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Islamic Education for the Younger Generation

Qamar Rahman

A baby is a blessing and a gift from Allah (swt). Allah (swt) bestows love and care for the baby in the nature of parents, which is evident in their feelings, emotions and actions. Feelings of being blessed are natural, for not everyone is blessed with a child. The power of creation is only with Allah (swt):

"To Allah belongs the dominion of heaven and earth. He creates what He wills (and plans). He bestows (children) male or female according to His will (and plan), or bestows both males and females, and He leaves barren who He wills: for He is full of knowledge and power."

(Quran, 42: 49-50)

All babies are born innocent and equal. The task of parents therefore is to maintain the qualities inherent in their children. Allah (swt) has revealed in the Holy Quran:

"So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the faith: (establish) Allah's handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change let there be in the work (wrought) by Allah: that is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not. Turn ye back in repentance to Him, and fear Him: Establish regular prayers, and be not ye among those who join gods with Allah."

(Quran, 30: 30-31)

Yusuf Ali, in the interpretation of these two verses, writes that Allah (swt) has created humankind on "Fitrah", that is, inherent in the human soul are innocence, purity, truth and freedom. Every human soul is inclined naturally to right and virtue and has the knowledge and understanding of their own position in the universe and about Allah's wisdom, goodness and power. But humankind is caught in the meshes of customs, superstition, selfish desires and false teachings. The problem before Muslim parents is to cure these deviations and to restore human nature, as it should be under the will of Allah (swt).

Islamic education is the only means by which we can preserve our true nature and that of our children, as Allah (swt) created it. We should always bear in mind that we have to correct ourselves first, and then restore the nature of our children. Let us then see what the Holy Quran says about the education of our younger generation.

Allah (swt) has revealed the wisdom of Hakim Luqman in the Holy Quran. Let us see the lessons of Luqman to his son step by step:

"Behold, Luqman said to his son by way of instruction: 'O my son! Join not in worship (others) with Allah: for false worship is indeed the highest wrongdoing'."

(Quran, 31:13)

Yusuf Ali writes that Luqman is held as a pattern of wisdom because he realises the real virtue and value of Islamic teaching. To Luqman true human wisdom is also divine wisdom: the two cannot be separated. The beginning of all wisdom, therefore, is conformity with the will of Allah (swt).

We learn from ahadith that our Prophet (s) gave adhaan in the right ear and iqamat in the left ear of his grandchildren, as soon as they were born, to introduce to them their true Creator. It is our solemn duty to follow the tradition of our beloved Prophet (s) and do the same with our children. In this way a Muslim baby's tiny little heart and mind receives the warmth and love of Allah (swt). We hope, by this act, that the baby will remember this first lesson for the rest of his or her life, Insha-Allah.

The saying of adhaan and iqamat also reminds us of the importance and value of time, for our life on earth is really no more than the time span between adhaan, iqamat and the salaat. This is the reason why, for salaat-ul-janazah (salaat performed by family and friends after death), adhaan and iqamat are not required. They have been recited at birth already. We must remember that time is infinite and our active life on earth, in comparison, is very short indeed.

Allah (swt) has revealed:

"And we have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in trial upon trial did his mother bear him, in two years was his weaning: (hear the command) 'show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is thy final goal'."

(Quran, 31:14)

The second lesson from Allah (swt) is to show goodness and kindness towards parents. Show gratitude to Allah (swt), the Creator Supreme and then to parents, especially to the mother who has carried the baby for nine months, then has borne the pangs of labour pains and breast-fed the baby for about two years after birth. Gratitude towards parents is also due even if they are not good Muslims or non-Muslims. Disobedience to parents is only allowed if they force their children to do anything against the will of Allah (swt):

"But if they strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration), and follow the way of those who turn to Me (in love): in the end the return of you all is to Me, and I tell you the truth (and meaning) of all that ye did."

(Quran, 31:15)

The third lesson is from Luqman:

"O my son! (said Luqman), if there be (but) the weight of a mustard seed and if it were (hidden) in a rock or (anywhere) in the heavens and on earth, Allah will bring it forth: for Allah understands the finest mysteries, (and) is well acquainted (with them)."

(Quran, 31:16)

This verse teaches us that Allah (swt) has knowledge of all things in the universe. He is acquainted with all the mysteries. Therefore, whatever we do, all our actions in public or in private are known by Allah (swt) and on the Day of Judgement the register of our deeds will be brought forth. Our destination in the Hereafter certainly depends on our behaviour, actions and deeds.

Lesson four is to "establish regular prayer" (31:17). In the Holy Quran, the word aqemis-salaat is used, which means regular, five times daily prayers are to be established. There is no free will given to mankind with regards to establishing salaat.

Establishing salaat requires learning and memorising of the Holy Quran, or at least some small surahs. Our experience is that if a chart of Arabic alphabets is presented to a baby, as a game, the baby learns quickly and points out specific letters even before he or she is one year old. It is the duty of Muslim parents to teach the Quran to their children, and to try to get them to finish reading the whole Quran once between the ages of 8 to 10; that is, before the child brings a load of homework from school. Thereafter, daily listening is required; it may take half an hour for the child to read and you to listen,

We should also try to encourage our children to establish salaat by the time they are ten years old. At the age of puberty, if children neglect salaat they should be admonished.

Lesson five is to "enjoin what is just and forbid what is wrong" (31:17). As a rule, everyone in the family, young or old, should have the right to enjoin good and forbid wrong. This system of checks and balances, if practised by every Muslim family, will Insha-Allah create a Muslim ummah.

Lesson six is "patience and constancy"(31:17). It is interesting to note that immediately after enjoining good and forbidding wrong, comes the lesson of patience and constancy. The free world in which we are living, "individualism" is the religious motto. "Mind your own business" is the popular phrase. "What I want and the way I want to live" is more important than any lesson. Under these circumstances, the lesson of "enjoining good and forbidding wrong", and "attuning your will to the will of Allah (SWT)" becomes a difficult task indeed, and patience and constancy are surely needed.

Lesson seven is "swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men" (31:18). Yusuf Ali writes that the word "cheek" in English also means arrogance and affrontery. This behaviour indicates arrogance and superiority of the self and inferiority of others. In Arabic, it means smug self-satisfaction and a sense of lofty superiority.

Lesson eight is "nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loveth not any arrogant boaster" (31:18). Walking in insolence is also an act of pride and self-supposed superiority.

"Moderation in pace" is lesson nine (31:19) and is a far more respectable act, walking tall will not allow anyone to stretch to the heavens. Neither shall we consider ourselves meek and feeble, for we are all creations of Allah (swt), born innocent and equal. We only differ by our behaviour and deeds.

Lesson ten is "lower thy voice" (31:19). Yusuf Ali interprets this phrase thus: "In all things be moderate. Do not be talkative and do not be silent. Do not be loud and do not be timid or half-hearted. Do not be too confident, and do not be cowed down. If you have patience it is to give you constancy and determination that you may bravely carry on the struggle of life." Bragging of self-superiority is compared in the Holy Quran as "the braying of the ass" (31:19).

Let us pray to Allah (swt) that He makes us ideal parents and teachers of our children, and grants our children the best of Islamic and secular education. Aameen.

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