Six Steps to Instilling the Attribute of Courage in Muslim Children – Ustadha Shireen Ahmed, SeekersGuidance Instructor
by Umm Umar (Shireen Ahmed)
As parents, there are many attributes we want to teach our children. We want them to be kind, upright, humble, thoughtful, well mannered… the list is endless. When it comes to being courageous, there are a few concrete steps we can take to guide our children in this direction:
1. Build confidence. Teach children to keep trying, even when they initially fail. This scenario often comes up when they are playing, especially when building structures, that often can come crashing down. Helping them to increase their determination and see the fruits of their efforts on various small projects, can help them to become more confident about their own abilities.
As a parent, we also need to teach them to realize the full meaning of “la hawla wa la quwatta illah billah”, that they have no power
or ability without help from Allah Most High. This helps them to achieve the balance between being confident, yet not arrogant. When one realizes they only are able to do what they can do, because Allah Most High has granted them that ability (and not through just their own efforts), they in turn become more grateful to their Creator, for His innumerable blessings upon oneself. This type of realization also helps a child to turn more towards their Creator when they need help. When they want to achieve something, it should be a habitual practice to begin with the name of Allah (basmala) and to supplicate that Allah Most High gives them success (tawfeeq) in their efforts.
Parents should also encourage their children to become more independent as they grow older. Giving them new responsibilities, with tasks they can reasonably fulfill – can teach them that their capabilities become much more vast as they age.
2. Overcome fear. Children should be taught to express their fear instead of being paralyzed by it. Help create situations for them where they can gradually “get over” any unfounded fears they have.
For example, if they don’t want to go upstairs alone one could teach them to say “la hawla wa la quwatta illah billah” or “hasbiAllah wa ni`mah wakeel” and to repeat that as often as they feel fear. My mother used to encourage me to recite Ayat al-Kursi whenever faced with fear. This type of turning to Allah Most High when in a state of need, can help them to complete tasks rather than avoiding them.
3. Face the Unknown. Encourage your children to have bravery in new situations. The most common example of this is when meeting new people, especially adults. They need to be taught to smile, speak loudly, and to shake hands when meeting new people when you are with them. They should not be hiding behind you, or whispering so softly that the person cannot hear them. This takes time, but your coaching in this area will help them in the long term.
4. Do the Right Thing. This is perhaps the most important area where we need children to demonstrate courageousness, confidence, and independence. Muslim children need to be able to stand up for their beliefs, despite any negative repercussions it may have. This means if everyone else is dating at their school, they have the confidence to say, “I’m not into that.”
They need to be able to take a stand in the face of peer disapproval, and this will take place when you are not present. This is where many of our youth fall, as they can put up one face towards their parents, and yet a completely different (and often contradictory) appearance in front of their peers. The topic of how to help children in this area is very vast, so I will just give a few brief pointers here. Children should realize that even though their parents may not see them, Allah Most High knows and their actions are being recorded. They should feel a degree of shame to be found in any sort of disobedience to their Creator, when He has blessed them with innumerable blessings in this world. Encourage them to be careful about who they choose as close friends, as this will in turn affect their own character development. One can also use the example of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) as a role model, how he stood up to a whole society to stand up for the truth.
Another innovative way this idea of standing up for the truth, and doing the right thing can be addressed with our youth is have them listen to some of the Native Deen songs on this subject, “My Faith, My Voice” “I Am Not Afraid to Stand Alone” and other songs.
5. Set a Good Example. Children often watch their parents as examples in how they deal with scenarios where they may feel afraid, or sick, or when they experience great loss. They should be hearing you supplicate to your Creator in times of need. Complaining or saying “if only I had done this (or that) this wouldn’t have happened” would be considered to be blameworthy. Rather accept the decree of Allah Most High, and exemplify patience and courage when you are forced to deal with misfortune. May Allah Most High protect us all from this.
Abu Hurayra said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer although there is good in each. Desire that which will bring you benefit, and seek help from Allah and do not give way to incapacity. If something happens to you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such.’ Rather say, ‘The decree of Allah. He does what He will.’ Otherwise you will open yourself up to the action of Shaytan.” [Muslim]
Anas said, “The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, passed by a woman who was weeping at a grave and said, ‘Fear Allah and show fortitude.’ She said, not recognizing him, ‘Leave me alone. You have not been struck by such an affliction as mine!’ She was told, ‘It is the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.’ She went to the door of the Prophet and, finding no one guarding the door, she said, ‘I did not recognize you.’ He said, ‘The time for fortitude is at the first shock.'” [Agreed upon]
Other good examples we can set before our children are examples from the Seerah. Our Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) demonstrated the attribute of bravery many times, and he is our ultimate role model.
Anas ibn Malik (رضي الله عنهم ) said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) was the best of the people, and he was the most generous of the people, and the bravest of the people. One night the people of Medinah heard a loud noise and they became overwhelmed with fear. The men went out to see what the noise was, only to find the Prophet (صلي الله عليه و سلم ) riding his unsaddled horse, and coming from the direction of the noise with his sword wrapped around his neck. He said to them, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. I found (my horse) very swift”.
The companions also often exemplified courage, and this can be see especially in the examples of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq or Sayyidna Ali (رضي الله عنهم ).
Other beneficial examples we can set before our children is that of our parents or other older relatives who have stories of how they overcame adversity, such as moving to a new country or faced danger, yet succeeded. This in turn helps the children to have greater respect for their elders, and helps them to have more admiration for them.
6. Avoid Foolish Bravado. Being brave does not mean we should encourage our children towards risky activities or stunts to prove courageousness. One should not take unnecessary chances or neglect safety in a futile attempt to prove bravery to others. Rather, one needs to balance physical courage with common sense.
Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The strong man is not the one who throws people in wrestling. The strong man is the one who has control of himself when he is angry.” [Agreed upon]
May Allah Most High give us success in raising our children in the best way, and may we instill good character in their hearts, ameen.
About Ustadha Shireen Ahmed