There are many articles which describe how to raise children in a general sense, so here we concentrate on raising children in the context of the influences exerted on them when being brought up in Western society, where attitudes to sex are lenient, and where modesty and chastity often seem to be far from the norm.
We all want our children to grow up to be good Muslims but, unfortunately, success can never be guaranteed. No matter how well we fulfil our roles as parents, our children are also open to a vast number of influences from outside the family unit. Western society raises many temptations for our young; this article looks at how we can ease their way through certain stages of their development by introducing relevant information and explanations in order to educate them Islamically about relationships and sex.
The most important ingredient in successful parenting is a strong parent-child relationship, where love and respect provide open channels of communication. As parents, we should be accessible; available to answer questions and address any fears that may concern our children. A good, honest relationship will help to pave the way when the time comes to introduce sexual education.
By having a strong Muslim identity and by instilling this in your children, you will find it easier to keep them on the right path. However, do not simply label Western ways as wrong as this will lead to curiosity and possible experimentation. Take time to explain to your child how our ways differ to those of Western society and show them the benefits of the Islamic faith and what it does better. Allow them then to embrace the good things that the West has to offer and, through informed choice, reject the bad.
The support of a strong Muslim community is of great benefit to parents. Here your children can find role models and friends who share the same beliefs and standards and who will not encourage your child to deviate from the chaste path of Islam.
The thought of talking to our children about sexual relationships is likely to fill most of us with dread, yet if we consider what could happen to our children if we don’t take this embarrassing step, not telling them could be so much worse. It is important to give our children the right kind of sexual education; the kind that comes from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Do not leave it to the media, which seems to promote fornication, or to your children’s friends as promiscuity, teenage pregnancy and so many other social problems could be the consequence.
So, take a deep breath and go for it! A child’s sex education should be staged out according to his or her age and at each of the key stages of sexual development.
By this age children should ask permission before entering their parents’ bedroom, in particular when the parents may be undressed.
The Qur’an tells us: “O you who believe! Let your slaves and the children among you who have not come to the age of puberty ask your permission (before they come to your presence), on three occasions: before morning prayer (salatul Fajr), and when you put off your clothes for the noon rest, and after the late-night prayer (salatul Isha). These three times are of privacy for you, outside these times, there is no sin on you or on them to move about, attending to each other.” [24:58]
Children should also learn the rules about looking at others: lowering the gaze. Muslim men and women are required to lower their gaze after a first glance at the opposite sex and adolescent boys should be taught this important rule, which will protect them from sexual arousal. This applies to all who are non-mahram to the child.
There are a number of Ahadith on this matter:
The Prophet (saws) said: “No Muslim whose eyesight falls inadvertently on the beauties of a woman and then he lowers his gaze, but Allah will credit for him a worship he will appreciate its sweetness in his heart.” [Ahmad, at-Tabarani]
And also: “O Ali! Do not let the second look follow the first. The first look is allowed to you but not the second.” [Tirmithi, Ahmad and Abu Dawud]
In addition, Muslim men and women are not permitted to look at another man or woman’s awrah (the area between the navel and the knees). This can prove difficult in a society where the women seem to wear fewer and fewer clothes and where the media delights in displaying pictures of semi-naked figures. Lowering the gaze becomes even more important here.
Adolescence usually begins at around ten years of age and, during this stage, it is important that children are protected from any influences which may cause sexual arousal. There are a number of ways defined by Islam, which can ensure the safety of our children.
- Children of this age should practise the rules concerning looking at the opposite sex.
- Parents should pay close attention to what their children watch on television and ensure that their reading materials are appropriate.
- Adolescent children should not share the same bed; this includes children of the same sex. The Prophet said: “Enjoin your children to perform salah when they are seven, and spank them for it when they are ten, and let them sleep in separate beds.” [al-Hakim and Abu Dawud]
- Adolescent boys should not enter places where women are assembled.
- From this stage of development, do not allow your child to become friends with a member of the opposite sex.
- Teach your child the importance of modesty and chastity as prescribed by Islam. Make them aware of, and proud of, their Islamic heritage.
Puberty can be a difficult time in a young person’s life. As hormones kick in, young people can become emotional and experience mood swings or even changes in behaviour. This is a confusing time for them and so parents must ensure that they are a reassuring presence for their child and that they give their child the explanations they need regarding the great physical and emotional changes that are taking place.
When children reach puberty, they become answerable to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Taala سبحانه و تعالى) for their deeds in the same way that adults are. They should then worship in the same way as men and women. For boys, this follows their first ejaculation. For girls, it is when they experience their first menstrual bleed.
At this stage you will need to teach your child the role of Ghusl and the correct way to practise it . If he or she experiences wetness due to sexual arousal, whether intended or otherwise, or awakes wet following a dream, then he or she must perform Ghusl.
In these cases, before Ghusl is performed, men and women are considered to be junub (in a state of janabah/sexual impurity). Men and women are not permitted to touch or read the Qur’an whilst junub, neither should they pray, enter a mosque or have sexual intercourse. This also applies to females who are having their monthly period or women who are bleeding following childbirth.
When children reach puberty, they should ask permission at all times before entering their parents’ bedroom. They should also be informed about sexual relationships.
There is a lot of pressure placed on our young people by their peers to lose their virginity. However, as parents, we should encourage them to study their faith and to understand why modesty and chastity are so highly regarded in Islam.
“And let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste until Allah enriches them of His Bounty.” [Qur’an 24:33]
Young people, who are unmarried, need to be told about sexual abstinence and how to dampen any desires that they may experience. They must also be taught the rules concerning fornication (zinaa), adultery and homosexuality, and the dangers of masturbation. Methods of preserving chastity include:
- lowering the gaze;
- avoiding situations where they may become sexually aroused;
- choosing chaste, Islamic friends to spend their time with;
- studying Islam, especially those verses of the Qur’an regarding zinaa;
- participating in sports and physical activity;
- fasting voluntarily.
Our Prophet (ṣall Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam صلى الله عليه وسلم) teaches us that: “Those who cannot (marry) should fast, for it is a means of cooling sexual passion.” [Burkhari]
First, make the niyyah (intention) for Ghusl, for example, “I am performing Ghusl to become clean” then perform Ghusl in the following order:
- Wash both hands, including the wrists.
- Wash the private area.
- Remove any visible dirt from the body.
- Perform Wudhu.
- Pour water over the head three times.
- Pour water three times over the right shoulder and then three times over the left shoulder.
- Pour water over the entire body and rub.
- Wet hair completely.
- Rub all parts of the body with hands to ensure that nothing remains dry.
- When complete, dry the body with a clean towel and dress.
Ghusl should be performed in privacy without speaking and the water used must be clean.
As with most things, communication with your children plays a key role in their development, especially when they are such a vulnerable age. Be open in these matters and provide explanations and examples in your answers. Your child will appreciate your honesty and your attitude will lead him or her to make sound and informed choices when faced with life’s many temptations.
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