Are You Raising A Muslim Child?
Raising a Muslim child is a great responsibility that requires a lot of time, effort, and du'aa. It also requires us to understand the vast differences between raising a good child and raising a good Muslim child who understands and practices Islam.
It is very important to note this difference from the first moment of our child's life, or even before his birth. This knowledge will help us obtain a clear vision about our goals and, subsequently, about the best ways to achieve them.
Some parents raise their children to be polite and respectful, without really connecting these virtues to the teachings of Islam. They teach their children how to respect grown-ups, because "it is the polite thing to do"; to be kind to younger children because "polite kids are not to be mean to little children"; and not to lie because it is "not good to lie"; and so on…
Though there is no doubt that it is virtuous to raise a polite child, is that all that we want? Is that our only goal?
By comparing one family who chooses to raise a good child to another family whose goal is to raise a good Muslim child, we will notice vast differences between the two.
If a parent's goal is to raise a Muslim child, he/she should start thinking about this child even before its birth by choosing a Muslim partner who practices the religion and who knows how to encourage children to be good Muslims.
In this case, the father and the mother should work together, from the very beginning, to achieve their goal. They will then be able to expose their child to its religion by following the Sunnah and the advice of the Prophet (SAW).
They will also connect good manners to Islamic teachings in a simple that implants the love and the fear of Allah into the child's heart. They will tell Islamic stories that help teach the child how to choose his/her examples and models. They will also be aware of setting good examples so that their child can have honorable role models.
Simultaneously, they will teach their children about "halal" and "haram" (permissible and forbidden) and "Janah" and "Nar" (Paradise and Hell). By that time, the child will grow up as a good Muslim who understands his/her religion. He will be ready to pray because he has seen his family praying and may have even stood with them in prayers at an early stage. They will not need to exert much effort in encouraging him to fast because they would have exposed him to fasting and Ramadan at a young age.
When this child grows up, it will be clear to him that Allah (SWT) has created us to worship Him and that this life is not an eternal home, but a place where we spend a period of time and are tested by Allah (SWT). Therefore, the child might be more prepared to be patient during painful moments and be more thankful in moments of happiness because his parents taught him that "iman" (faith) is divided between patience and gratitude and that life itself is divided between grants and tests.
But, does that mean that the Muslim family who practices Islam does not require a lot of time and effort when trying to raise a good Muslim child? Of course not.
Although it would be much easier for a family its members practice Islam and present good examples for the child, the family still needs to spend a lot of time and effort in order to achieve these goals.
Unfortunately, children cannot simply drink a cup of some miracle tonic and become good Muslims or learn about Islam. They need someone to teach them, talk with them, punish them, and reward them.
Therefore, it is our role, as parents, to connect our children to Islam from their early years of life. We cannot afford to wait until our children grow up to teach them how to love or fear Allah. We cannot wait and ask the imam in the masjid (mosque) or the teacher in the Islamic school to help our teenage son or daughter learn how to pray, or how to fast.
I remember seeing a father bringing his 15-year-old son to the Islamic school so that the teacher there could teach him about his religion. When asked whether he taught the son about Islam before, the father replied, "Never, but I think it is time for him now to start learning!"
He never taught him how to pray, how to fast, or how to read Qur'an. In fact, he had never taught him anything about Islam. He never took him to the masjid because he himself never went to there. And now he wanted the teacher to teach his son about his religion? Isn't it too late to start teaching Islam at such a mature age? How can that teacher show this teenager all that he has missed during the last fifteen years of his life?
The problem is that this is not an isolated case. Many schools and masjid complain about this problem. How can a teacher who spends about two hours a week with a child teach him how to be a proper Muslim? Where were the parents earlier?
Allah (SWT) has created human beings and blessed them with the longest childhood among His creations. We have a lot to learn about life, creation, and our Creator and what we learn requires a lot of time to learn, understand, and implement. Teaching and conditioning from childhood is our best bet at retaining all of the vital information provided to us by Allah. So, childhood remains the most critical time by which to set up an Islamic foundation.
However, Allah (SWT) also gave us the potential to change ourselves. He has granted opportunities and second chances to those whose parents did not raise them to be good Muslims; through His mercy and forgiveness, He has given us all the chance to start again. Though it is not easy to accomplish, with sincerity, azeema (back bone), and mothabarah (persistence), all children can become good Muslims.