Khaleej Times Interview with Dr. Mohamed Beshir

Could you tell me a bit about yourself and career?

I was born in Egypt and finished my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from Alexandria University in 1970. I worked as a teaching assistant and then as an assistant professor after completing my Masters degree in the same university. I moved to Canada to finish my PhD in the area of telecommunications in 1973, and my wife joined me a year later. After finishing my degree, I joined a large telecommunications firm as a research associate in 1978. I worked with the same firm in various telecommunications positions, the last of which was a Senior Network Analyst. I retired from this firm at the end of 2010. We have four children, all born and raised in Canada, and we currently have eight grand children.

My passion for the area of parenting and family matters started with the birth of our first child. Noticing the unacceptable behaviour of many of the children in our community, particularly teens, was very alarming for my wife and I. At that point, we made a deliberate decision and commitment to do our best to make sure that our children would grow up in Canada as strong confident Muslims, both proud of their identity as well as positively contributing to their society. With my wife’s professional knowledge as a physician and her strong background in child psychology and my in-depth Islamic knowledge, we started our quest for excellence in parenting. It was neither a simple journey, nor an easy one. I dug deeper and deeper into the teachings of Prophet Muhammad SAAW and his companions’ guidance related to family matters. We extracted many wonderful principles to guide us on our quest for excellence in parenting. We also studied many books, took numerous courses, and travelled to conventions and conferences trying to meet successful parents and learn from their experiences. We undertook a self-search process to find out our weaknesses and strengths in the area of parenting, and came up with a plan to get rid of our shortcomings and enhance our strengths. We started putting what we learned into practice and we saw amazing results. The next stage was to share our experiences with our community. This was done first by delivering lectures and conducting workshops within our local community, but soon we were receiving invitations from many Muslim communities all over the world to conduct our parenting workshops. This gave us an opportunity to observe the different problems of children in various parts of the world, and unlimited access to parents’ concerns, which proved to be very useful in building our expertise in the area. At this point, we decided to document our experiences to make them available to a larger audience. Our first book, entitled “Meeting the Challenge of Parenting in the West: An Islamic Perspective”, was published in 1998 and became a best seller in no time. Currently, we have over 10 books on parenting and family matters, 4 of them are best sellers and many have been translated to many languages including Arabic.

What prompted you to write this book and what has the response been?  

As indicated above, before writing “Muslim Teens”, we wrote our first book entitled “Meeting the Challenge of Parenting in the West: An Islamic Perspective.” Many communities invited us to speak about the book and to conduct parenting workshops. As indicated in the introduction of “Muslim Teens”, we have learned a lot from these workshops and gained tremendous experience related to teens’ problems through discussing and interacting with parents. It was very clear from these discussions that the most important issue and concern parents have in North America, without a doubt, is raising teens in a western culture. Parents are concerned about how to take good care of their children to ensure that they are non-troubled teens and contributing individuals to society and humanity in general. That is what triggered us to write Muslim Teens.

Alhamdulellah, the response has been great. Muslim Teens has been translated to many languages. Many editions have been reprinted, and it is one of our 4 best sellers on family matters in North America. We’ve conducted many successful workshops to various communities all over the world based on the book material.

What is the first advice you would give parents of Muslim teenagers?

The first advice I would give parents of Muslim teenagers is to parent their teens based on knowledge. Parents should equip themselves with the following areas of knowledge to succeed in parenting their teens:

  • Knowledge of the developmental stages of their teens and their characteristics
  • Knowledge of their teens’ environment
  • Knowledge of Islamic parenting skills. This is a topic with many different areas, but those that are most relevant to the parenting of teens are the following:
    • linking your children to Allah subhannahu wa ta’ala
    • being an approachable parent
    • using effective communication and dialoguing
    • controlling your temper and not acting out of frustration, and
    • being consistent

What is most challenging about bringing up teens?

There are many challenges in bringing up teens: peer pressure, norms of popular teen culture, risks surrounding this age group in modern society such as drugs, parties, gangs, etc. However, by far the most challenging aspect in parenting teens is the willingness of parents themselves to change and use more effective and successful parenting techniques with their teens. Many parents repeat certain patterns that were used with them when they were young without testing their validity for the time and new environment. Ali Ibn Aby Taleb said:

ربوا أولادكم على غير ما تربيتم عليه فإنهم خلقوا لزمان غير زمانكم

“Raise your children using ways different from the ways used with you, because they were created for different times”

Imagine this being said 14 centuries ago when the rate of change was very slow; how about now when things are changing so fast? I think parents should learn to adapt to new and more effective ways of tarbiyah. It is a huge mistake for parents to just follow their own cultural practices without testing and ensuring that these practices are based on Islamic principles and would work in their new environment and time.

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