Fostering Selflessness (Ithar): Combatting Selfishness

This is the sixth 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 first thing is that they take responsibility for their actions and they do not blame others. Blaming others is easy. A person who has self-entitlement blames others. 

If you are not successful in something, take a lesson as to what you can do in order to achieve better. If you fail a test think about how to improve. Unfortunately, today, if someone fails a test they may complain that the test was too hard for example. Another example could be when a child has been removed from a team or a position and instead of the parents realising that some children play better than others, they fight the coach. Take it upon yourself to try harder. Assess what went wrong. 

Taking Criticism

The second thing is learning to take criticisms and corrections properly. Umar ibn al-Khattab was corrected a couple of times and he said, “May Allah grant his mercy to the man who shows me my faults.” That is how the companions were. that is how their companions were. 

We should like people who correct us and we should not take it as an assault. We make mistakes and we ask for forgiveness. When someone corrects us, we accept that correction. 

Imam Ghazali said, “It was ever the desire of religious people to discover their faults through being told of them by others. However, things have come to such a pass with us that the most hateful of all people are those who counsel us or draw our attention to our defects.”

This is almost expressive of a weakness in our faith for bad traits of character are vipers and stinging scorpions and were someone to tell us that under our clothes there lurk the scorpion, we would account this a great favor and be delighted and would occupy ourselves from removing and killing the scorpion.

Hardness of Heart

Nevertheless, we are not delighted when someone calls these things to our notice nor do we busy ourselves with removing them instead we repay the one who counsels us in kind and say, “What about you, you also do this and that and the other” so that resentment towards him distracts us from gaining any profit by his advice.

This is a kind of hardness in the heart that produces many sins and which in turn is a consequence of weak faith. 

There is a benefit in correcting our children and there is a benefit in us taking corrections and correcting ourselves for the better as well as training our children to take the correction. Sadly, parents do not want their children to be corrected. They think things are simple or they should not etc. This is setting them up for failure because as adults, they will not be able to handle it. 


Another way of fighting entitlement is volunteerism. This has dropped in our society. Offering service to others without wanting a reward or something in return is volunteerism. One may have experienced it that to graduate one needed to have a certain amount of volunteer hours.

The youth are not going out and helping people, serving people, going to the food banks, going to the shelters, and so on. They are not doing it and they are not seeing it done. Our religion is about giving to others and giving back to others. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was once asked about the best form of charity (sadaqa). He said: “Giving someone water.”

The best form of charity is giving someone water to drink. It is not in the giving of water, but it is teaching the person to be selfless. If you can give water and have that subconsciously register in your mind and it is the best charity, if you are going to do that and get rewards from Allah, then you’ll be willing to do other things as well.

We have to give our children those opportunities to volunteer at the local mosque, center, shelter, food bank, and parks such as when they have park clean-up days. This way they are giving back without having anything in return and without seeking anything in return. 

Household Tasks

Giving our children chores to do at home also enables them to see that selflessness. They will get a sense of being part of the family and that everyone shares in doing something collectively. Give them time limits on those chores so that they can see that they are helpful, doing something in kind, and helping to relieve their parents of burdens. 

Connected to this is having the children help their neighbors. This could be when it snows. They could help their neighbors to clean the snow or take out the garbage. But do not reward them for it because our society has moved such that people do not do anything unless there is a reward for it, financial or otherwise. 

We have to train our children to do it knowing that the reward is with Allah. Wait for the reward with Allah. They can see that this is something pleasing to Allah. That this is something Allah loves. 

They have to see these acts of selflessness from their parents so they do it naturally. they do it naturally. Wherever they are, they have to see it. 

Happiness in Serving

Children have to see their parents happy when they are selfless. It should not come across as a burden. 

You have to take those opportunities. Train your children so that they do not fall victim to this society and its trends such as entitlement and selfishness. It trains them to be good people and they are trained to be very good servants of Allah. They will serve people and they will have the blessings of Allah. 

A spoiled adult is so because he was spoiled when he was young.