Of the many amazing things I found in Tarim, is how serious the religious leaders ("habaaib" and "hababahs" as they are lovingly addressed by) here are about the correct upbringing of children, and in following closely the teachings of our Prophet ﷺ.
Almost every other week, the Friday sermon will be about the family unit, emphasising to the society that nothing is more precious and no one is more deserving of your time and effort than your own family. Your family has rights over you, your children have rights over you. Rights with regards to their physical needs in this world, and even greater and more serious rights regarding their spiritual needs to be successful in the hereafter. May Allah keep us and our children on the right path to Him.
Today we had the golden opportunity to visit the wives of a very beloved habib worldwide, Habib Umar. As we sat with them, and enjoyed their company, we took the chance to ask them questions about bringing up children and the problems that we face especially in the modern day. InshaAllah what follows is a section from our short "interview".
Q: Tell us some things that Habib has emphasized on in the upbringing of your children.
A: One thing that Habib has done is that, as you can see, he has built this house with a big outdoor area for the children to play with. He has made it so big that they have no need to play elsewhere. He also ensures that the ground of the courtyard is sand and not cement or stone because there's a spiritual secret in sand and children grow up well in sand (it is related that sand is the growing place of children). They need sand to grow up healthy physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
This compound that habib has built protects his children from bad influences found outside and keeps them pure. Habib himself raises his children. He is never too busy for them!
Q: Ustazah, in the west, this is hard for us to do. We can't keep our children confined. Our children will no doubt be exposed to very bad influence and foulness that is everywhere in the west. Even within our families, we have family members that do not practice the religion and we are afraid that our children pick up their bad language and behavior and disobedience to Allah. What do you advise us to do?
A: I actually understand your concerns and the difficulty you face in protecting your children from bad influence. I myself, even though we live in a protected sanctuary that habib built for us, every time I bring my kids to visit MY family, I fear the influence that they have over my children especially with the TV in their homes.
I advice you to hold tightly onto two things, never underestimate them.
First, embed in them all good and pure qualities from when they are little. Try your best to create a home environment filled with acts of obedience to Allah so that all they are exposed to most of the time at home are acts of obedience. And pay attention to what they pick up. The moment you find them saying or doing anything undesirable, address it immediately and gently make it very clear that this behaviour is not acceptable.
This is essential because this will become their natural inclination. When all they have ever heard are good and pure words, and all they ever see is prayer in congregation and love and harmony, so when they do go out to their cousin's houses and see bad things on TV, or hear name calling or disobedience to Allah, their internal state immediately rejects it and is repulsed by it. I can't emphasise how important it is to instil in them a love for all things Allah loves. This is what will protect them from evil throughout their lives.
The 2nd thing is of course, doa. Never ever neglect praying for your children. There are many doas for righteous children in the Qur'an. In your sujud, say the doa of nabi Ibrahim : "Rabbij-alni muqeemas solaah wa min dzuriyyati..." in abundance and your children will protected. Hold on to doa for through out your lives and Allah will keep you and your children in His protection.
May Allah help us in bringing ourselves and our families close to Him and His Prophet ﷺ.
(this rainbow greeted us on our way back from our visit. It rain is infrequent in Tarim, and so rainbows are very rare. Such a beautiful sight to end a beautiful ziyarah)
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.