Although this article appears in the “Message to the Black Man” category, I am not writing about a Black man at all–I’m writing about a Mexican man with Black children.
His name is “Seif” (for short), and he a member of my local Muslim community–and a very well-known member at that. He converted to Islam in the 80s, married an African American woman and has been a pillar in the community since. Seif does not drink, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him curse, and he is a true hustler. He is not a wealthy man, but he has certainly been blessed by God. Whenever you see him, he is surrounded by the children and grandchildren in his family or friends; everyone around him adores him. He has been self-employed the entire 12 years I’ve known him, and although we all have our struggles he far from being a pauper and he has held his family together very well. His family is very close-knit and everyone knows them. Now that I think of it, I recall that both his brothers are married to African American women. His brothers, by the way, share the same infallible reputation he has. I would guess that his father was the same way–to raise sons who turn out to become admirable men.
What inspired this article is not Seif, but a conversation I had where a brother briefly mention him.
I know a young man, who is in his early to mid-20s. Like Seif, he is a good man, married with a baby girl, hard working. A rare sight in the Black community these days–at least in my town. He came by my business to inquire about exercise classes, and I asked about his parents and the married life as I attended his wedding several years ago after watching him grow up as a teenager. In the course of the conversation, he was telling me how he met his wife on Myspace. They courted for six months, with chaperoned dates (her father was extremely protective and strict) and plenty of text-conversations. They met and chatted at skating rinks, even went to movies with his mother sitting between them. I’m actually sitting her laughing as I write this, as I would like my children to have this experience with their future spouses. And you know Mustafa Akamo would be right between them!
So in the course of telling me about his courtship, he mentions that before his wife, he had expressed interest in a young lady at the Annur Masjid (a mosque near my home) who was beautiful and smart and well mannered. At the time, the brother was between jobs and young; he was 19 and at the time giving his parents a hard time. He was staying out late, listening to gangsta rap music, not keep up his prayers and just being a rebellious young man. His father was encouraging him to go to college in order to find a good job and get married. He said he was torn between immature friends and his father’s advice, as well as his desire to please his father.
Well, breaking the rules of traditional Islam, the young man approached the young lady and inquired if she would like to exchange numbers and talk and she said something that completely amazes me:
“You will have to speak to my father. You’re cute but you will have to talk to him first.”
What father wouldn’t want a daughter who shuts down boys like that? Wow.
So, the young man proceeds to tell me he discovered that the young lady’s father was Seif, and what he told me next was just as amazing:
“And you know, any brother who wants to approach a daughter of Seif had better have his stuff together! I knew this sister was gonna need a dude who was like her Dad, and I was messing up AND not working. Man I didn’t bother wasting my time. If I had been listening to my father I would have been in a good spot to step, but I realized to them I was a loser.”
Seif set the standard. His sons are intelligent, hard-working family men. His daughters are intelligent, pious women. What more could a father ask for? This young man, who was far from being a loser, felt like he was unworthy of approaching Seif’s daughter because he knew he was not utilizing his potential. He was also under a strong father, but for whatever reason he backslid for a short period of time. Fortunately, he grew up, went to school, got a good job and found a wife he loves and started a family. We spent most of the time talking about himself and his desire to get physically fit. Yet in the back of my mind, I was impressed with a man who was so young and mature enough to self-criticize and rebuild himself–ending up with a good job and a family when many his age still live with parents and are irresponsible. It was a combination of his return to his own upbringing under his strong father and being intimidated by the presence of another strong father AND finding another woman who had a strong father (his wife) that taught him how to be a good man.
When a man wears big shoes, his children perform at a higher level as well as demand more from themselves and their mates. Men, we set the standard of what our boys turn out to be and what kind of men our girls want. Never forget that. If you are a strong, admirable figure, your kids don’t want to disappoint you. You are the yardstick they measure themselves and their mates by. When you have flaws and shortcomings, it is easy for them to accept less-than-acceptable standards. Never forget that.
As for my friend Seif, whom I have long admired, he reminds me of what my father has been teaching me all my life. And I hope that when my children are grown, I have given them the same impossible-to-follow-father that he has given his children. Amen.
Thanks for visiting my blog.