The Foundation of Islamic Upbringing (Tarbeyat)
All praise be to Allah, and may His Blessings and Peace be on His Last Messenger,
Every great pursuit in this life should be based on a certain vision, and should aspire to achieve a certain end. The pursuit of raising our children may be one of the most important and rewarding pursuits, as well as challenging, and even frustrating at times. The following are guiding concepts for Islamic upbringing which we as parents need to understand in order to effectively raise our children in an Islamic manner.
1-The Relation with Allah
The central, pivotal and fundamental point of this ideology is the relation with Allah. In other words, the aim of Islamic upbringing is to help our children develop their personalities in such a way that they are conscious of their responsibility towards Allah while understanding that He is the ultimate and eventual Goal, for He is the First and Last.
Almunamy (may Allah bestow mercy on him) said, in Fayd-ul-Qadeer:
[i]“من حصل له الوصول نال غاية المقصود فلم يفته شيء ومن فاته المقصود المعبود فاته كل شيء.”
“He who reaches [i.e. the pleasure of Allah] has gained everything and he who misses his besought Lord (Allah) has missed everything.”
The essence and goal of all divine messages is to guide mankind to conform to the Divine. This is the natural course and, as such, the only one that will grant us success and happiness in both lives.
Tawheed means making our relationship with Allah central and above all other quests in life. It is the only holistic approach to the making of the righteous and happy individual. It is the only way to encompass and engage the whole individual: spiritually, morally, intellectually, physically, emotionally and socially. It opens up to him a “big picture” view of the world as an intricate network of interconnected and interdependent relationships and systems. It seeks to connect the heart, mind and soul of the learner to the source of all wholeness, holiness and wellbeing.
On this path of tawheed-ullah, you will not only worship one god, but also seek guidance from the one and only God. The individual whose ultimate source of ideology is God alone can reconcile between the various dichotomies of life such as the mind and soul, the brain and heart, the body and spirit, idealism and realism, etc.
This is the only way one may experience true internal serenity and contentment, and be at peace with the destinies s/he may face. It was scientifically found that “Believing that one hand is in control of everything eases the mind.”[ii]
2-Treating the Human Being as a Whole (Body and Soul)
(إِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَراً مِنْ طِينٍ فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ) [ص:71-72]
”(Remember) when your Lord said to the Angels: “Truly I am going to create man from clay”. So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him (his) soul created by me, then you fall down and prostrate to him.” [38/71]
This concept is ubiquitously observed in the various Islamic teachings which work on the refinement of the genuine human inclination for the well-being of the individual and the society at large. Islam does not deny those inclinations or categorically condemn any of them.
There are many examples for this concept in the Islamic teachings, including how Islam addresses our desires for food and sex. With regards to sex, for instance, you find that Islam does not consider it filthy or disgraceful as long as it is done in a wholesome way that will protect the honor and rights of both parties, and – equally important – the rights of the fruits of these relations, the children. So, when that issue is addressed with the child at the appropriate time, parents need to make sure s/he respects this desire as a part of his/her constitution. At the same time, parents need to exhort their child to exercise this desire in a way that is wholesome and conducive to the well being of themselves, their partners, their children and society at large.
On the other hand, this concept helps parents be more balanced in raising their children by realizing that we are not raising cattle, and that our children need emotional and spiritual sustenance as much as they need their physical desires met.
As for education, parents should not spare any effort teaching their children about theirDeen, without ignoring the importance of math, science, as well as other fields of beneficial knowledge, which will help them earn a living and advance their personal cause, once they are grown up, and subsequently use their power and knowledge for the benefit of the whole ummah.
(قال أنس بن مالك t جاء ثلاثة رهط إلى بيوت أزواج النبي r يسألون عن عبادة النبي r فلما أخبروا كأنهم تقالوها فقالوا وأين نحن من النبي r قد غفر الله له ما تقدم من ذنبه وما تأخر قال أحدهم أما أنا فإني أصلي الليل أبدا وقال آخر انا أصوم الدهر و قال آخر أنا أعتزل النساء فجاء رسول الله فقال أنتم الين قلتم كذا وكذا أما والله إني لأخشاكم لله وأتقاكم له وأنا أصوم و أفطر وأصلي وأرقد وأتزوج الساء فمن رغب عن سنتي فليس مني.) [البخاري]
Anas bin Malik narrated: “A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet r asking how the Prophet r worshipped (Allah), and when they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said, ‘where are we from the Prophet r as his past and future sins have been forgiven.’ Then one of them said, ‘I will offer the prayer throughout the night forever.’ The other said, ‘I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast.’ The third said, ‘I will keep away from the women and will not marry forever.’ Allah’s Apostle came to them and said, ‘Are you the same people who said so-and-so? By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my tradition in religion is not from me [not one of my followers].” [Albukhari]
It is amazing to see that the very man who came to make the people submit to their Lord is the one who forbids them from excessiveness. However, this is the wisdom of Allah who knows that excessiveness – even in serving Him – will only lead to disagreeable consequences.
Islam does not only teach us moderation in acts, but also in feelings that some may think are beyond their control. The Messenger of Allah said:
[iii]“أَحْبِبْ حَبِيبَكَ هَوْنًا ما عَسَى أَنْ يَكُونَ بَغِيضَكَ يَوْمًا ما وَأَبْغِضْ بَغِيضَكَ هَوْنًا ما عَسَى أَنْ يَكُونَ حَبِيبَكَ يَوْمًا”
“Love those you love with moderation, for they may be your foes one day. And hate those you hate with moderation for they may become your beloved one day.” [Al-Tirmidhi from Abu Hurairah]
In other words, moderation is the way of Islam in all matters and one of the most important concepts and pillars of Tarbeiyat in Islam.
4-Knowing and Respecting the Capabilities of Man and Striking a Perfect Balance Between the Potential and Goal
( أَلا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ خَلَقَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ) (الملك:14)
“Should not He who has created know? And He is the most kind and courteous (to his slaves) all aware (of everything).” [67/14]
Parents need to learn about their child’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses because each individual has his/her own personality and character. It is important to connect with our children in order to keep the doors of communications with them open.
Some people do a lot of good deeds, but at the same time also do a lot of bad ones. They have the potential for doing great actions, but lack the power of abstinence from bad ones. Some people can fast every other day, but do not give a lot of sadaqah. So, Allah gave us a variety of ways to worship Him and made eight doors for the heavens. The companions of the Prophet were not all scholars or great commanders, yet they all used their potential to the maximum in their work of righteousness and in the service of theirDeen.
One child may excel in math, but not in social studies. Therefore, as parents we need to enhance his/her math and help him/her with social studies without undue pressure so that he/she can excel in this subject as well. Also, if he/she is truthful but selfish, commend him/her for his/her truthfulness and try to enhance it by showing him/her that the truthful one will eventually win. However, work with patience on his/her selfishness while knowing that he/she may not wind up being a very generous person, but at least pays Zakat.
The balance of the child’s potential and the parents’ objectives is quite essential for good parenting, and consequently a good outcome.
5-Habits, Character Traits, and Personal Inclinations Can Be Changed
(لا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْساً إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا)(البقرة:286)
“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope.” [2/286]
Many people think that personalities and character traits are set in stone and can never be changed, such as nervousness and miserliness. However, Islam teaches us that all these are changeable and that a person is actually obliged to change bad habits or personal inclinations for the good,
Since Allah made it obligatory on us to control our anger, it is understood from the verse above, that this is within our capacity.
Also, the Prophet said:
“إنما العِلم بالتَّعَلُّم وإنما الحِلم بالتَّحَلُّم ومن يتحَرَّالخير يُعطَه ومن يتَّقِ الشر يوقَه”[iv]
“Becoming knowledgeable is but by seeking knowledge. And becoming patient and wise is by training oneself to be so. And he who seeks good will be given it. And he who seeks bad will be given it.”
Therefore, parents should emphasize this concept when raising their children, and never give up on them. They should work with them on their weak personal traits in order to help them develop the best character they may have.
(وَخُلِقَ الْإِنسَانُ ضَعِيفًا) [النساء: 28]
“…and man was created weak” [Al-Nisaa': 4:28]
Having understood that change is possible, and consistency – Allah willing – will lead to success, it is good to stay conscious of humanity’s limitations, which apply to the child as well as the parent. Being aware of such limitations will enable us to overcome our frustrations, and understand that the upbringing of one child is an enormous undertaking that requires so much patience and resolve.
So, be patient and have resolve and don’t get frustrated, for you work for Him whose mercy is vast, power is unlimited and reward is guaranteed.
May Allah rectify the affairs of our children!
[ii] Herbert Benson, and Mark Stark, Timeless Healing (New York: Simon & Schuster:1996), 203. Benson is a professor of internal medicine at Harvard School of Medicine.
[iii] سنن الترمذي ج 4 ص 360. الجامع الصحيح سنن الترمذي ، المؤلف: محمد بن عيسى أبو عيسى الترمذي السلمي، دار النشر : دار إحياء التراث العربي – بيروت - – ، تحقيق : أحمد محمد شاكر وآخرون.