The goal of the Muslim parent in raising Muslim children should be to raise righteous Muslims. Not merely children who identify culturally with Islam. Muslim culture may include many other things which may not be part of Islamic culture. Often, the goals people have set for themselves is to raise children who conform to the culture they have inherited. Rather the aim should be to raise them in accordance with true Islamic culture. And as such, they should be raised as righteous Muslims. Parents should have high goals and expectations from their children. For a true Muslim, the highest goal is Paradise.
The Prophet SAW said, “Seven are (the persons) whom Allah will give protection with His Shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His Shade (i.e., on the Day of Resurrection), and they are: A just ruler; a youth who grew up with the worship of Allah, a person whose heart is attached to the mosque, two persons who love and meet each other and depart from each other for the sake of Allah, a man whom a beautiful and high ranking woman seduces (for illicit relation) but rejects the offer by saying; ‘I fear Allah’, a person who gives a charity and conceals it (to such an extent) that the left hand might not know what the right has given and a person who remembers Allah in solitude and his eyes wells up.”
Al-Bukhari and Muslim
This should be our goal as parents; to raise children who will grow up worshipping Allah SWT. The reality is that most people have high expectations, which is purely focused on this life, like pursuing medicine, law and engineering, amongst other professions which would only earn them money and prestige. These goals are worth achieving from the academic perspective and are very much needed by the Muslim community. However, they should not take precedence over the primary goal, i.e, paradise.
As Allah says in the Qur’an:
As for those who believe and whose descendants follow them in faith, We will elevate their descendants to their rank, never discounting anything ˹of the reward˺ of their deeds. Every person will reap only what they sowed. [ Meaning, no one will carry the burden of another’s sins.]
Surah At Tur, 52:21
1. Taqwa and Piety
The first habit for those who want to successfully raise Muslim children is taqwa and piety, and from the child’s perspective, the parents should be righteous. Then the question arises; when should Islamic upbringing begin?
The reality is that tarbiya starts before the child is born.
A student once asked his teacher about raising his child who was at that time one year old. The teacher replied, “You have already missed the boat because it starts with the parents”. Parents desiring righteous children should themselves be righteous; they should work on themselves, their relationship with Allah SWT, their knowledge, their character, etc. This habit does not refer to the principle of being a good example but refers to the principle that if people are themselves righteous, Allah SWT will make their children righteous as one of the fruits of taqwa.
For example, in the Quranic story of Khidr and Musa, Khidr rebuilt the wall belonging to the orphans because their father was a righteous man. Some of the early scholars used to tell their children that, “Indeed I make nawafil for your sake.”
Parents should make sure that their own belief is intact; they should have a close relationship with Allah SWT and put their belief into practice. It is not enough to know about the academic details, but belief should be lived too.
Another factor is to practice the Sunnah – to live in accordance with the life of the Prophet Muhammed SAW and avoid innovations in Islam.
In addition, parents should themselves keep away from sins, especially minor ones.
The Prophet SAW gave an example of the minor sins when he said, in an authentic hadith that there was a group of people who went to the desert where they wanted to make a fire. Each of them found little pieces of wood, which they collected together, and thus they were able to make the fire.
The Prophet SAW said that this is how minor sins work. They keep throwing the minor sin on the pile until it becomes a major sin. So parents, in order to ensure their chances for getting righteous children should be themselves righteous.
This article is Part 1 of a 7 Part Series. Check back every week for the next section.
Originally edited by Angelica Djanie for Islamic Online University Blog.