IN PART 1 we noted the critical lack of up-to-date fatâwa on the current issues concerning LGBTQ affairs—stemming from a general absence of engagement in the social context of non-Muslim majority countries.
The average Muslim’s understanding is thus hindered, and very possibly his Islamic moral compass is unsupported and under-informed on this point. Our top scholars need to step up to the plate with informed clarification of all such practical matters and our local leaders need to be engaged, one-on-one, with those who may come to them struggling with transgender issues.
Not only does our community need to be educated on LGBTQ concerns and our local leadership trained to counsel individuals in their struggles, but parents also need to be sufficiently informed in order to properly engage with their kids on this hot topic. And that is where we pick up the question again with point #3 below.
LGBTQ is a topic needing new examination and investigation, since, most likely, most of today’s Muslim parents have been totally unexposed to such current issues. It was perhaps a totally irrelevant social issue in their childhood. Today’s Muslim kids need guidance on all moral and behavioral questions, and today’s Muslim parents need to be able to understand the world which their kids must confront and negotiate. Neither parents nor kids should be forced to put their heads in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich, and refuse to accept facing the issues due to a lack in readily-available Islamic guidance.
3) Muslim Parents and Tarbiya
It is unfortunate to see that when it comes to knowing about, understanding, and talking to their children about sensitive issues, many Muslim parents are extremely behind. Although some of them have chosen to live in a non-Muslim country, while others were themselves born and raised in such regions, too many Muslim parents remain dangerously uneducated – sometimes willfully, sometimes out of unconscious incompetence.
Today’s Red Flag for Parents
Either way, the lack of education and proactive discussion is extremely concerning. Muslim parents cannot afford to remain ignorant or in denial about the very real, very relevant issues taking place in the societies where we live. The fact that we have chosen to live in these societies and to raise our children within them means that we cannot use such excuses such as “This doesn’t happen in our countries,” or “My kids don’t know about this,” or “Our parents never spoke to us about this, and we came out just fine.” The fact is, we are not ‘back home,’ our kids are exposed to a great deal more than we realize, and we do not live in our parents’ time.
The Prophet ﷺ informed us:
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The amîr (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of his household and he is responsible for his flock; a woman is a shepherdess in charge of her husband’s house and children and she is responsible for them; and a man’s slave is a shepherd in charge of his master’s property and he is responsible for it. So each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. (Al-Albani, Sunan Abi Dawud 2928, graded Ṣaḥiḥ)
As parents, we are shepherds over our children and will be held accountable regarding them on the Day of Judgment. Their education and their tarbiya (training) is our responsibility, and failing in their tarbiya – or in taking the appropriate measures to provide them with the correct education and training – is a burden we will suffer the consequences of.
We simply cannot afford to live in ignorance of our present world and the reality we live in.
A Double-Whammy for Our Kids
LGBTQ issues are at the forefront in media, pop culture, and even in the classroom. Despite a concerted effort, on the part of the LGBTQ community, to ensure the unwavering support of certain groups and actions, there is the irony that very often, the children are not always clearly educated about the differences among the various issues.
Thus, while kids are often told at school that they must support LGBTQ pride, many don’t know the difference between homosexuality and being transgender. Neither their secular educators nor their Muslim parents take the time to explain what these various labels mean.
For Muslim kids in particular, their parents and their communities are usually at least a decade behind in current events, and so they have a double issue of not knowing what certain terms are currently used to mean, but also not knowing what the Islamic perspective of those matters is—and how their behavior should reflect their attitudes.
What Can We Do as Muslim Parents?
Just as scholars need to be up-to-date with what’s going on in the world, so too do we Muslim parents have to know what our children are being exposed to through media and pop culture. Music videos and magazine covers, movies and social media – we have to know what the headlines are, what is being said and communicated, what messages are being pushed. We need to see for ourselves what they are exposed to.
Once we know what is being taught, we need to be pro-active and teach our children even more – to sit down with them and speak with them frankly about the difference between the values we hold as Muslims, and the ever-changing man-made codes of the world around us.
Overcoming Our Inhibitions for the Sake of our Children
It is necessary for us to emphasize that our morals come not from our own desires or societal norms, but from Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. We also must convey to our kids the need to recognize certain actions and behaviors as sinful, without expressing disrespect or ill manners to those who exhibit those traits.
We ourselves should be educated enough to discuss topics which we may personally feel uncomfortable with, so that we can make our children feel comfortable enough to ask us these questions – and so that we can provide them with the correct answers.
We cannot allow our own discomfort in discussing delicate sexual matters, for example, to get in the way of educating our children as they need to be educated. When we are living in a sexually explicit type of society, we need to take our responsibilities as parents extremely seriously. We cannot complain about the ‘bad influences’ of society, or pretend they don’t exist, and yet constantly put our kids in the line of fire and expect them to emerge unscathed and protected from all fitna. Nor can we then be surprised when they come home having engaged in behavior that we consider ḥarâm. Neither can we accept for them to have a worldview completely dissociated from that of Islam.
Doing Our Own Homework
We absolutely must wake up and realize the reality that we live in, acknowledge the issues that exist, make an effort to educate ourselves and understand these matters as clearly as possible, and acquaint ourselves with and reaffirm what the Shariʿah has to say.
At the end of the day, we must understand – for ourselves and our children – what Allah and His Messenger say about these matters. It may not be politically correct or conform to the popular stance of the day, but it does conform to the concept of Divine Justice, the standard to which we will be held on the Day of Judgment. It is from within this paradigm, this worldview, that we must evaluate everything that is going on around us; and it is based upon the Divine standards for our behavior that we must act.
It’s as simple as that.
It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. [Sûrat Al-Aḥzâb, 33:36]
How To Approach Our Children
As a parent myself who has already had to explain the concept of transgender and homosexual to my 5 year old daughter – simply because we live in an environment where it is quite common to see such individual—I have some advice to offer in terms of how parents can begin to discuss this issues with their children:
- For younger children who notice certain behaviors and ask questions, it is important to be very honest and frank with them, while keeping in mind age-appropriate language. It is also important to be aware of one’s body language and tone of voice, as that can affect how your child understands your answer.”Why is that man dressed like a woman?” is an example of a question that a young child might ask. Ideally, a good response would be along the following lines: “Some people feel that they prefer to dress up in the clothing of the opposite gender. Sometimes, they feel that they were born in the wrong type of body and that they are actually women in men’s bodies, or the other way around. Allah told us that it’s not allowed for Muslims to do that, so we don’t do it. But even though we disagree with what other people do, that doesn’t mean we are allowed to be rude or disrespectful to them.”
- With older children, it is a good idea to have family meetings or discuss the day’s events at dinnertime or any other scheduled daily family gathering. Ask them about what they have heard and learned at school, offer them your own insights or questions about what is new in pop culture and the media, and establish open, honest communication.Remind them regularly that what Muslims consider acceptable or not is based on what Allah informed us in the Quran and Sunnah, as He is the All-Knowing and All-Wise. Encourage them to ask questions, no matter how ‘taboo’ or ‘sensitive,’ and provide them with well researched, Islamicly correct answers.
In this way, the children will experience a safe and Islamically sound environment in which to discuss these issues.
Readers are encouraged to share online sources which may be of appropriate help to Muslim parents—and older kids, as well.