The Importance and Methodology of Tarbiyah
(Education & Upbringing)
by Shaikh Ahmed Aways
Tarbiyah in Islam is very important, for indeed all of the Deen is based upon tarbiyah (i.e. the education and upbringing of the people). This starts first of all with the education and training of our own selves, then of our families, and then of the community at large. But this tarbiyah is most important with respect to our children, so that they are brought up upon the correct path of Islam. Because of this, many of the scholars take care in discussing this aspect of tarbiyah more so than the others.
After the benefit of al-Islam and our very creation, from the best of benefits is that of having children. We see their benefits both in this world and after we have passed to the next. As for the benefits in this world – when a person becomes old and unable to earn a livelihood, all of his friends and companions leave him alone and it is his children who look after and care for him, bearing his problems and burdens. As for after his death, then a person benefits from his children as the Prophet said: “When the son of Adam passes away, all of his deeds are stopped except for three. Some kind of charity that is continuous, or knowledge which the people are benefiting from, or a righteous child who is praying for him.”
Also from the benefits of having children is that if they were to pass away whilst still children, they will intercede for their parents. This is authentically reported from the Prophet , who said: “There is no Muslim individual, male or female, who has three of his children pass away whilst they are young and he is patient with that, except that they will come and intercede for him on the Day of Judgment.” So ‘Umar asked, ‘What about two [children]?’ Upon this the Prophet said, “It is the same for two [children].” (Al-Bazzaar, al-Haakim. Sh. al-Albaanee mentions it in his book, Kitaabul-Janaa-iz)
As for the person who has one child who passes away and he is patient with this, seeking his reward from Allah , then he shall also find a great reward with Him. As in a hadeeth wherein it is reported that the Prophet used to sit down in his sitting place and his companions would sit in front of him to seek benefit and learn from him. From amongst them was a man who had a small boy; he used to come to the Prophet from behind his back by way of respect, then he used to sit in front of him and sit his son in front of the Prophet .
The Prophet asked, “Do you love this child of yours?” The man replied, “Yes, and may Allah cause you to love him also.” Then it happened that this child passed away, and the man was so sad that he used to refrain from coming to sit with the Prophet . So the Prophet asked his companions about this man saying, “Why is it that he no longer comes to my sitting place?” And this was from the Sunnah of the Prophet , that if he had people who would come to him and then stop coming, he would ask about their condition and their affairs. So the companions told him that the man’s son had passed away and that he was sad because of that. So the Prophet went to meet this man and asked him, “What has happened to your son?” And the man told him that he had passed away.
So the Prophet said, “Do you wish that your son could be here with you spending time with you, or do you prefer that your son would reach Paradise before you, waiting at the Doors of Paradise to open them for you?” So the man said, “O Messenger of Allah. I wish that my son would go forth before me and precede me to Paradise.” So the Prophet said to him, “Verily, this is for you.” So upon this, one of the companions said, “O Messenger of Allah, may I be sacrificed for your sake! Is this (reward) only for this man or is it for all of the people?” He said, “No, this reward is for all of the people (i.e. those who lose a child and are patient with their loss).” (Al-Haakim. Adh-Dhahabee declared it Saheeh as did Sh. Al-Albaanee)
Also from the benefits of having children is that if one has daughters and is patient with them, bringing them up correctly, then for him is a great reward from Allah. Our mother Aa’ishah said, “A woman with two daughters and who was very poor came to my door requesting charity. All I had was three dates, so I gave them to this woman and her two daughters. The woman gave a date to each of her daughters and kept the third date for herself. But when the two daughters had finished their dates, they both looked up to their mother wanting the date which she had. So she felt mercy for her two daughters and split the date into two halves, she gave a half to each of her daughters and then she went away. When the Prophet came back I informed him about what had happened. He said, ‘Anyone who has daughters and is good in bringing them up, then they will be as a barrier between him and the Hell-Fire’.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
It is obligatory for the parents to take care of their children as the responsibility for them is upon their shoulders. As the Prophet said, “All of you are shepherds and will are responsible for his flock.” Unfortunately, many of the people look down upon this affair of bringing up the children correctly and consider it as a small matter and unimportant, instead busying themselves which affairs such as politics and those things which it may be beyond their ability to reach.
They look to those things which are seen as more important and so look down upon the affair of raising their children correctly. In this, they are mistaken, as whoever the Imam or the leader of the believers may be, even if he was the most righteous of all righteous people and the most just of all rulers, if a person does not take care of their own affairs then no-one else is going to come into their house and look after their children for them. And if this Imam was the worst of all the people, yet a person was to take care of their own family as is his responsibility, then how is his harm and his condition going to affect that person? Allah says,
“Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves.” [Qur’an Ra’d 13:11]
So it is upon us to change our own condition and the condition of our own families, and then to look to the condition of our communities and the community of the Muslims at large. For if we were to neglect this responsibility then we would never achieve the correct tarbiyah – training, upbringing and education – of our societies.
Indeed the Book of Allah (Qur’an) and the Sunnah of the Prophet encourage us to bring up our children correctly; ordering us with righteousness and good conduct ourselves as well as ordering us to prevent our families from falling into that which would result in their own destruction. As Allah says,
“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones.” [Qur’an Tahrim 66:6]
And He says,
“And enjoin Prayer on your family, and be patient in offering them (i.e. the Prayers).” [Qur’an Ta-Ha 20:132]
The Prophet said, “Order your children with Salah when they are seven years old, and beat them upon it (i.e. force them to do so by hitting them) when they are ten years old, and (also) separate them in their sleeping place.” So by the preceding Ayat and hadeeth, Allah and the Prophet teach the believers about the importance of Salah and worship, and also in the hadeeth the Prophet is teaching his Ummah about how to live this life free from all types of doubts and misconceptions, by avoiding those places and situations where such doubts and misconceptions may arise. So the order is that one should raise one’s children upon the most blessed and praiseworthy of characteristics.
So what follows are some practical steps in bringing up the family correctly.
Seeking Righteous Children
When an individual wants to get married, they should have the intention to have – and ask Allah to give them – righteous children. They should be patient upon this and seek their children with the correct intention i.e. to increase the number of the Prophet’s Ummah, and seek Allah’s reward in this life and the Hereafter by way of his children. As the Prophet said, “Marry those women who are loving and fertile, for verily I want to be amongst those (Prophets) who have the most followers on the Day of Judgement.” So when a person gets married he should seek children with the intention to have many children which will go towards making up the Ummah of the Prophet and that these children may become righteous slaves of Allah so that he may benefit from them in this world and the Hereafter. This is because the intention has a special and important place with regard to the outcome, as the Prophet said, “Verily, every action is by its intention.” So if one has the correct intention at the beginning of the action, then he has its correct fruits at the end.
Setting A Good Example
The parent should be a good and the best example for their children. They should hasten to do all good and, likewise, hasten to leave all evil. This is because children follow the example of their parents as they love them and respect and admire them. So the parents are the greatest of all examples for their children. Therefore, whatever the parents are upon, the children follow them. It is not possible, however one may try, to hide one’s evil characteristics from their children. A person may go into his home, closing the door behind them, but it is the children who know the reality of their affairs. They know how their character truly is, what they watch and what they see, and they know their situation perfectly. So we should try and be good examples to our children; having the best characteristics, being good towards the people, and remaining upright in our Deen.
Placing Importance Upon The Deen
The parent should make the most important affair in his life and that of his child the Religion. They should raise their child to know that the most important aspect of his life is that he be upright in his Deen, correcting it and clinging to it firmly. Allah said,
“And this (submission to Allah, Islam) was enjoined by Ibrahem upon his sons and by Ya’qoob (as), (saying), ‘O my sons! Allah has chosen for you the (true) Religion, then die not except in the Faith of Islam.” [Qur’an Baqarah 2:132]
And He says,
“And he made it (i.e. Laa ilaha illAllah – none has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone) a Word lasting among his offspring (True Monotheism), that they may turn back (i.e. repent to Allah or receive admonition).” [Qur’an Zukhruf 43:28]
So this should be our greatest concern with regard to our children, that we make clear to them the importance of their Religion and their being upright. We should not be concerned with their Dunya i.e. that they bring home food or drink or wealth, rather we should be most concerned with their remaining upright Muslims. After this, the believer should make du’a to Allah and supplicate to Him that He guide his children and make them upright, for indeed there is no power nor strength except in Allah. No one has the ability to guide his children himself, or to keep them upon the straight path, rather this is in the Hands of Allah. So one should make du’a to Allah as His prophets did before. Allah says that the believers say,
“Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders for the Muttaqoon (i.e. pious and righteous persons who fear Allah much [abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden] and love Allah much [perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained]).” [Qur’an Furqan 25:74]
And also Prophet Ibrahem (as) mentioned in a long du’a,
“O my Lord! Make me one who offers prayers perfectly, and (also) from my offspring, our Lord! And accept my invocation.” [Qur’an Ibrahim 14:40]
So we should follow this example of the prophets in making du’a to Allah and taking the necessary steps in educating and bringing up our children upon this Deen, and asking Allah to keep them upright in their Religion. The Ayah which was previously mentioned is general for all of the believers. That is, that when one reaches the age of 40 he should make du’a for his parents and that Allah should keep him upon the Guidance, and he also makes du’a that Allah keeps his children upright and correct their affairs.
Showing Love & Kindness Towards One’s Children
The parent should control his affair with love, kindness and softness, and should not always use harshness and beating to bring up his children. Rather, he should make his way to be primarily a loving and concerned way. However, if the situation requires that he should also use harshness and hardness and even hitting his children, then he should do so as and when the situation requires it, but he should not make this his way i.e. that he is always hard and harsh towards his children. We should not be like those people who are always hard upon their children as this may lead them towards further corruption and going astray. Neither should we be like many of the Europeans are i.e. that they leave their children without any discipline so that they follow whatever way they like and do whatever they like. Rather we should take the middle course (balanced), sometimes using harshness and sometimes softness, according to the situation. We should always try to exercise balance in raising our children, balancing their affairs correctly and making the uppermost characteristic that of kindness, softness and mercy.
Teaching Good Character
The parent should raise his children upon good character from a young age. He should teach them the Qur’an, the Seerah of the Prophet and that of the Companions also (ra). One should not leave his children to continue making mistakes saying that he will correct them when they get older, because indeed it becomes increasingly more difficult to correct a person when he has grown up upon incorrect actions and bad characteristics. As a poet said, “Whoever grows up upon something, he grows old upon that same thing.” So we should teach our children from a young age the correct Aqeedah and belief, for example that Allah is above His Throne, and we should teach them love for the Prophet and his Companions (ra).
We should also teach them aspects of good character, like being courageous, kind, generous and modest etc. Then if one of our children makes a mistake, we should point out this mistake to them and explain that the action is wrong, not leaving them and saying ‘they are just children’ or that we will tell them when they grow older. This is because of the saying, “Whoever grows up upon something, he grows old upon that that same thing.” And from the guidance of the Prophet is that he used to train and bring up the children from a young age upon good manners and character. As can be seen in the hadeeth of Hasan , in which he narrates how he once took a date from the dates of Sadaqa, and the Prophet shouted at him and told him to take the date out of his mouth. The Prophet explained to him that the dates were for Sadaqa, and that Sadaqa was not allowed for the Prophet or his family.
So the Prophet did not leave Hasan alone, rather he reprimanded him for what he did and explained to him the correct way, using intelligence and Hikmah. Likewise in the hadith of the son of Umm Salamah, who narrated that he used to stay in the house of the Prophet , and that he used to eat in an incorrect way i.e. from everywhere in the plate. So the Prophet said to him, “O boy! Mention Allah’s Name i.e. say ‘Bismillah’, eat with your right hand and eat that which is in front of you. So this Sahabah went on to narrate that he continued to practise this etiquette of eating until that day (i.e. until he had become older). This shows that the Prophet would correct the children by pointing out their mistakes, and also he did so in such a way that they would continue upon the correct way which he had taught them until they became older.
Exercising Justice With Regard To One’s Children
The parent should not oppress or wrong any of his children. He should not show one of his children due favour more so than the other, by giving him more than his other children or praising him more than any of the others. Indeed this type of oppression and favouritism can be a reason for the children swaying from the correct path and developing personal problems later on in life. The Prophet said, “Fear Allah and be just with regard to your children.” Indeed, being just can positively affect the children’s tarbiyah, just as being unjust can have negative affects upon their tarbiyah. Of these negative effects is that the child may feel that if he cannot find justice with his own parents, then who can he find justice with? And he may carry this problem and this feeling in his heart all of his life.
Spending Upon One’s Children
The parents, both the mother and the father, should spend upon their children. They should take the necessary steps to earn money and spend upon their children correctly. Indeed, anything, which one spends upon his family with the correct intention, will have a reward for it. As in the hadeeth of Sa’d ibn Ma’aadh , who narrated that the Prophet said, “There is nothing that you spend upon your families, even the food that you put into the mouth of your wife, except that you will get a reward for it.”
Also there is a hadeeth which is collected by Muslim, which states the importance of spending upon the family and that it is the best of all actions with which one draws nearer to Allah . In this hadeeth the Prophet said, “Two dinaars which you spend in the way of Allah, or two dinaars which you spend by way of sadaqah (charity), or two dinaars which you give to the miskeen (poor), or the two dinaars which you give to your family – with which of these is the greatest reward? Indeed the greatest of these as regards reward is that dinaar which you spend upon your family.”
So, in conclusion, everyone should take care of his family, for if it were the case that everyone in society were to take care of the upbringing of their families and their financial needs, then this would be good for the society as a whole. And if everyone were to leave the affairs of their families and their children, then this would lead to the corruption of the society and poverty would be widespread. By spending upon our families and taking care of their tarbiyah, this is how we train them and help them to remain upright upon this Deen of Al-Islam.