Last year when there was a major drought in East Africa, Yusuf picked up on it. He heard people talking about it at gatherings and saw fundraising flyers being handed out at the mesjid. I could tell it really affected him as he constantly wanted to talk about it and also asked me what he could do. I told him that we should first make dua for them, and also told him about the extra special times to make dua, and also told him that sending money would help. Since there was a lot of awareness about the drought during Ramadan, and since we were going to the mesjid every single day, Id give him some change to donate each time. If I ever forgot, he’d be sure to remind me.
Recently with the Arab Uprise, the adults in our family have been keeping up with the news. My husband and I usually read things online, however my father in law (whom we live with) always watches the 6:00 news. Many days we are on the main floor around that time and Yusuf would get a glimpse of the news. When the Egyptian Revolution was taking place, Id try to prevent him from seeing anything on TV, as I was unsure how Id ever explain it to him. Then Libya happened. Then Syria… it was starting to get difficult to constantly shelter him. So eventually he did see and hear some of the news regarding Syria. And then he heard people in the mesjid talking about it and/or other people collecting money…. then the questions began. At first I was very brief with him. I simply told him that bad things were happening there, but this wasn’t good enough and it was obvious that he was concerned and not satisfied with my explanations. It came to a point where my husband and I actually sat down with him and told him what was happening. We tried to simplify it by telling him that right now Syria has a government that is not good. And that the person in charge of the government is like Firawn (Yusuf is familiar with the story of Musa AS) and he wants people to worship him and kills innocent people. Obviously he was concerned and did not understand why such things happen. We told him that in this dunya there will always be bad people and bad things will happen and its only in Jannah where everyone will be happy all the time. We also told him that we have to make lots of dua for our brothers and sisters all over the world and especially in Syria because Islamically speaking, the land of Syria is a blessed land. We told him how Eesa AS will descend into Damascus close to the end of time and by then there will be a good army and bad army and Eesa AS will lead the good army to victory.
It was about a month ago that we first had this discussion with Yusuf and still to this day he asks me why is the government being bad? Mashallah his innocence shines through and he cannot digest the fact that such horrible people exist (by the way, he is not aware of any of the brutality such as torture or rape, he simply knows people are being hurt/killed). In all honesty, as a mother I wanted to shelter him from knowing about such things for as long as I possibly could. But life had it that this information was coming to him and we had to step up as a parents and simplify and filter it to the best of our abilities. At times I wish he didn’t know that people are suffering …. at times I wish that I didn’t know people are suffering the way they are! But the reality of this life is that bad things happen. And it is only out of Allah’s infinite wisdom that innocent people will suffer. And it is these people who suffer, and help those who are suffering who will inshaAllah taste the sweetness of Jannah! Without suffering or hardships, there would be no purpose in Jannah. At the end of the day, as muslims we know that the Ultimate Judgement and Recompense will come from Allah. And every soul will get exactly what it deserves.
No doubt the people suffering in Syria, and all throughout the world, are being tested tremendously! But as we sit here in the comfort of our homes, we are also being tested! Will we step up and try to make a change? Will the news disturb us to the point where we MUST stand up for justice or will we just be too sickened that we turn the other way because we don’t want to think about it? I strongly believe that, with Yusuf learning about the realities of life at the tender age of 5, it will inshaAllah plant a seed in his heart to want to make a difference in our world. No its not easy for him, it bothers him, but it has also sparked a strong determination to do something and I pray this only increases as he grows, Ameen.
Last weekend we were cleaning out closets and I came across some change that we had collected. I told Yusuf he could have it. I also gave him a jar to keep it in. He went to his desk and got a marker and asked me how to spell zakat? I told him, and he wrote it on his jar and told me that he will save this money for the people in Syria. Needless to say my husband and I were proud of him and started looking around the house for more change to add to his collection. He then told us he’d ask more people. He insisted on taking his jar for show and tell at our weekly playgroup and had many of the moms donate. Everywhere we’ve gone over the week, hes insisted he take his jar along with.
Today was Jummuah, and he told me he wanted to take his jar to collect at the mesjid. I told him we should make a sign so people know why he is collecting money. So we made the sign and got to the mesjid a half hour early so he could stand at the door to collect as people walked in. At first he was nervous and asked me to be with him. Part of me wanted to hold his hand but I told him Id stand near to him (about 20 feet away) and that he could do it. It was intimidating at first… my heart sunk when people ignored him. I tried to give him tips, for example, told him to say salam to people to get their attention. Mashallah he is tall for his age but among all the adults that were pouring into the mesjid, he looked so small. Eventually people started to notice him more and his confidence was increasing. He started saying “Please help Syria!” every time someone walked past and then I reminded him to say Jazakallah if someone did donate. I felt as if he felt he was being rejected every time someone walked past without donating but I reminded him that Allah will still reward him for his efforts. Because he looked so sad at times, I explained that maybe some people want to give money but just didn’t have money with them at the time.
By the time we left, mashaAllah he raised $300. I pray that Allah is pleased with him and that he is protected and continues to increase in his generosity and determination to help others. I have had people make negative remarks to me regarding the fact that at such a young age I’ve actually told him about current events. But I pray that him knowing about these things at this age develops a stronger passion in him to help others!
As an encouragement I gave him a big hug and told him I was really proud of him. I told him that only Allah can give the best rewards and I pray that Allah rewards him, but I also said that I wanted to give him a small reward as well. I told him that he could choose… I gave him the option of going out for icecream or buying a treat from the grocery store. He thought about it for a while, considered getting a pack of gum (which hes never had before!) but came to the conclusion that you cant keep icrecream or gum so he asked me if we could go to the dollar store instead! I agreed and our way to the dollar store we passed Toys R Us so he asked me if we could go there instead. I said it was fine but he had a $5 limit. I actually debated whether or not I should reward him with something physical. I want him to have the self motivation to help others just because its the right thing to do. But after watching my baby boy try so hard to do something good and seeming lost in the crowd at times yet persevering, my heart was too soft and I had to give in! When I told my husband that he went to Toys R Us but had a $5 limit, he accused me of being cheap and said Yusuf deserved more than that! 🙂 And ya, part of me wants to go all out and get him something really big and special. But mashallah Yusuf was more than happy with the $3 toy car he chose, and I feel its important as his passion develops to try to keep it pure and for the intentions of pleasing Allah, and not to do it for the materialistic reward. Its tricky, but I pray Allah helps us balance it and do the right thing to nurture him, Ameen.
I pray Allah swt accepts it from him, and from us, and that our children continue to be passionate about helping others. May our children be examples for us, and leaders of the Ummah, Ameen. <3
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