What aspect of education is important for the Islamic upbringing of Muslim children?
It is the right of Muslim children that they be educated Islamically. Most of us understand 'yes' that they be educated but our focus is not Islamic, it is just being educated as we said before. Going to the best schools, getting the highest degrees etc etc., but it is educating Islamically.
When the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said :"Seeking knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim". He meant Islamic knowledge first and foremost. Yes, gaining other knowledge is useful, it is beneficial, one doesn't write it off but Islamic knowledge is what is important and that should begin from the earlier stages.
We should give them Aqeedah, that is where our faith begins, from the very beginning. The first word that the child should learn if possible should be 'Allah'. Let it be 'Allah' rather than 'baba' and 'mama', you know 'baba' and 'mama' is good too, but 'Allah' is better. When the child is putting his first sentences together, teach him that 'Allah is above', 'Allah is up'. He is not here, there or everywhere, not inside this and inside that and inside the other which the world is confused about. But at the same time we teach him/her that Allah knows everything. Yes, Allah is above but He knows and sees everything.
We should instill in them a love of Allah and a fear of Allah from the very beginning. We should bring them up on "There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is His messenger." We should talk about heaven and hell even from the early childhood. I know western upbringing, principles of raising children, say 'no' you shouldn’t teach the children horrible, evil type scenes and concepts; punishments in hell fire, people burning... 'no', 'no', it’s not good, don’t put it in the child's mind. Just give the child love, love, love. Everything is good, rosy. 'No', Allah teaches about heaven and hell. The child should be aware of heaven and hell. We are doing good things to try to achieve heaven. We don’t have to go into all of the fine details of what goes on in heaven and hell. Of course if the child asks some details, you give them what is necessary. But let them know that there is a good place and there is a bad place. There is a consequence, you do good, you go to the good place, you do bad, it will take you to the bad place. You try to avoid that bad place. There is no harm in raising children with that consciousness.
We should let them understand about the day of judgment. That they will be held to account, that even though we as parents may not see you doing certain things, Allah sees and He will hold you to account. So they should develop that sense of doing righteous deeds even when authorities aren’t around - Ihsan, we strive to give them that consciousness of Ihsan.
Also we should instill in them love for the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) because that is our shahadah - Muhammad Rasulullah (ﷺ). It should be something which is a part and parcel of their lives. He should be the greatest symbol, not superman, not the x-man, no, not the people with all these powers and people tend to become attracted to and attached to, super heroes, 'no'. The hero for them should be Rasulullah (ﷺ) and the Prophets in general. But the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) in particular, we should help them develop love for him. They can only love him if they know him. Know him in the sense that they know about him. So in our raising them they should be raised on stories about Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). His role, what he did for us, how he guided us, our Islam came from him. He is the one who showed us the way, showing us the way to paradise etc etc.
And as part and parcel of the education, we should develop formal lessons for our children in Aqeedah and Akhlaaq from the earliest ages. We should start the children with prayer when they are young as the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) had said,
"Teach your children Salah when they are seven".
By the time they are seven they should know Salah. Knowing Salah doesn't mean merely that they stand up when you stand up, they raise their hands, they bow but if you step away they are lost. They haven't learnt Salah. 'No'. They are only doing while you are doing or even if they learn and they can do it on their own, they don’t really know what they are saying, what they are doing, they don’t make wudhu etc etc. Learning Salah means learning Salah. Salah is not accepted without wudhu. 'Yes' they are children, so issues of Salah is not really there, meaning reward and punishment. You get the reward and punishment, you get the reward when they pray, just as you get the reward when they make hajj, you get the reward when they fast, you get the reward but at the same time you are training them. So you are training them properly, you are training them to do as best as they can. You teach them Wudhu, they should learn wudhu, when they make salah they should cover themselves, you know, the little girls should wear hijab.
Also, in general children love stories, we said before that we should tell them stories of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), You know, there are also stories about the Sahabah and these kinds of things, you know, many books now have been produced about the lives of the sahabah and the righteous of the past. We should read these things to them. We know as bed time stories etc, try to read as much of that to them of that as possible.
We should take advantage of their strong memories, in those early years their memories are extremely sharp. It is in those early years that the earlier generation used to memorize the Qur'an. By the time they were seven or at least by the time they were ten, they memorized the whole of the Qur'an. If that is possible, we should give that to our children. What greater blessing can we do than to give them the Qur'an? Of course it has to be done in a proper way so that the children are not learning the Qur'an with a stick over their head. You know, because sometimes this doesn't work. We teach children the Qur'an but unfortunately people in many of the Qur'an schools around the Muslim world today, the methods which they employ actually destroy the love of the Qur'an in the hearts of many of the children because they brutalize them. 'Yes' they say you can't learn without the stick, we have to have the stick, yes, the children do need a little bit of pressure, you know, there are times when they do need some pressure but not to the extent that I have seen in many schools around the Muslim world. Most of the places I have visited, madrasahs etc where people learn Qur'an, it’s not done in a loving way and the children leave these schools scarred. So 'yes' we should take advantage of this strong memory but we should try to do it in a way which is going to endear the Qur'an to them, not turn them off from the Qur'an.
And we should make Ruqya on them, a part of the knowledge that we should impart is the making of Ruqya before they go to bed at night, they should learn once they learn to recite some Qur'an, they know to make the three Khuls, wiping it over themselves as a form of Ruqya, they should do it for themselves and we should do it for them. And we should use whatever day to day experiences that the children have that we find them in, use them as lessons to teach them, teach them something about Islam. Teach the girls modesty, the hijab, teach the boys some senses of responsibility and we should have in our homes an Islamic library. We should gather books, tapes, videos cds whatever. We should have a sufficient range of media, material and information that the children who often times are attracted to visual things, we have enough for them there that they don't feel a need to run out and watch other materials which are destructive.
 [Abu Dawood (459); Ahmad (6650)]< Back to Questions