Raising the next generation – practical tips from the Sunnah
In part 1, we reflected over 14 aḥadīth of tarbawi benefit – each one teaching us the value and virtue of taking certain practical steps, seeking creedal and devotional development of both ourselves and our families.
In this second part, the tarbiyah focus lies in behavioural development, by encouraging good manners and strengthening the bonds of brotherhood. Whilst perhaps the younger members of our families are less able to implement some of the actions mentioned in the previous article, many of the narrations that follow can be explained to and acted upon by any child capable of understanding. And as always – the first step is to implement these ourselves.
The importance of good manners is heavily stressed throughout our history. Imām Mālik said:
“My mother would dress me up in the clothes of the scholars while I was still a young boy and she would tell me, ‘Go to the Masjid and seek knowledge from Imām ar-Rabiʿah; study his manners before you take from his knowledge.’”
Another famous story involves his student, Imām Ash-Shafī’. He was once away from home for two years and decided to return home to his mother. Upon arrival, he knocked on the door but before she opened, she asked: “What are you coming back with?”
He immediately replied, “I have come with knowledge and manners.”
However this answer was not satisfactory to his mother and she refused to let him in, saying “Go back, for you have not come back with anything.”
Of course Imām Ash-Shafi’ was surprised; having exerted so much effort seeking knowledge, as his mother had wished for him. He decided to visit Imām Malik and explained what had happened.
Imām Malik, having had a similar upbringing, replied to him, “When you go back, tell her you have come back with manners and knowledge”. Because good manners always comes before knowledge. Imām Ash-Shafi’ returned and answered in this way; upon this, his mother opened the door and took him into her embrace.
Any parent naturally appreciates being treated with good manners and seeing their children act with good manners towards others. Its importance in Islām is paramount. Possessing a broad scope, encompassing many different behaviours, we have selected just a few aspects of manners to mention here.
Nurturing good character in children
- Rasūlullāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Nothing is weightier on the Scale of Deeds than one’s good manners.”
This first narration is vitally important for so many aspects throughout our lives. From amongst the best methods of calling others to Islām is for Muslims to be known for their good conduct and manners; let us try our utmost to ensure our children appreciate the true value of good manners.
- Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not disdain a good deed, (no matter how small it may seem) even if it is your meeting with your (Muslim) brother with a cheerful face.”
- ʿĀ’isha (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha) reported: I have never seen Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) laughing so heartily that his uvula could be seen. He used to smile only.
In these two narrations, we learn that simply having a cheerful face is a sadaqah and can be rewarded as such. However, we balance this with the latter reminding us not to overdo it with excessive or unpleasant laughing.
- ʿUmar b. Abī Salama (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said: I was a boy under the care of Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and my hand used to go around the dish while I was eating. So Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said to me, ‘O boy! Mention the Name of Allāh and eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish what is nearer to you.” Since then I have applied those instructions when eating.
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “Part of the perfection of one’s Islām is his leaving that which does not concern him.”
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Let he who believes in Allāh and the Last Day speak good, or keep silent; and let he who believes in Allāh and the Last Day be generous to his neighbour; and let he who believes in Allāh and the Last Day be generous to his guest.”
The two narrations above highlight some key elements of good manners. In current times when the world is online and social media plays a big part in daily lives, it is especially important to adhere to the principle of leaving that which does not concern us; as indulging in this leads to many social ills such as gossip, slander, envy, and much more. Rather, we follow the guidance given to us in the second of these aḥadīth; speaking good or remaining silent, and honouring our neighbours and guests. How many today even know their neighbour’s name?
The next ḥadīth is also particularly relevant in current times when the concept of modesty (haya’) is all but frowned upon. Both ourselves and our children should be regularly reminded of its virtue.
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Shyness does not bring anything except good.”
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “He is not of us who shows no mercy to our young and one who does not acknowledge the honour due to elders.”
- A man said to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), “Advise me!” The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not become angry and furious.” The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said in each case, “Do not become angry and furious.”
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Whoever gives up telling lies in support of a false claim, a palace will be built for him in the outskirts of Paradise. Whoever gives up argument when he is in the right, a palace will be built from him in the middle (of Paradise). And whoever had good behaviour, a palace will be built for him in the highest reaches (of Paradise).’
There are many lessons covered in the three narrations above, to learn ourselves and to pass to our children. In an age of constant debate and a longing for unity in the ummah, what a difference it would make if we were able to leave an argument for the sake of wider benefit.
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “Shall I inform you about the one for whom the fire is forbidden? It is the one who draws near to the people, is easy going and gentle.”
Next we take a brief look at narrations pertaining to increasing brotherhood. In this day and age, where we see much division and strife between the Muslims in many lands, we pray and hope that our children handle their differences with greater wisdom. That same energy expended into arguing over differences could be a force for good if channelled into increasing brotherhood.
Some narrations taught to us by our beloved Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) highlight the importance of brotherhood and looking after each other.
- The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “None of you truly believes (in Allāh and in His religion) until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “Your smile to your brother is a sadaqah (charitable act) for you. Your commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is a sadaqah. Your guiding a man in the land of misguidance is a sadaqah for you. Your seeing (showing the way) for a man with bad eyesight is a sadaqah for you. Your removing a stone or thorn or bone from the road is a sadaqah for you. Your emptying your bucket of water into your brother’s (empty) bucket is a sadaqah for you.”
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Be slaves of Allāh and brothers [amongst yourselves]. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim: he does not oppress him, nor does he fail him, nor does he lie to him, nor does he hold him in contempt. Taqwa (piety) is right here [and he pointed to his chest three times]. It is evil enough for a man to hold his Muslim brother in contempt. The whole of a Muslim is inviolable for another Muslim: his blood, his property, and his honour.”
This ḥadīth yields much benefit to those who would reflect. Some of these points of reflection are detailed in “Excelling through the Bond of Brotherhood”.
- The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allāh will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allāh will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the faults of) a Muslim, Allāh will cover (his faults) for him in the world and the Hereafter. And Allāh is engaged in helping the worshipper as long as the worshipper is engaged in helping his brother.”
SubḥānAllāh – may Allāh give us the ability to act upon that which we learn. The need for us to cover the faults of our brothers and aiding them in their times of need cannot be understated.
- The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allāh gives wealth, and he disposes of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allāh gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it.”
- Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: Six are the rights of a Muslim over another Muslim. It was said to him: Allāh’s Messenger, what are these? Thereupon he replied: When you meet him, offer him greetings; when he invites you to a feast accept it; when he seeks your council give it to him; when he sneezes and says: “All praise is due to Allāh,” you say Yarḥamuk Allāh (may Allāh show mercy to you); when he falls ill visit him; and when he dies follow his bier.
Whilst many of the narrations pertaining to good manners can easily be explained and read out to young children, those regarding brotherhood could be considered a little more complex (in some cases). However, the principles mentioned are clear and should be part of our daily lives, so much so that even if a younger audience cannot understand them in words yet, they can still witness them in our own actions and inherently develop this love for their brothers and sisters.
In the following article, we will reflect upon twelve more narrations of various tarbawi benefit inshāAllāh. We ask Allāh to grant us the ability to receive tarbiyah through these narrations, put them into practice ourselves, and bring up children upon them. Amīn.
15. Al-Bukhari & Muslim, reported by Abu Darda
16. Muslim, reported by Abu Dharr
17. Al-Bukhari & Muslim
19. Tirmidhi, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah
20. Al-Bukhari & Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah
21. Al-Bukhari & Muslim, reported by ‘Imran ibn Hussain
22. Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud, narrated by ‘Amr Ibn Shu’aib, reported on the authority of his father who heard it from his father
23. Al-Bukhari, narrated by Abu Hurayrah
24. Ibn Majah, reported by Anas Ibn Malik
25. Tirmidhi, reported by Ibn Masud
26. Al-Bukhari & Muslim, reported by Anas Ibn Malik
27. Tirmidhi, reported by Abu Dharr
28. Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah
29. Tirmidhi, reported by Abu Hurayrah
30. Al-Bukhari & Muslim, reported by Ibn Masud
31. Muslim, reported by Abu Hurayrah