The Importance of Teaching One’s Family
The Obligations and How to Fulfill Them by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan
This is the tenth part of a series of articles that are based on al-Fawa’id al-Mukhtarah, one of the seminal works of the great scholar al-Habib Zayn bin Sumayt. The book focuses on a range of topics relevant to daily life and modern challenges for Muslims living in the West. This article is a summary of the tenth episode of the podcast – The Masters and Millennials by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan. What kind of importance does teaching our spouses and our children Islam have? This article addresses this question and presents an example from our scholars on how to teach our children. This article also discusses what we should be teaching our children.
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate
What is the importance of teaching our family?
Teaching our family is fulfilling Allah’s command
Allah Most High said: “O those who believe, save yourselves and your families from a blazing fire” (Qur’an, 66:6). Sayyidina Ali (Allah be pleased with him), commenting on this verse, said “Teach yourself and teach your families good. Good is that which will save them from the fire of Hell.” Ibn ‘Abbas commented as follows on the same verse: “Grant them knowledge of fiqh and teach them in general and instill adab (good conduct) in them.” Teaching ourselves and our families Islam is no less than a command from Allah.
The Prophet warns against leaving one’s family ignorant
Habib Zayn bin Sumayt dedicates a chapter to teaching families and children under the broader theme of da‘wah. In it he refers to a hadith that Imam Ghazzali mentions in Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din: “No one meets Allah with a sin greater than the ignorance of his family.” We should know, then, that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) has emphasized the importance of teaching one’s family.
Teaching is the parent’s responsibility towards the child
Habib Ahmad bin Umar bin Sumayt said that, like children showing kindness and respect to their parents, parents must also show kindness and respect to their children. It is compulsory for both children and parents to do so. The best way for a parent to do this is to teach the child and grant it a proper upbringing.
A hadith of Sayyidina Umar provides support for this. A man complained to Sayyidina Umar that his son was disobedient, so Sayyidina ‘Umar called the son and took him to task for his disobedience. The child asked whether the child also has rights over his parents. Sayyidina Umar replied, “Yes, indeed.” The child asked what those rights are, so he said they are that the father selects a good mother for the child, that he chooses a good name for him, and that he teaches him the Qur’an. The child said his father had not done any of those things. His mother was a fire-worshipper, and his father had given him the name of a bug or a beetle, and he had never taught him a word of the Qur’an. So Sayyidina ‘Umar said to the father, “You have come to me complaining about the crimes of your son. You have wronged him before he could have wronged you, and you have done badly to him before he could have done harm to you.”
Examples from the Lives of the Scholars
The Haba’ib give us examples. They are men of our time from whom we can draw guidance and light. Shaykh Muhammad al-Majdub said his father nurtured him. When he was a young boy his father said at the beginning of a month, “Bring me the book of Allah.” So he did so, and his father said, “You must take a covenant with me over this book that you will not be disobedient to Allah for the whole month.” He thought a month of obedience would be easy, so he took the covenant with his father and he fulfilled it. The next month his father asked him to take another covenant, and he fulfilled that. His father continued doing this every month until he was raised to never disobey Allah, until a door connecting him to the Prophet opened, and he met him in a conscious state. His relationship with the Prophet reached the stage that, whatever he did in life, he did through the Prophet’s instruction and guidance.
What to Teach our Children
We should begin their education with “la illaha illa Allah,” and our children are never too young for us to teach them the recitation of the Qur’an. We should also teach them the remembrance (salawat). It is very easy to do so. We can also play qasa’id (odes mentioning Allah and the Prophet’s names) so that the children will quickly become accustomed to the names of Allah and the Prophet. Then we should teach them how to read Arabic and recite and memorize the Qur’an.
Thereafter, we should teach them du‘as. A good reference point is The Glorious Treasure by Sayyidi Habib Umar. It contains many supplications. If we are able to teach our children these supplications, we will have done a great thing. This is the best way to call our children to Allah.
The next useful text is al-Risalah al-Jami‘ah by Ahmad bin Zayn al-Habshi, translated as “The Essentials of Islam.” It covers the essentials in Shafi’i fiqh that every Muslim should know. For Hanafis, there is the text by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, The Absolute Essentials of Islam.
To conclude, we should call our children and family to Allah before becoming a scholar and a caller to Allah outside the home. If we teach our children to this level mentioned previously, we will have complied with our compulsory duty to teach our children the deen.
Al-Habib Zayn bin Sumayt is a member of the Prophet’s family. His lineage goes through many pious forebears, such as al-Faqih al-Muqqadam and al-Imam Ahmad bin ʻIsa al-Muhajir, through Sayyidina Husayn to the Prophet Muhammad. He is an authority on Shafi’i fiqh and tasawwuf. From a young age, he sat in the company of the pious and studied with various scholars and institutes. His most senior teacher was Habib ‘Alawi bin ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Aydarus bin Shihab. He was also taught by Habib Ja‘far bin Ahmad al-‘Aydarus and Habib Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafiz. Habib Zayn taught the Islamic sciences in Bayda’ for thirty years. Thereafter he moved to Madinah and opened a ribat that attracted many students before it was forced to close. He was very attached to his wife, as our beloved Prophet was to Sayyidah Khadijah (Allah be pleased with her), and was saddened when she passed away a few years ago.