Rule 1: there are no rules!
Every parent and child is unique. The Quran and sunnah doesn’t provide detailed guidance on raising kids. because raising a family requires cultural and time-sensitive consideration. Even child to child, there will be differences of what we should do. There are few fixed rules – instead there are principles and generic wisdoms. Parenting is not a science, it is an art and art is not taught by rules. It’s hands-on training. Thats why there are more in books on the fiqh of salah and tahaarah than child-rearing.
Knowledge begets responsibilities. Responsibilities beget action. You need to study and understand the responsibility that Allah has placed on you. Start by learning yourself.
Rule 2: Parenting is a team game
The husband and wife are on the same team. Mothers and fathers do have different ways of caring – fathers tend to be more concerned about security and financial matters whereas mothers consider wellbeing and physical welfare. But both need to be instilling spirituality – the soul is ultimately important.
Love and fear are the most powerful motivational factors. You love your children but you fear to stand in front of Allah. For this reason, you should love that your child is best prepared for that standing as well – their spiritual wellbeing is key.
“Everyone of you is a shepherd and is responsible for your flock.”
If love isn’t motivation enough for instilling spirituality, then at least remind yourself of fear of Allah.
The Qur’an tells us on that Day we will flee from each other and will be so filled with fear that the child will blame the parents and the parents will blame the child. These are unrighteous families because they didn’t fulfil the rights they were responsible for.
Righteous families will give salam to each other in jannah. This shows that families that are on deen together in dunya will be united with each other in akhira.
Rule 3: Actions speak louder than words
Embody what you want your child to be. You can’t preach character, rather you must show it. Our role model is the Prophet peace be upon him. And anything good in me, is from my parents. Seeing their ambience was one of Islam, and that turned me to it. Allah blessed me to be born to them and that impacted me. We must start with ourselves.
If you want your child to be righteous and go to the masjid, you must live that lifestyle. Children absorb the values of our parents.
It is against our religion to raise your hand at your wife. Aisha (RA) narrated the Prophet peace be upon him never raised his hands at his wives or servants.
70% of men who abuse spouses, had a father who abused his mother. A man does when he is angry, what his father did.
Be a positive role model. Lead by example.
We cry to scholars and beg them to help when our teenage children rebel but where were you for 18 years of their lives?
Rule 4: Your time is more valuable than your wealth
Children need your time, more than they need your money. This is especially for father. There has to be a compromise. The family needs your presence and time, more than a pay boost. Levels of happiness in families peak at middle-class but money can not buy happiness. After that, studies show happiness in families decreases. Maintain a fair balance between your career and family.
Gary Chapman describes the 5 languages of love for children as:
- Physical Touch “I know my mum loves me because she hugs me.” Actions like giving your child a hug and kiss before and after school, kicking a ball around the garden together or reading a story while they sit on your lap all belong to the language of physical touch. In this sense, physical touch is the easiest love language to use unconditionally, as parents need no special occasion or excuse to make physical contact.Find the opportune moment to do it, as public places and perhaps when surrounded by friends might embarrass them. Respect their feelings or else it will defeat your purpose.
- 2. Words of Affirmation “He says I’ll do better if I keep doing my best” As the saying goes ‘children are like sponges’. It often amazes me to hear and see what children pick up on, particularly verbally. These words nurture the child’s inner sense of worth and security – they will be remembered for a lifetime. I still remember phrases of encouragement I used to hear as a child and now that I am older and am confronted with the roller coaster that life is, I can hear my mother’s voice reassuring me that everything will be okay.Something to watch out for is giving praise when it is not due. If you praise children too frequently, and it is not genuine, your words won’t have the desired positive effect. You do not want your child to get to a stage where he/she expects praise and then when they are not given it – assume something is wrong. Essentially, the goal is to catch your child doing something good and commend them for it. This will ultimately guide your child’s moral and ethical development.When a child makes a mistake while trying to do something helpful (like washing the dishes) first use words to recognize that you knew of their good intention’s.
- Quality Time “He does stuff with me. Things like shooting baskets and playing on the computer.” This means that what really makes your child or the child in your life feel loved, is someone’s undivided attention. These children can be seen as ‘demanding’ but when a child’s love tank is empty and your attention is the only thing that will fill it, they will go to almost any length to get the reaction they need. This also ties in with misbehaviour in order to get your attention that they so badly crave.Quality time almost always equals sacrifice. It puts across the message “I like being with you” and the child will feel important and loved because he has his parent/loved one often all to themselves. Something important to remember is that the quality time spent doesn’t need to be anything elaborate or special. To put your phone or laptop away and give your child your undivided attention is all they need. My family always sits together at meal times, discussing the events that happened in the day and I always feel like this is special quality time as many people choose to sit in front of the television.• Stop what you are doing and make eye contact with your child when they are talking to you.
• Occasionally take family walks or rides together.
• Spend a few extra minutes with your child before their bed time, talk about their day or what they’re excited about for the day ahead.
- . Gifts “My teacher loves me Nana, look what she gave me” The act of giving and receiving gifts is a powerful love language. However, as parents, grandparents, aunt and uncles, you have to be weary that when giving and receiving gifts, the wrong message is not conveyed.The most meaningful gifts become symbols of love and when this is genuinely and truly conveyed, the love language is being spoken. This being said, the child’s emotional love tank needs to be maintained in order for the gift to express heartfelt love. Offering a gift, alongside the other love languages, is the idea way to go about expressing your love through giving.If the child’s emotional love tank is empty then no gift in the world can fill it. The grace of giving has little to do with the size and cost of the gift. It is all to do with love. Many parents mix up buying presents, with actually being present in their child’s life.
• Make a meal you know your child likes, go to a special restaurant or make their favourite desert.
• When away from home, mail a small package to your child with their name on it.
• Keep a “gift bag” of inexpensive gifts your child can choose from, as a reward for doing something positive.
- Acts of service ‘I remember how my parents would get up early on Saturday’s to take me to my games, or stay up late helping me finish a project.” Acts of service are physically and emotionally demanding. Therefore, as a parent or whatever roles you may serve in a child’s life, you have a responsibility to make sure your own health is intact and that you are giving your partner all that they need to be positive, healthy role models in the child’s life too.Your chief purpose is to do what is best for your child, which essentially means filling their love tank. This happens by using this love language in conjunction with the others. Acts of service can become a model for your child’s behaviour and responsibility. You should do things for your children that they cannot yet do for themselves – like making a bed for a four-year-old is an act of service but eight-year-olds are capable of doing it themselves.Be aware of over-indulging with your service, otherwise, they might not think that they can stand on their own two feet – or spite you in their actions and decisions. Chapman sums it up perfectly by saying “the ultimate purpose for acts of service is to help them emerge as mature adults who are able to give love to others through acts of service.”
• Help your child practice for their sports team
• When running late for an appointment or meeting, help your child quickly finish what they are doing, so you can both be ready faster instead of just telling them to hurry.
• Create flash cards for your child’s upcoming test or quiz. Work together with him/her until they feel confident with the material.
The seerah is filled with examples of the above habits. In one hadith, a Bedouin chief who was known for his harshness, enters and sees the Prophet peace be upon him grandsons playing around him and he (peace be upon him) picked up Hasan (RA) and kissed him on cheek. And the chieftain was shocked, asking “Do you actually kiss your children? I have 10 kids and have never kissed them.” The Prophet(SAW) said “What can I do if Allah has removed your mercy and tenderness from your heart?” (Bukhari).
While the Prophet peace be upon him led the prayer and his grandchildren played in the masjd, the congregation experienced an extremely long sujud (prostration). Minutes go by and finally one of them looks up to see why the Prophet(SAW) is not getting up? Hussain (RA) was on his back and the Prophet peace be upon him didn’t want to disturb his grandson (Bukhari).
When Zainab RA was sick, the Prophet peace be upon him held her child Ummamah RA as a baby in his hands and prayed he whole salah like this (Bukhari)
While the Prophet(SAW) was giving a khutbah, Hasan (RA) comes wearing a thobe upon which he trips and hurts his face landing on the floor. The Prophet peace be upon him climbed down from the minbar to settle and care for his grandson and then takes him back to minbar carrying him and saying “My son tripped and my heart couldn’t bear it. “
We have lost the kindness, tenderness, mercy of our faith. We are harsh and rigid in our approach limiting ourselves to dos and donts.
Rule 5: It takes a village to raise a child
You need the help of good community and friends when raising your child. Islam is not a long list of theology or fiqh. You need to live it and experience Islam. Islam is a lived reality and it needs to absorb into the fabric of our community. We must be attached to good friends and mosques so the ambience is there.
Rule 6: Pray together
Pray with and for your family. If you’re not going mosque daily, at least go 2 or 3 times a week with family. At least pray one prayer a day together at home daily. Make it a routine, a ritual. One of the things my father did, he would get us all together for Maghrib salah, and we would all pray in jamat. This continued even when I was at university.
When I had kids, subconsciously at maghrib time, I would get my toddlers behind me and to this day, we have jamat with my family. I didn’t even realise because it was the sunnah of my father. Pray together, after salah at least a few minutes of bonding. Do not trivialise that. Those moments are very important.
When was the last time you raised your hands up to Allah and prayed to Allah with your heart for your kids.
In the Quran, there are at least half a dozen duas which were on the tongues of Prophets. In other words, Allah is literally handing us magic formulas for our kids. Who uses them? Make dua for our kids constantly, not just in need.
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said; Three supplications will not be rejected (by Allah (SWT)), the supplication of the parent for his child, the supplication of the one who is fasting, and the supplication of the traveler. [al-Bayhaqi, at-Tirmidhi – Sahih]
Use the duas found in Quran and sunnah and also use your own duas, from your own heart.
Rule 7: Do your best
Do the best you can and Allah will reward your efforts. Only Allah can guarantee the result. Nuh (AS) was the best father, but look at his own son. Allah (SWT) tells us in the Quran that you do not have the power to guide who you love, Allah (SWT) is the one who guides.
Sometimes, the results of what we do, we will not see in our lifetime. We might be long gone, but what we did with tarbiya – a good upbringing – could bloom much later.
And don’t aggrandise scholars, I have family and friends that don’t pray. Don’t have such high expectations of scholars. I know people in my family who have left Islam despite their father being righteous. However, due to his continued dua when he passed away, the child came back to Islam saying they wanted to be a good Muslim in the memory of their father. The father did not see the result of his actions, but what he did, he did right and the rest is up to Allah.
Do it with Ihsan, with love, for the sake of Allah (SWT) and know that Allah(SWT) rewards with effort not outcome.
One of the ways we can help our children’s tarbiya is to help other children via charities who don’t have what we have. Most charities raise funds and treat immediate needs, but this charity (READ foundation) trains kids, not just immediate needs. Witnessed their project in Pakistan. Looking at street children, who are forced to work by parents, the charity takes the kids and negotiate with the family for even half a day and give them basic education, reading or writing and give them a proper meal.
READ foundation is trying to support street children who have been forced and manipulated to do manual work and other things. READ foundation is helping them by providing an education – further information at https://readfoundation.org.uk/
– Adapted from a speech by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi in Luton, April 2019