Guarding the Relationship with Our Children
There is a long narration called the hadeeth of Umm Zara’, in which Aisha related to the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, the story of 11 women who were sitting and sharing details about their husbands during the pre-Islamic days. Umm Zara’ praised her husband eloquently and included the following points: She said that “When I am with him, whatever I say I am not made to feel humiliated or embarrassed. My faults are always covered by him.” She went on to say: “He surrendered to me so much in the heart that I loved myself.” At the end of the narration, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said to Aisha: “I am to you like Abu Zara’ was to his wife Umm Zara'” (Bukhari, Muslim, and others). Abu Zara’ honored his wife in such a noble way that she loved herself. And the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, validated the honoring of a spouse in this fashion by telling Aisha that he was to her as Abu Zara’ was to his wife. Now some Muslims are confused when we say that Umm Zara’ was so fulfilled by her husband that she loved herself.
They think that the self is something that we, as Muslims, do battle with, that we do not esteem the self, but rather that we have to subjugate and put down the self. But it is only the lower self, the self that seeks satisfaction in base desires, that we do battle with. It is the lower self that needs to be disciplined and overcome. We need to make this distinction because we have nothing other than the self with which to surrender to Allah, to live in such a way that we might return to Allah with a pure and sound heart.
Through her relationship with her husband, Umm Zara’ came to love herself. In the same way, we want our children to love themselves. Our children are much more likely to keep to their practice of Islam as they grow older if their experience of Islam as children-through their relationship with their parents-was one that made them feel safe and secure, loved and cared for, respected and appreciated, and provided with whatever they need to enjoy the greatest personal growth and fulfillment. This must be their experience intellectually and emotionally, with greater emphasis on the emotional aspect.
Remember that people are not primarily convinced to embrace a tradition based on intellectual things, but on emotional things. Anas reported that “a man once begged from the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, and he gave him enough sheep to fill a valley. He returned to his people and said: ‘Enter Islam, for by God, Muhammad gives with no fear of poverty!’ People would go to the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, wanting only worldly goods, and would find before the day was out that their religion had become dearer and more precious to them than the whole world” (Muslim).
A precious thing is something dearly beloved. That is more of the emotional experience than the intellectual experience. It was the character and personality of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, that moved those people who went with a self-serving motivation, “wanting only worldly goods,” and ended up experiencing a spiritual surrender “dearer and more precious to them than the whole world.”
The way we act with our children, the manner with which we take care of their needs, the everyday routine of living, our interaction with other people – all of this is much more compelling than thousands of words trying to persuade them about Allah, Islam, and their surrender. If we are successful in our relationships with our children, they will emulate and love us AND love ????.. they will love THEMSELVES as Umm Zara’ loved herself They will love themselves if we take care of their emotional needs, ensuring that they feel safe and secure, loved and cared for, respected and appreciated, and provided with whatever they need to enjoy the greatest personal growth and fulfillment.
During the caliphate of Umar, he was walking through the city one night with his deputy and heard the sound of a woman crying coming from a house. He knocked at the door and asked if he could be of assistance. Through her tears she told him that her children were hungry, and she had no food to give them. Umar told her that he would help her. She thanked him and, not knowing who he was, said that he was much better than Umar the khalifah who was too busy to be concerned with a poor suffering woman like her. Umar told her he would be back shortly with provisions.
He and his deputy went to the zakah storehouse and returned to her house with flour and other necessities. They entered and told the woman to leave them to prepare the food; that she should relax and tend to her children. They cooked and prepared a meal, never revealing to the woman who they were. Upon leaving, Umar told her to come to the storehouse the next day and that he would ensure her being provided with food and other provisions. The next day she went there and found the man who had helped her so generously the previous day and realized who he was from his interaction with the others present. Indeed, the humble man who responded to her cry of hunger and suffering, Who humbly prepared a meal for this woman and her children, was none other than the Ameer al-Mu’mineen, the leader of the Islamic Ummah!
Are we this humble, caring, and responsive to our children’s physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs?
To be empathic is having the ability to identify with and understand another person’s situation, feelings, attitudes, or needs. Some people are naturally empathic and others must cultivate and nurture this trait in themselves. Understanding and caring about another person’s emotional reality is the foundation for the desire to extend kindness, to inspire, to care for another, and have intention to remove whenever possible the suffering of another human being. Empathy is essential in the parent/child relationship to ensure a positive, warm, and fulfilling dynamic.
The following are guidelines, a constitution of adaab (etiquette), that can be used to ensure a positive, empathic, healthy dynamic with our children, to keep our relationship with them on the right footing, and create a home environment in which they can love themselves:
# Be kind, gentle and merciful
The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: “Gentleness adorns everything, and its absence leaves everything defective” (Al-Albany, Saheeh Al-Jame’). The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, was the epitome of human kindness. When we reflect on his life and the way he interacted with those around him, we realize how kind and caring he was with all people, especially with his own spouses. The Prophet’s kindness, sallallahu alay- he wa sallam, and love for those around him were at the heart of the success of his message. Once the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, was giving the khutbah and his grandson came into the masjid. He was very young and was wearing a new red outfit that was long and trailed on the ground. As he approached, he tripped and fell. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, stopped his khutbah, walked down the two steps of the minbar and picked up his grandson and tenderly comforted him. It’s interesting that the Arab men of that time were not quick to show tenderness or a soft heart in public. But the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, taught the lessons well. He did not hesitate to show that gentle, loving side.
# Practice forgiveness again and again
When Aisha was asked about the character of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, she said: “He was not indecent or lewd, nor [a person] to raise his voice in the market. He did not return an offense with another offense, but he forgave and pardoned” (Tirmithi). The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, “Forgive your servant 70 times a day.”
# Speak only words of virtue
The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: “…Whoever believes in Allah and the Day of Judgment either let him say something virtuous or keep silent” (Bukhari).
This is a profound statement by the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. Words can hurt deeply, and once they are out, it is very hard to undo the damage they cause. If we think about it, verbal cruelty and poisonous words are gateways to other types of abuse. This hadeeth acts as a wake-up call, warning us to calculate the impact of our words before we say anything that can leave permanent emotional or psychological scars.
If we ingrain the above hadeeth in our minds, we will never abuse, degrade, or treat another person harshly, let alone our children. Allah will hold us accountable for all we say and do. Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, further said: “Rights will be returned to their owners on Judgment Day to the point that the hornless sheep will get its due right from the horned sheep” (Muslim).
# Be grateful and express appreciation
The Prophet said: “Whoever does not thank people, indeed, he does not thank Allah” (Tirmithi). Being grateful is an essential ingredient in relationships, whether with spouse, children, parents, or friends. The more we thank others, the more life will be enjoyable and harmonious.
# Be cheerful and pleasant and easy to get along with
Aisha reports that whenever the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, was alone with his family at home, he was the easiest of men, always smiling and laughing. The Prophet’s actions, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, are such a great model of how we should build our homes. Too many parents reserve their best behavior for outside the home. Yet behind closed doors they indulge in moodiness and disagreeableness. An agreeable person tends to be pleasant and likable, willing to accommodate others’ interests and needs, and usually viewing other people as basically honest and decent. These people also find satisfaction in cooperating with others and in compromising when appropriate in order to reach a resolution or agreement. They do not see themselves as superior to others but rather enjoy equitable and harmonious interactions and relationships. Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: “The believer gets along with others and is easy to get along with…” (AI-Albany, As-Sihilah As-Sahihah)
# Facilitate things for others: do not seek to make things hard
Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: “Make [things] easy, not difficult…” (Bukhari). He himself was the greatest exemplar of facilitating the way for people to submit to Allah of their own volition, according to their individual capacities and state of development, both in character and in spiritual understanding. It is reported that “a Bedouin once urinated in the masjid.The people rushed to punish him, but the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, ordered them to ‘leave him alone until he finishes and then pour a bucket of water (over the place where he had urinated) Your mission is to make things easy and not to make them difficult.’Then the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, called the man over and explained to him that the masjid is a pure place, a place of worship, and that urination there is inappropriate” (Bukhari).
As human beings, we are attracted toward easy tasks. If we have several tasks to accomplish, we automatically act upon easier tasks first and then proceed to do the harder ones. The emotional reason for this is that we want to feel successful at completing our tasks. As humans, we do not like to fail or to be perceived as failures. In addition, we tend to avoid stressful situations or conflicts. If we perceive a person may be a source of stress or conflict, emotionally we do not want to be with this person and try to avoid him or her. The same applies to children. They will avoid being with the parent who creates stress or conflict.
# Never seek privilege over others
Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: “…Allah hates to see a servant of His privileged above others….” (Khulasat As-Siyar).The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: “The leader of the people is their servant” (Ad-Daylami and Tabarani).
Parents who act like they are boss, see their role as leaders of the family as privilege rather than responsibility. The true leader loves to serve his or her family in a kind and humble way. This opens the heart and fills it with abundant love.
# Never seek to blame or find faults in others
Ali said about the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam: “…three things he stayed away from with regard to others: He did not find fault, lay blame, or seek to expose anyone’s weak points” (Tirmithi, Shama’i). If the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, heard some news of a person’s inappropriate or bad behavior, he would never name the person, but rather would say: “Why do certain people do so and so…” He never focused on or sought out the shortcomings of others or disparaged people. He was the most forbearing and forgiving, always looking to teach the people, inspiring them to improve themselves by his own example.
Article provided by Al Jumuah Magazine, a monthly Muslim lifestyle publication, which addresses the religious concerns of Muslim families across the world.
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