Hidayah Exclusive: Interview with Ustaazah Dr. Farhat Hashmi Part 1
CHILDHOOD, UPBRINGING AND FAMILY VALUES (PART I)
Sister Khudaija: Assalamulaekum wrwb.
Dr. Farhat: Walikumsalam wrwrb.
Sister Khudaija: My first question is that parents play a huge role in the lives of their children, so are there any memories of your childhood that led towards your love of Islam and the deen?
Dr. Farhat: Alhamdullilah my father acquired a religious education, and going back even further, my grandmother was also known to be quite religious. We are Syed’s by lineage, so my grandmother was from a prominent household and people would often approach her for religious advice. She was very knowledgeable, and from a young age was keen on learning and educating. She instilled these values in my father who, in return, passed on the same zeal for knowledge to us.
Sister Khudaija: How did your father influence your upbringing?
Dr. Farhat: My grandmother had a huge effect on my father’s upbringing which resulted in not only love for Deen, but also a steady practice of Deen. I always found him to be a great father who raised me well. I would observe his love for Deen and commitment to namaaz (salaah), his practice of getting up in the middle of the night for prayer, his habit of going to the mosque even during sickness—his steadfastness always struck me in awe.
He was also a generous host and welcomed guests at home, including my maternal grandmother who would stay with my parents for extended periods of time. Old or young, my father exhibited the same level of respect to all those who entered his home.
He was also actively involved in the household, and played a pivotal role in raising us. Right from a very young age he started giving us formal education on the Qur’anic translation, Hadeeth, Tafseer – which we learnt at home, alongside regular schooling.
Sister Khudaija: When did you turn so strongly towards the Qur’an, and where did your ultimate motivation come from?
Dr. Farhat: When my father was teaching us about Islam and the Qur’an, he was always worried that we would forget it. So he encouraged us to share what we learn with others, even if it was one Ayah from the Qur’an. This ended up being the practice that I adopted from a young age, and motivated me throughout life – of learning myself and then teaching others.
Sister Khudaija: Who would you teach it to? Did you start with your family?
Dr. Farhat: Family, friends, classmates in college. In the beginning, I would be quite shy, hesitant and afraid, but my father would always encourage us with such love that we could not refuse. He would also follow up actively on whether we went out and taught our lessons or not.
Every day I would come home and sit by his knees and share with him the problems that I encountered in teaching my lessons and seek his advice. Normally children have those talks with their mothers, but I would do that with my father. Doing so allowed me to build confidence, and also rid me of any fears that I had. At the same time, my intentions and thoughts were getting purified by doing so – not worrying about what others thought and doing it for the sake of Allah alone.
Sister Khudaija: Seeing as your father played such an important role in your life, how would you describe your relationship with your children when they were young?
Dr. Farhat: While raising children, there were many phases in my life; but they have always remained a priority in my life. I was studying when I got married and then had children. There were times when I had two young kids and I had to leave them at home while I went out to study. Later, when they grew up, our schedules aligned since I would leave the house in the morning when the children were going to school and I would come back home from University right when they were returning home from school. In the evenings when I would go out to give Dars, I would always make sure that I took them with me. In the beginning, it may have been difficult for them, but over time they ended up making friends with the children of the mothers that were attending. No matter what phase of life I was going through, I always made them a part of it.
Sister Khudaija: Please share with us some practices and routines that you developed in your children when they were young.
Dr. Farhat: In our household, our children were taught to contribute in household chores from a very young age. This instilled in them the value of teamwork. Laundry day was once a week and all three children would participate, each with their own responsibility of sorting, transferring, folding, etc. Similarly, they would help with cleaning up the kitchen and dishes after mealtime. Mundane tasks such as these were kept for “non-primetime” hours of the day, like weekdays, evenings or specific hours of the day, so that “primetime” was free for more important tasks in our lives.
Another habit that I instilled in them, was the love for reading. In their early childhood, I would read to them; and when they were older, reading books was a part of their daily schedule, often before bedtime. They all had bookshelves in their rooms.
Also, regarding salah, when they were very young I would start by making only one salah mandatory upon them, not all five. For example, at 7 years old, I would ask them to perform only one salah per day. Six months later, I would add another salah that would now be mandatory for them to perform. Then progressively I would wake them up for Fajr, which also ended up becoming a habit. Using this step-by-step approach, they were able to establish salah in their lives with ease.
Sister Khudaija: The other day when I was interviewing Sister Taymiyyah (daughter), I asked her the question regarding sharing something from her childhood that resulted in her gravitating towards the Deen, and she told me that there was a routine in the house every evening that both the parents would sit at the dining table with all their books in order to study. During that time, all of the children also followed by bringing their homework to the table and studying with the parents. So, the whole environment became such where the entire family is learning and growing together.
Dr. Farhat: When I would come back from University and cook, everyone would open their school bags and start studying since our kitchen was big and we had the dining table right in the kitchen. So, in the same kitchen space the children would study, I would study my own lessons and also at the same time end up cooking. This was in Islamabad, back in the 90’s.
Sister Khudaija: These are the things that remain with you and form habits.
Dr. Farhat: Absolutely. We should never treat any task like a burden. If a task needs to be performed then there are more than one ways to do it, and there will be one way that fits into your life and schedule.
Sister Khudaija: What is your advice for parents, especially in the West, that would want their children to love the Deen and gravitate more towards it?
Dr. Farhat: First and foremost, I would say that parents must spend quality time with their children. The parents must share their own background and experiences with their children, which should include stories about their own childhood and families. Alongside personal stories, the parents should also talk to their children about Allah, morals and values, and about Islamic history. These are concepts that must be instilled from within the home. The parents shouldn’t rely on a masjid or an Islamic centre or school to teach their children about these things, but rather take it upon themselves to do so. In order to teach their kids about these topics, however, the parents themselves need to be well-educated, so they should make learning a part of their lives themselves and then teach it to their kids simultaneously.
Also, what parents must strive to do is really understand their kids. People normally don’t try to understand their children, because of which both the parents and the children turn out to be unhappy. The parents need to realize that the children are not in the same environment in which the parents grew up. They need to understand the environment that the children are growing in and try to relate to the challenges that they are facing in that environment.
Sister Khudaija: Can you tell us about your daily routine, now, when not traveling?
Dr. Farhat: Since my children are older now, I use my time in performing prayers on my own, preparing for the lessons that I need to teach, and performing personal chores like housework, etc. When I am home, I also attend meetings for different organizations that I’m involved with. Then at night, I go through my phone to get back to any emails and messages that I may have received in the day, right before going to bed.
Sister Khudaija: Will Al Huda open up avenues for counseling people and families regarding personal matters? Similarly, new Muslims face many difficulties in their lives and need help in terms of counseling. What are your thoughts on that topic?
Dr. Farhat: I have thought much about this topic and want there to be counseling programs present, however, based on the location there are many local counseling rules of the country/city that must be followed. We cannot simply start a counseling service without proper training, as this field is regulated differently in different parts of the world. I really want to start something; however, at this time we don’t have concrete resources in place to start such a program yet.
We do try to teach many lessons through our different Islamic classes, in the light of Qur’an and Sunnah, that people find very helpful in resolving their personal struggles. We have people often tell us that they find the lessons and classes being offered at Al Huda beneficial in providing insight into personal struggles and how best to deal with them.
I recently had a skype meeting with some students from Islamabad, and there was one girl who told me that she was addicted to drugs and that she attended Al Huda and after just going to her first class she was motivated to quit – and she was successful at doing so. I was quite surprised that she was sitting amongst a group of other students and telling me this, however, it’s quite apparent that the solutions to our problems are laid out in the Qur’an. So, while there are no professional counseling programs in place currently, I believe Qur’anic lessons that we teach our students is the highest level of counseling you can receive.
We have daily, weekly, and weekend programs for all. Whoever wants to learn can learn on whatever schedule or time they would prefer.