Islam means submission to God and a Muslim is one who submits
to God. Islam is a complete code of life. It tells about the purpose
of the creation and existence of the human race, its ultimate
destiny, its place among other creatures, and more importantly,
provides it with guidance to lead a purposeful life aimed towards
its success in the life hereafter. The Islamic way of life is
based on total obedience to Allah. the proper name of God.
Marriage is the basis of family life in Islam, where husband
and wife are equal partners and play their part in their respective
fields. The family is an important unit in the Islamic social
system because of its role in the perpetuation of the faith. Its
basic functions are child-bearing, child-rearing and upbringing
in the right path of Islam. The type of environment prevailing
in a family provides opportunities for the education, orientation,
character-building and gradual initiation of children into religion
and culture. It is because of these responsibilities that family
care becomes a full-time job. In the early Islamic era, these
functions were mostly carried out within the family. with the
parents taking a dominant role, but in modern society, some of
these have been taken over by the nursery, school and other institutions,
while some have been taken over by the community at large.
With this dichotomy. some of the roles of the family have been
partially taken over or neglected in their full scope (example:
moral training in the schools is based on secular, but not religious
principles) and the development of the integrated personality
of the child has failed to emerge. A successful family is the
one which is alert to such changes and takes effective measures
to converge all possible influences and bridges the gaps for the
evolution of a well-balanced Islamic personality in the children.
Where this leadership fails to materialise, the family disintegrates
and children go astray and become a menace to society. Thus the
effective role of the family is paramount for the cultural development
There is an important hadith (tradition) of Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) which states that every child is born in the
din al fitrah (natural religion of Islam) and that it is its parents
who transform it to another religion. This means that a newly-born
child is innocent and sinless unless home influences lead him
elsewhere. Immediately after birth, two simple family ceremonies
confirm the arrival of the newlyborn into the fold of Islam. These
are the soft chanting of the text of the adhan (call to prayer)
and aqiqah (sacrifice); these are followed by the bestowing of
a Muslim name. Muslims are enjoined by the Holy Qur’an (42:49-50)
to accept the birth of a child wholeheartedly whatever the sex
of the baby, for each individual soul is precious in the Plan
of Allah and the variations of a male or female child, besides
their reactions on parents and on society have a purpose to fulfil
in Allah’s large plan.
The key role in the proper development of the family is played
by the mother. Whereas the father is obliged to run about in search
of a living and attend to the demand of employment and work, the
mother exclusively devotes herself to the family. She runs and
rules the homely world and looks after its physical. emotional,
educational and other needs. ‘Through mutual understanding and
the realisation that God has placed on each other’s shoulders,
the Muslim husband and wife are able to fulfil their personal
lives and create a firm family unit’ (S. N. Nasr. Ideals and Realities
of Islam, G. Allen and Unwin 1966. reprinted 1972).
The first few years in the life of a child are crucial. The child
is breast-fed for two whole years (Al-Qur’an 2:233) and by growth
and using the senses becomes able to identify near relations.
The child appreciates the love, kindness and support received
in a harmonious environment and is as eager to learn more. The
Prophet has said: ‘Of all that a father can give to his children,
the best is their good education and train- ing’, On another occasion,
addressing the parents, he remarked, ‘Give them a good education
and training. treat them with kindness till Allah makes them stand
on their own feet. By Allah’s grace, you have earned for yourselves
a place in Paradise’. These injunctions clearly show that it is
the duty of parents to train their children with the fundamentals
of Islam at home through their own exemplary behaviour and at
the madrassa (Qur’an School) attached to the local mosque for
a formal education.
The parents have to show through their daily routines that they
themselves are true followers of Islam. They exhibit their love
and obedience to Allah by practising the teachings of the Prophet
(peace be upon him). They lead a life which is righteous. It is
not material or monetary wealth or origin of race that matters,
but the commitment to Allah in one’s lifetime. As true devotees
of Allah. the parents have to produce and maintain an Islamic
atmosphere within the home. Their thoughts and actions should
reveal the following for the children to learn and imitate:
1. Total belief in the unity of Allah and in Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) as His messenger.
2. Offering five ritual prayers punctually at the prescribed
3. Observing fasts during the month of Ramadan with total commitment.
4. Giving out a small portion of their savings as charity for
the welfare of the poorer section of the Community.
5. Performing a pilgrimage to the Ka’ba at Makka at least once
in a life-time.
In addition to the above, social habits like exhibiting decency,
humility. forgiveness. justice. fair play. kindness, love, service
to the needy. honouring promises made, good relations with the
neighbours and respect for parents. teachers and elders are most
respected qualities of Muslims. Other habits to be inculcated
among the children are personal hygiene, observing dietary regulations
(certain foods and drinks are forbidden), and wearing decent dresses:
whilst free mixing of grown up boys and girls, and sex before
marriage are illegal in Islam, and total abstinence from gambling
and intoxicants (drugs) is required.
A mosque occupies a pivotal place in Muslim life. It is not only
to be regarded as a respected centre of worship, but with additional
facilities, it can serve as a hub of Islamic and social activities.
Parents should come to the mosque with the whole family as often
as they can for ritual prayers, Islamic and Arabic instructions
and educational and social activities. The imam and elders of
the community instruct the children in the various practices of
Islam and provide tafsir (commentary) on the Holy Qur’an and Hadith
particularly on their relevance to the modern times. Mosques are
also important for the Salat al-jum’ah (congregational prayers)
on Fridays when Muslims assemble to hear a Khutba (sermon) on
religious issues from the imam before the prayer service.
Muslim festivals have a special significance to the Muslims.
They are occasions of joy and happiness and are held to seek the
pleasure of Allah. The two special days are Id al-fitr and Id
al-adha. The former marks the end of the Ramadan fasts and the
latter is observed on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Dhul
Hijjah, when pilgrims have gathered at the holy places around
Makka. The celebration of these and other festivals show to the
children the vastness of the Islamic brotherhood that spans the
whole world. At the local level, congregational prayer-services
are held at the mosques and relatives and friends share the joys
of these festivals.
In conclusion, Muslim children form a link in the Islamic social
order. Their nurture is based on the high values and ideals of
Islam, which, as we have seen, has prescribed rules and regulations
on acts of worship, mode of behaviour, community life, food and
dress with a sense of responsibility prevailing at every turn.
“They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right,
and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all)
good works; they are in the ranks of the righteous”. (Al-Qur’an
Quotations are from Pickthall, Muhammad M. The Meaning of the
Glorious Qur’an (1930) and Ali, A. Y. The Holy Qur’an (1934).
Readers may also find it helpful to consult Ahmed, K., Family
Life in Islam, Islamic Foundation (1979, reprinted 1980, 1981).