05 May

A Muslim Father And Daughter On Islamic Parenting In Japan

Yousuf Sarrah

Growing up, Yousuf Sarrah does not recall wearing a swimsuit like other girls in the neighborhood. Even at the height of summer, the 22-year-old resident of Narashino in Chiba Prefecture says she stayed covered up, donning nothing more revealing than a skirt with a hem set solidly below knee level. Even as an adult, she prefers outfits that are not revealing. While she is not Muslim herself, she explains, her conservative fashion sense still reflects the thinking of her father, Pakistan-born Yousuf Ali.

Ali, a native of the southern city of Hyderabad, came to Japan in 1986 to work and distance himself from the worsening public safety he saw in his native land. Not long after his arrival he met and fell in love with his wife. The couple married in 1991, but Ali says the road to matrimony had a few unexpected curves.

Muslim parents in Pakistan customarily hold sway over who their children marry, and according to Ali the idea of wedding a foreigner outside the faith did not sit well with his mother and father. Ali realized his parents were trying to block the nuptials after struggling to arrange for the necessary paperwork to be sent from Pakistan. His younger brother eventually came to the rescue, and with all the essential documents in order, the wedding went ahead. Ali’s parents did not easily forgive their son’s impudence, though, and it has only been in the last five years that they have finally come to accept the union.

Hoping and Praying

In addition to Sarrah, Ali and his wife also have an older son. While they insist they love both their children equally, there is no denying that father and daughter have a special bond. Ali’s eyes light up as he tells about Sarrah graduating from university this past spring and landing her ideal job. But while he is excited for his daughter, as a Muslim father he admits he is troubled that she does not share his faith.

Ali says he did not push his children to be Muslim, trusting that they would come to embrace Islam as a matter of course. From the outset the family observed various tenets of the religion, including restrictions on dress, food, and alcohol. Ali would even refrain from praying in the Japanese manner when visiting Shintō shrines or the graves of his wife’s relatives. He tried to set an example with his own actions but recognizes now that there were other factors at play.

“We live in Japan, so of course I wanted the children to be free to experience the customs and practices of their mother’s homeland,” he explains. “Personally, I enjoy visiting temples and shrines and would often take the kids along. I did this certain that what I taught them about Islam would bear fruit when they became adults. In retrospect, I was a bit naïve in my expectation.”

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A Father’s Hopes

Ali considers the decision to convert to Islam a personal affair and does not berate his children’s decisions, although he does wish that his family shared his religious beliefs. He says he had stoically accepted the fact that his wife and son were not going to become Muslim and had pinned his last hopes on Sarrah.

He took her from the time she was a little girl to religious meetings, where they would eat and worship with other Muslim families from around the world. Sarrah made many friends, and as she got older she helped look after younger children at the gatherings.

Sarrah, meanwhile, explains that she was motivated to attend more out of respect for her father than by religious aspirations. “My mother and brother didn’t go to the meetings,” she says. “I had no desire to become Muslim, but I felt it was my duty to keep my father company. Other people brought their families and I didn’t want him to have to attend alone. I usually kept him company during morning prayers at home too. He never once demanded I become Muslim, though.”

This Article is Originally published by www.nippon.com


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