Importance of Sowing the Seeds of Iman in Children
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said: “The best gift to children from parents is their correct training” (Tirmidi)
There is a saying in English: “Parents are the first educators of their children.”
Parents play a major role in raising children as knowledgeable and responsible adults. They need to implant the message of goodness and beneficial things in the mental frame of children so that they can enjoy a good life in this world and in life after death.
Iman directs a believer to teach the ‘Message of Iman’ to others. The first rightful recipients of ‘Message of Iman’ from parents are their children. It is a duty that helps parents and children to live peacefully as Muslims in this world and enter together in paradise in their eternal life.
The learning process of a child starts from home under the guidance of parents. The knowledge that the children learn from their parents in childhood stay in their minds forever. They continue to work as per the teachings of their parents and ultimately it becomes their habit. This habit is so strong that they live on it throughout their life.
When I recall what my parents taught me in my early life and how I am today with respect to their teachings, I do not find any significant differences. The way they taught me to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, clean myself, the time to go to sleep, dress, manners while playing with friends, how to behave with elders and neighbors, I find has stayed more or less the same throughout my life.
This is what we generally see in most people. Unless there are vigorous efforts or influences to bring a change, people will continue to do what they learned at the start of life. It is a fact that whatever parents implant during childhood, that is how they will act when they are grown-up. This is the reason we see whatever religious faith parents teach children in their early life; the children continue the same faith throughout their entire lives in most cases. Parents who are not committed to any religion, their children also tend to live secular lives; unless there is an effort to bring a change in them through education.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “No baby is born but upon Fitra (Islam). It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Polytheist” (Muslim 6426).
Children are pure from birth. They learn and practice good or bad, right, or wrong, the Islamic way of life or a secular life. Everything depends mostly on what the parents practice in their life and teach their children. Influence of other family members, friends, society, and media only accelerate good or bad habits. Considering the above facts, the best time to sow the seeds of Iman in children is during childhood. This is the time when children follow what parents say and do. Therefore, when we do something or say something, it should be done in the spirit of Iman. When children will observe that Iman is regulating our work, they will also be motivated to do everything based on Iman. We should explain everything to our children with reference to Iman. We should convince our children with examples about different aspects of Iman, its application in life, and the great reward for living according to Iman. The following points, if discussed regularly, will click in the minds of children, and help them to live in the spirit of Iman consistently.
Childcare and rearing children is a religious function in Islam. Allah has given basic principles for rearing children and made parents accountable for this. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) taught the importance and method of education and training of Children. From the time of the Prophet (PBUH) until today, Muslim families have played a unique role in this regard. Family members with the mother at the centre take shared responsibility of childcare. From day one of the birth of the child, the mother is engaged with all affairs of the child till the breast-feeding period is over and the child tries to stand on their own feet. Deep attachment of the child with their mother continues until they start to go to school. Even at this stage, the mother prepares them for the best schooling. She takes care of their health, clothing, meals, security, and safety. She is the first teacher, health care guide, playmate, and mentor. That is why the Islamic family system emphasizes on the most proper division of labour in family affairs, giving women the responsibility to maintain the family while the husband has been entrusted to earn adequate income for the entire family. Islam also emphasizes mothers to be well educated for taking up the most important responsibility in the maintenance of the family and the role of ideal teacher for their children. If a family is built in this way, imagine how nicely the children will be reared up, what will be the level of their physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional growth? They will enjoy healthy environment at home, they will look neat and clean, and they will be disciplined in manners, dress, and study. Perhaps for this reason, Nepolean Bonaprte is reported to have said: “You give me a good, educated mother; I will give you the best nation.”
Unfortunately, in the real-world situation, imitating the west without scrutiny, our mothers are going to job centres and children are going to day-care providers. Parents pass their day at work and children pass their day at childcare centers. After returning home, parents do the household work, eat together, spend a little time with the children and then go to sleep. There is not that much time and energy to interact with the children. As a result, our children are deprived of the mother’s affection, love, and teachings from the beginning. They are growing up unfamiliar to our religious values and culture.
The Prophet (PBUH) advised parents to give the sound of Adhan at the ears of the child and give him or her a good, meaningful, and beautiful name at birth. Gradually, acquaint him or her to beneficial signs, sounds, words, symbols, and names in addition to all personal care. Demonstrate to them the Islamic way of life through behaviour and activities. Ultimately, teach the following as they grow and suits to their age:
a) Knowledge about Allah and dutied to Him:
Teaching children to obey Allah is obligatory for parents. Allah has stated in the Quran an example of teaching by one of His servants to his son, so that Muslim parents can do the same:
“O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah” (Quran 31:13). Believers should explain to children with examples about Who has created us and everything in the universe and why, what are the benefits we are getting from Allah, why we need to obey and worship Him and what are the rewards and punishment from Him for what we do. This should be done when they are between 4 to 7 years old. Children should develop an interest to know, obey and worship Allah by 10 years of age.
b) Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
Muslim parents need to explain to their children that Allah has sent Muhammad (PBUH) as His last Messenger. Allah sent to him the Quran for guiding people to the right path by this; so that they can live with peace in this world and enjoy happiness in the paradise. It is only possible if parents first study his biography and follow his teachings. Then, they should discuss his biography with their children; explain his life, what he did, how he did and what benefits humanity continues to get from his teachings. They can take help from books written for teaching the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to young children. From this, children should have a fair idea about this great man by 10 years of age and start to follow his teachings. While doing any work, parents should explain that they are doing this as per the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and highlight the benefits of doing so. The target of parents should be to help their children to know the Prophet (PBUH), develop deep love and respect for him and create interest to follow him as their Role Model. The success of parents in guiding children to follow Muhammad (PBUH) depends on how serious they are themselves in following the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
c) The Holy Quran:
Parents need to explain to children what ‘the Quran’ is, why Allah has sent it, why we need to study and understand it, what Allah has told us in this Holy Book, why we need to follow everything written in it and what benefits we get from it. This should be clear to children by 10 years of age. By this time, parents should also be able to teach them how to read the Quran in Arabic. They should also explain to them the meanings of what they read. They can take help from explanations of the Quran by scholars in their own native language. It is also highly recommended to help children to memorize a few small chapters (surahs) with their meaning. This is needed for performing the five daily prayers.
While doing any ritual or any other work in front of children, parents should explain that they are doing this according to the teachings of the Quran and explain to them what benefits they are going to get by doing them. It is important for parents to study and work according to the teachings of the Quran before they ask their children to do the same.
d) Angels and their Function:
Parents should explain to children that Allah has created Angels to manage everything in the universe. Two angels are assigned with every human being. One on the right shoulder records our good deeds and the other on the left shoulder records our bad deeds. They will submit these records to Allah for reward for good deeds or punishment for the bad deeds done by us in this world. Therefore, they need to do good work for reward and stop bad work to avoid punishment. If we see children doing good deeds, we should encourage and tell them that this is being recorded by an Angels for them to be given a reward. If we see children doing something wrong, then we should caution them that the Angels would record this wrong deed and submit it to Allah for punishment. This should not stop after one or two reminders. We should continue to do so till this is set in the mind of the children and they are habituated to think this always. We should be careful about ourselves also. It should not happen that we advise this to our children while we are ourselves doing wrong without caring about what the Angels are recording.
e) Day of Final Judgment:
Nowadays we see many Muslim children do not have a clear concept about the Day of Final Judgment. They are not conscious that all their life’s work will be judged based on the Quran. They are not conscious about what is rewardable and what is punishable on the Day of Final Judgement. Muslim children have the right to know about Life after Death, the Final Day of Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Muslim parents should have a clear concept of these first, and then teach to their children with examples from the Quran and Hadith. Parents should convince children with examples about building life based on faith in the Final Judgment is necessary for promoting good and stopping vice. Children should understand that promoting good and stopping wrong is important for peace, prosperity, and happiness. It should be explained to them with examples that if there is no faith in the Day of Final Judgment, then the strong will oppress the weak and the world will be filled with corruption. We should practically show them that those people who do not fear punishment from Allah for their wrongdoing are spreading corruption and oppression in this world.
If we see children doing anything good or whenever we advise them to do anything good, we should remind them that Allah will reward them for this good deed on the Day of Final Judgement. If we see them doing anything wrong, we should correct them and remind them that Allah will punish them on the Day of Final Judgement for their wrong actions. The ultimate objective is to build habits in children for doing good with the hope of reward from Allah and avoid doing wrong in fear of punishment from Him on the Day of Final Judgement.
f) Destiny and its effect:
Parents need to explain to their children that the good times and bad times, success and failure are a part of life. They should be thankful to Allah for success, show patience during hard times and rely on Allah in all circumstances. With practical examples, they should try to convince children that by doing so, they can protect themselves from suffering of grief during hard times and from destruction that arises because of arrogance during success.
While guiding children on Iman, explain each of the above points in detail as stated in the previous chapters. This should be done according to their age and ability to understand. Remember! This is not a one-time job and there is no shortcut to sow the seeds of Iman in children! They should be reminded of these points again and again through practice. Islam should be placed at the core of our discussions, actions, and interactions with our children. All our individual and collective discussions, and activities in the family should promote Islamic values and culture. Believers should look for opportunities for Islamic discussions in the events like family dining and family gatherings. In this way, children will be able to grow up in an Islamic environment and Islamic home. They will be able to think and decide how to manage everything and live according to Islam.
Guiding children towards Iman and Islam requires skill. Parents need to study to understand the meaning of Iman, its application in life and benefits before they start teaching about Iman. Above all, they need to live on Iman and Islam; only then will their children follow them. This is the most practical way to sow the seeds of Iman in children. Sometimes it is observed that children practice the Islamic way of life in childhood and then neglect Islam later. There are several reasons behind this:
(a)Failure of parents to give a clear concept of Iman and Islam to children and failure to demonastrate the benefits of living with Iman and Islam.
(b)The children do not see their parents practicing the Islamic way of life and there is no attractive Islamic environment at home.
(c)The children are under the influence of anti-Islamic or unislamic friends and culture.
Parents need to deal with the above reasons for proper growth of their children. They should first follow Islam and then ask their children to follow. They can take help from Parenting Guides and experts in parenting for developing their children from the beginning of life.
Parents also need to be friends with Islamic families, look for good friends for their children, create an Islamic environment in the house, visit mosques, Islamic centers and participate in Islamic events together with the children. These actions will give children an environment to grow with Iman and Islam. Parents need to plan and decide strategies individually and collectively together with other parents to make a favorable environment in the community for developing children as Muslims.
Sometimes, it is also observed that parents give more concentration in the professional study of their children. They are always busy helping children in preparing homework, taking them to school, looking for tutors etc. On the other hand, they do very little for training their children on Iman and Islam during childhood. The results are always according to the target and effort. Children do well in professional studies but do little to grow up as Muslims. This is a problem of parents in deciding on prioritizing the welfare of their children. Parents think that if their children become Doctors, Engineers, or other professionals, it is the best success for them. No doubt, this is a success; however, we should not forget that the loss of Iman and character is also a big loss for the children. We should think that if children are not good Muslim and do not fear Allah, they may be involved in wrong practices. As a result, they will be losers in this world and in the afterlife. We will be frustrated to see our children away from the Islamic way of life and doing the things that will harm them in this world and eventually lead them to hellfire. Allah has cautioned us about the consequences of such a situation:
“Believers! Save yourselves and your families from the fire which is fueled by people and stone” (Quran 66:6).
The above Guidance from Allah is very significant in developing children as practicing Muslims. Without an Islamic family and practicing Muslim parents, children do not get the necessary Islamic environment to grow as a practicing Muslim. It is only by working hard that a believer and his family can save their children from the hellfire. Teaching children, the Islamic way of life by parents is an eternal system of Allah. All the past Prophets acted on the above Guidance of Allah with all seriousness. They worked hard to save themselves, their families, and children from hellfire. Allah has presented their work in the Quran for the believers to guide their children on Islam. A few examples are as follows:
a) Parents should prepare children to follow ‘Islam’ and live as a Muslim till death. This preparation is the main subject of parenting that Allah teaches in the Quran through the teachings of the Prophets to their children: “Abraham (Ibrahim) left this legacy to his sons and, in turn, so did Jacob (Yaqub) saying, ‘God has chosen this religion for you. You must not leave this world unless you are a Muslim’” (Quran 2:132).
b) Parents should train children so that they continue the ‘Worship of Allah’ even after the parents’ death:
“Were you (believers) there when death approached Jacob (Yaqoob)? When he asked his sons, ‘whom will you worship after my death?’” (Quran 2:133).
c) Continue to advise children even if they do not listen. Prophet Noah continued to advice his son till Allah perished him underwater for refusing. This is recorded in the Quran in chapter 11, verses 41 to 47.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) continued to advise his uncle to accept Islam even when he was dying, even though he refused.
Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) continued to advise his father to leave worshiping idols, but he always refused. Still, he continued to pray to Allah for his father:
“Forgive my father, indeed, he has gone astray” (Quran 26:86).
The above references from the Quran teaches us to continue corrective actions for children and family even if they continue to refuse. Unfortunately, sometimes we give up trying after a few reminders.
d) Allah taught believers to teach children basic qualities of a believer by stating the teachings of one of His servants, Luqman, to his children. This is recorded in chapter 71, verse 12-19 of the Quran and the main points are:
1.Teach to obey and worship Allah only and not to associate others with Allah.
2.Teach to be dutiful to parents, but not to obey them if their order violates the order of Allah.
3.Teach children to learn accountability to Allah for everything, even if it is as small as a mustard seed.
4.Teach to establish prayer.
5.Teach to order people to do good deeds.
6.Teach to forbid people from wrong.
7.Teach to keep patience in all circumstances.
8.Teach good manners, avoid all actions that exhibit pride (like turning face away from people, walking with pride and arrogance).
9.Teach to be moderate in all affairs (talk and walk with humbleness, no harsh talking).
The above teachings and training cover many important aspects for building the life of children as noble human beings. Parents need to focus on these points in parenting. They should explain the benefit of each of these actions in this world and rewards in afterlife. These are not a one-time job. Parents need to practice these with children for years, so that these actions become their habits and remain as Islamic values in practice throughout their life.
The purpose of the above Quranic way of parenting is to ensure a better life for children, save them from harm in this world, save them from Hell Fire and guide them on the road to Paradise. The mother’s role in parenting is more important than the father’s role. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Paradise of children is under the feet of mother” (Nasae). This means children get the opportunity to work for paradise if their mother prepares them as Muslims from the beginning of their lives.
If we are not serious about building our children as Muslims, we will regret later. It will be too late and too difficult to direct them to the way to paradise when they are grown up.
Therefore, the best way to develop children intellectually and spiritually in a balanced way is right from the beginning of life. On one hand, we should give them the best opportunity for professional study and on the other hand, we should make all efforts to build their life on Iman and Islam from childhood. If we work in this way, our children will not be just secular professionals but will simultaneously be good Muslims. Our endeavour will bring success for our children in the life of this world and in the life after death.
The role of parents in childcare should be like a caring intelligent farmer, who studies to gain knowledge on farming, prepares the farmland very well, adds fertilizer and then sows good seeds. After that, when a small plant is produced from the seed, he gives it enough water, removes weeds and sprays insecticides for protection from harmful insects. After all this hard work, a farmer can grow a
strong tree that can survive against strong wind and gives him fruits for his pleasure. Parental care for Iman in children is like this farmer. We can interpret this farmers action in parenting as follows:
1. First, parents should prepare themselves well with parenting knowledge, Islamic knowledge, Iman, and Islamic lifestyle like a farmer gaining knowledge to prepare the farmland well before planting the seeds.
2. After that, when a baby comes in their life, they should plan all activities in a way such that the baby gets an Islamic environment to grow as a Muslim. The baby should be protected from un-Islamic environments like un-Islamic culture, media, friends, un-Islamic conducts of parents, etc. This is just like a farmer who protects his young plants from strong winds and harmful insects.
3. Parents also need to come forward with extra aid like teaching the Quran, the Prophet’s life, Islamic manners etc. for building the life of the child on Iman and Islam. This is like when a farmer waters and fertilizes for the growth of his young plants.
4. When a baby grows up as a successful man or woman under parental care, the parents get immense pleasure when they see the success in their children in the future. This is like the pleasure of a farmer when he sees his planted seed has become a strong plant and gives fruits.
Parenting, as stated above, should start at childhood. Parents should develop their children intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally on Iman from the beginning of their lives.Children developed so ,will be able to survive with Iman against the influence of an un-Islamic environments and will be able to spread the light of Iman amongst other children. Building a strong Muslim Ummah starts from building our children strong on Iman and Islam.
The parenting we have explained above with the analogy of a farmer is in conformity with the ‘Universal Parenting System’ given by Allah. The Quran, Torah and Injil (the Gospel) have applied the same principle in human development. Allah says:
“And their description in the Injil (Gospel) is like a (sown) seed which sends forth its shoot, then makes it strong, and becomes thick and it stands straight on its stem, delighting the sowers” (Quran 48:29).
This is exactly what we should do to our children. Our efforts should make Iman of our children strong enough so that they can stand firm on Islam in all adverse situations.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made all efforts to make believers Physically, Intellectually and Spiritually strong. He said: “Allah loves a strong believer over a weak believer” (Muslim).
Parents should try to build children spiritually, intellectually, and physically strong in a balanced way from the beginning of life. Our children who are developed on Iman in this way, may still face risks in their Iman due to influences of the un-Islamic environment prevailing in the society, media, friend circles, etc. It is just like a farmer’s healthy young plant facing the risk of harmful effects from insects, weeds, and strong winds. Like the preventive actions by a farmer, parents need to take action to save the Iman of children from harmful influences that may come from within family, society, friends, media, etc. For this purpose, we should try to link our children with good friends, Islamic Centers, Islamic organizations, provide recreational facilities, sports and create attractive Islamic environments in the family by demonstrating Islamic behavior among the wife, husband, parents, and children. We must prove to children that Islam provides a joyful life.
From birth to adulthood (18 years), children live with their parents, but they are connected to the entire world through social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc. Many devices like televisions, Laptops, phones etc are widely used in every home. Parents need to make a ‘Media Use plan’ to ensure that these are used for beneficial purposes and avoid harmful use. Three concerns from media use are Time loss, Health effects and Character. Excessive screen time affects sleeping, eating, studying, physical activity and interaction with family. Sitting for a long time for chatting, playing video games, watching movies, etc. may cause obesity and other health issues. Immoral movies, games, music, etc. harm Islamic values and Iman. This is like a farmer’s healthy plant under attack by insects. To save children from all these harmful things, ‘Screen Time and Content’ should be controlled. Children under 6 years should not have more than one-hour daily screen time and that also should be for ‘High Quality Programming’. Teenagers should not spend more than one hour for non-school related screen activities and that also within moral limits. I have seen many parents while busy at work, leave their children in front of a screen. Remember! Once children are addicted to screens in childhood, it will be difficult to reverse later.
After parents, the influence of brothers, sisters and friends play an important role in the life of children.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“People generally follow religion (activity and lifestyle) of friends. So, think carefully, whom you will make your friend” (Abu Dawud).
We see many good boys and girls do wrong things by the influence of bad friends. We see from the influence of smoker friends; children start smoking, drunker friends cause a start to drinking, drug addicted friends cause a start to taking drugs and so on. Therefore, we should try to search for good friends for our children so that they do not fall in the hands of bad friends. Otherwise, they will regret for the consequences of the bad deeds done by the influence of bad friends. The Quran recorded their situation in their own words:
“Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken so and so as an intimate friend!” (Quran 25:28).
Parents should remain careful that children do not engage in any sort of temptation, notions and motions by peer pressure and emotional bondage. Rather, they should try to keep them cool, well-behaved and pursue anything that is good and beneficial for themselves, family, and the community.
The mother should be at the center of the family to extend time, love, and affection so that the children value her company more than spending time with friends. In the event of consequences from harmful media, internet, movies, and friends ; mothers should work like a hen trying to protect her chick under her wings when she sees a hawk nearby.
Another important thing in the life of children is the school environment, curriculum, and the teachers. If the school environment is Islamic, the curriculum teaches Islamic values, morals and ethics, and the teachers are morally, spiritually, and intellectually competent, then this help parents in building the life of children on Iman. Parents need to try to facilitate these as much as possible. They need to investigate the situations in school in providing these from the children. If they find anything wrong, they should discuss that with teachers and school authorities. In the worst case, changing schools and teachers may be an option. If this is not possible, then evening school and weekend school with Islamic environment, teachers and curriculum should be considered to make up for the deficiencies of regular school.
Finally, a strong determination and continuous action is needed to build children on Islam from childhood. All necessary actions should be taken so that living according to Islam becomes a habit for the children. Parents can develop this habit in children when they are entirely dependent on parents during childhood. If children are habituated to other manners, behaviors, cultures, and ways of life other than Islam in childhood then it will be difficult to change later. It will not be that easy to develop habits of living according to Islam after 10 years of age.
After all efforts are made, parents should pray to Allah to make children good Muslims so that they can be happy in this world and in the afterlife: “Our Lord! Make us Muslims (one who submits to the will of Allah) and from our descendants make a Muslim nation. Show us ways of worship and accept our repentance. Indeed, you are all-Forgiving, the most Merciful” (Quran 2:128).
(Summary of actions)
Study verses of Quran Understand what to teach for Study hadith about about child education developing child on Islam child education
Learn what early Muslims understand Learn wisdom of parenting did for child education Method of childcare from books and experts
Develop physically, Intellectually and spiritually by demonstrating Islam by your action, by teaching Quran and Hadith,, by giving Islamic environment, by training to do righteous work, by training to avoid wrongdoing and by practicing worship together step by step as it suits to the age of child as below: ,.
1-7 years:Make intention, plan and act wisely to develop body, mind and soul of a child so that he starts to grow as a Muslim. Demonstrate Islam by your action ,teach him ethics, manner, social behavior, discipline, health and hygiene practically by your action.Teach him fundamentals of Iman and Islam. Teach him to understand what is right and wrong in life.Provide him Islamic environment at home and outside and save hm from un-islamic environment. Provide him good friend and teacher. This shall be done with love,care and wisdom through inter-action, question and answer, and examples from soroundings.Remember ! This is foundation period and easy to mould a child. But any negligence will make developing a child on Islam difficult in next stage. 7- 14 years: During this period , follow above but concentrate more in giving theoretical and practical education and training about Islam and worldly affairs.In the first half of this period work together with child , so that in the next half he starts learning and practice rituals and righteous work on his own. Continue to protect him from un-Islamic environment. In this period, he should feel responsibility and accountability for living as a Muslim. 14- 21 years: This is the final stage of a child development. By the middle of this period a child attains adulthood and starts living on his own. His performance at this stage depends on success in first two stages. In this period parents should support a child for extended study on Quran and hadith, for his integration with Islamic organization and mosque , inspire him to call people to Islam and educate them, and pursue him to engage in promoting virtue and stopping vice in the society.