An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Dear Reader,

Thank you for visiting this blog. It was set up as an exploration and never meant as a definitive guide to parenting.  I hope you find something useful here. The faults are all mine.

Parenting is as Jon Kabat Zinn writes, “one of the most challenging, demanding and stressful jobs on the planet”…  especially if done mindfully. Yet it is also the most rewarding. The vision behind the blog was really to explore parenting from an Islamic spiritual perspective. This of course includes education – in the original sense of the word which relates to soul. Despite the rich living spiritual traditions Islam has produced,  I haven’t come across a good parenting guide or forum that discusses contemporary issues from an Islamic spiritual perspective nor a holistic educational model which is on par with Steiner or Montessori. The future isn’t predictable even by the experts in education and we are living in times in which fundamental paradigms are shifting. The digital age is one in which things are growing exponentially and presents its own challenges. Raising the next generation of children is the most important task we can undertake.




Gathering by Jeremy HT

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2013 at 11:59 am


A note in response to the inspiring recent posts about gathering, collectedness and mindfulness:

The English word ‘gather’ comes from Germanic gath– (‘bring together, unite’),  a word which also produced English ‘good’. It also produced German gatte, ‘husband, spouse’, originally ‘companion’.

This excavation of underlying meanings brings to light some revealing connections. To gather to eat is an act of togetherness on a physical level, especially when the table is a round one, in which case it becomes a halka, a circle, a symbol of unity and equality. I generally do not enjoy sitting at long tables where the only people one can comfortably converse with are to the left or the right or opposite, and where special eminence may be given to the one sitting at the ‘head’ of the table. A round table can be a better and more natural gathering of  ‘hearts’, in the same way as a yurt can be a better meeting place than a rectangular hall.

Gathering is not only the act of bringing people together, often for a meal, but also an act of collecting oneself, or mindfulness. The word ‘collect’ is itself derived from a Latin word meaning Read the rest of this entry »

In Loving Memory of My Father by Fatimah Ashrif

In Healing, Uncategorized on October 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

“If for a short time

Fate does not accord with our wishes

Despair not, and remember that fortune’s wheel

Is always on the move.

Do not abandon hope if you cannot penetrate

The secret of what is to come

Behind the curtain of invisibility

Who knows what dramas occupy the stage?”

I love these words of Hafez. They remind me that, like the wise men in a dark room with an elephant, each only experiencing a part of the animal, my understanding of the truth and what lies beyond this apparent world of ours is by no means absolute.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Mothers of the Revolution by Kimberly Paterson

In Uncategorized on July 9, 2012 at 8:32 am

            2011 Time magazine names its person of the year, for the first time the person of the year is nameless, the person of the year is “the protester”.  I am a mother of Time magazine’s person of the year.  I am one of the thousands of mothers of the thousands of protesters that has rocked the global consciousness to demand justice, dignity and equality.  My daughter called me full of excitement the first day of the march on Victoria Square in Montreal in October of 2011; she was sitting in the street joining thousands of others for the beginning of Occupy Montreal.  She was there because she believes in justice and this was a way for her to lend her voice to something bigger than herself.  Read the rest of this entry »

Dreams, Poetry and Instinct

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

One dimension of the dream is that the light comes from the eyes, that is, from one’s own authentic ‘perceiving’ faculties and not from intellectualizing. The Western mind always wants to find and operate a closed ‘system’. Perhaps your use of the jigsaw analogy illustrates this. We all need to ask ourselves (and I mean all of us, not only you as the dreamer) how we succumb to this ‘systematizing’  tendency. The zoologist  in ‘Instinct’ moves to the next level when he goes beyond analyzing behaviour and seeing the gorillas as objects of study and starts to live with and connect with them with his whole being.”Jeremy Hezell-Thomas, (reflections on a dream) Read the rest of this entry »

Listening to Shame

In Healing, Marriage, parenting, Uncategorized on June 28, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Water says to the dirty, “Come here.” The dirty one says, “I am so ashamed.” Water says, “How will your shame be washed away without me.” Rumi

A friend of mine phoned me a few days ago seeking some advice and to be consoled. He felt his son was wrongly accused of something by his teacher and was pressurised into confessing he was the culprit. Read the rest of this entry »

Listen to the Feminine by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2012 at 11:30 am

(Published in emel Magazine May 2006)

It has always seemed presumptuous, even somewhat preposterous, to me for men to pontificate in an authoritarian manner about the role of women in Islam as if the feminine principle is something which needs to be rigidly confined or patronisingly relegated to a narrow domain of activity. This can be especially jarring when it is comes from hectoring male figures who show no evidence of the psychological and spiritual integration which depends on the development of the feminine principle within themselves. To remind myself of the dangers of male authoritarianism I collect magnetic stickers which I give to my wife to post on our fridge. My favourites are: “Everyone is entitled to my opinion”, and “How many roads must a man walk down before he is lost”. Read the rest of this entry »

Christopher Reed and the Value of Stillness

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2012 at 12:11 am

Having suffered from an accident recently has made be bed bound. Although I’m at home, I began to wonder about what impact this will have on my kids.  I knew I had to relate to them differently now. My first realisation came when my daughter came to meet me and I met her, unintentionally, with complete stillness. Read the rest of this entry »

Unforseen Gifts by Farah Benhalim

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I feel incredibly honoured to have five children.   I haven’t always felt that way though.  As much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t necessarily want children when I had them.  I felt pressurized by family expectations and I, being a dutiful people pleaser back then went along with it.  I was the best mother I could be, perhaps too good of a mother, because deep down lingering inside I felt Read the rest of this entry »

The Mother in The Islamic Tradition

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2012 at 9:46 am

The Prophet pbuh said –

If only my mother were alive, I had started the Esha prayer, was reciting the fatiha, the door to my house would open and my mother would call out ‘Oh my son Muhammad’ then I would gladly leave my prayers to attend to her. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lost Sermon – A Letter To An Imaam

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2012 at 8:50 pm

My Dear Brother in Islam:

May the blessings of Almighty God be upon you, the brothers and sisters of the Mosque, the people of Islam everywhere, all humanity and all God’s creation at this holy time of Eid, and always.

With many others of Edinburgh I attended the Eid prayers at 1000 on Tuesday. I am gratified and humbled to be with so many others who join together at this time. The sermon by our brother the Imam has caused me great concern however, in some of the matters he has addressed. Rather than bringing greater clarity and unity to Islam I fear that greater division, confusion and misunderstanding all too easily evolve from such words as we have heard.

Primarily, I refer here to his referring to the appearance and interaction of Muslim women with males within and without the Muslim community. With due respect, I would suggest that Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Hu by Farah Benhalim

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm

As a busy mum, I do my best to plan my day sensibly, but despite all that planning I inevitably find myself in situations where I end up feeling like this:

So, I was in the supermarket the other day. I was halfway done with the shopping when my daughter Aisha was in the midsts of her millionth tantrum, and the Fatimah was bursting for the toilet, I was starving, and we had half an hour to pick up the other kids from school. And to top it all off my mother in law was in the middle of a triple by pass. I felt like I was going to go out of my mind and could visualize myself screaming in the middle of the shop. But somehow, in my moment of panic, something else came over me. Read the rest of this entry »

Forty Rules of Love

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Yesterday was an interesting day for me. I happened to watch a clip between Matt Damon and Robin Williams from ‘Good Will Hunting’. It’s linked below but be warned there is swearing. Watching the clip moved me. Here’s a character played by Matt Damon, Will Hunting, who being a genius knew ‘conceptually’ the answer to every question thrown at him except one ‘what he wants to do in life’?. He had made all these clever assumptions and judgements about his psychiatrist and mentor, played by Robin Williams. Sitting down with him, not in a therapists room but more like father and son on a bench, he shows him that he hasn’t really tasted. The real experiential learning hadn’t unfolded  yet even though he could out do a fields medalist in Mathematics any day. I love the lines where he says “Michelangelo, know a lot about him… I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the sistine chapel – you’ve never stood there and looked up at the beautiful ceiling… If I ask you about love, you’ll quote me a sonnet, but you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable or known someone who can level you with her eyes…. You’re an orphan right? Do you think I have any idea about how hard you life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist? Read the rest of this entry »

Kayf al-Haal?

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm

The Arabs have an interesting phrase “kayf al-haal” + pronoun or simply “kayf ak” in colloquial – lit “how is your state”. There is a saying of Abu al-QAsim Isma’il ibn Muhammad ibn al-HakIm in the Kitab al-Arba’in fi al-shuyukh al-Sufiya by al-Malini (d. 412/1021), an early book of hadith and sayings transmitted and said by early Sufis in which he writes

“The state of whoever is affable expands; and the state of whoever is argumentative contracts.” اتسع حال من يداري وضاق حال من يماري

Read the rest of this entry »

Why the smartest man in the world is so smart

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2012 at 2:08 pm

What would you do if you were offered $1 million dollars for the work you did? Or offered the Nobel Prize? The most irrational of us, I doubt, would even think of turning that down. Russian Mathematical genius Grigori Perelman did. He solved the a millennium problem; Poincare Conjecture which is said to have baffled the smartest minds for the past century. So concise the complex his solution it took the world’s leading Mathematicians several years to verify Perelman had definitely solved the problem in a paper published in 2002. He was awarded the Field Medal in 2006 (equivalent to the Nobel Prize for Mathematicians) given once every four years and turned it down along with the $1 million dollar prize money. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from snakes and ladders

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I knew about peppa pig – but who or what are octonaughts? I decided to investigate at a toy shop and surprise my daughter with a toy when she would get back from school. As I looked around the educational games section, I thought, snakes & ladders would be a fun engaging game to play before I introduce her to chess. So, today we played snakes and ladders – I got much more than I had bargained for. My father once said Read the rest of this entry »

Charter for compassion

In Uncategorized on January 15, 2012 at 1:39 am

I was once waiting in a queue. It was a long queue. About half way through I realised I didn’t have enough cash to pay for my lunch. I asked the person in front of me if he knew weather or not they accepted card at the till. He told me they didn’t. I said “I’ll have to go to the cash machine around the corner then”. He offered to pay. I said “thank you but I’ll get some cash”. He persisted and said “you’ll have to queue up all over again”. With a smile he said “no problem, I’ll pay” I took his generous offer. He then went on to say “Is there any other item you need?”

I’ll never forget the compassion I felt in that moment. It seemed like my state of consciousness was being tuned. A similar thing happened when I was in Damascus, Syria. It was late and I was trying to catch a cab. Whenever I would stop a taxi, I was told the taxi-meters no longer operate and was quoted ridiculously high prices. I asked a passer by, a teenager, if the meters were really not operating at this time of day. He said they should be and stopped a taxi for me. He got in as well and sat at the back. Initially, I thought he might have needed a lift and decided to ‘jump in’ as is common in the Arab world. Half an hour later, we got off the other side of town. He asked me where I was staying and began walked with me. Again, I thought may be he’s from this part of the city. As we got to my hostel, he asked if I needed anything? I said I forgot my toothbrush in Jordan. He helped me buy a toothbrush. After talking to him, I realised he wasn’t from this part of town and had to return. As he was leaving, I thought I would pay for his fare back. To my surprise he totally refused to accept any money whatsoever. I was left thinking ‘what kind of hospitality is this?’

I was speaking to a parent the other day who has grown children. In his experience he felt the most important thing you can give a child is “an environment in which Love rules and is reflected in the adult relationships around them. We cause harm to our children if we put great effort in showing them that we love them, but create an environment around them that is devoid of love between ourselves and our spouses, parents, and other significant adults.”

I was reflecting on this and would like to take it further by finding ways of transforming those relationships of mine which can do with more compassion. That environment needn’t be just our homes but also extends to the society and world we live in. If I could have a choice of what kind of world I would like for my children to grow up in- it would be one filled with compassion for our fellow human beings. After the ascension of the Prophet pbuh, I cant think of a better sunnah to emulate. I realised everything that I would like to teach my children, I would have to embody and live for it to have value and be meaningful for them. Maybe forgiving or clearing any resentment about something that happened in the past for example, will clear the psychic space we share in our environments. What better way to teach values, principles & religion then with compassion. Even if we live in comfortable environments with healthy relationships, exploring compassion and empathy with our children may be a wonderful real life learning experience for them.   One way of exploring this that came to mind is Karen Armstrong’s charter for compassion (available on kindle too). In her book ’12 steps to a compassionate life’, Ch1 ‘the first step: Learning about compassion, begins with “All the twelve steps will be educative in the deepest sense; the Latin educere means ‘to lead out’ and this programme is designed to bring forth the compassion that, as we have seen, exists potentially within every human being so that it can become a healing force in our own lives and in the world”. Its a beautiful vision that allows us to come together as children of Adam (bani Adam) whatever our backgrounds or differences may be and in the process to know one another (Quaran 49:13).

In her brilliant TED talk she spoke of how the study of other religions traditions brought her back to what religion can be and enabled her to look at her own faith in a different light. There are many short 3 min clips of people sharing their stories of compassion on youtube (worth having a look)

One way we could use this space, would be to run a 12 week program based on Karen Armstrong’s Charter for compassion- with a post, every Sunday say, dedicated to a chapter from her book. We can then share experiences, reflections and lessons learned from working with that chapter.  Anybody interested?

Introductions: What inspires you? What challenges you?

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Hello everyone. Im Trishna, I have a 6 year old daughter called akashi, and a 5 year old boy called shivum. I’m interested to know how members of this group approach parenting and education with spirituality…. For me, the important thing is consciousness, awareness, and through this, i hope to make the right decisions moment to moment, day to day. Daily meditation helps me greatly to keep my mind peaceful and steady, especially on particularly challenging days where i’m not quite the mum that i want to be. The biggest challenge is not being able to do what I want, when I want. I want to meditate, but the kids won’t go to sleep, I want to sit quietly, the kids want to chat, I want to eat dinner warm, but end up doing something else and eating it cold! Through these challenges I learn……What inspires you? What challenges you? Please feel free to introduce yourself and we can use this beautiful space that saqib has created to share our wisdom and worries! Much Love x

How are we going to use this space?

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Dear friends,

I have been working away for the past week or so at the recommendation of a friend to keep writing in this space as it just might help to get others involved. I was also told by an experienced blogger that a post a day is needed to get a blog up and running. I don’t intend to use this space for my personal blogging alone.  How would you like to use this space? One senior dervesh suggested we can develop a spiritual curriculum here. Any other suggestions?

One doesn’t need to be a scholar to contribute. Even writing a paragraph may help. If not a paragraph then even a sentence containing some wisdom or sincerity may be better than a thousand that are empty of it. “You don’t have to be brilliant, or equipped with scholarly information, or a paragon of virtue. So send a message, share your truth (different from mere opinions), smile, or at least wave as you go by. . . We might see you.” Kabir Dede from e-course on The Wisdom of Muhammed

I pray the intention and need through which this blog was created finds it fulfillment. I hope I’ve been sincere (mukhlis) in my writing and not deluded in my efforts. I would also like to thank those who have contributed through their comments.

Fi aman Allah