By Samuel Gonzalez
While friends and other relatives may come and go, for most of us, our parents are the only people there for us through thick and thin, through fire and flame, in times of happiness and during times of betrayal. Our parents are an incredible blessing from God – the mother carries us in her womb for nine months before birth, struggling and making sacrifices for the livelihood of the offspring, and the father supports the family financially. After some time, both of them pour their bodies, souls, and spirits into the wellbeing of their children. While respecting one’s parents, honoring them, and loving them are very clear and simple Quranic mandates to follow, what is not so well known are the examples of good parenting from the Qur’an. In this article, we will look at four characters from the Noble Qur’an and examine what we can learn from their examples as parents.
Mary, Mother of Jesus: Devout Purity
And follow the example of Mary, the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We breathed therein something of Our Spirit; she believed in the words of her Lord and testified to the truths of His scriptures, and was of the devoutly obedient. [The Noble Qur’an 66:12]
The Honorable Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) names Mary, Mother of Jesus, as one of the four spiritually perfected women in all of history, who will lead the souls of blessed women to Paradise. While images and representations of prophets and prophetesses are explicitly disallowed in Islam, Western imagery is replete with images of the blessed woman in blue and red veils and cloaks. The blue is said to represent her purity and royalty whereas her red clothing represents her love, passion, and fervor for God – the colors of motherhood.
In fact, it is very well known and widely accepted among both Christians and Muslims that Mary, Mother of Jesus, was an incredibly pure and devout young woman. However, the Qur’an actually provides the reader with a little backstory regarding her parents and upbringing in chapter three:
But when she [the mother of Mary] delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the Expelled One.” [The Noble Qur’an 3:36]
This verse is an indication that the knowledge, wisdom, and values picked up by a child begin in the home. Surely, as a result of the influence of her own mother and loved ones, Mary went on to worship Allah day and night. Despite all the hardships she faced from people accusing her chastity, she remained steadfast and obeyed Allah with unceasing faith. Good parents have a steadfast, unwavering faith in the One True God and pass down these values to their offspring. Good parents save their chastity for marriage, and guard their private parts solely for the one Allah has created for them.
Her influence in Islam is so profound that the Qur’an has an entire chapter dedicated to her – surah nineteen of the Qur’an describes her encounter with the archangel Jibreel, the Nativity, and the birth of her son, Prophet Jesus – in fact, Mary is the only woman referred to by her first name in the Qur’an. This is an honorable status granted by the Qur’an only to the most excellent of humanity, and mostly to the Prophets, Messengers and Angels. Good parents are honored by Allah and are richly rewarded for their good works.
King Solomon, Son of David: Ruler of the Inner and Outer World
“And when David and Solomon both passed judgment on the field where some people’s sheep had strayed to pasture there at night, We acted as Witnesses for their decision. We made Solomon understand it. Each We gave judgment and knowledge, and We let the mountains and the birds hymn Our praises with David – and We were the Performers.” [The Noble Qur’an 21:78-79]
According to the Quranic text, King Solomon, son and heir to the kingdom of David, was bestowed with a plethora of supernatural gifts, including the ability to speak to animals, administer commands to legions of djinn, and enslave the waves and winds to follow his words. Muslim historians consider him to have been the greatest and wisest king of all time. Furthermore, for the believers, Solomon is an exemplary figure in the jihad of the outer and inner world. As a king and political statesman, King Solomon was entrusted with the keys to the kingdom of Israel – he led battles, accounted for the treasury, responded to times of famine and war, and governed his own household, the palace, the state, and everything in between. As a prophet and father, he had to dominate his own inner demons in order to properly govern his environment.
In the cited parable from Surah al-Anbiya, which does not have its origins in the Bible or Hebrew literature, the event occurred in this way, according to Muslim commentators: the sheep from one pasture made their way into the field of another person at night – the next morning, both owners complained to King David, who issued that the strayed sheep should be given to the owner of the field. However, King Solomon opined differently and suggested that the sheep should remain with their original owner. Hence, the passage says, “We made Solomon understand it,” because Solomon made the correct decision. There are two primary lessons about parenthood that can be learned from this passage.
First, both David and Solomon (may Allah be pleased with them both) collaborated in conjuring up a proper solution. While their decisions contradicted, both voices were heard and, at the end of the day, the proper decision was administered. According to contemporary psychology, taking care of oneself, managing one’s emotions, asking for feedback, and entertaining alternative options are essential components for a better decision-making process. Good parents have mastery over their demons and collaborate with their children, rather than simply bark commands.
Second, the father had a lapse in judgment, he committed an error in his decision-making because he was simply a man both like and unlike us. In spite of his supernatural, God-given abilities, he was just a human being, prone to making mistakes and errors. The wisdom of his son corrected him, and David had the humility to accept this correction. Good parents accept corrections to their behaviors, admit their faults, and inculcate wisdom into their sons and daughters.
Mother of Moses: Infinite Faith and Compassion
“We revealed to Moses’ mother, ‘Suckle him and then when you fear for him, cast him into the sea. Do not fear or grieve; We will return him to you and make him one of the messengers.’” [The Noble Qur’an 28:7]
“That is how We returned him to his mother, so that she might delight her eyes and feel no grief, and so that she would know that God’s promise is true. But most of them do not know this.” [The Noble Qur’an 28:12]
For those of you who are parents, you are very well aware of the profound love you have for your child. You would give anything for them if it meant they could have a better life with less suffering. Yukabid, Mother of Moses, was no different from most parents who share this profound, intimate love towards their children. She adored her child – imagine the horror she felt when Allah commanded her to entrust him to the mercies of the Nile River. To make matters worse, the Noble Qur’an makes it explicit that, before casting her baby out into the river, she needed to have suckled the boy for some time. In other words, an emotional connection and a spiritual bond had to be developed in order for her to feel a real danger for her child.
Contemporary science has revealed to us that oxytocin contained in human breast-milk and further released during breastfeeding through suckling, touch, and warmth facilitates socio-emotional functioning in the infant by enhancing positive tendencies such as tenderness and compassion, and reducing negative tendencies such as withdrawal and anxiety. Furthermore, the mother is affected positively as well, since the endogenous release due to touch, warmth, and eye contact during the suckling process has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, heightens the mother’s neural sensitivity to the needs of the infant, and promotes the mother-infant attachment.
Allah has not created any illness in this world without its cure, and it is no coincidence that mothers have a natural and organic, embedded system wired into them that allows them to intuit the needs of their infant and nurture them simply with their peaceful presence. In order for a family to succeed, it is imperative for there to be harmony between the parents and the children, otherwise the house will not stand. Good parents are in tune with the inner needs of their child, from biological needs to their spiritual and emotional ones.
Zechariah, Father of Yahya: Spiritual Head of the Household
“Lord, my bones have weakened and my hair is ashen gray, but never, Lord, have I ever prayed to You in vain.” [The Noble Qur’an 19:4]
In this wonderful prayer, the Prophet Zechariah makes use of two powerful metaphors: weak bones and ashen gray hair. In the original Arabic text, Zechariah utilizes the word wahana, a term reserved for occasions in which the body becomes compromised, decomposing rapidly and left in a state of utter weakness. Modern medicine has proven that the bones in the human skeleton are inherently strong, so much so that even after the body decomposes, the bones remain for some time. Hence, even these bones which are strong by nature are beginning to fall apart. The second metaphor, which refers to the color of his hair, addresses his many years of life on this planet.
After humbling himself in this dua, the prophet says: “But never, Lord, have I ever prayed to you in vain.” He makes his case by pointing out his flaws, defects, and weaknesses, yet establishes Allah’s constant care, presence, and involvement in the affairs of his life. Yahya, son of Prophet Zechariah, was exhorted to hold fast to the Scripture and was given excellent wisdom by God while still a child; Yahya was pure and devout, humble and steadfast, always walking in the presence of God; Yahya was dutiful towards his parents and he was not arrogant or rebellious (Surah Maryam 19:12-14). In short, it should come to no surprise that the son of a righteous man turned out to be righteous himself!
The example of a righteous person leading the household makes an enormous difference in the raising of a child with God-consciousness, or taqwa. The Arabic word for God-consciousness, or taqwa, comes from the Arabic root waqaya, which means ‘to shield.’ This concept of the head of household shielding or protecting the family does not solely refer to physically protecting the abode from intruders, but also includes the spiritual development of the members of the household. In other words, there is a very powerful connection between the spiritual wellbeing of the head of household and the success of its members. The righteousness of Yahya is a direct result of Prophet Zechariah’s faith and good deeds – every good father should strive to cultivate his relationship with Allah until his bones grow weak and his hair grows gray and brittle. Good parents will pray and perform good deeds until the very last fiber of their being gives out and they return to Allah.
Learn more about parenting from the lessons and stories in the Quran below:
Indeed Editorial Team. February 2021. How to Make Better Decisions. Retrieved from: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-make-better-decisions
Krol, Kathleen M, and Tobias Grossmann. “Psychological effects of breastfeeding on children and mothers.” “Psychologische Effekte des Stillens auf Kinder und Mütter.” Bundesgesundheitsblatt, Gesundheitsforschung, Gesundheitsschutz vol. 61,8 (2018): 977-985. doi:10.1007/s00103-018-2769-0
NMWA. February 2015. Mary and the Colors of Motherhood. Retrieved from https://nmwa.org/blog/nmwa-exhibitions/mary-and-the-colors-of-motherhood/
One Path Network. Six Facts about the Virgin Maryin the Quran. Retrieved from https://onepathnetwork.com/6-facts-virgin-mary-in-the-quran/