Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Fruits of Islamic Parenting

[I received this thoughtful piece from another Muslim grandma in response to my last post.  I thought she hit a lot of important points in her summary.
Muslim Grandma]

by Teresa Lesher

Children don't come with instruction manuals, unfortunately, and the advice of family, friends, doctors and gurus is often so contradictory that it is difficult to find a fool-proof method for raising kids in the world today.  Without a lot of forethought, I must admit, I have applied basic Islamic guidelines in raising my four children and I'm happy to say that my efforts so far have borne beautiful fruits.   You don't have to be a Muslim to gain benefits from the Islamic way of life.  The prescriptions of the Quran and traditions of the prophet Muhammad are excellent guidelines for parents from any part of the world and any religion.

At the age of seven, children are expected to establish the daily prayer, which is performed five times a day.  This early training fosters a sense of discipline, time management and commitment in the child.  Likewise, the annual fast of Ramadan fosters self-restraint, patience and will-power, all important qualities as children face increasing responsibilities that come with maturity.

Modesty from both men and women is required in Islam.  There are minimum dress requirements after puberty:  from the navel to knees for boys and all but the hands and face for girls.  The dress codes are a way of protecting young girls from being valued for their bodies rather than their minds, and of inhibiting the sexual drive that is easily stimulated at that age.  Moreover, seclusion of unmarried couples is not allowed, which serves again as a protection especially for the girl who may be subject to sexual assault.  These basic rules give my daughters a sense of dignity and protection, and teach my son to look beyond physical qualities.

The Quran explicitly prohibits intoxicants of all kinds.  The prophet instructed people, "Don't harm others, don't harm yourselves," which also makes smoking clearly disliked.   Avoiding these harmful products you can spare your kids from alcoholism, lung cancer, and other potential diseases.

There are also several personal hygiene habits that every devout Muslim follows, and they help prevent many problems.  For example, the general principle of using the left hand for any "dirty work" inhibits the spread of germs since the right hand is usually used for eating, shaking hands, and passing something to another person.  The ablutions before the five daily prayers ensure that the hands, face, mouth and feet stay reasonably clean, which further eliminates bacteria and helps in the prevention of  acne, athletes foot and tooth decay.   Children who are raised with these general rules of hygiene usually enjoy good health, great skin and beautiful teeth.

The Quran instructs, "And never say to [elderly parents] "Uff" nor scold either of them, but speak to them a noble word…" (17:23) and general obedience to them is expected unless they ask you to do something immoral.  Children raised with these expectations generally have greater respect for their elders in general and their parents in particular.  All parents face the challenges of raising kids, and I do remember that growing up is no picnic, but the rule of respect and obedience keeps many kids out of trouble and fosters peace and cooperation in the home.  I see my daughter biting her tongue every now and then, and I'm grateful.  And when another less mature one slips into disrespect, I know an apology is forthcoming.  What a blessing!

The Quran not only promotes a strong relationship with one's parents (especially the mother) but also recognizes the rights of immediate and distant relatives regarding kindness, charity, and even inheritance.  Those who cut relations with their family members are warned of God's punishment, and those who reconcile, practice forbearance, and forgive are promised God's pleasure.  The emphasis on positive family relations and the sharing that results from that give the child a sense of belonging, security and love in his life.

The general guidelines above help the Muslim parent in the very challenging parenting role.  If he follows them, even falteringly, then he has confidence that his children will become healthy, responsible, respectful and well-adjusted adults.  This is every parent's dream.  But the benefits don't stop there!  I'm sure that in my old age I can look forward to my children caring for me, helping me and supporting me, since this is beautifully ordered in the Quran:  "And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment.  Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you… lower to them the wing of humility and say, "My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small'"  (17: 23-24).

Needless to say, the benefits of Islamic parenting reach well beyond those mentioned here – mentally, socially and spiritually – and affect not only the child fortunate enough to be raised that way, but also the parents and the society as a whole.  If there are major  problems in today's youth, it is because they are not being raised according to these guidelines.    The parents who adhere to these principles as their children grow are witness to the success of this approach.   If your kids are still young, have confidence, since God promises in the Quran,  "And be patient, for indeed, God does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good."  (11:115).    

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