Raising good Muslims is a difficult task. Many a times, parents encounter problems while raising their kids to become good Muslims – problems that seem impossible to solve. Following is a valuable piece of advice for those who find raising a Mumin a tough call.
Parents are Allah’s (swt) precious blessing. They love us unconditionally and want the best for us. We only realize the extreme love that our parents have for us, when we become parents ourselves. We then understand that whatever our parents used to do for us was for our own good. Furthermore, we also realize that good parenting is a great responsibility. Parents lay the foundation of a Muslim nation.
Having children is a natural desire ingrained in mankind. The Quran tells us how prophets supplicated for a pious offspring. Prophet Ibrahim (as) and his wife Sarah supplicated to Allah (swt) for a child despite their old age. It is said that Ibrahim (as) was more than 110 years old, when the angel came and told him that he would have a child. His wife was around 95 years of age. Even though they had been praying to Allah (swt) for an offspring for at least 80 years, they were shocked to hear the good news, since they were very old. Similarly, Prophet Zakariyah (as) wanted a child – he had been supplicating to Allah (swt) for over 70 to 80 years. The angel came and blessed him with a child by the name of Yahya.
There are many stories in the Quran about good parenting that we can take lessons from. Analyze how Prophet Ibrahim (as) treated his son Ismail (as) after he saw in a dream that he has to sacrifice him. What does he do? Does he sneak into his teenager son’s room and tie him up quickly to do what was required of him? Does he trick him? No, he engages in a very mature, intellectual conversation. He treats his teenage son like an adult.
This teaches us that if we treat a teenager like an adult, he starts acting like one. On the contrary, when you treat him like a kid, he never grows up. Ibrahim (as) told his son the truth – he trusted him and knew that the way he has raised him, his son will never reject Allah’s (swt) command. Ibrahim (as) then sought his son’s advice. This is how Islam treats a teenager. Islamically speaking, when one reaches the age of 14 or 15, s/he is an adult and is required to be a full practicing Muslim. Unfortunately, our society which emulates the West, considers an individual before 18 years of age to be an immature adolescent. However, Islam teaches us that if a mature, intellectual person is treated like a kid, s/he will act like one, resulting in delayed maturity. The companions of the Prophet (sa) gave their children responsibilities and pushed them to act beyond their years. When they treated them like adults, they began to act like one.
In the Quran, the story of Luqman (as) has a lot of lessons for parents. He taught his son Islam; made sure that he worshipped Allah (swt) Alone; taught him to be respectful to his parents and to be conscious of Allah (swt) wherever he was. He did not beat him over every single action. He instilled in him the overall consciousness that a Mumin has of Allah (swt). He also taught him to be active and fulfill social obligations, command what is good, forbid what is evil and have humility and perfect manners.
Ibn Qayyim, the famous scholar, stated that the greatest reason a person goes astray is that his parents do not take care of him and neglect him. At times, too much love also spoils children. The overly protective and loving parents think they are doing the best for their son or daughter, but in reality they are not. The companions would have their young children, who were only six or seven years old, fast the whole month of Ramadan. How many of us would do that? It is imperative to develop the child’s interest and make him or her fast at the age of eight, nine or ten years.
Furthermore, parents should always instruct their children to perform prayers and recite the Quran. Parents should be firm yet loving. They should not be overly strict; otherwise, the children will retaliate. There are very few families where a father raises a family in an Islamic environment with gentleness. This is the key, because if you are too strict, the youngsters can backlash.
For children, parents are the role models – they try to emulate their actions; hence, if the parents are pious and practicing Muslims, the children will learn to be the same. Even if they go astray for some time, they will eventually mend their ways and become good Muslims, because their parents were always meticulous and practicing Muslims. However, if the parents do not give any importance to Islam, the children will learn to be the same (with a few exceptions). If parents will only give verbal instructions without showing practically what our beautiful religion teaches us, it will not impact their children’s minds. If parents will tell them to be good, but are not good themselves, then they are nothing less than hypocrites. Their children will see through them immediately, and as soon as they leave the nest, they will go astray (if they are not already!).
On the contrary, if parents will walk the talk, practically show their children what Islam teaches us, live up the ideals of Islam and be a good Muslim, their children will have a strong Islamic foundation. Even if they go astray temporarily, they will soon come round and be Mumins.
Parents who do not understand the importance of practical representation and just give verbal instructions to their kids will soon realize that their efforts are in vain. Complaining will be of no use when their kid is 18 years of age. If they have not done anything for the last 18 years, they cannot make a difference now. Their children’s hearts will not nurture that deep understanding and love for Islam, and even if they try to make them follow it, they will fail. Many parents face this problem and later complain that they cannot get their son to be interested in Islam. Why weren’t they interested in Islam when their child was young? Why didn’t they open up the Quran? Why didn’t they fast and pray? Why do they expect their child to do what they didn’t do?
The key to good Islamic upbringing lies in practical application. The simple solution is for the parents to be Muslims. They should be role models for their sons and daughters, and their children will grow up looking at them, appreciating them and imitating them. The way to perfect Islam and to make sure that Islam lives on from generation to generation is to practice it yourselves, so that your children grow up seeing that reality of Islam, practicing it themselves and passing it down to their children.
Transcribed and adapted for “Hiba” by Bushra Naseem.