It’s only usually a matter of time before our worries with regards to our children begin to kick in. We are desperate to secure their Islamic future, but in a world that is rapidly changing, where exposure is unmanageable, where governmental policies are affecting what our children are taught in schools, and where the competitors who wish to raise our children on our behalf are so many, a dominant feeling in the world of parenthood is often fear. Thus, the question: “Will my children become inhabitants of paradise or will they be the firewood for hell?” is most certainly a pertinent one.
However, the influencing factors for or against our children are not limited to the ones listed above, but at times the great or pathetic ambitions of a child is largely the fault of his parents. If a child who is born, who learns how to walk, then enters education, graduates, finds work, marries, reproduces and then reclines on his deathbed, leaving no Islamic impression behind him, was to blame his parents for his lack of aspirations for the hereafter, in many cases, they would be justified. In fact, according to Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, in the majority of cases, it is the fault of the parent. He said:
فَمن أهمل تَعْلِيم وَلَده مَا يَنْفَعهُ وَتَركه سدى فقد أَسَاءَ إِلَيْهِ غَايَة الْإِسَاءَة وَأكْثر الْأَوْلَاد إِنَّمَا جَاءَ فسادهم من قبل الْآبَاء وإهمالهم لَهُم وَترك تعليمهم فَرَائض الدّين وسننه فأضاعوهم صغَارًا فَلم ينتفعوا بِأَنْفسِهِم وَلم ينفعوا آبَاءَهُم كبارًا
“Whoever fails to teach his children what benefits them and neglects them, then such a parent has severely mistreated them, for the majority of corrupt children are such because of parents who did not teach them the religion. Thus because of their neglect of them when they were young, these children become of no use to themselves or their parents when they become old.” 
In light of recent happenings in the UK and indeed worldwide, the unmissable reality that is unfolding before our very eyes today states that if I as a father/mother do not plan for my children, then, whether I realise it or not, I have in fact handed over my children for the plans of others.
There was a fascinating study conducted on the 1979 Harvard MBA programme where graduate students were asked “have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The result: only 3% had written goals and plans, 13% had goals but they weren’t in writing and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again, and the result was absolutely mind-blowing. The 13% of the class who had goals but did not write them down was earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined.
The planning I speak of today however isn’t for our children’s wages, but for the fulfilment of an Amānah—a trust—which we are going to be harshly interrogated about should we fail to plan for our children.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ
“O you who believe! Protect yourselves and your families against a Fire whose fuel is men and stones…”
How does one do that? ʿAli Ibn Abi Tālib said in its explanation:
أَدِّبُوهُمْ وَعَلِّمُوهُمْ/ “It means nurture manners within them and educate them.”
The burning question, therefore, is: Where does one start when planning for his/her children? The answer is, according to Islām, before they are even born.
(a) It begins when choosing your spouse
As wakeful Muslims, our planning for their hereafter starts before they hit the age of puberty, before they start walking, and even before they are even born. It starts when choosing their very mother/father. Selfish spouse-choosing that’s based purely upon your own needs is a betrayal of the rights of your progeny, for their future is largely dependent upon the choices you now make.
About men, the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
إِذَا جَاءَكُمْ مَنْ تَرْضَوْنَ دِينَهُ وَخُلُقَهُ فَأَنْكِحُوهُ
“If you are approached by a person of good Dīn and manners, wishing to marry your daughter, then marry him to her.”
Similarly, about women, the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
تُنْكَحُ المَرْأَةُ لأَرْبَعٍ : لِمَالِهَا ، وَلِحَسَبِهَا ، وَلِجَمَالِهَا ، وَلِدِينِهَا ، فَاظْفَرْ بِذاتِ الدِّينِ تَربَتْ يَدَاك
“Women are usually married for their wealth, lineage, beauty and Dīn (religious commitment). So choose the one who is religiously-committed, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e. may you prosper).”
But consider the majority of relationships that ended up in marriage, were they formed from the outset upon this basis? Or was it premarital extensive conversation, dating perhaps, and things that they both would later regret, and so they decide to remedy the issue by getting married. Whilst it is positive that they eventually realised their misdoings, as you can see, the concern of children and planning for their future didn’t start at that point, rather, it was completely ignored. Sadly, this episode repeats itself time and time again, and the victim is, every single time, the children, as well as Islām which continues to wait for that generation of youth who will support it.
On this note, some have noted that in the majority of cases where revivers and reformers are formed, their greatness can be attributed directly to their mothers, for indeed, one of the most knowledgeable of Allāh’s creation with respect to the mastery of Tarbiya/nurturing and the art of greatness-formation is the mother.
Consider the companion, al-Zubair Ibn al-ʿAwwām. He is but a seed that was planted by his mother, Safiyya Bint ʿAbd al-Muttalib and an accurate reflection of her.
Consider the companion ʿAbd Allāh Ibn Jaʿfar, the leader of the generous, the noblest of youth amidst the Arabs and the last from the tribe of Hāshim to see the Prophet Muhammad (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam), his father was martyred in the battle of Muʿta, and so it was his mother—Asmā Bint ʿUmais—who developed him.
Consider the companion, Muʿāwiya Ibn Abi Sufyān, the mastermind of a leader and scribe of the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam). The traits of his mother, Hind Bint ʿUtbah, were obvious within him. In fact when he was still a child and she heard someone say:
إن عاش معاوية ساد قومه
“If he goes on to become a man, he will lead his community.”
ثكلتُه إن لم يسدْ إلا قومَه
“May I lose him if he will only lead his people!”
And when needing to identify himself, he would proclaim: “I am the son of Hind!”
Consider ʿAbd al-Rahmān al-Nāsir who marched into al-Andalus during a period of turmoil and chaos, and managed to restore its order, until it became the capital of knowledge, civilisation and enlightenment. In fact, his troops would continue advancing until they’d reached the heart of France, parts of Switzerland and parts of Italy. What was the secret behind ʿAbd al-Rahmān, considering that his father and uncle were killed when he was a child? It was his mother.
Consider Sufyān al-Thawri, the “Leader of the Believers in Hadīth” who, too, was but a seed which his mother had planted and nurtured. She would say to him:
يا بني، اطلُبِ العلم وأنا أكفيك بمغزلي
“My son, pursue knowledge and I’ll finance you through my weaving.”
Yes, it starts as early as choosing your children’s parent. But it does not stop there.
(b) Ensure that you are a person of righteousness and repentance
Do we worry enough about the religious commitment of our children? The assurance of their Dīn is intertwined with ours. When the Prophet Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) saw al-Khidr repairing a wall, which belonged to a miserly community who refused to host them, he asked him why he did that despite their inhospitality. The response of al-Khidr was:
وَأَمَّا الْجِدَارُ فَكَانَ لِغُلَامَيْنِ يَتِيمَيْنِ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ وَكَانَ تَحْتَهُ كَنْزٌ لَهُمَا وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا صَالِحًا
“And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town; and there was under it a treasure belonging to them; and their father was a righteous man, and your Lord intended that they should attain their age of full strength and take out their treasure as a mercy from your Lord…”
Allāh preserved the treasure of these two orphans because of the righteousness of their father. And thus, Ibn Kathīr comments:
فِيهِ دَلِيل عَلَى أَنَّ الرَّجُل الصَّالِح يُحْفَظ فِي ذُرِّيَّته وَتَشْمَل بَرَكَة عِبَادَته لَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَة
“This is evidence that a righteous person will be preserved with regards to his offspring and the blessings of his worship will benefit them in this world and the next.”
This is also why Saʿīd b. Musayyib would say to his son:
والله إني لأتذكرك فأزيد في صلاتي من أجل صلاحك
“By Allāh, I remember you at times which pushes me to pray extra prayers for the sake of your righteousness.”
Revise your private doings, rethink your secret conversations, reconsider your sources of finance, reassess your commitment to the five daily prayers and the pillars of Islām in general, and realise that your righteousness is certainly linked to theirs. Be the righteous person whom you wish to see in your children and watch how Allāh’s protection of them will arrive.
Look at how early the raising of effective Muslims begins. But it doesn’t stop there. The couple are married and even before matrimonial relations, the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) has advice to give with the Islamic-health of the future children in mind.
(c) Before matrimonial relations
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said:
لَوْ أنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ إِذَا أتَى أهْلَهُ قَالَ : بِسْمِ الله اللَّهُمَّ جَنِّبْنَا الشَّيْطَانَ وَجَنِّبِ الشَّيْطَانَ مَا رَزَقْتَنَا فَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمَا وَلَدٌ لَمْ يَضُرَّهُ
“When one of you approaches his wife [for relations], let him say: ‘In the name of Allāh. O Allāh, keep the Shaytan away from us & from what You bestow upon us.’ Then if it is decreed that they should have a child, the Shaytan will not harm him.”
Never mind nurturing that starts at the age of five or six, the Prophet Muhammad (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) has issued guidance for before their very existence to ensure an eventual red-carpet entrance into the world, an entrance of Islām, righteousness and identity.
Now that pregnancy is underway, what next? The nurturing continues.
(d) The Duʿā intensifies
A milestone inspired by the mother of Mariam who, when pregnant, said to Allāh:
رَبِّ إِنِّي نَذَرْتُ لَكَ مَا فِي بَطْنِي مُحَرَّرًا فَتَقَبَّلْ مِنِّي إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
“My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, entirely for You, so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.”
A milestone that was acted upon by the Prophet Zakaria (ʿalayhi al-Salām) who said:
رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِن لَّدُنكَ ذُرِّيَّةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ إِنَّكَ سَمِيعُ الدُّعَاء
“My Lord! Grant me, from you, a good offspring. You are indeed the hearer of duʿa”
A milestone that was acted upon by the Prophet Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām):
رَبِّ اجْعَلْنِي مُقِيمَ الصَّلَاةِ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي رَبَّنَا وَتَقَبَّلْ دُعَاء
“My Lord, make me an establisher of prayer, and from my descendants. Our Lord, and accept my Duʿā.”
And when he was informed by Allāh that he will be an Imām for all people, what was the first matter that crossed the mind of Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām)? Consider his response:
قَالَ وَمِنْ ذُرِّيَّتِي / “He said: ‘And from my offspring…’”
Now that the nine months of pregnancy have elapsed and the child emerges, again, the parent isn’t left without instruction.
(e) The Adhān (call to prayer)
The Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) had guided the parent to gently recite the Adhān within the ear of the child. The very first words, therefore, that the child hears in life are:
“Allāhu Akbar” / “Allāh is the greatest” – This is, O child, your ultimate priority.
“Ashhadu An Lā Ilāha illa Allāh” / “I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allāh.” – This is, O child, Tawhīd and it is your way of life.
“Ashhadu Anna Muhammadan Rasūl Allāh” / “I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allāh.” – He is, O child, your role model and guide in life.
“Hayya ʿAla al-Salāh” / “Come to prayer” – You are, O child, a worshipper of Allāh.
“Hayya ʿAla al-Falāh” / “Come to success” – This is, O child, the meaning of success.
Remarkable care for the nurturing of Islām within children from the very outset. Now that the child has been born, washed and taken home, the planning continues and prophetic guidance is still rich. What next?
(f) Name choosing
Since the name of a person may influence who he aspires to be in life, the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) has given precise instructions in this regard as well. He said:
تَسَمَّوْا بِأَسْمَاءِ الأَنْبِيَاءِ ، وَأَحَبُّ الأَسْمَاءِ إِلَى اللَّهِ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ وَعَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ وَأَصْدَقُهَا حَارِثٌ وَهَمَّامٌ وَأَقْبَحُهَا حَرْبٌ وَمُرَّةُ
“Give your children the names of Prophets, and the most beloved of names to Allāh are ʿAbd Allāh (the slave of Allāh) and ʿAbd al-Rahmān (the slave of al-Rahmān), and the most truthful names are Hārith and Hammām (names that denote our constant state of work), and the worst are Harb (war) and Murrah (bitterness).”
He was the first to practice what he preached and so he named one of his boys ʿAbd Allāh and another named Ibrāhīm and gave the same name to Abu Mūsā al-Ashʿari’s son. Not only that, he’d actively change names that had negative meanings.
A person was named Ghāwi (astray), and so he changed his name to Rashid (wise).
Another was named Dhālim (oppressor), and so he changed it to Muqsit (just).
Another was named ʿĀsi (sinner), and so he changed it to Jamīl (beautiful).
Another was named Barra (pious), and so he changed it to Zaynab (a scented plant).
In fact, so keen was he to train leadership from a young age that he’d give nicknames to children. He gave Anas Ibn Mālik’s younger brother the nickname of Abu ʿUmair (father of ʿUmair), and gave a young girl who came with her mother to Madina from Abyssinia the nickname of Umm Khālid (mother of Khālid).
As they grow older, the theme continues as parents are guided to instruct them to pray at the age of seven and to discipline them for it at the age of ten. Yes, it starts that early.
As we see, therefore, there are precise instructions for each and every phase in the life of a child so as to ensure that Islām is intertwined with their very flesh, blood, bones and nerves. It’s not merely about safeguarding them from Fitnah, but also to carve out from them visionaries, reformers and game changers in the lives of people. Clearly, however, for this to be achieved, planning must start much earlier than we may have thought.
As Imam Ibn Hazm would say:
قلما رأيت أمرا أمكن فضيع إلا فات
“In my observations, very rarely have I seen a matter which could have been accomplished but is then ignored except that the opportunity never comes back.”
Thus planning has to start from now. If you are married, go back to your spouse and put together a 10-year plan for your child. If you aren’t sure where to begin, consult someone whom your trust. ‘How do I put together a plan for my child?’ This question is imperative because your child’s life, if he is practicing, will be an extension to yours.
 From his book, Tuhfatul Mawdūd
 Al-Qur’ān, 66:6
 Tafsīr Ibnu Kathīr
 Narrated by At-Tirmithi in his ‘Sunan’ and others, on the authority of Abū Hātim Al-Muzani
 Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Muhammad Ismāʿīl Al-Muqaddim
 Al-Qur’ān, 18:82
 Al-Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Ibnu ʿAbbās
 Al-Qur’ān, 3:35
 Al-Qur’ān, 3:38
 Al-Qur’ān, 14:40
 Al-Qur’ān, 2:124
 As AtTirmidhi narrated on the authority of Abu Rāfi’ who saw the Prophet (sallAllāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) giving Adhān within the ear of Al-Hasan after his mother, Fatima, delivered him
 Abu Dāwūd, on the authority of Abu Wahb Al-Jushami
 Abu Dāwūd, on the authority of ʿAmr Ibnu Shuʿaib who narrated from his father who narrated from his grandfather
 Mudāwātun Nufūs, Ibnu Hazm
Shaykh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is Islam21c’s Tarbiya Editor. A UK national of Palestinian origin, he gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari’ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Shaykh Ali is the author of several books including ‘The Daily Revivals’, ‘The Ten Lanterns’ and ‘The Friday Reminder’. He delivers sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.