I am coming to realise that I am facing one of the biggest challenges I will ever meet. I have always found progress very easy in my academic and working life and have enjoyed the feeling of sailing through these spheres most of the time. This leads a person to the feeling, especially when you are young, that you are the bee’s knees and oh-so-clever - Kooky Little Sis and Fasionista Sister take note.
Having children puts that whole mindset into perspective. They run rings around you. They ask questions you cannot possibly answer. They knock a hole through your little pre-children day dream of little angels who start learning Al-Quran at five and complete hifz at 10, who manage to complete an Alim’s course by 15 and then go straight to University to become a Doctor or whatever happens to catch your fancy.
In reality I am finding that even raising a good human being and a good Muslim is an enormous and scary challenge: teaching Al-Quran, giving a child good tarbiyyah, teaching them to love Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (SAW), encouraging good and honest behaviour. That’s just as a Muslim. As parents we have the usual ambitions for our children to achieve academically and in their careers and lives. Where to start?
I find that the best place to begin is with yourself – you want your children to be good? Behave well yourself, be conscious of what you say and do – oh and how you earn. I’ve come across religious people who have never worked and raised their children on state handouts whose children are tearaways and people who are not so religious but raise their children with money earned through real hard work, whose children have turned out to be good Muslims.
I believe in praying Salah as if it is a part of life, like eating, drinking and sleeping. We make sure that no-one in our house neglects it and I hope when the time comes our children will engage in it naturally.
Little Lady has started on Al-Quran and Little Man has caught on with Kalimah Tayyibah which is a start, although I am finding it very difficult to get him to repeat anything – he just grins at me as if I am a fool. I guess I will have to learn as I teach them, just enough to stay one step ahead. In this it seems that my children have become my teachers in a way.
Learning to recite and memorising Al-Quran is part of every Muslim child’s training, but what of Tarbiyyah? I find that this is the time when gaps in my own knowledge become apparent and lapses in my own behaviour can have serious consequences (No-one can work out where Little Man has learnt that naughty word which he just will not stop repeating). I can only teach what I know and so have had to return to the books: Translation of Al-Quran, Stories of the Prophets, Lives of the Sahabah and books like Bukhari (thanks Kooky Little Sis), Riyadh-us-Saliheen and Fazail-e-Amaal. This may sound like I am engaged in some great studies but to be honest I barely get a few moments to pick these up between work, prayers, children and home.
This is one of my greatest worries, that I use the time I have in the best way for my children and not leave things too late, that I keep putting it off because I am tired, or have to cook or because we have reading homework from school to do. At the same time I have to try and avoid panicking – “so-an-so’s child is five and has already finished Quran and memorised 20 surah’s” and go at a pace that benefits my children.
Any good ideas about correct up-bringing and teaching children from other sisters, teachers, mothers and anyone else who knows what works are very welcome.
One thing that seemed to work for a friend was a daily reminder to her children at bedtime that “Allah is with you, he can see you and hear you, he takes care of you”. She soon found that her children would own up to things they had done. When asked why, her seven-year old daughter declared that “even if you can’t see me, Allah will know what I did.”
As for academia and careers and life in general, I have come to the conclusion that I will leave that to my children to guide me; that we are born with a purpose and their hearts, their faith and their trust in Allah will guide them and that it is for me to help them pay heed to those instincts.