Family is the first place where values and character of a person are shaped. Family is also the place where we devote our love and affection to one another, filling our souls with serenity and peace. There is no doubt about the important role a father plays in a family. So much so that in Surah at-Tahrim, Allah (s.w.t.) encourages the believers to protect and guide his family members from committing sins. Allah (s.w.t.) says
Which means: “O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a fire.“
“Protecting our families from the fire”, means to offer them continuous guidance. Our children need our guidance, caring advice and parental support that will allow them to tread the path that pleases Allah (s.w.t.). The obligation of being a father does not simply rest with ensuring that the children have enough food, drink, clothing, money, and education.
Let us observe the advice given by the Prophet (s.a.w.) regarding the most precious gift that a father can give to his child. The Prophet said in a hadith narrated by Imam at-Tirmizi: “There is no better gift, from a father to his child, other than good manners.”
Fathers play an important role in their child’s development. Like mothers, their involvement in their child’s life ensures that their child has a holistic and wholesome upbringing. Prophet Ibrahim a.s. became a father at a very late age, and was delighted at the gift of fatherhood which Allah s.w.t had bestowed upon him. Despite this age gap, Prophet Ibrahim a.s. showed interest in his son’s viewpoint when he told his son of Allah s.w.t’s decree to the sacrifice.
“O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.”
(Surah As-Saffat [37:102])
Such was the care and concern displayed by Prophet Ibrahim a.s. for not only his children, but also for his future descendants. In another verse, Prophet Ibrahim a.s made supplications with his child after serving Allah s.w.t in raising the foundations of the Kaabah.
“Our Lord, and make us Muslims that submit to You, and from our descendants a community that submits to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are Ever-Accepting of our repentance, the Most Merciful.”
(Surah al-Baqarah [2:128])
Prophet Ya’qub a.s. had twelve sons and amongst the youngest was Prophet Yusuf a.s. whom Prophet Ya’qub a.s nurtured a close bond with. This bond developed a comfortable environment for both of them to communicate. Prophet Yusuf a.s did not hesitate to share his vivid dream with his father and in turn, Prophet Ya’qub a.s. took the role of an active listener. How this young child was so willing to divulge all aspects of his dream showed us that their communication prospered with trust and respect.
Prophet Ya’qub a.s. understood the different personalities of his sons, and gave clear advice to his young child not to disclose the dream. While doing so, he made sure not to pit Prophet Yusuf a.s. against his brothers and reminded him that humankind is susceptible to the deceitful whispers of Satan.
“He said, “O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers or they will contrive against you a plan. Indeed Satan, to man, is a manifest enemy.”
(Surah Yusuf [12:5])
When it comes to striving to be a better Muslim, there’s no better role model to look to than the Prophet Muhammad himself. The Prophet is the exemplar for Muslims to look up to, both in his words and his deeds. During his lifetime the Prophet filled many roles in his community, and one such role that was very dear to him was that of being a father.
The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was never shy to show respect and love for his daughter Fatimah r.a. even in the presence of others. This display of deep affection and respect would rub off on Fatimah r.a. and she would emulate the Prophet’s gestures. Aisyah r.a. once said, “I did not see anyone who more resembled the Messenger of Allah, s.a.w, in the manner of speaking than Fatimah. When she came to him, he stood up for her, made her welcome, kissed her and had her sit in his place. When the Prophet came to her, she stood up for him, took his hand, made him welcome, kissed him, and made him sit in her place. She came to him during his last illness and he greeted her and kissed her.”
This was an inseparable connection between father and daughter which lasted a lifetime for others to learn and emulate from.
As men we set an important precedent in the home. By loving our wives and treating them with compassion and mercy those qualities will fall into the hearts of our children. It is well known that children will react the way their parents react. The child is a reflection of the parental shadow. Show the mercy and love towards women and this will represent a baton passed from father to son.
Let us ponder upon how we are going to ask this Question. Fathers, do you keep your appointments and promises with your children? Do you exercise as much effort to be with them as, say, with your friends or business appointments? Are we the same behind closed doors as we are in public? What type of image are we showing in-front of our children? It is important to have one face as best we can. Nothing shatters the heart of a child then parental inconsistencies. Let us keep our promises and stick to a positive behavior pattern at all time.
Make a schedule and spend at least an hour a day with your kids. Believe me, God willing; it will make all difference in the world. A lot of important things can be discussed while throwing a foot-ball, playing hoops, board games, or taking a short walk or trip to the park. While you’re with your kids turn off your hand-phone and lose yourself in their world.
Keep notes of your conversations and listen attentively. Offer feedback, sincere advice to them and surprise them at times with pats on the back, hugs and small notes of appreciation. Find out what your child likes to do and do it with them.
We, as men, can make or break our children. It is important to avoid harsh words and over inflated perceptions of our children. Instead, let’s advice them, praise them and nurture their growth.
Our children build their worth from our words and actions. Avoid being negative and saying: ‘you always do things wrong’. Such words are like bricks that lay the foundation of our future men and women. It is important to give them support and love. Allah describes noble words as ‘a good tree’.
Thus, our good words and advises will plant the seeds that will sprout into worthy adults and noble citizens. As a father it is easy to push one’s opinions on the household. However, it is not necessarily the most fruitful method. Talking and listening to others will further allow them to feel that you truly respect them and value their thoughts and ideas. In addition, it will increase their self-worth and guide them towards the important qualities of listening, sharing and offering input.
Gain a deeper understanding of the challenges of our children’s lives and their development. A caring father would always ask about the development of their children and would not let the responsibilities shouldered by his wife or the school.
Remember that it’s their future. We should allow our children to express and discover their own personalities and offer guidance when needed. An important rule to remember is:
‘Be and advisor, not a supervisor’. Parents should not be afraid to trust or rely on their children according to their capabilities. A child yearns to be trusted, and a good way a parent may illustrate their trust is to make them a part of family decisions. By asking for their opinions and including them in important discussions, a child will feel that they are an important part of the family unit which can pave the way to strengthening family ties.
Making supplications or dua for your children is also the prophetic way. It is reported that aparent’s supplications for one’s children are not rejected by Allah s.w.t.