Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Giving without expectation of reward

One of the most important themes in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the notion of meeting the needs and fulfilling the rights of others without any expectation of reciprocity. It is well-known that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) actively participated in household duties such as sewing, cooking, serving his guests and cleaning. The modern world often teaches us to expect reward for our work, time and efforts. Even as Muslims, it often seems as though we take these same expectations into our home lives. It is common to hear about Muslim husbands and fathers demanding to be treated like kings in their homes with their wives and children expected to act like servants rather than loved ones.

This phenomenon, despite going against the spirit of love and service that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) brought to the world, has many negative effects on families. For one, the distant father syndrome prevents children from fulfilling their divine role as a source of love and inspiration to their parents. As is commonly understood from the famous Hadith that all children are born in a state of Islam. Our scholars have told us that the greater meaning of this Hadith is that children come into this world pure and it is only what they learn from their parents and societies ( i.e. the world) that turn them away from this pure state. This purity of heart means that they are essentially beacons of mercy and love, a reminder of the endless blessings of the All-Merciful.

However, the distant father, the one who would be king in his own home and God-knows-what outside of it, himself a product of rejection, is not open to this divine blessing sent in the form of his children. The child, in turn, learns rejection early on and internalizes it, eventually manifesting his frustration in a multitude of ways including acting out, rebelliousness, mental illness, oppression, or simply the inability to open up to others the feeling of separation that typically goes hand in hand with illnesses such as depression and severe anxiety.

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