Beginning of Islamic Upbringing

When should Muslim parents start thinking about the Islamic upbringing of their children?

The question arises when should Islamic upbringing begin? The reality is that tarbiyyah - Islamic upbringing starts before the child is born and continues from the time of its birth. A student once asked his teacher about raising his child who was at that time one year old and the teacher replied, you have already missed the boat. If you are asking when the child is already one, you have already missed the boat because it starts back with the parents. Parents desiring righteous children should themselves be righteous. They must work on themselves, their relationship with Allah, their knowledge, their character and so on and so forth. The first habit for those who want to successfully raise Muslim children is taqwa, piety. From the perspective of the children, it is the right of children that their parents be righteous. This habit refers to the principle that if people are themselves righteous, Allah will make their children righteous as one of the fruits of taqwa. Taqwa, piety, fear of Allah has fruits and among those fruits is righteous children.

For example, in the Qur'anic story of Moses and Khidr, when Khidr explained that he rebuilt the wall because Allah wanted him to protect a treasure left for two orphans that was beneath the wall, he added at the end of his statement- "وكان ابوهما صالحا"  (...and their father was a righteous man...) [1]. Some of the early scholars used to tell their children, indeed I make extra formal prayers -nawafil for your sake, they used to recite the verse -  "وكان ابوهما صالحا" so that the righteousness of the parents, would affect the children, that they would benefit from their righteousness. Thus parents must be sure that their own Aqeedah is intact, that they have a close relationship with Allah, they must put this Aqeedah into practice. It is not enough to know the academic details but that Aqeedah must be lived. For example, Muslims in knowing the fundamentals of Tawheed know that among Allah's names is 'Ar-Razzaq' (the Provider), therefore they should seek their provisions through halal sources and leave the outcome to Allah. This is what they should do. If we have that correct belief with regards to Allah's names and attributes. Knowing his names and attributes and internalizing them requires us to live in accordance with the fact that Allah is 'Ar-Razzaq' (the Provider). So what does that mean? It means that people will not sacrifice Paradise, the life to come for the sake of provision in this life. What happens today is that the people's main focus is the dunya and that is given precedence. They put all their energies into it at the expense of their children and their religion. So most Muslims today are caught up in Riba in one way or another or they migrate to non-Muslim countries in order to ensure their children's future, what future? Future as lawyers, doctors etc etc., economic future, in many cases the priority becomes making money and saving it and Allah is forgotten. They do nothing for the pleasure of Allah and in some of the better cases; they just do their five times daily prayers and no more. However the way to ensure their future in both the dunya and the aakhirah is to have taqwa. As Allah said,

“And whoever fears Allah - He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.”[2]

For, parents have to live Islam, they have to internalize it and act in accordance with it, with its Aqeedah (creed). Parents should also practice the Sunnah, this is part of the creed, to live in accordance with the way of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and to do so is to avoid innovation because as the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:

"Every innovation is misguidance and every form of misguidance ultimately leads to the hell fire."[3]

We should understand that Bid'ah in general is a Satanic shortcut offered to lazy Muslims - people who don’t want to do what Allah has required of them to do, so they are offered shortcuts , you just do this, pray to the saint and you will have guaranteed results. If you try to pray to Allah it’s not going to work but if you pray to the saint you are covered. So these satanic shortcuts actually destroys a person’s religion and such a person could not possibly be given righteous children because Allah gives righteous to the righteous. It’s not to say that Allah in His Greatness cannot take righteous children from unrighteous parents or that he may not give unrighteous children to righteous parents because we know Prophet Noah had an unrighteous son. It is mentioned in the Qur'an, that’s reality. However what we are talking about is the norm. We are not talking about the exception. We are talking about the norm. So parents themselves must keep away from sins. The ends don’t justify the means. They must be aware also of the insignificant sins. As the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was reported by Sahl bin Sa'd to have said

"Beware of the scorn sins. They are like people who camp in the bottom of a valley and one comes with a twig and another comes with a twig until they make a bonfire and bake the bread. Indeed scorn sins whenever they are adopted they destroy those who do them.”[4]

So the parents themselves in order to ensure their chances for getting righteous children, they must themselves be righteous.

References:

[1] [Qur'an 18:82]

[2] [Qur'an 65: 2-3]

[3] [Sunan an-Nasa'i 1578]

[4] [Narrated by Ahmad, 2/223, from the hadeeth of Sahl ibn Sa’d (رحمه الله). Al-Haafiz said: Its isnaad is hasan.]

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