By Dr. Sabeerah Abdul-Majied
When I saw six-year-old Bilquis performing wudu and later leading her friend in prayer, I felt her parents had done some things right. She was just a young child and though her positions in prayer were not perfect, she seemed sincere and captured my attention. I continued to observe Bilquis as she waited for the start of an after-school Arabic class. Soon she was telling a young brother: “Take up your bag from the floor because your book has Allah’s name on it.” Not long after, she was admonishing a young girl by telling her, “Do not take off your hijab when you are at school again!” I was amazed that one so young would take the lead in instructing her peers about Islam. I introduced myself to Bilquis and her every response to my questions confirmed my feeling that I had met a good Muslim girl who came from a good Muslim home.
Bilquis smiled and returned my salaams. She said she knew my five-year-old grandson very well because they were in the same class. She was a joy to communicate with. Without hesitation, she agreed to introduce me to her parents. As I later spoke to her mother about my fascination with her daughter’s Islamic practice, I learned a bit about the parenting style that nurtured the behaviors I observed. Her mother immediately gave credit to Bilquis’ father whom she said was, “Brought up in Islam.” He taught his wife more about Islam and their Islamic practices in turn influenced how they nurtured Bilquis and her older brother.
Her mother said that when they were at home, the children said salaat (five times daily prayers) including Fajr with their parents. They lived in an extended family home where the grandparents who were also Muslims, assisted with the children’s upbringing. Grandpa and grandma loved their grandchildren and intervened at times to prevent their grandchildren from engaging in undesirable behaviors. In that home, the children were taught to respect, love, and care for others. Bilquis’s mother’s philosophy was that “Being harsh, scolding and shoving a child around, does not work to correct inappropriate behaviors.” Instead, she believed in, “Gentle but firm correction.” Parents should be, “Nice and loving to their children,” she said. Apart from good Adab, Bilquis was taught to do what she had to do and to balance play with schoolwork.
I was convinced that I had witnessed a child who came from a home where Islam was practiced, Adab was modeled and loving support was given. I learned too that people often said good things about the children. At six Bilquis’ helpfulness was observed by many. She was emotional too and could empathize with the feelings of others. The qualities she demonstrated were refreshing at a time when so many Muslim and non-Muslim parents are experiencing behavioral difficulties with their children. Bilquis’ actions were living proof that what parents do at home greatly influences the behaviors children display outside of the home.
Childhood experts to advise that good parents lead by example and model the behaviors they want their children to develop. For example, if parents want an honest child, they must be honest. Parents also need to know their children, discuss current events as needed and guide them toward handling anger in ways that are not verbally or physically abusive to others. Parents must also give children what they promise them and be consistent with delivering consequences promised for good and bad behavior. Additionally viewing of television and playing of video games should be limited and children should eat right and be active to maintain good health.
As Muslims, we should be reminded that Allah has commanded us to be kind to children. Further, when we obey Allah’s directives for living and in this instance child rearing, the benefits will return to us. Even though it may require much effort, if we train children right they will be well mannered. I’m so glad that I met Bilquis, a young tribute to the beauty of good parenting in Islam.