Muslims: Stop Coddling Your Children… Before It’s Too Late!

Sometimes when my kids ask me for help with certain things, I specifically don’t help them.

When they make a mess, I deliberately have them clean it up themselves. When they ask particular questions, I direct them to a book to look it up instead of immediately giving them the answer myself.

I consciously step back and let my children struggle, strive, fail, become frustrated, pick themselves back up, try again, make mistakes, fix the mistakes, and seek alternative solutions.

This used to be hard for me as a mom, but it has gotten easier over the years alhamdulillah.

As I’ve grown older and gained more experience with childrearing, I’ve realized some important realities:

I am a mother, not a martyr.

My children are adults-in-training, not perpetual babies.

Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is to step back and not be overly helpful. Get out of the way.

This applies to our relationship with our children, but also to other relationships in our life.
You can’t solve other people’s problems all the time. You can’t save people from themselves if they aren’t ready to help themselves. You can’t over-function to compensate for people who under-function.

For some people, this can be a hard lesson to learn. Those of us who are empathetic by nature, who feel obliged to help, who are moved to do for others, this is often a nearly impossible concept to truly grasp. The feelings of guilt and anxiety get too strong.
We are, socially, taught to be kind, to have empathy, to show compassion. We are pressured to help others, moved by guilt or pity or a sense of obligation.

RELATED: Traumatic Childhood and Parenting: How to Overcome Your Past

And these directives are true, in some cases. These values of kindness, empathy, and compassion are excellent values. As Muslims, we know this.

But…at what point does empathy become enabling?

At what point does compassion become coddling?

At what point does repeatedly asking for mercy become manipulation?

At what point does our help simply teach others to become helpless, dependent on us continuously, and irresponsible for their own actions?

Sometimes, when someone we care about makes bad decisions, we feel compelled to shield them from the results of their poor decisions, instead of letting them face the natural consequences of their actions.

Our empathy for them compels us to constantly bail them out, to fix or cover for their mistakes, to swoop in to save the day. We absorb the impact so that they don’t feel a thing.

The pattern becomes cemented: we are the eternal saviors/ helpers, and they are the eternal victims/ babies.

This, done for years or decades, will yield disastrous results.

Not only for us, the perpetual helpers who will feel emotionally burned out, but also for them, the perpetual victims who never learn to change.

Anything given in unchecked excess causes damage.

If parents have excessive empathy for their children, they may coddle, pamper, and baby the children until they grow into entitled, irresponsible, incompetent overgrown infants with no life skills who become a burden to society.

If a husband has excessive compassion for his wife who acts unjustly, he may continually overlook her egregious behavior, go along with her tyranny, or repeatedly excuse her bad actions with some feel-good platitudes about “love” or “wisdom” or “mercy” even while the rights of innocents are usurped.

If a friend has excessive empathy for another, they may never comment on bad behavior, never give sincere advice that’s badly needed, never hold up a mirror to their wild, wayward friend who lacks accountability.

If a popular “Islamic speaker” is laser-focused on ideas of mercy and love in Islam exclusively at the expense of concepts like Islamic justice and Islamic rules and principles, he ends up grossly distorting people’s understanding of the deen in the name of “tolerance” or “prophetic adab.” Such people mis-portray Islam as some feel-good Christian-like “God loves you” and “Don’t judge” and “Piety is only in your heart” fluff with no substance. This misplaced, over-exaggerated, heavy-handed “compassion” is why we call such speakers “Compassionate Imams.” (In Arabic we call them “el imams el cute.”)

Of course, compassion, empathy, and mercy are wonderful and important values–but they are not to be applied indiscriminately in any and all situations blindly. This is true on the societal, the familial and the individual levels.

Mercy must be tempered with justice.

Love must be tempered with discipline.

Empathy must be tempered with reason.

Feelings must be tempered with facts.

Emotions must be tempered with logic.

Emotional reactions must be tempered with reality and rationality.

Otherwise, when we over-apply excessive empathy, thinking we are helping others, in reality we are only hurting them and ourselves.

Chaos ensues.

RELATED: Don’t Pass on Your Parents’ Mistakes to Your Children


The Importance of Teaching Our Children Correct Gender Roles

Raise your young boys to be men. Raise your young girls to be women. Let their natural masculinity and natural femininity, respectively, be allowed to surface and nurture it instead of stifling it.

Sometime last year, we were visiting family. I was sitting in the front room, close to the front door of the house, with my kids and relatives, relaxing.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the front door and one of the little kids (not one of my own) ran and immediately flung the door open excitedly. We heard a man’s voice issue a greeting on the doorstep.

RELATED: The Virtues of Women According to Prophetic Hadith

I was not wearing my hijab and, while I was not visible yet if the man stepped into the house and turned his head to the side, he would see me. I looked around me frantically for my hijab, but it was not next to me on the chair I happened to be sitting on.

The next part happened swiftly, in quick succession. Before I could say a single word, my oldest son, 8 years old, immediately assessed the situation and ran to stand directly in front of me, putting his body between me and the man at the front door. He had his back to me, stood facing the strange man. His younger brother, my 6-year-old, saw his brother’s stance and ran to stand right next to him. Meanwhile, my 5-year-old ran and grabbed my hijab, which my 2.5-year-old Khalid had been playing with earlier. He came over and handed it to me. I quickly put it on.

A minute or so later, the man was gone.

But I still had tears in my eyes, as I gazed in wonder and awe at the wall of boys in front of me. They stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a wall, using their bodies to block the man’s view of their mother.

I had not asked them to do that, nor had I explicitly instructed them any time in the past to do this particular action in case of such a random situation.

Generally, they knew that Muslim women cover themselves in the presence of strange men and that Mama can only take off her hijab in the context of family. We had talked about the concept of الحياء (hayaa’), modesty, which is a beautiful Islamic value that is important for both men and women. In everyday life, they observe how their father–the man of the house–is with their mother.

But it shook me, in the best of ways, to see them apply such general knowledge to a specific situation. It touched me deeply to see their instinctive response, their natural desire to defend, their masculine protective nature in action.

Once we were alone again, I hugged each boy in turn and thanked them. They saw the tears in my eyes and asked me why I was crying.

I said, ” ! الحمد لله! أنا بربي رجال! ”

“I’m raising (doing tarbiya of) men, alhamdulillah!”

They stood taller, their backs straight, grinning with pride and satisfaction.

We live in a world where so many different elements combine together to villainize, pathologize and criminalize masculinity.

RELATED: Yaqeen Institute Attacks Islamic Gender Roles

Men are stifled, their nature deemed “toxic” and their instincts are seen as primitive and oppressive. Under the oppressive influence of feminism, modern society punishes any overt displays of masculinity or femininity, railroading both boys and girls and the men and women they grow up to be, into a strange androgynous creature, neither here nor there.

But we Muslims know that this is extremely harmful to our children, both boys, and girls. Celebrate your daughter’s femininity and your son’s masculinity and treat these traits as a good thing. The aim is to ease their transition into adulthood and help them find their footing as men and women inshaAllah.

Renowned physician and psychologist Dr. Leonard Sax writes in his book Why Gender Matters:

“The transition to adulthood. More than in any other realm, there’s where modern society lets kids down. We offer our children no guidance about what it means to be an adult woman or an adult man. No other culture has ever abandoned young people making the transition to gendered adulthood as completely as the twenty-first-century post-industrial societies of North America, Western Europe, and Australia/ New Zealand.

In traditional societies, the transition to gendered adulthood is a matter of great importance…One hundred years from now, scholars may look back at the disintegration of early twenty-first-century culture and conclude that a fundamental cause for the unraveling of our social fabric was the neglect of gender in the raising of our children–not only in our schools, but also in the disbanding of gender-separate activities across generations, and in the near elimination of single-gender communal activities: women with girls, men with boys. I wonder what those future historians will say about how long it took us to recognize our mistake, to recognize that gender matters.” (Why Gender Matters, p. 250-251)

What modern American non-Muslim researchers like Dr. Sax are finding out and suggesting has long been known by Muslims, taught to us as an integral part of our deen from the time of the Prophet ﷺ. These concepts and values have been commanded by our Creator, Allah, who has fashioned boys and girls, men and women.

May Allah grant us the wisdom to apply these teachings in our tarbiya of our children, ameen.


It’s our offspring at stake!!!

Upbringing our children in current times is truly challenging. If nothing is done soon, one cannot imagine how worse it could get. There’s nothing more sad than “losing” your child.

Tips by Khalifah ‘Umar ibn’Abdil ‘Aziz

I feel that Khalifah ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdil ‘Aziz’s (rahimahullah) advice below is very apt and pertinent.

:وكتب عمر بن عبد العزيز إلى مؤدب ولده

 خذهم بالجفاء فهو أمنع لاقدامهم، وترك الصبحة فان عادتها تكسب الغفلة، وقلة الضحك فان كثرته تميت القلب، وليكن أول ما يعتقدون من أدبك بغض الملاهي التي بدؤها من الشيطان، وعاقبتها سخط الرحمن، فانه بلغني عن الثقات من حملة العلم أن حضور المعازف واستماع الأغاني واللهج بهما ينبت النفاق في القلب كما ينبت العشب بالماء. وليفتتح كل غلام منهم بجزء من القرآن يثبت في قراءته، فاذا فرغ منه تناول نبله وقوسه وخرج إلى الغرض حافيا، فرمى سبعة أرشاق، ثم انصرف إلى القائلة، فان ابن مسعود كان يقول:  يا بني قيلوا، فان الشياطين لا تقيل

(ذكره ابن أبي الدنيا في: ” ذم الملاهي” ص: ٩)

Khalifah ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (rahimahullah) wrote the following instructions to his children’s mentor (teacher)

“Be strict on them for this is more effective in restraining them. Stop them from sleeping after Fajr Salah, for this causes stupidity / negligence. They should laugh less for a lot of laughing kills the heart / soul. Let the first thing you inculcate in them be the hatred for Music, for I have heard from various People of Knowledge (‘Ulama) that Music develops hypocrisy in the heart just as water grows grass.

Each of them should commence the day with the recitation of the Holy Quran in the proper manner. When they complete that, they should take their bows and arrows and proceed barefooted to the range. Each of them should shoot 7 times. Thereafter they should take mid-day sleep(siesta). For Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (radiyallahu’anhu) use to say: Oh my children! Take siesta,for verily the devils do not do so.”

(Kitabuz Zhammil Malahi of Hafiz Ibn abi Dunya pg. 9)

These words of Khalifah ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdil ‘Aziz (rahimahullah) give us the following lessons on upbringing of children:

1.  To commence the day with the recitation of the Quran

2.  Not to sleep after Fajr (until after sunrise at least)

3.  To abstain from music

4.  To laugh less

5.  Engagement in physical activity, like archery

6.  The importance of siesta (qaylulah)

Each of the above are valuable lessons of life, which we as adults can implement and also inculcate in our children.

Quran Recital every morning

Many of us commence our day by reading the news, which is more depressing than informative or by catching up on our timeline, or sifting through emails etc.

The recitation of Quran, first thing in the morning will bring barakah (blessing) in our affairs throughout the day. Our children should see us reciting the Quran after Fajr. This will subconsciously lead them on to the same.

Music; they are never too young to abstain

We often justify out leniency towards out kids’ indulgence in haram or makruh (repulsive) deeds by saying: “They are too young”

The fact that ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdil ‘Aziz detested music even for his under aged children, demonstrates to us how we should view the training of our own.

Don’t allow the seeds of hypocrisy to grow even at that tender age. The computer games that they play should be free of foul language, evil habits and the music should be turned off. Never underestimate the effect that these supposed “games” could have on an innocent mind. It’s sad, how lightly we take the issue of Music that even as adults, we repeatedly need to be cautioned of our ringtones.

Who is there that can say he has never heard a musical ringtone go off while in Salah in the Masjid?!

Who would have believed it if we were told a decade ago, that a time will come when a Muslim will play music or at least allow it to be played while in Sajdah, the closest posture we could get to Allah Ta’ala?!


Today we all look for how to be best entertained rather than spend our time usefully.

Laughter and jokes have become so common, that at times one will notice people joking even at a Janazah!

The rare opportunity we get to ponder about death doesn’t pass with an unnecessary joke or fable being shared.

Even in religious lectures, the crowds are inflated if the speaker can entertain better…

As mentioned earlier, these were ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdil ‘Aziz’s (rahimahullah) guidelines for the upbringing of children. Alas many of us adults need this lesson too.

Natural physical activity

‘Khalifah ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdil ‘Aziz (rahimahullah) specifically ordered the mentor to take them outdoors for archery daily. The pagan Arabs also preferred to send their kids to the villages where they could spend their time outdoors, herding goats and learning basic life skills. In fact, until a few decades ago, we too would spend our days outdoors in various activities.

Today’s child may be engaging in very similar activities too, but instead of it being outdoors they do it on a screen! It’s no more physical, it’s actually electronic!

Physical activity has its own benefit in early childhood development that can never be replaced with any electronic device. Parents need to carefully think of ways to keep their children occupied in a manner that won’t just keep them from bothering their parents, but ways that will enhance the child’s mind, body and Iman as well.

May Allah guide us all, and may He inspire us with the correct tact in upbringing our innocent offspring. Amin.





Every mother knows that it is impermissible for a child to breastfeed after the age of two. At the same time, mothers understand that their infant children cannot progress from a purely milk-based diet to a diet of solids overnight. If this drastic, unfamiliar change is thrust upon the child in an instant, he will struggle to adapt and his digestive system will suffer.

In exactly the same way, we all know that once a child becomes baaligh (reaches the age of maturity), it is compulsory for him to perform all the five daily salaah on time. Furthermore, in the case of a male, these salaah will have to be performed in the masjid.

Just as a mother begins weaning her breastfeeding child in advance, and gradually introduces solids to him, so that when he is two years of age, he is already accustomed to solids and can easily make the transition, the parents should adopt the same approach for their children’s salaah.

The hadeeth teaches us that we should commence teaching and training our children to perform their salaah when they reach the age of seven. Thereafter, when they reach the age of ten, they should be disciplined for showing laziness in regard to salaah. (Sunan Tirmizi #407) In other words, by the time they reach the age of ten, the concern for salaah should be firmly embedded in their hearts and punctuality on salaah should be their second nature.

As parents, it is really an injustice and unkindness on our side that we fail to teach our children the importance of salaah when they are young, and thereafter, when they are teens, we suddenly expect them to have perfect punctuality on their salaah. Although they are responsible and answerable for their own actions at this time, we will undoubtedly have a share in their sin of neglecting salaah as we are partially to blame.

The effort must be made to teach the children the importance of salaah. This is easily achieved through reading the chapter ‘Virtues of Salaah’ to our children in our daily home ta’leem of Fazaail-e-Aa’maal. Mothers should make their daughters and small sons perform salaah with them so that they learn the concept of salaah and develop eagerness for it.

Once a son reaches the age of seven, his father should begin taking him to the musjid. However, before doing so, the father must ensure that his son understands the sanctity of the masjid and knows how to conduct himself correctly. Thereafter, he must monitor his son and discipline him appropriately so that his son does not disturb others and become a nuisance in the masjid. In this regard, small children that do not understand the sanctity of the masjid should not be taken to the masjid.

Training our children in this manner is not only compulsory – it is a highly-rewarding investment and one of the ultimate acts of kindness that we can show them. Every single time our child performs salaah, until the day he or she passes away, we will be rewarded, as we taught them to perform salaah.

May Allah Ta‘ala bless us all to be punctual on our salaah and train our children correctly.