I didn’t quite understand the significance of fatherlessness until I became a teacher.

I have taught hundreds of students now, and every single student with a missing father (either due to divorce, work, or death) noticeably struggled in school. They struggled with behavior, academics, responsibility, authority, relationships with others, and substances. Even among the more liberal teachers I’ve worked with, it was known that fatherlessness produced trouble — and we would identify it right away.

Among the boys, it created a “fight or flight” reaction — my male students would either act out, or they would simply not show up, not do the work, and not care about their grades. There is something about seeing a working father day-in and day-out that subconsciously teaches a boy that manhood is about hard-work, responsibility, and maturity. A man who has gone through the rites of passage of adulthood can teach his son how to deal with teen angst.

Among the girls, it created a thirst for male attention; and they often got into brief and frequent relationships with men at an early age — often much older men, to make up for the lack of mature male presence in their life.

Now of course, there is a level of generalizing here. These aren’t fatalistic prophecies, and many have risen far above these conditions. The point is, you still have the will and agency to transcend your conditions, regardless of the circumstances. Rely on Allah, it is all easy for Him, if you but knew. In the meantime, while it is important to note the exceptions, we must identify the patterns and trends.

What can be done about children with missing fathers?

I want to make clear that these children and their parents deserve our compassion and not our cynicism and sneer. At the same time, we should not give into the popular notion that all family models are equal, and that exceptional circumstances disprove general rules. This is neither scientific nor ethical.

  1. “It takes a village.”

One problem with urbanization — which has rapidly increased over the last century — is that it creates a highly atomized society. You likely have no substantive relationship with anyone in your neighbourhood. Mixed with Anglo individualism, it is hard to find a sense of community. In rural societies, the people are more homogeneous; they may even be loosely related, if not by blood then by marriage. So if a parent is missing, there is more room for the extended family and society to take up responsibilities and build bonds with the child. So community planning will minimize the effects of a missing parent.

Two years ago, I taught a child whose father had passed away a few years prior. He began avoiding responsibilities and becoming emotionally distant, despite his very proactive and strong mother. The mother was truly remarkable, but she knew that she needed help from male teachers and role models. She decided to move in with her brother — and immediately thereafter, the child began doing his work and achieved above-average grades.

Hence, get your relatives involved — grandparents, uncles, cousins, siblings. Studies suggest that the children who do better in school are the ones that have long conversations with adults.
Today we find that adults and parent figures do not or are unwilling to engage with children on important matters. So instead of helping they opt for children should stay out of adult matters. The fact that the children know what is going on causes them to make up their own minds and this destroys them in the long run.
It must also be kept in mind that such acting should not use this to manipulate the children into following their way of life when it is in opposition to the parents’ ways. They must simply be there for the children to help them grow into a more wholesome person.
Unfortunately, today families are too concerned with their own lives selfishly and are not prepared to give time to these children unless it’s on their terms and around their time. Furthermore rifts between couples cause family members to distant themselves from these innocent children.

  1. “The rule of two”

Apprenticeships were a big part of the pre-modern world. It was the way one learned a trade, prior to modern education. Having an older mentor, shaykh, trainer, etc. will create a healthy bond where there is reward and discipline.

  1. Healthy male spaces

With the decline of male spaces, more men will gravitate toward degenerate corners of the internet. These corners can easily be co-opted by subversive forces. Many become radicalized or join gangs.

It is good to enroll your kids in activities where they are interacting with people of different ages.

There was a musjid that I used to frequent that brought many of the “troubled kids” at 1am, and we used to order food, and just sit and talk about Islam. It was a non-judgmental space and it ended up preventing them from going to shadier places. They even brought one or two non-Muslim friends.

  1. Avoid preventable harm

Unless there is fear of serious physical or religious danger (or some other valid reason that is of detriment to the child), there is no reason to keep a child away from their parent. Maybe your relationship with their parent is complicated, but that parent should still be a part of their life.

Likewise, don’t work far away from your family for protracted periods of time. This is very common in our community, and I can tell you that the consequences can be permanent — and I’ve seen it many times first-hand.
Another thing is that we have got our priorities upside down and thus children are made secondary and work and acquisition of material things has taken preference.

  1. “Buying” Children
    Today we find that too much emphasis is placed on material things and children are not given enough time by parents and adults in the family. The trend is to buy them things but not give them time. Many children complain of this. Those involved in this should understand that a parent is not just there to “provide”, they have a role to play to mould the children. So when children turn to other adults then the real parents should not complain as they have discarded their children.
  2. Make dua!

A sincere prayer will open up the heavens. Never underestimate this tool at your disposal.

And remember, we all make choices. Our circumstances may be tough, but they do not fully define who we are unless we allow it to.
Both parents are important, but father’s role is underestimated and children without a father are more in danger than those without a mother. When you consider that mothers today are in reality absentee mothers for the most part due to liberal agendas, this is a pandemic.
I would be nothing without my father. So please honour your dads and be good to them.

Bilal Muhammad
(Edited by Qalamul Haq)

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