June 30, 2011

A Mother's Milk: Protecting Breastfeeding with The International Code and the Baby Friendly Initiative

I remember laying in the recovery room shortly after giving birth to my son. My newborn lay sleeping in his hospital bassinet parked next to my bed. I was pleased by the brief update the nurse gave me just minutes before. She told me that while my son was at the nursery, she filled the drawers of his bassinet with everything that I would need to care for him over the next couple of days during my stay on the ward. The best part of the news: it was all free.

Excited, I quietly began opening each drawer of the bassinet to peek at all the free goodies. The first drawer held baby blankets, head caps, diapers, and a diaper bag. YAY! The second drawer had bottles of baby body wash, shampoo, and soft towels to bathe him with. YAY, YAY! When I got to the third drawer, I almost couldn't get it open. When I finally did, my excitement quickly turned to disappointment as I realized the drawer was packed full to the rim with tins of formula.

Didn't she read my birth plan?! It very clearly stated that I planned to exclusively breastfed my babe and at no point did I want breastmilk substitutes being offered to us. How could she have missed it? It was highlighted in RED!

The next time the nurse came in to refill the drawers, I told her not to bother adding more formula bottles because I was a breastfeeding mom. I even asked her to remove the ones that were already there. She politely refused and said the contents were standard for all hospital bassinets. Confused as to why formula bottles would be standard, I just said "okay" and spent the rest of my stay pretending that the third drawer didn't exist.

What I know now, is that hospital practices like these, and others, are done because formula companies spend BIG BUCKS to have health care workers help them market their products. According to the International Baby Food Action Network, the sale of artificial baby milk is a $13 BILLION a year industry. And what better way to market a product for new moms and babies than through their own doctor's hands? The saddest part of all this is that these practices actually contribute to greater risk of infant disease and death around the world and are in blatant violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

What is The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes?
The code is a global health effort to protect breastfeeding that was adopted in 1981 by The World Health Assembly and UNICEF. It does not ban infant formula or baby foods, or punish those who bottle feed. It simply regulates the marketing practices of breastmilk substitutes so that mothers are provided with true, accurate information on the dangers of breastmilk substitutes to their and their children's health.

What Does the Code Include?
The code applies to all breastmilk substitutes given before six months of age, including:
  • infant formula
  • follow-up milks
  • other milk products
  • baby juices and teas
  • cereals and vegetable mixes
  • feeding bottles and teats (pacifiers and other false nipples)

Summary of the Main Points of the Code
1. NO advertising of breastmilk substitutes and other products to the public
2. NO free samples of breastmilk substitutes to mothers.
3. NO promotion of breastmilk substitutes in health services.
4. NO breastmilk substitutes company personnel are allowed to advise mothers on infant feeding.
5. NO gifts of personal samples of breastmilk substitutes are to be given to health workers.
6. NO pictures of infants, or other images idealizing artificial feeding on labels or products.
7. Information on artificial feeding provided to health workers must be scientific and factual.
8. Information on artificial feeding, including on product labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding as well as the dangers of artificial feeding.
9. Unsuitable products, such as sweetened condensed milk, should not be promoted for babies.

How Can I Tell if My Hospital is "Baby-Friendly"?
There is no doubt that breastfeeding gives babies the best start. Unfortunately many hospitals and clinics today do not support breastfeeding or moms wanting to breastfeed. In 1992, the World Health Organization launched the Baby Friendly Initiative to reverse this trend. The initiative contains 10 steps that health facilities must take in order to be considered supportive and protective of breastfeeding practices.

Step 1: Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
Step 2: Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
Step 3: Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
Step 4: Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within a half-hour after birth.
Step 5: Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
Step 6: Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically necessary.
Step 7: Practice rooming-in. Allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
Step 8: Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
Step 9: Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
Step 10: Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them upon discharge from the hospital or clinic.

June 22, 2011

Holly Garza on Losing a Child

Holly Garza is a Mexican-American mother of two (one alive), currently living in Illinois, U.S.A. She has a Certificate of Achievement in Early Childhood Development and is the founder of the groups Homeschooling Muslimah Mommies and Ummis Seeking Sabr.

In April of 2004, Holly’s eldest daughter died during a house fire. This interview was conducted with Holly not to exploit her experience, but to try and provide other grieving moms with support and perspective, inshaAllah. May Allah make it of benefit, ameen.

1. Tell me the story of how your daughter died.
I was having a really bad day. Our electricity had been cut off because I was overdue on the bill. I was going to have the money the next day but the company wouldn’t budge. We needed light that night so we lit all of the candles we had. We lit some on the walls in those decorative candle holders (dumb, I know) some tapers, some teacup candles, and some in the living room and bathroom.

It was Spring break so my ex-husband’s son, my brother’s son and my best friend’s kids were all there. The kids all had those little glow sticks, the ones you put in your mouth.  My ex-husband and I had a disagreement and had been arguing.

My daughter and I decided to sleep early since the lights were out and it was a little chilly outside. I was four and a half month pregnant, stressed and extremely tired.

I laid down with my daughter in the back room who rubbed my belly and said, “Mommy, today was not such a good day, maybe tomorrow will be a better day.” I felt so stupid for arguing in front of her. Then I got mad. She was barely seven years old and worrying about me when she should have been thinking about her own birthday party that was only two days away!

I lost it. I told her, “Shut up! Don’t worry about it. This is grown peoples’ problems. You’re a little girl. When are you going to stop worrying about mommy?!”

I wish I hadn’t said it, but I’ve cried and begged for forgiveness. None of us can change the past. Now it’s just a reminder for myself and all parents to remember to watch our words and actions. We’ll never know what we will regret later.

She let out a big sigh from her skinny body and turned over to fall asleep. At one point, before I fell asleep, I tried to apologize to her but she didn’t answer. All she did was moan or mumble in her sleep.

A while later, there was a bunch of noise and screaming, then pounding at my door. I was so tired and groggy I can’t describe it. I later found out it was the effects of the carbon monoxide. I gently pulled my daughter off my arm so I wouldn’t wake her, walked outside my room and closed the door behind me.

The boys were there as well as my husband and my brother. They all looked bewildered and dirty. Their faces were black. They were jumping up and down, screaming at me. They yelled to me that the house was on fire. I went to the kitchen sink to grab a wet rag and put out the little fire I saw. I turned back to the direction I came and saw that the living room wall was ablaze.

I ran outside to gather more adults to help and come back in. I thought we had more time. When I opened the door, it was as if I set off a bomb. The windows exploded and the fire spread into the next room. My ex-husband and my brother ran in to save the kids in the front room. I ran in looking for my daughter. It was pitch black and the smoke was thick. It felt like an intense acid blanket of poison and heat all over my body. I was so disoriented in my own house. 

I headed back to the front door for air. My husband saw I didn’t have her. I saw that he didn’t either! He pushed me out of the way and outside and then ran back to get her. While my husband looked for her inside, the firemen had to hold me back outside while I screamed at them to let me go.

The other kids stared in horror as the flames engulfed the second floor and roof. I managed to escape and go back in but I fainted and was carried back outside. I came to while being restrained from going back in again. They pulled my husband out of the house too. There was still no sign of my daughter.

I was kicking, punching and screaming for people to let me go. But they held on. As the top floor of the house caved in, I felt my heart shatter and I knew that she was gone.

After three days in the hospital, drama, investigations, autopsy, and her memorial service, it was determined that she had 97% carbon monoxide in her lungs and died from the poisoning. The investigation showed that one of the taper candles from the wall had cracked, melted and dripped hot wax onto the carpet and wood floor. The candle kept melting until a piece broke off, stayed lit and ignited the carpet and floor beneath it.

I also found out that she died with no pain. Just a few breaths and she was gone. Alhamdulilah she is in Jannah (paradise).

La Hawla Wa la Quwata Ila BilAllah (there is no might or power except with Allah)

2. How did the news of your daughter’s death affect you emotionally, physically and spiritually?
Oh man, where do I begin? The pain that people caused by saying “I know how you feel.” They didn’t. They don’t. NO ONE grieves the same way. It was the worst insult to the pain that I was already going through.

I wasn’t religious then. I had belief in “God” as one entity with a “son” but I didn’t practice anything. I took it very hard. It literally broke me. I was angry with “God” and said VERY hateful, angry, depressed, hurtful things, May Allah forgive me. I became aloof, distraught, very distant, angry, cynical, quiet, and withdrawn.

3. As a non-Muslim, how did you cope with the loss of your daughter? Who or what did you turn to for help and for strength?
I joined every grieving web site and group I could find. I wrote a book (not a very good one) with a lot of angry words towards people, God and myself. I made and joined support groups on myspace and basically talked it to death, no pun intended.

4.  What role did your daughter’s death play in your journey to becoming Muslim? 
This was, has been and is always in my mind. At the time, I was beyond angry with God but I knew God didn’t “kill” children. nor did he damn children to purgatory or hell for lack of being baptized as I had previously been informed. I was always able to comprehend the concept of one single ilah and ONLY Him as God. The Islamic concept of children not having original sin made a lot of sense and appealed to me as well.  

In the Qur’an, Allah says that every soul shall taste death. It is inevitable. I had to learn that God does not take children in order to “have more angels.” I started learning little by little and tried to live with the pain.

5. As a Muslim, how does the way you continue to cope with your loss differ from when you were non-Muslim? What has changed and why?
I stopped the constant hurting of myself via depressing songs and pictures of my daughter on every wall, book, table, and room. I stopped talking about it every single moment of every single day.

I stopped worrying about “what if.”

6. What Islamic lessons has your experience with loss taught you?
As painful and hard as it sounds, I learned to prepare for the worst. No one is guaranteed any time. No one is guaranteed to reach old age.

I also learned to love Allah more than myself or anyone else. As hard as that is to implement, it’s way too dangerous to love someone or something other than Allah more than ourselves because if and when they go, our very lives, deen, mental stability, and emotional selves will go as well.

7. What did your experience teach you about yourself as a mother?
It taught me I am weak. It taught me I love hard.

It taught me that sadly, and maybe unfairly, one second, one minute, one decision can and does affect our entire lives. It also taught me to cherish every moment, to seek out Al Islam because our main focus is to worship Allah and not to stay in this Dunya.

It taught me fear and liberation. Fear because I am no longer afraid of the “what if” because it CAN happen. Liberation because it ripped the naive bandage from my eyes and showed me not to sweat “the small stuff.” After losing your child, it’s ALL small stuff.

It’s also taught me to teach my other daughter Islam, love, and to enjoy the moments I have with her.

8. Tell me about your efforts to connect with other grieving moms.
This was after many dua’as, months of thought, praying istikhara and seeking my husband’s advice.
After I converted, little by little I left the jahiliyyah things I did while grieving and started learning more Tawheed. I left behind hurting myself emotionally and the incorrect aqeeda (i.e. “praying” or asking our child to tell God things for us and other practices that are prevalent in grieving communities).

I wanted to do so something for the Muslim mommies. So I decided to make a private group on Facebook. I thought long and hard for over a year before I made it. Before Islam, I HAD to grieve. So I belonged to forums, death web pages, and had basically made them my home, my own morgue/ cemetery, so to speak.

But in Islam, it’s not permissible to attribute more love to any being, living or dead, than you do towards Allah and His messenger, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. When you lose someone that was “supposed to” outlive you, it’s HARD! It's also haram to hurt ourselves by causing ourselves extra guilt or depression and staying in that dark place.

With that said, I saw the need in our Ummah to remember that helping our sisters is a blessing. Just because Angels (creations of Allah which are described as huge and different than anything we have EVER seen) are not our children doesn’t mean that our children aren’t in Jannah. Allah is Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem.

I wanted to make a place for togetherness. Maybe a venting, crying, sharing place if need be, but more so for encouragement and reminders of patience, love, and worship.A place where the Shaitan could not use our tremendous loss against us, but where we could InshaAllah use it to build our Eman and work towards being with our children one day in Jannah, InshaAllah

I wanted a place where the sad, suffering or grieving Muslim Mother would not only be told “be patient” and then ignored. Patience is definitely something to strive for but not to the point of neglecting our sisters in Islam. I wanted something to remind them of the wonderful words of Hope from Allah and His Messenger on this subject.

Finally, I made the group on Facebook. It’s called Ummi's seeking Sabr.

9. What advice do you have for other Muslim moms who may have lost a child?
Love yourself; forgive yourself. And not only on the surface.

There is NOTHING you can do to change what happened. Blaming yourself and saying “if only” will just cause further hurt. Come back to the perfect Oneness of Allah and His book and what His Messenger promised us.

Be nice to yourself. Remember it is OKAY to be sad sometimes. Remember your child will InshaAllah be in Jannah, asking, begging Allah to bring you and let you in. Strive to get there, InshaAllah

10. What do you believe are some of the most important things a mother should remember if she ever loses a child?
Their blessing is with their Lord.

To ask for help on “bad days” from Allah first and foremost and seek refuge from the accursed Shaitan, depression and the was-was. Seek out a trusted confidant for support.

On the days where it literally and physically feels as if an elephant or a truck were sitting on their chest and it hurts to breathe, swallow, and live; the days where it just HURTS with no description: walk away from what they are doing and immediately make a change. If online, walk away from the computer and go outside. Go somewhere! Go near people!

If you are near people and they have suffered a similar loss and keep bringing it up, remove yourself from them. Get into sewing, scrapbooking, reading, gardening, cooking, Arabic, hadeeth, Islamic classes, homeschooling, exercise. Do something that can give you a positive outlet and a “get away” with something to do.

Always remember there is someone who has lost more than you, no matter how HUGE your loss is. This is not meant to belittle our pain or experience. However, it is to help us remain grateful. And we must ALWAYS be grateful for the blessings of our Lord.

June 19, 2011

Umm 'Abdillah al-Waadi'iyyah's 21 Points on Raising Children

The following post has been excerpted from the book My Advice to the Women by Umm ‘Abdillaah al-Waadi’iyyah, rahimahuAllah, lecturer and daughter of Shaykh Muqbil bin Haadee, rahimahuAllah. To view the full work online, including citations, please visit: 21 Points on Raising Children

Raising children is complex; hence they are in need of patience and management. Consequently, some children are in need of gentleness, kindness, not raising your voice at them, and they should be dealt with without stubbornness.

Other children are in need of sternness, but this sternness should not exceed the limit. If this is exceeded, then the child will become stubborn and non-compliant towards his parents’ guidance. We ask Allaah to provide us with  good protection and care since there is an immense responsibility around the necks of the parents.

Allaah, The Exalted, said: “O you who possess Eemaan (faith), save yourselves and your families from
the Fire.” [Sooratut-Tahreem (66): 6]

And in the Saheehayn (i.e. Bukhaaree and Muslim) from the Hadeeth of ‘Abdullaah bin ‘Umar that he said: The Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him), said: Each one of you is a shepherd and each one of you is responsible (for his flock). So the ruler is a shepherd and he is responsible, the man is the shepherd of his family and he is responsible, the woman is the shepherd of her home and she is responsible, and the slave is the shepherd of his owner’s wealth and he is responsible.  Each one of you is a shepherd, and each one of you is responsible (for his flock).”

It is imperative that the parents co-operate in raising their children.  If one of the parents is negligent of their responsibility then one side will become deficient except for what Allaah wills.

Point 1: The child should be taught according to his level and understanding.
For example in the first stage, you teach  the child about Allaah by pointing with your fingers up to the sky.

Point 2: Direct the child to eating with his right hand. 

Point 3: If the food is hot then do not blow on it. 
The Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited this.

Point 4: If the child wants to eat or drink, teach him to say: Bismillah (in the name of Allah).
Thereafter, it will become a norm and the child, himself, will say: Bismillaah.

Point 5: When the child is ready and can comprehend, then teach him the pillars of Islam, Emaan, and Ihsan. Do not bind teaching to a set age because the fluency and intellect of children differ. 

So the pillars of Islaam are: On the authority of ibn ‘Abbaas that he said: The Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him) said: “Islaam is founded on five (pillars): Bearing witness that Laa ilaaha ill Allaah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah, to establish the prayer, to pay the Zakaat, to fast Ramadaan, and to make the pilgrimage (Hajj) to the House (i.e. the Ka’bah in Makkah).”
And the pillars of Eemaan (faith) are: On the authority of Aboo Hurayrah, that he said: The Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him), said: “Eemaan (faith) is to believe in Allaah, the angels, the Books, messengers, and the Final Resurrection.”

And the pillar of Ihsaan (Perfection in worship) is: “It is to worship Allaah as though you see Him and if you are not able to (worship Allaah as though you) see Him then He sees you.”

Point 6: Teach him the legal rulings of Wudoo' (ablution).

Point 7: Teach him to eat from whichever vessel is closest to him.
In the Saheehain (i.e. Bukhaaree and Muslim) from the Hadeeth of ‘Umar bin Abee Salamah that he said: I was eating and my hands were moving frivolously around the dish, so the Prophet, (peace be upon him), said to me: O young boy, say the name of Allaah, eat with your right hand, and eat what is closest to you."

Point 8: Make him accustomed to good and excellent actions. When he reaches the age of seven, then train him to make the salah (prayer).
The Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him) said: “Order your children to make the Salaah (prayer) when they reach the age of seven. Beat them about it when they reach the age of ten and separate their beds.” [Abu Dawood]

Point 9: Separate the children's beds when they reach the age of ten.
The Hadeeth that proves this has already proceeded.

Point 10: Train him to fast, so long as it does not weaken him, so that when he matures he will be experienced.
The Prophet, (peace be upon him), sent a message to the towns of the Ansaar on the morning of ‘Aashuraa that whoever woke up without fasting, then he should continue the rest of his day (without fasting), and whoever woke up fasting then, he should fast. She said: So we would fast it (i.e. the day of ‘Aashuraa) thereafter, and we would have our children fast. We would give them a toy made of wool, and when one of them began to cry for food, we would give it to him (and continue like this) until it was time to break the fast [Bukhari].

Point 11: Teach your child the authentic ‘Aqeedah (creed and belief).
Say to him what the Prophet, (peace be upon him), said to ‘Abdullaah bin ‘Abbaas:  “I am going to teach you some words. Be mindful of Allaah, Allaah will protect you. Be mindful of Allaah, you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allaah. If you seek aid, then seek aid in Allaah. Know that if the entire Ummah were to gather in order to benefit you with something, they could not benefit you with anything except that Allaah has written it for you. And if the entire Ummah were to gather in order to harm you with something, they could not harm you with anything except Allaah has written it against you. The pen has been lifted and the pages have dried.”

Point 12: Advise your children with the admonishment that Luqman gave his son.
"And (remember) when Luqmaan said to his son whilst he was advising him: O my son! Do not commit Shirk with Allaah. Surely, committing Shirk with Allaah is a great oppression. And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is two years. Give thanks to Me and your parents, the final destination is to Me. But if they both strive hard to make you commit Shirk with Me others that you have no knowledge of, then do not obey them. But behave with them kindly in the world, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and obedience. Then your return will be to Me and I shall tell you what you used to do. O my son! If it be anything equal to the weight of grain of a mustard seed even if it be in a rock or in the heavens or the earth, Allaah will bring it forth. Verily, Allaah is Subtle and All Aware. O my son! Establish the prayer, enjoin the good, forbid the evil, and be patient with the calamities that befall you. Truly, these are some of the important commandments. Do not turn your face away from men in arrogance nor should you walk through the earth in insolence. Surely, Allaah does not like the arrogant boaster.  Be moderate in your walk and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the braying of the donkey." [Soorah Luqmaan (31): 13 – 19]

Point 13: Teach him to seek permission before entering.
“O you who possesses Eemaan! Let your slaves and slave-girls, and those among you who have not come to the age of puberty ask your permission (before they enter) on three occasions: Before the Fajr (morning) prayer, while you remove your clothes for the noonday (rest), and after the ‘Ishaa (night) prayer.  (These) three times are of privacy for you. After these times, there is no sin on you or on them to move about, attending to each other. Thus Allaah makes clear the verses to you.  And Allaah is All Knowing, All Wise.”
[Soorah Noor (24): 58]

Point 14: Teach him about the prohibited affairs so he can abstain from them.
And in the Saheehayn (i.e. Bukhaaree and Muslim) from the Hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah that he said: al-Hasan bin ‘Alee took a date from the dates set aside for charity and put it  in his mouth. So  the Messenger of Allaah  (peace be upon him) said, “Take it out of your mouth. Take it out of your mouth and discard it. Have you not learned that we do not eat from charity?”

Point 15: Explain to him the meaning of the Ayah (verse) or Hadith that you say to him.

Point 16: Fasten his heart to Allah, the Mighty, the Majestic.
Some children, their hearts are fastened to the Dunyaa (i.e. the life of this world), diplomas, and degrees. Their hearts are filled with delusions, and it is feared that darkness may overtake them (i.e. their hearts).

Point 17: Concern for memorizing the Qur’aan 
Make your child memorize something light everyday even if it is only one verse. Those that busy themselves with the Qur’aan are the most excellent of the people. There has come in Saheeh Bukhaaree from the Hadeeth of ‘Uthmaan bin ‘Affaan that he said, “The Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him), said, ‘The best of you are those that learn the Qur’aan and teach it’”

The Qur’aan intercedes for the one who memorizes it. Imaam Muslim has stated (1/553): It has been relayed to me by al-Hasan bin ‘Alee al-Hilwaanee that Aboo Tawbah relayed to us and he is ar-Rabee’ bin Naafi’ that Mu’aawiyah i.e. ibn Sallaam relayed to us on Zayd that I heard Aboo Salaam saying: Aboo Umaamah al-Baahilee relayed to me that he said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him), saying, “Read and recite the Qur’aan since, on the Day of Resurrection, it will come as an intercessor for the one who memorizes it.”

Point 18: Do not allow your children to mix with incompetent foolish children
Since he (i.e. your child) will take from their repugnant statements and actions and what he (i.e. your child) has learned will be destroyed. As it is said: Engraving in the youth is like engraving in stone.

Point 19: Do not allow your children to remain outside at dusk since Shaytaan (Satan) disperses and goes out at that time, and it is possible that they may harm your child.
Imaam Bukhaaree has stated: It has been relayed to us by Ishaaq that Ruh informed us that he said that Ibn Juraij informed me that he said: ‘Ataa informed me that he heard Jaabir bin ‘Abdullaah that he said: The Messenger of Allaah, (peace be upon him), said, “When the darkness of the night comes or at dusk, bring your children in since the Shaytaan (Satan) disperses at that time. Then after an hour passes of the night then leave them, and close your doors mentioning the name of Allaah since the Shaytaan (Satan) can not open a closed door.”

Point 20: Sometimes, leave your child to play by himself since if he is constantly prevented from play, his intellect may become inactive and he will be stricken with boredom. 
So if the parents desire to raise their children, then they should strive hard to cultivate their children with an Islamic cultivation and teaching them the Book and the Sunnah. And from the causes of the parents being raised in the Hereafter is their children being righteous and supplicating for them (i.e. the parents). There has come in Saheeh Muslim from the Hadeeth of Aboo Hurayrah that the Prophet, (peace be upon him), said, “When the son of Adam dies, his actions are cut off except three: A continuous charity, or knowledge that is benefited from, or a righteous child that supplicates for him”.

Point 21: Encourage your child to sit amongst the righteous. 
So this is the righteous mother, Umm Sulaym, she brought her son, Anas, to the Prophet, (peace be upon him), and said, “Anas is your servant, O Messenger of Allaah, so supplicate  to Allaah for him”. So he said, “O Allaah grant him an Abundance of wealth and children and bless him therein.”

June 11, 2011

Children's Rights: To Be Taught Prayer

Recently, I read a blog post that discussed parents' lax attitudes towards teaching their children to practice Islam. Some think it best to push and force their children to get the best grades or get into the best schools, yet when it comes to teaching them about praying their daily prayers, among other things, they feel it's best to let children "come to things on their own."

Not only is this approach detrimental to the child but it is also the opposite of what we're supposed to be doing.

As a Muslim parent, teaching our children to pray is not a option that we can choose or not choose as we like, but an obligation set by Allah, the Most High, in the Qur'an.

In Surah Ta-Ha, verse 132, Allah tells us, "And enjoin prayer on your family and be patient in offering it. We do not ask you for any provision, We provide for you, and the good end is for those with Taqwaa."

Commenting on this verse, Ibn Kathir says in his tafsir, "This means to save them from the punishment of Allah by the establishment of the prayer, and you also be patient in performing it."

The Prophet Muhammad, salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, also commanded us to teach our children to pray. It's narrated in Abu Dawood, that the Prophet said, "Order your children to pray when they are seven years old. And beat them to it (i.e. spank them if they refuse) when they are ten. And separate them in their beds (at ten)."

The importance of teaching our children is not just to fulfill our obligations as Muslim parents, but also to encourage our children to seek a good end in front of Allah, inshaAllah.

In his work, The Prayer and its Effect Upon Abandoning Sins and Developing the Soul, Ibn Al-Qayyim mentions a hadith reported by At-Tabaraanee in which the Prophet, salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam says, "The first thing for which a servant will be held to account is his prayer. If it is correct and sound, all the rest of his actions will be correct and sound, and if it is corrupt then all the rest of his actions will be corrupt.”

Ordering our children to pray must be coupled with educating them as to why we pray, what the benefits of praying sincerely for the sake of Allah are, and what the consequences of not doing this can be.

In his book, Raising Children in Light of the Qur'an and Sunnah, 'Abdus-Salaam bin 'Abdillah As-Sulayman speaks of the long term benefit of ordering our children to pray and the consequence of not doing so. He says, "If a child is raised having love for the prayer and being conscious that Allah is watching him, he will grow up pure, clean and righteous, by Allah's will. This is since the prayer calls away from immorality and evil. So neglecting it and being lazy with regard to it is the worst form of abandonment. And there can never be a proper upbringing or well-being for your child after the abandonment of prayer."

In Establish the Prayers and the Prize is Paradise, a collection of sayings regarding the prayer, a beautiful example is given of Mu'adh ibn Jabil, radi Allahu anhu, advising his son to pray. Mu'adh ibn Jabil said, "My son! Pray the prayer of he who is just about to leave and imagine that you might not be able to pray ever again. Know that the believer dies between two good deeds, one that he performed and one that he intended to perform later on."