By Ahmed Al Matani
The subject of raising kids Islamically is not an easy matter. It requires a lot of patience, determination, dedication and sacrifice and most importantly seeking Allah’s help. This article humbly attempts to shed light on some challenges facing parents to raise kids, wrong practices by parents as well as some tips that should help in having righteous and productive Muslim adults.
Having kids is one of the blessings that every human being hopes to have. In the Holy Quran, Allah shows how important kids are to parents by saying, ” Wealth and children are an attraction during worldly life. Yet honorable deeds that last forever are better as a recompense from your Lord and even better to hope for.” (Quran 18:46). Nevertheless, there is a very important question that parents have to ask themselves, what is next? To put it differently, how can parents raise these kids to be more righteously responsible and productive Muslims who can serve this nation when they grow? Having families and kids is a beautiful thing but to ensure obtaining Allah’s satisfaction and reward, parents in Islam have to raise their kids righteously. Allah in the Holy Quran commands Muslim parents to make sure that their families follow Allah’s way which will eventually lead them to avoid the hellfire. Allah says, ” 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” (Quran 66:6).
This fact has been emphasized by the prophet Muhammed when he said, ” “Allah (SWT) 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 Da’ud). In another narration, the prophet did stress the importance of fulfilling parents’ responsibilities and playing an active role to have a righteous family by telling Muslims, “Every one of your (people) is responsible, and everyone is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them” (Bukhari and Muslim). In short, raising kids righteously is not a choice but rather an obligation that parents in Islam have to fulfill.
Crisis of Ignorance
In a time where knowledge has become the way to advance, Muslims seem to be left behind when it comes to valuing knowledge. In fact, ignorance or lack of knowledge is one of the dangerous challenges that has invaded our Islamic societies although the first verse or that was revealed to the prophet was to read. As a result, our societies in the Islamic world are facing a lot of social and familial challenges and mainly because of ignorance. Islam encourages people to marry and form a family. Getting married comes with responsibilities and knowledge. When a person decides to have a family, h/she has to be knowledgeable on how to go about it and this requires a lot of knowledge to be sought. Having a family is not only about cooling our sexual desires but it is a big responsibility and this is why marriage is half of the dean: religion as sated by the prophet Muhammed (PBUH). Marriage encompasses a lot of virtues which are not easy to be mastered such as patience, forbearance, striving, love, mercy, tolerance, loyalty and many more. This is why marriage is half of religion because it is very challenging and demands a lot of effort and hard work.
In the West, there is something known as marriage license. This idea could be adopted but has to be Islamically oriented and implemented. Regardless of the way to be educated or knowledgeable of being a good parent, parents have to take this responsibility very seriously so kids grow righteously.
Power of Invocation
There are many tips and ways that parents have to consider in raising kids. Here are some of the tips that could be used to have righteous kids. However, as Muslim we have to understand one fact whatever we do is not enough unless we seek Allah’s help in doing so to have righteous kids. This is why parents have to continuously make invocations asking Allah to grant them righteous kids in addition to their roles of righteous parents. The prophets have taught us to always supplicate seeking Allah’s help. Allah says in His holy book,” My success is in the hands of God. I trust Him and turn to Him in repentance“. (Quran11:88). The prophet Abraham made a lot of supplications asking Allah to grant him righteous offspring. In the Quran, he supplicated by saying, ” My Lord: grant me (offspring) from the righteous” (Quran 37:100). Also the prophet Zakeriya asked Allah the same when he said, ” O my Lord: grant me from You a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation “(Quran 3: 38). These verses teach us the importance of seeking Allah’s help in everything including raising kids righteously. There are many books and studies that present some interesting tips but seeking Allah’s help must be the first tip to raise kids righteously. If prophets have done so, how about poor people like us? We must definitely do so all the time.
From the beginning: forming a good family
Islam from the beginning has highlighted the value of forming a pious family by selecting the right partner. The prophet has taught people to be super careful in the process of choosing a wife who is supposed to be a woman of good character. The prophet (PBUH) stated in one of his traditions,” A woman is married for (one of) four reasons: her wealth, her status, her beauty and her religious devotion. So marry the religious woman, else you be a loser.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari). This is not to say only must pick the righteous wife but women have to do the same since both fathers and mothers are mutually responsible in raising the kids.
There is a very common practice among a lot of families in the Muslim world which is throwing the responsibility of raising kids on one of the parents thinking the other parent has nothing to do in this regard. This is absolutely non-Islamic. There are a lot of fathers who completely ignore their roles in this crucial responsibility by asking the mother to do the whole task. Don’t fathers fear the punishment of Allah for not fulfilling what they are supposed to do for their kids as caretakers? This is not only done by fathers but also by a lot of mothers who have been occupied by more responsibilities outside the house nowadays forgetting their main roles in raising kids Islamically. Both parents are responsible to be fully involved in raising their kids to be righteous and responsible adults. For those who decided to start this holy relationship, they have to understand that there are essential learning has to be mastered to be good parents. Since people in the Muslim world do not read, there should be a law to force whoever wishes to get married to enroll in a course about marriage life before the couples move in together.
Choosing names for kids
Choosing a good name for our kids is one of their rights. So parents must ensure granting them with beautiful names. As it has been proven that good names enormously affect the kids either positively or negatively. Bryner (2010) mentioned that impact of wrongly choosing names for kids. For instance, some parents tend to name their male kids with female names. These kids gradually develop behavioral issues when they grow up according to the study by David Figlio from Northwestern University in Illinois. This is the case for girls named male boys. Kids with the wrong names boys with girly names and vice versa are teased by others which lead to misbehaviors and issues in personality’s development. (Bryner, 2010, para. 2).
Another wrong practice by some parents tend to name their kids with names that could indicate low expectations or negative meaning. I remember when I was in high school having a classmate given a name that has a negative connotation which affected his life at school. He was a smart student but hearing all the negative comments from his classmates made him develop some bad behaviors. Believe it or not, he decided to change to his name when he grew up. Now, he is a successful person in his job and people have more respect for him compared to his wild childhood for the negative name that was given by his parents. This leads us to seriously think before naming our kids so kids do not get comments that might help in developing negative behaviors.
A new phenomenon that has spread in our societies is choosing names that are derived from the West. Some parents choose such names to show that they are more developed. This is to not say that names from the West are bad but to as Muslims we must be proud of who we are and having good Muslim names is one of the things parents should maintain. The bottom line is to choose a good name that contributes in the right development of our kids.
Kids not stupid
There are a lot of parents who tend to underestimate their kids’ abilities assuming that kids can’t understand things because of their age. However, kids are very smart. This is why there is a lot of emphasis nowadays on pre-schooling which proves that kids can learn at young age not as thought by a lot of parents. We should not undermine the role of media in exposing kids to so much. So if parents do not get involved from the beginning, there is a big possibility the kids might get influenced by wrong ideas. According to Laura Broadwell, there is a need to have a continuous dialogue between parents and their kids where parents have to find situations that are teachable moments which can lead to an ” open and honest discussion” (Broadwell, 2016, para. 1) . As we know, kids have strong ties with their parents at early stages of their childhood. Therefore, parents have to make use of this important stage. Being an educator, I have seen a lot of smart kids who know more than we can imagine. Parents must be careful and start communicating with their kids from the beginning. The earlier the better is a concept that has proven to be right for every aspect of life including teaching kids about religion.
So which knowledge should be taught to kids?
To bring up children Islamically, they must be taught the basics and foundational knowledge to survive in this challenging life that has become full of temptations and distractions. According to the article entitled, ” Raising children in Islam into a responsible Muslim adults”, parents must teach their kids about the following:
- Knowledge that introduces Allah. This kind of knowledge is the foundational level that will ensure kids with a strong belief system. Unfortunately, the phenomenon of having atheists in the Muslim world has recently increased because there is no ongoing dialogue between parents and kids from the beginning. Relying on schools is not enough. Parents play a crucial role in having this strong foundation of believing in Allah. Also, having this learning as well as having a dialogue from the beginning will ensure correcting any wrong ideologies because kids have been brought up to discuss things with their parents.
- Knowledge that introduces the prophets. This kind of knowledge can help in providing kids with role models from the beginning. As a result, other negatively influential figures will not have an impact if parent help their kids know about the prophets and other influential characters.
- Knowledge that introduces Quran as the main source for knowing Allah and Islam. If Quran is introduced and being practice at home by parents, kids will grow up loving the Quran. Parents should develop regular meetings in the house to learn Quran and discuss its main principles. Parents should create a Quranic atmosphere in the house by reciting Quran and pointing out the Quranic teachings when wrong behavior takes place.
- Knowledge that teaches Islamic manners, morals and characters which are derived from Quran and Sunnah. Also, parents should encourage their kids to read about righteous people to learn the best manners. There should be a reinforcement for good behaviors inside and outside the house so kids see the value of these manners and morals in their daily lives.
- Knowledge that teaches him/her about rights of other fellow beings. In this kind of knowledge, children can be taught to be respectful and dutiful to others and they should avoid bad habits like backbiting, slandering, lying and abusing others.
Being role models
Parents have to set an example for their kids. Kids are excellent observant. If parents model bad behaviors and deeds, guess what? You kids will automatically learn that. Why should we expect our kids to be angles while we are acting in a devil way? Do as you would be done by is a famous saying that teaches the importance of modeling good behavior to receive it back. In the holy Quran, Allah says, ” O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do?”. (Quran 61:2). How many parents have we heard telling their kids to stop doing wrong things while these parents do them? Setting an example is a very important factor for raising kids Islamically. The prophet Muhammed was the first one to implement what Allah has instructed him to do to be an example for us to follow.
Helping kids to choose righteous role models
Kids nowadays lack good role models in their lives. Because of media and lack of responsibility to raise kids Islamically, kids have chosen and been exposed to the wrong role models. If you survey kids about their role models nowadays, we would not be surprised to find that their role models are non-Muslim characters who are actors, players, singers and so on. As parents, we must educate our kids about Muslim characters and their role in protecting and serving their religion so the kids can have these influential characters as role models. The prophet Muhammed has to lead the list of whom as parents we must teach our kids about so they can love him and follow his footsteps. When Aisha (May Allah Almighty be pleased with her) was asked about the prophet, she said he was “a walking Qur`an”.
Some practical tips for raising kids Islamically
In addition to the previous steps, parents can use some practical tips to help them raise kids Islamically. According to idealmuslimah.com website on the article entitled, ” Necessary tips for raising children Islamically, parents can:
- Take them to the mosques so they interact with other good Muslim kids and have a good company.
- Get them involve in activities that support other Muslims who suffer and struggle by donating money or food
- Encourage them to participate in Islamic functions to learn more about Islam
- Send them to Summer schools that teach about Islam instead of wasting their time doing nothing or doing something wrong.
- Go out with them as a family to be around them to check if there are any bad influence or behaviors.
It is very important for parents to reinforce good behaviors. This could be done by following some steps like (Hilaplaza, 2013) by:
- Avoiding to humiliate them if they rarely commit a mistake. There will be times where kids make mistakes. Do not be harsh on them. Mistakes are golden learning chances where parents can teach their kids the right behaviors.
- Praising them when they do something good. Kids like to be encouraged and be given incentives. Beautiful words can do miracles.
- Assigning roles and responsibilities to kids that push them to do good deeds like leading prayers, leading a discussions and so on. The prophet (PBUH) assigned Usama bin Zaid to lead the army although he was very young.
In conclusion, there are many steps that parents can follow, nonetheless; critical thinking is a very important skill that parents have to teach their kids so they can distinguish between what is right and wrong. Since knowledge is accessible and available, it is very important for kids to be able to analyze what is available. It is very important to raise kids who are not blind followers for knowledge but kids who follow the right information that leads them to follow Allah’s instructions and guidelines. Parents must learn the art of raising kids so kids grow Islamically and righteously. Having righteous kids help in producing adults who are positively productive and can serve this beautiful religion.