[These are rough notes from the workshop conducted by Dr. Zeeshan Ahmed in Karachi on March 4, 2018]
Cont’d from here.
10. View the child as life’s second chance to you
We may have made mistakes as a child. Perhaps not knowing the consequences, we ended up with bad habits, or in the wrong company, which we later regretted. Having known the pitfalls, we can design the lives of our children the way we want by guiding them and making du’ā for them.
- Plan their life early so they can achieve more
Research has shown that to get expertise in anything, you need to put in 10,000 hours of focused effort with the guidance of mentors. If, for example, at this age I want to become a ḥāfidh, or master the Arabic language or English literature, I will not be able to put in that kind of time.
For me all of my decisions revolved around this question: what is the next best career move? For the next 2-3 years I will complete my college, then I will go into medical, or I will graduate from IBA, etc. When time is short, choices become limited. But when we are planning ahead for a 4 year old, a multitude of possibilities open up.
Students often say I cannot achieve this skill or target. I tell them look, what cannot be achieved in a week can be achieved in a month. What cannot be achieved in a month can be achieved in six months. What cannot be achieved in six months can be achieved in two years. What cannot be achieved in two years can be achieved in ten years. When we look at future with a long-term approach, we can achieve a lot more.
When we start planning for our children at a young age, assign them mentors and teachers, accumulate financial savings, we can make them:
- Doctor + ḥāfidh
- Expert writer + speaker + intellectually developed + madrassah taught
But once this time has lapsed, there is no way we can seize it.
- Make them your ṣadqah-i-jāriah
Three things included in ṣadqah-i-jāriah are:
- Doing a good deed that benefits people on a long-term basis, e.g. planting a tree, constructing a mosque, digging up a well.
- Teaching knowledge that people continue to benefit from.
- Bringing up a virtuous child.
All of these deeds will benefit a person even after they pass away. It is mentioned in a ḥadīth that a person was being punished in grave. When his child said bismillah for the first time and started reciting nāzrah Qur’ān, the punishment of the father was decreased. This was not because of his own deeds, but because of the deeds later done by his child.
- Reform yourself to reform the child
Upbringing of a child is a golden opportunity to reform ourselves. I have noticed that Muslims in the U.S. are more conscientious of their child’s upbringing. They are aware that if they don’t work on their child, there won’t be any difference left between them and other non-Muslims. The parents who did not even attend Friday payers made sure they brought their children to Sunday school.
Most parents have this mentality: I don’t want my child to become a smoker (though they may themselves be chain smokers) or I don’t want my child to get into bad company (though they may themselves waste away in the company of their friends).
There is a du’ā in Qur’ān which has a precious gem in it — and it is my favorite. You can recite this with allahummā or rabbanā in the beginning:
Aṣliḥ lī fī dhurriyyatī, innī tubtu ilaika wa innī minal-muslimīn [Q: 46, 15]
Scholars have translated Aṣliḥ lī fī dhurriyyatī in two different ways.
- Grant them ṣalāḥiyat (from ṣulāḥ; capability; merit)
- Do their iṣlāḥ (rectification)
I try to make intention of both meanings while making this du’ā i.e. rectify their character and grant them capabilities which they will require for success in dīn and dunyā.
What is capability and rectification being combined with? This is from Qur’ān. When you are asking for iṣlāḥ, innī tubtu ilaika you are begging Allah (swt) that I have sought forgiveness for my mistakes, I return to you having left all my sins (taubah means rujū; to return).
Innī minal-muslimīn that I am from among Muslims. This is my identity so have mercy on me. I am the one to surrender, not the one to insist upon sins. There is a very latīf nisbat (subtle connection) that when my character is rectified, when I declare myself to be a Muslim, only then will goodness be sealed in my child’s character, only then will their rectification become a possibility.
Scholars have pointed out a very strange thing. In Surah Kahf, which we try to recite on Fridays, there is the story of Khizr and Musa (as). Ḥadrat Musa (as) had demanded to know why he had repaired the wall, that too free of cost, for villagers who had not shown them any hospitality. Ḥadrat Khizr (as) replied here is the point of parting ways between me and you [Q: 18, 78] because your knowledge is different than my knowledge.
Then Ḥadrat Khizr (as) went on to explain the reasons behind his actions. For the last one, he said that there was wealth hidden beneath the wall that belonged to orphans. And had that wall collapsed, they would not have been able to recover it. Allah (swt) willed for that wall to be repaired so that when those orphans grew up, they could easily recover their wealth.
He highlighted one aspect of the orphans that their father had been a righteous man [Q: 18, 80]. Some scholars have commented that this was not their biological father, but a great grandfather seven generations back. If we consider this opinion, and based on some other narrations, it shows in our dīn there is a concept that the good deeds of parents can benefit their offspring for seven generations. If we are not pious, if we have character flaws and weaknesses, this is a motivation for us to fix them.
Another interesting thing to note is in Surah Nūḥ. For the vast majority of us, it is hard to stomach that anyone, even a kāfir, would be thrown in hell forever. And we are still just ummatī. Imagine, a prophet like Nūḥ (as), who is considered among the top six ūlul Anbiyā, made du’ā against his nation that O Allah, don’t spare even one of the unbelievers because if you leave them, they will only mislead others [Q: 71, 26-27].
Scholars have pointed out that it is the hallmark of prophets that they are well-wishers of their people, then why did Nūḥ (as) make this du’ā? They did research and said that these people would carry their children on their backs and point to Nūḥ (as) and say this is kazzāb (the biggest liar). If the children were being raised this way, what was the probability they would not lead others astray?
Mufassirīn have even written that the birth of Ibrāhīm (as) in the household of Āzar, and Kanʾān (the one who climbed up a mountain and drowned) in the household of Ḥadrat Nūḥ (as) are exceptions to the rule. By default, pious children are brought up in the household of pious caretakers.
The Islamic concept is that no matter how much we have sinned, if we make taubah today and try to leave those sins, we can start from scratch. Our choices play a big role in the psychological, behavioral, spiritual and iṣlāḥī decisions our child will make. So if we have been given a second chance in the form of our child, this should motivate us to reform our own character.
11. Work on their intellectual development
- Connect them to religious knowledge
Parents in this day and age cannot afford to have intellectually weak children. Think about it — why is it mentioned in a ḥadīth that the sleep of an ʾālim is better than the vigil of an ʾābid? Why is one faqīh (jurist) considered a bigger threat to Shaytān than a thousand ʾābidīn? Why is ʾilm given so much value in dīn?
ʾIlm is an anchor. It helps us set limits. I have heard this from our scholars, and I have felt this myself during daura-i-ḥadīth where I benefited from Muftī Taqī Usmanī (db), Muftī Rafī Usmānī (db) and Maulānā ʾAzīz ur Rehmān (db), that the daura-i-ḥadīth of daura-i-nizamī is the closest you can get to having companionship of Rusūl Allah (sws) in this day and age. Because day in and day out you are studying ḥadīth, especially those who study this full-time. Their classes start at 8:00 AM and can last up to 11:00 PM.
At some point, you start feeling like the narrators of ḥadīth are like your own companions and you are directly learning from them. It is said that a person who experiences this daura has fewer chances of going astray. We should try to have some level of connection with that. We should try to make ʾilm the anchor for our children. Try to connect the child to this from the very start.
- Integrate secular education with religion
A lot of religious people realize this so they send their children to madrassah for hifdh and they also send them to top schools. This is understandable because we want to give our child the best of both worlds, and it is a good intention to have.
One of our friends once told me when he was studying in Foundation Public, the Qārī sb there, his mannerism, and even the books he used to teach were all very dry. During this time, a priest visited them to preach Christianity. These priests have a very good training in articulation. On top of that, the book he used was also very colorful. So naturally he was inclined towards the attractive presentation.
If you look at science books in our curriculum, they are very colorful and interactive. You can check this for yourself. I teach my children so I noticed in the books of seventh and eighth grade science, the underlying theme is very clearly evolution. It is not creationism. There will be very subtle narratives that will infuse a virus in the child’s brain.
As a result of all this, we are developing two personalities in the child — one is being developed in the madrassah, where they are getting tarbiyyah, studying Qur’ān etc, and the other is being developed in the school. These are two detached worlds with no integration. Tablīgh, taʾlīm and tasawwuf do have a religious narrative, but it does not link up with the scientific theory of creation of the world.
My own opinion is this, and I have discussed this with scholars as well, that we need to create an integration of concepts from both science and religion in the takhayyul (intellect) of the child. But parents will have to do their homework, they will have to do research.
One time I picked up a documentary for my children. I don’t remember its exact title but it was about the history of the entire creation. It starts 13.7 billion years ago with zero volume after which Big Bang happens. I did some research on how I could integrate it with our concept of creation. So I asked them what was the ayah where Allah (swt) says the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them [Q. 21, 30]? In a way now the Big Bang theory is being reconciled. Always make the connection where it is due.
In another place, Allah (swt) says that We sent down iron [Q. 57, 25]. The video goes on to show that all the heavy metals came down on the earth. So there is a connection between the two.
Then a big asteroid banged with the earth, one mass was separated and began rotating around the earth. Thus the moon was formed. It is scientifically sound and a good description. You can also ask your child that why did Allah (swt) create the moon? Science can tell us how it was created, but it cannot tell the ‘why’ behind it. This is the limitation of science.
Many scientists don’t believe in God, but they do believe that there is a brilliant mind behind the creation of the universe that has generated perfect symmetry, balance and design. People like Richard Dawkins firmly adhere to atheism. They say that we are certain there is no god. But majority of scientists, though they don’t believe in a personal god, do say that we believe in the god of engineering, we believe in the god of science and maths, we believe in the god of design. A big name among these is Fredrick Hoyle who said:
The probability of the universe emerging out of random forces or by chance is less than the probability of a hurricane sweeping through a junk yard and assembling a 747 Jumbo aircraft.
Scientists have stated that if the expansion rate of this universe was less than a millionth of a second, it would have collapsed ages ago. If its expansion was greater than billionth of a second, the matter would have scattered and a solid structure like earth could have never been formed. We should try to look for these proofs and evidences in the scientific community.
A theist scientist once asked Richard Dawkins that you are so sure god does not exist, but what if after death you do find out that there is a god, and you had to face him, what will you say to him? He replied that I will ask god: Sir, why did you take so much pain to hide yourself?
This goes to show how ghabī (ignorant) and aḥmaq (foolish) they are. The name of Allah (swt) is al-Bātin (The Hidden One), but it is also ad-Dhāhir (The Manifest). All of us who believe can testify of many signs of Allah (swt) that are manifested daily. So many ayahs and proofs from Qur’an are daily experienced by us in everyday life. But he who has been blinded by Allah (swt) is not able to perceive His presence.
Coming back to the reasons behind the creation of the moon, Allah (swt) says that we created the moon for mankind to mark fixed periods of time and for the pilgrimage [Q. 2,189]. There are signs in the lunar phases.
Science tells us that modern homo-sapiens evolved over a period of 200,000 years somewhere in Africa. Then there is our own narrative that Allah (swt) created Ḥadrat Ādam (as) and Ḥadrat Ḥawwa (as) and it states the reasons for their creation. If we don’t link these concepts, it will give rise to doubts and skepticism in the mind of the child later on. We should device a system where Islamic schools and communities create an integrated narrative for the children. This will take the intellectual development of the child to a whole new level.
I am not just talking about science. I am talking about current literature. When I became the dean at KSBL, I started reading books on leadership management. One of our Ustad Jī invited me to Jamia Tur Rasheed for their congregation. He gave me a strange topic: ʿUlamā k liye maʿāshartī aur samājī qiyādat (social leadership roles for the scholars).
The gist of it was that usually NGOs take social initiatives to volunteer in villages and other rural areas. People in these areas are simpletons. They pick up religion from the behavioral cues of these volunteers. Our madrassah-based scholars should make it a habit to initiate and partake in these activities.
I also mentioned three leadership qualities that are taught to every individual who is brought up religiously:
- Clear mission, vision and purpose.
- The spirit of serving others. Rusūl Allah (sws) gave us the model of leadership: raʾīs al-qaumī khadimuhā (the leader of a nation is its servant). We need to infuse this spirit in children from an early age. The leadership skills are all about having this inkasarī (modesty) and ʾijz (humility); not to view oneself as a somebody. This is our core-level training in dīn.
- The importance of having a strong character. They are taught to be qawwī (have integrity) and amīn (honest). Our dīn is focused on these character traits. There was a research conducted to rank leadership qualities. Guess which trait made it to the top of the list? Subordinates and leaders alike ranked it as the core trait for leadership. It was trustworthiness of the leader.
You can connect all of these Islamic values to current literature. Wherever they do not align with our values, we will critically assess them. Our core is dīn. The knowledge provided through waḥī far outweighs any knowledge we have gained through our intellect.
When science was primitive and backwards, it had not discovered many of the things we know today. It is still primitive to a great extent. Our future generations will call us primitive the same way we consider our previous generations primitive (in science and technology). Ultimate source of knowledge is waḥī — it is our dīn.
13. Work on their behavioral and emotional development
- Reinforce positive behavior
B.F. Skinner, the greatest proponent of behavioral school, says that children will adopt the characters for which they get positive reinforcement. Likewise, they will avoid doing what they get negative reinforcement for.
Imagine, a child just won a trophy for a sports tournament. As soon as the father enters home, the mother exclaims, ‘look, what a great achievement our child has accomplished!’ The child will experience this moment-by-moment, their hearts will feel ecstatic and euphoric. Next time they will try even harder. If we celebrate whenever they secure top positions, it will reinforce that behavior.
We can apply the same strategy elsewhere. For example, the father proudly tells the mother, ‘today he prayed all twenty tarāwīḥ with me without fidgeting, and followed the imām perfectly.’ If we appreciate these behaviors, they will keep getting reinforced in their characters.
- Have good expectations
Rusūl Allah (sws) would rarely reprimand anyone. He (sws) was gentle and kind in counseling and expected good from everyone.
There is an article “12 things parents of successful children do.” It is research-based with a very strong evidence to support its claim. The Qārī sb of our children once quoted the exact findings of this research — and I was amazed at this man’s insight even though he had never read the research himself. The research shows that parents who have high expectations, their children excel significantly more in education, sports and other areas than those parents who don’t have any expectations from their children.
This research was conducted in schools, universities, military academies and corporations. Researchers would first assess cadets, students or employees. Then they would identify a superstar/high-flying/gifted group, and an average/mediocre group which was the control group. The researchers would then measure their performance after a lapse of one year over a duration of 3-4 years (it was a longitudinal study).
They found out that the progress trajectory of the gifted group kept on increasing every year. And the gap between their trajectory and that of the control group also kept increasing. You might say so what’s the big deal? They had already identified the gifted group, so their trajectory was obviously going to increase more.
The interesting part is that the assessment researchers had done in the beginning was completely bogus. They had lied. The gifted group was just a random sample. There was no evidence to support they had better analytical, logical or linguistic skills. The question is then why did the random sample keep performing better every year? There were two reasons:
- Change in self-image: The gifted group began seeing themselves as gifted so they gained more confidence.
- Change in attitude of others towards them: Teachers, military generals, supervisors, etc., began treating them differently. When an average person made a mistake, they would say you are incapable of doing any better. But when the gifted person made a mistake, they would say we expect better from you, we will give you some time to figure out how to fix this problem. The attitude was completely different.
This is called the Pygmalion effect — mothers and fathers should look it up — it means whatever we expect from people, after a while it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The frustration of getting the child to memorize something can cause the mother, father or teacher to say something negative. Even if they control the urge to hit the child, or call them names, they will still scold them saying something like: You still don’t get it? If you say something like this, the child’s self-image, the way they perceive themselves, will be destroyed. It is not easy! Even I have made this mistake. But when we read about its impact, we should realize the harm it can do.
14. Work on their physical development
- Incorporate play-time in schedule
Suppose you are doing everything for the child; they are doing hifz, studying maths and other subjects from tutors, and you are also giving them time. On top of that, there is another very important thing. Once a friend of ours was telling us that I was reading a book between the time of ʿAsr and Maghrib. Muftī Taqī Usmanī sb said this is not the time to read a book. This is the time to play. In the madrassah, children are encouraged to play some sort of sports during this time. ʿAsr to Maghrib is a time fixed for going out and having fun.
At one point when my children were doing hifz, I made them join a cricket club. At another time, I signed them up for a soccer club. This way it was inculcated in their schedule.
- Teach mental focus and sportsmanship through games
Three sports have been encourage in ḥadīth:
- Horseback riding
You would think Rusūl Allah (sws) would say something like don’t even leave the masjid without your prayer beads, but he (sws) is telling us to do horseback riding, to teach our children archery and swimming.
Recently, my khala brought a small basket and a ball. I also started playing with the kids. We had a competition. I coached them too that look, don’t keep all the focus on the basket. Feel the ball, feel its texture, feel its weight in your hand and notice how it swings when you throw it. In archery, you are taught the correct way to focus on the bull’s eye; it develops your psychology about how to focus on goals in real-time and what practical steps to take to achieve them.
Just like in a sports competition, we focus on the goal to beat someone at the game, in studies we can focus on a goal and achieve it. It gives rise to a competitive spirit, but a healthy one. When the child says I got good grades, give them a pat on the back. When they say I got better grades than X, discourage them from doing so. Healthy competition means we want others to succeed as well. This spirit of sportsmanship and physical development can be taught through games.
- Feed them healthy food
With good nutrition and a balanced diet, they will achieve more intellectually and also perform their religious duties in a better way. There is a ḥadīth that whoever eats ʿajwa khajūr in the morning, poison and magic will not harm them. There is also an emphasis on eating talbīna, which can be included in breakfast. Get your child in the habit of eating whatever has been mentioned in tib-e-nabvī. Pastries, chocolates, cold drinks — try to talk them out of these things. I have experienced this personally that if you do tarbiyyah of the child, they can have a lot of resistance towards these things. Tell them from a young age that this will increase your body fat, it will make you obese in future, etc.
15. Work on their social skills
- Get them involved in chores
In 1938, Harvard started its longest study on 268 sophomores, of whom only 19 are alive now and are in their 90’s. The study looked at their habits at that time and compared them to how their lives turned out in future. Results showed that the children who were in the habit of doing household chores:
- Were more independent
- Struggled less in jobs
- Did not get addicted to drugs
- Developed more socially
- Were able to empathize more with the poor and needy. They were more likely to be kinder towards their helpers and drivers because they knew how much effort they had to put in in getting the work done.
We parents usually make excuses for the child e.g. we say they are tired so I will do the dishes, or they have an exam so I will make their bed. Our first reaction is that let the children study. But what was the sunnah of Rusūl Allah (sws)? It was taught to men as well, that when you go home, you should help around in chores. If the father does it, the mother does it, then children will automatically do it too. If the children know someone is going to do their work, they will not do it. That’s one reason why we did not keep a helper. Our children were becoming too dependent on her.
- Inculcate the spirit of helping others
There was another study conducted by Duke and Pennsylvania State University on about 800 kindergarten children. They started in 1991 and tracked the children until they reached 25 years of age. They found out that the children who mingled with others in kindergarten and were kind and helpful were:
- More successful in the long run.
- More likely to end up in a good employment situation
- More likely to end up in a good social relationship, especially marriage.
- Less likely to end up in prison.
- Less likely a become a drug addict.
I often tell my children that when I was in matriculation, our maths was very hard. I had some classmates who would ask me for help, perhaps assuming I was the helping type. The benefit of this was that I did not have to prepare alone. We often think if we help others, we will lose out and they might get better grades than us. But the reality is that skill and knowledge are two things which the more you share, the more they will increase for you.
So I asked my children whether they were helpful to their classmates? They said I don’t say no if they ask me for help. This habit will inculcate good social skills and also help them in their knowledge. They will not have to prepare separately for exams. We have to infuse these social skills from an early age. This will help them in becoming productive and achieve more. The sunnah concept is to be very kind towards others.
16. Develop their faith and spirituality
We will have to do our homework, and find creative and innovative ways to do this.
- Connect them to good mentors
If there is an elderly pious person in iʿtikaf, you can take your son to sit with him. Their grandmother or some other elderly from the family can also help them connect with Allah (swt). My earliest connection with Allah (swt) came from a Ramadan where our nani, khala and mamoo would sit together, recite Qurʿān, do tasbīḥāt etc.
We were also given incentives and treats for finishing a certain amount of tasbīḥ, so we would be competing with each other. We used to pray nafl and make duʿā for our exams.A small child is deeply effected by such an environment.
- Tell them motivational stories
Our nani used to gather us around and tell stories from Qurʿān or from the life of Rusūl Allah (sws). She had read a lot of tafsīr books so she would relate the stories in great detail. We should understand the psychology of children and prepare before-hand. Reading stories from the book can turn the children off. Try to build the narrative yourself. Anyone with good storytelling skills can do this.
These stories should be linked to the children and their lives. My son recently heard the story of Ḥadrat Sulaimān (as) and he was so impressed that he (as) could control winds, jinns, insects, animals, etc. I asked him would you like to be like Ḥadrat Sulaimān (as)? He said I cannot be a prophet, but I do want to be like him. I didn’t tell him this distinction, the credit goes to the schoolteacher.
Then we can tell them that Sulaimān (as) did not love this world even though he had a command over it. He didn’t care about how powerful his kingdom was, he cared about what mattered to Allah (swt). He said that saying one sub’hānAllah is better than my entire kingdom.
- Build their relationship with Allah (swt)
This is the central thing. If this has been built then other things will get construct around it.
We have told our children to make duʿā because it always gets accepted, especially of children, and also when one is traveling. Once we were going to Murree and children really wanted to see snowfall. So at that point they started making duʿā for it. We thought that now we are stuck because there is no snowfall in March/April. But when we got there, we experienced a sleetfall. That time it was not just the children whose imān got stronger, but ours too.
- Build their identity
One big anchor our children are missing out on is that they don’t get to know themselves. We don’t focus on their identity. What is the aspiration we build for them? To become a doctor or an engineer is too small a goal to aspire towards. Their identity should not revolve around their jobs or careers.
In the entire history of creation, what is their status? Do we tell them that they are masjūd-i-malāʾika (the one whom angels bowed down to)? Do we tell them that now that they are fasting, Allah (swt) is proud of them in front of the angels? That if they follow the path of Allah (swt) at such a young age, they will get the shade of His throne when there will be no shade besides it? Do we tell them of their importance of being the ummatī of Rusūl Allah (sws). Did we ever talk about the fadhīlat of this ummah? This is the last ummah but it will be the first to go to heaven.
Secondly, we have to inform them about this time which is close to the coming of Dajjāl. Economics has a principle of demand and supply. There has always been a demand for the people of īmān and taqwa, but now we are running out of supply. Ask them how many children in your class are careful in their speech? How many of them pray five times a day? Think about the blessing Allah (swt) has given you.
If children are being ungrateful when things don’t go according to plan, I build them up a bit and tell them about Syria. What is happening to the children over there? What is happening to the children in Afghanistan? We can’t show them graphic videos or pictures but we can still give them a rough idea of what is going on. They have no idea where their parents or siblings are. They are living with some other family in another country. Do they have a breadwinner? Do they have safety like we do here?
Also make them understand that there maybe dangers, but when they turn to Allah (swt), He will protect them. Hifz is also a fortress of safety. If they do good, Allah (swt) will choose them for the good in this world. There is no match for what Allah (swt) has given them (religiously).
We only truly felt this after 9/11 happened. Here, if you are slacking behind, people will gently nudge you. If you don’t show up at the masjid, they will ask about you. But things in U.S. were completely overturned. There was shooting and our masjid was attacked. People were pressurized to not go there, they were getting their beards shaven.
I realized that to continue with this external get-up (sunnah) one had to have a very strong reason behind it. It was only then that I recognized myself, and only then was I able to feel the pleasure mentioned in ḥadīth that a time will come when following sunnah will be like holding ember in one’s hand. The person who revives sunnah at this time will get the reward of a hundred martyrs.
In another ḥadīth it is narrated that if a person’s life was at stake, but they choose īmān because they feel the same repulsion for reverting from īmān that a person feels towards being thrown in fire, Allah (swt) will put the sweetness of īmān in the heart of such a person. The feeling that I gained during that time in U.S. was something else. A child who goes to a modern/secular school, yet sticks to their values, Allah (swt) will grant them this sweetness as well. They will also build a strong sense of identity. When they get this identity, they will be able to cope with much more in life.
17. Work on their ādāb and manners
The reflex action for most parents is that the child should be at ease, even if they end up in trouble. There are doubts too, like if I ask the child to do chores or help around, I would wonder if I am doing this for the child or my nafs? But it should work like this: you are makhdūm (the one being served) and they are khādim (the one who is serving).
They should try to initiate salām. If I come out of the masjid first, I try to pick up my father’s shoes for him, and try to make my children do the same for me. We are more likely to think: I don’t want my child to do these things, I will pick up my shoes myself. No! Make the child do it. Help them build this habit.
When I had my operation for hernia, I would sit on a chair and pray. One of my nephews lives with us. He knew I would come downstairs slowly. We have one old van that doesn’t drive very smoothly. So he would run downstairs, open the gate and start the other car that drives smoothly. He is not my son, but he has the tarbiyyah of a madrassah. Then he would keep waiting for me. He would open the door for me. Then in the masjid sometimes he and my son would compete in bringing a chair for me.
It was during this time that I realized what a big blessing these children are. If they become doctors and engineers, but don’t even bat an eye towards me, then what’s the use of their education? As opposed to whatever they become, even if they are not able to contribute that much monetarily and economically, but at least they have respect for their father, their chacha, their dada, etc.
My father in law once went with a jamāʿt on a gasht. They went to a house in DHA. In that area, home owners usually don’t come to the gate. So a khānsāmā (footman) opened the door. They told him to send his sāḥab. He said that ḥadrat I am the sāḥab of this house. The jamāʿt was a bit surprised. They all went inside. Then he relayed his story.
He said that I was a khānsāmā and this house belonged to another sāḥab. He had children who were all highly educated. They went abroad and got settled there. His wife also passed away and he was left alone at home. When he got sick, he told his four sons that I have become old and I need one of you. You can decide among yourself who would come and take care of me like I took care of you in your childhood.
None of them wanted to come so they kept delaying it. So much so that the father was admitted to the hospital, and the doctors declared he would not survive. His khānsāmā contacted the sons and told them that he was going to pass away soon and wanted to meet them all. The father had so much zarf (tolerance) that even at this stage he did sila reḥmī (tried to maintain social ties). They replied that when he passes away, get him buried. The father found out about this and transferred ownership of his home to the khānsāmā.
When the father passed away, his sons came back. But for what reason? They wanted ownership of the house. They gave some money to the khānsāmā and sent him on his way. He said hang on a second. What’s the rush? This is my property. You are most welcome to stay here as long as you want to, but I am the owner of this house. When the sons heard this, they beat him up. But later they found out about the documentations so they couldn’t do anything and left.
Why did this happen? The sons got the best education but the nisbat was not there. If you don’t teach the child dīndārī, if you don’t get them connected to Allah (swt) and Rusūl Allah (sws), they will not get connected to you. If they cannot recognize their biggest murabbi (caregiver and provider) Allah (swt), then what hope do you have? Whenever I see my children going through some difficulty, I refer to Allah (swt) first. I say that I am just a father, but You are their Rabb. I can take them to doctors, I can give them medicines, but only You can give them health.
So teach your child ādāb and manners, teach them respect for you and others. But this will only happen when they have a relationship with Allah (swt).
All of this will only happen if you have a daily schedule for the child. There should be a specified time for madrassah, for tarbiyyah, for Urdu, English, Arabic, hifz, for family time. Our family time is on Sundays but now we are doing these workshops so today my eldest one said to me that Abba you used to do family time with us on Sundays but now you just go to bayāns and talk about doing family time.
Family time should be there. You can ask the children where they would like to go. You can take them out for breakfast or play with them or take them out for a drive. Keep a break from ʿAsr till Maghrib. After ʿIsha, try to put children to bed early. But it can also be a time of tālīm and sharing things. All of these things can only be managed if we adjust them into daily schedule. Implementation is not possible without nizām al-auqāt (time table).
This whole workshop is just a starting point. You will keep discovering more your entire life by practicing, learning from ʿulamā and child psychologists. But also take note of differences e.g. ʿulamā will say within certain boundaries, with all etiquette and ādāb, tadrīb is allowed in certain cases. The child psychologist will say this should not be done at all.
But it is important to know the ādāb and etiquette of tadrīb. Some of our pious predecessors would make wudhū and offer nafl salah before doing tadrīb. You cannot hit on the face. You cannot hit in a way that leaves a mark on the body. You cannot hit a child less than the age of ten years.
There are many other restriction. Be careful about them. Ideal method would be to put them in the spot and talk to them. Make them feel uncomfortable by engaging them in dialogue. Tadrīb, though permissible, is the very last resort. It can backfire too, so always be cautious in using this method.
Implementation of all of this will take time. Change happens slowly and gradually. First, you have to realize how crucial this is. Then this resolution will have to made everyday. There will be issues, children will mess things up, then you will have to set them aright. You will have to make duʿā. When your child messes up and your heart is broken, the duʿā you make at such a time will be more dear to Allah (swt). You will worry about this, and talk to other people to get advice and ideas. But the point is, you have to give priority to this in your life.
May Allah (swt) give tawfīq to all of us.