02 ديسمبر, 2022 - 8 Jumada al-Ula 1444

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Raising a Child by Example

Raising a Child by Example

 Often times parents mention to their children the words of the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings upon him), “A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.”

Parents mention this narration in an effort to steer their children in the appropriate direction and to remind them that the people that they often spend time with will certainly have an effect upon their religion and other aspects of their life. Teachers and speakers often give lectures on this subject warning young people to be cautious as to where they look towards for their friendship and ultimately their guidance. However, one important point is often lost—there is no companion, friend, or influence greater than that of the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the child. While it is certainly true that young people often go through phases in life in which they may stray, a child with strong roots that are connected to their parents will often times come back to the way of life that they learned from them. If that way of life was one rich with Islam, then there is little doubt that they will inevitably find their way towards the worship of God.

One of the initial difficulties parents go through in becoming the best example for their children is that of love. Imam Al-Ghazali gives a succinct example to clarify this point. He speaks of an ill child that is in need of medical treatment. However, this medical treatment comes with excruciating pain for the child. The mother decides that the medical treatment is not needed because it will cause her child immense pain; she makes this decision out of a place of extreme love for her child. The father however decides contrary to this, and decides that the treatment must be pursued. Why is this important? Because at times parents do not realize that their love is inhibiting them from making the best decision for their child, whether that be a decision for their child’s worldly life, or even more importantly, their hereafter. Al-Ghazali states that in this case, the father is correct as the procedure is needed and if left to the mother it would not happen. Ultimately this love is the true cause of harm for the child. What then is the solution?

Almost everyone is aware that when the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) was born he was sent to live with his wet nurse, Halima from Bani Saad. This practice of sending young children to be nursed by the Bedouin wet nurses and living in the desert was commonplace, and had the additional benefit of the children becoming immersed in an environment where the Arabic language was spoken in its purest form. However, one point is often lost on us when we discuss this practice, these men and women just had a child that would be separated from them (with their knowledge) for a long duration of time. In light of the above example from Imam Al Ghazali how can we understand the benefit of this practice? It was a reminder that the life of the parent does not revolve around the child. It was a reminder that there are higher purposes that must be served. For the pre-Islamic Arabs, their purpose was in their children becoming eloquent and strong, and they as parents might not have been able to provide that strength and the foundation needed for their children to reach that state.

God knows that sometimes our love, like in the example above from Al-Ghazali becomes so strong that it serves as a barrier to progress instead of a catalyst. Today this still holds true, there is no greater test than the birth of a child and the realization that God has blessed you with a life, a life that will be in your care until this child becomes an adult and leaves your home for another. Sometimes this overwhelming love causes a parent to face inner turmoil, to go to lengths that are extreme in caring for their child and sometimes purposefully limiting their progress so as to keep them close. However, it is important to remember that children are a gift from the Almighty that is also one of the greatest responsibilities.

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:
The Messenger of God (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) 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. Therefore, each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.

God mentions in the Quran, “Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and God has with Him a great reward” (64:15). This verse is a reminder to the believers to not allow the blessings they have been given (such as their children) to be a means of straying from God, but instead work hard for them to be a source of forgiveness and entrance into Paradise. This brings us to the relationship between this lesson and the topic of this article.

When you have come to the realization that your children are your greatest test from the Divine, then you reflect upon the verse, “O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey God in what He commands them but [instead they] do what they are commanded” (Quran 66:6). Scholars of exegesis mention that the way you save yourself is by acting upon the commandments of God, and the way that you save your family is by advising them. But how will your words be taken if you give advice without acting upon the Divine laws yourself? Scholars of exegesis such as Imam Al-Qurtubi request Muslims to pay attention to the order of this verse and also to pay attention to the wording itself. The word “protect” is an order; it is not a suggestion but rather the default deed that a person should act upon if they wish to not be of those that enter the Fire. In addition, if one is conscious of the order of the verse one will realize that God orders the individual to protect themselves first, prior to the protection of the family. How can one protect a family before their own protection? Will a child intercede for a disobedient father or mother? Will a mother intercede for her disbelieving child? “Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. "Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people" (Quran 2:286).”

What happens when parents have no credibility? One need look no further than at the innocence of children and how they are known to make statements without giving thought to their words. Many times, children are chastised for those statements. There are examples of children coming to school and sharing the sins of their parents, their bad habits, and other private information. Of course, this is all information that should be kept private, but more importantly, this is all information that becomes stored in the minds of children, and as they grow into teenagers and into adults, they also store the words that they are told by their parents. They crosscheck these words and these actions with what they have understood from their religion. The result are moments of dissension, where these young men and women are filled with inconsistencies and hypocritical statements from their families that cause them to doubt the validity of not only their parents but also the religion in which they were told to follow. They are unable to make sense of the actions they saw and how they are antithetical to the morals their parent’s would call them towards. This problem becomes fixed when parents realize that they are not only responsible for their own Paradise and Hell but can be the leading example for their children’s as well.

One common example is when parents have an expectation that their children are to memorize the Quran. Not only do parents seldom place emphasis on the Quranic principles within it being enacted (unless of course they refer to treatment of parents), but the way that the memorization of the sacred text is taught, or rather enforced, is contradictory to the prophetic example.

It was narrated that 'Aishah said:
The Messenger of God never beat any of his servants, or wives, and his hand never hit anything.

Imagine this, the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him) never hit anyone for even acts of insubordination or defiance, yet it is sometimes commonplace for a parent to strike a child for stumbling over the words of the Divine. This is not how one fosters love for the Divine. Love is fostered by showing love, by spreading it and by allowing others to bask in it. More importantly, if the parents themselves are those who love the Quran, who read it at every opportunity, who seemingly act upon its teachings, then one will find the children to be more keen to involving themselves with this sacred text.

Al-Bara' said, "I saw the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, when al-Hasan was on his shoulder. He was saying, 'O God, I love him, so love him.'"

Simply by being conscious of these examples, parents will be able to - with the assistance of God - strengthen the relationship of their children with the Divine and cause them to live fulfilling lives as Muslims. By realizing that as parents, they are the first example given to their children. God did not send Prophets except as examples, and that should be sufficient for us to realize the importance of good examples in our everyday lives. The understanding that our love should be strong, but it should not cause us to be blind or foolish in our decision-making. This leads us into understanding that we must first save ourselves from the punishment of God and that by doing so, and advising those around us, we will cause our families to yearn to follow our advice and way of life. Lastly, God is the embodiment of love, He created love and so we should attempt to share it, especially whereas the Divine is concerned. May God guide us to that which is beneficial for our families in this life and in the next.

Abu Hazim reported that Abu Murra, the servant of Umm Hani' bint Abi Talib had told him that he rode with Abu Hurayra to his land in al-'Aqiq. When he entered his land, he shouted out in his loudest voice, "Peace be upon you, mother, and the mercy of God and His blessing!" She replied, "And peace be upon you and the mercy of God and His blessing." He said, "May God have mercy on you as you raised me when I was a child." She replied, "My son, may God repay you well and be pleased with you as you were dutiful towards me when I was old."