Children and the choice of religion

Q94 :I was brought up as a Christian, but then I did not really believe in Christianity. When my husband explained to me the full meaning of the basic Islamic concept of the Oneness of Allah, I gladly accepted Islam. However, because of the wide discrepancy between people's practices and what they profess to believe in, my husband and I feel that we should give our son a completely free choice. We will teach him about Islam but the choice to be Muslim or not should remain his. Some people object to our attitude and say that we should bring him up as a Muslim. Are we wrong to adopt this approach.

A94 : I appreciate what you are aiming at. You will be surprised to know that Islam has established the principle of free choice for everyone. It requires every single one of its followers to accept it as a matter of choice, not because he or she has Muslim parents. Those who go through life, practicing Islam as a religion simply because they have been brought up into it, not questioning its principles and not looking into other choices available to them before making an enlightened decision to be Muslims, are considered negligent of an important duty. A Muslim is expected to choose his religion by himself. So, what you want for your son is in line with what Islam wants for him. Having said that, I must say that I do not think that your approach is right. Perhaps you have not explained it fully to me, but I can only be guided by the information supplied to me by my kind readers. The main point is that everyone of us has an inherent desire to know Allah and to believe in Him. This is part of our nature which Allah has implanted within us when He created us. If you look at the world generally, and people in different countries and cultures, as well as different generations of people, you find that to believe in Allah is an important need of every human being. If a child grows up not having received enough knowledge about his Creator, he is likely to be influenced by different creeds. He may not be able to formulate a consistent concept of the Creator. This leads him to confusion and, may be, to error. Therefore, every Muslim has a duty to fulfill toward his children, to make them fully aware of the Islamic concepts and what it means to every individual to believe in Allah, His messenger and in the Day of Judgment. There should be no coercion or pressure on the child to accept Islam in a dogmatic way. What is important is to have an enlightened approach toward learning about the Islamic faith and its requirement. The choice is eventually the child's. You speak of Muslims whose practices, when they go abroad, leave much to be desired. This is certainly unfortunate, but then Islam does not believe in coercion. If people deviate from the moral standards of Islam, they know what their deviation entails. But you must also be aware of the fact that numerous young men and women from Muslim countries go abroad to study and continue to observe Islamic teachings and principles without hesitation. The difference between these two sets of young Muslims is largely due to the fact that one group has made an enlightened choice of Islam as a faith and a way of life while the other look at Islam as their inherited religion. What Islam requires of you is to bring up your child so as he or she could easily belong to the first group. He should be able to question things and make an enlightened choice. To do so, he must be fully aware of the facts of Islam. That is your role: To help him have that knowledge so that he can appreciate the benefits of Islam as a faith and the infinite good that results from adopting an Islamic way of life.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )