Monkey see. Monkey do.

The writer, Mohamedarif Mohamed Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) is a digital marketing specialist and an Educator-cum-Trainer. He has involved himself in community organisations and matters from a young age, and through his writings, continues to speak of social and cultural reform to this day. He is also the founding moderator of this forum.



uring one of the penultimate nights leading to the end of the Ashra, I thought I had had enough, quite literally.  I mean my own childhood training was very balanced and we have in turn groomed our children similarly, so it does not sink in when you are witness to passive parents quite delighted to have their kids make noise somewhere else n public strangely believing that that was perfectly normal. Now if it was happening elsewhere, I would most certainly have had to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, but now this was in the Imambada and then the masjid.

Mustering up sufficient courage, I decided to approach the matter with Jamaat officials, who unanimously echoed my sentiments about the situation being pretty much out of control.  Kids wandering in and out of majlis halls, turning it into a playground of sorts, was not quite conducive to learning from the hard-working zakireen.  Beleaguered, most of us just rally on in the spirit of the holy nights, but then on some days, you are just not so cut out to exhibit patience.

I keep going back to the subject of Akhlaaq, which has pretty much been rendered obsolete.  Observing my a certain family’s day-long behaviour of coming in and out of their home, receiving guests, and dealing with their home staff, also confirms my suspicion, that etiquette is not innate; it has to be nurtured while parenting and then acquired by the willing young members of any society. 

But because this has largely been absent for a couple of generations, we find some abhorrent traits in grown-ups who were not primed in their early years.  Like incessant loud talking or continuous talking for that matter, manner of banging doors as though there was no other softer way to handle the fixture, rushing whether while walking or driving, and not knowing how to give way to others or at times halting in the middle of nowhere oblivious of passers-by or trailing vehicles while chatting to a friend.  Eateries are well populated by many such characters, except that here they also get to explicitly demonstrate sonic speed mastication, using filthy hands to grab a bottle, a sauce, or even a piece from a central serving dish.

So unless this class of society is taught and trained, there is no way they can emulate the kind of mannerism I am talking of.  Emulate, being the operative word.  Of course, in real life, the refined class, subjugated by the rise of populism amongst the middle class, is so much under pressure for acceptance, that they endorse certain very questionable traits. Like ‘of course they are children, they can’t sit still, or ‘we have to be loud and demanding, otherwise, the world does not give it to us’, kind of mantras.

In “Monkey see, Monkey do: Model Behavior in early childhood”, Kylie Rymanowicz, Michigan State University Extension (March 30, 2015) states that it is very important to help children discover positive behaviors through observational learning.  She goes on to say that “Have you ever heard the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do?” Children, it turns out, will actually do both. Children learn and imitate behaviors by watching and listening to others. This is sometimes called “observational learning,” when children can learn things simply by observing others. The models do not have to be people that the child directly interacts with. Children learn from models all around them, on television, in the grocery store, at school, and at home.”

This is why where and how we live and work tends to shape our overall disposition or persona even as adults.  For instance, those who have to fight to get a seat on the bus will project the same behaviour elsewhere in life out of their sheer experience of being rewarded as a result of their audacity.

Attending majlis of Imam Husain (AS) gives us the opportunity to learn anew, revive our previous learning, and be reminded.  But when one has to contend with a chaotic environment, this objective is well defeated.  The alternatives are to stick to remote sources but it is not always quite the same 

So as we remember this great personality, let us truthfully draw lessons that can improve our etiquette and the etiquette of our children.  This can only happen if we first refine ourselves, so that children watching us can acquire the right measure of discipline as well, instead of turning them into unrestrained horses instead of teaching them to harness the power of stillness and quiet.

Labbayk ya Husain, may invigorate us as we chant it, but it also adds onto our shoulders the responsibility of moderate and good conduct, otherwise, we are simply decibel shias

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