And you thought you were ready?!

A father cannot give a better gift to his son than a good education. (Tirmidhi)

After being married for 10 years and then a hospital stay of close to 138 days, we were blessed with two beautiful baby girls. That was one year after we clung to the Kaaba and prayed for pious offspring. Little did we know the challenges of raising “Pious Offspring”!

My wife and I have both been involved in the field of education working as a teacher, counselor, and administrator in several local and international private and public schools and colleges.

Becoming a parent was an amazing experience, and after waiting for 10 years and being in the profession of educating children, we thought we were ready!  It is only after becoming parents that we connected with the reality that you are never fully ready until you become one!

Good parenting is like being a Good Muslim – both require continuous struggles to stay focused on our goals (that is, if we take the time to even set them in the first place), being conscious of the consequences of our choices, an ongoing and honest evaluation of ourselves, and the best efforts to improve our condition.

God does not change the condition of people until they change what is in themselves. (Qur’an 13:11)

The struggle is real but God is the best facilitator and He, out of His infinite mercy, has made His deen (religion) easy – ad-deenu yusrun (Bukhari) – and many times I find that it is our lack of knowledge, or a structured routine to bring that knowledge to practice that prevents us from moving forward. Therefore, I am here to share my personal reflection of 4 simple steps that I plan to take in raising ideal children by the enabling grace of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (Glorified is He). And the key to success, I feel, is in starting each of the following 4 practices in a small but consistent, meaningful and qualitative way – making the foundation of these deeds strong and grow from there. The actions most beloved to Allah are those that are small but done consistently (Bukhari).

1. Start with Yourself

Become a student of knowledge—A learned man has more power over Satan than a devout worshipper. (Tirmidhi)

  • Meet with a Scholar (someone that motivates and inspires you to remember and get closer to God) regularly. Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets – so create a strong bond of friendship with one that prevents you and your family from stagnation. Ask his or her advice regularly. Take your child(ren) to these gatherings/meetings regularly.
  • Read books and scholarly research on Parenting in Islam, and stay in touch with the modern scientific research on parenting and child psychology (e.g. Parenting with Love and Logic – always examining them with the lens of Islamic ethos.
  • But above all, where else can we find guidance other than the beautiful examples of our beloved Nabi (Prophet) Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him)? He was sent as a mercy to the whole mankind (Qur’an 21:107), sent to perfect human character (muatta) in every role including that of the father and indeed Allah (swt) has kept the best examples in his conduct (Qur’an 33:21).

Be a role model—The example of the person who teaches people good and neglects himself is like a lamp, which is a source of illumination for people and burns itself. (Tabarani)

  • Action speaks louder than words—and this is where we seem to fall short in today’s intellectual era where a vast amount of knowledge is easily available but only a small fraction of conforming ideals and character traits are seen in people. Rather than telling our children not to be on the iPod or watch too much TV – we can show them through our actions and read a book together!
  • Model the best character. Always advise with kindness. Teach patience by practicing patience and perseverance. Delay gratification and focus on teaching them routines. Stay silent and never discipline when angry. Verily anger destroys faith as aloe spoils honey (Baihaqi). Behave with your spouse, parents, relatives and friends kindly and courteously as our elders and scholars have recorded many incidents of people not respectful to their parents or spouse and they reaped the ill consequences of their actions by similar and unpleasant treatments from their children later in life.
  • Be a friend. Always make sincere effort to understand your children’s perspectives and do not force yours. Show love and empathize. Be easily approachable. Shall I not inform you about the person who is forbidden from the Fire and for whom the Fire is forbidden? Anyone who is close to people, soft and lenient (Ibid).

2. Ensure an Ideal Learning Environment

Create a balance between work and home—Our child’s education is equally or more important than work (depends on where we work) and hence, the need for our commitment to spend quality time with the family. Invest time in establishing an ideal learning environment at home.

Establish a timetable—Time management is the biggest challenge for us parents. We can involve our family in planning a daily schedule that everyone agrees on. Be it for 10 minutes, establish a study circle to talk, read or discuss about the essentials of deen and especially the life and sayings of the Prophet ﷺ.

Pay attention to the family’s spiritual and physical health—Create and follow a healthy diet plan, commit to physical activities with your family at least three times a week, build a daily connection with the masjid (mosque) and minimize waste of time (i.e. monitor TV, Electronic Games and Internet Access) while also having healthy choices for relaxing and rejuvenating the body and the mind.

3. Train Your Child in the Best Character and Etiquette

Keep God in mind wherever you are; follow a wrong with a right that offsets it; and treat people courteously (Tirmidhi). We find three great qualities from this hadith (prophetic narration) that we can inculcate in our children:

  1. God Consciousness – Our children need to be trained to be conscious of their actions and learn the consequences of good and bad choices.
  2. Accountability – You make the mess, you clean the mess. From a young age, always give them choices and do not be afraid to let them make a mistake, as that will provide an opportunity to impart a valuable lesson on responsibility, which they will hopefully always remember.
  3. Courtesy – This character trait should be part of an early training we provide our children. They should always be kind and courteous to their parents, teachers, peers, siblings and to all of God’s creation. Courtesy is rooted in mercy for others and this is a required characteristic of a true Muslim – courtesy must be extended to the teacher, to knowledge, and to the environment of learning.

Dedicate weekly family discussion or reading sessions on other special character traits such as respect, kindness, trustworthiness, and best effort. Enforce positive behavior—a simple acknowledgement can also go a long way.

4. Take Refuge in Du`a’

Who was able to do any of these steps better than the beloved and chosen messengers of God (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon them)? But they knew full well that the results of their efforts and the true guidance were in the hands of Allah (swt), who has power over all things.

We, therefore, must learn to pray to Allah (swt) regularly for our children, learn the du`a’s (supplication) from the Book of Allah and the examples of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ and recite them from the heart to attract the mercy, guidance and acceptance of Allah (swt) as he is the true Murabbi (Nurturer) and can make up for our shortcomings in guiding and shaping our most valuable trust—our children. Indeed whomever Allah guides is truly guided, and whomever He misguides no one can guide him. Here are a few beautiful du`a’s from the Qur’an parents can recite regularly:

Rabbana waj`al muslimayni laka wa min dhurryatina ummatam muslimatal lak wa arina manasikana watub `alayna innaka antat tawwabur raheem.

Our Lord! And make us submissive towards you and from our offspring a nation obedient to You – and show us the ways of our worship, and incline towards us with Your mercy; indeed You only are the Most Acceptor of Repentance, the Most Merciful. (Qur’an 2:128)

Rabbi habli milla dunka dhurryatan tayyiba innaka samiud du`a’

[Zachariah prayed] My Lord, grant me from pure offsprings. Verily, You hear prayers. (Qur’an 3:38)

Rabbahuma la-en ataytana salihan lana kunanna minash shakireen

O Allah! Surely if you give us a well-formed child, we shall be forever thankful. (Qur’an 7:189)

Rabbi j`alni muqimus salati wa min dhurryyati rabbana wataqabbal du`a’

O my Lord! Maintain me as one who establishes prayer, and some of my descendants; O our Lord! and accept my prayer. (Qur’an 14:40)

Rabbi la tadharni fardaw wa anta khayrul warithin

[ Zakaria prayed] O my Lord – do not leave me without offspring, and You are the Best Inheritor. (Qur’an 21:89)

Rabbana hablana min azwajina wa dhurryatina qurrata a’yuniw waj`alna lil muttaqina imama

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