Parenting can be a very daunting task. The interesting part is kids don’t come with a life manual. So this is why parenting can be challenging if you don’t have the right support. As Muslims, it’s important to mention that every life challenge we’re facing in today’s world can be surmounted by returning to the basis. This is practically following the sunnah of the messenger of Allah. Allah blessed us with a Messenger whose life is all encompassing and exemplary for us to follow in order to attain happiness in this life and the next, bi idnilLaAh.
The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was not only a father but a grand-father as well. His lifestyle is so well documented thereby giving us an opportunity to learn from the best methodology. This piece focuses on PARENTING PROPHETICALLY IN TODAY’s WORLD. We want to examine how the prophet raised a young generation of Muslims who turned out to be the best people time has ever known.
It’s quite unfortunate today that we limit the knowledge of our kids to the weekend madaaris – Sunday Schools. We expect the educators to teach them everything from aqeedah, Ibadah to aqlaq. Even in few instances when we don’t, our approach as parents is often more of a theoretical islam. We Say: do this, don’t do that, thereby making Islam less engaging and tough for the children while growing up. However, Islam is simple, beautiful and enjoyable.
Let’s examine three successful strategies which the Messenger peace be upon him used in raising young companions who are the pioneers of our ummah in possessing influential personalities . The likes of Anas ibn Malik, Muadh ibn Jabal and the Abaadillah – Ibn Mas’ud, Ibn Abass and Ibn Umar all went through this blessed tutelage of the Prophet.
The first strategy is:
- Developing positive emotions
Developing positive emotions starts with you as a parent or guardian. You’re the first role model your child looks up to. The way you comfort yourself, the words you say and the things you do shall be replicated by your kids. You have to build a bond of love and trust with a child, for them to believe you and follow your instructions. This was why the prophet peace be upon him told Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) in that famous hadith:
Mu’adh ibn Jabal reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, took me by the hand and he said,
“O Mu’adh, I swear by Allah that I love you. I swear by Allah that I love you. O Mu’adh, I advise you not to forget supplicating at the end of every prayer, saying: O Allah, help me to remember You, to give thanks to You, and to worship You in the best manner.” –Abu Dawud
Imagine how Allah’s Apostle beautifully caught the attention of Muadh. He first did this by expressing the love he has for him. Then, he provided the necessary instructions. As parents, we need to emulate similar approach.
Let your kids know you love them and what you’re guiding them to do is in their best interest. This will help to build a relationship of trust thereby easing the other aspects of action.
So, the big question now is: how do we build positive emotions in children? It is by guiding them to loving the prophet peace be upon him which in turn will lead them to loving Allah.
Allah told us in the Qur’an: Say [O Muḥammad], “If you indeed love Allāh, then follow me, [so] Allāh will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allāh is Forgiving and Merciful.”Qur’an 3[Al-Imran]:31
There are a lot of positive emotions for children to learn from the Messenger of Allah: his smile, good appearance, bravery, respect, selflessness, leadership, empathy and much more. Therefore, we will be parenting prophetically by making kids love the sunnah of the messenger of Allah. This in turn will ultimately lead them to loving Allah in the long run.
The second strategy is:
2. Building the bricks of eeman (faith):
It might surprise you that we had to build a positive bond even before eeman, right? This time, a young man Anas ibn Malik who served the Prophet narrated in the book of Imam Bukhari. Allah’s Apostle peace be upon him said:
“none of you will have faith until he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind”.
This shows how important it is for children to love the Prophet first because eeman will not enter their hearts until they love him. So after establishing an emotional connection between the child and the messenger of Allah, now they can listen and obey what the prophet peace be upon him tells them to do. It helps them to have a background of who he was and further strengthen a relationship of love and trust.
Remember, kids at a young age cannot conceptualise who Allah is. Even some adults struggle with this, especially when the foundation is not solid enough. So, the next question now is: how did the Messenger of Allah SAW practically build the brick of eeman in the heart of these youngster companions? We’d learn that from this beautiful Hadith of Abdullah bin Abbas as narrated below:
One day I was behind the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) riding on the same mount and he said: “O young man! I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”Tirmidhi
From this admonition alone, Allah’s Apostle taught him tauhid, aqeedah, fiqh, aqlaq, dua, tawaqul, qadar and many more beautiful things. Abdullah was the cousin of the Messenger of Allah, it was easier to tell him, if you need anything come to me and I’d make dua for you before Allah. He didn’t give him the fish, but rather he taught him how to fish. The prophet connected the young man to Allah Alone — the One Who is Able to fulfil all needs. This was how he built the bedrock of eeman in their hearts.
The third strategy is:
3. Indulging in acts of worship together with kids
Worship is an act of obedience and devotion to Allah alone. Remember, the basic purpose of our creation is to worship Allah. So a stronger belief leads to more worship and regular worship strengthens belief. This methodology is very effective if applied with sincerity and personal indulgence. Let’s take an example of Solat as an act of worship. Why did the prophet say:
“Verily, between a man and idolatry and unbelief is abandoning the prayer.”
It’s because the more you observe solat appropriately, the more you increase in eeman and the better you become as a believer. Abandoning solat on the other hand weakens your belief and gradually pushes you out of faith
For the prophet to build the love of worship in the heart of children, he applied these strategies:
- He trained them gradually
- He created positive associations with acts of worship
- He rewarded the kids when they worshipped
This is why it can’t be over emphasised that you have to indulge in these acts of worship with the children in order for the parenting strategies to be effective. You don’t just tell your kids to go and pray while you chill. Similarly, you don’t go to the masjid and leave them at home watching TV shows. That being said, let’s see how the prophet applied the above methodology to enhance kids’ worship.
On training, Allah’s apostle said: teach your child to pray at age seven and punish them when they fail to do so at ten. This means they have three years between ages seven to ten in order to build the habit of worship. The companions used to encourage their kids to fast and when they whined, they gave them dolls to play with .
Jabir bin Samurah said one time he prayed with the Rasul peace be upon him and followed him home. On his way, he saw the prophet pat the kids on their cheeks and while he was patted he felt the coolness of Rasul’s palm and fragrance. That’s a positive association! He said ever since then, he always longed to go back and pray with the messenger of Allah.
The Rasul used to give dates to children when they came to the masjid as well. This is a form of reward. He also made a young boy to lead his people in solat based upon the fact that he had memorised some part of the Quran. What’s more rewarding than being a leader of your people at a very young age?
In sum, let’s not forget to crown these efforts with dua’. The messenger of Allah prayed for Abdullah bin Abbas saying: Oh Allah, make him a faqih (a learned scholar), and he turned out to be one of the most knowledgeable companions when it comes to matters of jurisprudence. Also, Prophet Ibrahim made dua for his progeny and that dua’ was accepted as we’re living beneficiaries of his supplication today. In addition, the examples will be incomplete without mentioning how Imam Bukhari’s mother prayed to Allah for restoration of his eyesight. The Imam was blind as a child, and Allah accepted the dua of his mother. Now imagine the numerous benefits we’ve all derived from the works of Imam Bukhari. He was a product of prophetic parenting like the examples we sighted from the lives of the companions of the prophet. If we try out these strategies intentionally, in sha Allah we will end up raising kids who will be unapologetically Muslims and the prophet will be proud of them on the day of accountability.