No one has ever said that being a parent is easy! From the moment we look into those tiny faces, love our children unconditionally and take them home with the intention of being the best parents in the world, the trials begin.
For a time it is a matter of looking after their immediate physical needs, and these of course can be very challenging. However, as they grow they give us pleasure along with any pain that may be part of it all. And we vow that we will bring them up in the way that they should go. Was it not Solomon who said, “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” [Prov.22:6]?
I often wondered about that as I looked around the world, and eventually came to the conclusion that what Solomon was saying was not that they will never depart from parental training, but when old or older, will choose to return to those teachings. This thought should be very encouraging to many parents who are experiencing problems.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule and, Qur’anically, we see the case of the faithful parents recorded in Surah Al Kahf during the journey of Moses (a) and Al Khidr (a). In the same Surah we find the story of the young Christian men of faith whose lives were protected.
So training of our children starts very early and with love. We gently teach what is right or wrong; harmful or helpful. However, it is not easy when we look into those innocent eyes and have to say, “Come, we are going right back to the shop and paying for this item. Stealing is wrong!”
Let me tell you that it is not just small children that need to be chastened. My grandfather told me of how he and his brother had to learn a very hard lesson when they were in their late teens, which was at the turn of the 19th century.
They lived on a property miles away from other similar properties. On this particular occasion my grandfather and his brother had been invited to a neighbouring property to play tennis and to have lunch. To get to this property they had to leave at the crack of dawn, riding their horses for several hours. They had an enjoyable time and were in high spirits when they left at 4 pm to ride home again.
On the way, while it was still light, they found a brand new axe lying on the track. Without thinking they picked it up and took it with them. It was 9 pm when they arrived back home and great-grandfather was waiting for them in the stable with a lantern. As they tethered their horses he noticed the axe. “Who gave you the axe?” he asked. “We found it on the track!” was the reply.
Until that point they had thought nothing of it, but as they looked at their father’s face they realized. “You will take two more horses and return that axe to the exact spot where you found it!” To their credit they didn’t argue but as they were saddling to ride back to where they had found the axe, they heard their father say: “There is nothing free in this world. Someone has had to pay for that axe, and as you have not paid for it, it does not belong to you!”
As my grandfather related to me, it was almost dawn by the time they returned after replacing the axe on the track, and, as he said, “We didn’t go to bed, we had to go straight to work.” A hard lesson! Although I was only six years of age when he told me about it, I can still see the pride in his face as he spoke with reverence of his father.
My family were not Muslim but they had a code of ethics that were indeed Islamic, and I think of the Qur’anic text which says: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin…” Qur’an 4:135. To do this: to stand for justice, truth and honest dealings when it is against those whom you love is something which takes immense courage.
Whether it is against ourselves, our children, our family, or our community, we have to assess honestly as part of our Islamic heritage.
There is pain associated with this. But considering that justice and truth are intertwined what is the alternative?