I have always wondered, why Allah (swt) stresses for children to be kind to their parents in four places of the Quran (Surahs Isra, Ahkaaf, Luqmaan and Ankaboot). However, there is not a single instruction for parents to be kind to their children.

Once I had kids, I realized that only the Creator knew His creation inside out – and the instructions must be there for my ignorance. The instruction in Surah Tahreem (66:6) is this: “O You who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones…”

Before I had kids, every time I read this Ayah, it didn’t really mean much. But now, as a mother of three (Masha’Allah), I understand this very fundamental command of Allah’s (swt).

Iqbal in his poem “The Satan’s Advisory Council” (“Iblees ki majlis-e-shura”) says:

“I fear from this Ummah lest they awake,
Being his faith’s base, world account he would take.”

It means that only Islam can hinder Satan’s schemes to destroy the mankind in this world.

Relating the poem to the above Ayah, I see that in order to have kids that are successful Muslims, I must be vigilant every single minute – every routine and boring aspect of their lives. I must be AWAKE! We must conduct our affairs according to the parameters Allah (swt) has set for us.

But how can I raise my kids, so that every facet of their lives revolves around Allah (swt) and fear of Allah’s (swt) displeasure? I look to the Ayah, reflect and remember a book by Suleiman Nadvi – “Seerat un Nabi” (Vol. 6). The author discusses the character building and states that all bad character traits have their roots in three things:

  • backbiting
  • promise-breaking
  • skepticism
  • tattling
  • duplicity
  • false oath
  • greed
  • stealing
  • usurping
  • cheating
  • embezzlement
  • overstatement
  • jelousy
  • pride
  • vanity
  • boastfulness
  • rashness
  • oppression
  • maliciousness
Remedy: Sawm Remedy: Zakah Remedy: Salah

Allah (swt) has given us the remedy for these sins as well. So the foundation for my kids’ character is entrenched in the pillars of Islam, which are not mere rituals but shields to combat character defects. My job, as I understood it, is to instruct them to practice these as soon as they physically and mentally can.

To apply this practically, my seven-year-old prays and fasts, my three-year-old tries to pray and fast, and all three of my kids give 1/3 of their Eidi (or any other money they receive as gifts) to the needy. I didn’t think these choices I ‘forced’ them to make had much impact, until the earthquake in 2005. Bilal demanded that I give his money to the victims; Isra makes sure she buys candy for our servant’s kids, whenever she buys some for herself.

We cannot substitute our presence; the guilt of not spending enough time with our kids is clear in the concept of ‘presents instead of presence.’ In today’s materialistic society, we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress the people we don’t even like, which in turn distorts our relationship with our kids and their sense of reality. It alters their priorities and moves them away from Allah (swt) – into the Hell we are commanded to save them from.

Parents must sacrifice their pleasures for their kids. Instead of eating out, make cooking new things an adventure. Instead of going to the malls, spend time playing sports with your kids. Instead of aiming for that upper middle class lifestyle, aim for that highest level in Jannah. We, as parents, must review our priorities in order to instill correct character traits in our kids.

We should build a strong sense of pride in the Islamic way of life. We should equip our kids with proofs from the Quran and the Sunnah, so that they can defend their choices. We should inform them, using logic and Ayahs from the Quran about Islam’s stand on various issues. For example, my son asked me, if a girl who wore jeans would go to Hell. I, in turn, quoted the Hadeeth about the etiquettes of dress, which gave him ‘ammunition’ for convincing his sister not to wear jeans!

Be sure you do not confuse your kids – do what you ask them to do. In other words, make it a line in stone that you MUST practice what you preach, or else your kids WILL not get the message. Provide for them a home environment, which exemplifies the Islamic way of life. Structure your activities around Salaah timings – this will reinforce the importance of Salaah. Show to your kids that you give to the poor and the needy as much as you can – this will impress them, and they will understand that wealth is a trust from Allah (swt) to be dispensed as per His instructions. Make Ramadan special and perform acts of worship as a family – believe me, it will last a lifetime. I still pine for the days, when we would stay up all night and pray during the last ten days of Ramadan with my mom, grandmother, aunts and neighborhood women. It was the highlight of the year for us!

I cannot stress enough the importance of a peaceful and loving relationship between father and mother, which serves as an example for future relationships kids will make. Only insist on the best – the best prayer (with devotion and humility), the best fast (with perseverance) and the best attitude towards your fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

For a better and responsible future generation, all parents must work hard on their kids’ moral and ethical upbringing. The benefit will be a strong Islamic society in this world and Jannah in the Hereafter, Insha’Allah.