Growing up in a Muslim household, I was always made aware of the important role of the mother in Islam as caretaker, nurturer, teacher, and role model. Whether memorizing the hadith of “Al-um, thumma al-um, thumma ul-um” (your mother, then your mother, then your mother) or being reminded of the power of a mother’s dua and that Paradise lies at her feet, moms everywhere were unquestionably held as paragons that I could only dream of one day emulating. As time passed and I became a mother myself, I began to realize that in the process of extolling the virtues of mothers, we sometimes neglect to give credence to an equally important member of the parenting duo: Fathers.
While I cannot speak from the perspective of a father, I can speak from the viewpoint of the daughter of a man who raised me to value and respect who I am and the wife of a man who I respect and value as a father to our children. My father helped build my confidence and anchored my sense of self and security in my identity. Although he has always been a man of few words, his words never failed to carry great weight because they were given at pivotal moments. My husband, on the other hand, is a man of many words whose words shape our children in his role as soccer coach, boy scout troop leader, and school picker-upper and dropper-offer as well as in his many other roles of involvement.
When I look at my husband’s relationship with my children and with other children in the community, I recognize the importance of involvement. Along with his school and soccer involvement, he is also the one who has dinner ready for us when we get home and the one who chaperones field trips and outings, brings in cupcakes on Fridays, and coordinates school spaghetti dinners. I am often taken aback when traveling frequently to speak and am approached by other women who ask in wonder: “Who takes care of your kids when you travel?’ In responding matter-of-factly: “My husband,” the response is often met with a shake of the questioner’s head and a response such as “Wow! You’re lucky your husband helps out so much at home.” Interestingly enough, I have yet to hear male speakers asked that same question. The assumption that the role of raising our children is relegated wholly to the mother, leaves our fathers frequently forgotten.
While the role of mothers has never been questioned as the primary caregiver, the role of fathers has often been relegated solely to that of a financial provider and sometimes labelled as a voiceless bystander. Although there are undoubtedly some deadbeat dads who do not deserve the title of Dad due to their lack of involvement, there are also those who have truly empowered and shaped their children throughout their childhood and adulthood whether through many words or through just a few. In her 2011 Commencement Speech at Barnard College, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook said to an audience of strong, young females that: “…the most important career decision you’re going to make is whether or not you have a life partner and who that partner is.” A partner who is present, involved, and takes on the role of being a real father to his children is a partner that helps keep a family together.
When we think of the most perfect example of what it means to be a father, we need look no further than to the beloved Rasool ﷺ. His relationship with his daughter Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) was one built on mutual respect and love. Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) was given the nickname of ‘Um Abiha, the mother of her father, because she cared so much for her father just as he did for her. When Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) would enter a room the beloved Messenger ﷺ would stand for her and kiss her on the forehead. Reciprocally so, when Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) saw her father being ridiculed or harassed by Quraysh in prayer, she would rush to be by his side. This is what a true father-daughter relationship really looks like; a connection that is built upon respect and tenderness and that is encompassed in both words and actions.
A few days ago, in the middle of Ramadan, an older man from the community passed away. He was a father to many. I remember several years ago when he buried his own son after a drowning accident and how the community rose up to surround him, each young man telling him he would be like his son, because he had taken on the role of father to so many. When we speak of leaving behind a saddaqah jarriyah of a righteous child who makes dua for you, imagine how many youth will be making dua for this father who passed away and left behind a legacy of young people whose hearts he had touched? The children of the ummah who don’t have fathers need role models like this man to be their fathers.
For the fathers who work long hours to provide for their families, for the fathers who are silent sometimes encouraging from a distance, for the fathers who are basketball coaches and boy scout troop leaders, for the fathers who raise strong sons and even stronger daughters, for the fathers who are role models of respect and compassion, for the fathers who chose to take on the responsibility of fathering whether as step-dads or father-figures in the community, for the single fathers, for the fathers who have lost their lives in war-torn countries fighting for the rights and protection of their children—for all of the fathers in our lives—you are not forgotten.
Think of the men who you admire as fathers and that you have been blessed with in your life today. Reach out to them, call, send them a smile and a note of thanks, but most importantly make sincere dua for them. They deserve to not be forgotten. May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) protect all of our fathers, step-fathers, father-figures, husbands, and sons who will be future fathers one day insha’Allah and all those men who sacrifice and lead and show love with respect and tenderness to their own children and all the children in their lives every day.
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