Tuesday, 27 September 2011
The Importance of Faith in Raising our Children
I have lost count of the number of times I have been told by people that I am too strict, that I am too religious, that my children will dress modestly or pray when they are older. This is usually directed at my lack of a TV, my encouraging my daughter to pray with me, my not having computer games in the house and by my encouraging my children to dress modestly (the basic principles of covering upper arms and legs).
It’s a little disheartening that you try your best, which still leaves a lot to be desired and you are still discouraged in your efforts. Some of the things I try to do in raising my children may seem a little extreme to some people, but it is my view that you can’t tell your children at fourteen that they are adults now and must comply with their faith if they have never heard anything from you about their faith before this. "Tarbiyyah", or correct upbringing, begins at birth for a Muslim child (or according to some at the parents choice of partner for marriage). The character of and example set by the parents is the first set of lessons for the child. But so are the habits we encourage: remembering Allah (SWT) before we eat, shaking our shoes out before we put them on, saying salaam when we enter the house. Then there are the regular activities we build into our childrens lives such as encouraging them to stand with the grown ups in prayer, Quran lessons and “taleem” or study circles in the home.
These things present a lot of work, but for Muslims this is an investment. It mean that when your child reaches puberty and is seen as an adult, you are not suddenly faced with a young person who has a number of responsibilities that they have never performed before and now find too cumbersome. Instead, for a child whose parents have encouraged Islam to be woven into every element of their lives, picking up those responsibilities is second nature.
I attended a lecture this weekend where the lady speaking was telling us that she met a sister in the masjid who was crying over her children. Someone had told her fifteen years ago to make faith a part of their lives and she had replied with “They can do that when they are adults”. Now she was literally wringing her hands at her mistake and warning others.
Muslims also believe that this world is temporary – a brief stop on a much longer journey. The material things we hold so dear will be dust one day. The exception is those things we have used or spent in the path of Allah (SWT):
By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc., it means here Allah's Reward, i.e. Paradise), unless you spend (in Allah's Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well. (Quran- 3:93)
This got me thinking. What are the things that are most precious to us? Will we waste or hoard these things until a time they are no longer of any use to us? Or will we employ them in the path of Allah (SWT) thus preserving them forever and being reunited with them in the next life?
Most precious for me are my husband, my children, my parents and my brother and sisters. I also value my time, my health, my intellect and my ability to reach out and connect with people through my writing and the things I say. Would I not love to preserve these things by using them in the path of Allah (SWT)?
I hope that this will be the case for me. By supporting my husband to spend time in the masjid and in giving dawah, by trying to raise my children as good Muslims, by calling my wider family towards acting on the teachings of Islam, by using my time, health and abilities in sharing this faith, albeit in a very flawed way, I am reassured that I will find what I love returned to me in abundance insh’Allah.