That your child may be source of pride – Part 1
He was named Abul-Ala al-Maari. He lived between 970and 1057 AD. He was an Arab-Muslim thinker, philosopher, ethicist and polemicist. He was born blind.
Despite the blessings of long life, sharp intellect and intuition, al-Maari chose not to have children. Just before he died, he caused a statement to be written on his tomb which reads- ‘this crime was committed by my father; I never committed a crime against anybody (AdhaJanaau abi, wa ma janaytu ’ala ahadin).
But as Muslims, we know that bearing children is a divine path chosen by the Almighty for all humans to tread. It is equally part of the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). However, both the Quran and the Hadith equally enjoins parents to cater for and to the needs of their children. In fact, the Quran 2:233 invalidates all cultural posturing that makes street begging by ‘fatherless’ and ‘motherless’ children a necessity. The Prophet lists parental duties to include a choice of beautiful names for children, provision of education and training (intellectual and physical) and facilitating their marriages whenever they attain puberty.
Now this sermon today proceeds from a multiplicity of existential cues that buffeted me during the past couple of days. I am concerned about the challenges of raising children in the world of today that appears headed to a destination that is both frightening and alluring. I am concerned by the fact that parental conflicts and disagreements are being allowed to impact, and negatively too, on the need to raise the Muslim child in the most beautiful and harmonious environment.
I am very much aware that children raised in a ‘happy ‘home usually become stronger and better Muslims. Such children find it easy toad opt the Islamic ideals and uphold common courtesies and etiquettes that should be the standard for every Muslim.
However, I have since realized that to have a happy home is not a given; it has to be striven for. To have a happy home, parents themselves should and need to be happy. They must communicate with each other, in a clear and open manner. When children see that their parents are in constant touch with each other and live in harmony, it would instil harmony in them; they will have the confidence to share their feelings, thoughts and concern with the parents and all of the time. Children who feel that they cannot communicate with their parents usually seek succor and affection elsewhere. Some may resort to drug use and consequent abuse, engage in unlawful pre-marital relations and criminality.
Brother! Happy homes are usually not that in which there are ‘absentee-parents’. The ‘absentee-parent’ could be the father who is never available. His children know and feel his presence by his constant absence from the home. Whenever he finds time to be at home, he does not connect with his children. He does not spare time to play with them, read their books with them or even take them out to play. These are men who are dead even though are alive. Children raised in such a home where the father is nonchalant and uncaring become maladjusted. On the contrary, a child brought up with love and affection from both parents would most likely prosper. Such a child would exhibit greater positive mental, psychological and social traits than his peers who are deprived of the full complement of parental affection.
In other words, the show of affection for children is not restricted to the provision of their basic needs. The Prophet (s.a.w), kissed his grandson, Al-Husayn, in the presence of al-Aqra bin Habis (r.a). Al-Aqrathen said: “I have ten children and I have never kissed any of them!” The Prophet then said: The one who shows no mercy, shall not be shown any mercy.”
Children who feel loved will return the compassion they receive. This is evident from the Prophet’s manner in dealing with children. One day while the Prophet was praying, he prolonged his prostration and the Companions began to worry; after some time, the Prophet resumed the prayer as normal. Of course, the Companions asked the Prophet about the prolonged prostration. They said: “O Messenger of the Almighty, you prolonged the prostration and we thought that you had either received revelation or that something bad had happened to you!” He smiled and said: “It is neither other two, but my grandson climbed on my back and I disliked shortening his enjoyment.”
If children feel safe to open up to their parents when they have problems, if they feel ‘welcome’ to ask questions when they are in doubt, this would strengthen the bond between parents and their children. It will also distance negative influences that may impact the child at this critical stage of growth.
Further, I have equally discovered that most of the times, we talk to our children; hardly do we ever listen to them. As a father, the temptation is always there for us to appropriate and dominate conversations and discussions.
We usually deny unto our children their God-given subjectivity and agency. Children with this type of experience sometimes develop and exhibit negative psychosocial traits. They become bullies, oppressive and irritants. Whenever we fail to listen to our children, we abandon them to their life-struggles. Brethren, the quicker we knew that our children could have better opinions than ours particularly on matters relating to this world of theirs, not ours, the better for our overall success as parents here on earth and in the hereafter.
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Afis Ayinde Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies. Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
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