The Subtle Influence

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Accents are rather strange and fascinating. People speak the same language, and utter the same words, yet it sounds completely different. Different syllables are emphasized and various vowels are intonated and pronounced differently. In some cases, the foreign accent may sound so strange that it may even be mistaken for a foreign language!

The question is, “How are accents acquired?” After all, when babies are born, they cannot speak, and though their crying varies in volume, it has a universal ‘accent’. The answer is that accents are acquired through the influence of others. It is for this reason that children generally share their parents’ accents, as it is their parents from whom they learnt to speak.

However, there are many cases where accents are acquired. Among these are young children who emigrate to another country, or even children who are not English speaking but learn to speak English via the media. In such cases, though their roots are in one land, their accents are borrowed from another.

The curious point in the case of accents is that for most people, acquiring an accent is not a conscious effort. Rather, through the influence of the environment, the subconscious gradually absorbs the accent. Thus, in a very subtle manner, the person’s accent begins to change, until eventually, his twang is indistinct from that of the people from whom he acquired his accent.

The case of the acquired accent demonstrates and proves an important point – the subtle yet powerful and undeniable influence of the environment. Just as a person exposed to the rain must certainly become wet, a person exposed to an environment must certainly be affected by the elements in that environment.

In this regard, though we are all affected by the environment, we need to be extra cautious and vigilant when it comes to our young children. When a child attends a school, then he is exposed to all types of children from diverse backgrounds. Every child’s behaviour, beliefs and outlook has its own distinct ‘accent’. Likewise, the same applies to the teachers who are imparting education to the children. If the child is attending a non-Muslim school – which we should totally try to avoid – then it is even more detrimental.

Through remaining in this environment, day after day for years and years on end, we can imagine the profound effect that associating with these elements will have on moulding the child and shaping his outlook, understanding, attitude and values, and calibrating his moral compass and adjusting his gauge of integrity and justice.

Hence, the sorrowful result of continuous exposure to such negative elements is that in some cases, Muslim youth even renege from Islam and turn apostate, either due to embracing atheism or another religion such as Christianity. Likewise, many Muslim youth lose their Islamic identity and basic Islamic values, such as respect and appreciation for parents, commitment to salaah, love for Deen, etc. Rather, in place of these fundamental Islamic values, they absorb the non-Muslim culture of shamelessness and nudity, love for music and pop-culture, placing personal progress and pleasure above all else, feeling sympathetic towards those who adopt the LGBTQ lifestyle as being a matter of “their choice”, etc.

Therefore, if children are exposed to such environments, then there must be an accompanying effort to counteract the negative influence on their Deen and imaan. This effort is found in the form of the afternoon maktab madrasah which the child must attend ‘religiously’ (punctually). Together with this, ta’leem must be made in the home, on a daily basis, where the incidents of the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) and our pious predecessors are mentioned and discussed. As the child advances and reaches his adolescent years, we may even introduce him to a pious ‘Aalim and encourage him to frequent his gatherings and develop a rapport with him, so that in future, it will be easy for him to refer his queries and acquire direction in life. All these measures will insha-Allah assist to counteract the negative influence on the child’s mind and understanding.

As for the negative influence on his heart, then the remedy for this is to ensure that the child recites the Quraan Majeed, engages in some zikr and carries out other righteous deeds. Insha-Allah, these righteous actions will infuse the heart with noor and will be beneficial in dispelling the darkness of the environment which threatens it.

May Allah Ta‘ala protect us and our progenies from the ill-effects of the environment and may He safeguard our hearts from all evil influences, aameen.