An Islamic Foundation: Modeling and Providing Opportunities

This is the seventh article in a series dealing with parental education of children. It was taken from the  seminar: What Your Child Needs: A Parent’s Guide to Islamic Education.

The following article will touch upon four practical steps on how to practically deal with the material lifestyle that we see before us. The points covered will address the importance of modeling, providing children with an opportunity for growth, setting goals for your Islamic learning, and the importance of a tranquil home.

The Importance of Modeling 

Your actions speak louder than your words. You might be trying to teach your child something but if you are not exemplifying that behavior yourself then know that children are very quick to point that out. 

All of us need exemplars. We need people who embody what they teach and whom we look up to. This is not for children only. You need to have people in your life that you respect and you want to be like. The companions obviously wanted to be like the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and we see such beautiful character that we cannot even imagine. 

We have not lost the opportunity to read about the tremendous example of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and how he conducted himself in the best of ways with everyone that he interacted with.

This should get us thinking about how we conduct ourselves as parents. Ask yourself, “What do our children see us doing? Are we exemplifying the best character of what the ideal Muslim should be like?

The Need to Improve

This relates to many things such as how we conduct ourselves in our free time –  when we are angry, provoked, or upset. The children are watching every moment and they are like sponges. They watch and they will bring it back to you at the times you least expect it. 

Parents need to continuously strive. They ought to be increasing in knowledge and the children need to see that. Sometimes, we may think that Islamic schools and Islamic learning are something for children whereas many people have not had the opportunity to really study. 

In the East, the culture is that everyone is in a gathering of sacred knowledge. This includes children as little as five who start attending class with their parents until they are walking there with a walking stick as an elderly person. That weekly class of Islamic learning would be a part of your lifestyle. That is something that children need to see exemplified throughout their life. To see that their parents are also very committed to Islamic learning. 

The children can see that it is about the love of Allah and the love of the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). They can appreciate the need to improve their character with every day that they have. With every breath that you take, strive to improve yourself. That can only come through sitting with scholars and learning from them.

Teach by Example

You are the child’s first teacher. They need to see that love and commitment to learning on a regular basis. That will help them to have the same drive to learn, the same willingness to work on their character right from the beginning when they are young and easily excitable. 

Children not only learn from the good example that you put forward. They also learn from the bad example put forward. If you are doing good things, they want to be like you. However, there are things about you that they dislike. They may even tell themselves that when they are older they will not be like that with their children. An example of this could be when a parent does not give due attention to the child when the child seeks but rather, the parent is distracted by their smartphone.

It is noteworthy that despite this, the example is still with the parent. They taught you what they did and what they did not do right so that you are still committed to becoming the best person you can be. You learn from both traits.

Good character is often attained by reading, attending gatherings of knowledge, and spending time with the righteous or people of good character. When your children are seeking education, inculcate in them that the reason they are doing that is for the sake of Allah and the pleasure of our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). What are the needs of our community and what niche can they fulfill in the community? 

For children to have this attitude, parents should model striving to fulfill the needs of the community in whatever way that they can. This way, the children also have that same caring concern. 

Providing Opportunities

Give your children an opportunity to learn. This relates to seeking out qualified teachers. This is the most important quality when you are looking for the education of your children. Not everybody teaching in an Islamic school is necessarily qualified to teach. 

Do the teachers embody what they are teaching? Are the teachers displaying humility, good character, and preference for others? Will the children be able to see that in action?

As well as these considerations, have a library of quality Islamic books that are frequently accessed. You want to motivate your child to be committed to learning. And this comes back to how often we pick up such books. It could be the case that you discuss topics: “I learned this in a book, you may want to read it, it is really good!” Encourage children to take advantage of those resources. 

Furthermore, identify beneficial speakers and talks online. Foster discussion about that. This could really change someone. When a child sits with qualified teachers, listens to them speak, and sees their great example, then it often greatly affects them. 

But also, we need to have that in our lives. Have that ongoing relationship with seeking Islamic knowledge. More than just watching recordings online is actually interacting with teachers, especially when they come to our towns.

Influence for the Better

One should identify beneficial relationships as well. Spend time with other like-minded families. By doing so, you can find children of the same kind of aptitude who can be good company for your child. 

Having beneficial relationships can also include having critical conversations with our children about what a good friend is like. At times, you may be influenced by others. Whereas other times, you may be trying to influence others for the better. Teach your children about the red flags when it comes to keeping someone’s company.

As they get older, they will be making their own decisions. So it is important to take advantage of the critical period between age four and about eleven when they will really listen to everything you are saying. When they get to around age twelve to about eighteen they are more headstrong.