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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books Family Principles of Upbringing Children

Principles of Upbringing Children - Work and Performance of Duties

Article Index

Work and efforts to achieve are the basis of human life. Through work man acquires the basic amenities of food, clothing and shelter These needs are fulfillled by making tireless efforts throughout ones life. The growth of industries and mind-boggling inventions are all the results of continuous research and development activity of human beings. It is sheer hard work and knowledge that gave birth to the civilisations in the world. It is the collective greatness of the people of a country that they have a prominent place in the comity of nations. The prosperity of any country is a direct reflection of the hard efforts put in by the people of that nation.

If the people of a country are lazy and compulsive malingerers, that country will lag behind others in all fields of activity. Such countries will not be prosperous. Such nations will not be productive and will always remain in the morass of backwardness. Similarly the progress of every individual too will depend on his knowledge, skills and sincerity of efforts. The world is a place for hard work and toil. It has no place for people who shirk and avoid their duties. Allah says in the Holy Book:

“Whatever man has got is the result of his striving." (Quran, 53:39)

The Prophet of Islam says:

"Accursed is one who puts his burden on others." (Usul al-Kafi, v5, p. 73)

The Prophet also said:

“Prayer has seventy aspects and the most excellent is the toil to obtain honest livelihood." (Usul al-Kafi, v5, p. 78)

Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:

“Convey my greetings to my friends and exhort them to remain pious and prepare themselves for the Day of Reckoning. By Allah I ask you do such things, which I myself with hard toilAfter morning prayers, stir out early for work and acquire honest livelihood. Allah will then provide you food and succour" (Usul al-Kafi, v5, p. 78)

Imam Mohammed Baqir says:

“I don’t like the person who is lazy in performing his worldly duties. A person who is slow in this life will also be slow Hereafter" (Usul al-Kafi, v5, p. 85)

Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:

“A person who toils to provide sustenance to his family will get the reward equivalent to a jihad." (Usul al-Kafi, v5, p. 88)

Imam sadiq also said:

“The farmers are depositories for men. They sow good seeds and Allah helps them grow. On the Day of Judgment the farmers will have an excellent place. They will be addressed with the sobriquet of mubarakain—the blessed ones" (Usul al-Kafi, v5, p. 201)

Every human being derives benefit from the efforts and work of others. The human beings are symbiotic and cannot live in seclusion. It is therefore the duty of every individual to make his best efforts for his own sustenance and for other fellow beings. The labourers therefore can be rated as the best of human beings. Those who have the strength to work but depend on the toil of others will be deprived of the Blessings of Allah.

The parents, who wish to make their children grow into obedient and useful citizens, and also they want to contribute to the progress of their nation, must initiate the children to do some useful work early in life. They should train the children in such a way that they develop aptitude for work very early. This way they will be able to inculcate the spirit of dignity of labour in the children. Such persons will not deem any work below their dignity.

Lot of parents don’t give attention to this very important aspect of the trainingof their children. They keep doing many simple things for the child that he could himself do without any difficulty. With this attitude they don’t create a sense of responsibility in the child. They presume that this way they are serving the child. To the contrary it can be a disservice to the child and the society at large. With their attitude they create drones who will shirk work as they grow up. The child must be encouraged and helped to do work that suits his age and physical capability. This way the habit of work will be created in the child and he will enjoy working.

The ignorant parents, who do every small work for the child, are not absolving themselves from the duty of training the child and creating lazy and useless members for the society.

Responsible and thoughtful parents keep in mind the child’s age, physical strength and his mental capability into and encourage him to perform tasks that are within his ken. For example, a child of three years is asked to put on the socks himself, put on the shorts himself or to fetch things like the salt seller etc. As the child grows up, bigger tasks are entrusted to him, like making his own bed, setting the dining table, washing the dishes, cleaning and swabbing the floors etc. The children are also encouraged to look after their younger siblings; tend the garden at home and attend on the pets. Then they are trained to go shopping for grocery and other small needs for the household.

As the child grows, he can be initiated into doing more difficult tasks. In this regard there are some important factors that the parents must keep in mind:

1. Keeping in view the age and physique of the child, they must entrust to him work that suits his aptitude. Sometimes the child himself expresses his wish to do certain tasks. These tasks generally pertain to his personal needs. He must be allowed to do these tasks or else he will get used to depending on others for every small thing.

2. The child’s physical strength and courage should always be kept in mind and tasks beyond his capacity should not be entrusted to him. Otherwise the child might get the feeling of ennui and refuse to do any work later on. If the work is tiring for the child, he might show hostility towards such tasks.

3. Try to explain the task to the child while entrusting it to him. Impress on him that things don’t happen by themselves at home. The father works hard to run the household. The mother too works hard on the chores at home. The child too must extend his support in running the household by doing tasks that he is capable of. At these times the parents must refrain from using force in making the child work. The child must enjoy doing small tasks at home and should not be working under duress.

4. If possible, allow the child to select the responsibilities and work of his choice. For example, he may be given the choice either to wash dishes at home or do floor swabbing.

5. The quantum and limits of the works should be properly explained to the child. This will make him aware of his responsibility and there will not be the likelihood of his going beyond his specified limits.

6. The children who have special aptitude, should be entrusted with specific tasks. For example, one child may be told to ensure that there should always be fresh salads on the table at meal times. He should take care of replenishing stocks of fresh salads and other groceries like soaps, tooth paste, detergents etc.

7. Efforts must be made to entrust such tasks to the child that are to his liking and will do them willingly. But in certain cases the child may be required to do things that are not liked by him. The child must be encouraged to perform some tasks of this nature, which will be a good training for him. Ali says, “Allocate tasks to the persons at home. When they understand their individual responsibility they will not think that the task has to be performed by someone else.”( Gharar al hukm, p. 124).

8. If you have many children at home, be just in allocating work to them equitably.

9. To encourage the children to do tasks at home, participate with them. The children feel important when they see the parents working with them.

10. If there is total understanding between the parents in the performance of household chores, then they can be an excellent example for the children to emulate. The children in such homes will be willing to take up responsibilities.

11. When the children are grown up and capable of taking up economically beneficial tasks, then the parents must arrange for them such activities. This way, they will be busy and also supplement the family’s income. Impress on them that there is no embarrassment in doing any work and , to the contrary, it is a matter of pride. However, the children should not be put to too much pressure of work. They must be provided with ample opportunities and time for play and recreation. It is not right to think that because the parents are affluent there is no need for their children to work. This way the children might turn into gallivants, and lazy individuals.

In the end we wish to remind that the foundation for the will to work is laid in the very childhood of an individual so that it becomes the second nature of the person. Otherwise, breaking a person into work at a later stage will be a very difficult task. Responsible parents should not neglect this very critical aspect of training for their children.

A lady writes thus in her memoirs:

“I am a very lazy, defeatist and stubborn person. I am always restless and under pressure of imaginary fears. I have inflammation of my intestines. I have no inclination to do any work. Doing anything is very difficult for me. I am fed up of doing household chores and cooking.This is the reason that I am always having differences with my spouse and mother-in-law. The cause of all this misfortune is my mother. She was a very kind, patient and courageous lady. But she never entrusted any work to me, perhaps, out of her love for me. She never entrusted any responsibility to me. She didn’t want to tire me doing household chores. She never gave a thought to the fact that I would be required to run a house in the future for which I was not being trained. ."

Another lady writes in a letter:

“…. I am the eldest of the daughters of the family. I am totally satisfied with my life. I don’t feel any shortcomings in my living standards. I am not of a jealous nature. I am kind and helpful to others. Jewellery and wealth have no particular significance for me. I perform my responsibilities with dignity. I have no regrets for anything in life. I am living a clean, calm and peaceful life. I am thankful to my parents that it is all thanks to the upbringing they have given to me.

While entering the house my Dad used to call me to hand-over his shopping for keeping carefully. He used to give me his shirt for stitching the button or used to give his suit to be ironed. He used to appreciate my work and thank me. Once I stitched a new dress for him. He expressed his happiness and promised to buy a sewing machine for me.

After a few days he fulfillled his promise. He brought a good sewing machine for me. From that day I was responsible for the stitching and sewing work at home. My mother used to give me expensive cloth and used to say, ‘ have no fear of spoiling the material. If you spoil it once, you will learn to sew better in the future.’

Because of the reassuring attitude of my Mom my confidence increased by leaps and bounds. I always tried to do the tasks carefully. I don’t recall if I had ever spoilt the cloth !

I learnt everything with the loving support of my parents. I got used to taking responsibilities and doing my tasks efficiently. It is my desire to give similar upbringing to my children.


Telling lies is a very abhorrent habit and is one of the major sins. All the races of the world condemn lying. The persons who lie are looked down upon. A person known to be a liar has no confidence or respect of his compatriots. A noble and good person never tells lies. Islam has categorically condemned this bad habit.

Imam Mohammed al Baqir says:

“Lies are the cause of faithlessness." (Usul al-Kafi, v4, p. 32)

Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:

“ ‘Isa said that who lies repeatedly will not be respected." (Usul al-Kafi, v4, p. 33)

Ali has said:

“There is no action more inferior than telling lies." (Mustadarak al-wasail, v2, p. 100)

All the prophets of Allah and every reformer has invited people to say the truth. Truth is a natural instinct. Everyone likes the truth. Even a compulsive liar would always like to hear the truth. If a child is left to his own scruples, it is in his nature to tell the truth. It is the influence of the external factors that make a person adopt the habit of telling lies. A child is absolutely incapable of lying. In later life when he is exposed to circumstances that force him to lie, he might get into that bad habit. Any amount of sermonising, reference of verses of the Quran and Traditions of the Infallibles may not have any effect on the person.

It is the duty of the parents that they ensure their children are truthful from childhood. They should carefully remove the causes of falsehood and inculcate truthfulness in their natures. They should not neglect to promote truthfulness in the children.

The parents who are interested in good upbringing of their children and feel their responsibility in this regard should consider the following facts:

1. The one thing that will have salutary effect on the child’s upbringing is the atmosphere in the family. The child grows in this environment. He learns good manners from the parents and others in the house. If the atmosphere in the house is one of truth and correctness, the parents and others are treating each other correctly, then the child will follow suit. To the contrary, if the atmosphere at home is one of falsehood, the parents lie to each other and the children; then the innocent children will pick up the same habits. The children whose ears get habituated to hearing lies uttered all around them, can never be expected to think in any other way.

Some ignorant parents not only tell lies but also encourage their children too to tell lies for obtaining some momentary benefit. The father remaining at home tells his son to tell a visitor that he is not home. When a child misses school the parent asks him to tell the teacher that he was not well. Thus the habit of malingering is encouraged. There are hundreds of lies that are traded around the houses every daySuch parents are doing a grave injustice to their innocent and impressionable children. Telling lies is a sin and teaching children to lie is a greater sin Therefore, the parents who wish their children to be truthful have no other way than being truthful themselves. It is just leading by example!

Russel writes:

“If you wish that your children don’t get into lying habit, then the only method is to always tell the truth in their presence." (Dar tarbiat, p. 148)

I wish Russel had said, “Adopt truthfulness in the presence of children as also with everyone else !”The child’s nature is affected with all falsehood, even if it is hidden.

Imam Sadiq says:

“Invite people to good without use of your tongue. People should see your piety, diligence, prayer and good deeds that are a role model for them." (Usul al-Kafi, v 2, p. 780

2. The child by nature does not lie. His natural instinct urges him to uphold the truth. He needs a very strong reason to tell a falsehood. If the parents get to the depth of the reason for the falsehood, and remove these reasons, the child will become truthful. One reason that makes a child lie is the fear of the parents admonishment. When you ask him if he had broken the window pane, he would say, "No!” Remember, the reason for the child uttering a falsehood is his fear of the parents. Then he shifts the responsibility of the broken glass pane to some other person. If the parents are clever and thoughtful, the reason for the child telling lies will never be there. There can always the possibility that the window glass was broken unintentionally. Then there is no reason to reprimand the child. The parents need to tell the child softly to be more careful in the future.

In these circumstances the child doesn’t deserve to be reprimanded or beaten that it takes shelter behind lies. Even if he has broken the window-pane and is blatantly denying the act, severe punishment is not the solution to the problem. The child cannot be reformed through beating and punishment alone.

Nor can there be any guarantee that the child will not commit similar acts again. The parents in such circumstances must bear in their minds that the child by nature is not aggressive. There is always an external reason for such behaviour. Therefore, they must investigate the matter carefully to determine the actual reasons and cause for the act of destruction. When the cause for the breaking of the glass is determined, then there will not be motivation for the child perpetrating such an act again. Perhaps, the act of vandalism was a direct result of some insult caused to the child by some one.

Perhaps, the child had not been receiving proper attention and hetook out his spleen by causing damage to the window. It could be the reaction to some undeserved punishment the child had received from his parents. If the parents make efforts to remove the psychological complexes from the mind of the child, there is every possibility of setting him right. If such a breakthrough is achieved, there will not be any need for punitive action. The child will then refrain from destructive acts and there will nod be need to shout at him or beat him.

1. If you learn that your child has done something wrong, and you desire to guide him to the right path, then don’t interrogate him like a policeman. It is possible that to protect his ego the child might have recourse to lies. It is better in such circumstances not to interrogate him and say as, for instance, that he must return the book that he had borrowed from his friend. Tell him that it is not proper to keep other’s things for long. Return your friend’s book immediately with an apology.

2. Don’t threaten the child with a punishment that you are not intending to give. For example, don’t tell him that if he did such and such a thing, you would beat him, or you would hand him over to the police, or that you will send him out of the house. Also don’t tell him in your anger that you would not take him to the forthcoming dinner he had been eagerly looking forward to. With such false threats you would be teaching the child to tell lies. You must convey to the child only such things that you really intend doing, and you think that they are right by him.

3. The parents who are strict with their children and expect from them much more than their capability, are perhaps pushing them more towards lying. For example, if the child is not good at studies and unmindful of this the parents insist on his coming first in the class, keep nagging him every day about his lessons and shout at him. Because the child has limited capability and with his best efforts he is unable to rise to the occasion. Since the child wants the goodwill of the parents, he may take shelter behind lies. Or he will make an excuse that at the time of the examination he suffered from a headache. Sometimes he would say that the teacher doesn't like him and has given him a poorer grade.

If the parents had properly assessed the capacity of the child, they wouldn’t have put him in the position of making false excuses.

4. There are parents who attribute any wrong act of their child to his companions at school or at play. Sometimes they even blame animals and plants for such things. For example: they might say that a cat or a rat has been responsible for thatThese ignorant parents think that they are doing something good by their child not attributing an act to him that he has really committed. But there are two very pronounced disadvantages of this: firstly, they are encouraging the child to tell lies and secondly, the child will learn to shift the blame for his own acts on others.

5. If sometimes your children tell lies unintentionally, then explore the reasons thereof and search for a remedy. But this exploration should be done in a subtle way that the children don’t start feeling that an investigation is on against them.