In the majority of Muslim households, the father is the primary breadwinner. He jumps out of bed in the morning and races to work. He often comes home late, tired and exhausted. With such a hectic schedule, many fathers spend only a few minutes a day with their children if that. There is little time in the day for fathers to communicate with their children, spend time with them or even show the tiniest bit of affection. Quite often, in fact, fathers are so overtired that instead of cuddling up to their little ones, they snap at them for the tiniest infraction when they are at home.
The role a father plays in a child’s life, especially in the light of Islam, is an integral part of child development and is a factor in determining the level of success children can achieve as they grow into adults. The father is the first man that a child learns to trust. Boys look to their father to see how a Muslim man should work, act and behave. Girls look to their fathers to see how a man is supposed to treat his wife and children. And both male and female children look to their father as a living example of the Islamic values they need to model.
Allah has given us the perfect example of an affectionate father in the actions and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Once a man saw Muhammad (SAW) kissing a child’s head and said, “You are kissing children, but traditionally we do not kiss them,” to which Muhammad (SAW) replied, “What can I do if God removed mercy from your heart?” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Muhammad (SAW) was often seen praying while children climbed on top of his back or under his legs. He did not lose his temper but simply continued with salah. He loved children and they loved him.
Aisha (RA) reports that she had never seen anyone closer to the Prophet (SAW) than his daughter, Fatimah. He (SAW) would rise whenever she entered and seat her in his place; and she would do likewise whenever he entered the room.
Unfortunately, many Muslim men make the mistake of thinking that by giving their children food, clothes and shelter that they have done their job as a parent. However, such care for children is only half of what it means to be a father. The other half is showing children real emotions like love, kindness and compassion. Fathers are also responsible for ensuring that their children get a proper Islamic education and engage in acts of worship. And it is the father who will be called to account on the Day of Judgement to answer as to whether or not he fulfilled the rights his family had upon him.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The ruler is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s household and is responsible for her flock …” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Quite often mothers bear the burden of raising the children alone and are the main sources of affection since the father is always at work and when he comes home he is too exhausted to be involved.
But it is essential for fathers to pitch in and show their kids that even though they are tired they do care about them. Fathers can help by bathing the kids before bed or by helping older kids with their homework. Even by just touching the child’s cheek or messing up his hair, a father can show affection. Children need to know that their father is not only their protector but also their confidant and that they can come to him for advice without fear. The key to being a successful father is in making time for children and not waiting for free time to appear magically by itself because it never will. There is always something to deal with each day and spending quality time with children is quite often something that fathers need to schedule or define.
It does not take much for a father to show his love. Showering children with expensive gifts and toys is not the way to win their hearts. The best way that a father can show his affection is to give all of his children, both males and females, as much warmth as he can on a daily basis. It can be a simple hug or a kiss on the cheek or as effortless as praying a single salah together. But no matter how small the gesture, the simple fact that it is given with an open heart is immeasurable.
“My father always tried to remove stress from my life. I remember when my two sisters and I had exams during the school year. He would wake us up about an hour before the fajr prayer. We would all race to put on our school uniforms. Then we would pile into the car with our books and a thermos of hot milky tea and fresh bread that my mother had prepared for our breakfast. He would drive us to a nearby beach where we would eat breakfast on the sand, pray fajr together and then revise our notes before we had to go to school. I will always be grateful to him for making exams so special!”
~Sister Thoraie Ahmad – Kuwait
“I love to watch my husband with our son. From the time he was born my husband has been changing diapers, giving him baths and staying up with him at night so that I can rest. We are both lucky to have such a good man in our lives!”
~Sister Taiba Khawer – Kuwait