As mothers, we are shepherds for our flock, our children. Allah (SWT) Himself has given us responsibility over them, and they are a trust between our hands, requiring nurturing and care. It is for this reason that it is even more critical that we strive to display excellent manners towards our children, not only for our own benefit, but to secure a bright future for them.
The vital role in bringing up our children upon Islam and striving to attain excellent adab is demonstrated by the hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) said: “Every child is born upon the Fitrah (man’s innate disposition to monotheism), then his parents make him a Jew, Christian or a fire worshipper…” (Muslim)
The first and most important manner that we can display towards our children is teaching them. By teaching them about Allah (SWT) and how to worship Him in the best of manners, we are demonstrating our love for our children and our desire to see them attain high ranks in this life and the next. Tawheed (oneness of Allah (SWT)) is the principle that should be at the forefront of our teaching, just as Luqman (AS), advised his son,
“…O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily, joining others in worship with Allah is a great wrong indeed.” (Luqman:13)
We all know the hadith in which parents are ordered to tell their children to pray at the age of seven, and to admonish them if they do not do so by ten years of age (Abu Dawood). However, prayer is not the only form of worship we should teach our children from a young age. It was narrated that after the Muslims were commanded to fast on the day of ‘Ashoora, al-Rubayyi, bint Mu’awwidh said: “We used to observe this fast after that, and we used to make our children fast and make them toys of wool; if one of them cried for food, we would give him that toy until it was time to break the fast.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim).
Furthermore, it was narrated that al-Saa’ib Bin Yazeed said: “I was taken for Hajj with the Messenger of Allah (SAW) when I was seven years old.” (Al-Bukhari)
Attaching our children to the religion from a young age firmly embeds awareness of Allah (SWT) in their hearts. Numayr ibn Aws said, “They used to say, ‘Correct action is a gift from Allah, but adab comes from the parents.’” (al-Adab al-Mufrad, al-Bukhari). So adab itself should be at the forefront of our teaching; how can we pass on excellent adab unless we ourselves are excellent role models?
Not only should we strive for the benefit of our children, we should also remember that the negative aspects of our character will also be passed on to our children. If we backbite someone to our friend in the presence of our children, they will pick up on it and attain that trait. If we become angry and impatient with others, they too will most likely have these attributes later on. If we fail to take care of our cleanliness and appearance, our children will grow up neglecting these matters too.
Look at the mother of Anas bin Malik (RA), Umm Sulaym (RA). When one of her sons, ‘Abdullah, was born, she sent him with Anas (RA) to the Prophet (SAW), saying, “O Anas (RA), nobody should feed him until you take him to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) in the morning.” Despite the natural instinct of the mother to feed her baby immediately after he is born, she wanted the first thing to enter the child’s mouth to be from the Prophet (SAW).
Furthermore, she sent her son, Anas (RA), to the Prophet (SAW) to serve him, when he was just a young boy of ten years old. She knew that through spending his daily life with the Messenger of Allah (SAW), he would attain much goodness, primarily because his everyday manners and character would be moulded by the Prophet (SAW) himself and he would be granted much beneficial knowledge.
When his mother first presented Anas (RA) to the Prophet (SAW), she demonstrated her deep understanding of what was beneficial for her son, asking the Messenger of Allah (SAW) to make du’a for Anas (RA). Of course, Allah (SWT) answered the du’a of the Prophet (SAW), “O Allah, make an increase in his wealth, and progeny, and confer blessings (upon him) in (each one) of them” (Muslim), and Anas (RA) achieved great success in this life and the next.
This is the example of the mother of Anas bin Malik (RA), Umm Sulaym (RA), whose footsteps the Prophet (SAW) heard in Paradise (Muslim). So, striving to place our children in good company is a great aspect of adab towards them, since it is our duty to protect them from evil and encourage them to have good friends. If we ourselves have ill-mannered friends and visit them with our children, it is most likely that they will be influenced by not only our friends, but our friends’ children too.
The Prophet (SAW) exemplified this by striking a beautiful example: “The case of the good companion and the bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the blower of the bellows (iron-smith). As for the seller of musk, he will either give you some of the musk, or you will purchase some from him, or at least you will come away having experienced its good smell. Whereas the blower of the bellows will either burn your clothing, or at least you will come away having experienced its repugnant smell.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Do we not wish for our children to experience the goodness of praiseworthy friends? Children love to compete with each other, so do we not wish for them to compete with others to attain the pleasure of Allah (SWT)?
Along with competing for goodness comes praise. Part of displaying excellent adab with our children is by recognising their achievements, not just disciplining them when they behave poorly. By praising them, we are instilling confidence in them, confidence that is vital if they are to develop into the future leaders of the Ummah. Our aspirations for our children should be high, but not just in the worldly sense. When Anas (RA) served the Prophet (SAW) for ten years, what did his mother aspire for him to attain? A high qualification? Wealth? Status? No, rather she understood that for her son to attain a high rank in the next life was far beyond attaining the highest rank in this life.
Whilst praise and encouragement are vital manners to display to our children, it is upon us to strive to remain patient when praise is the last thing we feel like giving our children. When one of the grandsons of the Prophet r rode on his back while he was prostrating, he lengthened his prostration. After prayer, when some of the people asked why, he said: “…my son was riding on my back and I did not want to hurry him up until he had had enough.” (An-Nasaa’i). So in a similar situation, rather than getting annoyed and continuing prayer as normal, even if our children fall off our backs or start crying, let us wait patiently in the same prayer position. Not only will we be more likely to regain our calmness and concentration, we will also be displaying positive connotations about prayer to our children, since the fact that we are praying does not prevent them from playing.
Another manner that is of great significance is fairness. It was reported that when the father of An-Nu’maan gave An-Nu’maan something that he did not give his other children, the Prophet (SAW) asked him: “Do you not want to show equal kindness to all of them?” When he replied in the affirmative, the Prophet (SAW) commanded him not to repeat the action (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Al-Bukhari). Moreover, treating our children fairly is part of our adab with our own Creator, as the Prophet (SAW) said: “Fear Allah (SWT) and treat your children fairly.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim)
One of the most fundamental aspects of adab with our children is making du’a for them and, of course, ourselves. One of the characteristics of the slaves of the Most-Merciful described in Surah Al-Furqan is that they make the following du’a:
“…Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring the comfort of our eyes…” (Al-Furqan:74)
In explaining this verse, Ibn ‘Abbaas (RA) said: “This means (offspring) who will strive to obey Allah and bring them joy in this world and the Hereafter.” (Tafseer ibn Kathir)
Guidance to the religion, guidance to goodness and guidance to attain exemplary adab is all in the hands of Allah (SWT) alone. So whether we are trying to perfect our adab with our Creator, our Prophet (SAW), or others from the creation, let us continually remind ourselves that the ability to attain excellence is from the mercy and permission of Allah (SWT) alone.
The sea of adab is vast, and we have only just begun to traverse it. So let us keep striving on our journey, seeking help from Allah (SWT) alone, and all the while keeping in mind the statement of Ibn ul-Qayyim (RA), “Adab, it is the deen, all of it.”
Ummu Abdir-Rahmaan is a freelance writer, based in the UK. She hopes to give inspiration and encouragement to fellow believers through writing about the heart-softeners.