What Is the ‘Faith-Based Approach’ Outlined by Predecessors in Child Upbringing?

Answered by Shaykh Muhammad Fayez Awad


What is the ‘Faith-Based Approach’ Outlined by Predecessors in Child Upbringing?


Praise be to Allah Most High. Blessings and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family, companions, and those who follow him.

Reflection on the Predecessors’ Approach to Upbringing

One cannot help but be amazed, astonished, delighted, and joyful when reading about the predecessors’ dealings with their children. They provided a comprehensive upbringing that shaped great personalities and wise generations, still cited as examples and aspirations.

Beginning with Learning Faith

The journey began with learning faith. As narrated by Jundub Ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him), “We were with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) as youths of similar age. He taught us faith before teaching us the Quran. Then we learned the Quran, and it increased our faith.” [Ibn Maja (61); Bayhaqi (5375)]

Teaching the Pillars of Faith Before the Quran

So, what aspects of faith did they teach their children before the Quran? Narrated by Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Faith has sixty-odd or seventy-odd branches. The best of which is saying ‘La ilaha illallah’ (there is no god but Allah), and the least of which is removing harm from the roads, and modesty is a branch of faith.” [Bukhari (9); Muslim (35)]

Teaching the Awareness of Allah’s Presence

A prime example is the great hadith and educational guidance of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) to a child. Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him): “I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) one day, and he said to me: ‘O boy, I will teach you some words: Keep Allah in mind, and He will protect you. Keep Allah in mind, and you will find Him in front of you. When you ask, ask Allah; when you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that if the nation were to unite to benefit you, they would benefit you only with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they unite to harm you, they could harm you only with what Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens are lifted, and the pages are dry.’” [Al-Dhia’ al-Maqdisi (12); Hakim (6359); Tirmidhi (2516); Ahmad (2713)]

Imam Sulami (Allah have mercy on him), when intending to perform Hajj, said: “I asked my mother for permission to perform Hajj, and she said to me, ‘You are heading to the house of Allah, so do not let your guardians write anything about you that you would be ashamed of tomorrow.’” [Al-Dhahabi, Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala’, 17.249]

Ibn Rajab (Allah have mercy on him) explained the meaning of ‘keeping Allah in mind’: It is about adhering to His commands by compliance, avoiding His prohibitions, and not transgressing His decrees. [Ibn Rajab, Jami‘ al-‘Ulum wal-Hikam, 1.492]

Avoiding the Company of Disbelievers and Embracing the Love of Believers

They raised their generations to love the people of faith. Anas Ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) said: “They used to teach their children to love the two Shaykhs (Abu Bakr and Umar) just as they taught them a Sura from the Quran.” [Al Khallal, Al-Sunna]

Salih, the son of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (Allah have mercy on him), said: “My father used to send someone to follow me if a pious or ascetic person visited him so that I could see him. He loved that I would be like him.” [Al-Dhahabi, Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala’, 12.529]

Reverence for Allah’s Prohibitions

Narrated by Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him): “The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) said: ‘Do not prevent the women servants of Allah from going to the mosque.’ His son said, ‘We indeed prevent them.’ Ibn Umar became extremely angry and said, ‘I tell you about the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him), and you say we prevent them!’” [Bukhari (865); Muslim (442); Ibn Maja (16)]

Abdullah Ibn Mughaffal said: “I was sitting with my nephew when he threw something. I stopped him and said, ‘The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) prohibited this, saying it neither hunts game nor harms an enemy but may break a tooth or gouge an eye.’ He did it again, and I said, ‘I tell you that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) prohibited this, and you do it again? I will never speak to you again.’” [Bukhari (6220); Muslim (1954); Ibn Maja (17)]

Inculcating the Quran in Their Hearts

Parents should prioritize ensuring their children memorize the Quran from a young age so they grow up with hearts attached to the love of Allah Most High, reverence for His book, and reflection on its verses. They would then follow its commands and abstain from its prohibitions. If it contained noble morals, they would be informed and follow them. If it contained lessons and warnings, they would take heed, and it would touch their hearts. The righteous predecessors first asked about memorizing the Book of Allah Most High. The story of ‘Umar bin Abi Salama is the best proof of the child’s quick memorization and the emphasis on promptly teaching the children.

Developing God-Consciousness

‘Amr Ibn Salama narrated, “We lived near a water source where caravans passed. When travelers passed us, we asked them, ‘What’s happening with the people? What’s this about the man?’ They replied, ‘He claims that Allah has sent him and revealed such and such to him.’ I memorized that speech as if it were engraved in my heart.” [Bukhari (4302)]

Emphasizing the Importance of Quranic Learning

Sa‘id Ibn Jubayr (Allah be pleased with him) said, “What you call al-Mufassal is actually al-Muhkam (the decisive verses).” Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) stated, “The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) passed away when I was ten years old, and I had read the Muhkam” [Bukhari (5035)] (referring to Suras from al-Hujurat to the end of the Quran).

Ibn ‘Abbas also said, “Ask me about the interpretation [of the Quran], for I memorized the Quran when I was young.” [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 8.701]

He further stated, “Whoever reads the Quran before reaching puberty is among those granted wisdom in childhood.” [Ibn Muflih, Al-Adab al-Shar‘iyyah, 1.244]

The Story of Al-Farazdaq

An interesting account relates to Al-Farazdaq, who entered with his father to see ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (Allah be pleased with him). His father said, “My son is about to become a poet.” ‘Ali replied, “Teach him the Quran; it is better for him!” Al-Farazdaq said, “This statement stayed with me until I restrained myself with a chain and vowed not to unchain myself until I memorized the Quran. And I did not unchain until I had memorized it.” [Khazanah al-Adab, 1.222]

Instilling the Habit of Reciting Supplications

The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) emphasized supplications, whether morning and evening remembrances or other occasions. He stressed their importance, as stated by Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him): “I seek refuge with You from the punishment of Hell, from the punishment of the grave…” [Muslim (590), Al-Tabarani (1021)]

Patience in Acts of Worship

Umm al-Aswad bint Yazid, when paralyzed, told her distressed daughter, “Do not be upset. O Allah, if this is good for me, increase it!” [Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Al-Rida ‘an Allah, 94; Al-Sabr wal-Thawab ‘alayhi, 125]

An Example of Patience from the Lives of the Righteous

“It is narrated in ‘Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala’ about Al-Sha‘bi who said: ‘Masrooq fainted one summer day, and A‘isha had adopted him. He named his daughter A‘isha and would not disobey her in anything.’ He said, ‘She came down to him and said, “O Father, break your fast and drink.” He asked, “What do you want for me, my daughter?” She replied, “Kindness.” He said, “My daughter, I only sought kindness for myself on a day equivalent to fifty thousand years.” [Al-Dhahabi, Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala’, 4.68]

We ask Allah Most High to care for our children with His protection, care, and attention.