Muslim and Christian reflections on our spiritual health
By Noor Sa’adeh,
A Muslim Perspective
Divine Perspectives writers Noor Sa’adeh and Sonia Salfity, both of whom are mothers, share their thoughts on raising boys.
We are losing our boys. We’ve been doing a great job getting the girls ahead in life – and about time, too. Statistics in Jordan?show more women are entering and completing university than ever before.
For centuries past, both boys and girls experienced natural passages from puberty into adulthood. Girls still do if we consider the onset of menses. Although parents can assist with support, comfort and advice, girls learn to manage the discomfort, the necessary supplies, and so on, alone. Along with their God-given instincts to nurture, these all add to earlier maturity and an edge girls seem to have over boys at this age.
In generations past, boys would leave the arms of their mothers, pass a test of survival and courage, or go off with fathers and other male figures to apprentice and learn a skill or trade. Today, fathers disappear into an office, while sons remain at home with the womenfolk through high school, college and even up until marriage – sometimes well into their thirties. Given the nature of women to nurture, young men are often coddled by both mothers and sisters – with few manly role models in sight.
I hear far too many young women bewail the lack of ‘marriageble’ men. Boys who have been pampered by women tend to view their future wives as extensions of their mothers. Today, women are working outside the house and adding to their roles as mothers and homemakers. Men go to work, but at home many still feel entitled to be ‘served’ and not share the load. Interestingly enough, it was the habit of Prophet Mohammad to share in all the household responsibilities. The lack of help from her spouse, doubles the work of woman and breeds resentment-a sure sign of trouble ahead.
Men are admonished in the Qur’an (4:34) to be champions of women, often misinterpreted as being in ‘charge’ of them. Muslim boys are taught that heaven lies at the feet of their mothers yet this is not extended to other ‘mother’ figures. Their wives are the mothers of their children, too. As mothers, we play a large role in this. Many mothers, fearing that a future wife will take their son away, implant negative ideas about how to treat their wife, usually beginning with “Don’t let her…”
We too, should be champions for the daughters-in-law that will join our families. I raised our son from a young age to respect women and modelled how he must treat his wife with due care and respect, or he would answer to me about it! Our son and his wife are truly the millennial couple. Both work, but both also share in cooking, cleaning and managing their home.
As mothers, we have to be careful not to favour our sons (or any of our children for that matter), giving them preference over girls or allowing them a different set of rules to live by. Too often today, many of our boys regard women with either objectification conditioned by society and the media, or consider them in positions of servitude rather than life partners. We know well that God gives equal mention, praise and admonition throughout the Qur’an to both genders, but we often merely give lip service to these same verses when it suits us and fail to put them into practice. We are not only failing our daughters when we allow boys to fail; we are upsetting the balance of society that God intended.
A Christian Perspective
As Christians, we are commissioned to raise boys who will be God-honouring men who reflect God’s goodness and grace. Men who understand what it means to love and respect their wives and remain faithful to them when the honeymoon is over. Men who are willing to share the burdens of life with their wives instead of shutting each other out when life gets tough.
As parents, we must understand that we cannot do this alone but need the guidance of God’s word and His wisdom and a whole lot of patience as we raise them in such a way that they will one day be able to stand on their own faith.
Lessons from the Garden of Eden
A good place to start is to teach our young boys that when God created Eve, God put Adam to sleep and took a rib from his side in order to create from his own flesh a helper suitable to be his companion. Eve wasn’t taken from the head of Adam so that he can rule over her nor was she taken from His foot so that Adam might stomp on her, rather Eve was taken from the very side of Adam below his arm so they can work side by side as they receive all God has for them.
Embracing marriage as a team
God intends for us to work with our spouses as a team. So let’s raise our boys to understand that when they share chores with their future wives who might also have careers outside of their homes, this is not a sign of weakness on their part but a sign of maturity. Sharing burdens and responsibilities is what makes relationships more resilient, strengthening the bond of friendship and marriage.
When we foster a team spirt in our own marriage, our sons will one day discover true joy from knowing that each one has done their best to bring out the best in their spouse. They will learn to yield to each other and work as one team instead of keeping score every time one of them messes up. They will enjoy the fruits of their labour, allowing for a safe place to be who God created them to be. A safe place to make mistakes and be able to face them together head on and to forgive each other when they discover that they’re far from perfect.