About Child Discipline

 If we want perfect children, let us first attempt  to be perfect parents.

Q – How should families take care of disciplining children?

First of all, we should be very clear that children are divine trusts to us and sprout from our own essence. For sensitive souls, the melodies of happiness at home begin with the soothing music of happy children.

As it is expressed in the traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), children are “flowers of Paradise,” “fruit of hearts,” and “divine blessings.” Children are the best blessings of our Lord. How can anyone forget the joy at the birth of a first child? Children’s smiles are like gifts from Paradise. For a mother to discipline, raise and contribute fine children to society is therefore the most honorable of occupations. A mother’s heart is the first school of a child: here the child receives its basic training. In addition, righteous generations raised with great care will be protective shields between their parents and Hellfire. One of the most important duties of parents is to equip their children with Islamic virtues and good character.  Yet it is not merely the central duty of parents to raise faithful and upright children: it also is a guarantee of receiving continuous rewards until the end of time.

Children are exceptional fruits of family happiness and a strong connection between the mother and the father. They are the most valuable trusts of Allah to the parents. People’s responsibilities are expressed in the following saying of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

All of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges: … a man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for his charge; and a woman is guardian of the household of her husband and is responsible for her charge …(Bukhari, Wasaya, 9; Muslim, Imara, 20)

The Qur’an says:

O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones …(66:6)

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) explains this verse, saying:

Keep them away from committing the things prohibited by Allah the Almighty and encourage them to perform good deeds. That is the way to save them from Hellfire.(Alusi, XXVIII, 156)

Q – From what basis should childrearing begin? Can using physical punishment be an acceptable method of discipline? What is the role of family in discipline and about what should  families be careful?

Discipline of children should begin with the training of parents; such an important job can only be successfully performed with the benefit of proper training. How can inadequate parents discipline their children? As the poet says,

He, himself, is a dodderer in need of help

How is he supposed to help others?

Thus if child discipline begins starts parent discipline, it will yield more effective results. Again, as it is expressed by the poet Seyri:

Father, pillar of the family, must be upright and strong 

Mother, heart of the family, must be a rose, sweet and warm

With all this in mind, we can summarize the basic principles to which parents need to pay attention as follows:

A spiritually meaningful name must be given to the child. At the head of the rights of a child upon its parents comes “to be given a good name,” because the meaning of the name influences the personality of the child. In other words, the meaning of the child’s name manifests itself upon the child. In a narration reported by Tabari, it is stated:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) had a milk camel brought and asked, “Who shall milk this camel?” A man stood up. The Messenger of Allah asked, “What is your name?” The man said “Murra (bitterness).”

The Messenger of Allah said to him, “Sit down.”

Again he said, “Who shall milk it?” A man stood up and the Messenger of Allah asked, “What is your name?” He said, “Jamra (fire).”

The Messenger of Allah said, “Sit down.”

Yet again he said, “Who milks this camel?” A man stood up and the Messenger of Allah asked him, “What is your name?” The man said, ‘’Ya`ish (he lives).” Then the Messenger of Allah  gave him the job of milking the camel.  (Tabarani, Mu`jam, XXII, 277; Muwatta, Isti’zan, 24)

For the spiritual development of their children, parents must be very sensitive about the religious lawfulness of what they eat.

Children grow up by imitating their parents in every aspect of their lives. Imitation, learning from example, is the essential characteristic of children. This is why parents must display exemplary behavior for them to imitate. For instance, if a child grows up in a family environment where the parents always dispute, then he or she will be affected by the atmosphere and will most likely become ill-tempered. A child raised up in a peaceful and tranquil environment, on the other hand, will most likely grow up with good manners and become a decent person.

Children’s behavior must always be under their parents’ control, yet children should never feel that they are being controlled. They should be prevented from doing, in secret, bad things that they cannot do openly. Otherwise their character weakens and they become two-faced. The first manifestation of this condition is lying and hypocrisy.

Children’s good deeds should be praised and rewarded, but their mistakes also should not be ignored. Just as rewarding good behaviors tends to make those behaviors permanent, so leaving offenses unpunished similarly incorporates them into a child’s character. Childhood errors need to be taken seriously, because repeated bad actions may turn into addictions.

Unnecessary and constant punishment also has a negative impact upon children. For instance, if a child accidentally breaks a utensil in the kitchen, he or she should not be reprimanded, because accidents happen to everybody. Punishing children for accidents will create resentment, which may lead them to resist right behaviors that parents approve: they will do the opposite of whatever they are told to do. Therefore parents must be very sensitive and must not punish their children for accidental mistakes.  However, we should never ignore or tolerate mistakes that might affect their morality.

It is also very important, when correcting mistakes, to make it clear to the child what was wrong about the action. It is only when a child grasps and accepts a mistake that he or she will be ready to profit from education. Otherwise, the child will continue to think the action right and will begin to blame the parents for injustice.

Therefore, also, when religious obligations and prohibitions are taught, children must be convinced about their reasons.

Proper manners and moral principles areessential. Wealthy families in particular should be careful to teach their children to treat their friends nicely. Rudeness and arrogance should be prevented. It is helpful to teach them the story of Qarun from the 28th chapter of the Qur’an – in simple words, so that they can understand.

Within the limits of lawfulness, children should be allowed to “live their childhood.” However, just as they should not be placed under too much pressure, they should also not be left too much to their own devices. Too much idleness leads the growing personality astray. Too much pressure, on the other hand, crushes character and makes children either timid or rebellious. Children at the age of puberty are particularly inclined to be rebellious against their parents. This is why parents need to make every effort to fill their children’s time with appropriate activities in order to raise them as virtuous people.

Children need to be reminded of the blessings of Allah the Almighty and should be accustomed to show gratitude. They need to be raised according to the principles illustrated by the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

From an early age, children should be encouraged to develop habits of “worshiping Allah and serving humanity.”  Beyond simple habit formation, they should also be taught the meaning of our obligations of worship and service.

In short, if we want perfect children, let us first attempt to be perfect parents.

The true root of proper child discipline can only be parental love. Our children are entrusted to us by Allah; to love them and care for them is a means for us to reach happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. If we do not raise a decent generation, we will find ourselves alone in this world and later in the grave. We should not forget that the grave will be our ultimate residence. Let us treat our children accordingly!

Q – What should mothers be sensitive to with regard to a child’s discipline and education?

As the proverb says, “A mother is a school.” The mother’s heart is the child’s classroom. Because a mother stays with her children at home more often than anybody else, she will be the first and most effective role model to leave permanent traces in the souls of her children.

Every word coming out of a mother’s mouth is like a brick in the edifice of the personality of her child. Mothers are the greatest source of mercy, the teachers of mercy. It becomes harder to educate children who are devoid of a mother’s discipline, since discipline imposed without an underlying perception of mercy naturally produces rebellion. People of high character are usually to be found among those who were raised by a righteous mother.

A righteous and self-sacrificing mother, who shoulders many precious and difficult duties like the care of a home, the discipline of children and the thoughtful service of a husband, deserves immense love, deep respect and lifelong gratitude. Virtuous and serious Muslims from all over the Muslim lands have left us many beautiful illustrative examples of proper respect for mothers. First among these is, of course, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). He visited his foster mother Halima (may Allah be pleased with her) every week. He used to lay his cloak on the ground and invite her to sit on it. Every time his foster mother entered the room, he stood up out of respect.

Mothers, who have the opportunity and time to be in close connection with their children, should take hints about discipline and education from the lives of the Companions of the Prophet. Women Companions who were mothers got their own spiritual education from the Prophet. They used to counsel their children, too, to visit him regularly. Hudhayfa (may Allah be pleased with him) told this story:

One day mother one day asked me, “When was the last time that you visited the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)?”

I said, “I haven’t seen him for a few days.” She got very upset and reproached me. Finally I told her, “Please stop being angry at me! Let me go visit the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) right away and pray the evening prayer with him. Then I’ll ask him to pray to Allah the Almighty for our forgiveness.” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 30; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, V, 391-92)

We need to protect our children from extravagance and all kinds of extremism. We should give them respectable, meaningful names, introduce them to the Noble Qur’an and familiarize their pure hearts with the pleasures of praying, helping others and giving charity. We should also, as much as we can, avoid showing any kind of negative behavior that could increase selfishness in them. Children are like tape recorders. They are inclined to record and imitate everything they see. For instance, let’s imagine what kind of damage the following incident could do, once recorded in a child’s pure memory.

A beggar, old and sick, knocks on the door of a family’s home to ask for help. The father of the household reprimands the man; his daughter observes this. The little girl asks, “Daddy, why are you breaking the poor man’s heart?”

The coldhearted father replies, “Don’t pay attention to him! These kinds of people are not ashamed to be a burden on others. When they succeed in getting money, they just waste it. Maybe they are even richer than we are!”

Meanwhile, because of his dire need, the poor man at the door keeps asking, “For the sake of Allah, please help me!”

The father’s anger grows worse.  He shouts, “Get out of here, you shameless man!”

Perhaps some of us are acquainted with such scenes. But wouldn’t any little girl who saw such a thing and loved her father, begin to lose her feelings of compassion? Is it not likely that she herself might become a coldhearted person who feels nothing for the sufferings of the others?

Mindful of the educational effects of actions, when my own father Musa Efendi(may Allah bless his soul) wanted to give something to a needy person, he sometimes gave it through the hands of children. In this way we all became accustomed to helping others. On one occasion, people came around collecting donations for an important cause. My father watched the seven-year-old boy sitting next to him. The little boy, unaware of being observed, dropped his small amount of pocket money into the donation box. He had obviously been affected by the generosity of the adults around him. After my father saw what the little boy did, he called him aside. After praising his good deed, he told the child, “You did well, my boy! If you hadn’t given anything, it would have made me sad.”

This story is just one example of the many we might call to mind, all of which prove how children imitate the acts of the adults around them.

We should keep in mind that traditions of the Prophet suggest that girls need more attention than boys. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says:

Anyone who has three daughters and provides for them, clothes them, shows mercy to them, assists in their marriages and keeps assisting them afterwards, will definitely enter Paradise.(Abu Dawud, Adab, 121; Ibn Hanbal, III, 97)

and

“If someone raises two girls to maturity in kindness, on the Day of Resurrection, he and I will be like this” – and he interlaced his fingers (to show the degree of nearness between him and that person). (Muslim, Birr, 149; See also Tirmidhi, Birr, 13)

This narration informs us how we should treat our children, especially our daughters.

Another important point with regard to child-rearing is the matter of physical abuse. The beating of children cannot be accepted under any circumstances. In order to prevent children’s bad behavior, some precautions may be taken, but beating can never be among them. Beating turns our young people – our future! – either into cowards, or into indecent and shameless people. It is clear that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prohibited beating even in the discipline of animals, let alone human beings. When our mother `A’isha was given a camel as a gift, he warned her about training it in these words:

“O `A’isha! Kindness is not found in anything without adding to its beauty and is not withdrawn from anything without making it defective.”(Muslim, Birr, 78; See also Abu Dawud, Adab, 10)

A mother’s heart can control the outbursts of family members, especially the obstinacy of her children.

A pious mother is like an embrace of divine mercy. That is why the Prophet said: “Paradise is under the feet of mothers…” Since the seeds of our happiness are sown in the hearts of our mothers, the Messenger of Allah insisted upon love for mothers. When he (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked who is most entitled to be treated with the highest respect, he said three times, “Your mother.” Only after that did he say, “Your father.” (Bukhari, Adab, 2; Muslim, Birr, 1, 2; See also Ibn Maja, Wasaya, 4; Abu Dawud, Adab, 120; Tirmidhi, Birr, 1)

Q – How should a woman treat her husband’s children from his earlier marriage(s)?

She should accept them as if they were her own children. It is important that she not hold her attention, compassion, mercy and service away from them. All his life, the Prophet showed respect to the mother of Hadrat `Ali, Fatima bint Asad (may Allah be pleased with them both), because she had protected him and treated him (peace and blessings be upon him), like her own son. When she passed away, the Prophet prayed over her body, saying:

O my mother! May Allah have mercy on your soul. You were my second mother after my real mother. You would stay hungry, yet feed me; you would not clothe yourself, yet you clothed me; you would hold yourself away from good food, yet you let me eat it; and in doing all this, you sought nothing other than Allah’s contentment and eternal salvation.

The Prophet ordered the body to be washed three times. Then he dressed her with his own shirt; she was enshrouded wearing his shirt. The Messenger of Allah helped in digging her grave and afterwards he lay down in it and prayed for her. (Tabarani, Mu’jam al-Kabir, XXIV, 351-52; Hakim, III, 116-17)

The Prophet’s love, respect and gratitude for his foster mother’s care should certainly be an example for us. Yet, let us not forget how fine an example is set by his foster mother’s compassion, care, education, gentle treatment and kind words toward him! By taking pains and leaving precious memories in the mind of an orphan, this great mother won the veneration of a people, as well as eternal divine mercy.

Let us not neglect to mention that fathers, too, should be mature enough to treat their wives’ children by previous marriages in the same fashion as their own children if they are to live together.

Q – Could you give us some examples from the life of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) illustrating his dealing with children?

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) always treated children with compassion. He used to kiss them and comb their hairs with his fingers. He was not fond of people who did not show affection to children; he considered them rude and harsh.

According to the report of `A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her), one day the Prophet was playing with his grandsons and kissing them. A Bedouin came up to him and remarked,

“You (people) kiss the children! We don’t kiss them.”

The Prophet said, “I cannot put mercy in your heart after Allah has taken it away from it.” (Bukhari, Adab, 22)

On a similar occasion, Allah’s Apostle kissed his grandson al-Hasan bin `Ali while al-Aqra’ bin Habis at-Tamim was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra’ said,I have ten children and I have never kissed a single one of them.”

 Allah’s Messenger cast a look at him and said, “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.”

If we take a lesson from these traditions, we see that Muslims’ hearts should be full of affection, love and mercy toward children, who are Allah’s trusts to us. We should also be aware of where and how we are supposed to manifest our love and mercy.

Once, the Prophet was holding his small grandson in his lap when the child urinated on him.  Umm Fadl (may Allah be pleased with her) was shocked and began to scold the boy. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stopped her, saying, “You’re hurting my son! May Allah have mercy on you.” In this way he gave a strong example of the importance of tolerating the inadvertent offenses of children.  

Sometimes the Messenger of Allah prayed while his grandsons were on his lap and sometimes he let them climb on his back while he was prostrating. He told the Companions who wanted to interfere, “Let the boys have fun.”

Again, once when the Messenger of Allah heard a child crying during formal prayers, he shortened the prayer as much as possible. Afterwards he told the congregation, “Don’t you know that their crying makes me sad?”

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who served the Prophet as a young boy, narrates:

I served the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) for ten years and, by Allah, he never said to me a single harsh word and he never asked me about anything why I had done that, or why I had not done that. (Bukhari, Sawm, 53; Manaqib, 23; Muslim, Fada`il, 82)

Children who were raised next to the Prophet were adorned with special beauties and insights. Another exemplary incident is the report narrated by Sahl b. Sa`d (may Allah be pleased with him):

Allah’s Messenger was offered something to drink and drank some of it.On his right was a boy and on his left were some elderly people. He said to the boy, “May I give this to these older people first?”

The young boy was very wise and said, “O Messenger of Allah! I will not give up my share from you to somebody else.” Upon hearing that, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) placed the cup in the hand of that boy at the expense of the elderly Companions. (Bukhari, Ashriba’, 19)

In another report:

On a day when the Prophet was staying at the house of his daughter Fatima, his grandsons, Hasan and Husayn, asked him for some water (may Allah be pleased with them all). Allah’s Messenger gave the water first to Hasan.  From this, Fatima guessed that the Prophet loved Hasan more. The Messenger of Allah said, “No, Hasan was the first to ask for water.” And then he added: “When it comes to gifts, treat your children equally. If I had wanted to privilege anyone over others, I would have preferred girls.” (Ibn Hanbal, I, 101; Ibn Hajar, al-Matalib al-‘Aliya, IV, 69; Haythami, IV, 153)

Our Prophet emphasized the significance of child discipline in many of his sayings.

Give treats to your children and raise them well.(Ibn Maja, Adab, 3)

A father cannot give his child a better gift than good discipline.(Tirmidhi, Birr, 33)

It is better for a Muslim to instruct his [or her] child in even one good characteristic than to give a heaping measure of food in charity.(Tirmidhi, Birr, 33)

When a person dies, all of his acts come to an end but three: charity that recurs, knowledge that brings benefit, or a pious child who prays for him.(Muslim, Wasiyya, 14; Tirmidhi, Ahkam, 36)

Among the rights of a child upon his [or her] father are a spiritually meaningful name and good manners  (Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, VI, 401-02)

Anyone who has three daughters and provides for them, clothes them, shows mercy to them, assists in their marriages and keeps assisting them afterwards, will definitely enter Paradise. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 121;Ibn Hanbal,III, 97)

“If someone raises two girls to maturity in kindness, on the Day of Resurrection, he and I will be like this” – and he interlaced his fingers (to show the degree of nearness between him and that person).  (Muslim, Birr, 149; See alsoTirmidhi, Birr, 13)

If someone has three daughters and is patient with them and clothes them from his wealth, they will be a shield against the Fire for him.(Bukhari, Zakat, 10; Adab, 18; Muslim, Birr, 147; See also Tirmidhi, Birr, 13)

Q – Are there any other Companions who, like Anas, were raised by the Prophet ?

There are many Companions like Anas. ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him)comes at the head of the list. ‘Ali was one of the Prophet’s first cousins. He filled his soul with wisdom under the auspices of the Messenger of Allah. `Ali became the gate of knowledge and the first link in the chain of Sufi masters, a lineage that will continue until the end of days.

`Ali’s brother Ja`far al-Tayyar was another exemplary manifestation of love for the Prophet and was also spiritually reared by him.

Fatima, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, became the great lady of the Muslims. Because of her high manners and her compassionate protection of her blessed father, she was called “the mother of her father.” One of her sons, Hasan, became the crown of thelineage of Sayyids and the other, Husayn, became the crown of the lineage of Sharifs.

Mus`ab b. Umayr (may Allah be pleased with him)refused the wealth of his pagan family and preferred to be next to the Prophet. He became a matchless symbol of altruism and sacrifice. His love for Allah’s Messenger was so great that he even gave his life for him.

Usama b. Zayd was appointed as the commander of the Muslim army when he was twenty years old.

There are many more young Companions who were trained by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), but I think these examples are enough for now.

Q – Sir, if you don’t mind, we also would like to hear to some reminiscences from your own childhood years.

Everybody naturally retains many stories from childhood. Some of them leave deep marks. I would like to share some of my memories.

My childhood passed in Erenkoy. In those days there were gardens around the houses. On the first floors of the houses there were rooms for the entertainment of guests and these were the sites of many friendly and lively gatherings.

Houses were especially filled with guests for fast-break dinners during the month of Ramadan. Every night people from different walks of life used to be invited for these iftar dinners. After dinner, the guests were presented with gifts that were commonly known as “tooth rent.” Depending on the guests, the gift sometimes was a length of fabric and sometimes was a sum of money in an envelope. After the special Ramadan tarawih prayer, hot tea was served and all the guests chatted about their own worlds. Those were wonderful times of socializing and joining of hearts.

Another wonderful thing in those days was the relations of the neighbors. People treated their neighbors like relatives. We (I mean the children) used to confuse who was a relative and who was a neighbor. Wealthy neighbors embraced the needy ones with compassion. Residents of the neighborhood acted together to take care of the needs of the poor and to help the girls make their wedding preparations.

In those days, tuberculosis was a common epidemic. There was not enough medicine. Residents of the neighborhood felt sorry for the sick people.  Patients were treated in hospitals located in the woods, because it was the only place they could breathe fresh air and feel better. Unfortunately, dying at an early age was a common. Compassionate neighbors gave the patients food, which was believed to strengthen their blood.

Visiting the sick was the first thing for any family to do. Depending on their financial means, they took soup or dessert with them and their visits were short.

Funerals were similar. Prayers used to be said in congregation. For three days, food was prepared for the household of the deceased by the neighbors.

Fifty years ago, a refrigerator was a very rare appliance. In order to keep something cool, it used be placed in a jar and lowered down in a well. Neighbors who own a refrigerator used to give their neighbors ice in the evening. It was the duty of the children to take the ice to the neighbors. In this way they were accustomed to altruism, charity, solidarity and serving others at a very early age.

In my childhood, the coast of Erenkoy was not so crowded. There was a two-meter-wide beach on the coast. We used to make sandcastles on the beach. Sometimes we had fights about the boundaries of our castles. We would blame each other, saying, “You trespassed across my borders – no, you crossed into mine!”  Eventually a wave would come and destroy all of our castles. When I look back, I see that there is little difference between our childhood fights and the fights of older people. When people get old, they become slaves to selfish pleasures; however, in the end, everything goes with the wave of the last breath.

The most exiting day was the day when the adhan or call to prayer was returned from Turkish to its original Arabic form. Everybody woke up early at dawn to listen to the call for the dawn prayer. That night was like the night of a holiday.[1]  It was like the day when Bilal Habashi  (may Allah be pleased with him) went to recite the very first adhan. It was as if the morning breeze were carrying the tune of the adhan from Medina. To hear the adhan  in its Arabic form had been an ardent longing in the hearts of our people. Hearing it brought the sort of feeling that people feel when they are coming back from a journey abroad. May Allah protect our adhan and our flag, our country and our nation, from all kinds of dangers. May He keep us far away from all types of evil.  Amin!

Q – Were there any personalities who affected you in your childhood?

The two great figures who affected me most in childhood were my mom and dad. In addition, I also had a very pleasant environment.

My mother was like an angel. At every opportunity, she would inspire us with love for the friends of Allah. She adorned our hearts with spiritual beauties. After she had her second child, she memorized the whole Qur’an. Her admiration and love for the Noble Qur’an have always influenced me deeply.

My father, on the other hand, (may Allah bless his soul) was a monumental personality in my life. With his exemplary love for Allah, sincerity, piety, manners and dignity, he was a man of lofty horizons. In those days the Imam Hatip High Schools[2] had only recently been founded and there were not many opportunities for their graduates. Nonetheless our father, with great joy, registered us to an Imam Hatip High School. We stayed in the school dormitory in our senior year. Our teachers took us on school trips to historical sites, mosques and Ottoman palaces. This  taught us about what our predecessors had done for the sake of Islam and the country. They always urged us to be a generation worthy to be their successors. From time to time they took us to visit contemporary religious scholars and so introduced us to men of high spirituality.

My father’s love for the poor was like a vast sea. When poor people accepted his help, he would go to visit them in a mood of thankfulness. When he gave them money, he would place it in an envelope on which he wrote, “Thank you for accepting this.” This attitude of spiritual grace and elegance was the result of helping creatures for the sake of their Creator.  Together with my mom, my father used to prepare food and take it to the hospitals. I was not aware at the time, but these manifestations of mercy made a beautiful impression on my soul. In short, my parents were a source of mercy and blessing for me.

Many of my other memories are from my years at Imam Hatip High School. We were very lucky in our teachers. We had the chance to get to know many unforgettable figures. Here are some of them.

Celâleddin Öktem was a 70-year-old teacher who had Parkinson’s syndrome. Despite his old age and his illness, he came to class regularly and taught like a 25-year -old.

Abdülkadir Keçeoğlu, who was also known as Yaman Dede, was a convert from the Eastern Orthodox Church. He used to start class by teaching ten or fifteen minutes of Persian grammar; then he would begin to recite verses from Rumi’s Mathnawi.  For the rest of the class he would interpret the verses while shedding tears of spiritual ecstasy. Deep depressions had formed under his eyes because of his tears. His soul was filled with love for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). When he was asked about how much he loved Rumi, he used to respond, “How could I not love Rumi, my son! He took my hand and led me to the Prophet!”  Many years have passed since then, but the traces he left in our souls are still fresh. His tears when reciting the lines, “Cheer us with your beauty, I am burning, O Messenger of Allah!” from Rumi’s famous poem, are still in front of my eyes.

Another teacher used to come to school at seven in the morning and prepare our meals. Still another would warn us not to waste our food, but to think about the unfortunate people around the world. He would give us this advice in a very kind and gentle manner.

Our philosophy teacher, Nurettin Topçu, was really worried about the egoism and selfishness of people in modern society. He saw the Sufi path as a cure for these problems. He used to exclaim in astonishment, “How can these people stay away from Sufism?”

One teacher gave calligraphy classes and supplied the ink and reed pens for the poor students out of his own pocket.

Another used to walk through the dormitory at night and put blankets over the students to keep them warm.

Still other teachers gave supplementary classes after school, so as to help students get a better education.

The most significant thing that all our teachers were trying to teach us was to know how to employ our lives and property rightly, in the way of Islam. They demonstrated this in their own actions.

  Since then forty years have passed; however, the good examples they left for us are still intact. For that, I always pray for them. May Allah be pleased with them all!  Now it is our turn. It is time to beautify today and tomorrow. This is our duty and may Allah grant us success in our duty.

Q – Sir, talking about today, could you tell us what kinds of dangers lie in wait for our children? What is the responsibility of parents in the face of these dangers?

One-sided education comes at the head of the dangers awaiting our youth. If material education is not supported by spiritual discipline, both of the child’s worlds will be ruined. We need to be aware that a generation that has not been formed for spiritual qualities and beauties cannot attain happiness, even if it gathers to itself every kind of diploma in the world. We can observe many pitiable results of such one-sided education.

Then there are the many perilous addictions in the contemporary world. Those who ruin their lives because of drugs and those who do not protect their honor but fall into the pits of prostitution, are among the unfortunate examples. They show us what kinds of dangers await our children. If we can feel those dangers, we can also see that their cure lies in placing faith and good morals in the hearts of the young. How can hearts which do not carry the light of revelation find real happiness? In this regard, we should contemplate the meaning of these lines of Turkish poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy:

O Lord! Faith is the greatest essence in the heart

A heart without faith is a burden in the chest.

Ignorance in religious matters is a horrible darkness. People are enemies of what they do not know. Moving away from religion causes spiritual deterioration and narrows the horizons of the heart. It kills the power of insight. It deprives us of the subtleties and spiritual guidance of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunna. It causes us to lose track our divine essence and turns the person into a bag of skin filled with meat and bones. And as a result, the human being becomes a selfish creature.

There is a well-known story told among the common people in Turkey.  A father notices that his son is weak in religion and virtue. He warns him, “You cannot become a man!” However, the boy carries on in the direction he was heading, goes to school and to university and eventually becomes governor of the province. Then he sends his guards to bring his father to his palatial office.

When his father appears, he boasts, “Look, Dad! You once told me that I could not even become a man, but I have become Governor!”

His father sadly responds, “My dear son, I didn’t say that you couldn’t become a governor. I said that you couldn’t become a man. And if you were truly a man, you would never drag your father here. You would go to him.”

The situation of so many of us is the same as the situation of the son in this story. Neglecting spiritual discipline leads us to abandon religion and virtue in order to idolize material success. But Idolizing material success is not wisdom; it is stupidity.  It is not healing, but disease and oppression. It means numbing our spirituality and turning the community into a corpse. It means to bury people under rocks and soil even before they are dead.

In order to reach the honor and dignity of being human, we must heed the warnings of the Noble Qur’an. Allah the Almighty states His greatest blessing to mankind as follows:

Allah the All-Merciful taught the Qur’an. He created the human being and taught him clarity… and the heaven, He raised it high and He set up the Balance.(55:1-4, 7)

Our Lord, who created a balance in the universe, informs us that there is trial and weighing not only in this world but also in the next. Here and Hereafter alike have scales that measure one’s quality. Life and death are two different but inseparable and accurate measures. If we are to truly succeed, all of our states must fall within the limits of these measures and be an example for following generations. In another verse, it is expressed that:

So whoever has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it. And whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it. (99: 7-8)

How heedless are those who continue to live haphazardly, without self-evaluation, while the universe is constructed in perfect measure!

In light of the aforementioned verse from Sura 55 of the Qur’an, we should explain to our children the wisdom of creation, the text of the Noble Qur’an and the meaning of service to Allah the Almighty. In short, we must educate our youth to protect their perfect and dignified position as human beings and not to upset the divine balance. With the help of Allah, a good family with skilled parents can achieve this.

Parents who think seriously about the future of their children will certainly undertake this task. Of course, I am not talking about their future in this world alone, but also their eternal future. Unfortunately, today, in order to increase youths’ worldly prospects, we often put their eternal future in danger. Parents tolerate many wrong actions by saying, “What can we do? Our kids’ future is more important!” This sort of attitude leads young people into committing sins and rebellion against Allah. Meanwhile, the more we raise our children according to the principles of Islam, the better the future prepared for them by Allah the Almighty will be. That is the secret behind the expansion of the Ottoman state over more than 24 million square meters of land. That is how divine help reached those people at many different times. Some of the last manifestations of this reality occurred in the War of Turkish Independence and  the Battle of the Dardanelles. How nicely Mehmet Akif expresses this:

Extracting the rules directly from the Qur’an

We need to make the era speak about Islam.

Therefore we have to raise our children with morals, ideals and the straight path of the Qur’an. Then they will be individuals who are beneficial to themselves, their country, their community and most importantly to their religion. Again, Mehmet Akif explains this in the following lines:

The demise of an abandoned land is justified.

It will not be spiritually desolated if you do something about it.

As we mentioned before, the spiritual education that underlies national greatness is the responsibility of parents. It should be remembered that although many great victories, such as the War of Independence and the Battle of the Dardanelles, look like the undertakings of brave soldiers, commanders and martyrs. In fact they are the work of the parents who raised and sent those soldiers to the battlefield.

Q – While some families try everything to have a child, others do not want children and try everything not to have any. Is this an appropriate action?

Those who marry but do not want to have children without a valid and absolutely necessary reason and try to kill them in the womb with certain interference, are in fact killing the next generation. Plants and animals display many incredible and persistent ways to procreate.  How can we reasonably explain the attempts of human beings, who are the best of the creation, to annihilate their own future? Even a snake hides its eggs in a safe place and protects them. What a pity when the greatest of creatures lacks a snake’s feeling of mercy and compassion!

The Qur’an depicts the scene of the Judgment Day is depicted as follows:

And when the female infant buried alive is asked for what sin she was killed… (81:8-9)

That sort of murder, which took place routinely about fourteen hundred years ago, has changed its shape in the contemporary world and started to repeat in the disgraceful form of abortion. Today some parents, without any valid reason beyond their own selfish convenience and comfort, attempt to abort their children. It is as if they are in a murder competition with the wild people of the age of the ignorance before Islam, who used to bury their daughters alive. Unborn children are torn into pieces in the mother’s womb for the sake of nothing. Before anything else, this is a form of ingratitude for a divine blessing. Who can tell?  Perhaps those who commit this crime will remain all alone in this world; the children they do have may not lift a hand to help them. They should also think about what would have happened if their own parents had entertained the same ideas about them. They would never have been born.

The pages of history repeatedly show us the sad ends of those who lived their lives merely as physical bodies – those who had no faith and religious feelings, those who had no ideals but to satisfy their mundane desires and those who abandoned all human honor and dignity.

May Allah bless us and help us to found our families upon goodness. May He bestow upon us wonderful progeny who will serve both the Muslims and all humanity.

Amin!

[1].     In 1930s and 1940s, adhan used to be recited in Turkish, but after eighteen years it was returned to its original Arabic form on June 16th 1950 by Prime Minister Adnan Menderes.

[2].     This is a type of Turkish religious school.