This answer is a transcript of an answer given by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani during a live Q&A session at the end of the Critical Issues Seminar “What Your Child Needs: A Parent’s Guide to Islamic Education” held in the SeekersGuidance HQ in Mississauga, Canada on 2022/02/22.
If we have the means how do we make sure we provide for our children but don’t spoil them?
I hope this response finds you well and in good health.
Maintaining A Balance
Allah Most High describes the righteous believers as neither wasteful nor stingy but rather they pursue a way between these two extremes. Wastefulness is spending without need and without benefit. We also need to understand benefit is not just a religious or any extraordinary serious benefit. Enjoying oneself, relaxation and pleasure are recognized benefits and part of goodness and showing gratitude. But equally important is to understand the balance between rightful and wasteful spending. The second is to encourage the children to think about what is more beneficial.
To offer a personal example, whenever I was given the responsibility to look after our children in their mother’s absence. To slow them down, even after having one ice cream already I used to offer my kids another. Their reply and honesty in denying the opportunity for a second time pointed toward the deep-rooted values inculcated by their mother. Values and the teachings inculcated by their mother help them identify the difference between rightful and wasteful spending. Teachings and upbringing of children with the conscious demarcation between the right and wrong, useful and wasteful, inculcate values and nourish positive restrain.
The other important thing is to remain content and grateful for whatever you possess in terms of worldly things. It is one of the great qualities to be able to have differed gratification. People who have differed gratification are able to make better life choices because such people are able to restrain themselves from the charms of worldly life and able to save for the future rather than spending in the here and now.
We also know the positive impact of restraint as a believer because ultimately we restraint ourselves from what is displeasing to Allah Most High for something that is further ahead. We need to help our children to understand this and let them make those choices. Instead of mindless and endless facilitation, we need to learn when to stop and say no to the demands of our children. We need to teach them the importance of restraint.
Sharing a personal lesson from my young age, one summer, I insisted my father for a bike while he wanted me to wait. I tried everything I could but I still couldn’t get the bike. Many years later, I realized my father was inculcating in me the trait of restraint. Inculcating restraint is important because you don’t want to spoil the child. Whenever I insisted on a particular thing my father would offer me a better alternative option like books. He was not just restraining or withholding but offering a meaningful alternative. One immense benefit from such examples is to learn to be a good shepherd. If you refrain from certain things and offer something else that is more substantial and meaningful. The child will learn and appreciate it.
It is also important not to overindulge children. The scholars recommend that we should not give our children the best of everything (food, clothes, toys) because we are setting a wrong example and not preparing for the worst days. God forbid, on the worst day, if parents can’t afford such things that would be a big jump for the children. For this reason, many scholars suggest preferring mid-range even if one can afford better. If your children persist on higher-end things you should talk to them about the crisis like health and poverty. You should take them to food banks and orphanages and help them realize that there are less fortunate people who are in need.
Another thing that you can get the children to reflect on is being grateful especially when children get gifts from well-off relatives and friends. It is important to talk to the children that there are children who do not have such blessings and gifts as they already have in numbers. Getting them to think deeply about it. Inculcating the value of giving preference to the less fortunate over themselves. The realization of such values and experiencing that moment with our children feels like an achievement. It gives you almost the same pleasure when you see your children taking their first steps because they finally are starting to walk. Hopefully Insha’Allah you will see them continue to take these same steps as they go into adulthood.
Being a Shepherd
Balance is also very important as well. Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said Allah Most High loves to see the traces of His blessings on His servants. As you know cultivating restraint gives children the strength of sabr and steadfastness. We also cultivate gratitude and help them appreciate the blessings of Allah Most High. Creating a balance between restraint and gratitude. We also need to be aware of the responsibility of doing a bit of shepherding as well.
To offer an example, Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) rarely got anyone else to do something for him. Once he sent Anas (Allah be pleased with him) to the marketplace on an errand. While Anas (Allah be pleased with him) relates this hadith conveys that he was excited about the command and while heading to the market he ran into some children and started playing with them. Suddenly, he saw the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) standing behind him smiling, and said, O dear little Anas, did you go where I sent you. Anas (Allah be pleased with him) looked up and replied, I am going Prophet of Allah Most High. With a smile and gentle reminder, Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) disciplined Anas (Allah be pleased with him) in a positive manner.
Connection to Allah Most High
Lastly, the important thing for parents is the cultivation of a strong connection with Allah Most High and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) by taking care of daily devotions. The effect of our everyday striving to build our own relationship with Allah Most High creates a positive impact on our children to appreciate and emulate.
May Allah Most High facilitate for us to have the best of parenting and to have the best of children. There is a prayer in the Quran wherein Allah Most High mentions that the righteous qualities of the believers are that they say, “O lord gift us from our spouses and our offspring a true joy for our eyes and make us and the example for the people of Taqwa.” (Quran, 25:74) To conclude, we not only ask Allah to make us good Muslims amongst the people of Taqwa but rather to make us, and our families and offspring Imams(leaders) of the people of Taqwa. We strive to do this for ourselves and hope that our children will get further toward that goal.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.