Life by its very nature is fleeting, it is littered by enjoyment and tribulation. Yet, we must overcome these trails and must not become distracted by the embellishments. For a Muslim every enjoyment has the potential to be a trail and vice versa. This unique system is very beneficial for a Muslim as it means, that in essence, his life is not as black and white as enjoyment and trail. Rather every situation that manifests, is an opportunity to gain closeness to the Creator.
Children are no different, they are simply a means to gain closeness to Allah, they are an investment for the Hereafter. This an be understood from the statement of the Prophet (SAW); “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); knowledge which is beneficial; or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).” (Muslim) A pious child will continue to elevate our rank even after our demise. This means that the more pious the child the better assistance the parents will have in the Afterlife.
This assistance will come through the Prayers of the child and the good deeds done for the parents on their behalf, through this child. This has been illustrated by a narration of the Prophet (SAW); which has reached us through Ibn Abbas (RA). Ibn Abbas (RA) reported that the mother of Sa’d ibn Ubadah (RA) died when he was away from her. He said: “O Messenger of Allah, my mother has died and I am away from her. Will it benefit her anything if I give in charity on her behalf?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “Then I ask you to be my witness that I am giving my garden al-Mikhraaf (so called because it bore so many dates) in charity on her behalf.” (Bukhari)
In order to reap the optimum benefits from our children, we must ensure that Islamic values are inculcated into them from an early age. When they are young this is very easy, as we have been told by our Prophet (SAW) that the default position of every child is Islam; “Every child is born in a state of fitrah (the natural state of man, i.e., Islam), then his parents make him into a Jew or a Christian or a Magian.” (Bukhari) (Muslim) Young children are very receptive and it is at this tender age that they should be familiar with the commandments of Allah and their duties as a Believer.
Children should grow up seeing their Parents praying Salah, this will create a natural longing to emulate their Parents. Many times we are unaware that our actions serve as the best lessons to our children, you can lecture them for hours, but leading by example has always been the most effective method to drive a point across.
Parents have been instructed to pay particular attention to the Salah of their children, the Prophet (SAW) has said, “When your children attain the age of seven, insist upon them to offer up Prayer (regularly), and when they’re ten years old, punish them if they do not, and have separate beds for them (to sleep on).” (Abu Dawud) This age is mentioned as it is age where many of the habits your child will have throughout their lives will be established. It is also at this age when they will be nearing the time of maturity, so naturally parents should prepare for this. Privacy is a must at this age, parents must understand that they cannot bathe or make children sleep on the same bed at this age. Their children should develop a greater sense of independence and this should be catered for by providing separate beds.
It is imperative that Parents adopt both positive and negative reinforcement if they wish to make their child adopt a certain behaviour. When it comes to Salah if children are punctual they should be rewarded and if they are lethargic they should be punished appropriately. Do not be excess in their punishment, as many times a person has become antagonistic toward Islam due to the dictator-like implementation their parents adopted. This is not the Prophet way. Do not be draconian, be magnanimous and firm. It is an equilibrium which must be met if you wish your children to become practicing Muslims.
Parents should dedicate time to their children, especially in the beginning stages, they should feel that Islam is a part of their identity and not just a label they are stuck with. Parents should take their children to the Mosques when the child is old enough, this will create sense of community and ensure that our children will continue to fill the Mosques after our deaths. Care should be taken by the individuals who are responsible for the Mosques that the provide the facilities to cater for both the elderly and the youth of the Ummah.
With all of these important points in mind, Parents must also focus on the moral development of their child. They must ensure that they explain what is right and wrong, instilling Islamic etiquette as the child matures. This can be done in many ways, the most obvious is as was mentioned above, leading by example. However, a Islamic Tutor should also have input in the child’s upbringing. Parents should choose a Tutor who is knowledgeable and pious so that the child can receive an authentic Islamic education from an early age. Alternatively they can enroll them in a Islamic institute, however, this is not a free-pass, this does not mean that the Parent’s job is finished just because their child is studying in this institute . Parenting is a life-long process, the child must always feel that his parents are involved. There can never be any substitute for good parenting.
In regards to moral development, the Prophet (SAW) has stated; “No father gave a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.” (Tirmidhi) And in a similar narration, “Show respect to your children and adorn them with good manners.” (Ibn Majah) If you do not show respect to your children and they see how you are an oppressor in the household, how can you expect them to attain lofty moral character? Do not contradict yourself, do as you say, as contradiction is the bane of morality.
May Allah bless us with pious, healthy, upright children. May he forgive us for our mistakes and fix our affairs. Ameen.