By Rabiya Fahma Dawood
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
We find a lot of material on parenting in Chapter 31 of the Quran – Surah Luqman – and rightly so, based on Luqman’s (peace be upon him) wise admonitions to his son. But not many talk about the parenting treasures found in Chapter 12 of the Quran – Surah Yoosuf.
This article attempts to uncover some of the many gems found in Prophet Ya‘qoob’s parenting style, study how he was able to develop such a respected and close relationship with his sons, and inspire millions of parents worldwide through the legacy of this one parent, God willing.
Attachment to Allah
The most important thing one can foster in one’s children is attachment to and connection with Allah. Parents may assume that getting the child attached to them and their own values would be the only way to safeguard them from going astray.
However, the lifelong success of our children and even the strength of our relationship with them is directly proportional to the seed of faith we plant in them. And if this seed is sown and nurtured from an early age, there will be no need to fear how they would turn out in the future.
Prophet Ya‘qoob knew this equation very well and taught Prophet Yoosuf all that he needed to know about Allah. The fruit of this seed can be seen much later in life when al-Azeez’s wife tried to seduce Prophet Yoosuf and the first words out of the young man’s mouth were:
“…(I seek) the refuge of Allah…” (Quran, 12:23)
– Something really amazing, since he had been away from home and nowhere near an Islamic environment for years. Yet he remembered Allah at such a trying time! This is the effect of solid parenting.
Have an open ear and an open mind. Too often, we are quick to jump to conclusions, which is bad in and of itself but as parents is much worse because if our own children don’t get the attention that they need from us, they would turn to other – possibly even destructive – sources.
When Prophet Yoosuf was narrating his dream, his father listened to him with great attention. (Quran, 12:4)
So don’t interrupt when your child has something to say. Instead listen. Listen wholly, and listen well. When you exude such an attitude, your child won’t think twice before approaching you with anything.
After you’ve listened well, advise when there is a need to. This is one of the basic facets of parenting. But advices are effective only if they are made:
- at the right time,
- in the right situation, and
- with appropriate reasoning
When Prophet Ya‘qoob heard and understood the interpretation of his son’s dream, the first thing he did was not rejoice at the news of the sun, moon, and eleven stars prostrating to him; rather, the very first thing he did was advise him not to narrate it to his brothers whom he knew were jealous of him. This is because he saw that an advice at the time was far more befitting than expressions of joy.
Furthermore, instead of plainly prohibiting him from sharing his story, he also added the reason for his admonition:
“He (Ya‘qoob) said, “O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers
lest they contrive against you a plan…” (Quran, 12:5)
Educate them about Satan
Teach your children about the nature of Satan and his traps. Prophet Ya‘qoob cautioned his son saying: “O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers lest they contrive against you a plan. Indeed, Satan, to man, is a clear enemy.” (Quran, 12:5) He redirected the blame from the brothers to Satan. This is why even after decades of separation Prophet Yoosuf attributed the evil plot to the works of Satan.
When we teach our children who the real enemy is, we can be assured that in times of conflict, it would never be parent versus child; rather, it will be parent-child duo versus Satan.
Rush to their protection
A good parent becomes a great one when he or she seeks to protect his or her child not just physically and emotionally, but spiritually as well. Prophet Ya‘qoob set a beautiful example when he ordered his children to enter Egypt from different gates.
“And he said: “O my sons, do not enter from one gate but enter from different gates; and I cannot avail you against [the decree of] Allah at all…” (Quran, 12:67)
According to Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah, and several others, Prophet Ya‘qoob ordered this fearing the evil eye for them. Being a group of strong, handsome, and graceful-looking men, he feared that people may direct the evil eye at them. But he also added that this precaution would not in the least deter the Decree of Allah, teaching them that no matter how much we wish for something, the Qadr (Divine Will) of Allah prevails all. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)
Patience is probably the most required trait of a parent and also probably the most tested; the most valuable asset of a parent through all the stages of his or her child’s life.
Prophet Ya‘qoob had exercised this trait so well that his reaction when his sons came to him with the fake bloody shirt and story about the death of their little brother Yoosuf was:
“Rather, your souls have enticed you to something, so patience is most fitting…” (Quran, 12:18)
He knew very well that they were lying, yet he chose patience over rage in the face of this seemingly irreversible loss.
In fact, he had practiced patience all his life in wait of his lost son; he had the exact same reaction when he lost yet another one years later. He repeated:
“…so patience is most fitting…” (Quran, 12:83)
To forgive one’s child is an intrinsic nature of every parent. It may come naturally, but just as patience needs to be honed, the trait of forgiveness needs to be honed as well.
Prophet Ya‘qoob had suffered grievous losses of his sons twice during his lifetime due to the actions of his older sons. Yet, when his sons came to him pleading guilty and asking for forgiveness, he didn’t bat an eye and instead said:
“I will ask forgiveness for you from my Lord. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Quran, 12:98)
Pray for them
Among the lessons from the verse mentioned in the previous section is the power of a parent’s supplication for his or her children:
The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Three supplications are answered without doubt: The supplication of the oppressed, the supplication of the traveller, and the supplication of the parent for his son.” (at-Tirmidhi; reliable)
Rabiya Dawood is a freelance writer, editor, counsellor and teacher. She has taught at Islamic weekend schools based in the UAE, is counsellor at ArRajaa The Hope Counselling Service as well as Solace Islamic Assistance, and staff editor and writer at Islam-based magazines such as Muslimaat Magazine and previously at IOU Insights. She also acts as freelance editor for independent writers.
© IIPH 2016