Human relations are a complex and sensitive web of emotions. Family is the foundation of every society. Why does family matter? Well, around one-fourth of the Quran instructs humanity about family matters. Over 1200 verses pertaining to familial matters specify rulings, injunctions, and advice from Allah (swt) to us.
The strength that we gain from our family enables us to go forward and tackle the challenges of life. Hence, a family is sacred, and it is mandatory for Muslims to pay attention to their families and energize them. If the family system crumbles like a feeble mole hill, the society disintegrates also.
True parents are true leaders
The other day, I was brushing my teeth. My fourteen-year-old son Yusuf stood next to me. He was brushing his teeth and making all kinds of swishing sounds and gurgles much to my dislike. For the first time, I realized that he had grown taller than me. I asked him: “Yusuf, what kind of weird sounds are those? Didn’t I ever teach you how to brush your teeth?” He replied: “No dad, you didn’t.”
It just dawned on me that every fault in my child was my failure as a father because I hadn’t modified his attitude or act. True parents are true leaders of their families. In Islam, servants and leaders are one. If one cannot serve his team, he cannot lead. Our Prophet (sa) was always the first in a battle and the last in a caravan. A very important book by Simon Sinek titled Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t is worthy of mention here, as it can facilitate the concept of true leadership and parenting.
Experience shows how parents cover their kids first in times of natural disasters, such as an earthquake; they shield them or protect them before they protect themselves. That is a natural instinct Allah (swt) has placed in them to love and serve their offspring.
The leadership of Imam Muzni
Imam Muzni was Imam Shafai’s reputed student. He was a businessman by profession. Once, he went for Hajj, accompanied by some of his students. As Islam commands to appoint an Ameer (leader) whenever there are two or more companions forming a group, the students elected Shaykh Muzni as their Ameer, which was an obvious choice for them. Shaykh Muzni assumed the position and fulfilled his responsibility to the maximum. He would go out in the jungle to fetch firewood, kindle a fire, hunt food, and cook it by himself. When it rained, he sheltered his students with his own Thobe (gown). The students complained out of embarrassment, pleading with him not to do all this for them. To that, he responded: “Did you not choose me as your Ameer? Do not take this privilege away from me.”
The leadership of Umar (rtam)
Once, a blind woman fell ill. Umar (rtam) came to know about it and paid a visit to her house. He was the acting Khalifah then. He willingly served the sightless woman. Just as he was about to leave, she commented in gratitude: “You should have been the Ameer ul-Mumineen, not Umar (rtam) who doesn’t even know what his subjects are going through.” Umar (rtam) cried out of fear as the vast Islamic empire had spread to all corners. He stated: “Even if a donkey in Iraq falters on the way due to a badly-constructed road, Umar will be responsible for it in Madinah.” A true Muslim leader is attached to the grassroots. This is the time to bring back true leadership by teaching our children the right values.
The leadership of Gandhi’s father
Mohandas Gandhi writes in his memoir about a huge moral lesson he learnt one day. His father used to take him to his workplace. Once, he asked Mohandas to buy some pens for him. Mohandas bought them, handed them over to his father, and returned some change. His father checked the pens, counted the change, and asked Mohandas: “Has the price of pens gone up?” Mohandas replied: “Yes, dad.” His father hung his head low, and said: “I must have done something that made you lie today.” From that day onwards for the next seven days, his father walked barefooted from home to work, a distance of seven kilometres daily. His feet bled but he self-inflicted a harsh sentence on himself for failing to bring up an honest son. Mohandas apologized profusely, begging his father to forgive him. He pledged never to lie again.
Mend your ties with Allah (swt)
Strengthen your ties with Allah (swt) so that He protects your children. Remember how Khidr (as) built a wall for two orphans so that it does not obstruct a hidden treasure their father had buried for them to avail upon maturity. Allah (swt) facilitated this only because their father was pious. Ibn Abbas (rtam) states in a Tafseer that Allah (swt) wanted good for the orphans because of their father’s righteousness.
When a mother’s Dua for her son was not answered…
Once, while we were performing Umrah, a mother approached me and requested me to have a counselling session with her son. She said something which seemed strange. She complained: “I pray for my son but Allah (swt) doesn’t answer my invocations.” But a mother’s plea is never rejected. I asked her: “Is there a possibility of a barrier to your invocation? You could be causing yourself to facilitate your child’s ill behaviour.” She finally mentioned that she was the head of an interest-based bank. Subhan’Allah. Allah (swt) has declared war against those who deal with interest. How could her affairs be set right?
I never spoke a word to her son, and she promised to repent to Allah (swt) and switch her job to a permissible area. When I met her after ten days, she was ecstatic. She shared how her son was now mingling with her and talking to her after many years. She thanked me profusely, and I accepted it all gracefully. Never did I tell her that I didn’t coach her son at all. All we need to do as parents is to fix our relationship with Allah (swt) and take responsibility. Allah (swt) will charge their hearts.
Shun petty stuff
Focus on the larger picture. At times, we wish to fix every petty stuff or irrelevant non-issue. Give children insurmountable missions in the form of projects which will take their minds off the little pet peeves you have at home, and which will rectify their affairs. The bigger your vision will be for them, the bigger will be your effort and achievement.
Allah (swt) willing, one day your child will say: “Dad, some day I want to be just like you.”
Transcribed by Rana Rais Khan from a talk at Twins of Faith Family Festival, organized by Mercy Mission.