By Sabah El Kadi and Manal Hatab
Part I | Part II
This article is the second part of a series bringing forth the parenting lessons embedded in the story of Prophet Adam (as) in Surat Al-Baqara. To read the first 3 lessons, please visit the first part of this series here.
Translate beneficial knowledge into practice.
“And [mention] when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam’; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers. And We said, ‘O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in [ease and] abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers.’” (Qur’an 2:34-35)
After Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) taught Adam `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) the names, He then prohibited him and his wife from taking delight in one tree. Adam’s first concrete interaction—with Satan and the ensuing punishment—defined the beginning of his practical experiences. The purpose of the encounter with Satan was to teach Prophet Adam (as) and his wife about the nature of their struggle in the real world. According to Ma’riful Qur’an commentary: “They were warned that their existence on the earth would no longer be full of perpetual bliss as it had been in paradise, but there would be dissension and enmity among men, their progeny, which would spoil the joy of earthly life.” Consequently, Prophet Adam (as) learned that his struggle in the world will be between evil and good, and that evil is weak if he is armed with beneficial knowledge and yaqeen (certainty), the real weapons of the future deputy of God. It is those qualities which will protect his relationship with his Creator and strengthen it.
As the child grows older and reaches the age of discernment and beyond, he develops a moral compass and a concrete understanding of the world which are in line with the theological teachings of Islam (creed). This is the time for parents to give their growing children choices and responsibilities. Through closely supervised experiences, parents expose their children to life’s trying nature as prophet Adam (as) was exposed to the consequences of breaking God’s commandment. Giving children an opportunity to blend into their environments while making mistakes is paramount to their developmental growth and social competence. This is an important phase as the child gains the trust of his parents while he feels their unwavering presence in his life and experiences a practical application of his value system.
Those supervised exposures will support the child in navigating through his future with confidence, as he is able to delineate the boundaries, which define his relationship with his Creator, his relationship with the self, and his relationship with creation.
Teach the child repentance with mercy and love.
“But Satan caused them to slip out of it and removed them from that [condition] in which they had been. And We said, ‘Go down, [all of you], as enemies to one another, and you will have upon the earth a place of settlement and provision for a time.’ Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.” (Qur’an, 2:36-37)
Prophet Adam (as) was afflicted with forgetfulness and ate from the forbidden tree. Thereafter God questioned him and he assumed responsibility for his actions. “And We had already taken a promise from Adam before, but he forgot; and We found not in him determination,” (Qur’an, 20: 115). Adam’s disobedience was not intentional. He grew accustomed to the comforts of paradise, forgot his promise and believed Satan. The lessons, which can be highlighted here, are two.
Firstly, Prophet Adam (as) learned how Allah (swt) reprimands the wrong doer and punishes him. Secondly, he learned how Allah (swt) forgives and reveals His mercy when the disobedient repents. Consequently, Adam’s disobedience was instrumental for him to experience the human quality of wrongdoing and the divine attribute of the merciful and compassionate God. Furthermore, mercy is an adornment of the deputy of God so that he may guide those wrong doers in this world to repentance by seeking their Lord.
Making mistakes is of human nature and contributes to invaluable room for emotional growth as it helps define the relationship that the child has with the self and with the Creator. Prophet Adam’s disobedience presented an opportunity for him to understand his weak self and the necessary mechanism to remedy wrong actions through repentance. He also understood that his relationship with his Creator is fortified through beneficial knowledge, which breeds yaqeen, and obedience to God’s commandments. He also learned that his biggest enemy is forgetfulness. Consequently, teaching children repentance is fundamental, as no human being is infallible as the following hadith (narration) states:
The Prophet ﷺ said: “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if you did not commit sin Allah would do away with you and bring people who would commit sin then pray for forgiveness.” Narrated by Muslim . He ﷺ also said: “Every son of Adam sins and the best of those who sin are those who repent.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi)
During this phase of upbringing, parents may find many lessons in Prophet Ya`qub’s1 “responsive” parenting style.2 His (as) wisdom and divine knowledge contributed to shaping Prophet Yusuf’s righteous personality as a child and to his unwavering presence in the lives of Yusuf’s misguided brothers. He (as) continuously called them to repentance though wisdom, patience and good counsel. Therefore , reminding our children so that they do not forget as their father Adam did and showing mercy towards them as Allah (swt) did towards Adam (as) are essential parenting tools to raising the future deputy on earth.
The Earthly Struggle
“We said, ‘Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. And those who disbelieve and deny Our signs – those will be companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally.’” (Qur’an, 2:38-39)
Prophet Adam (as) learned the consequences to disobedience; he repented and Allah (swt) opened His door to a world which He created and prepared for him to inhabit as His deputy on earth. Allah (swt) then left Prophet Adam (as) in this world with the complete freedom to fulfill this role and out of His mercy sent prophets as a gift and a reminder.
Consequently, whoever is guided in this world is in essence guided to paradise in the hereafter and whoever forgets and is misguided in this world is in essence misguided from the gift of paradise in the hereafter. God in His infinite mercy provided Adam (as) with the knowledge he needed to struggle in His way, taught him the mechanism of repentance and sent messengers to remind his descendents of the meaning of their existence. Those who fulfill their role of deputyship are the ones who rule with justice, avoid transgressions and follow God’s commandments. Those who corrupt and oppress themselves do not assume that divinely delegated role.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Religion is counsel,” (Muslim). Our children are the most entitled to such precious counsel until they take on the role of the deputy of God and struggle on their own to gain the pleasure of their Creator.
The first step in raising the future deputy of God lies in establishing safe environments, which reflect the orderliness and beauty of paradise. Attending to the physical and developmental needs of the child through “responsive” and nurturing parenting is equally important.
Secondly, imparting beneficial knowledge, which caters to the child’s learning needs and his age readiness is fundamental to shaping character, reinforcing values and empowering the child to understand the nature of the world and to overcome the fears bred through ignorance.
Thirdly, supporting the child in experiencing his environment broadens his insight into the nature of the world and provides him with practical application of his value system. Parents’ support must be always channeled through an attitude of love and open communication; they remind the child and reprimand him with mercy and love. Alluding to Prophet Ya’qub’s approach (as) to parenting proves to be a good example here, especially during the adolescent years.
Finally, as the child matures well beyond the age of discernment, parents teach him that his carnal instincts are a blessing if channeled towards what Allah (swt) made permissible. In doing so, he reaps the rewards of this life and the hereafter. They also teach him repentance while remaining steadfast to Allah’s commandments, through a character which manifests moderation and wisdom. Equally important, they teach him that his greatest enemy is forgetfulness if he steers away from God’s religion and that the door of mercy is open until he takes his last breath.