It started as a father-son activity — a way for Hassnain Malik to spend more time with the older of his two sons.
Before long, as often happens, Scouting became something for the entire family. It became a place where Malik, his wife and their two sons could grow closer as a family, enjoy character-building experiences and connect more deeply to their Muslim faith.
“Scouting represents the values we grew up with and want our kids to learn,” Malik says. “The Scout Oath is the reflection of what we learn from the Quran and our faith. And the Scout Law is the governing element of how a Muslim should conduct himself or herself daily.”
Last month, the volunteer from Santa Clara, Calif., became one of seven Scouters in the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council to receive the Silver Beaver Award, presented for extraordinary service to a district or council.
Malik’s contributions to Scouting have extended far beyond the six Scouting units where he’s a volunteer (Cub Scout Packs 399 and 499; Scouts BSA Troops 14, 399 and 499; and Venturing Crew 1). He’s also a district committee member and has served as a National Youth Leadership Training course director and Order of the Arrow chapter adviser.
For one of his Wood Badge ticket items (a set of five projects a volunteer completes to benefit Scouting), Malik presented information about halal food to his council camping committee. As a result, the council can now provide foods that are allowed under Islamic dietary laws at summer camp and other council- and district-run events.
Malik devotes time to Scouting because he believes in the program. He’s seen how it benefits our country’s youth.
“Scouting teaches lifelong skills wrapped in a safe-to-fail environment that is filled with fun activities,” he says. “The values are timeless and are the reflection of our faith.”
Choosing Scouting for their family
More than a decade ago, Hassnain Malik and his wife, Tsunnum, were looking for activities for their older son when Tsunnum discovered that a family friend was involved in Scouting.
“She did some research, and coincidently, the local Islamic Center was reviving its pack,” Hassnain Malik says. “We attended the meeting, and one of the requirements to join the newly revived pack was to volunteer as an adult leader. I became assistant den leader for my son’s Bear den, and that’s how it all started.”
Cub Scouting was a transformative experience for the whole family. The Maliks made friends, tried new things and watched their sons mature into confident, strong young men.
“There isn’t a program as comprehensive as Scouting, which provides equal opportunity to everyone to learn leadership skills at a very young age,” Malik says. “It encourages Scouts to give back to the community through service projects, and it builds a strong understanding of our faith that all are created equal.”
Once the Malik boys moved into a troop, their mom joined them. She became troop advancement chair, an Eagle mentor and now serves on the district advancement committee.
Scouting and the Muslim faith
The National Islamic Committee on Scouting was formed in 1982 to help recruit more Muslim youth into Scouting, support Muslim families who are involved in Scouting and promote the faith’s religious emblems program.
Malik says the principles of Scouting and the principles of Islam align well.
“The elements of the Scout Oath and Law are the foundational principles in Islam,” Malik says. “One of the core elements of our faith talks about Zakat, which is taking a portion out of your wealth and giving it to those who need it. There are numerous verses in the Quran that talk about helping others.”
In Scouting, families can celebrate their faith and show their pride for its traditions and customs. In units with Scouts of multiple faiths, like Malik’s troop, Scouts even get the opportunity to learn about other religions.
Non-Muslim Scouts in Malik’s troop learn that Muslims are required to pray five times a day (pre-dawn, afternoon, late afternoon, evening and night). While traveling, perhaps for a Scout campout, there are provisions to shorten and combine two prayers. For example, the late afternoon and evening prayers could be combined into one session.
“When we are camping, we don’t miss any prayers,” he says.
In addition to adhering to a prayer schedule, Muslims eat halal, which is Arabic for “permitted” or “lawful.”
When planning menus for a campout, patrol leaders make sure that everyone’s dietary restrictions are met.
“My family is part of an ethnically and religiously diverse troop, and everyone made sure that patrol menus were created according to Muslim, Jewish and Hindu guidelines,” he says.
The values of Scouting
Every faith teaches adherents about good and bad, right and wrong.
Scouting, Malik says, reinforces those messages in ways that young people can understand. While a teenager might not understand the sometimes-complex language of their religion’s texts, they can understand the 12 points of the Scout Law and how they should be applied.
They’ll experience those values hands on — helping them grow closer to their faith over time.
“Scouting values reinforce those ideals in a manner which is understood,” Malik says. “We need citizens who truly believe that being Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent is how we make things better for everyone.”