By Gulmakai Saleh
Founder & Creative Director of The Golden Tree of Goodness
“Listen son, if they call you names you do the same so they can feel the pain,” said the young boy’s mother. I was shocked at what I had just witnessed. What is this mother teaching her son? Doesn’t she realize one day her son will be the future of our world? Doesn’t she realized her son will be a husband, a father, and maybe even a leader. What type of harm is this mother causing the future generation? What happened to using wisdom to teach her son uprightness, resilience, and humility? As the late President John F. Kennedy puts it, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”
How we raise our children today will determine the future of what the next generation will have to deal with. When I mention, “our children” I am speaking about not just the parents but the society as a whole who raises a child. We, the people of today will construct the future for the next generations. If we do not do well by the way we raise our children, or what ideas we bring into the society, and what laws we put into practice, we will be unjust with the next generation of people who will walk on this earth. Allah has given the human race the honor to be leaders in one way or another, whether it is being a leader to our self, our family, or a group of people. How we play this role into action will determine the outcome for the upcoming generations.
In addition, in the Quran in the following ayah, we see how things go from virtuous to immoral in society. Allah says, “But there came after them an evil generation, who wasted the prayer and followed lusts; so, they shall encounter the error” (Quran Surah Maryam 19:59). For a society to go bad the Muslims would pray, but they would not prayer at proper times with khushoo and the masjids will be empty so it will be a wasted prayer. The second reason a society goes wrong is that they followed their lust, meaning their desires become their God. They start to follow the commands of, “I”, instead of Allah.
Now, how can we redirect ourselves and our communities to go back on track to the right path so we can have a society filled with compassion and consideration for each other, which will leave off a better generation for the future? The Quran is filled with wisdom, we can take some wisdom from Surah Luqman ayahs 13-19. These verses are about how a Father, Luqman advised his son on how he should conduct his life. If we follow his advice, it will have a positive impact on future generations. His advice is universal and can be applied by people of all faiths.
Before we dive into the verses, we can take the first guidance from just the action of Luqman. Him advising his son shows that one of the injustices we cause to the future generation is that we do not raise a child with proper understanding and guidance in life. We set ourselves as negative role models through our character and speech. As you will see Luqman is not only thinking about his son’s future but the future generations that will follow. He is a man with a mind focused on the betterment of humanity.
Starting with the verses 13-15:
“…, “O my son, do not associate [anything] with Allah. Indeed, association [with him] is a great injustice” (Quran Surah Luqman 31:13).“And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents….” (Quran Surah Luqman 31:14). But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance] ….”(Quran Surah Luqman 31:15).
The first thing Luqman advised his son with was worshipping Allah (God) alone and second on treating one’s parents with kindness. This is where injustices first start from when we neglect worshiping Allah alone and then neglecting our parents. These ayah’s go back to what verses Maryam19:59 had touched upon. When we follow our desires, we neglect our worship and the rights of our parents. We become so tied up in our own worldly desires that we go to the extent of not worshipping Allah and worshipping ourselves. In the process we also do not give our parents their rights.
Subsequently, as Luqman continues to tell his son to be conscious of Allah with your action and speech. … “O my son, indeed if wrong should be the weight of a mustard seed and should be within a rock or [anywhere] in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth….” (Quran 31:16). As we observe the society we live in, we see people being less conscious of their actions towards other people. Our society has become self-absorbed, thinking only for the best interest of themselves. We have become so neglectful of others’ rights; that we will park our cars in a handicap parking spot, or use their bathroom stool, or block their way with our shoes in a masjid by putting them on the floor around the entryway instead of the shoe shelf. During Ramadan, if we go to a masjid for iftar we will observe how we are wasteful with food and do not recycle our plastic items. All of this is happening while the young generation is observing our behavior. We are not just polluting the earth for the future generation but polluting the minds and hearts of the young generations. They are learning our careless behavior and they will grow up to be the same or even worse than our generation, which the cycle will continue.
As Luqman continues to give advice he tells his son to enjoy what is right and forbid what is wrong. “O my son, establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed, [all] that is of the matters [requiring] determination” (Quran 31:17). We live in a time when you give sincere advice to someone, the answer you get back is “Mind your business.” Just recently I heard the lyrics of a Muslim rapper, singing similar words about minding our business. What is she trying to do with her words is making youth to deny Surah Asr’ which the main objective of the surah is to give sincere advice? When we stop advising people to do good and not stopping them from doing wrong, we are unjust to the future generation as this action will have a huge impact on them.
Accordingly, the second part of this verse is to have patience. When a parent or adult is subjected to hardships in life and displays patience in front of their child it will have a positive impacted on the child’s character. Luqman recommends his son to have patience when dealing with people in all matters.
As the verses continue Luqman tells his son what type of character he should innate in himself.
“And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful” (Quran 31:18). “And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys” (Quran 31:19).
As previse mentioned, when the mother was instructing her son, when she said to him, “Listen son, if they call you names you do the same so they can feel the pain,” she was molding a child the will have no respect for others. He will become a person who will have pride, arrogance, and ill character. These last two verses teach us to be humble, modest, and to have a good character. Luqman reminds his son of the essential values a believer must strive to acquire, while simultaneously shunning pride and arrogance.
Luqman the wise counsels his son with advice that will not just transform his son but the future generations that will come. When parents and adults can convey these pieces of advice to their children/students, they are laying out the foundation for a brighter future for the upcoming generations. Like Billy Graham, the evangelist had said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
In conclusion, when you watch the news and you see people committing crimes, leaders who are ordering mass killing and so on, those people were once children. They were the product of the past generation. The values we implement in a child whether it is the parents, or the collective society makes a huge impact on the child who becomes a grown up. We say we have the best interest of a child in mind but in reality, we do not. This is injustice we do against the children of this generation and the future ones. I leave you with the words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),
“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The ruler is 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 household and is responsible for her flock” (Saheeh Bukhari & Muslim).