February 19, 2012

The Prophet's Methods of Teaching

How will I teach my child?

It’s one of the most often asked questions a parent reflects over. Alhamdulilah, in the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, we have the best of example of a teacher.

The Prophet didn’t just teach his children; he also taught his wives, his companions, community leaders, and many others. When the Prophet taught, he was careful to build relationships with his students, emphasize important points, and tailor his lessons in a way so the person listening would understand his message. 

InshaAllah by reflecting on his methods, we can find the keys to unlock our own teaching potential with our children.

Teaching by Parables and Narratives
Parables and narratives are illustrative tales used to teach moral concepts and they were a common method used by the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.

An example of a parable used by the Prophet with regards to prayer is narrated by Abu Bakr, radiAllahu anhu, in Sahih Muslim.

Abu Bakr, said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: ‘Behold! Can any dirt remain on the body of any one of you if there were a river at his door in which he washed himself five times daily? They said: No dirt would remain. He, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: That is like the five daily prayers by which Allah obliterates sins.”

Teaching by Oaths
At times, the Prophet would get his students’ attention and emphasize important lessons by beginning with an oath.

In Sahih Bukhari it’s reported that the Prophet said, “By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! It was said: ‘Who is that person, O Allah’s Messenger?’ He answered: That person is he whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.”

Teaching Gradually
Rather than immediately impose rules and laws on the people who accepted Islam, the Prophet Muhammad taught the religion gradually focusing on building a person’s belief before anything else.

An excellent example of this was when the prohibition for alcohol was announced, the companions (due to the strength of their faith) immediately disposed of all the alcoholic drinks they owned to the point that the alcohol was seen “flowing through the streets of Medina (Sahih Bukhari).”

Teaching by Offering Alternatives
When correcting people’s mistakes, the Prophet would offer positive alternatives to help improve behavior and practice, as opposed to just criticizing for the wrong that was done.

Once the Prophet saw some sputum in the direction of the qibla (direction of the Kabbah) and it upset him so much that his anger could be seen on his face. After removing the spit with his own hand, he told the people: “When any one of you stands up to pray, he is talking to his Lord. His Lord is between him and the qibla, so no one should spit in the direction of the qibla; he should spit to his left or under his feet (Sahih Bukhari).” 

February 2, 2012

Choosing to be a Positive Parent

Umm Layth is an American mother of two, currently living in the USA. She is a WHO/UNICEF Breastfeeding Counselor and Writer for the SAUDI Life parenting and motherhood columns. This piece was originally published on SAUDI Life's parenting column. JazakamAllahu Khairan to SAUDI Life for allowing us to re-post this on our blog. 

Recently, I was scolded for exercising “bad planning” in preparing to have a second child while my first would soon be entering his “terrible twos”.

“Who says they have to be terrible?” I asked.

The person on the other end of the line gave a quick laugh and then exclaimed that I had no clue what I was getting myself into.Well maybe I don’t have a clue, but I still stand by my question.

“Terrible twos”, “ferocious fours”, “teen drama queens”, and “impossible children eating us out of house and home”. With all the horror stories and negative nicknames that parents spread around the block, it’s no wonder that less and less people want to start families. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, we can choose to stay positive and focus on the good.

Staying positive doesn’t mean being unrealistic or blind to the challenges that parenting can bring. After all, Allah, subhana wa ta ala, does tell us in the Qur’an that our children will be a trial for us.
“Your wealth and your children are only a trial, whereas Allah – with Him lies a great reward.” - translation of Surah at-Taghaabun, ayah 15.

But Allah also tells us that with every hardship comes ease.
“Verily along with every hardship is relief.” - translation of Surah Ash-Sharh, ayah 5

And time and time again, Islam teaches us that there can be great rewards in raising our children.  
And those who believe and whose offspring follow them in Faith, to them shall We join their offspring, and We shall not decrease the reward of their deeds in anything. Every person is a pledge for that which he has earned.” –translation of Surah at-Tur, ayah 21

“When the son of Adam dies, his (good) deeds come to an end except for three: a recurring charity, a knowledge that is beneficial or a righteous child that supplicates for him.” –recorded in Sahih Muslim

“Indeed a man may ascend a level in Paradise and ask: ‘How did this happen?’ So it will be said to him: ‘By your child’s asking forgiveness for you.’” –recorded in Ahmad and Ibn Majah

It seems to me that the potential for good in our relationships with our children far outweighs the little bad we may face along the way. So why does negativity still reign?

The way I see it, our children and/or teens are bound to get emotional, throw some tantrums, be stubborn, and maybe even blatantly defy us. But let’s face it: adults can (and often do) act the exact same way.  So what’s the point of allowing our entire day to be ruined because our child does it?

I’m not advocating that we ignore bad actions or behavior, but I am advocating that we don’t allow them to define the relationships we have with our children.

Children mirror the behavior, actions and outlooks of their parents. If we wake up every day believing that our children are going to be terrible and treat them as if everything they do is terrible, what incentive will they have to be anything more than terrible? 

In contrast, imagine if we were to wake up every day being positive. What if every day we believed that our children were capable of good and rewarded them for all the good that they do? Wouldn’t this then encourage them to continue doing good down the line?

Wouldn’t it just feel better if at the end of your day, you could sit back, reflect and praise Allah for all the good that he put into your children instead of going to bed angry and stressed over the little bad that may have happened?

The reality is that whatever age or stage our children are in, they will be a trial for us. We can’t change that. But we can choose how we respond to it. So which parent will we choose to be? The one who hangs onto the bad and adds another negative nickname to the list? Or the one who accepts that their trial is from Allah, stays positive and enjoys the good that comes with it?