Parenting Goals and Ideas
"O Believers! Save Yourself and Your families from a Fire whose fuel is men and
stones." [At-Tahreem, 66:6]
This verse points to the goal as well as the required seriousness of our efforts in
bringing up our children. The central goal of their education and upbringing must be to
prepare them for the future --- the Ultimate and Everlasting Future. One path leads to
success there. It is the path of obedience to our Creator. We must protect them from
taking any other path for all other paths lead to the blazing Hellfire. Our efforts must
have the urgency they would have if we saw flames engulfing our children here.
While this is a universal command to believing parents everywhere, it assumes special
importance for those living in non-Muslim societies for two principal reasons:
- The pressures to assimilate from all societal organizations are just overwhelming. While
schools and television remain the two most potent instruments for corrupting both the
intellectual as well as the emotional space of the young minds, the popular culture and
secular ideas invade from all possible directions.
- The institutions that have been built so far to counter this tremendous force miss the
target by a huge margin in numbers as well as quality. In the U.S., for example, there are
400 full time Islamic schools. While this looks like a big number, these schools can only
accommodate about five percent of the Muslim student population. More than 95% will go to
the government run secular schools. Moreover, even those going to the Islamic Schools are
taught the same secular-humanist values and ideas that are dispensed by the public school
system as no integrated Islamic curriculum exists today. The Islamic schools merely add
Islamic studies, Arabic, and Quran to a secular curriculum that remains intact.
The results are devastating. Despite all the noise about Islam being the fastest
growing religion (in the U.S./West/World), the Muslim children in Western countries are
succumbing to the pressures at an alarming rate. Some openly renounce Islam. A large
number develop doubts and misunderstandings about their religion. They seek compromises
between Islam and un-Islam, or quietly develop those compromises in their lives without
telling their parents. The result is an epidemic of confusion, split personalities,
arguments with parents, or rebellion.
While that should be the impetus for developing better Islamic Schools and other
institutions, we should never lose sight of the fact that the biggest role in the
upbringing of the children belongs to the parents. This verse says clearly that the
responsibility for proper education and upbringing of the children lies squarely with the
parents. This is a duty assigned to them by Allah and they will be held accountable for
As parents are we up to the task? Are we even clear about where we want to go and how
to get there? Do we understand Islamic teachings about parenting and our responsibilities
according to the Shariah? Sadly, the answer is no. Our goals as well as ideas about
parenting show the same confusions that we are finding in the next generation about Islam.
Here is a deeper look at some commonly held ideas and "truths" about parenting.
"Too much discipline will cause rebellion."
Too much discipline can certainly cause rebellion. So can too little. Muslim homes
should be loving, caring homes where persuasion works most of the time. But when there is
need for discipline, shying away from it can only exacerbate the problem. In the U.S.,
spanking a child by the parents is a no-no. Yet laws allow a thirteen year old to be
treated as an adult (and held with adult criminals) in violent crime cases. Islam asks us
to avoid both extremes. For example, we are asked to encourage the children to offer
prayers from the age of seven. But they should be disciplined if they refuse to pray after
age ten. Insufficient parental control can be as damaging as too much parental control.
"Outside influences do not matter if the home is good."
A good home is essential to proper upbringing. At the same time, we cannot be
complacent about outside influences. Children, like budding plants, have to be protected
from the harmful environment, whether it is friends, media, books, or whatever. It is not
healthy to let the children be pulled in all different directions in the fallacious hopes
that they will ultimately sort out things for themselves. That is a prescription for
raising a "post-modern" person for whom, "Everything is O.K."
"It makes no difference if the mother stays home or works outside."
Children everywhere need the loving, nurturing presence of the mother. But, in
immigrant Muslim communities, where other support facilities are often missing or woefully
inadequate, it makes a huge difference. Unfortunately, most mothers are reluctant to step
up to their responsibility here. First, their own education did not prepare them for it,
physically or psychologically. Second, there is a lot of self-generated economic pressure
forcing women into the work force. Third, and most distressing, in many Muslim communities
the working women enjoy a higher social status than the "mere housewives."
Mothers should remember the hadith, that the wife is responsible for the children of her
husband and will be held accountable for them. Those who belittle the task of homemaking
are putting our next generations at extreme risk.
"Good scores mean good upbringing."
Good scores only mean that the student has absorbed the material that he was tested on
very well. Whether that is good or bad depends upon the material itself. If a student
obtained top grades in the seventh grade History in the U.S., for example, it does
indicate a very high probability that he also swallowed --- hook, line and sinker --- all
the lies and distortions in World history and History of Islam. Do not be surprised then,
when he grows up a living question mark about Islam. As long as they are not being taught
from an integrated Islamic curriculum, our blind emphasis on high scores in all subjects
may be misplaced.
"Daughters and Sons: Islam demands equality."
Most certainly, Islam strictly forbids preferential treatment of boys or girls. But it
is a gross misinterpretation of this command that Islam favors a unisex world. Men and
women have different roles in life and our sons and daughters must be prepared for their