Children and good character: Aneesah’s story
“O you who believe! Betray not Allāh and His Messenger, nor betray knowingly your Amanat (things entrusted to you, and all the duties which Allāh has ordained for you). And know that your possessions and your children are but a trial and that surely with Allāh is a mighty reward.” [8:27-28]
Our children may very well feel like they do not need our protection, but if we have lived long enough in this world, we know we can all use some help now and then. How many times have we all looked back on our own youth and realized what our parents endured because of our stubborn rebelliousness, only because they were trying to protects us. Parenting is never an easy job.
However, the more we become hands-off parents, the further away our children become and then harder it would be to reach them when we need to. It is our obligation as Muslims to provide our families with protection; and there is a lot out to protect them from – everything from gangs to drugs – the list is endless. As parents, we need to know exactly what it is that we need to protect our children from, and it could originate from a place we would never expect.
Aneesah was a girl of ten years with a bad temper. She was currently in a bad mood because her mother had just told her to clean up her messy room. The term ‘messy room’ was an understatement; Aneesah’s room was a disaster area! There were clothes everywhere and all her toys were scattered on the floor amongst trash.
Aneesah’s mother was a neat person and she was upset that her daughter had developed such bad habits, but she was becoming more and more aware as Aneesah grew older that she and her husband had spoiled their daughter and had allowed her to have her way much too often, and they were beginning to see the fruits of their lax parenting style. Aneesah was having temper tantrums frequently. She closed the door behind her as she left the room, so Aneesah could begin the overhaul of her room.
Once the door was closed things started flying. Aneesah began hurling her toys up in the air and all around her room. She was furious, who was ANYONE to tell her what SHE should do with HER room. It was after all HER room now, wasn’t it? She began to scream because, NOBODY, but NOBODY was going to tell HER what to do. “I HAAAATE it here! I wish I did not live here anymore, we have the stupidest rules. I wish I lived in an orphanage!!”
Aneesah had lived a good life and had no idea what an orphanage was really like. She had seen on television, but the orphans she saw on TV had always ended up being adopted by wealthy families.
Aneesah’s mother was halfway down the hall when she heard her daughter start to scream those words. Upon hearing the last sentence of her daughter’s rage, she stood frozen in the hallway. She could feel her toes curl around the carpet and her fists stiffen and clenched at her sides. How could I have raised such an ungrateful child? She thought to herself. Then her mind began working – she would do something drastic that would make an impact on her daughter. Aneesah had threatened to run away before, but she had been sheltered all of her life from the outside. But after this week, her mother had decided right then and there Aneesah was about to see life how it really was for some people. Sometimes if we are to actually see the reality and harshness of life, Aneesah’s mother thought to herself, it is the only way we can really appreciate what we have and what others are lacking and fully understand the difference.
Aneesah’s mother knew that what she was about to do was drastic, but at this point she was convinced that radical measures were definitely needed before her daughter got older and things got out of hand any further. Her mother was desperate to make a lasting impression on her spoiled daughter. At only ten years of age, Aneesah had thought she had seen the world, but her mother knew it had only been through her parents’ eyes, in what they had allowed their daughter to be exposed to in her short life.
She went into her room and closed the door. Picking up the phone she called Aneesah’s father to tell him what had happened and to inform him of her plan. “La Hawla wa La Quwwata Illa Billah!”, Aneesah’s father said quietly, on the other end of the receiver, “She said that?” Her mother replied, “That’s right.” The father paused for a short time in silence, then said, “Then go ahead with your plan, I think that it will do her some good inshaAllāh. I will call ahead for you.” Aneesah’s mother hung up the phone and got dressed to leave, and then she went to Aneesah’s room and stood outside for a moment. “Arrrrrgh! Stupid toys! I hate these toys, I hate them!!” Aneesah screamed as she kicked them all over the floor. Aneesah’s mother went to the kitchen and gathered a few heavy-duty yard size trash bags and went marching to her daughter’s room. The moment she got down the hallway, she flung open the door to the room and announced, “We’re going to place every toy in this room into these bags immediately!”
Aneesah was shocked, usually people knocked before they entered HER room. When the door flew open, she stopped screaming and gasped looking at her mother all dressed up like she was going somewhere. “Whaat?” Aneesah sneered, “MY toys should stay in MY room!” Aneesah‘s mother did not stop to argue, she began taking the toys and shoving them into the trash bags, as many as she could carry in her hands at one time. “Nooooooo! These are MY TOOOYEEES! You can’t throw them away!” Aneesah cried as she tried to shield the remaining scattered toys. Her mother down on her hand and knees picking up the toys turned to her with flushed cheeks and said in a matter-of-fact tone, “These toys will not be thrown away.” The girl then relaxed, “Oh, okay then.” She reluctantly began to help place them into the bags, not knowing what was in store for them or her.
Once all the toys were in bags, the mother began dragging them to the car and placing them into the truck. Aneesah puzzled, began crying again, “Momma, I thought you said these were not going to be thrown away!” Her mother confirmed again, “They are not going to be.”
After everything was in the trunk, Aneesah‘s mother told her to get into the car. Usually, about this time, she would have begun to argue or throw a fit, Aneesah did not like car rides. However, this time she was deeply curious about what all of her toys were doing in the trunk and where in the world they were going. Aneesah’s mother started the car and informed her, “We are going somewhere today that you have never been before.”
The drive was a long one, going through the nice clean neighbourhoods with beautiful houses having green lawns with flowery bushes to neighbourhoods with smaller houses and then to a place where there were no houses at all, just old abandoned buildings. It looked creepy, like something she had seen once on TV. She expected to see someone jump from behind one of the broken windows at anytime. Then all of a sudden her mother was turning the car into a parking lot where a few raggedy looking people were standing around.
“This is our stop,” she told her daughter. Aneesah was shocked, what were we doing here? She thought. She looked over at mother and said, “Momma, it is scary and dirty here. I want to go home.” “Not until we finish what we came here to do, and besides, I want you to meet someone.” There was no one that Aneesah wanted to meet here, she just wanted to leave and go home – back to her nice house and to her cosy room.
They got out of the car and Aneesah saw a sign in front of the building. It was dark grey stone and it had deeply carved letters that spelled out ‘The Landling Orphanage’ in big letters. Aneesah had forgotten all about what she had said in her room during her tantrum. Aneesah saw her mother say something briefly to someone at the front desk and then they went past her outside towards the parking lot. Her mother turned to her and said, “We are here. You said you wanted to come, so we are here.” Aneesah replied, “I never said I wanted to come here.” Her mother grabbed her hand and said, “Oh you most certainly did, in fact you even said you wished you lived here.” Aneesah began to get scared as her mother led her down to cold yellowish hallway. The pale yellowish colour reminded Aneesah of a sickness and it was quiet – too quiet. The only sound that Aneesah could hear was their footsteps click-itty clacking down the sickly yellow tiles.
At the end of the hallway, they turned right and came to a set of two huge metal doors. At the top of the doors were two small windows where you could see sunlight peeking through and you could almost smell the sun and the heat from the concrete just on the other side. Aneesah wished her mother would open these doors and they could go outside, but instead she was looking at something through the small wire meshed windows; then she seemed to nod and pushed the door open with one big shove.
At first, Aneesah could not focus. The intensity of the sunlight that hit her eyes was a sharp contrast to the dimly lit hallway, and then she saw what was there: CHILDREN. They were several of them, and they were all lined up according to height looking right at her. She looked up at her mother with confusion in her eyes, and her mother bent down and told her quietly, “These are the children who live here at the orphanage. This is the only home they know, they have no mother and father to bring them gifts and toys. The reason they are all lined up here is because we have brought them the toys from your room. You will hand them out to them and introduce yourself.” Aneesah‘s eyes got wide, but she did not argue, she did not say a word, just nodded in agreement to her mother’s orders.
The clerk from the front desk had brought all the trash bags from the trunk with her toys to her, and she began to open them and hand them out one by one. At first, she was sad to give her toys away, but then she looked up and saw the faces of the children and realised how so happy they were to get the toys. Many of the children began laughing and playing with them. Some of the smaller ones even began hugging the dolls they received. Then Aneesah met the children one by one and introduced herself to them. Many of the children told their stories, like where they have come from and why they were at the orphanage. Many of the stories Aneesah would never, ever forget.
Aneesah realised why her mother had brought her to this place and she realised just how fortunate she was to have a mother, a father and a nice home.
On the trip home she and her mother did not speak, but when they finally looked into each other’s eyes, tears began to roll down both of their faces. Her mother stopped the car and gave her a strong hug, and Aneesah hugged her back. There were no words necessary from either of them, it was just understood.
From that day on, Aneesah’s attitude changed dramatically. Her trip to the orphanage had made her understand the great blessing of her home and her family. Whenever her mother asked her to clean her room, she would remember the sickly yellow hallway and the cold lonely emptiness of the orphanage, and she would thank Allāh that she had her family that loved her and that she had been blessed with a room of her own to clean.
Sometimes what we need to protect our children the most is from themselves.
“…And if Allāh had wished, He could have put you into difficulties. Truly, Allāh is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” [2:220]
This article is based on the original article written by Michelle Nasr back in 2002. In this digital age the children who are ‘addicted’ to the technological gadgets powered by internet need even greater protection.
May Allāh Subhanahu wa Ta’ala save our youth from all kinds of Fitnāh…Aameen
And Allāh Ta’ala Knows Best.