1. FIND THE RIGHT SPOUSE
Before we can even contemplate having children, it is important to consider that the characteristics we find in our spouse are also likely to be adopted by our children. In his book, Raising Children, in the light of the Qur'an and Sunnah, Shaikh Abdus-Salam bin Abdillah As-Sulaymaan states: "The uprightness of the father and the mother is from the clearest of things that will assist one in achieving the proper upbringing of his children. This is since they serve as role models and children follow their fathers and mothers."
Trying to perfect our children is futile until we perfect our own character and behave in the same manner we aspire to see in our offspring. When parents see their toddler or teenager throw a tantrum, they may not realise that the child has learned ineffective anger management through their parents. How do we behave when we are tired, upset or angry? How do we cope when our child requires our attention if we are busy on the phone or Internet? Do we listen and try to meet their needs or ignore them and tell them off? If the latter is the case then we may realise that our children adopt the same dismissive attitude towards us when we require their attention while they are busy.
Actions have a far more powerful effect than words so if we concentrate on what we do rather than what we say and try our very best to instil the sunnah of our beloved Prophet (S) into our every day actions, we will see the rewards through the good behaviour of our children.
Having an Islamic library in the home in an organised way, will help us and our children to strengthen our foundations and build up our knowledge, Sheikh Salih al-Munajjad advises: "In order to build a library properly - and Allah loves things to be done properly - you should include references so that family members can research various matters and children can use them for their studies."
What type of Islamic knowledge should we start with? Tawheed is the first aspect of Islam that we should introduce to the young child as soon as they have some level of understanding as it will be the foundation they build upon.
A home should be a place where the soul finds rest from the stresses of the outside world, a sanctuary where all members of the family feel comfortable and safe. An Islamic home should be a haven filled with frequent sounds of the adhan, punctual salah being offered alongside the recitation of Qur'an and adhkar throughout the day. In this type of home the child will see from a young age that Islam is a way of life.
In some Muslim cultures, the home is a place where young members of the family are ruled by fear and life outside of the home is more peaceful. It is very important that we create an atmosphere of love, harmony and plenty of fun for the younger members. Sheikh Abdus Salam, author of Raising children in the light of the Qur'an and Sunnah says: "Do not trivialise the act of playing with children for you will be clashing against their nature ... Play with them and have fun with them to the point that they love you, enjoy your company and heed your advice and guidance."
A fundamental principle of raising children is to create love in the hearts of our children for us. If children have more fear than love for their parents, then once parental supervision is removed, there is nothing to stop them from falling into wrong actions. Instead, teaching children to love and fear Allah will keep them mindful of their actions wherever they go.
The home is the place where the character of the child is established, therefore it is mandatory that it is purified from all forms of evil, such as:
Ensuring that when guests visit, non-mahram men and women are segregated. Following the Islamic rulings on gender segregation prevent a great deal of suspicion, jealousy and heartbreak.
Controlling/removing the TV: There are many evils which stem from the television, in particular the fact that it trivialises sin and glorifies that which Allah has forbidden. How can we expect our children to follow an Islamic way of life when they see non-Muslim lifestyles displayed on the TV everyday? It is important to bear in mind that by removing the TV, substitutes should be out in place such as Islamic DVDs, indoor and outdoor activities for families which will help to strengthen bonds.
Removing pictures of animate beings. A Muslim household free from pictures of animate creatures will allow the Angels to enter the households and bring blessings from Allah.
Raised in the deen, children can become an asset to society and the coolness of our eyes. But it starts with us ... the courage to do what is right, make the correct decisions and choices for both ourselves and our little treasures to remain on the right path.
Guidelines for raising children, edited by Abdul Rahman Abdullah (Daarusalaam Publishers 2001)
This article was first published in SISTERS, the magazine for fabulous Muslim women. Visit the SISTERS website at www.sisters-magazine.com to read more articles - and download a complimentary issue!