"My Muslim daughter who's fourteen... asked for a bar mitzvah": comedian Ali Hassan's essay

Religion isn't a big part of Ali Hassan's life. He's totally comfortable being a cultural Muslim. But he's worried about his four kids. Will they miss out on something important if they don't get a spiritual education? Or is it perfectly fine to skip mosque and go to the ball game instead?
Ali Hassan with his family. From left to right - Sania, his wife Madiha, Maaz, Ali, Aziz, and Alaysha. The Hassans are starting to figure out how religion and spirituality will be part of their kids' lives. (Courtesy)
Listen7:38

Welcome to Tapestry.  I'm your guest-host today, Ali Hassan.

Truthfully, we haven't talked about religion very much in my house.

Between my desire for my children to do well in school, learn how to cook for themselves, take music lessons, learn how to swim, snag ground balls, it just doesn't come up much.  

Ali's children (clockwise from top left): Alaysha, Sania, Maaz and Aziz. (Courtesy)

But the more research I do, the more I worry that I could be doing my kids a disservice by not introducing them to some level of religion or spirituality in the house.  

At the risk of embarrassing all of us, here's something that wasn't on tape. My eldest daughter is struggling to figure out what to do for her upcoming 14th birthday. Exasperated, she asked at the dinner table the other night:  

"Why can't I have a bar mitzvah?!"

My Muslim. Daughter. Who is turning fourteen. Asked why she can't have a bar mitzvah. And before I could answer, my 11-year-old laughed at her and said, "We're not Mexican!"

Mixing up her bar mitzvahs with her quinceañera. On which you have to be quince años. Fifteen.

We're a mess. 

Am I setting my kids up for an empty life or a soulless existence if I don't give them some sort of religious education? Will they be moral, happy, fulfilled people without some spiritual guidance?

Ali Hassan with the secret stars of the episode: Alaysha, Sania and Maaz. (Courtesy)

Sure, my wife and I are no theologians, and we're certainly not regulars at the mosque... but we had SOME knowledge of Islam and I think we turned out alright. Or at least my wife did.

Our dilemma now is: do we give the kids a religious education?

Even if one day they feel that organized religion is too difficult, or a sham, or just not for them, shouldn't they at least have some connection to a spiritual side?

Or is none of it important to live a happy and fulfilled life?  


Click LISTEN above to hear from Ali's full essay, including some clips of Ali in conversation with his kids.