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Parenting Series | Part I: Swimming Against the Current


Part I Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | | Part V(b) | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

We are living in a strange time of rat races, struggling to keep up with others around us. This race is not only limited to our wealth, status, or any other type of materialism, but also includes the way we carry out many of our daily roles in life, especially as parents. The way we raise our children and the values/goals we set for them has become a matter of competition. The definition of a good parent, in our world, revolves around how comfortably our children are raised, how much money we are able to collect and spend on them, the amount of good, fresh food that is provided daily, and what “type” of secular education we are able to provide for them. The more we are able to provide of these worldly things, the better we are perceived as fulfilling parents.

As bound by our nature, we follow the herd, meaning the norm of our society. Similarly, we pass on the same goals and priorities to our children. Even if someone desires to live a different lifestyle, it is very easy to succumb to the daily grind because of our surrounding environment.

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However, as Muslim parents we are entrusted with responsibilities beyond the success of this world. Hence, we cannot afford to go with the flow if we do not know where this flow will ultimately take us. Therefore, it is binding upon a Muslim parent to know:

  • What our goal is as parents
  • Who our role models should be

If our ultimate goal is strictly bound to the benefits of this world, then we can follow the trends of this world and our worries are limited; wishing only for our children a good education, a college degree, and a STDs/drug free life. On the other hand, if we have the next world in mind, then we must set ourselves additional values and goals which probably require swimming against the current, which is an extremely challenging and almost impossible task, unless stimulated by a solid motivation.

Why Set Superior Goals?

Why do we have to be the odd parent struggling to move against the current and creating more trouble for ourselves and complications for our child/ren? In a nutshell, remember we are alive not to focus on this world but rather to aim for the next world.

In my humble opinion, a loving parent is not one whose only focus is to fill his/her children’s stomachs, find them the best clothing, provide them with a comfortable place to live, and concentrate on their higher education.  I believe that TRUE love is reflected in how much attention is paid to the real purpose of their existence and to their final destination.

I was told about a young Pakistani man who had recently graduated with a Master’s degree from abroad and then returned to his motherland. He was an only child and his parents had “done it all” for their only son from the time he was born; they provided him with a luxurious upbringing and the best education of their time. However, and unfortunately, it didn’t include any religious guidance as that did not seem to be of value or importance. Disappointing to say, the young man fell sick and was diagnosed with cancer in its last stages. When he was hospitalized, he met an old man who talked to him about life after death, heaven and hell, and his last journey. That day, the young man cried like a little baby for he was not prepared for his journey, and he had nothing to take to his real destination. He questioned his parents about their negligence, looking at his degrees and achievements in dismay. How can his Master’s help salvage him? His parents realized their error but could only rue their heedlessness. Nevertheless, he was blessed during his final hours with a teacher who helped him learn salah, the Qur’an, and more of the basics of Islamic knowledge. I do not know if this young man lived or if he rests in his grave now, but I do hope and pray that Allah‘azza wa jall accepted his efforts, grants him Jannah, and forgives him and his parents.Ameen.

Let’s keep in mind that not everyone gets a last minute opportunity to make up for life-long negligence. Death comes unannounced and at the least expected moments; it is a reality that we can all be assured of. The question is, how many of us are preparing our children for that inevitable moment?

My daughter is fatally allergic to peanuts. A few years back, she had an accidental exposure to peanuts, causing an extremely dangerous reaction. On our way to the ER, she was throwing up, breathing abnormally, and her lips were turning blue. As I held her head in my arms, she whispered to me, “It’s okay mama, everyone has to die some day!” Her eyes rolled backwards (I will never forget that sight), and I thought we were going to lose her before we made it to the hospital. She was in indescribable pain, and as a mother I felt helpless because I couldn’t do anything for her.  All I wanted was for her to stop hurting, but I couldn’t take her pain away. To make a long story short, alhamdulillah no ill became of her; a short stay in the ER of the hospital and we were able to return home the same night. Still, that day I realized my limitations as a parent. When I thought I would lose her, I was willing to exchange my soul for hers, but it was a useless and absurd bargain to even think of. I realized that if those were her last moments, nothing would have benefitted her except her preparations for her final destination. My children might travel on their last journey before I do, and it is a journey they have to take alone. I will not be able to help them at this time and can only help them get ready for their meeting with the angel of death.

So, dear parents, while we prepare our children for their interview at an Ivy League school or for a big job, we cannot and must not forget about their ultimate interview and meeting with the angel of death. And with this in mind, we must aim to raise our children in a way appropriate and safe for their akhirah as well as their dunyainsha’Allah.

Having said this, I am not undermining secular education by any means. I am a firm believer that a secular education is very important for our children, particularly during this era. They must know and understand the world they live in, which is for their benefit; they must also be educated to secure a good job and be self-sufficient as a Muslim should be.

Yet, we must find a balance when we raise Muslim children while aiming for the akhirah, all the while doing well in this dunya. Our children study at school for 8 hours a day and come home with tons of homework, so where do we “fit in” Islam into their lives?  This is the question posed in every Muslim parent’s mind whose kids are not homeschooled or are not attending an Islamic school.

I wish I had a step-by-step guide for every parent according to their child’s type and age. Unfortunately, I don’t. And although I am not an expert in this field, I have a few suggestions to offer parents, some based on my own experience as a parent, some from counseling teenagers and other parents, and some based on simple observations.

Let us keep in mind that Islam is not a “subject” that we teach as a second-language or like sports training for soccer or football where we train/educate for a few hours during the day and then forget all about it until the next class. Rather, it is our religion, a way of life, and should be dealt with and taught like any daily ritual of our lives. In other words, instill our religion in their everyday lives, so it is indigenous to them.  It obviously requires a lot of effort from us as parents but be assured our good effort is never wasted:

“…then Allah surely does not waste the reward of the doers of good.” (12:90)

Better yet, we will thus achieve our goal, insha’Allah, and our children will become asadaqah jaariyyah (ongoing charity) for us, not to mention that they will secure theirakhirah, by the mercy of Allah.

“When a person dies, all his deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge (which he has left behind), or a righteous child who will pray for him.”

Let us be assured that it is, perhaps, the bare minimum requirement of being a “Muslim” parent, for the Prophet of Allah (sallAllahu alayhi wasalam) said:

“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The imaamis a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for her flock. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s wealth and is responsible for his flock…” (Bukhaari; Muslim)

Our children are entrusted to us by Allah ‘azza wa jall, so we must set proper values for them and direct their lives in the correct direction. If we neglect our responsibilities, then not only do we become partially responsible for spoiling our children’s akhirah (if they go astray), but we also subject ourselves to punishment. Remember the Day when we will flee from our children; it will not be for any other reason but out of fear that they might question us about their neglected rights:

“That Day shall a man flee from his brother, And from his mother and his father, And from his wife and his children. Every man, that Day, will have enough to make him careless of others.” (80:34-37)

After all this, how can we not have the akhirah as the ultimate goal for our children, and how can we not aim for Jannah for our children? How can we neglect their akhira and not prioritize their deen in their lives?

Dear parents, it is strange that when it comes to this world, we always have high goals for our children and our expectations know no bounds, but when it comes to their real destiny, we aim for the bare minimum. We never settle for just high school, but rather from the time of their birth we remain ever consistent with the hope of at least a Bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, when it comes to their akhirah, we are pleased with ‘as long as they pray’, ‘fast Ramadan’, or ‘fulfill the fundamental 5 pillars’ for the entirety of their existence!

The upcoming articles in this Parenting series are a brief summary of “The Parenting Workshop” I have given in the US and in Doha to a Western audience. Henceforth, let us proceed to practical steps of achieving our goal, insha’Allah.

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Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance." Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, she's been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage & family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.



  1. Your sister in islam

    December 15, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    Salamualaikum Wr Wb

    JazakAllah Khair Dear Umm Reem! :)
    May AllahSWT increase you in sincerity and guidance and bring great benefit to the ummah thru ur work!

  2. AbuMarjaan

    December 15, 2010 at 1:49 AM

    Assalam alaikum,

    Masha Allah !
    Hope to benefit from this series .May Allah make these “sadaqa jaariya ” for you
    Eagerly waiting for the upcoming articles..

  3. Abeer

    December 15, 2010 at 2:26 AM

    Assalam alaikum,
    Thanks for sharing the knowledge and thought. Here we are talking about huge resposibility. And I couldn’t agree more on your statement “On the other hand, when it comes to their akhirah…….”
    May Allah bless all of us!

  4. AnonyMouse

    December 15, 2010 at 2:49 AM

    Masha’Allah! I’m so glad you’ve taken the time to do this for us :)
    Looking forward to the rest of the series…

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Parenting Series | Part I: Introduction | --

  6. Sadaf Farooqi

    December 15, 2010 at 4:07 AM

    Barak Allahu feeki, Umm Reem.
    Looking forward to this series!
    I loved the 2 practical examples you gave to illustrate your points viz. the fatally ill young son and your own daughter’s allergic reaction. I think each of us has seen or witnessed such moments with loved ones in our lives, which poignantly remind us of our actual destination: our Akhirah that begins with death.

    • Mantiki

      December 15, 2010 at 6:10 AM

      It is true that there is more to life than money and worldly success.

      Anyone who is interested in what happens when you die might like to visit

    • Nayma

      December 15, 2010 at 7:14 AM

      Jazak Allahu khairan Umm Reem, esp. for sharing those practical examples. I’ve felt those feelings too. What can we give to our precious ones which will help them as the angel of death comes. That is one journey they will have to take themselves.

  7. Faatimah

    December 15, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    Assalamu’alaikum Wa Rahmatullaahee Wa Barakaatuhu

    Jazaakillaah Khayran sister Umm Reem. It is a very useful reminder Alhamdulillaah.

    SubhanAllaah the plight of the Ummah today is that most Muslim parents love their children in this world only and not their aakhirah. It is important to reinforce the aqeedah of Muslim parents on aakhirah Insha Allaah.

    Looking forward for the next series Insha Allaah


  8. s

    December 15, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    Alhamdulillah! I can’t wait for this series! Jazakillah Khayran Umm Reem. I hope you will discuss parenting issues from the very earliest ages onward inshallah.

  9. Bushra

    December 15, 2010 at 8:20 AM

    Jazakallahu khair, Umm Reem. Such valuable advice, masha’Allah.

    Just a quick correction on the ayah:

    “That Day shall a man flee from his brother, And from his mother and his father, And from his wife and his children. Every man, that Day, will have enough to make him careless of others.” (80:34-37)

    Something I learnt from Yahya Ibrahim about the translation of this ayah is that men will not flee from their children on the Day of Judgement, but from their SONS. Why? Because they will run around looking for their sisters and their daughters who will testify to the kindness of this man towards them. This is based on the following hadith:

    “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever takes care of two girls until they reach adulthood, he and I will come like this on the Day of Resurrection,” and he held his fingers together. Narrated by Muslim, 2631.”

    and also:

    Ibn Maajah (3669) narrated that ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Aamir (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “Whoever has three daughters and is patient towards them, and feeds them, gives them to drink and clothes them from his riches, they will be a shield for him from the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.” Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Ibn Maajah.

    Otherwise, an excellent post and something to think about when raising children. Whenever my mother reprimanded me for anything, she always said to me at the end of it – “You will thank me for this one day.”
    At the time, I thought “Ummmm…really??” But now I think that those words are so true. Alhamdulillah for the upbringing my parents gave me, it is far more valuable than the education they gave me. May Allah(swt) reward them for bringing us up with Islam, forgive them for their shortcomings and grant them Jannah…Ameen.

    • Umm Reem

      December 17, 2010 at 9:32 AM

      Something I learnt from Yahya Ibrahim about the translation of this ayah is that men will not flee from their children on the Day of Judgement, but from their SONS. Why?

      hmm…wAllahu ‘alam why he would say this because there are PLENTY of Muslim families that totally mistreat their daughters…
      so those who have not fulfilled the rights of their daughters, will run away from their daughters too…and those rights include giving them an Islamic upbringing, wAllahu ta’ala ‘alam…

      • Bushra

        December 18, 2010 at 9:16 AM

        If you look at the second hadith, that’s the basis for his reasoning. Of course, the mistreatment of girls amongst Muslims is circumstantial evidence, but the ahadith give many people a reason to treat sisters and daughters well, if not for the sake of humanity, then at least for the sake of reward and saving themselves from the Fire.

        Also, he mentioned that it’s due to the Arabic translation in the Qurán of that ayah. From what I recall, it may be the masculine plural of ‘children’.

  10. Um Aneesa

    December 15, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    um reem
    Where can I find out the meaning of the man being responsible for his family, while the woman is responsible for her husband’s house, what does the hadeeth mena by “family” and “house”
    Jazakillahu khayra!

  11. Sabeen

    December 15, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    “Let us keep in mind that Islam is not a “subject” that we teach as a second-language….”
    The tragedy is that sometimes the religion is not prioritized even by those parents that are themselves leading very observant lives.
    Jazakallah khair for an invaluable reminder. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

  12. Shuaib Mansoori

    December 15, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum Umm Reem,

    JazakiAllahu Khairan for this excellent endeavor. I ask Allah to reward you and your family immensely.

    This struck a chord with me:

    My children might travel on their last journey before I do, and it is a journey they have to take alone. I will not be able to help them at this time and can only help them get ready for their meeting with the angel of death.

    My elder sister passed away in 2003 when she was 17, rahimahallah. I can never thank Allah and my parents enough for bringing us up in a practising household and inculcating a love of Islam in our hearts. The night which was going to be her last, she lay close to my mother whispering some words. When asked about what she was saying, in her last breaths she said, “I’m reciting the 3 Quls (Mu’awwadhataan)” and she slowly and peacefully departed from this world. It was a sign of a husnal khatima and we hope that Allah enveloped her in His Mercy and sent noble angels to shroud her in garments from paradise.

    I look forward to the rest of the series and I ask Allah to Bless your children to be from the A’immah of the Muttaqoon and from the Revivers of this Deen.

    • Umm Reem

      December 17, 2010 at 9:34 AM

      I look forward to the rest of the series and I ask Allah to Bless your children to be from the A’immah of the Muttaqoon and from the Revivers of this Deen.

      amin ya Rabbal ‘alameen

  13. BrownS

    December 15, 2010 at 10:37 PM

    Jazakillahu khair for taking the initiative to start this series. I look forward to creative and practical methodologies being shared in the articles and comments. I don’t have any children yet but I think often about how I might achieve the goals you outlined above, especially when I see far more negative examples of parenting around me than positive ones.

  14. Asmaa

    December 16, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    Much needed topic, just published about at the right time.. JazaakumAllaahu kul khair..

  15. UmmAasiya

    December 16, 2010 at 11:27 AM


    Jazhakhallah for taking on this topic. You have given a great voice to my constant worry!!! As a parent of a 6 year old and a 3 year old – I have constantly worried and no wonder tired – because as you said riding against the tide is hard! I am eagerly awaiting your upcoming articles. May Allah reward you and may Allah cure your daughter completely of her allergy as He the Almighty is capable of everything. May Allah preserve her and guide her and all of our children onto the correct path and make them leaders of the mumineen iA. Greatly anticipating the upcoming articles…

    • Umm Reem

      December 17, 2010 at 9:36 AM

      wa jazakiAllah khair :)

  16. Cucumberr

    December 16, 2010 at 10:52 PM

    Jazakillah Khair! Looking forward to the series inshaAllah :)

  17. Terry Martin

    December 17, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    I have a sincere question that I do not know the answer to. In a Muslim home, what do parents tell the children of Christians and Jews? If I were to ask your eight year old child what they think of a Christian or a Jew, what would they tell me?

    I can be reached at and I would appreciate anybody’s response.

    • Amad

      December 18, 2010 at 4:47 AM

      I asked two 10 yr olds. One:
      Some are good, some are bad. Christians believe that Allah is 3 in 1. Christians that don’t worship like this may go to paradise. Christian friends r alright as long as they wash their hands after using the bathroom! [Kids notice the strangest things]. Jews make me think of Palestine and I have to ask my dad what’s going on? Then I feel angry as they r killing Palestinians, esp the ones that r not following the Torah. If they followed the Torah, they wouldn’t kill and would tell those killing not to.

      When I think about Jews, I think about what’s happening in palestine. I also think majority of them are nice people. Only the bad Jews are killing. When I think about Christians, i think they are kind people and sister religion of Islam, closest to Islam. Then I also think of warfare, like the president of USA are Christians most of the time, right? And they have started wars, like Iraq.

    • Umm Reem

      December 19, 2010 at 9:52 AM


      I think we should tell them what we believe. Jews and Christians are people of the book, those who followed the book properly will enter Jannah. However, in this world we must be nice to them as they are our neighbors, school teachers etc. Plus we represent Islam so we must be at our best behavior.

      Some parents do not encourage telling their children about the fate of Jews and Christians in akhira, but I had my children read the Qur’an with the meanings from the age of five, so by the time they turned eight they had read a lot about them in the Qur’an, which really helped them build an understanding towards them.

      hope it helps.

  18. africana

    December 17, 2010 at 6:47 PM

    Well, I think, generally speaking, Muslim parents will tell their children that thethe Jews and Christians, as people of scripture, follow revelations which, although originally from God have been changed through time. On account of this, there is some common ground and some difference.

    Many 8 year olds will also know that Christianity, as it stands, contains objectionable elememts like pagan customs (foremost , of course being Christmas) and ascribing partners to God.

  19. UmmAdam

    December 17, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Wonderful article! Looking forward to the rest of the series, inshAllah.

    @ Terry Martin: I have an 8 year old son….if u asked him what he thought of Jews and Christians, he’d answer, “Tyler is Jewish and he’s my friend, and Christopher is Christian and he’s my friend.” Pretty plain and simple.

    On another note, in this holiday season, my children know “the truth” about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the rest of the folly that others follow. My innocent child’s reaction: “Why do their parents lie to them?”

    I think a big difference in the way Muslim children are raised vs. the way Christians and Jews are raised, is that we don’t “sugarcoat” things. It’s very important for our children to have a firm base in reality. I speak honestly with my children regarding life, death and the Hereafter. I do tell them that this world is temporary and that to God is our ultimate return.

  20. Hebah Ahmed

    December 18, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Asalam ALikum we Rahmat Allah we barakatu,

    Masha Allah Umm Reem…excellent intro to your series…many personal experiences and thoughts that help bring the points home. Your story about your child’s allergic reaction broke my heart as a mother who constantly worries about my children. I realized that if anything ever did happen to my children, the thing that would cause me the most grief is if they did not seem prepared for their akirah and the thing that would give my heart the most comfort is if I believed they were well prepare and saved from any punishment after death.

    It seems to me that at this point and time, if you are not “swimming against the tide” in your parenting, you must be doing something wrong, cuz the tide is producing a sad state of affairs indeed.

    So glad tidings to the strange ones!!!!!

    Your advice is much needed and welcome with an open heart.

    Love you for the sake of Allah.


    • Umm Reem

      December 19, 2010 at 3:03 AM

      hebah, you need to share your parenting techniques with us, seriously. Please do help out here :)

      • Hebah Ahmed

        December 19, 2010 at 4:05 AM

        Masha Allah you have had more time to see the results of your methods! If you want to hash out aspects of your articles with me just let me know and I can give my thoughts. :) Just know that you have been my mentor and role model!

  21. Pingback: Swimming against the current | ninjabistyle

  22. Pingback: Parenting Series | Part I: Swimming Against The Current : MuslimMums

  23. Safia K R

    January 7, 2011 at 1:40 AM


    I think this is such a to-the-point and practical article also relevant to all of us who are parents and especially of younger children. Please do keep us posted of your efforts so inshallah you can benefit from the knowledge and sharing.

  24. Adil

    January 12, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    As Salaam Alikum Sister,

    It was indeed a good article and very true in sense.
    Understanding and following of Islam is very important to parents and parents can mould their children according to tenants of Islam.

  25. Umm

    March 21, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    Where’s the article? I only see the comments and a picture but no article. Please advise.


  26. Ammena Tarannum

    December 12, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Another beneficial and important writing from you dear Umm Reem. I just love reading your posts. MashaAllah! JazakAllah! I am really worried about my son’s future who is 4 now. I fear his akhirah being spoiled by dunya’s perversion and corruption so much. May Allah guide our children and accept our efforts. Ameen. Ma-assalam.

  27. Umm Haneefah

    December 17, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    Assalamu alaykum Umm Reem,

    Jazakillahu khayran for this series of articles….it is what I have been waiting for! SubhanAllah. Can I have your email, I would like to discuss somethings with you or can you contact me.

    Jazakillahu khayran

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