Being a parent can be a harrowing experience. At every age and stage in life we worry about our children. We worry about whether our babies have had enough to eat. We worry about whether our toddler might scrape their knees. And we worry about how our teenager will deal with pressure at school.
But, to be honest, many of these concerns are trivial and they make us lose sight of the things that truly matter, like whether our children will remain Muslim. Because at the end of the day, our primary mission as parents is to protect and prepare our kids for the hereafter.
Allah instructs us in the Qur’an:
“O believers! Protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones.” [ Qur’an, 66:6 ]
In this day and age, this feels like a daunting task. We’re living in a world that is drowning us in un-Islamic ideas and values, from cartoons and movies, to teachers and classmates.
So what can we do to best protect our children? I thought about my experience as an Imam for the past decade and all the kids I’ve met in my community. I’ve interacted with children and youth from all sorts of backgrounds, and some have undoubtedly stood out through their devotion to Islam and beautiful character.
When I met these kids, I couldn’t help but wonder: What did their parents do differently? After a lot of reflecting, I realized that all of their parents shared five essential habits:
1 – They take their kids to the masjid often.
One common theme is that their parents bring them to the masjid nearly every day. One father, for example, would be at the masjid multiple times a day, bringing his kids practically once a day with him. The masjid provides a strong Islamic environment and provides an opportunity for children to meet other kids who are being raised similarly.
In general, we underestimate the power of the masjid. Even if nothing is happening and the masjid is empty, there is a spiritual benefit just being there. We know there is tremendous reward in our deen in merely waiting in the masjid from prayer to prayer. It has a serenity within and reminds us constantly of our Creator, which strengthens our mental health–even that of a child.
2 – They are best friends with their kids.
Not in an overbearing way. Yes, these kids also have close peers their age but they are still very close to their parents. They’ve developed an intimate relationship where they feel comfortable sharing their experiences and talking to their parents about their entire day. No doubt, it takes time to develop this level of rapport and connection, but it is a result of the parent and child spending a lot of time together. Being in the company of your child is important–especially being ‘present’ with them. This helps us create closeness and the ability to communicate easily.
3 – They develop supportive peer connections.
These parents find families with similar-aged kids, who are raising their children the same way, and spend time together. As a parent, you can befriend your child but you can never be their peer. They need a peer connection in their life, but one that does not undermine the values and ideals that you are raising your own children with. That means you have to be aware and selective of who your children are befriending and ideally play a role in ensuring they are spending the right time with the right kids. The earlier you can establish this, the better.
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. By finding like-minded families, these parents have created their own village.
4 – They are serious about Islamic education.
They make use of community programs like youth halaqahs, weekend schools, etc. But they go beyond this too. These parents are committed to learning about Islam themselves. The vessel can only pour forth what it contains.
Even if your kids attend Islamic programs, they need religious education reinforced at home. You need to be educated enough to teach them their religion, give them resources to learn, and have conversations about the “why,” like why God asks us to worship Him and why evil exists.
5 – They own the conversation on difficult topics.
Kids are now easily exposed to difficult topics like sex, masturbation, drugs, and gender identity. Whether in a public school, a playground, or browsing online, they are often exposed early and outside of a proper Islamic framing.
That means that you need to talk to your kids about these topics much earlier than you would prefer. You need to ‘own’ this conversation. Talk to them about it, openly and sincerely, allowing for two-way communication. Your kids need to feel comfortable talking to you about these topics.
You need to not only frame these issues within a framework of Islamic ethics, but you need to help them think through and manage situations at school where it may be difficult to navigate as Muslim kids. Role-play situations that might happen in the classroom or on the playground to help them build their confidence in social settings so they can stay true to their beliefs.
While raising children in today’s world is no easy feat, we can take comfort in knowing that, after we try our best, ultimate guidance is in the hands of Allah. May Allah guide us all and our children to His Straight Path – ameen.
Learn more about Keys to Prophetic Parenting. Watch the video series here.