I still vividly remember the first night I spent by myself in the hospital after delivering my eldest son Shaan. The guests were gone for the day, the hallway lights were dimmed, the nurses were speaking outside my room in muted tones.
“Knock, knock!” came a cheerful voice from the doorway. “Someone’s hungry and wants his mommy!”
The nurse wheeled in the crib that held my newborn, only a few hours old at the time. She cooed over him as I struggled to sit up, then efficiently handed him into my waiting arms, bustling out of the room after giving me a few words of encouragement.
I pulled the blanket away from his cheek and smiled in awe at this fragile, little creature who was being left alone with me for the first time ever. I felt privileged to be trusted with his care, overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility. No one was watching over my shoulder; he was all mine and I could do whatever I wanted.
I felt it was an appropriate time to take care of something that no one had thought of arranging so far — introductions.
“Assalaamu alaikum,” I whispered to the warm bundle nestled against my chest, “I’m your mommy.” I stroked his face and then asked the rhetorical question that every mother has asked since time immemorial. “Now…how am I going to raise you?”
It’s a question that I have continued to ask since that first magical night in the maternity ward.
I’ve asked it of grandparents, parents, sons, and daughters. I’ve asked it of Pakistanis, Indians, Afghans, Arabs, Americans, Asians, and Africans. I’ve sat people down at parties, emailed friends’ parents, called up aunties on the telephone, and stopped uncles on their way out the door. Any family whose practice of Islam has impressed me, any child whose manners have stunned me, any teenager whose conduct with his or her sibling has given me reason for pause, any adult whose balance of deen (religion) and dunya (world) has wowed me, I have accosted and asked,
“What exactly did your parents do with you?!”
“How did you raise your children?!”
“I beg you, tell me the secret of bringing up Mu’mineen like the ones I see in your home!”
What I have found in my years of “field research” is that nearly all of these families have stumbled upon the same basic secrets to success. While many of them don’t necessarily know one another, time and time again they have given me the same advice, the same tips, the same rules. I would catalogue their stories in my head, thinking I could easily remember them later. So when I was recently approached with the request for an article on Muslim parenting tips, I jumped at the chance to put it all down in writing and thus preserve the valuable insights I have gathered over the course of the past twelve years or so.
Here then, for my benefit and yours, are the tips from the “experts”, the tried-and-true heroes who have worked hard at (and, insha’Allah, succeeded at) securing their children’s minds, hearts, and souls. These words come from those parents — like you — whose primary purpose in life has been to direct their sons and daughters onto the Path they believe will earn them the Pleasure of their Creator and the respect of their fellow human beings. Some of the advice may seem “common sense”, the type you could hear on any daytime talk show or read in any self-help book. Other tips genuinely surprised me at how specific and unyielding they were in their insistence that “This is the only way”. While there has been a whole variety of advice given to me, I have noticed a pattern emerging where the same ten “Rules of the Game” seem to keep reappearing in different shapes and forms; it is those dominant tips that I have chosen to focus on for the purpose of my article.
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