How to raise children into responsible Muslim adults?
Parents hold enormous leverage in terms of what they teach their children and accordingly how their children grow up as adults. Islam, therefore, hold parents responsible for steering their children’s upbringing according to the guidelines of the Quran and the Prophet’s (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) traditions. The Prophet (s) said: “Allah (SWT) will ask every caretaker about the people under his care, and the man will be asked about the people of his household” (Nasa’i, Abu Da’ud).
Allah (SWT) states in the Quran about the need to raise families in the light of their end destination, which may be translated in the following words:
“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) 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” (Tahrim 66:6).
Children have the right, therefore, to be raised as responsible Muslim adults and parents must ensure that right appropriately. Parents must be conscious and take an active role in guiding their children and families on the path of truth. The Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “Every one of your (people) is responsible, and everyone is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them” (Bukhari and Muslim).
The following are some of the critical areas related to raising children into responsible Muslim adults:
Give the child a good name
Parents have the responsibility to provide the child with a good name which is in accordance with Islamic traditions. One of the hadith in this context is the one narrated by Naafi’ that Ibn ‘Umar said: The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The most beloved of your names to Allah are ‘Abd-Allah and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan” (Narrated by Muslim, 2132).
Spend appropriately on your children
Parents, and especially fathers, have the responsibility to spend on their children in ways that can help their proper upbringing. It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr said: The Messenger of Allah (s) said: “It is sufficient sin for a man if he neglects those on whom he is obliged to spend” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1692. Another hadith in this context states that ‘Aa’ishah, the wife of the Prophet (s), said: A woman came to me with two daughters and asked me for food, and I could not find anything except one date which I gave to her. She shared it between her two daughters, then she got up and went out. The Prophet (s) came in and I told him what had happened. He said: “Whoever is in charge of any of these girls and treats them well, they will be a shield for him against the Fire” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5649; Muslim, 2629).
Treat your children fairly
All children within a family have their own rights to be treated fairly. This right was referred to by the Prophet (s) in the saheeh hadeeth: “Fear Allah and treat your children fairly” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2447; Muslim, 1623).
Parents should not show undue preference to their children based on their gender or other criteria. Unfair treatment can arouse a feeling of jealousy and hatred in children that can continue for life and can also lead to bitterness in the child’s heart toward the parents as well. The Prophet (s) referred to this in the hadeeth narrated by Muslim (1623) when he said to the father of al-Nu’maan, “Would you like them to honor you equally?” He said, “Yes.” In other words, if you want them all to honor you equally, then be equally fair to all of them.
Even about the inheritance that children are bound to receive from parents, Allah (SWT) has made it clear that it does not depend on the parents’ wishes but has to be given according to the laws laid down in the Quran:
“Allah commands you as regards your children’s (inheritance)…” (An-Nisa 4:11).
Treat your children with love and mercy
Parents have the obligation to show love and mercy to their children. This will help children to develop normal and stable personalities and will also make it easier for children to love and respect their parents and elders when they grow up. Seeing the Prophet kissing his grandson, a person named Alaqr’a Ibn Habis found this behavior strange and said, “I have ten children, but I have never kissed any of them.” The Prophet (s) replied, “The one who has no compassion will not be treated mercifully” (Bukhari and At-Tirmidhi).
Your children deserve the right to proper education and upbringing
One of the most important facets of raising children is for the parents to provide them with the right training. According to Islamic traditions, the best gift that parents can provide to their children is training that can help them live as responsible Muslim adults fulfilling the rights of Allah and others. This, then, can lead them to succeed in the hereafter as well. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi va sallam) said, “The best gift to children from parents is their correct training” (Tirmizi).
Educating children in such a way that they can be successful both in this life and the hereafter should be the supreme responsibility of parents. In today’s world, while it is common to see parents focus on the kind of education that can help them toward building the right careers and in making a living, the focus on Islamic education rarely gets its due focus. Depriving children of proper Islamic teachings can prevent children from building a close relationship with their creator Allah, which is the cornerstone of all success in this life and the hereafter. A good religious education grounded in love of their Lord, on the contrary, can help them live a more peaceful life, deal with life’s challenges easily and maturely, and fulfill the rights and obligations of all around them (including the parents themselves), leading the children to grow up as better citizens of their communities and making them an integral part of the overall Muslim Ummah.