Nurturing Nurturing children is a human necessity in order to establish a functional society.
It encompasses preparing children in all aspects of life including social conduct, knowledge about surrounding, psychological well-being, and caring for their health. Thus, prior to discussing nurturing faith, one has to understand the concept of nurture and its implications
Definition of Nurturing
When educators discuss the concept of nurture, they mean a purposeful and developed process maintained by rules that aim to establishing good habits in children through guidance, training, education, refinement, and practice. Nurturing also aims to preserve the innate nature and talents of children, to protect them, and to guide them towards righteousness and perfection that prepares a good human being ready for the responsibly of life. Nurturing is a tool that creates healthy and functional leadership in society.
Raising Children in Islam
Nurturing Children is crucial in Islam. Ibn Omar narrates that the messenger of Allah (may Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon him) said: “Every one of you is a guardian and is responsible for whatever he or she are in charge of; the ruler is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects; the woman is a guardian of her husband’s house and is responsible for her charges.” In this Hadith, the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) points out the massive responsibility on the shoulders of each one of us: we will be asked – undoubtedly – about whatever we are entrusted with. The prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) also said: “Any man whom Allah has given the authority of ruling over people but does not look after them in an honest manner will never feel even the smell of Paradise.” In this Hadith, we see reference to the importance of providing truthful, honest and beneficial advice. Furthermore, Ibn Omar said: “Educate your son, you will be asked about him: how did you raise him?, What did you teach him? He will also be asked on his kindness and obedience to you.”
Here, Ibn Omar asserts that caring for children is the parents’ responsibility; parents are the first source of information and moral lessons. In fact, the prophet has stressed that raising children is greater than charity: “A person educating his child is better than him donating food.” It is also alleged that the prophet said that teaching children good manners is better than donation: “A parent has never granted to a son anything better than good behavior.” These Hadiths indicate that raising and educating children are one of the most important and noblest gifts parents can provide to their children.
Nurturing Faith is a Necessity
Many Ayahs and Hadiths stress that it is the parent’s duty to assist their child in this early and critical stages of life. For example, in the Quran, Allah says: “Allah instructs you concerning your children.” The prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) also stressed the importance of this stage. He says: “Every child is born with a true faith (i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Zoroastrianism”. This Hadith infers crucial facts that include:
- Faith is inborn in human nature. Whoever deviates from it ultimately deviates towards loss.
- Faith nurturing is a child’s right upon parents; it leads to happiness in life and it is a safeguard in the Hereafter – Allah welling – that would differentiate winners from losers.
- Children’s surroundings affect their state of mind.
It is a blessing from Allah to have an inborn pure faith since childhood without an effort to achieve it. Accordingly, parents must do their best to protect their children’s inborn nature. They must raise their children to accept the true religion, built on the Quran and Sunnah, and never leave their children learn through social influence.
Faith is the ultimate truth of existence and the reason Allah created humanity. It defines a person’s journey in this life and determines his or her destination in the Hereafter. Actions and manners are built upon faith; nurturing the faith of children is crucial because – as we shall explain – children’s soul, creeds, principles, habits, and visions are ultimately built on faith. To ignore teaching faith to children is, thus, a form of abuse of ignoring to teach and equip children with crucial tools they need for their future life and the Hereafter.
As mentioned, children are vulnerable as they experience psychological and cultural leaps and other forms of influence that should not be overlooked. Sadly, distorting and anti-Islamic faith media programs are now abundant and available at the tip of the children’s fingers. These programs shape the minds of children; once they grow, it becomes harder to change what has already been installed. It is the responsibility of parents to protect their children from negative influence.
The Goals of Islamic Education
The general aim of Islamic education is to establish true worship of Allah Alone. The below elaborates more on this:
Children who grow up in families committed to true Islamic teachings and who focus on building Islamic faith are likely going to copy their parents and adopt their personal perceptions. These children are also less likely to deviate from Sunnah and fall into un-Islamic worship practices. Uncommitted Muslim parents, or parent who ignore teaching their children about faith under the pretense that they are still young, will find it later difficult to bring their children back to religion or have faith because these children did not see the benefits of religion early in their life.
Of course, without doubt, raising children is one of the toughest tasks parents encounter. This is why it is explained, in the Quran, as the acts of prophets (blessings and peace upon them all). In the Quran, Nouh (peace be upon him) calls his son to follow the path of Allah and warns him against following corrupt people: “O my son, come aboard with us and be not with the disbelievers.” . Similar wise, Ibrahim (peace be upon him) instructs his children on his deathbed “O’ my sons, indeed Allah has chosen for you this religion, so do not die except while you are Muslims.” Luqman’s (peace be upon him) first command to his son was also a warning against worshipping anyone other than Allah: ““O’ my son, do not associate [anything in worshipping] with Allah. Indeed, association [with Him] is great injustice.” Furthermore, the prophet’s life is full of examples of teaching faith to children.
Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) commands Ibn Abbas: “Young man! I will teach you a statement: Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. When you ask, ask Allah Alone, and when you seek aid, seek Allah’s aid”. All these examples not only illustrate the importance of nurturing faith, but also illustrate that it was a practice of prophets and that it is a challenging practice. Muslims look up to the prophets who are an example of leading good and productive life.
Here is what children gain from a strong faith:
- They will engage in doing good deeds and seek activities that gets them closer to Allah and His mercy.
- They will be better at refraining from bad deeds.
- They will abstain from indulging in luxuries because life is not the center of their interest and their hearts are not attached to it.
- They will gain divine support; Allah takes care of those who believe in Him. They will achieve happiness in this life and in the Hereafter.
- They will gravitate towards Allah and increases spiritual strength. As faith flourishes, the servants’ trust and affection towards Allah and detachment from His creatures increase.
- They will let go of negativity and hostility. As faith grows in the heart, the effect of personal inclinations becomes limited. Moreover, determination strengthens and drives them towards noble behavior.
- They will have positive outlook to the world; the strong believer seeks to improve himself and those around him. In other words, faith builds a psychologically and emotionally balanced individual who is an effective and productive member of society, and who performs his or her duties as a guardian of Allah’s dominion of Earth by inhabiting it and utilizing its resources.
- They will achieve peace and tranquility. Trust based on faith is ingrained in the heart. Fears that haunt others diminish. In other words, faith nurturing provides spiritual stability and psychological security because it provides answers to the big questions of life; these answers are derived from The Quran and from the messenger’s (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) the Sunnah. These answers are characterized by the clarity of their source, method, and goals. These answers also speak to the child’s needs, reality, and upbringing.
Nurturing faith is beneficial to society in that it helps society fulfil the main purpose of creation, which is to worship Allah. Furthermore, nurturing faith is beneficial to society in three main ways:
- It provides the bedrock to establishing a Muslim community through preparing righteous people who will worship Allah with guidance and insight and fulfill Human being’s mission on Earth.
- It sets the stage for establishing good moral standards after the standards that the prophet set fourteen hundred years ago. Though the prophet focused on the importance of monotheism, which is essentially the center of Islamic faith, Allah and His prophet have frequently reminded us that morals are based upon faith. Allah will reward as for good behavior and punishes us for bad behavior. Allah has also praised the prophet for having good morals that stem from faith: “And indeed, you are of a great moral character.” The prophet also stressed this fact. He said: “ I was sent to perfect good character.”
- Building a community with individuals who share their faith develops brotherhood among individuals in that community. As a result loyalty and care will be anchored towards the Muslim community and its members. In the Quran, Allah says: “The believers are but brothers.” The prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) says: “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other” and “The believers are merciful, kind, and loving among themselves like a unified body; if any part of the body is not well, the whole body will help it through sleeplessness and fever.”
The Essential Dimensions of Nurturing faith
There are two essential dimensions for nurturing faith in children: epistemological and practical:
The epistemological dimension has two aspects: knowledge and creed
Knowledge presents the key to understanding and building ethics and motives. Allah says: “Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding” (39:9). The prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was keen on teaching his companions beneficial knowledge; he taught them to seek refuge in Allah from useless knowledge by asking Allah in prayers: “O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from knowledge which does not benefit and from a heart that does not fear Allah.” What these two quotes prove is that good faith is based upon knowledge about that faith its requirements.
Creed is the belief that settles in heart based upon knowledge. For Muslims, this belief is the belief in the six pillars of faith which will be discussed further down.
The practical dimension has three aspects: servitude to Allah, practice, and morals
- Servitude to Allah: servitude is based upon truthful inner self and unique personal traits that build the urge to constantly and truthfully evaluate life and connection to Allah. It also means the belief that servitude is a blessing rather than a burden. Manners, thoughts, hopes, and ambitions are purified through devotion. The prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) told Mu’ath Ibn Jabal: “By Allah, I love you, Mu’ath, I’ll teach you some words. Never leave to recite this supplication after every (prescribed) prayer: ‘O Allah, help me in remembering You, in giving You thanks, and in worshipping You well.’” Here, the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) teaches Mu’ath that worshipping Allah is a gift from Him, the Almighty and that it is not a burden. Worshipping is not just individual effort, it is also divine guidance and blessing.
- Application: Knowledge about Allah and his blessings dictates practicing worshipping and thanking Him. Our action and practice of worshiping Allah and thanking him differentiates winners from losers in the Hereafter. This is why Allah says in the Quran: “So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.”
- Morals: Morals are based upon faith. The foundations of Islam create well-behaved people because it categorizes manners and ethics as acts of worship. The prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) states that his focus is on encouraging good behavior. He says: “I was sent to perfect good character.” He also states that: “Indeed the most beloved among you to me, and the nearest to sit with me on the Day of Judgment is the best of you in character.”
Examples of Nurturing faith
Providing practical examples helps ingrain principles and values. The following are some examples of how the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and his companions establish faith in children.
- Ibn Abbas narrates that the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) used to seek refuge in Allah for Al-Hasan and Al-Husain: “Your forefather (i.e. Abraham) used to seek refuge with Allah for Ishmael and Isaac by reciting the following: ‘O Allah! I seek Refuge with Your Perfect Words from every devil and from poisonous pests and from every evil, harmful, envious eye’”.
- Abu Huraira narrates that the Messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Every child is born with a true faith (to worship none but Allah Alone) but his parents convert him to either Judaism, Christianity or Magainism.”
- Umar ibn Abi Salama narrates: “I was a young boy under the care of Allah’s messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and my hand used to meander in the dish while I was eating. So, the messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said to me: ‘O boy! Mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand and eat of the dish what is nearer to you.’”
- Ibn Abbas narrates: “I was behind the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) one day when he said: ‘Son ! I will teach you a statement: Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. When you ask, ask Allah, and when you seek aid, seek Allah’s aid. Know that if the entire creation were to gather to do something to benefit you – you would never get any benefit except that Allah had written for you. And if they were to gather to do something to harm you – you would never be harmed except that Allah had written for you.’”
- Al-Hasan ibn Ali narrates: “The messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) taught me some words to say during the witr (night prayer): ‘O Allah, guide me among those You have guided, grant me security among those You have granted security, take me into Your charge among those You have taken into Your charge, bless me in what You have given, guard me from the evil of what You have decreed, for You are the one who decrees, and nothing is decreed over You. He whom You befriends is not degraded. You are blessed and exalted, our Lord.’”
- Anas ibn Malik narrates: “The messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said to me: “O my little son! When you enter upon your family say salam, it will be a blessing for you and upon the people of your house.”
- Jundub Al-Bajli narrates: “We were with the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and we were strong youths, so we learned faith before we learned Quran. Then we learned the Quran and our faith increased thereby.”
- Umm Sulaim – Anas ibn Malik’s mother – entered Islam when Anas was still young, not weaned yet, and used to teach Anas to say that “There is no God but Allah,” “I testify that Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) is Allah’s messenger” and so he did.
- Ibrahim Al-Taimi said: “They used to prefer to teach the young child – when he first learned to talk – to say ‘There is no God but Allah’ seven times, so that it becomes the first thing he learns.”