As sons and daughters of our parents, we often tell ourselves how lucky we are to have been blessed with lovely people who had taken care of us so well. Our parents have sacrificed so much for us, raising us up, giving the education we need and would spent much of their time and energies to ensure that we become better than them. We owe our parents debts that we can never repay.
The time will come when each and every one of us would be parents ourselves. This series of blog postings are meant to give some tips about how to be Great Parents. These tips are drawn from lessons of history, from stories of the lives of Examplary Muslims whose lives were affected by their parents. I hope the following posting will help would-be parents to prepare for that wonderful experience of raising kids and for those who already blessed with beautiful children, this humble sharing would help you and me to improve our parenting skills.
I have chosen to tell about the lives of Three Great Muslims: Fatimah Az-Zahra, Imam Syafii and Buya Hamka. The reason for this selection is quite straightforward. These three figures represents the kinds of families that we encounter today and that you might just belong to that kind of family. They also represent the types of children that you might have and the types you might want to develop.
1. Fatima Az-zahra was the Daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. She had what we call as an “Intact Family” where both parents were there to nurture her. Due to the diligence of her parents, Fatimah has become known to Muslims worldwide as “Model of Deep Piety“.
2. Imam Syafi’i, in turn, grew up with a Single Mother. But she was a resolute enough to encourage her son to become one of the most brilliant minds in world history. Because of the sweat and tears of his Mother, Imam Syafi’i is remembered as “The Peak of Intelligence”
3. Buya Hamka was raised in divorced family setting. His parents separated and he was brought up mainly by his father who transformed him into a Thinker, Writer and Mobilizer. It is impossible to tell the history of Islam in Southeast Asia today without a passing reference to Buya Hamka.
Let me begin with Fatima Az-zahra. It stated in one prophetic tradition that “The best of the women of the world are four: Maryam bint Imran, Asia bint Muzahim, Khadija bint Khowailid, and Fatima binti Muhammad” (Narrated by Ahmad). A beloved daughter of the Prophet himself, Fatima was raised by one the best women mentioned above, Khadija, who was Muhammad’s first wife. Both parents were thus sources of inspiration for her. They both showed to her how to live according to the light of the Quran and the Sunnah. Khadija and Muhammad practically trained her to follow their footsteps so much so that it is said Fatimah resembled the Prophet so closely in terms of manners, habits, character and in the method of sitting and standing. How did they achieve this? Through 4 notable ways:
THE POWER OF WARMTH – That is, by keeping the child close to them so that she could observe everything that her parents did. The Prophet was especially fond kissing Fatima whenever they met and this created closeness between them. The Prophet also showed Fatima how he loved Khadija so much and this loving relationship between her parents prepared to be a good wife and an excellent Mother of two great Muslims, Hasan and Hussain.
SIMPLICITY – Both parents showed the benefits of living within one’s means. The point of life was to ensure that necessities were there and that luxuries should be kept minimal. When life is simple, anxieties about material things were minimized.
QUESTIONING – The Prophet would always ask Fatima questions to probe her understanding and to develop her intelligence. She became a sharp thinker later on in life, advising Muslims on certain matters that were pertinent in those days.
INCULCATING PIETY AND PATIENCE – Both parents demonstrated to her the need to continuously seek help from Allah and to be patient in the face of hardship. Because piety and patience were taught to Fatima since she was a child, she became self-reliant upon her mother’s demise and while undergoing the pains of poverty before and after marriage.
Through these four ways, the Prophet and Khadija raised a child who is now seen as a Model Muslimah, unsurpassed by anyone else after her time.
In my previous post (Parenting to Produce Great Muslims Part 1), I shared about how Fatima was raised by her parents and became known to Muslims worldwide as “Model of Deep Piety“.
If Fatima was and is still regarded as a Model Muslimah, then Imam Shafi’i is the Scholar and Intellectual admired by all during and after his time. It would not be excessive to say that Imam Shafi’i was one of the Most Brilliant Minds in Islamic History. Yet this was a man who was orphaned at the age of two. He lived in poverty and could not afford to even buy paper for his studies. Because of this, Shafi’i often wrote his notes on the bones of animals! But he man was raised by a mother who had the Strength of Character. Seeing that her child was gifted since young, she had single-handedly sought means to develop his talents through the following ways:
ENVIRONMENT – Shafi’i mother migrated from Gaza to Ḥijāz to Makka to place her son in the company of scholars. Because they moved from one place to another, Shafi’i was able to study under the feet of the best in each and every place he travelled and mastered different sciences which would not have been possible if he had stayed in one place.
FOCUS – Shafi’i was not only a scholar. He was an expert archer and was excellent in that sport since young. Archery developed focus in the child and it helped him to set targets for himself in everything that he did and learnt.
CULTURE – Shafi’i’s mother exposed him to his relatives who are particularly keen on sharing about the family’s history, lineage and heritage. This knowledge inculcated confidence and pride in the child while it made Shafi’i keen on learning language and writing poetry. Later on in life, Shafi’i even went to the extent of living with the Bedouins tribes to polish up his already refined Arabic!
CRITICAL THINKING AND WISDOM – Realizing that she was herself not a scholar, Shafi’i mother sent him to the best of teachers, especially those who were experts in Fiqh and Sciences of Traditions (Hadith) which is the storehouse of All Wisdom. She had to even part with her only child for many years to ensure that he had gotten the best of training from scholars. What came out of this sacrifice was a mind so critical yet so wise.
At the age of 13, Shafi’i was given the license by his teacher, Imam Malik, to pass his own rulings. He became the first person to lay down the Rules of Islamic Jurisprudence while founding a school of Jurisprudence which is now followed by more than 400 million Muslims worldwide.
The third and last figure to be considered here was the late Buya Hamka. Author of over a hundred books, among which was the complete exegesis of the Quran, the Tafsir Al-Azhar, Hamka was however a child with an attitude problem. He loved reading but dislike following classes that were conducted by his father, who was a respected religious teacher and preacher. At the age of 12, his parents were divorced and this had saddened him while it did much to make his personality problems grew even worse. But how did his father deal with this?
THE COMMUNITY – As the African saying goes, “It takes a Village to raise a Child”. Seeing that Hamka was not interested in attending classes, his father allowed him to learn all sort of knowledge from his uncles, relatives and his father’s friends who are learned and wise. The community around him practically worked on him and gave constant reminders for Hamka to be a good person.
THE FATHER FIGURE – Yet, his father would always check on his progress. Hamka was also given tasks at the school which his father was running, And most important of all, his father never stopped communicating with him even if it means through scolding. Writing about the life of his father later on in life, Hamka himself admitted the Scolding Helped a Lot!
EXPERIENTAL LEARNING – Hamka was given the liberty to travel in search of knowledge and experience and to make mistakes. That his father allowed him to tumble and fall and rise up made him more confident while creating an awareness in him that he was in need to his father after all.
SUPPLICATIONS – Hamka’s father was always in supplication to Allah for his son to be a good person. He too realized like many parents that children blossom at different times, some early, others late in life. Supplications to God are a means to get Hamka to experience turning points in his life, and to finally realize that he should realize his fullest potential, that is, to be a Scholar of Islam who did not only write religious books but also literary works.
Above all, Hamka would later be elected as one of the leaders of a 30 million strong organization, the Muhammadiyah while heading the Council of Religious Scholars in Indonesia. He is remembered today as a Legend who had 7 children himself while holding so many different public offices which he fulfilled admiringly.
The examples cited above are great tips for us to produce Great Muslims. Let me end this posting with two final quotations which serves as reminders for us as Parents about our responsiblities. The first is by Hamka who said that “If the children are not trained when they are young, then their parents will be tired when they are adults.” Let’s tire Ourselves now and not later!
The second quote is by Imam Shafi’i who said:
“All humans are dead except those who have Knowledge.
And all those who have knowledge are asleep, except those who do Good Deeds.
And those who do good deeds are deceived, except those who are Sincere.
And those who are sincere are always in a State of Worry”
Let us Worry about about Our Children. Let us Learn and Implement with Sincerity the Examples shown by Great Muslims. Our Children will Be Great People someday!