Shortly after my divorce in 2016, I signed up for Professor Virani’s 2-week tour of Iran. With a bleeding heart and an estranged relationship with my parents, I left for Iran without informing them.
I was received by Professor Virani with warmth and compassion. For the 2nd week, it was just two of us. We laughed, cried, and prayed together. At the time, my parents couldn’t come through for me, but I felt so deeply loved and supported by the community in which I was raised.
Many years later, Professor Virani housed me until I found a place to live and became my NYC Mother.
Now, 6 years later, my parents joined me on another trip with Professor Virani & 32 other Ismailis to Egypt.
I wasn’t the only one on the trip who had a non-biological mother/father i.e. a member of the Ismaili community who came through as a parent would. Many of us referenced this unique bond by saying: just as Sabrina has her NYC Mother, so-and-so is my non-biological mother/father.
In reflecting on these stories, I’ve concluded that the 2 greatest gifts parents can give their children are:
1. The conviction that they are loved and supported and
2. Access to a strong, supportive community
Since no parents are perfect, they will fall short and fail to meet their child’s needs at some point. If the child is engaged with the community, they can receive what they need. As a result, they learn to navigate difficulties with their self-worth intact.
Perhaps, this is the reason the Prophet said he’s leaving behind two weighty matters:
1. The Book of Allah (Quran) and
2. His kindred, the people of his house (Ahl al-Bayt)
From my perspective, the first encapsulates the central message that we are loved and supported no matter what and the second offers access to a strong, supportive community (for all the moments in which we forget the central message). Like DNA strands, the two are interwoven and inextricable from each other.
If you’re a parent reading this, read this part twice:
If you believe that you are always loved and supported while regularly engaging with a supportive community, your child’s mind+body will inherit a deep sense of security. They will see life’s challenges as opportunities to learn about themselves, grow, and expand their consciousness.
If you doubt that you are loved and supported, your child’s mind+body will inherit insecurity. They will see life’s challenges as something to fear, blame themselves for, and avoid as much as possible.