1,400-year-old advice still valuable for modern parents
Islam’s advice on raising minds, not just bodies
By Rawan Hamade
Evolution versus creation may be subject to debate in our world today, but there is no doubt that our understanding of certain institutions evolves with time. Our concept of family is just one example. I am not about to tell you that, back in the day, the family was what it ought to be and now divorce rates are increasing a hundredfold. That may be true, but only on the surface.
Many sociologists tell us that marriage may have seemed holy long ago, but in fact family ties weren’t all that great.
Living conditions forced parents to leave their children aside and tend to their own needs. Orphans were left to wander in the streets and were not given much care by the community.
Although marriage was rarely broken, that may have been due to the low priority for the quality of relationships. In other words, researchers tell us that many people just didn’t care enough about having good, healthy familial relations to bother seeking them out. This carelessness made marriage something that existed for many simply because it took too much effort to be broken.
How does Islam come into this discussion?
About 1,400 years ago, when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) began to speak of the revelations that came down to him, one of the first changes that he sought to make concerned the family. So great was his emphasis on the value of marriage, parenthood, and the family in general that his followers are still amazed at the amount of change he caused in the Arab society.
He talked about the responsibilities of a husband towards his wife and of a wife towards her husband. He talked about how to raise one’s children and what respect children need to have for their parents. He mentioned many human relationships, but he never got tired of talking about parents and children.
Today, it seems as if we are going back in time once again. We need to bring back the effective parenting methods that are so emphasized by Islam.
One of the biggest problems in parenting seems to be the problem of balancing discipline with friendship. Many parents have trouble being firm with their children while at the same time instilling a sense of connection and trust. Islam has a beautiful stance on the issue. We are told as Muslims that, when the child is still at a young age, the parent should try to teach him or her values and morals they deem important. They should try to warn them of possible societal dangers and make them aware enough so that when they go out into the big world they are able to make wise and informed decisions. In this way, children can evaluate the world around them with perspective. Once they reach the age when they are ready to build upon their own experiences and are ready to make their own decisions, the parents should then befriend their children.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) tells us that at that age, parents should give fewer orders and listen to their children’s opinions much more than before. They should even take their children’s advice in what they do. Although many people try to follow this advice, others give up to the strain of everyday life. People do care about having healthy families, but they rarely have the time to pursue that. Our world has become very fast-paced and, before we know it, the pages are flying off our calendars. However, we should make time for this parent-child relationship. Parents who are busy with work need to set their priorities and listen to their children’s problems. If their children are still young, then they need to spend even more time with them because, at this time, they should be their main source of information.
On the other hand, children need to try and talk to their parents at all times, complain to them, ask them for advice, or even just laugh with them. You see, we sometimes take these relationships for granted and we forget how difficult life is for people who don’t have them. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned orphans countless times because he was so concerned about them. He always told his followers that to create a partial substitute for a child’s parents, a whole community has to take action.
Therefore, we should never take our parents for granted. We should always try to build a good relationship with them so that they become our primary source of advice. We should always confide in them our problems and our concerns. On the other side, parents should try to teach their children as much as they can and, once they grow older, they should continue to give them advice but also give them the opportunity to be the teachers themselves.
After all, when a diamond (the child) reflects its source of light from the parent, it adds color and beauty to that light.
–Rawan Hamade is a student at the University of Minnesota.