7 Habits of Successfully Raising Muslim Children, by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips is based on research done by one of his wives who had to raise Muslim children. She met with people whom she knew had raised righteous children and therefore wanted to gather the factors, habits, and characteristics that these parents applied hence making them able to successfully raise their Muslim children, so she could as well benefit from them. She gathered the collected information on which she made a presentation amongst sisters in Qatar. This article is explained in detail based on the exact information she collected from her research. Even though there are many steps and habits to be followed by Muslim parents in raising righteous kids, the following seven habits seem more practical and very essential for every Muslim parent.
The Fundamental Goal
The goal to raise a Muslim child should be distinct and different from the goals of raising children in general. Society teaches that children should be raised for particular purposes whereas Islamic society also teaches raising children for some purposes. There may be some overlapping which is natural but the goal of the Muslim parent in raising Muslim children should be to raise righteous Muslims. That should be clear; to raise righteous Muslims. Not merely children who identify culturally with Islam because Islamic and Muslim children may be at variants. Muslim culture may include many other things which may not be part of Islamic culture. Often, the goal people have set for themselves is to raise children who conform to the culture they have inherited. The message being sent across here is raising them in accordance with true Islamic culture. And as such, they should be raised righteous Muslims. Parents should have high goals and expectations from their children. For a true Muslim, the highest goal is Paradise.
Abu Hurairah MALE Radi-Allahu-Anhu reported: 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.” 1.
This should be our goal as parents; to raise children who will grow up worshiping Allah SWT. The reality is that most people have high expectations, which are purely focused on the Dunya like pursuing medicine, law, engineering among 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 for healthy survival, especially in this time. However, they should not take precedence over the primary goal, i.e, paradise. Parents should desire paradise as the biggest goal for their children.
As Allah says in the Quran,
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَاتَّبَعَتْهُمْ ذُرِّيَّتُهُم بِإِيمَانٍ أَلْحَقْنَا بِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَمَا أَلَتْنَاهُم مِّنْ عَمَلِهِم مِّن شَيْءٍ
And those who believe and whose offspring follow them in Faith, to them shall We join their offspring, and We shall not decrease the reward of their deeds in anything. 2
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 a 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 عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ, 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.”
They used to recite the verse:
وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا صَالِحًا….
And their father was a righteous man.. 3
so that the righteousness of the parents would affect the children for their benefit. Parents should make sure that their own aqeedah is intact; they should have a close relationship with AllahSWT and put their aqeedah in practice. It is not enough to know about the academic details, but the qeedah should be lived too. For example, Muslims in knowing the fundamentals of tawheed, know that one of Allah’s name is Ar Razzaq; The Provider. Therefore, they should seek their provisions through halal sources and leave the outcome to AllahSWT. We need to have the right belief with respect to Allah’s attributes and names. Knowing them and internalizing them is to live with the fact that Allah SWTis Ar Razzaq. What does that mean? It means that people will not sacrifice their life to come for the sake of the provisions in this life.
What happens today is that people’s main focus is dunya and that is given precedence. They put all their energy into it at the expense of their children and their religion. Therefore, most Muslims today are caught in riba indirectly or directly. Some send their children to foreign countries to secure their future; examples as lawyers, doctors, engineers, basically an economic grounded future. In many cases, the priority is making money and saving it and AllahSWT is forgotten. They do nothing for the pleasure of AllahSWT. In some better cases they only pray the five (5) daily Salah and nothing else. But in order to secure your future both in dunya and aakhira, one needs to have taqwa, as Allah SWTsays,
وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِهِ ۚ
And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. 4
Parents have to live Islam, act in accordance with it, with its aqeedah, its creed.
Another factor is to practice the Sunnah, to live in accordance with the life of the Prophet Muhammed SAW and avoid innovations in Islam because the Prophet SAW said, “The worst of things are those that are newly invented; every newly-invented thing is an innovation and every innovation is going astray, and every going astray is in the Fire. 5 We should understand that bida’h in general is a satanic shortcut which sways a person to do what AllahSWT has commanded not to do. For example, “You just pray to this saint, and you have guaranteed results. If you pray to Allah, your prayer won’t be answered, but this is a shortcut.” These satanic innovations destroy a person’s religion and such a person could not possibly be given righteous children because AllahSWT gives righteous to the righteous. It is not that AllahSWT in His greatness cannot give righteous children from unrighteous parents or the opposite because we know Prophet Nuh عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ had an unrighteous son as mentioned in the Quran. However, we are talking about the norm, and not the exception. Therefore, parents should themselves keep away from sins.
The Prophet SAW gave an example of the saghaair 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 make themselves righteous.
It is the weapon for every Muslim. It is the right of the children that their parents pray for them even while they are unborn. Parents should make dua’ before and after meeting (sexual intercourse) themselves. And Allah SWTascribes to the righteous worshipers to making the dua’,
رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ
“Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes.” 6
This was the way of the prophets. We find Prophet Zakariya عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ praying;
رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِن لَّدُنكَ ذُرِّيَّةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ إِنَّكَ سَمِيعُ الدُّعَاءِ
“O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation.” 7
AllahSWT answered his prayer saying;
وَحَنَانًا مِّن لَّدُنَّا وَزَكَاةً ۖ وَكَانَ تَقِيًّا
And (made him) sympathetic to men as a mercy (or a grant) from us, and pure from sins (i.e. Yahya (John)) and he was righteous. 8
So parents should make sincere dua’ for righteous children. A dua’ which comes from the bottom of the heart, with certainty that our dua’ will be answered. Abu Huraira MALE radi-allahu-anhu reported: The Messenger of Allah SAW said, “Call upon Allah with certainty that He will answer you. Know that Allah will not answer the supplication of a heart that is heedless and careless.” 9
When making dua’ for righteous children, the dua’ should not only be about just taking it from the Quran or the Sunnah and simply repeating it ritualistically. It is about reflecting on the dua’ and saying it from within the heart to touch the soul. Furthermore, sincere dua’ will only be accepted from the righteous.
Abu Huraira reported MALE radi-allahu-anhu Allah’s Messenger SAW as saying: “0 people, Allah is good and He therefore accepts only that which is good. And Allah commanded the believers as He commanded the Messengers by saying: “O Messengers, eat of the good things, and do good deeds; verily I am aware of what you do” 10. And He said: ‘ 0 those who believe, eat of the good things that We gave you” 11. He then made a mention of a person who travels widely, his hair disheveled and covered with dust. He lifts his hand towards the sky (and thus makes the supplication):” O Lord,0 Lord,” whereas his diet is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, and his clothes are unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How then can his supplication be accepted?” 12
When talking about making sincere dua’, the necessary conditions that are needed for a dua’ to be accepted must be observed and be taken into consideration so that they can be fulfilled as much as possible. The optimum times should be chosen for making the dua’ and also the other conditions must be fulfilled as much as possible. Another aspect of dua’ is by choosing the right names for the children; by choosing the names of righteous people of the generations before us, and this becomes a particular kind of dua’ for the children. Also, if names with good meanings are chosen for the children, it signifies instilling good omen in them; omen which is permitted.
Prophets permitted this element of omen taking when he SAW forbade all others. So choose good names for your children and not traditional, tribal or national names but names of good meanings. The Prophet SAW recommended Abdullah and Abdurrahman; also children could be named after the Sahabas so that when a child asks of the meaning of his name, something good could be told to him, either in its meaning or about the Sahaba after which the child is named.
3. Being an Example:
It is the right of every Muslim child that his parents are of good examples. Religiosity and character plays a major role in the bringing up of righteous children. One cannot get away by telling children to do some things while they themselves don’t do it.
AllahSWT says in the Quran,
أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّ وَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ
Enjoin you Al-Birr (piety and righteousness and each and every act of obedience to Allah) on the people and you forget (to practise it) yourselves. 13
The saying “Do as I say and not as I do” does not apply. Yes, the children may be forced on that basis, but they will not learn and adapt to righteousness that way, instead they will turn into hypocrites; they will do it only because they have been told to do it. If the mother is modest and shy, wears hijab, is gentle, exerts herself to worship AllahSWT, then the children will be that way but if she yells, screams and hits, they will do the same and if she controls her anger, so will the children. If the parents are not affectionate and kind, especially the mother, the children will not be either. If the mother backbites or lies, so will the children. Often parents teach how to lie. For example, if someone calls the house and they don’t want to talk to the caller, they say, “Tell the person I am not here.” They have just taught their child how to lie. The mum might tell the children to hide things from their father, and that also teaches them how to lie. Parents should make themselves the best possible examples of good character because character is something which can mostly be learnt by example.
The Prophet SAW summed up Islam as being a religion of good character. Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah SAW said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” 14 He SAW therefore stressed on the importance of good character which we should be an example of. The Prophet SAW made dua’ in the Salah – “O Allah guide me to the best of manners because no one can guide me to the best except You and keep me away from the worst of manners because no one can keep it away except You.”
So dua’ is made to help us develop good manners and we have to make the effort ourselves, to be mannerly upright even if it means pretending. If one pretends to be good mannered, eventually that mannerism will be acquired. For some people, good manners like controlling one’s tempers, being patient, speaking politely comes naturally.
Prophet SAW said, “Whoever pretends to be patient (with a desire to be patient) Allah will give him patience.” 15
So character can be achieved through one’s pretense of practicing it, because one may know intellectually that his anger should be controlled, yet once in a provoking situation, he still expresses his anger in an uncontrollable way. In such situations therefore, there will be the need for him to force himself to pretend as if he is not angry, while desiring AllahSWT; that AllahSWT will help to achieve the good character of controlling hot tempers. Parents should make children know Islam, which may seem strange owing to the non-Islamic world that exists outside. Therefore, they should be the greatest influence on their children. This is one of the strongest methods the Prophet SAW used to raise the generation of the Sahabas. When he SAW arrived in Madinah, he taught them from the very beginning to acquire whatever they needed of Islam from him. He SAW was the guide.
4. Attachment Parenting:
It is the right of the children to be loved. This begins with breast feeding the child. The mother should keep the child close to her and maintain a physical contact. Allah SWTprescribes two (2) years for breastfeeding. The Western world strayed away from it but now it has returned to the same claiming the importance of breastfeeding a child. Breastfeeding provides a warm beginning for the child, which makes him be in a direct contact with the mother, important for the psychological development of the child. Scientifically, it is proven that the first five (5) years are the most crucial years in forming the future personality of the child. Most of the problems of teenagers come from the early period of childhood; therefore, children need love from the early years of their childhood to have stable lives ahead.
‘Amr ibn Shu’ayb MALE radi-allahu-anhu reported from his grandfather that the Messenger of Allah SAW said, “Anyone who does not show mercy to our children nor acknowledge the right of our old people is not one of us.” 16 This was his way. In those days some considered kissing and cuddling children as not for the men.
It was narrated that Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), said: “Some Bedouin people came to the Prophet SAW and said: ‘Do you kiss your children?’ He said: ‘Yes’. He said: ‘But we, by Allah, never kiss (our children)’. The Prophet SAW said: ‘What can I do if Allah has taken away mercy from you?’” 17
The guiding of children should be done in a loving way as possible. Quality time and personal attention should be given to them. Lines of communications should be developed with them, not just a brief passing time, but real time so as to ensure an effective and a healthy parent-child relationship. When dealing with children, one should know what to focus on and avoid being harsh. Soft and kind approaches should be adopted when dealing with the children even in situations where they fall short rather than using harsh and ugly words on them. It is important to bond with the children and to develop a strong bond with them.
It is the right of the Muslim children to be Islamically educated. Most of us agree to the fact that they must be educated, but the focus is not Islamic. We always hope seeing them acquire high degrees and becoming various professions, which all are out of Islamic Knowledge and Islam respectively. When the Prophet SAW said seeking knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim, he meant Islamic knowledge. Gaining other knowledge is beneficial; one should not see it otherwise, but Islamic knowledge is the most important, which should begin from the early stages, and should be the foundation on which the child’s life in general is built. The first word a child should learn if possible should be AllahSWT, rather than baba and mama. When the child is at the stage of recognizing, memorizing and putting words together, he should be taught ‘Allah is above’, among other short sentences concerning Allah SWTand/or Islam. Also the child should be taught that HeSWT knows and sees everyone. In general, the love and the fear of AllahSWT should be instilled in them from the very beginning. Their upbringing should revolve around the faith of ‘La ilaaha illalah’ (there is no god worthy of worship except Allah); thus making this statement part and parcel of their daily conversations.
The existence of paradise and hell should be discussed with them even in their early years in life. Also, they should be reminded more often, of the result of disobeying AllahSWT, which is being punished in the hell fire and dwelling in it forever. Western upbringing negates this particular claim in the sense that children are not supposed to be subjected to horrible and scary teachings except love, but the reality is such teachings rather draw them closer to Allah SWTthe more, which make them righteous and faithful servant as they grow up, and importantly, AllahSWT teaches about paradise and hell so the child should be aware of it. It should be fed to them in a simple manner that doing good things takes one to paradise and doing bad takes one to hell. There is no need going into the real details of paradise and hell, but simply they just should know that there is a good and a bad place and should always try to avoid the bad place, in this way, they will be doing righteous deeds all the time. They should know about the Day of Judgement, so they would know that they will be held accountable for everything they do while on earth. They should also be made known of the fact that Allah SWT sees all that they do even in secret.
Also, the love for the Prophet SAW because that is part of the Shahadah (the Islamic creed); which explains “There is no god worthy of worship except Allah and Prophet Muhammed SAW is the messenger of Allah” should be the greatest symbol of their lives, and their heroes should be the Prophet SAW and the other prophets too, not superheroes or superman. The children should be made to know about the Prophet SAW in a way of telling them stories (as children naturally love stories) about his lifetime on earth, his way of life, how he ruled, how Islam was sent through him, how he led people to righteousness, etc., and even stories of the Sahabas. This would only be possible if parents go about in an interesting way like using the stories of the Prophet SAW and the Sahabas as bed time stories, weekends storytelling topics, etc. On the other hand, the children should be enlightened on formal education for aqeedah and akhlaaq.
They should start observing the obligatory Salah even if they are young because the Prophet SAW said that children should learn how to perform Salah at the age of seven (7). Knowing Salah does not necessarily mean knowing the actions of it. You, as parents, get the reward when your children pray, fast, and make the hajj, the same way you get the punishment when they don’t, therefore, parents need to teach their children from the very basics of salat, that is; teaching them the names of the various obligatory salat, how to perform wudhu (ablution), what comes next after ablution, what to be said before, in-between and after the salat, teach them of their awrah, etc.
We should take advantage of their retentive memories in their early years and involve them in memorizing the Quran if possible. What greater favor can parents do for their children than impacting knowledge of the Quran in them! This should be done in an affectionate way by not teaching them the Quran with force and a stick over their head. Unfortunately, this is the method employed in many Quran teaching schools, and it destroys how passionate they are about learning the Quran because that zeal gets cooled off once they are being maltreated. Even though they do need some pressure to boost them up, but not to the extent as being seen around the Muslim world. Most of the children leave the madrasahs teaching them the Quran scared due to the way they are being beaten to memorize the Quran. Parents should also make ruqya on their children before they go to bed and they should also learn the Muwadhatayn and do it for themselves.
Their daily experiences should be used to teach them about Islam in the sense of teaching the girls about modesty, hijab, chastity, the roles of women in Islam, etc., and teaching the boys about responsibility, the roles of fathers and husbands in Islam among others. Parents should always try as much as possible to manage ideal Islamic homes where the children will get easy access to Islamic libraries, books, tapes, CD’s, etc. Children are attracted to visuals, thus having these sufficient ranges of Islamic media will always make learning about Islam interesting and fun for them, and gradually their interest in visuals other than Islamic ones will die off and will have no interest in any destructive scenes from the western media.
6. Providing a Positive Environment:
It is the right of the Muslim child to be provided with a suitable environment and an Islamic household. Having an Islamic household does not mean having Ayatul Kursi or inscriptions of the Quranic verses on your walls; this does not constitute an ideal Islamic households, but the activities and allocation of schedules in homes make households Islamic. All the necessary Islamic materials and elements should be made available in every Muslim household for the children to remain in an Islamic- friendly environment. Parents should maintain a peaceful environment at home; the household should be free of conflict. Even though conflict between a husband and a wife is inevitable, but when those moments strike, parent should handle it in such a way that their children will have no knowledge of it. Children should not see their mother acting disobediently to their father, the same way they should not see their father abusing their mother; this kind of attitude from parents only sends negative vibes to the children and that affects their upbringing and personalities.
Parents should always come to an agreement and be consistent in dealing with children. There should not be cases where the mother says a different thing from what the father says; that will gradually develop some form of enmity and favoritism in the family. As parents, when dealing with your children, you must always have a unified approach. The recitation of the Quran should be heard more often in the home. Prophet saw said that only the righteous should eat your food. They should be a part of your home. Non Islamic magazines or books should not be present in the Islamic households.
Providing suitable environment for children involves the outside homes too, thus parents should be selective in choosing schools for their children; parents should make it a must to enroll them in Islamic schools, even if it has a lower academic standard than the regular western schools. The Islamic knowledge for their upbringing is more important than any other knowledge; therefore it is worth enrolling them in Islamic schools of low academic standard and recognition than enrolling them in non-Islamic schools of high academic standards where at the end, they will be utterly devoid of Islamic knowledge. Most Muslim parents think they do their children great favors for enrolling them fully in western schools, reason being so the children could compete for higher positions when they grow up but in the same regard. If Muslim parents so want their children to acquire some western knowledge, they can appeal that ideology with Islamic institution authorities for a bit of western education curriculum to be included to the school (the Islamic schools) syllabus so that the children will come out gaining both Islamic knowledge and western education knowledge.
7. Systematic Discipline Method
Parents need to device a systematic way of disciplining their children. Some Scholars say that children should not be hit till they reach the age of 10. Because the Prophet SAW said a child should offer Salah at 7, and if he does not spank him at ten (10). If children are not to be spanked for Salah, being the most important thing, until ten (10), then surely for the lesser important things, they should not be spanked either. This is the reasoning behind the views of the Scholars. But practically raising kids, even those who raise righteous kids, may have to hit the children even before they are at age ten (10). But the point is it should be done as the last resort, not when you are angry. The child should not learn to avoid Mum and Dad when they are angry but to avoid the deed they got spanked for. Parents should be consistent on how they deal with them. In this environment where children can be taken away from their parents, parents have to be very prudent when disciplining children, on the other hand parents have to use as much positive enforcement as possible, that is, reward them for good, and make them feel that there is good in being good. A part from being able to discipline children systematically, parents should be able to know the character of their children in their early ages.
People have researched on this. Children at age two (2) become rebellious, at age three (3) they love to play, at age four (4) they ask many questions and want answers, at age five (5) they love to imitate and copy, at age six (6) they like to stand out and be noticed, and so on and so forth. Different ages see the growth of different characters. So if parents become aware of these changes, they can deal with it in the appropriate manner. It is natural for children to develop these characters at these times, so parents should always be prepared on working on them. These are natural developments that come along with the growing process of every child thus, parents should be aware of it before starting with the parenting journey, for no parent can best raise their kids when they have no idea of these natural development.
These are the seven (7) primary habits of those who have successfully raised righteous children. It is very important for parents to visualize in their mind’s eye how they fit in this scale, and emulate these examples. Before taking into practice these habits, parents should first work on themselves and take into consideration the following; are we pious parents? Does our way of life attract righteous children? If parents are of positive behaviors and are worth raising righteous children, then the seven habits above should be practice while asking AllahSWT for patience in executing these habits.
Did we make dua’ for our children? Did we trust AllahSWT? Were we good examples ourselves? Were we compassionate and attached to them, so that they could be open to us with their problem? Did we give them what they need to understand Islam and practice it? Did we educate them Islamically? Did we create for them a positive environment in which a righteous child could be raised? If all these questions still surface after applying these habits and the answer to them is yes, and you still have unrighteous children at hand, then it should be seen an exceptional situation; probably a test from AllahSWT.
But all the same, parents should ask themselves the following questions; did we indeed follow these habits the best way? Were we consistent in following the rules and regulations set for our children? Did we violate any of these set rules? Did we employ the right mechanism for disciplining our children? Did we abuse them? Did they grow up to hate us? Did we scar their minds? What kind of parents were we? Be your own judge and judge sincerely!!!.
May Allah Allah Subhanahu-wa-Taala grant all parents and yet-to-be parents patience and strength to raise righteous children, and grant His Ummah the ability to manage good Islamic homes, and make our homes ideal Islamic households suitable for all Muslim children. Aameen!!!