The Muslim and His Children

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He is alert to everything that may have an influence on them

The smart Muslim father keeps his eyes open as far as his children are concerned. He knows what they are reading and writing, the hobbies they have chosen or which he may have encouraged them to follow, without them realizing it, the friends with whom they spend most of their time, and the places they go in their spare time. He knows all of this without his children feeling that he is watching them. If he finds anything objectionable in their reading-material or hobbies, or finds that they are hanging around with undesirable friends, or going to unsuitable places, or taking up bad habits like smoking, or wasting time and energy on haram games that make them accustomed to trivialities and idle pursuits, he puts them straight in a gentle and wise manner, and persuades them to return to the straight and narrow.

Every new baby is born in a state of fitrah (the natural state of man), and it is parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian, as is mentioned in the sahih hadith narrated by Bukhari. Hence the parents, responsibility regarding the upbringing of the child and the formation of his personality is clear.

The books which children spend time reading should be broadening their minds, building their personalities and offering them good examples; they should not be corrupting them and extinguishing the flame of goodness in their hearts.

Hobbies should nurture the positive aspects of the children and instil in them good taste, not encourage them to follow falsehood. Their friends should be of the type who will keep them on the Straight Path and lead them to Paradise, not those who will corrupt them and lead them to Hell. How many people have been brought to the slippery slope of destruction and perdition by their friends, when their fathers were unaware of what was happening to their own children! How wise are the words of the poet 'Adiyy ibn Zayd al-'Abadi concerning friends:

´If you are among people, then make friends with the best of them./ Do not make friends with the worst of them lest you become as bad as he is./ Do not ask about the man, but ask about his friend, for every person is influenced by his friends.'9

Note: 9. Diwan 'Adiyy, p. 107.

The true Muslim father takes notice of his children's books, magazines, hobbies, school, teachers, clubs, media interests, and everything that may have an impact on their personalities, minds, souls and faith. He should intervene when necessary, either to encourage or to put a stop to something, so that the children's upbringing will not be affected by corruption or sickness.

Hence we can explain the success of some families in raising their children, and the failure of others. The former feel responsible towards their children and take care of them properly, so the children become good for the family and the community at large; the latter do not feel this responsibility, so they neglect their children, and the children become bad for their family and the community at large, a source of distress in their life and after death. Allah has spoken the truth:

( . . . Truly, among your wives and your children are [some that are] enemies to yourselves, so beware of them . . .) (Qur'an 64:14)

Children would not have turned against their parents if their parents had kept to the right path, recognized their responsibilities towards their children and done their duty as they should.

He equally treats all his children

One of the elements of wise upbringing is for the parents to treat all their children equally, and not to favour one of them over the others in any way. The child who feels that he is treated fairly and that he and his brothers are equal, will grow up with a healthy self-esteem, free from feelings of inferiority; he will not hate his brother, or eat his heart out with jealousy, but will be content, tolerant, kind and caring towards others. This is what Islam encourages and orders parents to do.

Bukhari and Muslim narrated from al-Nu'man ibn Bashir (r):

´My father brought me to the Prophet (s) and said, 'I have given this son of mine a slave I have.' The Prophet (s) asked him, 'Have you given each of your children the same?' He said, 'No,· so the Prophet (s) told him: 'Then take the slave back.''

According to another report Nu'man said:

´The Prophet (s) asked, 'Have you done the same for all your children?' (My father) said, 'No,' so the Prophet (s) said, 'Fear Allah and treat all of your children equally.' So my father went and took back his gift.'

According to a third report:

´The Prophet (s) asked, 'O Bishr, do you have any other children?' He said, 'Yes.' The Prophet (s) asked, 'Will you give a similar gift to each of them?' He said, 'No.' So the Prophet (s) said, 'Do not ask me to witness this, because I do not want to witness unfairness.' Then he added, 'Would you not like all of your children to treat you with equal respect?' [Bishr] said, 'Of course.' The Prophet (s) told him: 'So do not do it.' (Bukhari and Muslim)

Therefore the Muslim who fears Allah treats Allah's children with equal fairness, and does not favour one above the other in giving gifts, spending money on him or in the way he treats him. So all of them will pray for him, love him and treat him with kindness and respect.

He instils good behaviour and attitudes in them

When children's hearts are thus filled with contentment and goodness, the father can then raise them up to the level of high morals and noble human virtues. So he instills in them good manners such as caring for others, helping the weak, being kind to relatives, respecting elders, being merciful to the young, cheerfully doing good and striving to spread justice among people. A person cannot give that which he does not have. The man was right who said, "Righteousness comes from Allah and good manners come from parents."10

Note: 10. Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, 92.

The smart Muslim father understands his children's psychology and knows how to instill wisdom and good attitudes in them, using the best methods of parenting in order to do so, such as setting a good example, coming down to their level, treating them well, and cheerfully showing mercy, humility, love, interest, encouragement, fairness, advice, correction and guidance. He is lenient towards them without being weak, and is strict without being cruel. Thus the children will grow up in an atmosphere of care, compassion and affection, that can only produce caring, kind, loyal and righteous children whose personalities are strong, who are willing to give and to shoulder their responsibilities. This is the norm for families who raise their children on Islamic principles and the teachings of the Qur'an:

( . . . [We take our] colour from Allah, and who is better than Allah at colouring ? . . .) (Qur'an 2:138 - Pickthall's translation)

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