In al-Qur’an the believers are ordered to save themselves and their families from Hellfire which is fueled by people and stones.
يا أيها الذين ءامنوا قوا أنفسكم وأهليكم نارا وقودها الناس والحجارة
When explaining this ayah our Master ^Aliyy said, “Learn and teach your families the good”, meaning the knowledge of the religion.
Dear Muslim brothers, it is an obligation upon us to learn the rules of our religion and to teach our children what they need among these rules. Equipping yourself, family, and children with the knowledge of the religion protects you and them from the torture in the hereafter. Our honorable Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم told us about the importance of the role that the parents and the teacher play in raising a child, and the great responsibility of those who are looking after other people, when he said what means: All of you have responsibilities and you will be asked about fulfilling your obligations towards those whom you are responsible for.
Fellow Muslims, raising children according to sound Islamic principles is among the greatest and most important matters that the religion instructed us to do. This is essential for them to become successful and active pious members in a society, where they will bid the lawful and forbid the unlawful, resulting in a safe and just society. This success is reached if they are taught the creed of Islam, its mannerisms, rules, and behaviors. Children are a trust in their parents’ guard, so when raising a child, one should instill in him the noble manners and make him accustomed to be truthful and not tell lies. They should train him to protect the tongue and not to filthy it with gossip, tale-bearing, cursing, damning, or dishonoring muslims. The child is influenced by his parents. If he sees them doing good, then he follows in their footsteps and likes it; on the other hand if he sees them doing sins then he will most likely follow them, and grows up like that, then it will be hard for him to change later on when he gets older. This is why the child should be raised accustomed to the noble mannerisms and habits. The most important things which should be taught to the child are the issues pertaining to the Islamic belief and knowing the attributes of Allah and knowing the Prophet. The companion Jundub ibn ^Abdillah, said that when they were young close to becoming pubescent they learned from the Prophet the matters of belief before learning al-Qur’an, then when they learned al-Qur’an their faith increased. The scholar عبد الرحمن بن الجوزي said that the first thing presented to the child should be a brief introduction in the creed that mentions the proof for the correct belief in Allah and what is necessary to know among the matters of the creed. Then the child is taught the obligations, instructed to memorize Qur’an and listen to hadith. This is why priority is given to matters pertaining to the creed in the Islamic education. Mosques were the first places in which children learned the creed, Qur’an, hadith, obligations, prohibitions, and manners. Other schools also focused on teaching Islamic beliefs and equipping its students against straying and misguidance.
Among the most important matters that محمد, the Prophet of guidance, instructed us to do is ordering our kids with the prayer and teaching them how to do it properly after the completion of seven lunar years. In verse 132 of Surat Taha, the one in charge of the family is instructed to order his family to perform the prayer. Also in the honorable hadith narrated by Abu Dawud the Prophet instructed us to order the children to pray when they complete seven lunar years, and to hit them for neglecting to do so when they complete ten. If children have mental discrimination they should be trained to perform this great worship, which is the best deed after having the proper belief in Allah and in His messenger. If the guardian is unable to teach the child, he delegates this responsibility to a knowledgeable God-Fearing person who would then teach and discipline the child.
As for secular subjects like math, medicine, engineering, and professions like carpentry, Islam has made it a communal obligation to learn these matters. But since Islamic knowledge, and especially the knowledge of the creed, is the best knowledge, the most deserving of being acquired, and what saves one from the severe torture in the hereafter, then it should be the major focus in the education of a child.
The Muslim scholars divided acquiring knowledge into a personal obligation and a communal obligation. Every accountable individual needs to know the personal obligatory knowledge which includes matters of the belief like clearing Allah from being in a place or having a similar. It also includes clearing the prophets from attributes that do not befit them such as lying and dishonesty; it includes matters pertaining to prayer, fasting, and dealings. The communal obligation is that which if some muslims do it then the rest are not obligated to do it. Thus it is not an obligation on every individual Muslim to be an engineer or a doctor, rather it is a communal obligation. Keep in mind that many famous doctors, mathematicians, engineers and the like who emerged from among the Muslims were also Islamic scholars; this shows that learning the Islamic knowledge and studying it deeply does not cause one’s mental capacity to decrease nor does it result in one’s mind becoming dull, as the enemies of Islam falsely claim.
Fellow Muslims, it is important to know that the matters children learn from specialists in schools these days should be in compliance with the Islamic beliefs and rules; however, and unfortunately, most schools do not take care of teaching kids the proper knowledge nor do they exert effort to protect the child from the misguidance and the invalid information found in many books. To the contrary the child these days is taught many of these wrong things in schools from unqualified teachers. A teacher has a big responsibility in teaching the next generation and raising it well; hence, parents need to be careful in choosing fitting schools and teachers for their kids. Ash-shaykh Mustafa Naja, may Allah have mercy on him, Beirut’s previous muftiyy, said that the child’s heart before puberty is void of distractions so whatever you occupy him with will become well-rooted in him and there will be no space left for other matters; like a container, when it is filled with something there is no space for other things; the child is like a mirror reflecting the one in charge of his upbringing. If that caretaker was an upright pious person then the child will usually be as such; but if the caretaker had a description contrary to what we mentioned then the child grows up usually corrupt, negligent and ruining both his life and his hereafter; he would be a hardship that befell his family and the society.
Fellow Muslim, whether you are a father or a teacher, strive to be on the guided straight path when raising children or teaching students. Endeavor that they stay on the path of truth and guidance. Be steadfast to the religion so that they too would grow up being firm on it adhering to its teachings.
May Allah grant us a pious offspring and protect us and them from hellfire.