Imam Ghazali warns against criticizing too frequently, and says that in doing so the value of admonition diminishes from the heart of the child. Instead, we should pick our battles and prioritize what is most important to be addressed, and make those times when we speak strongly about something less frequent but more impactful.
Give to them equally:
In his book on raising children, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya emphasizes that equal treatment between one’s children is a direct prophetic command, and that favoring one child over another is a type of injustice. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Fear Allah and be just between your children.” Ibn al-Qayyim mentions an incident in which a man was sitting with the Prophet ﷺ when the man’s children approached him. When his son came to him, the man kissed him and placed him on his lap, while when his daughter came to him, he had her sit beside him instead. In seeing this, the Prophet ﷺ said, “Why can’t you be just between them?”`
Protect their modesty:
Imam Ghazali teaches that the initial signs of a child’s haya’ (sense of modesty or shyness) — such as starting to feel shame at wrong-doing, feeling shy to follow through with a bad deed out of a sense of self-respect, and starting to discern right from wrong — are signs of a child’s blossoming intelligence. They should be recognized as evidence of the purity of the child’s heart, and as an indication that they are now ready to grow and develop through moral and spiritual guidance which parents should actively begin. Instead of teasing or humiliating a child for showing shyness, we should nurture these natural instincts such that they become beautiful parts of the child’s character.
In maintaining a spiritually healthy upbringing for our children, we are obliged to protect them from exposure to things that would damage their haya’. As they begin to understand and absorb more from conversation, they should not sit in the company of older people whose banter may delve into the explicit or inappropriate. Children should be taught to always knock and seek permission before entering upon anyone, in order to shield them from any indecency. They should also be taught not to unclothe in front of anyone, and only in privacy as needed. We too as parents should be conscious of protecting their privacy and emerging sense of modesty and dignity, instead of thinking, ‘he/she is still just a child.’
Imam Ghazali teaches that children should be brought up with a deliberate de-emphasis on luxury, such as fancy clothing, lavish food, or sumptuous sleeping arrangements, and instead become accustomed to a more ascetic every day life. While we should not go to extremes, teaching our children to do ‘without’ at times — to have less, and to live a simpler lifestyle — helps cultivate the qualities of patience, fortitude, and gratitude.
Protect them from poetry:
Imam Ghazali warns against exposing children to romantic poetry at a young age, and the company of people who claim that such poetry “is an indication of the life of the heart and a subtlety of perception.” This is a particularly interesting comment in light of mainstream entertainment in our times. More often than not, such entertainment contains strong sexual and romantic elements in their storyline or lyrics, and promotes itself as a sophisticated form of artistic expression. Imam Ghazali posits that exposure to these types of things will lead to a corruption of a child’s heart, which should be nourished instead with positive teachings related to God’s remembrance.
Teach, teach, and teach:
A prophetic teaching states that we are all shepherds over our respective flock, and one of the most critical responsibilities we have towards the children under our care is to teach them about Islam. Our children must be taught about God, how to know Him, love Him and worship Him, about essential beliefs and the specifics of religious practice. The popular Arabic expression says, “Knowledge in childhood is like engraving on to stone” and if we want our children to remain strong and steadfast in faith amidst the currents and tides of life, we must engrave the best of teachings on their hearts. We are incredibly blessed with access to so many resources in our times; we must seek out the best of them for our children and help them to feel joy in faith, and confidence in practice. Maktab ( after school madrasah islamic education ) is absolutely vital and essential from pre school until college years.
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.
Pray, pray, and pray for them some more:
One of the most beautiful and impactful things we can do for our children is to continuously pray for their spiritual well being, and happiness in this life and the hereafter. As we strive through physical means to give them the best upbringing, we must also turn to Allah the Most High and seek His constant protection over them, and His help, guidance and mercy on this journey.
May Allah help us to do right by our children, bless our families, and keep us steady and constant on the Straight Path to Him, Ameen!
by Shazia Ahmed