Once we have children, as parents we soon realize how much our actions and words affect our kids.
But what about the company we keep? Or the friends our children play with? Do we think about the positive and negative effects that has on our children?
Islam puts great emphasis on keeping friends who remind us of Allah, and in growing toward becoming better Muslims. Sure as adults we might let that fall by the wayside, after all we are more set in our ways, and it seems we might not be influenced so quickly, but not being careful in these matters could be detrimental to the spiritual health of our children.
“On the day when the unjust will bite their hands (regretfully) saying, would that we had taken a way with the Messenger. Woe to us! Would that we had not been friends with so and so. He led us away from the true guidance after it had come to us.” (Holy Qur’an 25:28)
Take, for instance, a friend who has a tendency to gossip. Now, while you might be able to ignore it or help distract your friend, a child could see that as behavior that is acceptable.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t teach our kids how to deal with different people. Naturally we cannot live as isolated beings in this world, and nor should we choose that way to live. There is a tradition from Imam Sadiq (as) that a good Muslim is one who brings others with him toward Allah and the right path. This means we are not meant to simply do good deeds for our own salvation, rather we are supposed to help others as well.
It is also very important to help our children in making good friends for themselves, especially after reaching the age of buloogh (maturity). When peer pressure starts setting in, we would rather want our children helping each other do good deeds, instead of wasting time on actions that lead nowhere.
Sometimes our kids may have friends who have a tendency to bully, lie, or take religious obligations lightly. Yes, kids are still learning, and they need to be encouraged, but this is where a parent needs to be aware of who their child associates with and how much they are influenced by him/her. Help your children understand your perspective, and encourage them to help their friends do better. Just removing your child from that relationship could cause more harm.
Children are very impressionable, and they deserve a good, strong foundation that they can count on. Even as parents we must remind ourselves to be consistent with our values and actions.
Some might argue, well, what about old friends, or even family members, who have values we don’t share? Does that mean we disassociate ourselves with them simply because we have children?
It doesn’t mean that at all. But it does mean we must be serious in how we associate with certain people. At the end of the day, if you regularly associate with someone who does not care for modesty, haram/halal, or takes part in backbiting, your child will have questions. Will you be ready for those? How will you answer them?
Living in Qom we sometimes run across women who might not care about how properly their veils are covering their hair. And my eldest daughter has asked numerous times – “Why are they not doing proper hijab if they are Muslim?”
I try to explain to her that while hijab is a rule in Islam, it is up to us to do it properly, and some might not have the knowledge on how to do it the right way, or some might take the rule differently. We, however, have to make sure we are doing it the right way.
Although very intelligent, children are also simple and naïve. Their understanding of the world around them is very pure and innocent. However, we cannot, and should not, strip them of this beautiful characteristic.
We can just guide them and surround them with goodness, while taking proper measures to make sure we focus on raising them correctly. Our little ones have a lifetime to learn and grow, but unless we make the effort to place the correct steps in front of them, they will not be able to climb higher, and instead may have more obstacles in their way.
May Allah protect our children from harm, and give us all the tawfeeq to be strong in raising them properly.
Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Raising Faith” column by esteemed guest contributor and student from Qum, Sister Samira Rizvi. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog. Her column will focus on her experiences in tarbiyat—the upbringing of children based on Islamic values. For past articles in the column see here.