By Sheikh Idris Watts
In the world, many Muslim parents are not using God’s methods to produce godly offspring. They don’t know the standards by which to judge their children’s behaviour, so they do not know if their behaviour matches up to godly standards. Television is a prime example. What would have been called obscene on television a generation ago is the norm today and we rarely censor these programs.
Why is this so? We can use the analogy of the cold blooded toad because a toad does not maintain a constant body temperature like a mammal. You can put it in cold water and heat it up so that the toad really does not recognize that it is being boiled to death until it is too late. We have become like that toad. We lower our standards to accommodate the world around us little by little and now we can’t see how much we have deviated from the standards we used to keep.
We must begin with a compelling conviction that leads us to prioritize training up a godly generation.
We must have a personal relationship with God through the model of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him.. That love relationship with our Creator is the means, the end, and the model of all you desire to pass on to your family.
We are all individually responsible to God. Not one of us can claim the faith of our father or mother as our own. We must come to Him on our own. If we don’t have our own faith, we have no faith.
The role of a parent is essentially an evangelistic one. We have been entrusted with a gift from God and He has equipped us with His Book and Sunnah of His Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. There is no greater charge to a parent than to deliver this great and momentous news. We are being watched and we are the most important role-models and examples our children will have on this earth. Every word and every action is being processed by those who are looking to us for guidance. We have the distinct privilege of actually showing our children how the truth of God’s religion is relationally affecting our lives. In short, we get to show our children a passion for God and His Messenger r in real and relational ways.
Prayer is the essential ingredient for all our steps.
As Muslims we are like adopted children of God (in a figurative sense) and our children need to personally know God too so they become our sisters and brothers in God. It is important that they become our sisters and brothers in God and not mere blood family.
As a parent you should instil in the mind of the child that God has a special plan for him/her. You are not here by accident or by chance. You are here as part of a greater plan – it’s a plan God has prepared and it’s a plan that involves you.
Since we forget, it is absolutely vital that we continually remind our children and ourselves of the truth.
Mothers seem to be taking on the leadership roles more and more, fathers are opting out of this area altogether. Men in general don’t know why they should lead and they don’t know how. Some men feel like a sissy when trying to teach their sons to read the religious material with them or teach them to pray with them. This is because the strongest males in their lives didn’t model any of it. They image of masculinity is missing the spiritual component. Many men know they should be leading spiritually but they don’t have a blue print to follow and then they feel guilty and inadequate because they are not fulfilling their role.
There could be a correlation between a domineering mother in the home, together with lack of male leadership, and boys turning to homosexual behaviour.
If you are more interested in your business, football or television; if you are giving your best to your career and come home at night too tired to even bother spending time with your children (let alone pray and read about religion with them) then you are making a big mistake. Who is really training your children? The TV? The kids across the street? The internet? Video games and movies? Dad, don’t stick your head in the sand on this one. You’ve only got one shot at this. Don’t let the opportunity to train your children pass you by…the stakes are just too high for everyone.
Steps to the change:
· Pray with you wife. This may seem awkward at the start, but again, just do it. Pray before meals. Pray in bed at night. Pray together for each of your children as they sleep.
· Pray for your children. Bedtime is an ideal place to get started. At bedtime, take them by the hand and let them listen as you thank God for them as for His blessings on their lives. (They love that!) Ask them if they have any requests that you can pray for. In time, ask them if they want to pray out loud with you, but let them know that God always hears their silent prayers, too.
· Study your religion. Start by doing religious acts such as reading the Quran or praying where your family can see you. (You don’t want to do this for show; you do it as an authentic model for your family.) Then start reading religious books with them such as Sira or a translation of the Quran. If it is Ramadan, read about when the Quran was revealed or how the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to act in this month. If it is Dhu al-Hijjah, go through how Hajj is performed and the important themes that revolve around it. Do it anyway, but make sure it is in a planned way – using a particular book pertaining to a particular theme or subject. In time, let them read it to you …you are training them to continue the legacy with their future family. You will have a lifetime to get better at it, most importantly, just start NOW!
· Go to a good mosque or religious gathering or mix with a good religious social group. Mix with people who uphold the content and the authority of their religion. (If you are looking for a perfect group, don’t join it because you’ll spoil it! There is no perfect group, but it is important that the family be part of a local religious community that really holds to the religious teachings.
The most basic building blocks of being a diligent dad include prayer, religious reading, and participation in a good religious group.
The wife should be a support of her husband in the good work he does in the community. She should support him totally in the ministry of God which He has called us all to. God fashioned a woman to complete what was lacking in Adam, that she might become his helper, that the two of them would truly become one.
“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her … She does him good and not evil … She rises while it is still night and gives food to her household…She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vine yard …She extends her hand to the poor…strength and dignity are her clothing…She opens her mouth in wisdom.”
How great a mother who prays with her children when they are small and continues to do so daily for them, standing as an authority of God’s Word. The father is the spiritual leader and the mother us the support for him in this role. She cooks for visitors, supports school functions, waits up for her husband to return from work or religious meetings. The husband and wife do everything together as one.
The wife is behind the scene as a reminder for her husband to be gentle with people and gracious. Her gentle guiding persuasion should always be at his ear, reminding him of his responsibility to use his words carefully and constructively. The husband should allow his wife to compensate for his faults and he should appreciate her advice. She should be honest enough to help her husband correct his faults in a way that will enhance and strengthen their relationship. Husbands should listen sincerely to their wives and seek their input and hasten their comments. They know us better than anyone.
The father’s leadership should be obvious to the children as it is to the wife. Raising godly children takes teamwork and they should cover one another when it is not possible to be there. Children should know that the father is the leader and the mother is the helpmate.
More women are becoming domineering as they take over the position as head of the home. The feminist movement has affected many Muslim women and this affects the whole family structure. We are not individuals in the marriage. We should be “one” and work as a team.
Many men have to give up working for the religion because of unsupportive wives. Many children rebel against their fathers who are religious leaders in the community. There are many reasons for this but one of the major factors for this is that the wife cannot cope with the husband being away or spending so much time in the demands of religious work. The wives’ question their spouses in front of the children and others. The wife’s discontent is very apparent to the children. (It is also true that many men have greatly neglected their wives and children, forsaking their priority to be a diligent dad, and that is also a problem.)
The mother must ask: “Am I fulfilling my role as a helpmate to my husband, or am I undermining his role as the spiritual head of our home?”
The wife should become a mentor for other younger women in the community. She should be reverent in behaviour, not a slanderer and a backbiter, but a teacher of good things – she should admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, a homemaker and not a breaker, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God not be blasphemed.
Through cooking for family and guests, the wife can create an atmosphere around the dinner table which is significant to the family legacy, and their stomachs should be grateful about it.
Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. They should respect them like they would like to be and not put them down and humiliate them in front of others but rather protect their honour in company and speak out when others put them down and defend them with passion.
Win over your husband through sacrificial submissiveness and show them through your own behaviour. Don’t fight in front of children and others and be entirely devoted to one another. Stability and obedience to the religion has a major impact on the children and it will mean that they should have stable marriages as well. If there is no love, stability and devotion to one’s religion in the home it will cause all sorts of problems on the psychology of the child. The love between the father and mother is far more important to the child’s upbringing than even the love you show directly to the child. They take far more comfort from that and develop as healthy human beings when living with parents who have a healthy loving relationship.
Both husband and wife need to be obedient to what God says and not their opinions and feelings. However, we live in a difficult world. We have orphans and single parent families. We have families where one of the spouses is not playing their role in the raising of the children. We have widows and widowers. God has a special measure of grace to men and women in these sad situations. We need to do what we can for such families and be role models for their children. The communal body is to work as a body, healing, supporting, and compensating for the other parts of the body which are in need.
The husband will get most of the credit in the community for his work, but his wife is the gift and the strength behind him. She sacrifices for others and conceals the faults of her husband and gently moulds him into a role model for the community. She wants no recognition for it because she sees her reward with God. The children will then not rebel against the religion and her children will rise up and bless her and her husband also. Charm and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
In many homes, a Quran is a symbol of religion. Like an icon, it sits on the shelf representing some sort of affiliation of spiritual devotion. This was never what the Word of God was intended to be. It is a living and active and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It is the message to humanity and family. It is alive and essential to everyone who wants to sanctify their home.
Our children need to be taught that the content of the Scripture is real, not just symbolic or illustrative so that they have a strong basis for belief and defence of it.
Children are impressionable and open to every influence from the world. When we present God’s word as stories and illustrate them in a way that gives the impression they are a fairy tale, how can a child differentiate between the scripture and Aesop’s Fables? We must teach our children Quranic truth and not tales.
With children, one should start with picture books and tell the history and details of what is going on in the pictures. As they get older, you can read to them the Quran or Sira or any religious book and have them read to you. It will become more than just reading about religion, it will become a time to communicate a Quranic world view. We must stress to them that these books are important in our lives and make up the main part of our lives.
As they grow up and become more competent readers, allow your children to have their own Quranic, Sira or religious reading time. Assist them by providing them study aids that can help them study the Quran themselves. Discuss with your children points made by commentators and teach them discernment when it comes to certain modern ideas and trends found in many English books today. There is much good in a lot of the literature but there must be discernment and you can hone the skills of your children to identity when the authors have verged from the truth. That way they can take the benefit and leave the rest instead of cutting them off or restricting them whereby they have no access to religious material but a limited number of books that don’t suffice. Strive to be faithful and not perfect as you train your children in the Word. If you think you are going to organize in-depth exegetical surveys of Scripture and keep it up on a systematic schedule, you are probably mistaken. (Or you will feel so overwhelmed that you won’t even attempt anything.) Over the years, these humble efforts will have a significant impact on your heart and souls of your family.
You must read the Scripture to them from an authoritative position.
There are people that say, “Oh yes, we believe in the Quran and its supreme authority in matters of religion, but, of course, we don’t go to the Bible for science; we go to it for help for our souls, for salvation, and help and instruction in the way to live the Muslim life.” They are saying that there are as it were, two great authorities and two means of revelation, one is them is Scripture and other one is nature. This means that the Scripture ends up being compromised. We must assert that we believe in the historicity of the Quran.
Faith substantiated by the Scripture is essential. Every time our children walk out the front door of the house, the world is waiting to attack their faith. Even inside our homes, television sets are constantly ready to alter their world view and attitude in life.
Regularly spend time with them discussing scriptural truth through reading and prayer, what they learnt at the mosque, or from their friends. You will be amazed at what a scriptural view will open up from them and correct what they have already heard.