Fatherhood Tips from an Old Testament Prophet?!
We could all channel a little more Prophet Yaqub in our lives
As both a son and a father, Fathers Day takes on a particular poignancy. As a dad myself I frequently revisit my own experiences of being on the receiving end of some epic fathering with a view to distilling these best bits in to my own practice. Actually experiencing fatherhood - its joys and challenges - certainly enables me to view the role through a different prism altogether that refracts so much more compassion and understanding. Seeing your own father interact with your kids adds yet another layer of beauty to the perpetual process of parenting that spans generations.
Learning from your own dad is by the by but little did I think that I'd be taking life lessons on fatherhood from one of the archetypal Qur'anic father figures - Prophet Yaqub (Jacob). This Ramadan on the encouragement of a friend I began listening to the truly inspiring tafsir series on Surah Yusuf by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan. What particularity stood out was the wealth of wisdom that he shared from a surgical dissection of just a couple of the early verses from the chapter covering the interaction between Prophet Yaqub and his young son Yusuf.
He said, 'O my son, relate not thy vision to thy brothers, lest they devise against thee some guile. Surely Satan is to man a manifest enemy.
So will thy Lord choose thee, and teach thee the interpretation of tales, and perfect His blessing upon thee and upon the House of Jacob, as He perfected it formerly on thy fathers Abraham and Isaac; surely thy Lord is All-knowing, All-wise.'” - (12:4-6 - Holy Qur'an)
The first take-home point from these verses is MIX IT UP. Established convention would dictate that Yaqub, the older, speaks first and Yusuf speaks second. This is often the dynamic in family life. Yet, Yaqub implicitly encourages and allows his young child to speak first thereby empowering and validating him.
Secondly, if we take a step back, Yusuf was clearly uncomfortable with his vision and its meaning yet felt comfortable approaching and relaying his dream to his father. Yaqub had established THE COMMUNICATION FOUNDATION of being approachable to his child no matter what.
"Do not raise your children the way [your] parents raised you, they were born for a different time."
Ali ibn Abu Talib
Thirdly, the English translation can never truly capture the nuances in the Arabic and it's worth reflecting on the awesome MUTUAL RESPECT shown between father and son. Yusuf calls his father with the term "yaa abatee" which loosely translates as my dear father. Yaqub responds with "yaa bunayya" - my dear son.
We all strive to be the best fathers and sons (and by extension parents and children) we can possibly be. There are indeed some surprisingly valuable lessons to be learnt from looking back a few thousand years at how a father and son who happened to be two Prophets of Allah lovingly engaged with one another.