Islam Today

Becoming a parent is one of the most beautiful experiences in life. Children bring with them a new range of emotions and feelings, but also a sense of responsibility like never before. Most Muslim parents worry about passing on the right values and principles to their offspring. They want their children to be well grounded in their faith and to explore Islam even more deeply than they themselves have managed to. The challenge however starts with the actual arrival of the new member of the family. When we enter into a marriage with another person, it is an agreement between two consenting adults. In this situation, striving towards a better and pious life becomes a common goal and one that both parties contribute to. With a child on the other hand, the sides are unevenly balanced. A baby is a clean slate, coming into this world to be nurtured – physically, emotionally and spiritually – by his or her parents. Often, in their eagerness to impart spiritual values to a child, new parents forget the tremendous amount of physical and mental energy they will need to look after a baby in the early years. And with subsequent children, they may fall into a routine and find themselves wondering how to handle the religious upbringing of their children in a more focused manner. A common complaint, especially from new mothers, tends to be that after their children are born, they become slack in their acts of worship. Where they once spent time on having private communion with God, they now find they can barely manage to finish praying before their child is calling for them. The recommended rituals for blessed nights like Layaalul Qadr (Nights of Decree) in Ramadhan become a Mission Almost Impossible, because there is no option of sleeping the next morning (or any morning really.) A feeling of settling into a routine of chores and baby-led demands sets in and parents often feel that they no longer live their own lives, so to speak. Their entire schedule revolves around what their child wants or needs. Inevitably, this leads to a sense of inadequacy in many areas, including that of personal growth. The conflict is raised when we consider that parenthood in Islam – motherhood in particular – elevates the status of a human being. Surely, if a person is raised to a higher level according to God, there should be some progress in terms of enlightenment. So how does one deal with the sense of regression instead? The answer may lie in a simple shift of perspectives. Piety in Pleasure Many of us have been trained to think that piety involves sacrifice, sorrow, patience and a lot of struggle. We don’t easily or consciously associate pleasurable things with God, and yet He is to be found everywhere and in everything. The promise of the Almighty is that when we remember Him in times of ease, He will remember us in times of trial. As parents, one of the best ways to connect with God is to see and seek Him through our children. In every new accomplishment they manage – whether it is a first smile, a first tooth or the process of learning how to eat or walk – there is a reminder of the beautiful design of the Divine. Children are a constant reminder that we were once that young and helpless and have only achieved the blessing of adulthood through the mercy and support of God. The fact that we now have the chance to help another human being on the same journey is an opportunity to appreciate our parents. Understanding this brings about humility and gratefulness – qualities closely associated with piety. Practising before Preaching We are told time and again that children follow what we do more than what we say, but we don’t always realise to what extent this may be true. Inculcating good habits and values into children can be as simple as practising them ourselves. Children learn from our silences as well as our speeches. Often, we think that the more subtle acts are lost on them because they are performed internally, for example, being patient in stressful situations or reacting with calmness instead of anger. However, if a child repeatedly sees parents practising patience and choosing to keep silent when they could respond with bitter words, that child will unconsciously copy the same pattern. If we show an enthusiasm for prayer and stop what we are doing to make time for it, a child will learn to associate a positive energy with the times of prayer instead of looking upon them as a chore. And while this may seem more practical at a later age, if a baby is demanding to be fed or changed at the time of prayer, a small addition of reciting adhan (call to prayer) aloud to the process might be all that is needed to create a sense of awareness both in parent and child. Learning from (and with) Children Piety is defined in the English language as ‘the quality of being religious’ and thus, we often think that in order to be pious, we must perform a greater number of religious acts. In Islam though, we are encouraged to gain taqwa which only loosely translates into piety. A better definition for this state is to be ‘God-Conscious’ or aware of God at all times. We can incorporate a religious spirit into anything we do and when it comes to raising children, all this requires is adding the sense of awareness into everything we do with them. We could recite short chapters from the Qur’an instead of singing them lullabies, or use Islamic phrases while speaking to them instead of resorting to only baby-language. Reciting Dhikr (remembrance) to calm a colicky baby instead of humming could serve not just to calm the child, but also ease our own restlessness. As our children grow older and we teach them the tenets and practices of faith, we can re-learn these basics ourselves; we commonly remind children to recite ‘Bismillah’ before starting something, but forget to do it ourselves! Seeking God in small places Islam is a way of life that is meant to maximise our potential without imposing more on us than we can handle. Its simplicity and open nature is what makes it most appealing. In that sense, Islam in itself is almost child-like in its approach to both the Creator and the creation. Our faith encourages us to look around with fresh eyes, with wonder and curiosity, with a sense of optimism and hope. To expect the best from God and from life, and to strive to live with love, with peace and goodwill. Nowhere is this better reflected than in our children who in their early years are closest to the Divine Entity. They are not encumbered by negative emotions or habits and thus seek – and find – a learning experience in the smallest of things. Our relationship with our children should be one where we observe them not only to correct and guide their conscious efforts, but also to appreciate and learn from their unconscious natures. If we do this, we can nurture a symbiotic relationship that allows us to fulfil our duties as parents and also to grow in our own humanity.

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