Bringing up a Muslim Child
Owning a sacred responsibility
Mirza Yawar Baig
The first and biggest mistake that Muslim parents make is to believe that their responsibility is like that of any other parent. As was the practice of the kings of old, princes and princesses were taught differently from ordinary people. This is not about any misplaced arrogance or sense of false superiority but of recognizing one’s responsibility as a parent and doing what it takes to fulfill this trust.
A good way to understand this is to see how child prodigies are brought up. They are not given the same education as everyone else. The entire focus of their education, both formal and informal, is based on the eventual role that they must play. Only then can the true glory of the gift that they have been bestowed with, come forth. Children born to Muslims have been gifted with Imaan. They are not ordinary children. To treat them as if they were is to deny them their opportunity to make a mark in the world. With the gift of Imaan comes the responsibility of conveying it to others. Muslim parents must be conscious of this sense of mission and accomplish it as the highest priority.
I believe that it is essential for Muslims to ensure that their children are taught 5 – foundational essentials:
- Who they are: being Standard Bearers of Islam
- Connection withAllah: Tawheed & Uboodiya
- Connection with Rasoolullah: Sunnah & Being a member of the Ummah
- How to take from the treasures of Allah: Salah & dua
- Giving to the world: Charity & Da’awa
Who they are: being a Standard Bearer of Islam
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ
Aal Imraan 3:110. You [Muslims] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’rûf (good) and forbid Al-Munkar (evil), and you believe in Allâh.
Muslim children therefore must be brought up always with the final aim of leading the world into Jannah, in mind. They must be carefully watched, nurtured and mentored from the earliest age.
This is the meaning of Tarbiyya. They must be given tasks of graduated difficulty so that they learn to win on their own. They must be allowed to face their fears and to conquer them. They must be supported but not protected. They must be advised but not told what to do. They must be allowed to take their own decisions but not without the benefit of the frame of reference of the value of Tawheed, Sunnah, honor, fairness, responsibility, accountability, nurturing and trusteeship. They must be allowed to feel, to cry in the night for the hardships that others undergo, to build friendships and relationships that span the boundaries of color, race, religion, nationality and much more difficult, social order and prejudice.
Akhlaaq: The Key Differentiator
It is when parents bring up self centered children focused on consumption, that in their fight to get the most for themselves, they think nothing of breaking family ties. When children are focused to what they can contribute and with a constant awareness of Al Aakhira, they will work for the benefit of others and win hearts and minds to Islam in the process. It is the connection with Allah that is the primary responsibility of the parent to build and constantly strengthen and which is the biggest and best protection against all the evil that seems to surround us, ever more closely.
The biggest mistake that parents make is not to define boundaries. Parents must parent. Many parents today seem to be too focused on being ‘friends’ to their children at the expense of parenting. In this endeavor they bend over backward trying to be nice to the children and basically do whatever the children want them to. Boundaries are therefore never firm and clear. They are always open to negotiation and children push the boundaries until they get what they want from parents who have confused parenting with being ‘friendly’. Parents must remember that their children can have many friends but they have only 2 parents. Parents have been assigned the role of parenting. Every other role is optional. The only assigned role is that of parenting and so they need to do that first and foremost.
Children are forever testing boundaries. So these must be clear. For example, that you can disagree with parents on issues provided you do it in the right way by being respectful and not cheeky. That cheekiness is not cute, it is insulting. That joking and insulting are two different things. That assertiveness is to insist on your rights without violating the rights of others. That aggressiveness is to violate the rights of others. One is commendable, the other is reprehensible. That caring for your environment (read: home, office, bathroom, car, garden, pets etc.) is your job and not the job of parents, or servants. Servants are supposed to clean the home once in a day. Not every time the child makes a mess. It is a common sight in the East, especially in wealthy family homes, to see the mother or a servant picking up after the child who is a moving litter creator. Children must learn that making a mess of the home or your own room is not acceptable. That your room is your own but not to do with or in as you please. That the rules of the home apply even inside your room.
Children must be taught how to speak to elders and teachers and to their own younger siblings. They must learn that respect is due to age, learning and character; not due to possessions and money. They must learn that their behavior will define them and that when they show respect for others they are merely demonstrating their own upbringing and bringing honor to themselves and those who brought them up. When they are disrespectful the contrary is equally true. Being disrespectful is not insulting to the other person; it merely demonstrates the dishonorable nature of the doer. It is strange that today it is very common to ask someone, ‘How are you?’ – Only to hear the rude answer, ‘Good!’. That’s all. No, ‘Very well, thank you. And how are you?’ It is common for people to speak without saying, ‘Please’ or to take things without asking permission or to simply walk away after having stamped your foot or kicked your briefcase or sneeze in your face; and not bothering to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Muslim children were once known for their upbringing. Not any more.
Children must be taught that meal times are sacred because the home is not a hotel where one can simply order room service. Meals, especially the one meal at which the whole family eats together, may not be missed or interrupted. Mealtime is for the family and any family guests. It is okay to invite friends to a meal at home but not okay to talk to them on the phone while the rest of the family eats. Children must learn that their guests must also follow the rules of the family home. That exams, games, TV shows, football, cricket or basketball matches and so on are not acceptable excuses for missing the family meal.
Naturally it is the parents who have to set the norm. If the father misses the meal without comment, then so will the child. If the father sits in front of the TV because he wants to see what happened to his favorite team and to be able to do that, moves the meal to the living room so that everyone eats mechanically with eyes glued to the screen, then this will become the norm and he will have no moral authority to insist that the children do something different. If parents sit in their favorite chair and shout out to the servant to get this or that, so will the children. If parents litter, children will too.
If parents pay children to wash cars, mow lawns, clean attics or garages, instead of personally doing these things taking the children along with them, then children will learn that as long as they can throw money at some poor person to do their work, they need not care for their own environment. Not only will they not learn to take care of their common spaces but they will also learn to treat some jobs with disrespect and to look down on those who do those jobs.
Each of these things above can be linked to one or more of the evils of our society. A society that is stratified according to economic circumstances, not according to knowledge, moral values or being honorable. A society where people don’t care for other people. Where the self is worshipped and indulgence is the supreme goal. Where freedom is defined as the ability to indulge your whims with impunity, even when some of this indulgence may be breaking the laws of God or country.
Where the law is applied differently based on who has the money to circumvent it or to get out of trouble by paying their way. Where the ones who create the corruption by paying to get benefits out of turn, then turn around and whine about what a corrupt society we have. Where justice is denied to some because others pay ‘speed money’ to an ‘educated’ judge and then they complain about how corrupt the judiciary has become. Where the fact that the effect of one’s own activity, speech or conduct may be infringing on the rights of others, is not even part of any discussion.
They must be taught Akhlaaq (manners) that will differentiate them from the rest and make them stand out as Standard Bearers of Islam. Apart from all things to do with social graces and politeness a Muslim child must be taught those things that Allah considered important enough to mention in the Qur’an. Allah said:
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَومٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَى أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاء مِّن نِّسَاء عَسَى أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ بِئْسَ الاِسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Al Hujuraat 49:10. The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islâm). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allâh, that you may receive mercy.11. O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one’s brother after having Faith [cursing, using bad language]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zâlimûn (wrong-doers).12. O you who believe! Avoid suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting) . And fear Allâh. Verily, Allâh is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.
Muslim children must learn that Islam is not just a set of rituals of worship but a complete way of life where duties to people are mentioned with duties to Allah.
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَاةِ فَاعِلُونَ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَافِظُونَ إِلَّا عَلَى أَزْوَاجِهِمْ أوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ فَمَنِ ابْتَغَى وَرَاء ذَلِكَ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْعَادُونَ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَانَاتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَاعُونَ وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَى صَلَوَاتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْوَارِثُونَ الَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ الْفِرْدَوْسَ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
Mu’minoon 23:1. Successful indeed are the believers. 2. Those who offer their Salât (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness.3. And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk, falsehood, and all that Allâh has forbidden).4. And those who pay the Zakât .5. And those who guard their chastity 6. Except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, for then, they are free from blame 7. But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors 8. Those who are faithfully true to their Amanât (all the duties which Allâh has ordained, honesty, moral responsibility and people’s trusts) and to their covenants; 9. And those who strictly guard their (five compulsory congregational) Salawât (prayers) (at their fixed stated hours).10. These are indeed the inheritors.11. Who shall inherit the Firdaus (Jannah).They shall dwell therein forever.
All these things will make the Muslim child a walking, talking example of the Way of Islam and will differentiate him from the rest and make him a benchmark and a role model for others.
This is the essence of Islam and the example that Rasoolullahrand his Sahaba left for us, when they used to say to anyone who asked about Islam, ‘Become like us.’ That was because they were Islam personified. And that is the first duty of the Muslim parent – to mould the child in the Islamic Way by demonstrating.
Criteria for decision making
Life is full of decisions; there is seldom a time in our lives when we aren’t grappling with one tough decision or another. Whether it’s related to work or family, or to any one of countless other aspects of life, we constantly find ourselves asking questions like ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ or ‘should I go in this direction or that?’ We go back-and-forth between what seem to us to be equally good options, not knowing which will bring us the most benefit in the long term.
We live in a world where access to information is ever easier, faster and more comprehensive. There is huge penetration of technology which has made life both easy and more complex. We are deluged with information on a daily basis which leaves most people bewildered and unable to make sense of what they are seeing or reading. The result is a society that is for the most part ‘ill informed’ if one is to translate information as ‘understanding’. Most people simply don’t have the tools to make sense of what they are presented with. It is therefore necessary for parents to equip their children with these tools. I believe there are two tools which are critical to this process: Integrity and a focus on creating a legacy.
Integrity: I define integrity as the willingness to become a standard bearer for your beliefs and values. To be willing to be held to account for them and to have the confidence that he will not be found lacking when that happens. Integrity is the honesty to be true to yourself. To have complete congruence between belief, thought, word and action. To live what you believe in and value. Integrity is to focus on your legacy and always to ask, ‘What do I want to be remembered for?’ Integrity is the ability to look yourself in the face and to accept your mistakes and not make excuses for them. It is the willingness to accept responsibility for your words and actions and their consequences and to make amends if those are undesirable.
Creating a legacy: The second criterion for decision making is to differentiate between short term and long term and to visualize what the long term effects of present decisions are likely to be. As Muslims it is to remember that one day we will be called to account before AllahY for what we did or chose not to do. Children must be taught to analyze their options in terms of their potential consequences and while we have no knowledge of the unseen or the future, good analysis can help us to see possible scenarios and to decide intelligently between them. When this is done it is essential to focus on the long term and not do things which may seem beneficial immediately but are likely to have gravely negative consequences in the long run. Almost every national or international problem that we face today is the result of making shortsighted decisions for short term gain. All easily avoidable if only the focus of decision making had been to create a legacy of honor.
Connection with Allah: Tawheed & Uboodiya
Muslim children must be taught to connect with Allah. They must be introduced to Allah, to His Majesty and His Glory; to His accounting on the Day of Judgment. To the duty that we owe to Him, to be grateful for all that He has given us and to judge ourselves by the integrity with which we fulfill this duty. They must grow up with a profound sense of Uboodiya (sense of being a slave of Allah) whose only purpose in life is to submit to Allah completely in everything that they say or do. Muslim children must grow up hearing the name of Allah, the recitation of His Word in all its power and majesty. They must grow up hearing the name of His Messenger and the stories of his life. Muslim children must grow up with confidence in their Deen, with pride in being Muslim, with their hearts beating for the love of Allah and with love for His Messenger and a sense of belonging to the global brotherhood of Islam; the Ummah.
هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاء الْحُسْنَى يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
Al Hashr 59: 21. Had We sent down this Qur’ân on a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and rending asunder by the fear of Allâh. Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect. 22. He is Allâh, than Whom there is Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He) the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen (open). He is the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.23. He is Allâh than Whom there is Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He) the King, the Holy, the One Free from all defects, the Giver of security, the Watcher over His creatures, the All-Mighty, the Compeller, the Supreme. Glory be to Allâh! (High is He) above all that they associate as partners with Him.24. He is Allâh, the Creator, the Inventor of all things, the Bestower of forms. To Him belong the Best Names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorify Him. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.
Muslim children must grow up seeing their parents subordinating their lives and their desires to Allah and to the Deen that His Messenger brought. They must grow up with the awe of nothing but Allah in their hearts, seeing their parent’s joy in submitting to Allah, actively seeking opportunities to do more and more. The Muslim child must understand the meaning of connection with Allah by seeing the look of intense devotion and concentration on the face of his parents when they stand in Salah. She must feel the love of Allah kindled in her heart by listening to the Qur’an recited with love, understanding and a longing to meet its author. She must feel the trembling of her heart even when she hears words that she may not understand yet. Allah must not be a strange word to her, mentioned only during worship. Allah and His Messenger must be mentioned often and related to the daily activities of parents and children until they become part of their existential awareness.
أَفَمَن شَرَحَ اللَّهُ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ فَهُوَ عَلَى نُورٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِ فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْقَاسِيَةِ قُلُوبُهُم مِّن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ أُوْلَئِكَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاء وَمَن يُضْلِلْ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ
Zumar 39: 22. Is he whose breast Allâh has opened to Islâm, so that he is in light from His Lord (as he who is non-Muslim)? So, woe to those whose hearts are hardened against remembrance of Allâh! They are in plain error! 23. Allâh has sent down the best statement, a Book (this Qur’ân), its parts resembling each other in goodness and truth, oft-repeated. The skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it (when they recite it or hear it). Then their skin and their heart soften to the remembrance of Allâh. That is the guidance of Allâh. He Guides therewith whom He pleases and whomever Allâh sends astray, for him there is no guide.
A Muslim child, brought up right, will yearn to learn the Qur’an that he’s heard his parents recite so well. He will not need to be persuaded, much less forced, to do so. Children imitate and learn to respect and value what they see their elders valuing. If they see their elders valuing money over everything else, that is what they will value. If they see them value Allah and the Sunnah of Rasoolullah, that is what they learn also to value. If they see their parents changing, justifying, twisting or simply ignoring the rules of Islam in order to fulfill their desires, they also learn that it is acceptable to live a life of hypocrisy – claiming to be Muslim, yet disobeying Allah and His Messenger. If they see the contrary then they learn the right place of everything, the world in its place and the Creator of the world in His place to be loved and obeyed without question or argument. So the connection with Allah is what must be built first.
Someone asked me this question
How can children of this (age 4-7) be introduced to Islam through an innovative method of teaching which inspires their imagination to understand the Magnificence of the Creator?
Then let them collect leaves of different trees, press them in books so that they will have a whole scrap book of pressed leaves at the end of the project. Then tell them: “All these are leaves, right? So in that respect they are all alike. But each one is different from the other. Why do you think Allah did this?”
Then tell them to go and find two leaves of the same tree that are completely different from each other. They will not be able to do that – so ask them, “What do you think is the reason why Allah made the leaves the same, yet different?”
Then tell them to look at each other and spot differences – ensure that they don’t make fun of each other but do it respectfully – and ask the same question. Then tell them, “There are two artists – one makes one painting and then makes 100 photocopies of it. The other makes 101 different paintings. Who is the bigger artist? Why do you say that?
Now what do you think of the artist who can do all this? Who is that artist?
Think about this: What was there to read, when Allah is saying ‘Read’? What there was to read, was the creation of Allah and Allah commanded Rasoolullah (SAS) to read His signs in the creation. So all I am doing is to follow the same methodology. The best way to recognize the magnificence of Allah is to look at his creation with eyes of Imaan.
Our problem is that we leave the tarbiyyah of children until it is too late. When they are little we are too anxious for them to hurry up and grow up. And they do. Only, when that happens we don’t recognize them. We think that the only things that we have to worry about when they are little are if they are fed and clothed and happy. And to take them ‘out of our hair’ we get them addicted to the TV or worse still to video games. If instead of that we had spent some time introducing them to Allah and to His Messenger and to the beautiful concepts of this Deen, they would have turned into young men and women we could be proud of.
Connection with Rasoolullah: Sense of Ummah
The child will learn that there is no way of connecting to Allah independent of Muhammad. We know Allah through the message of Rasoolullah and the only proof of our love for Allah that Allah accepts is the imitation of Muhammad.
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Aal Imraan 3:31. Say (O Muhammad to mankind): “If you (really) love Allâh then follow me (imitate my way – Sunnah), then Allâh will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Teach the child that to love Allah, His Messenger and striving in the cause of Islam are conditions of Imaan and far more important than anything in life, including loving one’s parents, family or wealth.
قُلْ إِن كَانَ آبَاؤُكُمْ وَأَبْنَآؤُكُمْ وَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُكُمْ وَعَشِيرَتُكُمْ وَأَمْوَالٌ اقْتَرَفْتُمُوهَا وَتِجَارَةٌ تَخْشَوْنَ كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَاكِنُ تَرْضَوْنَهَا أَحَبَّ إِلَيْكُم مِّنَ اللّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَجِهَادٍ فِي سَبِيلِهِ فَتَرَبَّصُواْ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ اللّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ وَاللّهُ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ
Tawba 9:24. Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight … are dearer to you than Allâh and His Messenger, and striving hard in His Cause, then wait until Allâh brings about His Decision (torment). And Allâh guides not the people who are Al-Fâsiqûn (the rebellious).
Teach the child the true position of Rasoolullah and our relationship with him, his rights on us and our duties towards him. Allah glorified the status ofRasoolullah and ordered Muslims to send salaam on him.
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا
Al Ahzab 33:56 Allâh sends His Salât (Blessings, Mercy) on the Prophet (Muhammad SAW) and also His angels too (ask Allâh to bless and forgive him). O you who believe! Send your Salat on (ask Allâh to bless) him (Muhammad SAW), and (you should) greet (salute) him with the Islâmic way of greeting (salutation i.e. As Salâmu ‘Alaikum).
Allah made obedience to Rasoolullah a condition of Imaan. He said:
فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىَ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لاَ يَجِدُواْ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِّمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيمًا
An Nisa 4:65 But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad SAW) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.
Allah called the Muslims, one community and honored them by associating His worship as the binding force.
إِنَّ هَذِهِ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَأَنَا رَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُونِ
Anbiya 21: 92. Truly! This, your Ummah [brotherhood] is one Brotherhood (Ummah) and I am your Lord, therefore worship Me (Alone)
وَإِنَّ هَذِهِ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَأَنَا رَبُّكُمْ فَاتَّقُونِ
Mu’minoon 23: 52. And verily! This, your Ummah [brotherhood] is one Brotherhood (Ummah), and I am your Lord, so have Taqwa (keep your duty) of Me.
The Muslim child must be taught to prefer Muslims over others and to feel a sense of belonging to the global faith based brotherhood that transcends all boundaries.
Taking from the treasures of Allah : Salah, Dua
It is when the connection with Allah is strong that the child learns to ask only from Him and not to join others with Allah either in His worship or in asking for help. The child will learn that the key to the treasures of Allah is Salah and that in any difficulty he must seek help from Allah through Salah and experience His proximity.
فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُواْ لِي وَلاَ تَكْفُرُونِ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
Al Baqarah 2:152. Therefore remember Me (by praying, glorifying). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless Favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me.153. O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salât. Truly! Allâh is with As-Sâbirin (the patient ones).
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُواْ لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُواْ بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ
Al Baqarah 2:186. And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad SAW) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator). So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be rightly guided.
He will understand the meaning of Al Ihsaan – to worship as if we can see Allah and to know that even though we can’t see Him, Allah sees us. Allah will become real to him and His Messenger will become the most beloved of people. He will learn the value of following the Sunnah of Rasoolullah and how that is a source of strength because it is the only acceptable proof of his love for Allah. The child will learn to love Rasoolullah and to feel proud of his identity as an Ummati of Muhammad. The child will draw his own sense of identity and belonging from Rasoolullah and will experience the pleasure of instant bonding with Muslims irrespective of the manmade boundaries of nationality and culture on the basis of the brotherhood that Rasoolullah created and which Allah endorsed and ascribed to Himself and His worship.
I do because of who I am. And I become, because I do. They must learn that our actions define us. They must learn that people will define them on the basis of both what they owned and what they contributed. But they will honor them only for what they contributed. Because we are remembered, not for what we had but for what we gave. Only when they are taught to focus on contribution from their earliest childhood will they be able to fight the force of consumerism that is focused on consumption. Blind, self centered consumption that in the end will consume us all, if it is allowed to proliferate unchallenged. Muslim families must bring up children who will challenge these norms and create a society that is focused on contribution instead of consumption, so that in the end we leave behind a place that is the better for our passing.
Giving to the world: Charity & Da’awa
Children, especially those who come from high income homes must be taught the value of service. They must endure hardship and learn that for some people air-conditioning, cars, unlimited hot & cold running water, fridges bursting at the seams and clean sheets on a soft bed are not even novelties; because a novelty is something that you do have, even if only occasionally. But those people still live and laugh and play. Children must be taught the value of compassion, courage and service. They must be allowed to experience the joy of sharing. Of giving and then seeing the light of disbelieving delight in the eyes of the receiver. Nothing compares to the joy of giving something to someone who did not even dream of getting it. They must be taught that to give someone what you don’t really want is still good but not as appreciable as giving away something that you love because someone else needs it more. This demonstrates genuine care and concern.
For example for a teenager to volunteer to spend time with old people (related or not) is to give away their time, which may not have any monetary value but which is something that is dear to young people. This and other such activities must be encouraged and appreciated. Not by giving money in exchange but by talking to the child and asking what they believe they gained from the action. It is only when they learn to take pleasure in the giving of itself that this giving becomes sustainable.
This is a power that is given in the hands of those who have resources, who actually hold the resources of others in trust, to be delivered on call, when they need it. Those who use these resources for themselves without any concern for others are really violating their trust for which they will be held accountable. This is the concept of Amana that is the essence of Islam – Imaan is an Amana to be conveyed, so are resources – to pass on benefits to others only for the pleasure ofAllah .
Children must be taught that value is not equal to cost. For example that the cost of learning may be negligible but the value of knowledge is immeasurable. And so the scholar must be respected and honored for his knowledge even if he is poor. Children must be taught that the mud and brick structure that they live in is a house, not a home. And no matter how big yours is, there is always another somewhere else which is bigger, shinier, taller, wider or more beautiful. How expensive or big it is, does not show how happy and contented are those who live in it. And it is this happiness and contentment that make the home, not mud and brick.
Children must be taught that humans have more intrinsic value than anything material which can be bought, sold or junked. That cars, branded clothing, watches, gadgets, material possessions, expensive houses don’t add value to the people who use them.
Possessions add cost, not value. Anyone sensible will seek to add value to himself, not cost. People who believe that possessions add value or seek to convince others of this, have no value for themselves. They have low self esteem and are seeking to lower the value of the human being. Children must be taught that a car, no matter how expensive, is transportation, not a symbol. Except of bad judgment which makes someone put huge amounts of money into a depreciating asset.
A shirt is clothing, a watch is meant to tell the time and shoes are meant to walk in. None of these define you, are not statements, nor indicators of what kind of human being you are. It is your character, your actions, what you stand for, your principles and your values, which define you. Not what you possess. What you possess can be stolen or taken away from you. Your character, your values, your principles are the stuff of memories that you leave behind. By these you will be remembered, honorably or otherwise. Live a life such that you will be remembered with honor. Teach children these things by personal example. Because that is the only way to teach them.
Muslim children must be taught that with Allah the only consideration is piety, not possessions and that wealth and possessions are a test to see what we will do.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
Al Hujuraat 49:13. O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allâh is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
Children must be taught the value of money. The value of earning it, of investing it, of making it earn for you. They must learn the difference between spending and investing. They must be trained to be wealth creators, not wealth spenders. They must be taught that spending is to incur an expense for something that can give no return but instead, itself depreciates in value. Investing is to incur an expense for something that gives a return on your investment. Children learn to handle money by actually handling money. So give them an allowance and then ask them to present monthly P&L accounts and an annual Balance Sheet. See what the headings are, under which they spent their allowance.
See if they have found ways to make their allowance earn for them instead of simply spending it on consumables. Show them the alternatives they may have missed. Warren Buffet started trading when he was in his teens. When asked he said that his only regret was that he had not started earlier. Once children see how they will actually gain and have more money by this kind of thinking, you have won. Inculcate charity consciously and emphatically. See if they spent some money on the welfare of others. Guide them by example. When children see parents spending to help others, they will be inspired to do the same. Reward and encourage children to spend in charity by matching their donations, donating to their preferred causes and appreciating their generosity. Teach them to share with others, their toys, resources and learning. Teach them that Muslims are the pipeline that conveys the bounties of Allah to His creatures. As long as the pipeline is clear and water flows through it smoothly, the pipeline will also be wet and cool. But if it gets blocked, then Allah will either blast it clear or will replace it altogether. Muslims came to give – Imaan, justice, peace, harmony, safety and moral values. Islam came to create a responsible, moral and sincere society. Muslims did not come to take. When we forgot this position of ours and also started chasing the material world we lost our primary position as the ‘Givers’. The world loves ‘Givers’ and hates ‘Takers’.
Teach them the value of the best investment of them all, the investment with Allah An investment that will not only earn them a return as long as they live but a return that will continue long after they are dead. Teach them also that this return is the highest of any return in this world for it ranges from 1:10 to 1:700 to a return without account. And finally that this return is the surest of all because it is guaranteed by Allah himself. Now what can be more certain than that?
مَّن ذَا الَّذِي يُقْرِضُ اللّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا فَيُضَاعِفَهُ لَهُ أَضْعَافًا كَثِيرَةً وَاللّهُ يَقْبِضُ وَيَبْسُطُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ
Al Baqarah 2:245. Who is he that will lend to Allâh a goodly loan so that He may multiply it to him many times? And it is Allâh that decreases or increases (your provisions), and unto Him you shall return.
Finally the most important duty, that of conveying Islam to others; once again demonstrate by example both the importance of doing it, as well as the way to do it. Children must be taught the power of demonstrating; of da’awa through personal example. They must be taught to practice Islam completely and with confidence, in terms of their dressing, their manners, their dealings, what they will see, say or do. They must learn that others watch them and that if people appreciate them, then they will be drawn to Islam. Children must be taught the power of politeness, kindness and of smiling and being agreeable. They must understand that before one can talk about Allah to anyone else, it is essential to first win their hearts over. If people don’t even like you they are hardly likely to listen to what you have to say about religion. People tend to associate the religion with the practitioner and accept or reject both together. It is also necessary to spend quality time and pay close attention to the religious education of children.
If a child does not even know his own religion properly how can he or she convey it to anyone else? Yet it is common to see Muslim parents spend huge amounts of money and time on their children’s worldly education and treat religious education as a necessary nuisance at best. There is no sense of shame that their grown child can’t even read the Qur’an fluently or lead Salah comfortably. Guidance can only come with correct knowledge and it is the parent’s primary responsibility for which they will be questioned and punished if found negligent; to ensure that their children are properly educated in Islam. It’s high time we paid attention to this.
As we bring up our children, so we create the society we live in. We have succeeded in creating a society that is rich in resources and poor in the willingness to share. That is why we have hunger and poverty. Our society is rich in material and poor in morals and spirit. That is why we have evil and sin. Our society is rich in information but poor in wisdom. That is why the most ‘educated’ nations among us are the most barbaric. That is why we have people in some countries starving to death while in 2007-8 more than £ 1 billion worth of food was thrown away in Britain alone. Is this an issue of food production, distribution or simply of lack of concern for others?
We have created a society that has concentrated power and wealth in the hands of a few who have no concern for others. These are people who have the resources to actually create a world without hunger, educated, with proper medical care, where there are none homeless and which is free from crime. But instead they have created a world that has the capability of destroying itself 40 times over. Nobody stops to ask how this will happen the second time, let alone for another 38 times.
The correction has to begin in the home.