There is no doubt in my mind that children have to be raised with a deep, profound understanding of the heart. This is the essence of our deen and a central guiding principle when dealing with the actions of children.
We have a policy at home, that if they tell the truth they don’t get in trouble. “Did you hit your brother? If you tell me the truth you won’t get in trouble,” – we moderate repercussions and disciplinary actions with a focus on all the virtues of the heart. This is what is most important, that you inculcate this in them.
Use ordinary life events as opportunities to teach them about the importance of the heart. You also teach them from early on, that even if someone doesn’t wear a headscarf or have a beard, maybe their heart is in a good state.
You teach them tolerance, you teach them that yes, outward conformity to religion is important but the heart is also important. Unfortunately, most parents’ only concern is the outward dimension and they reinforce that by getting angry only when the outward is violated. You must balance your responses to the inward with your responses to the outward so that in reality you become more concerned with the inward.
How many people have we all known, who have been pushed farther away from the religion because the focus on the outward has been shoved down their throats? There are very few things that push people farther away from the religion more than that.
Teach children the theory about the heart. Sister Aisha Grey Henry is working on a children’s series of the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din and I highly recommend everyone gets that when it’s published, if it hasn’t been published already. Teach your children these stories. Until then, find other creative and practical ways.
Shaykh Yahya Rhodus was in SeekersHub Toronto recently and gave the above as an answer to a question from a member of the local community. Adapted for print.
This Labor Day weekend, September 3-7, 2015, SeekersHub Toronto invites you to a retreat that engages the heart, mind, and soul with respected teachers from around the world, including Shaykh Yahya Rhodus. Find out more here.
Resources for Seekers:
Why does Allah Bless Some with Children and Others not?
Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya – Radio Interview with Hina Khan-Mukhtar
Raising Children with Deen and Dunya
Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children
Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz’s advice on duas to read during pregnancy and labour and for infertility