Hujjatul Islam Maulana Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi talks about how to raise God-conscious children (Tarbiyat-e-Aulad), based on the teachings of the Qur'an, the Holy Prophet [saww], and the Holy Household [as].
A'udhu billahi min al-Shaytan, al-la'in, al-rajim. Bismillah, Al-Rahman al-Rahim. Al-hamdu lil-Laahi, Rabbi Al-'Alameen. Wa as-salatu wa as-salamu 'alaa Sayyidina al-Anbiya'i, wa Khatim al-Mursaleen, Sayyidina, wa Nabiyyina, Abil Qasim Muhammad, wa 'alaa ahli-baytih at-tayyibin at-taahirin, al-ma'soomeen. Amma Ba'ad. I would like to begin with Islamic greeting of As-Salamun alaykum, peace be upon all of you. Last week in our discussion, we were talking about the subject of raising a child from the Islamic perspective, and in that discussion, I would like to summarize that in 5 points, before we continue our discussion further.
Number one, we saw that parenting is not only a natural process for human beings, it is considered to be a noble task in Islam. Number two, our discussion actually was based on the famous Hadith, the saying of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his family, where the Prophet divided the stages of raising a child into 3 segments of 7 years each, from birth to seven, then eight to 14 and then 15 to 21. Number three, we talked about the first stage of raising a child, where the Prophet said that 'Al waladu sayyiddun saba' sineen.' Where he said that for the first 7 years the child is the master, and by using this term, the Prophet basically was explaining the relationship between the parents and the child, that let the child be a child, do not burden the child with formal means of education.
The fourth point in last week's discussion was that the top priority in the first stage of raising a child is given to Tarbiyat. Tarbiyat means character building, as opposed to Ta'leem, which means formal education. And even when we talked about the issue of character building in the first stage of raising a child, we looked at the issue that the most important element in Tarbiyat and character building is providing the child with a good role model, in form of the parents, the siblings, and the mentors. Remember, our final message in last week's talk was that children don't listen to what you say, they see what you do.
So we would like to discuss this point further and look at another important element in character building during the first stage of raising a child, and that is to do with the issue of the home environment. We realize that during the first stage of raising a child, the positive environment of home is the most essential element in forming the child's identity as a Muslim and as a good and decent human being.
For example, we see that after the birth of a child in the Islamic tradition, the parent or one of the elders of the family would say the Adhaan in the right ear and the Iqamah in the left ear. Now Adhaan and Iqamah both are, you know, the phrases which are used in announcing the call for daily ritual prayers. When you look at the wordings and the phrases used in Adhaan and Iqamah, you will see that the first words heard by a Muslim child after birth, are the words Allahu Akbar, which means that God is the Greatest. And when we look at this concept, we have to realize that from day one the child is hearing the name of God, and not only God, he is being told that God is the Greatest. And so there is a message in there that God comes first. God is number one in our life.
If you look at the example of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, the successor as well as the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, you will see that Ali was blessed with four children from the Prophet's daughter Fatimah, two sons and two daughters. The sons were known as Hasan and Husayn, and the daughters were known as Zaynab and Umm Kulthum. The older of the two daughters was as I said, the name was Zaynab, and Zaynab means the beauty of the father. We have in our narrations that one day Imam Ali was teaching numbers to Zaynab when she was probably only three years old. And so he asked her 'Ya bunaya quli wahid.' O my dear, say wahid. Wahid means one. And so Zaynab now repeats and says 'Wahid.' Then Imam Ali asked her 'Quli Ithnain.' Say ithnain. Ithnain means two. This is where we see that Zaynab hesitated and didn't say Ithnain. So Imam Ali then repeats, and he says 'Takullumi ya qurrata 'ayni.' O the delight of my eyes, say something. You know, say what I say. And that is where Zaynab responds to her father, in still that very young age where she says 'Ya Abata, ma ateequ an aqulu Ithnain bi lisaani ajraytuhu bi'l-waahid.' You know, I, O my father, I cannot say two with a tongue on which I just uttered One, referring to One God.
And so when we look at this, we have to realize that, you know, even the words that the children here, in whom have, you know, it's own impact on the subconscious level of the child's mind. For example, in case of Zaynab, this concept of Greatness of God, that He is One, He is the Greatest, He's number One in our life. This stayed with Zaynab till the end of her life. You know, even after the massacre at Karbala, where her brother Husayn, along with his family members, were killed. And she and the other women and children of the family of the Prophet were made prisoners, at the hand of the army of Yazid bin Muawiya. There also we see that when the women and children along with Zaynab, where they were taken to Syria and presented in the court of Yazid's Palace in Damascus.
There Zaynab stood up and confronted Yazid. In her sermon, she said something which is very powerful. She says that 'O Yazid, think of the Day, the Day of Judgment, when Almighty God will be the Judge and the Prophet, my grandfather will be the petitioner, and the Angels will be the witnesses against you.' And so we see that this concept of having the consciousness of God's role in our life, His Presence in our life is reinforced when we hear the name of God frequently in our own homes.
And so the home's environment and it's sounds and vision are very important in raising the child. Even the posters and pictures hang around the house, especially in the child's bedroom, have their own impact on the consciousness of the child. And so we have to realize that the child basically observes everything and this is how their character is built. So remember that the behaviour of the parents and the other siblings around, the language that the children hear from others, the images that they see around themselves, and the way adults interact with one another. All this does have their own effect on the child's character building. And so when we talk about the home environment, this is the second most important element as far as character building of the child in the first stage from birth to age 7 is concerned.
Let me give you actually an example from my own life. You know, I was blessed with my grandparents who came to live with us for a year in East Africa where I was raised. I was still very young at that time when my grandparents came there to stay with us, and I would like to share with you an example of how the sounds even inside the house have the lasting impact on the mind of a child.
Every day before the dawn prayer, my grandfather would get up for what is known as Salat ul-Layl, the optional night prayer, which is said between midnight and before the dawn time. And he would recite that prayer in the living room, which was next to our bedroom. And since the door was normally open, I used to especially hear his prayer, his Du'a in qunoot, when he was, when he would raise his hands to say the prayer in the ritual prayer of Laylatul, Salat ul-Layl. Especially the words that, at that time I used to hear from him was 'Laa ilaha illa Allahu al-Halimu, al-Karim, Laa ilaha illa Allahu al-‘Aliyyu, al-‘Adheem, Subhana Allahi Rabbi as-Samaawati sab' ee, wa Rabbi al-‘Ardhina sab'ee, wa ma fihinna wa maa baynahunna, wa Rabbu al-'Arshi al-'Adheem, wa al-hamdu lil-Laahi, Rabbi Al-'Alameen'. I used to hear that, and without even realizing on the subconscious level, I had memorized it.
It was only later on when I grew up and started reading the books about the ritual prayers, I came to realize that this is a Du'a known as Kalimaat ul-Faraj, which was, which is very highly recommended prayer taught by the Prophet of Islam to Imam Ali in the qunoot. And one of the benefits of this Du'a is that our Iman and faith will stay with us till the last moments of our life in this world. And so, you know, when you hear all these sounds inside the home, themselves, itself, we realize they have their own impact on the character and the mindset of a child.
Let me give you one more example. A simple thing like the Adhaan clock, which sounds the Adhaan, the call for prayer at the prayer's time. That also sends a message to the child on a subliminal level. And this is more important for us, those who live in the Western part of the world. In Muslim countries, where you have, each neighbourhood has a mosque with its minerets and you know, they have large speakers there. And at every time of the prayer, the call for prayer is sounded, the entire neighbourhood hears that. You know, so we don't have that privilege here. And so we can have our alarm clocks, especially the Adhaan clocks, where the Adhaan is sounded inside the house at the time of the prayers. And these sounds that the children hear every day in their home have their own impact in realizing the priorities of life from the Islamic perspective.
You know, for us, it's very easy to sense the impact of the environment on a physical level, and this is recognized and very easily acceptable by the people. For example, you look at the concept of second-hand smoking. You know, smoking does not only affect the smoker, it also affects the, even the child, whether the child is inside the home where the smoking is taking place or inside the car. Now, even the governments have realized the harm of second-hand smoke, and therefore there are laws now where adults or the parents are forbidden from smoking inside the home or the car where children are present. And so on the physical level, we know that, you know, whatever takes place in the environment, it has it's own impact on a physical level.
Similarly, on the spiritual level, the parent's behaviour influences the child who is with them in the home or even inside the car. You know, I'm not talking about this issue of second-hand smoke inside the car. Actually, I'm talking about even the behaviour, the influence on the behaviour of the children. For example, if your child travels every day to school in a school bus with other kids or in a car, you know, where let's say your friend or other family gives ride to your child every day. And the children in that car or the bus always use foul language. You know, your child, whether you know, willingly or unwillingly, is going to have, you know the effects on him, and he will learn that language. And so this is the negative example of the environment.
Let me share with you on the positive side, an example from my own daughter. My second daughter, when she was just 8 or 9 years old, she used to go to her Elementary school with a lady who used to put the audio of Surat Yaseen in her car. Surat Yaseen is chapter number 36 of the Holy Qur'an, and it's a very beautiful chapter. It's not a short one, and it is known as the Soul of the Qur'an. One day my wife, sitting in the mosque for the Thursday night weekly programme realized that my daughter was reciting Surat Yaseen without looking in the Qur'an. And so she later on at home, she tested her and found out that my daughter had memorized the entire Surah just by listening to it in the car, in her ride to the school. And this was done on a subconscious level, in a sense that the important point here is that, this was not done with any design or planning. This was actually a good example of how the sound and vision have the impact even inside a car.
Historically, also, we have many, many examples. For example, you must have heard the name of Fizza. Fizza was the maid in the house of Lady Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet. And we know that she spent some time with Bibi Fatimah in her house and the environment of that holy house itself has, had such an impact on the life of Fizza that historians, especially the books which talk about the history of Arabic literature and poetry, they talk about her example that in the last 20 years of her life, Fizza never uttered a single word except from the Qur'an. This even when she wanted to communicate something to a person, she would, she had this ability to recite the verse from the Qur'an, where her message or her intention was very clearly, you know, conveyed.
For example, once she was traveling for Hajj and along the way when they stopped, you know, the caravan didn't realize that she was missing. By the time she came back to the spot, she realized that the caravan had moved further. So she was all alone, you know. And there was travelling, a traveller on the same route who saw a lady in the Arabian desert all alone. So he was surprised. He goes there and says you know, 'Who are you? What are you doing here all alone in the desert?' And she realized that this person did not even greet her by saying salaam. So she recites the verse of Qur'an where it says 'And say, salaam and soon shall they know.' (43:89).So he realized his mistake and he said salaam to her. And then he asked, you know, 'What are you doing here?'
And that's where she recited another verse of the Qur'an, where God says 'And those whom God guides, there is none to lead them astray.' (39:37). So basically, she was saying that I'm lost, you know, my caravan is gone. So after listening to two verses in response to his question, this stranger became afraid and he says 'Are you a genie or a human being?' And then again she recites another verse and she says, the verse where Almighty God says 'O children of Adam, wear the best of your apparel whenever you go for the mosque'(7:31). And so the message was that I am from the children of Adam. And the conversation goes on. And if you look at some of the books, such as Javahe wal Adab, which is an anthology of Arabic literature and poetry, you will see that this conversation between Fizza and the stranger has been given in its entirety.
And so when we talk about the environment of the home, we have to realize, you know, this is a very important element that we have to keep in our mind. When we talk about the concept of raising our children. Let me talk about one more aspect of this, the first stage of raising the child from birth to age 7. The Prophet when he says that the child is a master, he is emphasizing on the point that let the child be a child. Do not burden the child with formal methods of education. Now this doesn't mean that you should not educate your child at that time. What it means is that the priority is to be given to character building. Education becomes secondary at that stage.
Let me, you know, share with you a saying from Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq, which gives us an indication that even when we would like to teach things to our children at that stage, we have to use the gradual method. For example, Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq says, when your child is 3 years old, then teach him 7 times to say 'La ilaha illa Allah.' This is the fundamental creed of Islam - There is no God but Allah. When he is 3 years and 7 months old, then teach your child to say 'Muhammadun Rasul Allah.' Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. When the child is 4 years old, then teach the child to say 'Allahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa ali Muhammad,' which means O Almighty God, shower your blessings upon Prophet Muhammad and his family.
When the child is 5 years old, then ask the child whether he knows the difference between what is left and what is right and then show the child the direction towards Qiblah. Qiblah is the direction towards Mecca, where we stand up for our prayer, facing the direction for our prayers. When the child is 6 years old, then the child should be taught all the stages and the positions of how to do the ritual prayers. By age 9, Imam says that the child should have learnt to do the complete and the perfect way of doing the prayers as well as doing the ablution. The message in this saying of Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq is that use the gradual method of instructing your child about religious as well as secular issues during the first 7 years of the child's life.
Let me end by emphasizing on the point of the mother. In a sense that during the first 7 years of raising a child, mothers play a very crucial role, you know. And so Islam emphasizes that it is important for the mother to stay at home at that stage of the child's life. Mother is the best of Murabbiyyah. She is the best of the mentors and the caregiver for the child. You know, if you remove the M from the mother, then you are left with the other. And Islam emphasizes that your child should be raised by the mother and not the other. You cannot leave the upbringing of your child to others. Don't deprive yourself of the pleasure of witnessing your child first steps or first words. Don't give that pleasure to a nanny or a babysitter.
The famous saying of Prophet Muhammad where he says that Paradise is beneath the feet of the mother does not come about that easily. The mother has to fulfil her instinctual duty of raising her child to grow up into a good believer and this involves hard work and sacrifice. You know, by not working outside the home during your child's early life, you don't lose much. Actually, by staying home to raise your own child, you are making a big investment. You are investing your time now for the peace of mind later on when your child becomes a teenager.
And so this is an important element that we have to keep in mind that, you know, the first 7 years of the child is very crucial for the character building and you know, fostering that identity of the child as a Muslim child and as a good human being. May Almighty God give us the ability, the wisdom and the courage to raise our children in the best of manner in the society and always remember the prayer that we have in chapter 25 of the Qur'an verse 74, where Almighty God says to us that pray in the following way: 'Our Lord, grant us comfort in our spouses and descendants and make us leaders of the righteous and pious people' (25:74).
This was the second segment of our talk on raising child from the Islamic perspective. Last week we looked at the introduction of this theme. We have continued this week and God willing we will discuss the topic further next week and the week after. As I said, our discussion is based on the saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his family, where he has divided the process of raising the children into 3 segments. So what we have discussed till now in the first and the second series of talks was about the first 7 years of raising a child and so we will continue the discussion next week talking about the second stage from age 8 to 14.
We hope you will be with us and if you have any questions on these subjects that we are discussing, you are welcome to send your questions to the website, which is shown at the end of this programme and we will gladly accommodate the questions in our future programmes. Wa as-salamu alaykum may, God bless you all.