THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTING


 

As Muslims, it is important to understand the significance and responsibility of the parenting role, the importance of preparing children for the hereafter, and the obligation of protecting them from the hellfire. Allah says,

“O you who believe, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are (appointed) angels, harsh and severe …”  (Surah at-Tahrim, 66 : 6)

What are the meanings and implications of this verse? It is generally a clear reminder for believers to protect themselves, their children, and their families from hellfire; the fire which is already burning and whose fuel is people and stones. This is a dire warning and one that should be taken very seriously. This should be a main focus in parenting from an Islamic perspective. Allah continues in the next verses,

“O you who have disbelieved, make no excuses that Day. You will only be recompensed for what you used to do. O you who have believed, repent to Allah with sincere repentance. Perhaps your Lord will remove from you your misdeeds and admit you into gardens beneath which rivers flow (on) the Day when Allah will not disgrace the Prophet and those who believed with him …” (Surah at-Tahrim, 66 : 7-8)

The disbelievers will have no excuse on that day for their disbelief. The believers are asked to repent to Allah with sincerity so that they may be admitted into the gardens that He has also prepared. A person’s eternal abode will be determined by his or her beliefs and actions in this life. The perpetual outcome of parents and that of their children is dependent upon these factors. Which outcome is preferable, and which one is being prepared for?

 

Responsibility and accountability

The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “Each of you is a guardian and is responsible for his ward. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a guardian of the members of his household; and the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring; and so each of you is a guardian and is responsible for his ward.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

This hadith of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) emphasizes the fact that parenting is a crucial responsibility that must be approached earnestly and sincerely. Parents nurture, rear, and protect their children in this life, and focus on preparing them for the life to come. Responsibility entails accountability, as elaborated in the Qur’anic verse above. Allah will hold each and every parent accountable for how they carried out this responsibility and this will be present on their balance of deeds in the hereafter. For this reason, parenting could be a person’s door to paradise or it could be his or her gate to the hellfire.

Parenting is not only a responsibility, but it is probably the most critical duty in the world. Parents are raising the next generation that will either succeed or fail in re-establishing Islam on this earth. The task has tremendous bearing on the future of the Muslim nation, and its outcome will depend upon the ability of parents to succeed. Parents have the capability to influence a child more than any other person. This influence, in turn, affects the community in which they live. Families are the building blocks of society, and the society is only as strong as its foundation. For these reasons, it is imperative that parents appreciate the significance of this role and accept the responsibility that comes with it.

 

Children as a test from Allah

One of the most fundamental concepts for a parent to understand is that children are a test and that through this test they will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment. Once this is realized, there should be a profound change in how they relate to and deal with their children. Allah says,

“And know that your properties and your children are but a trial and that Allah has with Him a great reward.”  (Surah al-Anfal, 8 : 28)

He also indicates,

“Your wealth and your children are but a trial, and Allah has with Him a great reward.”(Surah at-Tagabun, 64 : 15)

The Arabic word that is used in these verses is fitnah, 1 which is translated as ‘trial’ or ‘test’. The world is full of trials since part of Allah’s plan is to test His slaves with various tribulations and blessings. Children and families are part of this test. Allah does this so that the believer will be distinguished from the disbeliever and the truthful and sincere from the liars and hypocrites. Allah mentions,

“Do the people think that they will be left to say: We believe, and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.”  (Surah al-Ankabut, 29 : 2-3)

Allah tests humans with both calamities and blessings to determine who will be patient and thankful and who will be impatient and ungrateful. He also wants to determine who will be His obedient servants and who will be disobedient and defiant. He will then reward or punish accordingly on the Day of Judgment.

The calamities with which Allah tests His slaves are many. He tests them with fear, hunger, and loss of wealth, lives and homes. He tests them with the inability to have children, among other things. Allah declares,

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say: Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return. Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are (rightly) guided.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2 : 155-157)

Out of Allah’s mercy to His servants, He sends tribulations and tests so that they may return and repent to Him, giving up that which Allah has forbidden, and so that Allah might forgive them. It is part of Allah’s mercy that tests occur in this life so that our souls might be purified and come back to Allah before we die. Allah says,

“And we will surely let them taste the nearer punishment short of the greater punishment, that perhaps they will return (repent).” (Surah as-Sajdah, 32 : 21)

Allah may also test His slaves in order to raise them in status and to allow them to expiate for their sins, as the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “No misfortune or disease befalls a Muslim, no worry or grief or harm or distress – not even a thorn that pricks him – but Allah will wipe out some of his sins because of that.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also said, “A Muslim male or female is tried in person and children and property until he or she faces Allah (on the Day of Judgment) in such a state that all of his or her sins have been forgiven.” (Tirmidhi)

What most people often forget is that blessings may also be a test or tribulation from Allah. Wealth and children, for example, are a trial and a trust by which Allah tests His servants to know who will give thanks for them and who will be distracted from Allah by them. The ease with which people become absorbed in their wealth, possessions and children demonstrates the nature of this test. These are facets of life that may distract people from the worship and remembrance of Allah.

The test is not only to show who will be grateful and who will be ungrateful, but also to determine how parents will raise their children. Will they treat them with kindness, love and respect? Will they raise them in Islam with all of the knowledge and blessings that it contains? Will they prepare them for the hereafter and for paradise? Or will they raise them with another system of beliefs and practices (such as other religions or secularism) that are contrary to Islam? Will they send them to the hellfire, along with themselves? This is the true nature of the test, as it is with all tests that Allah gives to us.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, too many people fail in this test that Allah has given them, or they attempt to avoid the test as much as possible. They may put their children in day-care for 40 or more hours a week or hire a live-in maid to take care of the physical and emotional needs of their children. Other aspects may be given precedence over the children, such as career, money, hobbies, or friendships. They may spend time and effort on other projects, but the children are often not given their due consideration. In today’s world, many children have not received the time and attention that is due to them from their parents and society suffers as a result of this.

What parents fail to realize is that by neglecting their children and failing in this test from Allah, they may have missed a golden opportunity for eternal and spiritual rewards. The opportunity is right before their eyes, but they simply fail to take advantage of it. The job does require a lot of effort and hard work, but it is also one of the most rewarding tests that Allah could give His servants. Parenting is, above all else, a test of patience, selflessness, and sacrifice. Allah says,

“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet made evident those of you who fight in His cause and made evident those who are steadfast?” (Surah ali Imran, 3 : 142)

As a person excels in the test, these qualities become solidified and engrained. These are the qualities of Iman that parents strive to nurture not only in their children, but also in themselves. It is amazing that in the process of nurturing believing children, parents also ‘nurture’ themselves. The increase in Iman that is experienced through parenting will bring one closer to Allah and closer to an understanding of His infinite wisdom and mercy. What better opportunity to experience a taste of paradise in this life?

 

Rewards and joys of parenting

As with any responsibility, there are rewards and joys in being a parent. These rewards far outweigh the challenges, responsibilities, and efforts of parenting. In fact, parenting holds some of Allah’s greatest rewards on this earth: unconditional love, bonding and human closeness, shared moments, a smiling face with loving eyes, and hugs full of love and care. Look into the eyes of your child, feel his or her skin, and listen to his or her voice, and you will understand the true beauty of this gift. It is as if Allah is giving us a little sample of heaven right here in this earthly life.

Above all, a devout parent will experience the gratification of watching his or her child grow into an obedient servant of Allah; a believer who will love and obey Allah and contribute to the society around him or her. This servant of Allah may also provide enduring good deeds to a parent’s record through supplication.

The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “When a person dies, no good deeds will be added on his record except for three: continuous charity, beneficial knowledge, and a pious child who supplicates for him.” (Muslim)

A pious child who supplicates is one of only three ways through which a person may acquire continuing good deeds for presentation on the Day of Judgment. All of the effort definitely pays off in the end.

 

Goals of parenting

How do parents save themselves and their children from the hellfire? How do they fulfil their responsibility before Allah? How do they achieve the bliss and happiness guaranteed for the obedient servants of Allah? What are the goals that they should have for their children? These points will be elaborated throughout this book. It necessarily begins by setting goals for ourselves and our children.

 

The story of Luqman

In Surah Luqman, we find the wisdom that Luqman provided to his son –

“And We had certainly given Luqman wisdom, and said, Be grateful to Allah. And whoever is grateful is grateful for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever denies (His favour) — then indeed, Allah is Free of need and Praiseworthy.

(Remember) when Luqman said to his son while he was instructing him: O my son, do not associate (anything) with Allah. Indeed, association (with Him) is great injustice.

And We have enjoined upon the human being (care) for his parents. His mother carried him, (increasing her) in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the (final) destination.

But if they endeavour to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in (this) world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me (in repentance). Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.

(And Luqman said,) O my son, indeed if it (a wrong) should be the weight of a mustard seed and should be within a rock or (anywhere) in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Indeed, Allah is Subtle and Acquainted.

O my son, establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed, (all) that is of the matters (requiring) determination.

And do not turn your cheek (in contempt) toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.

And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the braying of donkeys.” (Surah Luqman, 31 : 12-19)

Luqman was a wise man whose insight was bestowed upon him by Allah. He taught this wisdom to his son for his benefit in this world and the world to come. Understandably, priority was given to teaching tawheed and warning against polytheism, since this is the foundation of the Islamic creed. Following one’s duty to Allah, he enjoined kindness and obedience to parents. This ingredient is critical in terms of parenting, for it eases the task when children assimilate this principle into their personalities.

After informing him of the rights due to Allah and parents through the expression of gratefulness, Luqman reminds his son of the awareness of Allah in all matters, public and private:

“O my son, indeed if it (a wrong) should be the weight of a mustard seed and should be within a rock or (anywhere) in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Indeed, Allah is Subtle and Acquainted.”  (Surah Luqman, 31 : 16)

Allah is aware of all that we do and for this reason we should have fear of Allah. We should also be cautious about taking sins lightly. The obligation of performing prayer and observing it perfectly is then mentioned. He encouraged his son to enjoin right conduct and forbid wrongdoing, to be patient over what comes to pass, and to avoid arrogance and boasting.

These few verses contain an abundance of wisdom for parents. From this, parents can delineate the important goals for their children:

– Belief (Iman) in Allah with pure tawheed and avoidance of associating partners with Allah.

– Kindness, respect and obedience toward parents.

– Fear of Allah and awareness of His all-encompassing presence.

-Establishment of prayer, on time and in the correct manner.

– Enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.

– Bearing life with patience.

– Humility and meekness.

– Moderation and avoidance of extremes.

 

In addition to these, the following may be added:

– Strength in belief and faith.

– Attachment to the Qur’an and authentic hadiths.

– Love of and sincerity to Allah, His Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam,) and His Book.

– Adherence to the Sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam).

– Understanding of all things from the perspective of Islam.

– Islamic personality, values, and identity.

– Equity and justice in dealing with others.

– Kindness, mercy and good character towards all people.

– Concern for the affairs of all Muslims (aid them, fulfil their rights).

– Inviting others to Allah and Islam.

– Pride in being Muslim.

 

Associated personality characteristics that would be desirable include the following:

– Self-confident and with positive self-esteem

– Motivated

– Responsible

– Persistent, hard-working

– Capable and skilful

– Content and satisfied

– Honest and trustworthy

– Courageous

– Leader

The foundation of these goals is the development of aqeedah, Iman and fear of Allah. In essence, the individual develops an Islamic personality and an Islamic identity. This becomes the centre of the heart and soul. All effort will be put forward to live a life of Islam, Iman, and Ihsan. True success will then be achieved in this life and the hereafter. In the end, the supreme goal for both parents and children is paradise.

 

Notes:

1. Fitnah also has other meanings that are more negative such as persecution, shirk (associating partners with Allah) and disbelief, falling into sin, confusing truth with falsehood, and so on. For our purposes, we will only be using it in the sense of ‘trial’ or ‘test’.

 

Taken from the book : NURTURING IMAN IN CHILDREN

 

 

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