As you are aware we have started our After School program and have received a wonderful response. That shows that you are concerned about your children. This is an excellent thing, given that our children are our investments in this life and the Aakhira. Therefore, let me speak to you about some essentials to raising and growing your investments, i.e., your children.
The first and most important instruction is from Allahﷻ who said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ قُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا ٱلنَّاسُ وَٱلْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلَـٰٓئِكَةٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَّا يَعْصُونَ ٱللَّهَ مَآ أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ
Tahreem 66: 6 O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire (Jahannam) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah but do that which they are commanded.
This is our primary responsibility as parents which supercedes everything else, to protect our children from the Fire of Jahannam. That responsibility is so important that Allahﷻ called children a test (Fitna) and warned us:
وَٱعْلَمُوٓا۟ أَنَّمَآ أَمْوَٰلُكُمْ وَأَوْلَـٰدُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ عِندَهُۥٓ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ
Anfal 8: 28 And know that your possessions and your children are but a trail and that surely with Allah is a mighty reward.
إِنَّمَآ أَمْوَٰلُكُمْ وَأَوْلَـٰدُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَٱللَّهُ عِندَهُۥٓ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ
Taghabun 64: 15 Your wealth and your children are only a trial, whereas Allah! With Him is a great reward (Paradise)
Allahﷻ even called our spouses and children our enemies and said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِنَّ مِنْ أَزْوَٰجِكُمْ وَأَوْلَـٰدِكُمْ عَدُوًّا لَّكُمْ فَٱحْذَرُوهُمْ وَإِن تَعْفُوا۟ وَتَصْفَحُوا۟ وَتَغْفِرُوا۟ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Taghabun 64: 14 O you who believe! Verily, among your spouses and your children there are enemies for you (i.e., may stop you from the obedience of Allah), therefore beware of them! But if you pardon (them) and overlook, and forgive (their faults), then verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
All these Ayaat underline the importance of raising pious children who are a credit to their parents and a means of Sadaqa Jaariya for them. If we raise children who are highly successful in this life and the beloved of Allahﷻ, then we have done our job as parents well, and can look forward to the Sadaqa Jaariya of that when our life here ends. The contrary is equally true. Let us ask what we are doing and where our focus and emphasis is, with respect to our children. If we want the best for our children, which every parent does, then let’s ask ourselves if our choices and decisions reflect that. There is no mystery in Islam. We have been told what is good and what is not. The choice is ours and we will pay. Our children are our Sadaqa Jaariya.
In our materialistic orientation we confuse learning a trade or profession with education. As someone put is, “The reality is that if a child can do advanced math, speak 3 languages, and receive top grades, but can’t manage their emotions, practice conflict resolution, or handle stress, none of that other stuff really matters.”
Imam Ghazali in his book, ‘Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya `Ulum al-Deen)’, warns against feeding our children Haraam, as it will physically become a part of them as they grow and become permeated into the very fiber of the child. So, eating Halaal is a very critical part of our religion. This relationship between what we consume and our spiritual health is well-established. Al-Qushayri in his book Al-Risalah says that the companions of Rasoolullahﷺ were more concerned about their food than about the night prayer (Qiyaamul-Layl). The reason being that if they were eating food that was not good or lawful, there wouldn’t be any night prayer. In our materialistic world, culture, and way of thinking, we look for solutions to our problems in a purely materialistic way. But Allahﷻ told us:
ظَهَرَ ٱلْفَسَادُ فِى ٱلْبَرِّ وَٱلْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِى ٱلنَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ ٱلَّذِى عَمِلُوا۟ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
Rum 30: 41 Evil (trials, calamities, sins) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds), that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah and begging His Pardon).
Our actions have consequences over and beyond what is visible. Like the theory of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ (https://fs.blog/the-butterfly-effect/) our actions have more than one consequence, many of them unintended. We are a product of our thinking which is a product of our upbringing.
There is a widespread misunderstanding that we need not check whether what we are eating is Halaal or not if a Muslim gives it to us. People sometimes quote opinions of different scholars to support this. The first thing to remember is that we are personally responsible for our actions. The second thing is that an opinion doesn’t change the law. To eat what you don’t know is against the Hadith of Rasoolullahﷺ who told us:
On the authority of Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib (R), the grandson of Rasoolullahﷺ, who said: I memorized from Rasoolullahﷺ, “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt”. (Tirmidhi, Nasaa’i. Hasan Sahih)
And against the Hadith: Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “The lawful is clear and the unlawful is clear, and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which many people do not know. Thus, he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, and he who falls into doubtful matters will fall into the unlawful (Haraam) as the shepherd who pastures near a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Verily, every king has a sanctum, and the sanctum of Allah is His prohibitions. Verily, in the body is a piece of flesh which, if sound, the entire body is sound, and if corrupt, the entire body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart.” (Bukhari, Muslim. Muttafaqun Alayhi)
The basic Islamic and logical principal about what to do when in doubt is to clarify the doubt before you act. It is totally illogical to act on something about which you have a doubt. To tell someone that they must not question something about which they are doubtful but to go ahead and act on the doubtful matter without clarification is total nonsense. Only someone who is deficient in intelligence will believe that or act on it. To apply that to something like dietary laws which are part of our Aqeeda is to play with our Imaan itself. Only what has been slaughtered in the prescribed manner i.e.,
- by a Muslim,
- by cutting the carotid arteries, jugular vein, esophagus, windpipe,
- saying “Bismillahi Allahu Akbar” (or at least Bismillah) is Halaal.
It is our job before eating to ascertain that this has been done with the meat we are eating. Have no hesitation to ask ANYONE whether the meat they are offering you is Zabiha (hand slaughtered by a Muslim) or not. If you don’t want to ask, don’t eat the meat if your Imaan is dear to you. Become pescatarian or vegetarian. Eat eggs, fish, sea food, and vegetables. All that is better than red meat anyway. Brahmins (Hindus) don’t eat meat all their lives. If Muslims can’t do this for one meal, I don’t know what more to say.
Imam Ghazali says succinctly, “The real secret of the proper upbringing of children is in protecting them from bad company.” The qualities and habits of a child’s companions and friends will necessarily have an impression on their own way of thinking and behavior. Finding good friends for our children is one of the best-kept secrets to raising good kids. That is why the Maktab is such an amazing opportunity for children to make good friends in an Islamic atmosphere, learning Islam. Given what they are exposed to in their schools, both what they are taught as well as the culture that they are exposed to, having a daily detox after school is critical to survival.
The second most important thing is to teach our children good manners. Abdullah bin Mubarak (RA) said, ‘I spent 30 years studying Adab. Only then I opened the book.’ Remember that manners are taught by example.
Abu Hurairah (R) said that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “If one has good manners, one may attain the same level of merit as those who spend their nights in prayer.”
Abu Hurairah (R) said, “I heard Abu al Qasim (Rasoolullahﷺ) say, ‘The best among you in Islam are those with the best manners.
Malik (R) reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.”
Values can’t be legislated. They must be inculcated. Children listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say until they see what you do. I never fail to be astonished at how early in life children start picking up behaviors and manners and start emulating them.
We must be extremely careful with what we say or do, because a child may be watching. I recall a story a friend of mine told me. He was in Japan in a small town and his Japanese friend, and he were driving back to his hotel late at night. The road was deserted. They came to a traffic signal which turned red, and his friend stopped the car. My friend jokingly said to him, ‘Go on. There’s nobody on the road.’ His Japanese friend said, ‘You never know. Maybe a child is watching.’ I always thought that was such an amazing response. Are we so conscious?
In all my life, having lived on three continents, working with multiple races, nationalities, ages, cultures, and religions, if you ask me to name the most important element of success, I will say that it is good manners. Good manners help us to get along with people. It doesn’t matter what else you have, if you don’t have good manners, if you don’t have social skills, if you can’t get along with people, you will fail. I have seen this time and again, talented people getting frustrated because they can’t succeed in their careers, marriages, politics. The reason is always the same. They can’t get along with others. They have no manners. When I was growing up in India, people used to say that Muslim children have the best manners. Sadly, not anymore.
If you see the life of Rasoolullahﷺ and seek the secret of his success in inspiring and leading an amazing diversity of people and being able to change their beliefs and behavior, which was the result of centuries of tribalism, mutual suspicion, a culture of racism, and successfully turning them around, it was his affability, his social skills, his softness, and good manners. Allahﷻ bore witness to this.
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ ٱلْقَلْبِ لَٱنفَضُّوا۟ مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَٱعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَٱسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِى ٱلْأَمْرِ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
A’al Imraan 3: 159 And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so overlook (their faults), and ask (Allah’s) Forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affairs. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).
Allahﷻ is telling us the secret of good relations: Overlook people’s faults, catch them doing right, be soft with them, forgive them, make dua for them and consult them i.e., take them into confidence for your decisions. This doesn’t mean that you hide the truth or change it to suit people. It means that you speak the truth but in a nice way. You treat people with respect. Especially the ones you don’t need to. Rasoolullahﷺ didn’t need to seek anyone’s advice. Yet Allahﷻ is telling him to consult with his companions. This is to show his respect for them, which would bind them to him and be the cohesive force to keep the brotherhood intact. The key is to ask yourself, ‘Do I want people to consider what I tell them, or do I want to force my view on them?’ I want to end with a story which shows how small children learn when they have thoughtful adults who are willing to teach them.
Sahl ibn `Abdillah al-Tustari said: “When I was three years old, I would wake up at night and watch my maternal uncle, Muhammad ibn Siwar, praying. One day he said to me, “Do you not remember Allahﷻ who created you?” I asked, “How should I remember Him?” and he replied, “Every night when you are getting changed, say in your heart without moving your tongue, ‘Allahﷻ is with me, Allahﷻ is watching me, Allahﷻ is witnessing me’. I did this for some nights, then told my uncle. He instructed me to say it seven times each night. I started doing this, then informed him again, and he told me to increase to eleven times. I did this, and the sweetness of it impacted my heart. After a year, my uncle said to me, “Remember what I taught you, and persist in it until you enter your grave, for it will benefit you in this life and the hereafter.” I maintained this practice and I found its sweetness in my innermost soul. Then, one day my uncle said to me, “O Sahl, If Allahﷻ is with someone, watching him and witnessing him, can he disobey Him? Beware of disobedience!” Obedience is Islam.