Rafed English

Parent- Child Relations

Among Muslims children are very much loved and wanted, a precious gift and trust from God. Although contraception is not prohibited, many couples have large families by choice because they genuinely love and want several children, and couples who are childless by choice are almost unheard-of. Parenthood is regarded as desirable and rewarding, the fulfillment of a universal human urge, which has its beginnings in a small child's instinctive love for babies and dolls. To the Muslim, his or her child is a precious treasure, a gift from God, and the fondness of Muslims of all nationalities for children is well known.

In particular the Muslim woman's role as mother is regarded as being of the highest importance, the most serious and challenging responsibility she could have. And the maternal role is not only rewarding enough to stimulate and give her great satisfaction, but it also provides her with status and position in the community. Muslim women as a rule possess a deep certainty that this role has been entrusted to them because of their innate fitness and capacity for the most important of all tasks: the shaping of the future generation of humanity. Islam acknowledges the immensity of the debt which an individual owes to his parents, and especially to his mother, his first school in life, in many moving Qur’anic verses and Hadiths such as the following:

“And we have enjoined upon man concerning his parents: his mother carries him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Therefore show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: unto Me is the journeying.” (51:14, also 46:15)

“Say: ‘Come, I will recite to you what your Lord has a sacred obligation for you: that you associate nothing with Him (as partner in his divinity) and that you do good to parents” (6:151)

A man came to the Prophet (peace be on him) and said,

“Messenger of God, I desire to go on a military expedition and I have come to consult you.” He asked him if he had a mother and when he replied that he had, he said, “Stay with her, for Paradise is at her foot.” (Hadith)

Someone asked God’s Messenger (peace be on him) to whom he should show kindness and he replied,

“Your mother.” He asked who came next and he replied, “Your mother.” He asked who came next and he replied, “Your mother.” He asked who came next and he replied, “Your father, then your relatives in order of relationship.” (Hadith)

The birth of a child is an event of great joy and thanksgiving, which is shared by relatives and friends. It is Sunnah to slaughter an animal when a baby is born and to feed friends and the poor with its meat as a token of thankfulness to God for the new family member. A male child must be circumcised at any time which is convenient (as must a convert to Islam) without any attendant ceremonies.

Parents and their children are generally very close emotionally and physically. Breast feeding is considered the proper way to nourish a baby and nursing may be continued, if desired, for as long as two years. Mothers (and fathers as well) often sleep with their children when they are young in order to give them better care and more security, recognizing that the young child needs his mother as he needs food and air, not less during the nighttime than in the day. Leaving young children with babysitters or in nursery schools is a practice, which, until quite recently, was virtually unknown among Muslims. Children often accompany their parents, sharing in their experiences and pleasures and being part of their world, and if they must be left, as a rule they stay either with relatives, friends or trusted servants. Hence Muslim children generally grow up feeling very secure and loved, surrounded by a wide circle of family relationships within which they have a very secure place.

Training and guidance begin very early. Their goal is the moulding of the child into a sound Islamic personality, with a good character and morals, strong Islamic principles, sound Islamic knowledge, proper Islamic behavior, and the equipment to handle the demands of life in a responsible and mature fashion. Such training does not consist merely of a set of directives but, far more importantly, the parents living example of unfailing submission to God through a sincere and conscientious practice of the Islamic teachings. An essential part of this training, beginning very early in life, is obedience, respect and consideration for the parents themselves, as an embodiment of the well-known Muslim proverb, “The pleasure of God is the pleasure of the parents”.

Islamic training aims, first, at giving the Muslim child a correct understanding of and relationship to Reality. He is taught very early that it does not consist merely of the material world which we observe and experience but of an unseen dimension as well, at the center of which is God Most High. God's absolute power and sovereignty, man's total dependence on Him and his place in the scheme of things, the existence of Angels and also of Satan and his forces, are all an essential part of this Reality. A child is able to understand all this, as well as the purpose of his life, the certainty of death and of returning to God when he or others die, and the future Life in the Garden or the Fire, by the age of five or six, and it forms a vital part of his consciousness and comprehension of Reality as he grows up. At the same time, he is taught to love God, the Source of the innumerable blessings, which fill his life, above everything, and that love and thankfulness to Him are best expressed in obedience to His commands. Meanwhile he learns about how God guides man through His messengers, and little by little the details of the guidance conveyed through Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), whom he is taught to love above all other human beings, are imparted to him. Hence a sound conscience is developed early, and at a young age he is capable of being the watcher over his own actions.

As a result, when Muslim parents set guidelines for their child, he readily understands that the standards he is expected to follow are not just their own personal wishes but God's laws, to which the parents are subject just as much as he himself is. Conscientious Muslims naturally do their best to avoid behavior, activities and companions which do not fit in with a pure Islamic life and associate with sound practicing Muslims as much as possible. They see to it that their child has proper instruction in the teachings of Islam and encourage him to fulfill his Islamic obligations; they place him (in so far as they have any choice in the matter) in a school situation which is good for his total education, and are careful about whom he associates with and what he is permitted to do, while at the same time encouraging wholesome activities and interests. Islamic training is total training: training in Islamic concepts, principles, attitudes, values, morals, manners and behavior. One reason why Muslims consider "family" so important, especially in selecting a spouse for their son or daughter, is because it is primarily the family which determines the sort of upbringing and breeding an individual will have; consequently a family of high standards and good repute can as a rule be depended upon to produce a young person - man or woman- of high quality.

Muslim youngsters are considered by Islam as accountable to God for their own actions by the time they attain puberty. Therefore, at an age when in Western societies many young people are preoccupied with having a good time, personal appearance, sex, drugs or drink, conscious Muslim young people are already highly responsible, fearing God in all they do and trying their best to stay away from what they know to be harmful and prohibited. By their middle `teens, a boy is well-aware of his future role as the man of his household and is mentally preparing himself for it little by little, although he may not marry for several years, while a girl is readying herself for her future role as a wife, mother and homemaker, even though she may be continuing her studies for some time before she marries.

Today, when life in virtually every part of the world is confused by the pull of conflicting values and societal pressures, the conscientious Muslim youngster growing up in the Muslim world faces many challenges and problems. Many-perhaps most-of the young people around him are very far from Islam, often trying to lead him toward various things he knows are forbidden or not in keeping with his Islamic commitment; members of his own family may also be very far from Islam and may resent and attack his allegiance to it. And for a Muslim youngster growing up in America or other countries of the West, especially in the case of a girl, the situation is likely to be even more difficult. Throughout this time of great stress, the parents are the greatest source of support, understanding and guidance to Muslim young people, offering them a firm yet attainable example of what they are hoping and striving to become, and above all providing them with the love and warmth which constitute the strongest defense against the insecurity which prompts unhappy, unloved youngsters to search for solutions to their inner problems through illicit sex, alcohol, drugs or various deviant behaviors.

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