Raising children as Muslims requires determination and zeal, but also a lot of love, leniency (in certain matters), and gentility. Overall it requires self-regulation because children are a reflection of their parents.
On one hand, every Muslim parent wants to raise good Muslim sons and daughters, and within the same calling, each parent must do so in light of Islam, no in spite of the religion.
Here are a few tips on how to pave the parenting route, the Muslim way.
Teach them about Allah
Teaching children about Allah is the first responsibility as parents.
As parents, we are granted children by Allah’s grace only, and children are not ours to “own,” but are very much on loan until it is their time to return to Allah, just like every single human being will eventually leave this world.
A telling sign of our success or failure as parents is on the day our children return to Allah and whether or not they will be counted as members of Jannah immediately, or otherwise.
Imagine our children being punished by Allah because they have wrongly committed Shirk, as well as any other major sin and have not been able to repent, mostly out of ignorance or misguidance? This is a poignant failure as a Muslim parent, and it is something we always need to contemplate.
Teaching children about Allah is a good reminder, that no matter who we are, unconditional obedience is only to Allah and to His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Many parents pray for children to be obedient to them, and while it is a lauded for a child to be obedient to his or her parent, the obedience cannot overshadow one’s loyalty to Allah.
Basically, if parents are transgressing the laws of Allah, then it is not right for their children to follow suit so by teaching them to continuously follow Allah’s commands, we are effectively teaching them to make better decisions, when we, as parents, make mistakes.
“And (remember) when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him: “O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily, joining others in worship with Allah is a great Zulm (wrong) indeed” (Luqman: 13).
Set up a Good Environment & Be a Good Role Model
Setting up a good Islamic environment is one of the most important factors in raising children.
An environment that is always clean, loving, fun and centered around the importance of the Qur’an and the Sunnah is important for every parent to observe.
Following Prophet Muhammad’s practices for example, like eating a grand variety of food in moderation, studying, finding time for rest and entertainment, sleeping early and keeping clean, will help children learn about Islam from the core.
“Worship Allah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful (An-Nisa: 36).”
Remaining humble and patient during adversities is also an important lesson for children. Taking them out often and having them help with charity work is a great way to instill their love for Islam. Other ways would be through gardening, simple activism, playing sport and just reaching out to others through community activities will spur their interest in societal expectations.
It is important to know that while teaching children to perform their Salah and to read the Qur’an, it is important for them to have a balanced life in order to fully reap the rewards of their potential.
However, they must constantly be guided to stay away from activities that are not pleasing to Allah, but this has to be done with wisdom and kindness.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Allah will ask every caretaker about the people under his care, and the man will be asked about the people of his household” (Nasa’i & Abu Daud).
Ali bin Abi Talib advised to play with children when they are below the age of seven, to teach them between the ages of seven and fourteen, and after-so to befriend them.Be Aware of Children’s Age & Level of Maturity
While raising children, it is important to take note of their ages. Teaching a three year old to help with house chores or to memorize the Qur’an on a structured basis, may not be as effective as having an eight year old follow a daily schedule.
Similarly, a 15 year old who has never taught to pray will have more difficulties in imbuing the habit as a six year old who constantly watches his or her parents perform their prayers.
It’s never wrong to teach children early on about Islam, but it is important to understand their levels of comprehension and maturity. Children who are pushed too early – and too harshly – may end up with a rebellious streak when they feel the teachings of Islam were not accompanied with proper reasoning or understanding.
And while all this is going on, parents also need to be vigilant about their children’s interests and strengths. This can change the way they view the world and their religion a great deal.
If children are interested in horses or animals in general, it’s important to remind them of Allah’s generosity in providing such beasts as comrades to humans during our transitional stay on earth.
Similarly, if children are interested in robots, it would be kind to remind that Allah is the Provider of knowledge – and it is through that knowledge that such mechanics can be built.
Build a Mutual Trust between Parent and Child
As Muslims, it is important for parent and child to come together for the sake of Allah and work on relationship that is imbued in kindness and mercy.
It is not sufficient for a child to be dominated by dictatorial parents who sideline the feelings, interests, and strengths of their children for their own visions of the family. And neither is it befitting for parents to simply give into willful children, just because they believe the world should revolve around them.
The Universe only revolves around Allah, and it is important for families to acknowledge that lest they fall waylay and put worldly interests ahead of their religion.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “The one who has no compassion will not be treated mercifully” (Bukhari & Tirmidhi).
When a parent and child enjoy a mutual relationship, one that is safe kept with respect and love, raising children becomes a lot easier and an integral part of worship as it should be and children learn mostly from role models… as compared to what they are told.
“The best gift to children from parents is their correct training” (Tirmidhi).
At the end of the day, it is important for parents to be reminded to protect their families.Always Act as Protectors over the Family
While we can love, have fun, and play with our children, we need to be reminded of the real dangers of the world, where we run into excess of materialism, wastage of time and energy channeled to activities that are not beneficial for us.
At the same time however, it is important to teach children about Islam in a way that they can relate to, in moderation, and in the same way Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would do it, with kindness and gentility.
There is no point coercing a child to fast or to give in charity, so much so, he or she grows up disliking things that are good for him or her. And at the same time, it is not appropriate to make permissible something that is not permissible.
“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded” (Tahrim: 6).
Most importantly, it is always a great reminder to be fair to our children. We only have them for a short while – on loan – and we will only know whether we have done a good job when Allah brings us forth on Judgment Day.
In the mean time, we need to be fair and just towards them, because it is Allah who loves all that is fair and just.
“Fear Allah and treat your children fairly” (Bukhari & Muslim).
First published: February 2014