Raising children is no easy feat. If anything, it is one of the most demanding and complex of tasks, but it is also the most rewarding. With each child that comes into this world, each parent is entrusted with the obligation to raise that child in a way that ensures him/her to become a good Muslim and a good human being. Parents have great leverage when it comes to what value system and principles they instill in their children which then take root throughout their adult life. The religion of Islam, therefore, holds all parents and caregivers responsible for the direction they steer their children in and whether it is in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Children are essentially an Amanah from the Almighty and a great responsibility. Hence, it is the duty of a parent to guide their offspring on the right path, and raise them to be God-conscious and good Muslims, who are an asset for their fellow brothers and sisters of the ummah. Every parent will be questioned regarding their offspring on the Day of Judgement. Narrated by Abdullah bin 'Umar, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The amir (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock; a woman is a shepherdess in charge of her husband's house and children and she is responsible for them; and a man's slave is a shepherd in charge of his master's property and he is responsible for it. So each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock” (Sunan Abi Dawud 2928).
The legacy and teachings of an individual live on through his/her offspring and will do so until the hereafter. Then, would you not want to leave behind a righteous and God-fearing offspring? Abu Hurairah heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying:
“When a man dies, his action discontinues from him except three things, namely, perpetual sadaqah (charity), or the knowledge by which benefit is acquired, or a pious child who prays for him” ( Sunan Abi Dawud 2880).
In a lot of households, the greater emphasis is placed on the academic routine of the children, rather than the Islamic routine, which is essential for the personality development of the children. Hence, it is imperative that parents give their children a well-balanced upbringing, which in itself, seems like a daunting task. So here are a few practical tips for Muslim parents that can help them in raising their children the right way:
1. Treat them with kindness and mercy
If you want them to know kindness and love, it is essential for them to feel they are loved and treated kindly themselves. Love and kindness cannot be embedded in a child’s personality through forceful measures; rather it is instilled through the natural course of time and experience. Show them what it is to be merciful so they may learn from you first-hand. Allah (SWT) loves those who are kind and merciful. According to Aisha (RA), the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Verily Allah loves kindness in all things” (Sahih Bukhari 6024).
Children respond as they are treated. Being overly harsh and rude to your child will not have fruitful results and may cause alienation and disobedience in the child. Be open with them and maintain a relationship with them which is kind and understanding above all else.
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2. Know when to draw the line
In the absence of rules and boundaries, everything would be rolling in utter chaos. This is true for your child as well. You need to lay down a set of rules for your child to guide his/her actions and behavior. If the child does not know boundaries, he/she will naturally be inclined to do whatever he/she wants- be it right or wrong, and in turn, will be testing you every step of the way. The child should be well aware of what is right and what is wrong from the very beginning. Only then, will the child learn to adhere to the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not?
Take time out to explain why something is good and why something is bad and explain the logic behind it- it will have a much bigger impact on the child! Reward their good behavior but also scold them or give them a time out when they say or do something wrong. Do not reinforce wrong acts- the child must know that he/she has violated the set boundaries of acceptable behavior and needs to face the consequences of it.
3. Be a good role model for your child
You must practice what you preach. Parents must be very aware of their own attitude before trying to instill it in their children. Children look to their parents for guidance in absolutely everything, and hence, their parents become their primary role models. Be conscious of the kind of role model you are for your own children. Be aware of your habits and actions in your everyday life, because that is what your children will see you do and will, in turn, follow it themselves. In the eyes of your children, what you do is good and what you refrain from is not.
The goodness in children needs to be nurtured and protected. Hence, it is the parents’ duty to guide the child towards what is right and what is not. If parents dedicate themselves to this responsibility of raising their child in accordance to Allah’s (SWT) teachings, the child will very likely continue down the path of righteousness and goodness in his/her life.
4. Teach them the Islamic basics from a young age
Young children are very malleable. You may shape them however you want and if you start early, you can shape them in the best possible way. If the children are given the Islamic basics from a young age, they are more likely to develop life-long habits.
So start offering your salah with your children before they reach the age of 7. Make it a routine for them and mould it into becoming a part of their daily life, just like eating, drinking and sleeping. It will help them continue these habits in their adulthood as well. Be sure to teach them through practically showcasing it in your own life so they may follow you. Teach them to fast from an early age and recite the Quran on a daily basis (Even if it is just a page or two).
Teach your children about all the acts of worship of Allah (SWT) and explain their significance so they may come to know Allah (SWT) and what it takes to grow closer to Him.
5. Teach them to love Allah (SWT)
Instill a sense of love for Allah (SWT) in the hearts of your children, rather than instilling the fear of Allah (SWT) predominantly. Do not force your children to follow the Islamic teachings by embedding fear of Allah (SWT) in them. Even though fear of Allah (SWT) is very important, it does not always produce the end result we expect in children, as they sometimes cannot understand the concept of it.
Therefore, tell your children about the endless love of Allah (SWT) and how much He loves them- even more than you. And having seen how much you love them, they will feel awe at the intensity of Allah’s (SWT) love for them. Tell them that Allah (SWT) is their best friend and will always protect and love them. As a result, their love for Allah (SWT) will come naturally to them and they will be more inclined to please Allah (SWT) and follow his bidding.
6. Teach them compassion and gratitude
Make it a point to expose your children to those who are not as fortunate as you and teach them what it means to be a good Muslim; to have compassion, empathy, and love for everyone around you, and to help those who cannot help themselves. Let them absorb diversity and respect it. Do volunteer work with them so they learn how to be thankful of Allah’s (SWT) blessings and so it instills empathy in their hearts for those who are not as lucky as them.
Teach them what it means to be grateful and the role that gratitude plays in each and every human being’s life. Devise and encourage a certain kind of platform for them which allows them to express that gratitude and use it to help others and be a source of comfort for the ummah.
In essence, every parent should do the best they can to make sure that their children turn out to be true inheritors of Islam and its teachings, and who will keep the spirit of Islam alive throughout their lives. Parental guidance and upbringing plays a very major role in the instilment of love for Allah’s (SWT) religion and the desire to worship Him. Your children can become your channel of salvation in the hereafter; the best gift any parent can ever get, which benefits them in this world and the hereafter, both.