What’s the best advice you would give to your son/daughter, especially as they enter into adulthood? What are the most important life lessons you want to pass on to them?
These are questions that many of us reflect on every now and then. Sometimes, we work very hard to earn material provisions to secure us and our children in this life. But we might not spend that much effort instilling the right moral compass in them or comprehensively preparing them for true success in this life and the next.
There is a need to deeply think about the wisdoms we pass on to our children that should help them perceive and handle life adequately.
We don’t have to look far away to get profound tips on doing that. Allah Almighty has already given us a great example to follow in the Qur’an in the story of the wise Luqman and his son.
In the Chapter titled “Luqman” (Chapter 31), Allah almighty says:
“Alif, Lam, Meem. These are verses of the wise Book, as guidance and mercy for the doers of good. Who establish prayer and give zakah, and they, of the Hereafter, are certain [in faith]. Those are on [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.” (Qur’an 31: 1-5)
Allah started the chapter that narrate the story of Luqman giving advice to his son saying “these are verses of the wise Book”. The fact that Allah Almighty Himself highlighted how the words of Luqman –which will follow in the surah-carry essential wisdom for success in this life and the next makes us want to ponder on what Luqman said and how it may be beneficial for our own children.
So let’s recall what he said.
Luqman’s advice started with:
Lesson 1: True monotheism
“O my son, do not associate [anything] with Allah. Indeed, association [with him] is great injustice.” (31: 13)
Luqman started his advice with the ultimate lesson that summarizes one’s purpose in life. It is the first and greatest lesson of all: true monotheism and belief in the One Creator of all mankind.
Why is this important?
Sometimes, we let our children be enslaved or overburdened by the desire to please certain people in life; please their peers and seek their acceptance, please their bosses at work, please someone they liked or please certain society standards that keep changing over time. The reality is, one will never be able to earn the acceptance of everyone, and this may be very depressing especially to young adults/teens who seek the approval of their peers and those around them; and if they didn’t get it, they’d think they’re “losers” and start retreating or harming themselves.
But what this first and ultimate advice is doing is that it is a reminder that The One who deserves our ultimate attention and The One we should be most concerned about pleasing is Allah Almighty, Our Creator. And He is The Kindest, Most Appreciative, Most Merciful and Most Forgiving.
This is actually liberating on so many levels.
It is liberating to us from the tireless desire to seek approval and acceptance of others even if it’s against what’s right and against our own wellbeing. It is liberating because if we please Allah, He will descend incomparable feelings of relief, peace, serenity and happiness upon our hearts and make us content and make us perceive everything in a positive light.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever is focused only on this world, Allah will confound his affairs and make him fear poverty constantly, and he will not get anything of this world except that which has been decreed for him. Whoever is focused on the Hereafter, Allah will settle his affairs for him and make him feel content with his lost, and his provision and worldly gains will undoubtedly come to him.” [Sunan Ibn Majah].
This is what happens when one is focused on/connected with His Creator.
Not knowing the Creator, however, means one doesn’t have a sense of direction in life. At the end of the day, we all belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.
“Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 156]
No one lives forever. At some point in life, one would think: what’s after death? This idea might be depressing for some, but it could also be a source of joy and relief for others because they know this life is not the end. The Next life is an extension to our life here, and meeting Allah, The Source of Existence, Source of Mercy, Beauty, Power, Might, Wisdom… should be something that we look forward to.
Whether we admit it or not, deep down, the soul always yearns for its Creator and thinks of its origin. Ultimate inner peace is found when this soul is adequately connecting with its Creator. If this connection is not found or established, then there will be a major void, darkness or emptiness that one feels which leads to depression. Even if one is indulging in material gains and successes now, after a while, this will be boring, it won’t be enough, satisfactory and it will never fill the void.
No one can be completely in peace not knowing what will happen to them after death. Even if they claim otherwise.
This is why it’s a major injustice to not adequately know Allah, The Creator who created us and this life for a purpose.
True monotheism is essentially about adequately knowing our Creator, understanding ourselves and actualizing our purpose in life.
The first and primary advice, then, is to understand who you are, what you’re doing here and where you are going. This understanding gives a sense of focus, peace and direction; and this is the essence of True Monotheism.
Lesson 2: Being dutiful and grateful to parents
“And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination.” (31:14)
This is what Allah Almighty mentioned right after true monotheism: Being dutiful and grateful to parents.
First, Luqman, as a parent, instructed his son to be grateful and acknowledge His Creator. Then the Creator Himself is instructing us to be dutiful to parents.
With many cases today of parents being abandoned or mistreated by their children, and with many elderly homes out there that have lonely parents inside while their children are busy with their own lives—we really have to be reminded about this crucial matter in Islam: The rights of parents.
Allah made this the second issue right after true belief in Him. Qur’anic verses and prophetic hadiths show us that obedience to parents is among the greatest virtuous acts, and mistreating them is among the biggest sins.
We lose our dignity and our rewards in this life and the next if we’re not dutiful to our parents.
This entails all forms of dutifulness: Being in their company as much as we can and whenever they need it, remaining in touch with them no matter how busy we are, spending our money and time on them… this is the least that could be done.
Sometimes people feel when they get old that they want to be “liberated” from attachment to their parents.
Just think if parents did the same to us…
If when we needed them the most, when we were young, helpless, hungry, crying, bored, dirty and moody… if they had left us and abandoned us back then because nobody wants to deal with all that. What would have happened to us?
We’re not exactly the best of people when we abandon them when our turn comes to take care of them; when it’s time to pay back, be patient with them and be in their company like they have been for us…
So, one of the ultimate lessons one should learn here is gratitude, not taking anything for granted, not being greedy/self-centered and giving the due rights to those who brought us to this world.
If we don’t do that, yet we go around talking about morals and success in life, then this really reflects us as questionable human beings.
Lesson 3: Following The Truth
“But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]. Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.” (31: 15)
Since Allah is The Most Knowing, He knows that sometimes being dutiful to parents is not the easiest thing to do. Sometimes they’re difficult, sometimes they even want their children to do the biggest sins, which is disbelief in Allah and/or disobeying Him.
Allah is saying that even if parents are disbelievers and they work tirelessly to make their children associate others with Allah, STILL, being dutiful to them is a right upon their children that they must fulfill.
The instruction is to refrain from doing the wrongdoings they ask for like disbelief, but to continue to keep their company kindly and show them all forms of mercy.
This brings us to a very important point, which is to follow the truth wherever it may be. Sometimes, we would be hesitant to follow the truth just because our families won’t accept it. But truth is more worthy of being followed. This doesn’t mean we abandon our families, but just like Allah Almighty says, we still remain in contact to the best of our ability, but we do not abandon the truth for any reason and we commit earnestly to the straight path because eventually, this is what we will be asked about.
As Allah summed this Chapter saying:
“O mankind, fear your Lord and fear a Day when no father will avail his son, nor will a son avail his father at all. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and be not deceived about Allah by the Deceiver.” (31: 33)
In addition to that, at some stage of their lives, our children (especially in their teen age), tend to look up to people, celebrities, figures whom they think are the most successful, popular…etc. But the reality is, if those people are not leading them to the ultimate truth, then they’re not really worth following.
Again, truth is most worthy of being followed and one needs to be smart enough as to follow what brings eternal success, not temporary stardom.
Lesson 4: Consciousness of Allah at all times
“[And Luqman said], “O my son, indeed if wrong should be the weight of a mustard seed and should be within a rock or [anywhere] in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Indeed, Allah is Subtle and Acquainted.” (31: 16)
Sometimes we think that if we locked ourselves in our rooms that no one will be able to see us, and we can do whatever we want. Usually this type of secrecy and hiding reflect that one is doing something wrong or harmful, and that he/she doesn’t want anyone to see it. Many wrongdoing among teens especially happen behind closed doors: immoral activities online…etc.
What is being said in the verse is a good reminder that even if something is as small and barely noticeable as a mustard seed hidden under a rock somewhere in the universe, Allah STILL sees it and has power over it.
So we shall not think that we’ll hide from Allah. Being always conscious of Him is a means to restrain from many harmful activities/desires especially when people indulge so strongly in what is wrong to the extent that they harm themselves.
So, sometimes this reminder of Allah being Watchful over us is needed to prevent harm we do to ourselves or others.
At the same time, society’s standards of what is right and what is wrong is bound to change over time, and it does differ from one society to the other. But what Allah instructs is constant. The fact that He is the Most Knowing, All Wise who surpasses time and space, makes it an encouragement for us to follow Him and stick by what’s right to Him and avoid harm, even if it’s facilitated, common or accepted by others today. So being conscious of Allah is a source of stability and adequate conduct anytime and everywhere.
Lesson 5: Establishing prayer, enjoining what’s right, forbidding what’s wrong AND being patient!
“O my son, establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed, [all] that is of the matters [requiring] determination.” (31: 17)
This is very essential and it is connected to the above advice. Ultimately, establishing prayer (i.e. being regular and consistent in performing it right) connects one with Allah Almighty. Prayer involves reciting and being reminded with the powerful words of Allah that give peace, focus and direction, we also speak to Him through dua and we recite adhkar after prayer to protect and shield us against all harms/temptations. This forms the moral compass through which one knows what is right and what is wrong.
Now, when you know what is right and what is wrong, call for it kindly, wisely and persistently because if you’re silent, then what is wrong will spread and eventually righteousness will be a strange thing and you won’t even be able to practice it.
Committing to prayer on time, calling people for what’s right and rejecting what’s wrong — all of this require patience, perseverance and steadfastness because at times, it won’t be easy. Especially when calling people to the truth, one would most likely be attacked, mocked, rejected…etc.
This isn’t a reason to quit or give up; one should be patient because truth is not always easy but it’s definitely worth all the efforts.
Life require patience and perseverance in dealing with hardships; and prayer which connects us with our Creator and reminds us of His words is a major form of support.
Lesson 6: Avoiding inward/outward arrogance and pride
“And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” (31: 18)
One of the common features that we see nowadays, especially among certain celebrities, is the character of self-boasting. The advice in this verse with regards to “not walking through the earth exultantly” is so relevant today especially with all the “swag” walking going around!
We find many celebrities that teenagers look up to, many kids at school and many known global figures adopting this boastful attitude in their walking, thinking and overall life style.
The problem is: this is a delusion.
As the Creator called it, those who do that are “self-deluded”.
The reality is, no matter how beautiful, rich, powerful, smart, successful, healthy we may be now… this will not last! These are things that could be taken away from us any second; our entire lives could be taken away from us any second. If Allah decided that this shall be our last day and our soul shall exit our body, who can prevent Him? What can prevent Him? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So why do we act as if we’re “gods” or think that we are all powerful, mortal or undefeated?
This is tiring and deluding even to our own selves because this is hard to maintain. Whatever we’re boasting about, it is hard to maintain. If we focus all our energies on material aspects we have; riches, fame, successes, popularity….etc, then if and when this is gone, our entire life will fall apart. There will be no meaning or purpose to our existence anymore. This is why many people in this case tend to think of committing suicide.
Lesson 7: Seeking moderation in voice and conduct
“And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.” (31: 19)
So, what is the alternative to the self-boasting attitude mentioned above? Moderation.
In Islam, we’re encouraged to seek moderation in everything. We’ve been warned against extremism in anything, even in eating, drinking, spending, talking…etc.
Moderation is key to living a balanced life style. Everything prescribed in Islam is moderate, healthy and manageable if you learn and understand its meaning adequately.
But sometimes we find that teenagers especially can’t seem to hold their temper or control their desires.
If you look around, even in TV shows, you’ll find many teenagers yelling loudly at their own parents.
What we need to remind ourselves and our children of is that raising voices and yelling is not a sign of power, strength, wisdom or being right.
The loudest voice doesn’t usually signify the strongest position. If the stronger position is measured by the loudest voice, then donkeys would be the most powerful amongst us because…who can compete with the loudness of their voice!
And that’s another message to remember: if you follow this advice and find peace, stability, moderation and wisdom in it, then follow and live by it. Don’t worry about who is rejecting you or who currently has the biggest platforms and loudest voice, because as you see, it is never measured by the loudest voice!
This was the comprehensive advice Luqman gave to his son, which focused on God, the self and others.
May Allah help us live by the wisdom of what has been revealed to us! Amen.