Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fathers & Sons

Among the foremost relationship that a father should have with his son is that of play. Unfortunately, these days fathers are eager to enroll their children in school even before they become toilet trained, so they deny themselves the opportunity to play with their children. In Norway, children do not go to school till they are seven. They have found that the first seven years of a child are wonder years in which the best development that can occur in the child is through play. By depriving the child of essential play time during these formative years it is observed that the thirst of play and amusement does not get fulfilled in the child and the child will long for play the rest of his life. No wonder we find grey haired adults amusing themselves to death. It is observed that most visitors to casinos in Atlantic City, NJ and Las Vegas, NV are senior citizens. A child who has got an amply time to play with his family will have a balanced and emotionally stable character. He will apply himself in his studies, so much so that he can cover all the studied material which he has "missed" in his early years in a short duration. Role playing in the first few years develops the child's imagination and cognitive skills like nothing else. It is during this time that the child's sense of excitement in interacting with the world around him needs to be nurtured. Thus the father must share this excitement with his son with full emotions, so that this essential feeling does not die from his son's heart, like it dies from so many adult hearts which become engulfed by materialism.

The relationship between the father and son then transforms into that of teaching/learning. The father has the responsibility of teaching his son which he should not just outsource to tutors and schools all the time. A father must sit with his son on a regular basis and teach him formally in which ever subjects he thinks there is a need. It is observed that those parents who leave teaching completely to schools and tutors lose the respect of their own children. If the parent's opinion contradicts that of the teacher, the child will always prefer that of the teacher as he does not see the parent as a source of knowledge and wisdom. The father should take his son with him to the masjid at an early age so that he gets used to seeing worshipers congregate for prayers. Doing so will also create an inclination for worship in his son's heart so when the time comes at seven years of age the son will be motivated to start establishing proper prayer. He should try and make his son associate with pious people in the masjid like the muazzin and the imam. The father should read to his son frequently from a full range of subjects according to the age of his son. He should establish a library in the home. The collection should include books/DVDs on Seerah of the Prophet (SWAS), stories of other prophets, other stories from the Quran and Hadith, Islamic history, Muslim heroes, world history, specific history of your country/region, non-fiction reading books in English, Arabic and your native language, nature and science, art and craft, good manners, etc.

The next stage in the father and son relationship is that of companionship/friendship. The son should trust his father and should not hesitate to share all secrets with him. At puberty when the child's body starts changing, it is the father of the child who should first educate him about these issues. Rather than learn about sex education from his cousins, classmates, teachers, TV, Internet, etc, he should first hear it from his dad. The father should attempt to explain these things to his child from an Islamic perspective to ensure that the child's thinking is not corrupted by the prevalent deviant teachings on this subject in society. The father should take his son with him outside the house, so that in his companionship he observes how his father carries out transactions with all strata of society. It is among the father's duties to provide his child proper Islamic worldview of life. Many times it happens that fathers have suffered some grievance/deprivation in their childhood and they are intent that that same deprivation does not affect their sons. So some parents who were financially deprived in childhood go to extremes in showering wealth on their sons. Others who had a poor education might send their sons to the best schools. Others who were in low social strata of society might marry their son in a high class family. Some may not speak English with the right accent and send their children to Western schools. Others yet might be raised in very conservative environment and they are eager to provide very liberal upbringing to their sons. It is important that the fathers do not go to extremes in raising their sons, but rather try to establish a balance. A father should try and not transfer his own phobias in his son's buding personality.

A father should observe his son carefully for the special qualities he has. He should have an opinion about what profession his son can excel in and it does not hurt if he gives his son cues regarding his opinion from time to time. Nevertheless a father should not impose his will on the choice of his son's education and career. It is sometimes wise to let the son make some errors early in life so that they can learn from it later. Today's society glamorizes interaction between the sexes before marriage, so it is important for the father to notice when his son starts to be tempted by such social cues. I believe that a father should try to arrange marriage of his son at an early age to a righteous young lady - even before he completes his university education - if he feels there is a need for marriage. It is foolhardy to believe that one's son will always do the right thing even if one immerses him in a society of fitn (temptation/trial).

Sons are trusts given to fathers who are tested in fulfilling their responsibilities properly. Rather than thinking of them as life insurances for old age, fathers would be wiser to consider them as sources of perpetual charity for their after life.


  1. Very thoughtful and insightful paper. Waiting for the next one.

  2. What are some steps a parent can take for the spiritual education of his kids, beyond the basic facts of Islam?

    Most kids learn the pillars and articles of faith, and how to pray and fast. However, frequently they grow up to love the duniya and ignore the akhira. They end up aiming for goals such as: good university, good career, and financial/material success. The world becomes an end in itself instead of a means for real success in the akhira.

    A parent should ensure that kids have the opportunity to save themselves from falling into this cesspool of materialism. The kids should know that the pursuit of the akhira is the source of real success, both in this duniya and in the akhira.

    As Quran 3:31 points out, if we want Allah to love us we must follow the sunnah of the Prophet (S). Then He will love us and forgive us our sins.

    If the kids experience the sweetness of faith that comes from this recipe then they might see that the pleasures of this world pale in comparison to these delights of the heart.

    In the end we cannot control what the child believes, but we can make an effort. The stories of Prophet Nuh (AS) and Prophet Yaqub (AS) show us that we are responsible for our efforts, but how our children finally turn out is in the hands of Allah.

    1. You are right. Guidance is in Allah's hands. He brings forth believing offspring from disbelieving folk and vice versa.
      But this does not absolve us from our duty to inculcate in our children the desire for spiritual pursuits in a wise manner. Schools, even Islamic ones do a poor job of this. Rather they set forth dunya achieving goals for our children, as you stated. One solution is home schooling for those who can. See "nurturing the Fitrah" post. The next best, in my personal opinion is to go for those schools that focus on developing the whole personality of the child through project work. This also frees up time due to little HW after school to provide good quality Islamic education at home.

      There comes a time in every child's life in which he is attracted to spiritual pursuits, often during his teen years. This is a window of opportunity the observant parent should never miss to nurture. I usually the child gets negative feedback from society at this stage and he abandons his spiritual phase.

      It is also important that Islam is not mixed up with culture. See"cultural malaise" post, but appears fresh and attractive to him like it was for its earlier followers. For this they must see this in the parents and his environment. The parents should provide such an environment.

      Lastly try to engender high Islamic aspirations in the child. So the child might grow up wishing that he recites the Quran like Qari Mashary Rashid Al Afasy when he grows up and be a Professor in Umm al Quran University, rather than saying he wants to be just a good Muslim.

      And Allah knows best.


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