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Nurturing Resilient Muslim Families: Insights from Our Family Umrah Journey

Lessons and reflections on parenting from a mother who took her three children for Umrah

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Lessons and reflections on parenting from a mother who took her three children for Umrah

As a mother of four, with endless work, study and family commitments, extended quality time with my kids is hard to come by. This year, we were blessed with a family Umrah journey after eight long years, which provided me with profound parenting insights. While we used to take our children for Umrah often when they were younger, their increased independence and academic endeavours over the past few years denied us the opportunity to have this experience as a family unit.

My children’s ages range from 21, 18, 12, and with my youngest, having returned to the mercy of the Almighty a week after she was born, would soon have been 8. I mention her often in my discussions because part of my fear when I lost her was that I would forget her. To counter that fear, I consciously talk about her. She has taught me foundational lessons in parenting and remains an integral part of our family’s story. Our connection to her is essential for our emotional health as a family.

In preparation for this trip, I reflected on how I, as a parent, influence children of different ages and push them to make the most out of this spiritual journey.

The Umrah was an amazing out of the world experience. But, it was also a time that was a bit of a trial for ourselves. We went during the hot summer months in Arabia, and because the cold London weather is our norm, we stretched ourselves quite significantly. We weren’t always at our best and of-course that’s also part of the test.

We all know that fear can lead us to parent from a restrictive place. Not only that, it prevents us from being who we can really be. However, it’s a skill to recognize our fear when it comes to our children and to let go of it. Leading from a place of belief and thankfulness is the goal.

The Quran reminds us:

So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.”

(Quran 3:139)

Spiritual Reflection at the Prophet’s Rawdha

During our visit to the Prophet’s (PBUH) Rawdha, I couldn’t help but reflect on the grace of the Almighty. I was there with my two grown princesses, and my youngest princess resides in a realm closer to Him than to us. But being there was something that spiritually connected us all despite our distance. This experience brought to mind the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) where he said, “The souls are troops collected together; those who got along with one another (in the heaven from whence they were sent) have an affinity with one another (in the world), and those amongst them who opposed one another (in heaven) also have an affinity with one another (in the world).” (Sahih Muslim)

Defining Leadership as a Parent

Before delving further, let’s define leadership, a crucial concept for us parents. It is essential to reflect on our leadership, because this helps us understand what kind of leaders, and, therefore, what kind of parents we want to be. 

“Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less” (attributed to Maxwell). How do we influence and lead our children, who are now young people in their own right? The Quran reminds us,

O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones…”

(Quran 66:6)

Do we know what soft skills, knowledge and skills are required for this responsibility?

The insights I share are not exhaustive and are limited to a few in the context of my Umrah, but are all lessons I take back to my wider life.

Insights from Our Umrah Journey

Preparation

Preparation is essential for making the most of any opportunity, including Umrah. I wanted my children to spiritually prepare for this incredible journey, so we watched the movie “The Message.”

The film provides incredible insights into how Islam began and was established. It was about the Prophet , about Madinah and the struggles that came with the propagation of Islam. For me, personally, it also highlighted Allah’s grace and power. I was also excited that I knew most of the dialogues from the movie off by heart. 

I wanted my children to understand the context of the journey beforehand, appreciate where we were going, and the privilege that we had been blessed with. Halfway through it, I found out that the film was recorded before I was born! Getting my children to watch a three hour movie recorded in an era completely different to theirs required a skill—persuasion! And I was relieved that they loved it once we’d finished it. However, I did realise, that in order to influence and get young people on board, we do require knowledge of soft skills that need to be used to overcome resistance.

Managing Expectations

Managing different expectations during Umrah requires delicate skills. Negotiating with my children when they were tired and wanted to rest while I wished to stay by the Kaaba taught me the importance of empathy—to understand their perspective. At their age, their journey is different to mine. Recognising their needs, listening to their perspective and negotiating as a leader made me realise how hard sometimes it is find middle ground.

Our hotel required us to use a shuttle bus to and from the Masjid Al Haraam and my family didn’t want me to stay back alone. While I was fine with solo-ing it, we had come as a family. So, we negotiated going back and coming back a couple hours later with everyone for Fajr Salah. Subh, by the Haram, felt like a win-win situation. We got to do a second Umrah that day, but my kids had all been well-rested—I didn’t want them to burn out, but to enjoy this journey too. The Quran reminds usL

And those who are patient, seeking the countenance of their Lord, and establish prayer and spend from what We have provided for them secretly and publicly and prevent evil with good – those will have the good consequence of [this] home.”

(Quran 13:22)

Learning from Mistakes

When one of my children was stopped for taking two water bottles from the breakfast hall, it was an opportunity to teach the importance of admitting mistakes and doing the right thing. 

Different hotels have different policies when it comes to water. There were feelings of embarrassment and anger at first as my child pointed out that it’s “only water”. As a leader I consciously told myself not to go down the “I told you so” route. Instead, I encouraged them to learn from the experience and gave them space. 

Later, on their own accord, they felt the need to go and apologise to the person that had stopped them to explain they hadn’t realised taking two bottles of water was against the rules. 

It takes courage to do the right thing. To admit mistakes and our parenting skills should always enable this. Not take the easy “I told you” approach, which leads everyone into a position of justification and resistance. The Quran guides us:

And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.”

(Quran 3:135)

Balancing Technology

In the age of technology, finding a balance with mobile phones can be challenging. When do you make a stance and how do you put boundaries around it? And when do you let go and let your kids be? This is one of the biggest struggles of our time and something we are all learning about also for ourselves. It’s crucial to recognize that everything needs balance, and the skill required is in implementing that balance effectively.

During our journey, we tried implementing this balance by building creative moments. In Madina, we used the opportunity to let our children capture the sunrise and other beautiful moments with their photography skills. This taught me that building in time for creativity and recreation can enhance our spiritual experiences and productivity, just like we do with our kids when they are younger by encouraging them to learn through creativity and play.

Our Umrah journey provided valuable parenting insights that extend beyond the pilgrimage. Recognising and managing fear, defining our leadership style, and embracing the balance of life’s aspects are skills that shape us as parents. These lessons enrich our family’s story and contribute to our emotional health and growth.

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