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Lessons from Karbala – Raising kids with empathy

With the arrival of the month of Muharram, the month in which Imam Husayn ibn Ali was killed, along with his brothers, sons and followers on the plains of Karbala, there is no better time to touch on the topic of empathy. Especially with our children.

In the age of technology and social media, our kids are sadly getting farther and farther away from reality. You see kids, even the littlest ones, indulged in smartphones and tablets. Their brains becoming used to solely being entertained, not thinking for themselves. You don’t see children engrossed in a book, or running around outside. Or even socializing with others.

Our older, social media-savvy children are neck deep in selfies, filters and texting. Their vocabulary consists of a variety of 3-letter words. BRB, GTG, LMK, among others…some which even I dare not delve into.

Bottom line: Our children are not learning how to appropriately deal with the world and people around them. They are not being raised to focus on a goal or understand the importance of priorities. 

What better time than Muharram to help our children understand the hardships of the family and followers of Imam Husayn (as). While it not only serves as a good time to teach them lessons of our history, the story of the Battle of Karbala and the events that followed, can help our children learn values that they can cite in their lives every day.

  1. Remembering the thirst of Imam Husayn (as): Whenever your kids drink water, remind them to send peace and blessings on Imam, his family and followers. Remind them to think, if even for a bit, about the thirst of Imam, his family, and those around the world who are dying of thirst. And remind them of the Islamic virtues of giving water to others.
  2. There is no bigger sadness than that of the AhlulBayt: Sure we have bad days and experience bad situations in our lives, and we get upset and sad. But when we think about Imam Husayn’s fight and what happened to his family, our grief pales in comparison. We can help our kids understand that while it is OK to be sad, don’t dwell on it, and instead get strength from recalling the story of Imam Husayn (as).
  3. Being thankful to Allah the Almighty: Even in his final moments Imam Husayn (as) was thankful to Allah. His final act of worship before becoming martyred was doing his late afternoon (asr) prayers. Have your kids take a moment after their prayers to note down what they are thankful to Allah for. 
  4. Stories of the brave youth of Karbala: Take a moment to talk about the personalities of Qasim, Ali Akbar, Ruqaiya, Aun, Mohammad, etc. Even as a young child, Qasim cried for permission to fight on the war front for his dear uncle. To him, martyrdom was “sweeter than honey.” This is especially poignant for our children to understand selflessness. 
  5. Patience and perseverance in the face of oppression and injustice: Unfortunately the horrific events of Karbala didn’t just stop there. Recall the stories of what happened to the rest of Imam Husayn’s family after he was martyred. The women and children were taken to Syria and beaten, embarrassed, and emotionally tortured. Even among these trials, Lady Zainab forgot her own sadness to take care of her nephew, Imam Sajjad, the widows, and the young children. We should gain strength from the patience of this great lady. Even when facing the scorn of the tyrant oppressor Yazeed, the martyrdom of her brothers was “nothing but beauty.”

Values we learn from the holy month of Moharram can be embraced in our daily lives, all year long. We are doing a disservice to our children, and ourselves, if we only remember these values one month out of the year. All it takes is a little bit of time to make Imam Hussain and Karbala a part of our families and our lives.

Technology is a part of our lives now that we cannot ignore. But you have the option to unplug and log out. We must create a space and time for our families to reconnect and think about the bigger picture. This is where the story of Imam Hussain and Karbala can save us.

May Allah the Almighty give us the tawfeeq (divine opportunity) to honor the legacy of Imam Hussain by instilling in our children the same fervor to fight for truth and justice, while showing compassion and kindness to others.

Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Raising Faith” column by esteemed guest contributor and student from Qum, Sister Samira Rizvi. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog. Her column will focus on her experiences in tarbiyat—the upbringing of children based on Islamic values. For past articles in the column see here.

About Samira Rizvi

Sister Samira Rizvi is currently studying in Qom. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog that can be viewed at www.mamasfeet.wordpress.com.

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