Glenn Silver is a planner/evaluator for the North Carolina (USA) Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing and is a single parent to his 16-year-old daughter, Candace. He received his Master’s degree from the University of Florida and has worked extensively in the non-profit sector. A former pastor, Glenn is now a practising Muslim and maintains an active role at his local mosque.
Despite her challenging childhood, Candace is a remarkable young lady who has achieved a lot academically in her young life. She has recently wrapped up a summer course at The National Student Leadership Conference Psychology and Neuroscience Program at American University, and she is now on track for admissions to neuroscience and psychology programs at several prestigious universities.
Tell me about your journey to parenthood. What were the circumstances that led you to single parenthood?
In 1994, I married my first wife and began my own grant writing consulting business in North Florida. In 1996, we had a baby girl. We had started experiencing marital problems by then and one day in the same year, I went back home only to discover that my wife had packed up and left. The only things she left behind were my clothes. After a few months, I caught a bus to Seattle, to return to where I had been living a few years prior. However when the bus stopped in Chicago, I chose not to travel further. I ended up enrolled in the Pacific Garden Mission Men’s Bible Institute and studied there until 1997. My brother died the same year. He had been the one taking care of my mother so I moved to North Carolina to live closer to her. By the end of ‘97, I received divorce papers from my wife; I hadn’t seen my daughter for more than a year.
It sounds like it was an intense period in your life.
Yes, it was. But it is all qadr (destiny).
When was Candace born?
In the midst of all these major life events, I met the woman who would be my second wife at church.
She already had a 3 year old son. We married in August 1998. After we were married she injured her wrist and could no longer work. I went from consulting to full-time employment with the City of Rocky Mount. I also became Youth Pastor and Assistant to the Pastor at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.
In 1999, during Hurricane Floyd, Candace was conceived and she was born on June 18, 2000.
A little after that, I became Pastor of Tillery Chapel Missionary Baptist Church – a small, rural, black church in NC, while also working at the City of Rocky Mount.
In 2005, I left the City and began working for the State of NC but by then my wife had begun to show signs of mental illness. Twice, she forgot to pick the children up from school and I had to leave work and drive 45 minutes from my job to get the children. My wife’s mental health continued to deteriorate until in 2009, I left and Candace decided to leave with me. We moved to Burgaw, NC.
My wife filed papers in court and I was forced to take Candace back to her. It was the worst day in my life. Candace cried and did not want to go back but I had to take her back because the court ordered it. For a little more than a year, I lived in Burgaw while Candace lived in Whitakers, NC with her mother. I visited her at least once per month and took her to the dinner, movies, etc.
That’s awful. How did you cope?
I coped by having good friends in Burgaw and through the mercy of God. By Spring 2012, Candace could not take it anymore and asked me if I would come back for her sake. So in Spring 2012, I moved from Burgaw back to Whitakers and reconciled with her mother. I tried to make it work for Candace’s sake.
After a couple of months, things got really bad.
One Saturday morning, my wife began fussing at Candace for placing the forks in drying rack with the handles up rather than the tines up and things escalated to the point that I called 911 and the police came. They called Social Services and Social Services told me that I was solely responsible for Candace’s safety and her mother was not to be alone with Candace.
How old was Candace when this happened?…The knife incident
I could not live in the house with the mother of my child not being able to be left alone with her. What was I to do when Candace went to the bathroom and her mother went in there with her? Candace had just turned 12.
Candace was terrified that her mother was going to come and do something to me or her so we packed our clothes, left the house, and stayed in a hotel in Raleigh for a couple of weeks until I got us an apartment. When I got an apartment, we started with everything from zero. We had nothing but our clothes, so in the beginning, Candace slept in her sleeping bag while I slept on the floor.
Luckily for us at the time, my employer, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, let me bring Candace to work so I wouldn’t have to worry about leaving her alone. All this time, I also was fighting a court battle for custody of Candace.
What about your other daughter? What happened to her?
She remained with her mother and her mother cut off contact. I have not seen her since she was 3 years old but I do provide financial support.
You had been a practising Christian. How did you transition to Islam?
I found Islam as a result of all that I was going through at this time. Although I had served as a Pastor for more than 15 years in the Whitakers area and was very active in the community, none of my fellow pastors or the churches did anything to help us. I was very disappointed that they had no concern for Candace.
So, the pain of having the church fail me caused me to critically assess Christianity. After a few months of contemplation, I contacted the Islamic Association of Raleigh and Brother Fiaz Fareed responded to my email. When I told him I had been a Christian pastor, his response was that he wanted to be respectful. “Would you like me to call you Reverend, or Pastor, or something else?” he asked.
I was astounded because here was a Muslim wanting to be respectful of my non-Muslim religion while when I was a Christian, I had no respect for any religion other than Christianity. That small, simple act of kindness was all the daawah I needed. Brother Fiaz and I met on February 10, 2013 and I took shahadah that day.
Please tell me a little more about your journey into Islam.
So as I began to study Islam, I discovered Qiyaam al-Layl and read that Allah descended to the lowest part of heavens in the last third of the night to answer prayers. I calculated the last third of the night and prayed. The next day, alhamdulillah, I received the notice that the court had awarded me full and sole custody of Candace.
After that, I continued to learn and grow as a Muslim. Islam and the local Muslim community have helped me and Candace endure our tests. Islam has taught me about sabr (patience) and perfection of my character; those two things have helped me be a good parent. It is the love and forgiveness and provision of Allah (SWT) for me that I try to reflect, albeit dimly, in my relationship with Candace.
As a father, who inspires you?
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW). I have learned a lot from his character and I try to replicate it in my life as much as possible. He was an exemplary father.
As a revert, it was inspiring to know that the Prophet (SAW) also raised daughters and that daughters are a blessing from Allah. There is a hadith which states that anyone who brings up a righteous daughter is guaranteed a place in paradise.
Are you raising Candace as a Muslim? Or does she get to decide what faith she wants to belong to?
She gets to decide.
Being abandoned by the church has made her sceptical of religion and I understand that. Plus, religion is not but compulsion. The best I can do for her is to let her see the power of Islam in my life so that she reverts. Otherwise, forcing her to live as a Muslim would be insincere and could do her more harm than good.
How long have you now been living alone together?
Candace and I have been living alone together for four years.
You are a single father. You haven’t had it easy in the past and Candace hasn’t either. What have been some of the most difficult moments for you raising your daughter alone?
The most difficult moments were when we first moved here and we were going back and forth to court in the custody battle. Candace had been physically and emotionally abused by her mother so we went to therapy together. Then, in January 2013, I lost my job the NC Museum of Natural Sciences because I had to be out so much with the custody battle. So I had to return to consulting full time. That worked out well because I could arrange my schedule to be there for Candace more than I could when working outside the home.
One of the most challenging things was seeing Candace endure the pain of having her mother reject her.
Do you have a support system?
My support system is my local ummah and my friends in the Wilmington area. My reliance on Allah has helped tremendously.
How does society judge you as a single father?
I am not sure how society judges me as a single father. To be honest, I hardly ever think about it. I do think that as a black, single father in America, I break the stereotypes that many have of black fathers. However, my breaking those stereotypes is a testimony to the mercy of Allah (SWT) rather than any traits I have, as a man.
As for having to have gone through so much, it is the will of Allah (SWT) – qadr. When Allah (SWT) loves His (SWT) slave, He (SWT) test him. And for that, I can only say Alhamdulillah(thanks be to God).
You have come out the other side a winner in spite of your difficult past.
I believe if anything in my life had been different until now, I would not know Allah (SWT) as I do. I strive to be a better slave to Him (SWT), moment by moment.
Wow! I’m in awe of your attitude.
Yes. Alhamdulillah, that Allah (SWT) has kept me around to see Candace achieve all that she has. May Allah (SWT) allow all of us to grow old and see our child become pious offspring, ameen.
What are your hopes for Candace as she transitions into adulthood?
I hope that she use the gifts she has to serve humanity and that her heart softens to accept Islam.
She has admitted that if she had to choose a religion it would be Islam. The local ummah is very supportive of us. They always ask about Candace and invite her to events.
Is it easy for her to communicate to you regarding issues surrounding femininity?
I always have talked to her as an adult so she is very comfortable asking me anything. She trusts me and I trust her. By the age of 8 or 10, you have instilled the core values of a child so all you can do beyond that is reinforce those values, guide the child along, and support them as they make mistakes.
So, she’s been an Honors student throughout high school and is now picking out colleges. Did you ever think, about 10 years back, that you’d be here today? In a place of success as a father?
Yes. My mother raised me as a single parent and I always have been GGod-conscious I always have relied on God for support. However, I had no idea I would endure the trials I have but that is a testimony to the mercy of Allah (SWT).
What advise would you give other single parents out there that are going through a dark period in their lives?
I would advise them to seek Allah (SWT) to bring light into their dark experience. Admit the limits of your own power and submit to Allah (SWT) so you can then have the assurance that even the worst of times are being used to your benefit – in this life and in the Hereafter.
Islam helps me keep things in perspective. All I can do is put forth my best effort and trust Allah (SWT) with the outcome.
There is this hadith of the bird. The bird awakens each day, hungry and not knowing where it will get food. But the bird puts forth the effort – it flies from its nest – and because it puts forth effort, Allah provides sustenance as the outcome: the bird returns to the nest full!
What a beautiful reminder for life.
For those who are reading this and aren’t Muslim, how can they relate to your advice on leaning in on Allah. It’s the feeling of leaning on something bigger than us, isn’t it?
Yes. Leaning in on your own understanding or the support of other people alone will eventually lead to a led down because those resources are limited but God is limitless.
We must lean on something bigger than us because we have an enemy, shaytan, who is bigger than us. But he, like us, are subordinate to Allah (SWT). It is like this. The shaytan is the neighborhood dog and if we try to get away from that bad dog on our own, sooner or later that dog is going to get us. So the logical thing to do is to go to the owner of that dog and plead with him to restrain that dog so the dog cannot do with us as he pleases. Allah (SWT), in this metaphor, is the owner of the bad dog.
I love that analogy.
What do u look forward to in the future?
Inshaallah, I look forward to continuing to learn and grow in my iman(faith) as a Muslim; re-marrying; seeing Candace graduate high school, college, and begin her career; and making hajj.
That sounds wonderful .
Inshaallah, if I can just see Candace get off to a good start as a psychiatrist and make hajj, that will be fulfilling.
And to conclude, what is your definition of success?
Taqwa– a closeness to Allah (SWT). Taqwa is my definition of success because if I am close to Allah (SWT) then I have solid refuge from the vicissitudes of life; provision for my journey in this life; and a place near Him (SWT) in paradise.
Thank you, Glenn, for sharing your experiences and wisdom with us. We wish you and Candace all the best in life!