Looking back upon my childhood I have fond memories of my father being a man who was interested in all areas of his childrens lives. He treated us equally making his daughters feel as important and valued as his son. I remember that he was constantly surrounded by books and newspapers and gave us a love of reading by surrounding us with books! My father studied in Deoband in India and came to the U.K. as a daee in the 1970s, invited by some Muslim organisations here, at a time when most others came to the U.K. for economic reasons and there were very few practising Muslims. Seeing him so involved in helping to promote Islam had a lasting impact on me and our home was a Dawah hub. He was one of the first people in the world to computerise the 6 books of Hadith and travelled all over the world promoting this new development.
As a young child he often took me to work with him in his office, giving me small jobs to do and paying me for my time! He allowed me to discuss and debate with him and even today he listens attentively to my opinions. He encouraged me to experience life fully and to participate in all school activities, wanting me to have a strong and confident personality. Because of this I have always been a prolific student and won the most distinguished academic award from my school (Alhamdulillah), which again built my self-esteem and made me feel that even as a practising Muslim girl, I could make an outstanding contribution to society. I actually felt I could be anything I wanted to be, to the point that at one stage of my life, it became my ambition to be an astronaut! I knew that most astronauts were Air Force pilots and I was so serious about this ambition, that I joined the Royal Air Force Cadets as a young teenager. Imagine a girl in hijab marching with R.A.F. cadets! (I wouldnt recommend it of course.)
These real-life experiences have been useful to me in speaking to people about Islam and I have found speaking to non-Muslim audiences and media organisations easily because of it, Alhamdulillah.
One of my fondest memories, is of my father taking us on a life-changing trip to Makkah and Madinah for the first time. I was 11 years old and every night we would stay up till late and my Dad would tell us stories from the past: the people of the cave, the story of how the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). He told them so vividly that we would shiver with excitement and we felt as though he had been there and witnessed those events personally! Then he took us to Mount Noor and other historical sites. It felt so amazing to be there looking down on Makkah just as the Prophet had and I remember that even at that age, my heart was alive with such love for the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and his message. My father made Islam exciting and easy for us to live and we were eager to learn to pray and fast.
I never saw my father panic or be unthankful to Allah. Even when he was having financial problems he never let us feel that we were in difficulty, so I always thought that we were a well-off family, even though that was not true at all. At one time we were going to be evicted from our home and made homeless. It must have been a very difficult time for my parents with 4 young children. But my father wrote the dua of the Prophet:
ربّ اغْفِرْلي ذنبي وَوَسِّعْ لي في داري وَ بارِكْ لي في رِزْقي
on a large roll of paper and stuck it on our kitchen wall to remind us to read it and ask Allah to give us a spacious home. We made that dua constantly for many days and by the grace of Allah, we were blessed to move to a beautiful, large home in a very affluent part of London. As a child, I saw this blessing as the answer to our duas and the fruits of my parents tawakkul.
Because of the tawakkul that I saw, even today, I do not have a real fear of poverty. I know that Allah can provide from where we dont imagine. His tarbiyah was through his actions more than through his words. One of the lessons I learnt from him was that human beings are much more important than material belongings. For example, once when I broke a very expensive laptop computer of his, I phoned him at his workplace and sobbed, telling him what I had done. He didnt tell me off as many fathers would have done and was very kind and gracious to me even though I had caused him such a loss.
My father brought me up to know the high status of seeking knowledge of Islam. Ulema often visited our home and stayed there. As a result I always had a desire to become a scholar of Islam, though I wasnt sure how I could. When I was 15 years old, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do in the long-term and my Dad asked me: What field do you want to go into? I said I wanted to be a heart surgeon. Then he said something that set me upon the path of seeking knowledge: There are many Doctors who treat the diseases of the physical heart, but what about the diseases of the spiritual heart? Where are the doctors who can treat those? He described to me how I could go and study Shariah in Egypt in Al-Azhar University. I was so thrilled when he took me there for a visit and I decided that I wanted to take that path.
Then my father took the brave step of taking me to Cairo and settling me in to a Girls Hostel there and leaving me fee amaan illah! It must have been a difficult step to take, to leave your teenage daughter in a foreign land. I didnt know the language and it was the first time I was so far from home, but my fathers confidence in me gave me the strength to take on the challenges I faced there. He helped me to travel and live in various countries making me able to understand people and cultures and many of the problems of the Muslim World. I have been on the path of seeking knowledge since and having learnt Arabic I continue to study and be engaged with the community, along with being a wife and mother.
When it came to marriage, when I was 18, he allowed me to choose my husband freely from any suitors who came and put my Islamic Studies as part of my dowry in my marriage contract. And as I continue upon this path, I know that, after the Grace of Allah, it was my fathers tarbiyah his infectious passion for Talabul Ilm and his belief in me that has had a lasting impact on my personality and life so far.
May Allah forgive us and him for our shortcomings and guide us and him.
Any good there is in me and any good that I do, will be a part of his legacy insha Allah.
اللهمّ ربِّ ارْحَمْهُما كَما رَبَّياني صَغِيرا. آمين ثمّ آمين
Taken from muslimmotherhood.blogspot.co.uk(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)