WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF PARENTS?
What are the duties of parents? I would like to touch on this briefly.
To begin with, a name attracts the thing that it signifies. To be able to give your child a name with a good meaning. In other words, [we speak of] a pleasantness, a beauty that comes when you call your child by a certain name. This is very important.
During the time of the Messenger of Allah, a camel was to be milked.
“Who will milk the camel?” the Messenger of Allah asked. A man stood up. The Messenger of Allah said:
“What is your name?”
“Murra,” the man replied. Murra, meaning bitterness. A holdover from the Age of Ignorance.
“You sit down,” he said.
A second man stood up.
“What is your name?” the Messenger asked him. This man said:
“Jamra.” Which means smouldering coal.
“You too can sit down,” the Messenger said.
A third man stood up.
“Yaish,” the man said. Signifying one who lives. Yaish, he said.
“You may milk the animal,” the Messenger of Allah said to him. (Tabarani, al-Mu’jam, XXII:277; Muwatta, Isti’zan, 24)
The Messenger of Allah sometimes enquired about names in the villages that he visited. If the names were not pleasant, he changed them. He would replace these names with names that were pleasing to the soul. To begin with, the first duty of parents is to give their children pleasant names.
Second, to pay attention to the morsels they feed them, from a spiritual perspective; to feed them from what is lawful. This is also very important.
Children tend to imitate. They imitate their parents. [It is important] that a good example be set in behaviour and conduct. If children find themselves in a quarrelsome or combative environment, they will become bad-tempered and aggressive. If they are in a peaceful and balanced environment, they will take on agreeable habits and temperament.
In a similar fashion, the behaviour of children must forever be kept under control without making them feel as though it is. In particular, they must not be allowed the opportunity to get up to something in private, in a secluded place, that they cannot do in public. In other words, these things should not be overlooked. This is because they can get used to deceit, to two-facedness. And this will [in time] become their personality. This is why this is critical when it comes to children. This control is the control of parents. Warning children when necessary and guiding them is very important.
The good things children do should be praised and they should be rewarded. Their mistakes should not be overlooked.
Rewarding is also important.
Rewarding is also important. For when they are rewarded, this increases their motivation. If [their mistakes] are ignored, then they will begin making mistakes they cannot be warned against.
Neither spoiling them, nor closing them off completely. Yes.
For example, Imam Malik says:
“My father would have me memorise hadith and give me gifts [in return]. I would memorise an extra hadith the next day because I would be getting a gift. I reached such a point that even if my father did not reward me for it, I had begun to experience the delight and satisfaction [of my learning].”
Extra care needs to be taken with daughters, in particular. Inappropriate clothing at a young age ought not to be tolerated. Parents sometimes heedlessly say, “Let them enjoy these things when they are little.” They say let them enjoy these things when they are little, but, like a person addicted to smoking, the child becomes addicted to that particular manner of dress, even going from bad to worse.
They become enslaved to fashion.
On the other hand, children must not be constantly punished and thus made impudent. They should not be scolded when they break the dishes [for example], but merely warned to be more careful. And it is essential to warn them with a smile. However, on no account should there be a tolerance for wrongs and mistakes that will become imprinted on their temperament and character. They must definitely be told that these things are wrong. How must they be cautioned?
“Look, Allah sees,” [we should say to them]. “This error will be presented before us on the Day of Judgement. Don’t you want to have a peaceful life in the next world?”
In other words, using tender words. In a way the child can understand. They should be warned in a way that they can understand.
They should be taught propriety and the rules of social conduct. Morality and ethics. For example, not littering when walking along the street. They must be warned against this.
Or against eating in public.
Not eating in public in a way as to cause others to feel like the food they are eating. All this is very important. So, they need constant reminder and warning.
“Look,” they should be told. “If someone across you feels like what you are eating, what you eat will not be of any benefit to you, it will not give you health…” This is how they should be cautioned.
In addition, children should not be prevented from living their childhood. But one should not go to extremes in this.
A middle way – a balance.
One should take the middle path.
And most importantly, children should become accustomed to praise [of Allah] and gratitude. For example, when they see a snake or a snail:
[One should say to them] “Look, Allah could have created you like this. But Allah created you as a human being. You have been charged with their care. You have to feed it, or the cat or dog at your doorstep. You could have been hungry like that cat or dog…”
They need to be constantly reminded with such sensible examples, in a way that they can understand.
They need to become accustomed to worship and service. They need to be accustomed to the prescribed prayer.
“Look, you owe a debt of gratitude to Allah,” [they should be told]. “When someone offers you a glass of water or some chocolate, you thank them. Allah created you as a human being. Prayer is our debt of gratitude, first and foremost. Allah Almighty wants you to draw near to Him. “…prostrate and draw near,” (96:19) He declares. However much goodness you want from Allah for your own self, then you yourself have to do that much good in return…”
This is why they should get used to offering the prescribed prayer.
They should become accustomed to giving. Children need to be generous, to be compassionate. And, in doing so, they must give from what is theirs. For instance, if parents give their child 20 lira a week, they should be encouraged to spend 5 lira out of this amount for a friend who is in a more difficult situation than they are.
Teaching them to spend in the way of Allah.
Parents are the ones who will accustom them to compassion.
In short, if we want our children to be perfect, then we have to be perfect parents.
This is most important.
The best inheritance that a mother and father can leave behind for their children is good character. This is what will render them travellers on the path to Paradise.
They once said to ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz:
“You constantly give away whatever you hold in your possession. Can you not leave some of this for your children? What will become of them when you leave this world?”
“If my children are on the same path as me, they will be like me and will find peace and comfort. If they are not to be like me, then there will be nothing to leave behind in any case.”
This is another good measure.
Moreover, Abu Talha brought his son to the Messenger of Allah after the Emigration.
“O Messenger of Allah,” he said. “This is my son, Anas. He is ten years old. Let him serve you.”
The Messenger of Allah was 53 years old. In other words, how can a 10-year-old boy serve a Prophet who was 53 years old?
The Messenger of Allah accepted. He would be an example. The Messenger of Allah himself would raise him.
“The Messenger of Allah, upon him be blessings and peace, would send me somewhere and I would get carried away playing with the children on the street, in the neighbourhood. He would immediately follow and say, ‘Dear Anas!’
I would look at his face. It would be smiling, not sullen.
‘Dear Anas,’ he would say. ‘Did I not send you to such-and-such place?’
I would immediately reply:
‘Yes, O Messenger of Allah! Let me go right away!’ I would go immediately and do what he instructed me to do.”
Anas came when he was ten years old. He was next to the Messenger of Allah for ten years. When the Messenger of Allah passed away, Anas was twenty years old. It is reported that Anas lived to the age of 100. He says:
“Whenever I saw a dream, I would always see the Messenger of Allah. There was not a dream in which I did not see him.”
This goes to show that the most important element in raising children is affection.
Anas became a teacher. He spent ten years of his childhood in the company of Allah’s Messenger. One of his students says to him:
“Venerable teacher! It is as though, when you fix your gaze somewhere, that you are looking at the Messenger of Allah. It is as though, when you wish to say something, you say it as though the Messenger of Allah were present in that assembly.”
“Indeed,” his teacher [Anas] replies. “By Allah, so great is my longing that I will go to him on the Day of Judgement and say, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Your little helper is here! Please, take me with you!'”(Ahmad, III:222 cf. Bukhari, Sawm 53, Manaqib 23; Muslim, Fada’il 82)
What can we see here?
Love is what we can see.
And this spiritual connection forever endures.
This spiritual association continues. This is very important. This becomes the talent of the parents. Such parents are not forgotten. Allah Almighty does not allow them to be forgotten.