There was once a woman who came to Sayyidina Umar r.a. and she was 9 months pregnant. She said to him, "O leader of the believers! Advise me on how do I bring up my child!"
He said, "You have come with your question 9 months too late!"
It is related that on the Day of Judgement, the ones who will cling on to a person the most will be his family and children. And they will bring him before Allah s.w.t and say, in complaint, "Our Lord! Take for us our rights from this oppressor!" and they will be pointing to their own parents, who have neglected teaching their children about the reality of the hereafter and about the matters of the religion in praying and fasting and charity.
The truth of nurturing children is that it is a really heavy responsibility. In traditional Islamic societies, since the time of Rasulullah s.a.w, Muslims would begin preparing themselves to raise the next generation from way before marriage. In fact choosing a God-conscious spouse focused on the hereafter is part of bringing up righteous good children. And in fact, it is the RIGHT of the child that we choose for them good parents who are able to teach them. The people of the past would make it a habit to recite doas for good pious spouses and children from the time THEY have reached puberty!
SubhanaAllah, how far are we from these people? Is it any surprise to us, that in our focus on this dunia and neglect of the akhirah, that our children have become distant from Allah, and from us, disobedient to Allah, and to us. May Allah wake us up.
The first sunnah in bringing up children as mentioned by Habib Thohir is constant interaction in the form of play and conversation since they are little.
Rasulullah ﷺ always made it a point to play with his grandsons sayyidina Hasan and sayyidina Hussein, as well as his granddaughters like sayyidatina Umamah, as well as the children of the community.
Habib Thohir emphasizes that PLANNED family time (at least 2 hours within the whole week) with all the children and both mother AND father is essential in the healthy upbringing of our children. Through doing this consistently, the following are achieved inshaAllah:
- instilling good manners and behaviour and making them naturally averse to rudeness and bad behaviour
- active listening and getting to know your children's personalities well. This builds trust and comfort between parent and child
- building confidence in children so that they will be firm in their religion, in their beliefs and have a healthy self-esteem
- it makes disciplining them much easier especially as they grow older
This family time has to be part of the routine of the family from the beginning. In this time, no gadgets should be used (ie, phones) and if possible, not to use any form of technology. (ie, watching a movie together is not family time. It is basically the family sitting in the same room with a TV and not interacting with each other. Eating together is not counted either because you should be always eating together anyway, this is a given in traditional societies like tarim)
Examples of what you could do during family time:
- Learn something together, be it a skill or something religious in nature. Keep it fun and light hearted. Story telling is always fun.
- Just go out and have fun playing a game or sport, or go exploring together
- A home activity like playing pretend or acting
- Conversation and discussion about anything
The list goes on. It could be anything, but please plan it and be present when you have it.
The whole point is to instill in your children from the very beginning a comfort level with their parents and a strong bond of love and respect so that when it comes to guiding them in life, they are more receptive to the advice from their parents and they see their parents with the eye of respect and awe.
This is an essential basis from which good upbringing can be built on.
Attached image: Making paper boats with my 4-year-old nephew and using the flooring as paths the boats can take, and then parking them nicely, mimicking how the cars are always parked nicely in Singapore, "otherwise the police will saman you", (my nephew informed me). He thinks I'm from Tarim and I don't know how Singapore is like
At first we arranged the bears according to colour. Then we decided they shouldn't do that because all the bears are the same so we mixed them up eventually. "The yellow bears are not better than the blue bears just because they are yellow"
Notes by Farhana Munshi on a course on Raising Children entitled: 'The Family: Where to?', taught by Habib Tahir al-Attas. Hb Tahir is a graduate of Dar al-Mustafa and is currently working on his PhD on Family Affairs and has extensive experience in this field. He is also the founder and Principal of the Qur'an School, Dar al-Tanzil.