Raising Parents


Fathers and mothers are like shepherds. Their children are like their flocks.

Let us feel the seriousness of this Hadeeth narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar (rtam): Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges. The ruler who has authority over people is a guardian and is responsible for them. A man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is a guardian of her husband’s house and children, and is responsible for them. A slave is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. All of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges.” (Bukhari)

Our pious predecessors made Deen the top priority of their lives. Teaching their children Deen and raising them as good Muslims was a topmost concern. Asma bint Abi Bakr (rtaf) is a shining example, raising a son like Abdullah bin Zubair (rtam). So is Umm Sulaim (rtaf), mother of Anas bin Malik (rtam). In the later years, we have the mother of Imam Shafai, who, despite being a widow, sacrificed a lot to make her son a scholar.

A child’s first years of life are critical, as during this time, he absorbs a great deal. His mind and memory are remarkable. How can we capitalize on these years, in order to teach them Deen and raise them as good Muslims? Here are some thoughts:

Be a Role Model

Children don’t listen to what we say. They listen to our every deed. They observe what we do. Be a role-model for them. Acquire the qualities you wish to see in them. Rid yourself of traits and habits that you do not want in your child. Following are some examples:

  • We want our children to be close to Allah (swt). Are we close to Allah (swt)? Do we think of Him often? What’s our first response when something pleasing happens? How do we react when something displeasing happens?
  • Do we model gentle, kind and tolerant behaviour for our kids? Do we keep losing our cool, yelling and hitting often? Then when the kids yell and hit, we become angry and tell them not to do so. If yelling and hitting are bad, how come they find us doing that?
  • If they spoil or spill something, do we lose our temper, or are we patient and forgiving? Our behaviour in these everyday incidents can teach lifelong lessons to our children about patience and forgiveness.
  • Do we tell them not to touch our things? Then when they do not share their things with siblings and others, do we get irritated and advise: “You should share. It’s good to share”?
  • Do we always speak the truth, even when it is difficult? A Mumin (believer) does not lie.
  • Every now and then, we make promises to our kids. When they ask for something, we say: “I’ll give you later, or I’ll take you there, or I’ll show you that.” Now, that’s a promise, and it needs to be kept. If we keep our word, we’ve taught our kids, without lecturing, the importance of keeping one’s word. But if we don’t, we’ve taught our kids that promises can be broken without a second thought.
  • When we make mistakes, are we humble and honest enough to accept them? Can we say sorry, without trying to justify the wrong behaviour?
  • What kind of a relationship do we have with our spouse? Is it based on mutual respect, care and understanding? When children see their father respecting and caring for their mother, and their mother being obedient and caring towards their father, they learn similar good behaviour. For Allah’s (swt) sake and then for our own and our children’s sake, we have to care for and value our spouses. If we have differences with them, we should discuss them privately.
  • Do we fulfill the rights of our relatives? Do we prefer friends over family? Do we have good relations with our parents, siblings and in-laws? What kind of an example are we setting for our children?
  • Do our kids see us caring about others, especially our Muslim brethren? Do they see us giving away our favourite things to others? From as early as two, we can talk to our kids about poor people and together select things for giving away. We can also place things and money in their hands to give to the needy.
  • Adults often tell their little ones: “Say Salam to aunty/uncle.” The Prophet’s (sa) way was different. He used to say Salam to kids. There is a Hadeeth in Sahih Bukhari narrated by Anas bin Malik (rtam) that he (Anas) passed by a group of boys and greeted them (said Salam) and said: “The Prophet (sa) used to do so.” Often, small kids feel shy to say Salam to adults. Following the Prophet’s (sa) way, we should not hesitate to offer Salam to our kids and other people’s kids. Insha’Allah, as they grow up, they will return this goodness to us.
  • How important is Salah to us? Seeing their parents praying on time five times a day would teach kids a better lesson than an hour-long talk on the importance of prayers. (This is not to say that talks don’t have value.)
  • Is learning the Deen a priority for us? Do our kids see us spending regular time with the Quran? Do we attend at least one weekly class to increase our faith and knowledge? Late Khurram Murad (Daee, thinker, writer, and Director-General of Islamic Foundation, Leicester, UK) was educated at home till the primary level. He dedicated his book “Way to the Quran” to his mother, saying: “At her knees, I learnt to read the Quran; upon her insistence that I must learn Arabic, I was sent to the school of Maulvi Sahib, who gave me the rudimentary knowledge, upon which I could build later; seeing her devotion to the Quran, reading it with understanding, for hours and hours, kindled a spark in my heart, which has continued to illumine my way; finally, through her example and silent but solid support, I found my way to a life of struggle in the way of Allah (swt).”

Children learn their real, lasting Islamic lessons by observing us. Our primary effort has to be focused upon practising Islam ourselves. If we succeed, then, Insha’Allah, the supplementary education (through books, talks, etc.) will be more effective.

Education and Tarbiyah

It’s amazing how children learn so much through everyday conversations, book-reading and story-telling. Here are specific things I did with my children, all below the age of seven then. The following is not to portray myself as an exemplary mother. I’m far from that and make mistakes every day:

  • I starting reciting Duas for different occasions right from the time they were born, for instance, I would say Salam to them when they woke up, and recite the Dua when waking up and going to sleep, when going to the toilet, when leaving the house and returning, when sitting in the car, during illness, when getting up from a gathering, when sneezing, when seeing someone in a hardship, when it rained and so on. Often, after saying the Dua, I would further say out loud its meaning in simple words. This way, they would pick the meanings and realize that all these (Arabic) words have a meaning. For example, when saying the meaning of the Dua for boarding a vehicle (Subhan alladhee Sakhkhara lana…), I would say: ”Allah (swt) is Paak (glorified), Who gave this car in our control; otherwise, we could not have controlled it, and to Allah (swt), we are going back.” I would break up the Duas for my son to repeat after me, for example, Al-hum-du-lillah, as it was difficult for him to say it in one go.
  • When they were babies (and also when they were older), I would recite the Quran to them. I didn’t fix a time or place for this. I would do so when putting them to sleep or while working in the kitchen, or when on the go. Children pick up a lot this way. My elder daughter could recite Surah Fatihah when she was 2 ½ but my son could not. Each child is different, and we should understand and respect that. When reciting the Quran, I would sometimes say its meaning in simple words. My daughter understood that these words have meanings, and often she would stop me during my recitation and ask what this or that word meant.
  • I would refer to the Quran or Ahadeeth, as the situation arose. For example, once we were outdoors. It was cloudy. My daughter asked when it would rain; I replied: “I don’t know. Only Allah (swt) knows. He has mentioned in the Quran five things that only He knows (rain being one of them; see Surah Luqman, verse 34)”. If the child yawned and didn’t cover the mouth, I would tell them to do so and mention the Hadeeth about it.
  • Learning the Deen must be a daily activity for Muslims. We read Islamic books and stories almost every day. If we want our children to follow the Prophet’s (sa) footsteps, then we must regularly tell them stories of the Prophet (sa), his companions and other prophets of Allah (swt). Children love stories, and these are the best stories. Avoid telling them nonsense stories because story-telling is not just for fun – it shapes their character.

When my son was a toddler, I told him the story of Prophet Yunus (as) in simple words, using actions (for instance, of the fish swallowing him). I’ve told him the ‘doggy’ story about a thirsty man who, after fulfilling his own thirst, gave the water also to a thirsty dog, for which Allah (swt) forgave his sins. My son loved this story and wanted to hear the ‘doggy’ story again and again. I would tell him about Prophet Musa’s (as) miracle. To explain this, I would take his hand, put it in his armpit, take it out and say that it would be shining. I’ve told him about Prophet Sulaiman (as) and the ants and about the Prophet’s (sa) grandson riding on his back when he was leading the prayer (and that the Prophet (sa) loved children).

Once, when I was telling my daughter about the Prophet’s (sa) stay in the cave of Thawr during the Hijrah, I showed her a picture of Mount Thawr. My son got curious. I showed him the picture and told him a little about it. There will be such spontaneous moments every day for children to learn something. I don’t tell them fairy tales which contain such incorrect ideas as Shirk, pre-marital friendship, magic, lies or plain stupidity.

Our Deen differentiates between beneficial and non-beneficial knowledge. The Prophet (sa) has taught us Duas for seeking beneficial knowledge and Duas for seeking Allah’s (swt) protection from non-beneficial knowledge. Through personal example and guidance, we have to encourage our children to seek beneficial knowledge, and not to waste time and pollute the minds with non-beneficial knowledge. By refraining from junk literature, we set a good example for our children.

  • We don’t have a T.V. We used to have a small TV set that was used sparingly for watching videos (Islamic or scientific). The harms of TV far, far outweigh its benefits, and given what Allah (swt) has said about alcohol and gambling’s sin exceeding their benefits, it’s best to say ‘bye bye’ to the TV set.
  • Children learn much more by asking questions, than by answering them. I take my children’s questions seriously. This often means stopping what I’m doing to answer them or to look up the answer. They feel satisfied and their curiosity stays alive and grows. Once, before going to sleep, my daughter asked me who a Shaheed (martyr) was. I told her what I knew and asked her to remind me in the morning to look up more. In the morning, we found a list of possible Shaheeds: one who drowns, dies under a wall-collapse, dies due to plague, etc.
  • From an early age (between the ages of 1 and 2), I informed them about the difference between our things and other people’s, for example, if they’d pick up an object belonging to someone else, I would tell them: “It’s not ours. We can’t use it without their permission.”
  • I would encourage them to make Dua (though I need to do more of this). We had kept food for birds on our window-sill. Sometimes, the birds would come and sometimes not. My toddler son liked them very much and felt upset when none would come. I would say: “Oh Allah! Please send birds for him. Ameen.” As time went by, he got used to this, and when no birds would come, he would say to me: “Ameen,” which was his way of asking me to make Dua.
  • I would try to link events to Allah (swt)’s Will and Qudrah. Once, when it rained, my son asked why, and I responded: “By Allah’s (swt) command.” I also told him about the water-cycle in simple words.
  • I would tell them: “Allah (swt) would be happy, if we do such-and-such”, instead of: “He will punish us if we don’t do it.” Don’t mention hell-fire excessively when they are small (say, under 7). Present Jannah in a way they understand and feel attracted to. I tell my kids that the toffees and chocolates in Jannah would be such that they won’t spoil our teeth, and that we could eat as much as we want. I tell them about the Bazar held every Friday in Jannah. I tell them that we will see Allah (swt) there.
  • I would attend Islamic classes (as a listener as well as a teacher). My kids would accompany me. While teaching the ladies, I would attend to the children’s needs, too (peeling an orange for them or nursing the baby). Somehow, adults in Islamic classes and Masajid often deal with children in a surprisingly harsh and cold way, which bears no resemblance to the Prophet’s (sa) way of dealing with them. Why don’t we consider this aspect of Sunnah as applicable to us? For shaping their Islamic character, it is important for Muslim children to attend these gatherings from a young age. In the Prophet’s (sa) time, children were a part of these gatherings and were not cut off from the lives of adults, as they are today. It would do the Ummah a lot of good, if Muslims studied and emulated the Prophet’s (sa) dealing with children. If children are welcomed in Islamic gatherings, they would turn out to be mature and better Muslims, and more loving towards their elders. Insha’Allah, we wouldn’t need to complain later that the youth is not interested in Islamic gatherings or the Masjid!

Parenting is hard work. We want this hard work to pay off in the Akhirah. Let raising our children as good Muslims be the focus of our parenting endeavours. Let pleasing Allah (swt) be the Niyyah in our journey. I pray Allah (swt) accepts the efforts Muslim families are making. Ameen.

Quran Journal for Young Ones

Vol 6 - Issue 4 Quran journalBy Erum Asif

“I love the Quran. Nothing inspires, enlightens and soothes me like the Quran. I have to read it everyday!”

That’s the way I want to feel about the Quran. I want the same for my children. But we have a long way to go.

I know of a Muslimah who would keep the Quran open at her home constantly and would read from it every time she passed by it. A brother had a copy of the Quran at his desk, and read a page or two before beginning work and attending to visitors. Such an attachment to the Quran and such consistency is truly desirable.

To foster a bond with the Quran, we started a “Quran and Hadeeth Journal” for my daughter, when she was five. This suited her because she enjoyed writing. We went through short Surahs and Ahadeeth, doing word-for-word translation for most Surahs. We tried to understand the Quran’s message by way of conversations, drawings and stories.

Talk, draw and write

We began with Surah Al-Fatihah. A word-for-word translation sheet (created in MS Word) was pasted in the journal (see below). If a word had more than one part, it was shown in a different colour.

ﺍﻠﻌﺎﻠﻤﻴﻥ ﺭﺏ
ﺍﻠﺭﺤﻴﻡ ﺍﻠﺭﺤﻤﻥ


I used easy words for a 5-year old, such as: ar-Rahman – very kind, Sirat – way, ad-Daalleen – who are lost. If I used a tough word, I would explain it to her.

I wrote the Ayahs in Arabic and we coloured it. We then drew pictures with a brief caption to capture the meaning of Surah Al-Fatihah. We didn’t draw humans and animals, but instead showed people by drawing a blank circle for the head and a triangular sort of body below; then, we enjoyed drawing colourful clothes on them.

Here is a selective look at the Ayahs of Al-Fatihah:

Alhumdulillah: We drew pictures of what we are thankful to Allah (swt) for: “I am a Muslim.” (drew a Masjid and Quran) “I have Baba.” “I have dolls.” “I will get a new bed, Insha’Allah.” “Allah has prepared Jannah for us.”

Rabbil-Alameen: Being the Rabb, Allah (swt) cherishes and nurtures creation from its initial stage to its maturity. As an example, we drew a seed and next to it – a tall plant.

Maliki Yawmid-Deen: We drew figures with a smile, receiving their ‘record’ in their right hands, and figures with black faces receiving their ‘record’ in left hand. We wrote that Allah (swt) is pronouncing the judgement.

Ihdinas-Sirat-Al-Mustaqeem: We drew a straight, vertical line, and wrote ‘ﺍﷲ’ at the top. To its left and right, we drew slanting lines, writing ‘Shaitan’ on them. The idea comes from a similar diagram that the Prophet (sa) drew on sand with a stick.

Siratal-Lazeena Anamta Alayhim: We drew flowers, with the names of prophets and Companions written on them. They are among the people Allah (swt) has favoured.

Ghayril-Maghdoobi Alayhim Wa Lad-Daalleen: The Prophet (sa) mentioned the Jews and Christians as ‘Al-maghdoob’ and ‘ad-daalleen’ respectively. Their paths are the paths we need to avoid. We wrote ‘Al-maghdoob’, then drew the Jewish star below it. We showed a ‘person’ concealing Allah’s (swt) commands in the sacred book with his hand. (This incident took place in the Prophet’s (sa) life). Another figure was throwing the sacred book behind the back (implying utter disregard for divine guidance), while a third figure declared interest as Halal. For ‘ad-daalleen’ we drew the Christian cross, and depicted a figure saying ‘Jesus, son of God.’

A blog titled “Educating the Muslim Child” had a charming story about Surah Al-Fatihah called “Two Rabbits and a Beautiful Sound”. We pasted its printout in the journal.

This journal-making wasn’t a tense, ‘no-talking’, ‘gotta-finish-it’ exercise. We wanted it to be a warm experience – one that touches the heart and leaves a mark, instead of a page-filling academic exercise. It was accompanied by conversation about what we were doing (sometimes drifting into another topic), attending to the younger kids, incorporating my daughter’s ideas, letting her write and draw as she wanted to, and not expecting 15-year-old’s work from a 5-year-old.

We are currently doing Surah An-Naba. We write the Ayah in Arabic, their transliteration and translation. We then illustrate them through pictures, which we colour. For example, Ayah 7: Waljibala awtada (And the mountains as pegs?): We draw mountains with their underlying roots, which give them a peg-like shape. The book “A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam” shows this.


Surah Humazah describes the woeful end of slanderers, backbiters and those, who amass wealth selfishly. After the word-for-word translation, we created pictorial stories. One showed a girl slandering and backbiting: “Hah! You don’t even know how to pray!” “Ha, ha! Look at her silly dress.” “You come from an inferior family.” “Aunt Z. is a miser.”

We also wrote: “J. loves to buy dresses. She counts them every day. She hates to share her things with others. When her mother asks her to give clothes for the needy, she gives bad ones.” My daughter drew a cupboard with lots of clothes inside.

Drawing on other sources

Many interesting resources to support learning the Quran await us. We drew on them too.

For Surah Quraish, we inserted a map showing the winter and summer journeys of Quraish. It was taken from the well-researched ‘Atlas of the Quran’ (Darussalam Publishers).

Surah Al-Maoon depicts the person oblivious of the final Judgement. He repulses the orphans and cares least about the poor man’s hunger. An article in the newspaper poignantly covered a Sharjah organization that assists orphans. It contained heart-rending interviews of the orphans, how they feel and what they want from us. That article became a part of our journal. We included two printouts from the charity Muslim Hands website: their Orphan Sponsorship programme and the Food Aid and Iftar Programme.

The Quran and Ahadeeth journal should inspire us to act. And Surah Al-Maoon did that. It made my daughter want to feed the needy. So we gave food packs to our building’s hard-working cleaners.

Help at hand

These works (besides numerous Urdu resources) help us in understanding the Quran:

  • “Word-for-word translation of the Quran” (Al-Huda International)
  • “The Quran in Plain English for children and young people” by Iman Torres-Al Haneef (The Islamic Foundation)
  • “The Noble Quran” (Darussalam)
  • “A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran,” by John Penrice (Darul-Ishat, Karachi)

Online help for teaching Quran to your children

A commendable work by a Muslim mother, with help on Quran and many subjects:


Here is a yahoo group you can join: muslimhsers – Education for Muslim Children. Check out the Files and Links section for help on Quran. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/muslimhsers/

Exemplary Lives, Admirable Deaths

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Exemplary livesBy Erum Asif

No nation has the kind of remarkable role models that Muslims are blessed with. These people had exemplary lives and admirable deaths. Allah (swt) has decreed death for all of us, but do we remember?

Prophet Muhammad (sa) remained ill for about ten days before he died. During one of these days, he admonished: “Do not make my grave an idol to be worshipped.” (Muwatta Imam Malik) This is a stern reminder for Muslims who commit Shirk by prostrating and praying to dead ‘saints’ at shrines. He further said: “He, whom I have lashed his back (wrongfully), then, here is my back, let him retaliate. He, whom I have ever blasphemed his honour, here I am offering my honour, so that he may avenge himself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (sa) had not wronged anyone, yet he humbly offered himself for revenge. Have we made amends to those we have hurt? He (sa) reminded the people to be good to the Ansar, adding: “…They have fulfilled their obligations and rights, which were enjoined on them, but there remains what is for them. So, accept the good (deeds) of the good-doers amongst them and excuse the wrong-doers among them.” or “….accept their good side and ignore their faults.” (Bukhari) What a noble approach! Focus on the positive deeds of your fellow-Muslims; overlook their faults, paving the way to a stronger Ummah, Insha’Allah.

A final instruction that the Prophet (sa) emphasized was: “Allah, Allah. Prayers and what your right hands own (i.e., the slaves).” (Dhahabi) Alas! What is the state of our prayers today? Do Muslims head for the Masjid upon hearing the Adhan? How many Muslims pray five times a day? Empty, divided Masjids tell us a sad story! Do we abandon cosy beds for a timely Fajr?

On the day of his death, Prophet (sa) removed his door curtain, looked at the Muslims praying Fajr and smiled. After sunrise, he asked for Fatima (rta) to be brought in. He whispered into her ear, and she cried. He whispered again, and she smiled. First, he had informed her of his death, and then of her being the first relative to join him, and of being the women’s chief in Jannah. He asked for Hasan and Hussain to be brought in and kissed them.

O, Muslim parents, isn’t there a beautiful example for you in Rasoolullah (sa)? This is an example of love and compassion, not of harshness and aloofness. Note his and Fatima’s (rta) mutual focus – the Hereafter.

In his final moments, the Prophet (sa) was leaning against his wife Aisha (rta). Her brother walked in with a Miswak (tooth-stick) in his hand. Aisha (rta) took and softened it, whereupon the Prophet (sa) used it. Such concern for cleanliness and fondness of the Miswak, as he is about to take his last breath! And what a loving relationship he and his wife enjoyed! Muslim couples can beautify their marriages by turning to the Prophet’s (sa) example. He wiped his face with water, saying: “La ilaha ill-Allah; truly, death has its agonies.” And glanced upwards, supplicating: “…O Allah, forgive me, have mercy upon me and unite me with the highest companions.”

(Quoted in “A Biography of the Prophet of Islam”, by Dr. Mahdi Rizqullah Ahmad, Translated by Syed Iqbal Zaheer, Dar-us-salam, 2005 and “Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum”, by Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Dar-us-salam, 1995)

Twelve years later, Umar (rta), the second caliph, was martyred. As he led the Fajr prayer, a Persian slave stabbed him with a poisoned, double-edged dagger. What was Umar’s (rta) concern as he fell fatally wounded? Prayers! He asked: “Is Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf among the people?” They replied: “Yes, he is over here.” Umar (rta) asked him to lead the prayer.

Later, Umar (rta) was taken home. He thanked Allah (swt) for not causing him to die from a Muslim’s hands. He was given milk to drink, which oozed out of his belly’s wound. He asked for the Muslim children to come. He stroked them affectionately. He gave instructions for the settlement of his debt and named the companions to be chosen from as his successor.

He (rta) also asked his son to seek permission from Aisha (rta) for being buried next to the Prophet (sa) and Abu Bakr (rta). Aisha (rta) agreed, and Umar (rta) thanked Allah (swt), since the most important wish of his was fulfilled. He (rta) said to his son: “Place my cheek on the ground.” And when that was done, he said::“Woe to you and to your mother, O Umar, if Allah (swt) does not forgive you, O Umar.” He then passed away.

(Quoted in “Biographies of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs”, Prepared and Translated by Tamir Abu As-Suood, Dar Al-Manarah, 2001)

More than seventy years after Umar’s (rta) demise, the Ummah witnessed the greatest ruler after the rightly-guided caliphs. That was Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, great-grandson of Umar (rta). Remember the God-fearing lady, who had refused to mix milk with water because of Caliph Umar’s (rta) prohibition? Umar’s (rta) son Asim married her. Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz was Asim’s grandson. This God-fearing ruler would gather scholars to remember death and the Akhirah, and they would cry, as if a funeral were before them.

He died after a short but exceptional rule of two years. In his last speech, he said: “Don’t you know that protection tomorrow will be limited to those, who feared Allah [today], and to those who sold something ephemeral for something permanent? (…) I swear by Allah (swt) that I say those words to you, knowing that I myself have committed more sins than any of you; I, therefore, ask Allah for forgiveness, and I repent.” He lifted up the edge of his robe and began to sob, causing people to burst into tears.

In the agony of death, he addressed his sons tearfully: “By Allah (swt)! I have not left for you anything in inheritance (except for a room). If you are righteous, then Allah (swt) is the caretaker of the righteous ones. And if you are evil-doers, then I will never help you in evil-doing with my wealth.” Each son kissed him, and he prayed for them. He left his sons barely a dirham each, but years later they were seen distributing multitude of horses as charity. Just before his departure, Umar asked to be left alone and was heard reciting: “That home of the Hereafter (i.e. Paradise), We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do mischief by committing crimes. And the good end is for the Muttaqun.” (Al-Qasas, 28:83)

(Quoted in “Biographies of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs” by Tamir Abu As-Suood Muhammad and Noha Kamal Ed-Din Abu Al-Yazid, Dar Al-Manarah; “Sunehray Huroof” by Abdul Malik Mujahid, published by Dar-us-salam and “Umar Bin Abdul Aziz”, Muslim Heroes Series, by Naima Sohaib, Translated by Eeman Asif Misbah, Sahar Publishers, 2006)

Seriously ill before her death, Aisha (rta) was asked how she felt. She would say she was fine. Visiting her, Ibn Abbas (rta) started praising her. She asked him not to, adding, “I would be happy not existing.” What fear of accountability!

(Quoted in “Aisha (rta)”, Muslim Heroes Series by Naima Sohaib. Translated by Eeman Asif Misbah, Sahar Publishers, 2006)

They were well-prepared, yet fearful. We are unprepared, yet relaxed!

Connecting our Children to Sunnah

He loved children. And children loved him. Prophethood did not prevent him from giving them attention and affection. They attended his gatherings and accompanied him. He would initiate Salam to them, talk, kiss and embrace them, place them on his lap and shoulder, educate them and let them assume responsibility. Despite being the greatest Imam, leading noble men in prayer, he prolonged his Sajdah just to let his grandson riding his back have his fill. Unthinkable in our Masjids! He interrupted his sermon, descended the pulpit, picked up his faltering grandsons and then resumed. Not likely in today’s Islamic classes! His love and mercy were for all children. He deemed it a Muslim’s mark: “He is not one of us, who does not show mercy to our young ones and esteem to our elderly.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ahmad) His loving, patient, gentle, understanding and balanced attitude helped fashion those children into distinguished Muslims.

His example lives on, inviting the Ummah to treat children his way. Old or young, we owe him tremendously and repay by following his way, thus, paving the way for our own success and happiness. “….and whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) will be admitted to Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), to abide therein, and that will be the great success.” (An-Nisa, 4:13) Following his Sunnah is Islam’s basic requirement, not just a matter of Thawab (reward). Obeying him spells the difference between success and failure, as the Uhud battle reminds us.
With this success formula in hand, how do we connect our children to the Sunnah? By getting connected to it ourselves! Learn what Sunnah is and be role-models for your children – children see what you do; they don’t hear what you say!
If our concept of Sunnah is correct, we can educate our children correctly. The term ‘Sunnah’ is often used narrowly referring to the Prophet’s (sa) manners of eating, drinking, dressing, sleeping, etc. Actually, it embraces all aspects of life: births, weddings, deaths, trading and combat. There is a Sunnah way of talking, conducting Dawah and dealing with parents, spouses, elders, children, servants, neighbours and the needy. Our children should see us emulating Sunnah wholly, not selectively. Follow it in Muamalat (interpersonal dealings), as you follow it in Ibadah (worship). Follow it in Akhlaq (manners), as you follow it at mealtime. Beautify your Hijabs and beards with Prophetic qualities of patience, honesty, gentleness, humility and generosity. Please your parents and control your anger; these are Sunnahs, too. Live simply so that accounts of the Prophet’s (sa) simple life don’t just make ‘nice, ancient stories’ for your children but a reality. Sahabah best emulated the Prophet (sa). Anas Ibn Malik (rta) narrated that he passed by a group of boys, greeted them and said: “The Prophet (sa) used to do so.” (Bukhari)
Our children need to see us loving and revering the Prophet (sa) above ANY other person. Let them not find us preferring family traditions or ‘scholars’ opinions’ over the Sunnah. Would we like our children to hear tons about the Prophet (sa) and then witness his Sunnah being disregarded at weddings and deaths? Wouldn’t they be confused to learn that the Prophet (sa) ordered Sahabiyat to attend Eid prayers, but find their mother missing out on the blessings, because her school of thought says women shouldn’t go to Masjid?
Certain Sunnahs are more basic and important than others, but none are unnecessary or purposeless, and none should be belittled. Sunnah is what the Prophet (sa) said, did and approved of. Study his Sunnah and Seerah (biography) thoroughly. The more you know, the more you can teach to your children, and the more you can love and follow him. Tell children stories about the Prophet (sa), about Sahaba’s extraordinary love and obedience to him and of the incredible efforts of Muhadditheen (Hadeeth scholars). Excellent books and audios about these are available for adults and children. Bring them home and share them with your family.
Take your Deen from the Quran and the Sunnah. These safeguard one’s beliefs and actions against deviations and provide clarity in an age of confusion, which our children see more of: “I have left amongst you two things which, if you hold fast to them, you will never stray: the Book of Allah and my Sunnah.” (Al-Hakim) Shun all Biddats (innovations). A mother was once brought a bag of candies by a friend, who received it as mid-of-Sha’ban celebration. The mother returned it in the children’s presence, nicely but clearly explaining that the celebration is an innovation, and innovations harm our Deen.
Quote the Prophet (sa) with care. Abdullah Ibn Masood’s (rta) face would change colour, when quoting Hadeeth due to a sense of responsibility. Although Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal knew hundreds of thousands of Hadeeth by heart, he would quote from his books to avoid the possibility of erring and distorting Hadeeth wording. If you don’t remember a Hadeeth exactly but are sure of its meaning, express it accordingly to your child. Feed their impressionable minds authentic knowledge.
Study the Prophet’s (sa) Salah in detail. Pray his way and teach your children likewise. Before Ramadan arrives, learn about his Ramadan and Eid. Eating dates in odd number and offering your children the same before leaving for Eid-ul-Fitr prayers, while saying Takbeerat, can give them life-long memories of Sunnah.

Everyday Sunnahs can be instilled from day one. Say Bismillah when nursing, and Alhamdulillah, when the baby sneezes. Cover her yawning mouth. Recite the various Duas taught by the Prophet (sa): leaving and entering the house, using the toilet, traveling, morning and evening Duas, Duas for illness, etc. Follow the Sunnahs of eating, dressing, relieving oneself and sleeping. Educate the children when they err, as did the Prophet (sa) with Umar Ibn Abi Salama, whose hand used to go around the dish. (Bukhari) If the children are outdoors, bring them in at Maghrib. If they ask why, say: “The Prophet (sa) has told us so. Wicked, invisible Shayateen are out there to hurt you.” Revive nearly-extinct Sunnahs, like sitting on the floor for meals, eating collectively from a dish, licking fingers afterwards and using Miswak and Kohl.
The Sunnah isn’t about spiritual matters alone; bodies benefit, too. Forget junk food and nourish children instead with Sunnah foods: honey, dates, olives, figs, barley, gourd, lentils, pomegranates, etc. When they fall ill, rush first to Duas and the Prophet’s (sa) medicine, rather than blindly trusting the increasingly questionable ‘modern’ medicine.
Remember Imam Hanbal? He recorded thousands of Ahadeeth, yet states that “he never penned down a Hadith of the Prophet (sa) that he did not abide by”! Imagine a world, where our children are surrounded by living examples of the Quran and the Sunnah. Can you help create that world?

Knowledge in Islam

By Erum Asif

After the demise of the Prophet (sa), a teenager, who had acquired much knowledge from him, was determined to learn more from the Sahabahs, saying that “the Sahabahs are in a great number today.” If he heard of a Sahabah knowing a Hadeeth he didn’t know, he would dash to his home, at times having to wait outside in scorching heat. The Sahabah would insist that he could have come to this esteemed teenager himself. To this, the teenager would reply that rather he should be coming himself to seek knowledge. When those Sahabahs passed away, people, including the Caliph, would refer to this youth. He was Abdullah Ibn Abbas (rta), Mufassir of the Quran and narrator of Ahadeeth.

Moving forward in history, we find Imam Malik travelling on foot for days and nights for the sake of a single Hadeeth, Imam Shafai writing on bones, as he could not afford paper, and Ibn Asakir (compiler of the history of Damascus) mentioning 80 women among the teachers he learnt Ahadeeth from. We witness people’s love of the scholars. When Imam Bukhari was returning to Bukhara from his scholarly journeys, the inhabitants would set up tents for three miles outside the city to welcome him.

The early Muslims gave the top priority to seeking and spreading knowledge, especially that of Deen. They acted upon what they learnt. Thus, history reflects the respect, peace and power they enjoyed. Those who know and those who don’t are not equal in this world and the next. “… Say: ‘Are those who know equal to those who know not?’….” (Az-Zumar 39:9)

Islam is a religion of knowledge and it does not befit a Muslim to be ignorant of his Deen, even though this is a wide-spread case nowadays. The Prophet (sa) clearly said: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” (lbn Majah and others; reported by Anas)

Note four things here:

1. Which knowledge is the Hadeeth referring to? Physics, mathematics or computer science? The knowledge, which is obligatory and Fardh-ayn, is that of Deen. It is also referred to in another Hadeeth: “…the scholars are the heirs of the prophets and that the prophets did not leave behind Dinars and Dirhams; rather, their inheritance was knowledge, so whoever acquires it has acquired a great share.” (Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood)

Does learning our Deen mean knowing every detail? Some knowledge of Deen is obligatory, and some is optional. The Prophet (sa) said: “Knowledge is (of) three (categories): Muhkam Ayah (precise verse), or Sunnah Qaimah (established Sunnah), or Fareedhah ‘Adilah (firm, obligatory duty). And whatever is besides this, is extra.” (Abu Dawood and Majah)

The minimum we must know is our faith: the teachings relating to worship (prayers, fasting, Zakah, Hajj), Akhlaq (manners) and transactions (e.g., everyday Halal and Haram; teachings regarding family-life; teachings concerning our roles as businessmen, rulers, employees, etc.). Learning in-depth religious sciences, such as Tafsir, Fiqh or Ahadeeth, is Fardh-Kifayah.

2. The most serious term in the Hadeeth is Fareedhah (obligation). Learning the Deen is an obligation – the first obligation, not something optional we can postpone because of degree pursuits, marriage or career-development.

3. Another key-word is Talab (seeking). Muslims have to seek the knowledge of Deen actively, instead of hoping for its arrival by chance.

4. The Prophet (sa) made NO exemptions. He said Kull (every) Muslim. Old or young, poor or rich, male or female, busy or idle, free or enslaved – everyone must learn the glorious Deen!

Seeking the knowledge of Dunya is Fardh-Kifayah and optional. If the guidelines provided by Islam are followed, seeking worldly knowledge can be an Ibadah; otherwise, a pointless or even damaging venture.

As an Ummah, have we got our ‘obligatory’ and ‘optional’, right? “Nay, you prefer the life of this world, although the Hereafter is better and more lasting.” (Al-Ala 87:16-17) Knowledge of Deen is badly neglected and considered done, upon completing the sessions of Quran recitation in childhood, while optional knowledge has been secularized and made obligatory, with children spending nearly 20 years, and parents incurring back-breaking expenses for the sake of ‘education’. Consequently, we have societies that are ‘Muslim’ but not Islamic. We have PhDs and professionals, who don’t know the Deen. Does the average businessman holding an MBA know and follow Islam’s teachings about trade? Do our economists understand Islam’s flawless economic system? Are our doctors, lawyers and journalists aware of the Islamic ethics relevant to them? Does this ignorance affect their work? Should they be considered educated, if they haven’t learnt the obligatory? Imagine a person not performing the five obligatory prayers, though working hard on much Nafl. If Muslims start treating obligatory knowledge as obligatory, the Ummah can recover drastically.

Allah (swt) Himself conveyed the knowledge of Deen through messengers, while He left other matters for us to discover. Why? Based on intellect, experience and experimentation, we can learn the laws of nature and the ways of growing food, treating diseases and constructing houses. But intellect and experience cannot tell us the purpose of life, who created us, what happens after death, the rights and responsibilities in various roles, the permissible and impermissible in food, money matters and gender relations. When we try to figure these out ourselves, we either reach devastatingly wrong conclusions or die without discovering the truth.

It is vital to seek and spread knowledge. We want to be the best. Who is the best? “The best of you is the one, who learns the Quran and teaches it.” (Agreed upon) Ponder over Surah At-Taubah (9:122): “And it is not (proper) for the believers to go out to fight (Jihad) all together. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may get instructions in (Islamic) religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware (of evil).”

We are Muslims, because the Sahabahs and succeeding generations spread the Deen through words and deeds. Muslim rulers propagated Islamic knowledge. Caliph Umar (rta), a shining example, appointed Quran teachers everywhere in the Islamic state. Abu Darda (rta) was appointed in Damascus and was reported to have 1,600 students in his circle. Death terminates our deeds, but beneficial knowledge we leave behind keeps multiplying our rewards. (Muslim)

Regarding worldly knowledge, remember:

“Read! In the Name of your Lord Who created (all that exists).” (Al-Alaq 96:1) Divine knowledge must guide worldly knowledge. It will help filter good ideas from the bad ones, and remembering the Lord (swt) will humble us as learners. Divorcing Deen from Dunya was the design of Kuffar. We imported it into our educational institutions, which then became the prime breeding-grounds for secularization of mindsets and societies. If Islamic teachings are mentioned only in Islamic Studies class, how can our children believe that Islam is relevant to real life? While secular economics cannot fix today’s economic crises, Divine economics can. Caliph Umar Ibn Abdul-Aziz’s (rta) officials would go looking for deserving recipients of charity but find none! The opening verse of Surah Al-Alaq also suggests we seek any knowledge with the Niyyah of pleasing Allah (swt) and serving His Deen. In contemporary times, Harun Yahya and Dr. Zakir Naik have set good examples.

Secondly, Islam encourages us to seek beneficial knowledge and shun the non-beneficial. In today’s age of excessive information, this is an indispensable criterion. Allah (swt) has blessed us with curiosity – we should use it wisely. We should seek knowledge that benefits us, fellow humans and the planet. A Muslim cannot afford to waste time studying “Romeo and Juliet” or cramming useless data that exits his brain soon after exams are over.

With these two points in mind, we need to reclaim our proud tradition of learning. Righteous people must lead the various fields, instead of allowing evil or secular ‘experts’ to mislead humanity. The Ummah needs knowledgeable people also for reducing its dependence on non-Muslims. Here is some inspiration from our predecessors:

Aisha (rta) was an authority on medicine. Uthman (rta) and AbdurRahman Ibn Awf (rta) were brilliant businessmen.

Muslims have made invaluable contributions to manners, literature, science, medicine and mathematics. They were the first to establish hospitals and universities. Ibn Sina’s “Canon of Medicine” was used in European universities for centuries as the most respected medical bible. Muslims introduced the concept of zero in mathematics. Non-Muslims learnt Arabic to benefit from books written by Muslims.

Baghdad, Timbuktu and Samarqand were great learning centres. The scholars were more important than the rulers, the latter having to listen to the former. Rulers, traders and the public consulted scholars; they governed the city, acted as judges and ensured fair trade. The work of Muslim astronomers in Samarqand’s state-of-the-art observatories enabled people to pray towards the Qiblah and measure the size of the Earth. Modern scientific achievements were made possible by the work of early Muslims.

They were exemplary also because they acted upon their knowledge. Sayyid Qutb remarks: “Thus, instruction to be translated into action was the method of the first group of Muslims. The method of later generations was instruction for academic discussion and enjoyment. And without doubt this is one of the major factors, which made later generations different from the first unique generation of Islam.”

Jews and Christians read their books without practicing them. Islam advocates knowledge for the sake of action. Nobody will be able to move from before his Lord (swt), till he/she answers five questions, including “how much he acted upon the knowledge he obtained”. (At-Tirmidhi)

Let the study of the Quran and Seerah be a daily routine for your family. At least once a week, get together with fellow-Muslims to learn collectively. Check, whether you are acting upon your knowledge, and where you are falling short. Learning and practicing our Deen can secure for us not just this short life but the entire eternity!

Towards a Bright Future

By Erum Asif

“I want a bright future for my child,” dreams the parent and spends time, money and effort. What ‘future’? This fleeting life, whereby we can be called back any time, never to return, or the eternal life-after-death?

A glimpse of that future from a Hadeeth: “When a human being is laid in his grave and he hears that footsteps of his companions leaving him, then two angels come to him and make him sit and ask him: ‘What did you say about this man, Muhammad?’ He will say: ‘I testify that he is Allah’s slave and His Apostle.’ Then it will be said to him: ‘Look at your place in the Hell-Fire. Allah has given you instead a place in Paradise.’ The Prophet (sa) added: ‘The dead person will see his both places. But a non-believer or a hypocrite will say to the angels: ‘I do not know, but I used to say, what the people used to say!’ It will be said to him: ‘Neither did you know nor did you take the guidance (by reciting the Quran).’ Then he will be hit with an iron hammer between his two ears, and he will cry. That cry will be heard by whatever approaches him, except human beings and Jinns.” (Bukhari)

The hypocrite was guilty of ignorance and not learning the Quran (and the Sunnah) to cure his ignorance.

Muslim parents had the job to learn Deen and teach their offspring, but they neglected it.

Compare the time, effort and money Muslim parents are spending on their children’s schooling versus Deen. Even religious parents have accepted children’s studies, leaving little time for Deen. We take homework, exams, projects and tuitions seriously. But worry little, if our children miss prayers, our university-going child has neither studied the Quran nor recites it properly, or they barely know the Prophet (sa) and his companions.

Gaining beneficial worldly knowledge is good, but learning Deen is obligatory. Can ‘obligatory’ be compromised for the ‘optional’?

Prophet (sa) had said: “Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges… A man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for them; a woman is a guardian of her husband’s house and children and is responsible for them… So all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges.” (Bukhari) We are responsible for teaching our children Islam. Firstly, by being role-models for them, and, second, by verbally teaching the Quran and the Sunnah.

Take motivation from the early Muslims. Umm Sulaym (rta) taught her young son Anas (rta) reading and writing, the Surahs and Ayaat she knew and offered his services to the Prophet (sa), so that he may learn from him. He became a devout Muslim and is a narrator of 2,286 Ahadeeth.

Imam Shafai’s mother was a widow. She moved from Palestine to Yemen to provide him a better environment. Before the age of 10, he had memorized the Quran and started learning Imam Maalik’s “Muwattah.” Although she needed him, she allowed him to travel for further knowledge. Abdullah Ibn Mubarak’s father gave him 50,000 Dirhams for trade. He used it for a better trade, travelling far to acquire a wealth of Ahadeeth from great scholars. Overjoyed, his father granted him 30,000 Dirhams more.

In recent times, Dr. Azra Batool (d. 2003) was an active Islamic worker in Okara (Punjab). She was running a hospital with her husband, caring for many in-laws, teaching Islamic classes, parenting NINE children and yet listening to their Hifz regularly. Once during board exams, her son declined reciting the Quran during Ramadan. The far-sighted mother said: “Son, no worry, if you get ten marks less or more in this exam. One should worry more about the exam before Allah (swt).”

If school leaves your family with insufficient time and energy for Deen, consider alternatives. Thousands of Muslim families in the West have chosen home-schooling. It saves children from un-Islamic influences, allows priority to Deen and offers better worldly education that can be tailored to the child’s interests, pace and learning style, while simultaneously allowing for individual attention.

By gifting our children Islamic knowledge, we leave behind unimaginable Sadqaah Jaariyah for ourselves, while beautifying their futures. Here are some ideas. Choose what suits your family:

  • Be a role-model. Learn Deen yourself. Recite and study the Quran daily. Study the Prophet’s (sa) Seerah, the Sahaba and pious predecessors. Attend classes. Listen to tapes. Late Khurram Murad (Daee, thinker, writer, director-general of Islamic Foundation) was educated at home till primary level. He dedicated his book “Way to the Quran” to his mother, saying: “At her knees I learnt to read the Quran, upon her insistence that I must learn Arabic, I was sent to the school Maulavi Saheb, who gave me the rudimentary knowledge, upon which I could build later; seeing her devotion to the Quran, reading it with understanding for hours and hours, kindled a spark in my heart, which has continued to illumine my way; and, finally, through her example and silent but solid support, I found my way to a life of struggle in the way of Allah.”
  • Have a daily family Halaqah. Everyone can take part. Choose a topic. Alternatively, do Islamic stories, Hadeeth, reading from a book, quiz or game. Share with them the lessons of Quran, at their level.
  • Children LOVE stories. Tell them the best stories ever: of Prophet (sa), other prophets, and Sahabahs.
  • Get them Islamic books. Read to them. It will develop a love of reading and of beneficial literature. Darussalam, Goodword, American Trust Publications, Amana Publications, and Islamic Foundation have nice books. Read to them from your books.
  • Make use of everyday moments and conversations by referring to the Quran and the Sunnah (without overdoing).
  • Take them to Islamic classes. If not available, start your own. Invite their cousins and friends. Do Duas, Salah, Islamic stories, artwork, games and food. Lots of neat ideas on the net!
  • It would be best, if father and mother work as a team. Mothers play the dominant role in teaching children (as they get more time), but it’s a joint duty. The Prophet (sa) said: “No father has given a greater gift to his children than good moral training.” (At-Tirmidhi)
  • Check their textbooks, and if you find something objectionable, take it up with the school authorities. They spend 6-7 hours there daily. Ensure their learning is wholesome.
  • Gradually cleanse their lives of ‘distractions’ (bad company, useless programmes, junk literature), so they may absorb the teachings of Islam.

Let’s give the future Muslims more than higher education. Let’s give them the ‘highest’ education!