.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
What does it take, in order to be a good man, a good Muslim, a good uncle, a good father?
م, my uncle, strongly values emotional intelligence. [He says that he would like for his son to grow up to be emotionally aware, and emotionally literate, and sharing].
And this is something that I highly respect and admire about م:
Wisdom, perhaps: doing/saying the right things, at the right times, in the right contexts. Being attuned to others, and their potential sensitivities, particularities.
In the Qur’an, which م has previously expressed the significance of maintaining a connection with, Allah allows us, the reader, the audience, to be privy to a lovely conversation between Luqmān (a wise man) and his son. Religion is clearly placed at the forefront in this conversation, and, the essence of a beautiful bond between father and son is demonstrated. Via these verses, Allah also, once again, emphasises how significant parenthood is, in Islam.
وَإِذ قالَ لُقمانُ لِابنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ يا بُنَيَّ لا تُشرِك بِاللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ الشِّركَ لَظُلمٌ عَظيمٌ
وَوَصَّينَا الإِنسانَ بِوالِدَيهِ حَمَلَتهُ أُمُّهُ وَهنًا عَلىٰ وَهنٍ وَفِصالُهُ في عامَينِ أَنِ اشكُر لي وَلِوالِدَيكَ إِلَيَّ المَصيرُ
وَإِن جاهَداكَ عَلىٰ أَن تُشرِكَ بي ما لَيسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلمٌ فَلا تُطِعهُما ۖ وَصاحِبهُما فِي الدُّنيا مَعروفًا ۖ وَاتَّبِع سَبيلَ مَن أَنابَ إِلَيَّ ۚ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرجِعُكُم فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِما كُنتُم تَعمَلونَ
يا بُنَيَّ إِنَّها إِن تَكُ مِثقالَ حَبَّةٍ مِن خَردَلٍ فَتَكُن في صَخرَةٍ أَو فِي السَّماواتِ أَو فِي الأَرضِ يَأتِ بِهَا اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطيفٌ خَبيرٌ
يا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلاةَ وَأمُر بِالمَعروفِ وَانهَ عَنِ المُنكَرِ وَاصبِر عَلىٰ ما أَصابَكَ ۖ إِنَّ ذٰلِكَ مِن عَزمِ الأُمورِ
وَاقصِد في مَشيِكَ وَاغضُض مِن صَوتِكَ ۚ إِنَّ أَنكَرَ الأَصواتِ لَصَوتُ الحَميرِ
أَلَم تَرَوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ سَخَّرَ لَكُم ما فِي السَّماواتِ وَما فِي الأَرضِ وَأَسبَغَ عَلَيكُم نِعَمَهُ ظاهِرَةً وَباطِنَةً ۗ وَمِنَ النّاسِ مَن يُجادِلُ فِي اللَّهِ بِغَيرِ عِلمٍ وَلا هُدًى وَلا كِتابٍ مُنيرٍ
Behold, Luqman said to his son by way of instruction: “O my son! Join not in worship (others) with Allah: for false worship is indeed the highest wrong-doing.”
And We have commanded mankind to ˹honour˺ their parents. Their mothers bore them through hardship upon hardship, and their weaning takes two years. So be grateful to Me and your parents. To Me is the final return.
But if they pressure you to associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, do not obey them. Still keep their company in this world courteously, and follow the way of those who turn to Me ˹in devotion˺. Then to Me you will ˹all˺ return, and then I will inform you of what you used to do.
“O my dear son! ˹Even˺ if a deed were the weight of a mustard seed—be it ˹hidden˺ in a rock or in the heavens or the earth—Allah will bring it forth. Surely Allah is Most Subtle, All-Aware.
“O my dear son! Establish prayer, encourage what is good and forbid what is evil, and endure patiently whatever befalls you. Surely this is a resolve to aspire to.
“And do not turn your cheek to the people [i.e., do not be arrogant, conceited, disregarding, towards them], nor walk pridefully upon the earth. Surely Allah does not like whoever is arrogant, boastful.
“Be moderate in your pace. And lower your voice, for the ugliest of all voices is certainly the braying of donkeys.”
Through this conversation, we can easily pick up on the fact that that Luqman had shared a positive, beautiful bond with his son: he had not been harsh with him. Rather, he had addressed his child in a loving manner, and had passed on these gems of wisdom to him…
Remaining purely monotheistic. Being aware that Allah is the Most-Aware (so, be careful about what you do and say). Establish prayer. Do and encourage good, and forbid evil. Have Sabr over whatever befalls you. And: be humble, be modest, even in the way that you walk. In how we speak.
Apparently, back when م had still been at secondary school (according to his sister,) when asked what he (م) would like to ‘be’, when he is older, م had responded:
[His sister, my aunt, had attended both the same primary, and secondary, schools as him. Later, my cousin and I had ‘followed in their footsteps’, having attended these same schools].
Now: م is a father, Maa Shaa Allah, to a gorgeous, gorgeous little boy by the name of Dawud. His beautiful smile, lovely growing personality, and his thoughtful, beautiful, and kind little eyes.
Four-year-old Dawud shares a bond with his father that is very loving and playful, Allah hummabārik (although, at the same time, م effectively sets boundaries, when it comes to his son, and does not neglect the more discipline-oriented side of things, in good measure).
A love centred on… love. And hugs, and kisses, and positive encouragements, and smiles.
Yesterday, Dawud (who, as well as generally being quite emotionally aware of others, seems to have a more playfully sassy side) started subtly roasting his Baba, at times:
“Baba, should I throw water on you and then call you ‘Water Baba‘?!”
He smiles his signature cheeky smile, laughs, and waits for his Baba’s reaction.
I find it so lovely that my uncle, who is in his thirties, is able to have such… lively and rich conversations with his son, who is just four. Dawud clearly wants to tell his Baba so much, and evidently does not want to disappoint him, at all.
Wisdom, when it comes to the significant role of being a father:
An organisation that م has referred to, and has seemingly benefitted from the content produced by, is: Involved Fathers. This is a not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to the empowerment and up-skilling of Muslim fathers. They offer things like bespoke parenting courses, webinars, and so on, and, on their website, cite the definition of fatherly involvement as:
Men’s “positive, wide-ranging, and active participation in their children’s lives” [Marsiglio et al., 2000].
(Link to the Involved Fathers site: https://involvedfathers.com).
And, whether it’s: playing superheroes, or (pretend-) assisting his dad with some DIY work, being taken out to the local country park, and having lots of nice conversations together in the car, at restaurants, at the dinner table in their family’s conservatory… What a strong, and special, bond that is fostered, by direct consequence of all these ‘little’ things.
[Somewhat recently, quite a few family members had been sitting in my nan’s sitting room, and my uncle, م, had been at football: he goes to play football with his friends at the local sports centre on Friday evenings. In his absence, Dawud tried to get everybody’s attention: “Everybody!
“I want to buy my Baba a rainbow bus!”]
Yesterday: Dawud revealed that he would like to get a minibus for his Baba, and a minibus for himself. Oh, and: a “bigger house” for his mummy. With whose money? His Baba’s, of course.
Yesterday, also, Dawud had essentially tried to assert himself as being the, or at least a, ‘man of the house’. “I decide,” he’d announced, cheekily. And: another sweet, humorous, and lively conversation betwixt father and son.
A discussion, also, between م and his wife, on whether or not they should have Dawud’s hair cut. My aunt wanted for it to be shorter. My uncle wanted for it to be kept as it is. Dawud decided that he… wants to have it cut shorter.
Previously, م’s profile picture on WhatsApp had been in honour of Khabib Nurmagomedov and his father. Now: it is in appreciation of his own bond, with his own son, our family’s precious Dawud. [I, personally, call him ‘Dawud Baisab’.
‘Baisab’, in Bengali, is a title of respect that is typically given to older brothers. Now Dawud Baisab seems to really be convinced that he is my Baisab.]
م and his family live in a lovely cottage, somewhere on the edge of what constitutes Greater London. In his garage, where there had previously been a boxing bag, م has, I believe, a Teppanyaki grill: a Japanese-style rectangular pan, on which food can be cooked.
Then, inside: typically, a person’s home, living space, is like a physical extension of who they are as people, no?
م’s house is tidy, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. Calm, clean, and orderly, though not in any ‘extreme’ way. His wife, my aunt, likes her ‘vintage-style’ things. Like, her dressing table, and her showcase with vintage-style tea sets in it. Yankee candles. Fluffy prayer mat.
Adidas sliders. Dawud’s cars. A distinctive mustard-yellow armchair in the living room. A drinks cupboard in the conservatory room [sports drinks, lemonade, juices, Halāl piña colada…]
And my uncle loves his gadgets. I guess you could say that his home is (quite subtly) kitted out. Alexa the AI (which one can, I believe, also control the lighting and temperature of م’s home, via), Ring doorbell camera. A hands-free vacuum cleaner device. ‘Little’ things to make things that much more efficient, I guess.
And sometimes, when م sits down to get some work done, he uses multiple screens. Allah hummabārik, he is also committed, financially, to ‘living within his means’, and has a spreadsheet on Google Docs onto which he records such things as income, projected expenditure: upcoming bills and the like, and then: the ‘real’ money he has left, to spend.
Subhaan Allah, when I think about م, the more one says about him, the more one may find that there is to be said. For example:
Upon hearing that I was going to work as an English teacher, about a year and a half ago, م had been very supportive and encouraging, and had sent a gift to my house: a mini electronic dictionary, complete with a riddle as its attached message.
For Eid last year: I received from my beloved uncle a T-shirt, with a poem I have loved, printed onto it.
Something that I love about م is that… he really is awesome, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. And not in any ‘glittery’ way that seeks to ‘demand attention’ for itself. He just… is.
You can talk to him about… politics and current affairs [just recently, at a Dawat (which is Bengali for ‘invitation’, i.e. for food) at my other uncle’s house, I’d passed by the living room, where the men had been sitting, and had overheard م talking about the world map on the wall. The disproportionality of it, I think, and about how the USA shares a (maritime) border with Russia! Apparently, you can see Russia from Alaska…]
Matters relating to physics. Astronomy. Philosophy. Wise insights into Islam and the Qur’an. History. Awesome facts. Just… ‘effortlessly’. Subtle moments of… illumination, enlightenment. [I love it when human beings are… geeky, and comfortably so. They just love what they are talking about, and you can sense this in how they talk about these things, the stars in their eyes].
Psychology. Child psychology. Emotions, things going on in your life, your thoughts. Religion, theology. Literature [م loves the writing style of Jane Austen, for example]. Football.
From م, we, his nephews and nieces, and his son, tend to get: a genuinely listening ear. An open and sincere heart, methinks. An absence of pretension, or judgement. Reassurance and support.
A loving, and beloved, human figure, whom we all (without seeking to put pressure on him) really trust, look up to, value the opinions of, and love.
People seek م’s advice, counsel, for things like… their own children. Practical help, with things like booking tickets for travelling. Cars. Emotional support. Finance.
And he responds, lovingly, neither from a place of ‘superiority’, nor of the sort of servility (call it… obsequiousness) that involves dishonouring oneself, and thinking that this is ‘humbleness’. I think he’s genuinely somebody who feels quite blessed with what Allah has given him, and wants to help others where he can.
The thing about this article is that: the more I think about م and whom he is, the more I can think of additional things to say. But I will try to keep this relatively concise:
Although م has, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik, the more worldly things that many people find they are aspiring towards (the nice house, the car, the university education, and the like…), we find that our reasons for loving him are not contingent on the material.
According to م’s eldest niece, my Didi (‘older sister’, my cousin), when asked about what she loves/respects/admires about م, and about any nice memories that come to mind involving him…
It’s his “honesty, selfless love, humbleness.
“My Nikkah [wedding] was my nice memory with him, when he came to my house, gave me the biggest hug [heart emoji].
“And his soft nature, patient.”
م’s own father, my grandfather, had departed from this world when م had been in his early twenties. My uncle truly loves his father. He looks like him. Is humble, like him. Keeps to his own business, like how my grandfather did.
After my grandfather had passed, it had been م who had led the Janāzah [funeral] prayer at the East London Mosque. And he had also helped to lower his father’s body, at rest, into the ground. I think this moment, as poignant as it must have been, had reminded م of the fact of… eternity.
And م has lots of good things to say, about how both his parents have raised him: they had been people with good principles, and had passed these lessons onto their children, through embodiment, demonstration.
My nan, م’s mother, is a strong woman, Maa Shaa Allah. And yesterday, م had spoken about how Khadijah (RA), too, had been a strong, self-assured, wealthy, and kind, woman, Maa Shaa Allah. Strong enough for Muhammad (SAW) to have relied on her, physically, emotionally, spiritually. He’d been “nourished by her love”.
A’iyshah (RA), also, had been sharp-witted. Smart. Strong, forthright, Maa Shaa Allah. Strong women tend to nourish and raise strong, healthy, loving families, in which those involved can really flourish.
About م’s father: I think he had written a poem in honour of his father. [He likes poetry, and has written and won awards for some of his own works]. If I recall correctly, this particular poem had begun with the line:
“Yours was a firm hand.”
A poem about love, and about fatherly strength and guidance, I think.
Growing up, it seems م, as well as being fairly independent (and accepting responsibility, it seems, for his own fulfilment) has had a lovely, energetic group of friends. To watch the footy with, to play video-games with. To eat with, to sometimes travel with.
He had his own motorbike for a while. A bonsai tree. A telescope. Meeting Bear Grylls (and telling him to visit Bangladesh!) Rock-climbing. Made the garage into a personal gym. Brown bread with peanut butter. A love for coleslaw. Worked at Waitrose full-time, I think, alongside studying Law at Queen Mary University. [And then: a postgraduate diploma in Law and Leadership, at SOAS].
Football. Martial arts. Cat-sitting his friend’s cat. Taking his family to Egypt. Switzerland. Malta. Turkey. Greece… [Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik]. Discreetly weaving in puns at work meetings, as part of a fun challenge, I think, with some colleagues. Showing such hospitality, in his home, towards guests.
Just… tending to his and his own, doing what makes him happy at the time (and in a nice ‘middle’ way), living moderately, and also being highly involved in the lives of those whom he loves and cares about.
م is an advocate of: being able to filter opinions, ideas, and so on, through the final frontier of… one’s own self. Registering and accepting that: okay, this is what others may think. Ultimately: what do I think? [Does this make me happy? Is it good for me?]
And: finding the sweetness in the struggle. Committing to finding satisfaction, in, and from the results of, all the work we have to do…
Yesterday, م had been speaking about the value of… talking to oneself. You need yourself; you likely value what you have to say, about things concerning you. Some people actually, vocally, speak to themselves: self-reflectively.
Some write. Some: think, in their heads. And م pointed out that:
Essentially, Du’a, calling upon Allah, is like this. Because He already Knows what we want to, and are going to, ask for. He Knows us better than we know our own selves.
But vocalising our fears, wants, griefs, gratitude, and so on, in the form of Du’a, speaking to God… it’s good and therapeutic for us.
If I had to describe م through a handful of words/phrases, I would say: highly intelligent, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik. Emotionally intelligent. Kind. Giving. Humble. Calm, patient, grounded. Funny [yesterday I found out about a really funny, witty, thing that م had done, at the age of nineteen/twenty].
Strong and gentle, and we, the people around him, are known to benefit from his strength and gentleness.
Oh, and: real. And living a real, good, life, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik.
م’s (ever-growing, ever-developing) experience of fatherhood, thus far… He describes fatherhood as being:
“As close to perfection as I’ve seen in this world.” May Allah bless this ongoing experience of his; the love between him and his family.
م says that he considers himself to be a ‘realist’, and with other things: the new job, new relationship, or whatever else… What we perceive of these things, prior to truly, completely knowing them: in reality, we find that the truths of these things are not quite the same as the preconceptions we have had of them. But fatherhood, according to م, is different.
It might even be better than what one could (perhaps somewhat idealistically) make of it beforehand. It’s “all of that, and more.“
It’s just been, and continues to be, “an experience,” and م is trying to appreciate every moment of it as they come. He is also fond of the notion of being the best version of himself, for his son.
About his own father, م says that: “Dad valued what he said. And [what he] didn’t say.”
[There is value in silence, sometimes, too. The silences that hold our words together.]
He says that his father had been a soft-hearted man, and that this is something that he had achieved, in spite of his life. Softness had been fundamental to whom he had been:
Coming to the UK from Bangladesh, at a young age. Working for eleven or twelve hours a day, in an environment that had been “hostile” towards people like he, from “Day One“. For at least ten to fifteen years, having been “openly ‘not wanted’, here.”
One might expect for someone who had been through such struggles, and who had grown up without a dad himself, to maybe… have a heart that is hardened. But: it takes strength to keep one’s heart soft. How much violence some people’s hearts have taken; how much their ensuing softness is a testament to strength and resistance.
How does one, expresses م, who had grown up without a father and under such circumstances, come to be so compassionate, soft, serving of others, and such a good father (Maa Shaa Allah)?!
My grandfather’s name had been Muzammil Ali. Muzammil: one wrapped up in shrouds [used in the Qur’an to refer to Muhammad (SAW)].
Muhammad (SAW). Look at the weight, and the extents, of some of his trials. Having to bury his own children. No father. His mother had passed too, while he had been young. He had lost his first wife, the love of his life. This had been a human being.
And: his good traits had been so fundamental to him that they had remained unchanged, unwavering.
And this is how one can earn true love, and true respect. Not by shouting, not by deliberately drawing attention to oneself. Just by being, often. And the people around م are able to see (what he might himself deny, but) the apparent beauty, in whom he, as a gift from Allah, simply just is.
- From Allah, م’s young son Dawud would like… a “hoover“. He had also been given a £20 note from his grandma, م’s mum, after Ifthār yesterday. With it, he has resolved to purchase… a “minibus“.