't ask that question then we're suppressing the ability for their identity to develop and those are natural questions especially in a western culture where let's say boys and girls hanging out together as a norm it's on every muslim kid's mind it's why can't i hang out with other boys and girls and if they just have to stifle that then it won't be surprising when they actually just have that dual identity you spoke about previously which is to shed the islamic identity right when it's not advantageous and honestly i can um just just to your point of you know making sure that we build that warm and cozy relationship i guess it becomes exponentially more difficult um to face those challenges together when we've outsourced um you know the religious teachings um like for them to go to sunday school which is good but you know if we've completely outsourced religion to institutions outside of the home then i'm assuming that it's just so much harder to tackle those challenges face on yeah and it goes again back to this issue of role modeling is that when you outsource things you have to think about the dosage that someone's going to get if they go once a week to sunday school and they're getting a one-hour interaction with the teacher and they're one kid in a class of 30 the time to develop that warm loving relationship is not there so even if parents they should outsource some of it while simultaneously building their own relationships but it has to be in a meaningful sense so is there a relationship with a mentor they can develop someone who they see regularly especially in the teenage years i think this is absolutely essential that this person so let's the example of school if they're going to be good at mathematics they're getting five days a week monday through friday they're going to math class right say middle school and high school so they can grapple with all the challenges of mathematics or english literature or anything else are they getting that same islamic exposure where on a daily basis they can build a relationship with somebody and it's not daily even if it's couple times a week or even once a week but it's one or two people a youth group director an imam right some other you know youth that's older and maybe a good role model that we just have them consistently with our kids because it's true as our kids get older they're going to be less inclined to hanging out with mom and dad all the time they're going to want to be with peers so we can at least say it fine we want you to be with peers but we want there to be like a good role model in your peer circle and that's going to have a massive influence on them internalizing these values and if there is no good role model then hopefully they've they're comfortable enough in their skin that we've been able to develop over you know 15 years or so that they're comfortable to be muslim in that circle they're comfortable to pray in public if they need to or to kind of steer away from certain you know foods or ideas or kind of influences right yeah and you and i think you've hit the nail on the head this idea of teaching our youth to be comfortable in their skin it goes back to the core of identity we spoke about we want to teach our youth that you've got to fit in kind of globally into the society right you don't want to stick out in every single way you don't have to look completely different actively different speak a different language you can fit in while still being unique and how you're unique is through your religious identity and so how do you do that you have to walk them through that day by day so i go to the park with my kids multiple times a week right we go shopping on the weekend and when salah comes in am i okay and and modeling for my kids i can get up and pray in public i can pray at the beach i can pray at the park i can pray in the mall and if the kid sees that they're again internalizing oh i can actually enact my religiosity in a way that's unique and that not everyone else is sharing with me now one important point here though is that this can't this is a a delicate act because our children the ability to constantly be different and constantly stand out can wear on someone it can be emotionally exhausting it can be psychologically taxing so we want to ensure is that while they have the ability to be unique when they need to be unique like i see some of the opposite gender you know i don't i don't give you a hug right i don't shake your hand i've got my uniqueness in this right but at the same time if they're hanging out with friends and they always have to be different 24 hours a day eventually it's going to wear on them so what do we do we try to minimize the need to be extra unique so if you're going to go hang out on a friday night with friends and you go and you go to them you go to the movies as an example or you go you know to a friend's house if you're with all non-muslims and muslim comes in how difficult is it to get up and say you know what friends you guys are in the middle of doing something i'm going to get up and i'm going to go pray it's tough we're not saying it's impossible but to do that over and over and over is very tiring so if you say look you've got muslim friend circles as well so with the muslim friends it's probably a whole lot easier to enact that part of your of your practice because we haven't forced them to kind of have that self-control to regulate so i think thinking about not overburdening them with environments that make them have to stand out is an important part of how we socialize them fair enough so if i was to summarize uh dr uthman um you you mentioned really early on that the role of parents you know are probably the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to shaping a child's identity other things play a role like friends like you know society like national identity and whatnot but at the end of the day it's the parents who play that biggest role and have um the biggest lever with regards to a kid's identity i i get that um and if i was to summarize and and regurgitate to you um correct me if i'm wrong um the concept of warm parenting is important so building that really robust warm relationship with the child whether that's kind of reading a storybook at night you know having really enjoyable connections with with the child that helps us kind of shape and build and also builds that sense of security with the child so that they can then um you know when they're faced with challenges can reach out to us we we need to prioritize religion uh both explicitly and implicitly uh in in our relationship with our kids so when we we send them to sunday school um in their early years and then you know flick a switch and then get them to focus on just secular studies and and ignore their religious studies growing up then that gives that subtle message um that you know right now secular studies is more important or that religion plays a second kind of second tier role so it's that prioritization and the consistent and you know equal prioritization um it's the idea of hypocrisy um so making sure that i practice what i preach and to also be in touch with what my daughter's facing growing up so understanding the challenges she's facing in school in her social circles as much as i can of course um you know different cultures different subcultures going to be difficult but you know trying to be in touch so that i can understand what she's going through and then of course not to outsource um religion uh completely obviously you know send them to sunday school and whatnot but playing a a very uh you know bringing that kind of religious institution to the home as well uh and taking responsibility for it have i summarized that correctly yeah yeah i think so i think the only thing i would add is say that parents essentially it's not just their direct effect but they're the ones who are also selecting all these other environments so i don't want to over burden the parents to say you've got to do everything but even the selection of who your kids hang out with what spaces that they're going to be in that is a important that that is a parent's responsibility if they then make the right choice of where to put their kids they can at least sit back and say at least when they're not in my presence they're in a place that i know they're going to get some good uh you know they're going to their the values they're going to get there are going to be wholesome um now fair enough and i guess at the end of the day as well like i do what i can but hidea comes from allah and i think we believe that completely but uh of course our job is to do what we can so i have a final question dr uthman um uh imagine you're playing basketball again um if you don't mind then i i bring my say nine-year-old daughter or my nine-year-old niece to the basketball court and she has a question for you you pause the game and and she asks dr uthman how do i protect my muslim identity in this world what is your answer in say 30 seconds or less okay first masha allah for a nine-year-old to think about that that's impressive all right kudos to you for raising such a wonderful daughter bless her she wasn't bribed or anything yes no extrinsic rewards that's another topic for another day um i would tell a nine-year-old this is the same thing i tell any teenager friends friends friends friends friends prophet muhammad said that the person is going to follow the lifestyle and faith of their friends their closest intimate friends be mindful of who you take as your closest friend find the best peer group find righteous people and you will find yourself in a safe spot insha'allah dr uthman your paper is is currently live on yapping institute's website will my children be muslim it's a pleasure to have you to be honest as a director of yakreen institute and to have you on doubletake thank you so much and for those who are interested in dr uthman's work you can visit jaclyn institute.org
for having me it was really a pleasure to be here today with you