The Spiritual Work of Parenting


I took my first parenting course.  I never thought I would be the type to do more than pick up a few parenting books, talk to real parents and seek their counsel; but this online parenting course absolutely captivated me.  The course was intended to be an introduction to Islamic Parenting but, in fact, it was a course on self-development, holistic parenting, and spiritual purification- all key ingredients for parenting—period.  I must admit that I took the course seeking a recipe or formula that we could whip up in hopes of producing a child much better than ourselves.  Not being raised as Muslims, you tend to wonder how do successful Muslim parents do what they do.  Is it the sincerity of the prayers, the location of their residence, the community that surrounds them, particular details of their home life, etc.?  What is the alchemy of successful parenting?  Well, I have good news and not-so-good news for those of you asking yourselves the same question.  Good news:  there is hope!  Not-so-good news:  it requires work!  Ay mio!  No easy way to get out of this one, huh?  Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), I’ve taken some nuggets of truth and words of gold from my course and hope to share them with you.

Start with a vision and aim high!

All of life should be directed by a vision of where you hope to be or what you hope to attain—parenting is no different.  When we think of who we want our children to become, we should have tangible objectives and palpable examples.  They can be short-term and long-term, firm and flexible, but everyone needs a road map, even if you encounter detours before your arrival.

Be that vision and strive sincerely!

This is it right here, folks!  This is the hard part!  The formative years are spent absorbing the environment- visually, emotionally, and behaviorally.  The beauty of parenting a young child is that his/her experience is mostly what you make it and the size and expanse of his/her world is largely in your hands.  Lil’ Z reminds me of this daily when she twists her wrist to “check the time”, blows on food that has fallen, or regularly proclaims Shallalla (baby tr: Insha’Allah; English tr: God willing) throughout her day.  Every moment matters, even the seemingly “failed” moments because in the process we can teach our beloveds how to turn to Allah (God), be optimistic, and try again.

Take the means…follow the trodden path.

In the end, our children’s fates will come to past.  They will make their own decisions and follow their own destiny but, for the most part, you do reap what you sow.  Yes, the Qur’an is replete with examples of righteous prophets who had children who turned away from them, like Prophet Nuh (Noah); or had parents who rejected them, like Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon them both.  However, these are the exceptions and not the rule.  Generally, a good, upright upbringing will produce children who follow the same.  When we live a path of faith and love, with beauty and sincerity, it’s very natural for our children to follow.  Many scholars have written about the topic of raising children and many apply their advices with great success.

Pursue the goal and observe the method.

We’ve all encountered (or have been) the type of person who does the right thing in the wrong way.  You know, someone gives you important advice but in a way that belittles you, so much so, that you reject them and their advice.  Well, the same is true with little ones.  Even the best of goals and ambitions done without good character can spoil the lesson.  The importance of good character cannot be stressed enough.  Encourage and praise the good, condemn the wrong action not the actor, think before you speak, contemplate before you act, and…SMILE!  Invite your children to good, don’t drag them to it.  As the teacher oft-repeated “The raising of our children is the raising of ourselves” and “Discipline yourself before disciplining your children”. 

Guard your company and environment.

This may not be so challenging within the home, but it certainly is outside of the home. For example, the elder who offers your child MSG chips, the neighbor who slaps their child in the face for the slightest offense, or the friend whose ideal babysitter is the TV.  Sometimes you know and try to steer clear but, inevitably, you have head on collisions with undesirable circumstances and encounters.  Do your best to keep unwanted influences to a minimum and realize that your lifestyle and company will affect your children.

Teach gradually and discipline positively.

Tarbiyyah is a gradual, progressive upbringing.  Teaching and guiding a child takes time, so be wise.  When they err, be patient.  Harshness can spoil the best of intentions. It is noteworthy that the Arabic word for “education”—tarbiyya—denotes bringing something from the state of imperfection to perfection. Such is not a simple or quick task. A diamond is not developed from rock overnight! It requires patience, dedication, and consistency.

Pray and seek divine success.

Appeal to the Knower of the Unseen, the Omniscient, the Omnipotent.  The best of books, methodologies, and toys don’t produce success; Allah gives it.  The most significant lessons a child must learn in their life may not fit on low wooden shelves or individual trays- life itself is a teacher and we pray that our children navigate their way through this experience of life with success and ease!  Ameen!


2 thoughts on “The Spiritual Work of Parenting

  1. Great post. And lovely photo, mashallah.

    condemn the wrong action not the actor,

    The corollary to this that wasn’t immediately obvious to me was to praise the good action, not the actor, too. Like when the child gets an A, you praise their hard work that earned them that, not their natural brilliance. Because they’re not likely to get any more naturally brilliant, but they can always learn to work harder!

    1. excellent point! thank you for sharing! any more seasoned parenting advice up your sleeves? 🙂

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