Giving advice is a delicate art. Knowing when to offer it, how to offer it, and to whom we should offer it, are valuable etiquettes in modern life.
Muslims are supposed to give advice. Sincere advice is also known as naseehah, and the definition of the word depends on whom the recipient of the advice will be. Tameem ibn Aus, reported that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Religion is naseehah. The people said: ‘To whom?’ The Prophet said: ‘To Allah and to His Book, and to His messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims, and to the common folk of the Muslims.’”
Advising our families, particularly, our adult children, falls under the broad heading of “advising the common people.” To advise them is to direct them, using gentleness and kind words, to what is good for them, and what is pleasing to Allah. It is to help them focus on acquiring the good in this life and the next.
Advising is done with a disposition of care and concern. It should be preceded by the advisor developing a rapport with the ones we seek to advise. It is not confined to hollow words and lip service. It is followed up by good actions. When we advise our adult children, we also assist them in doing good, we conceal their faults, and we try to relieve them of the distress and obstacles that may prevent them from doing good deeds. The goal should be to help them become better worshippers of Allah.
The Historical Precedence for Advising
In the Quran and Sunnah, we can find inspiring examples of a believer advising his adult child. From each example, we can extract important talking points that can serve as guidelines for the talks we will have with our own adult children.
Nuh’s Advice to His Sons
Prophet Nuh, peace be upon him, is one of the Prophets of Islam known as the Messengers of Strong Will. He persistently preached tawheed, the belief that Allah is the only deity worthy of worship or ascribing the qualities of divinity. For over 950 years, he called his people, who were becoming increasingly wicked, to tawheed. But most of the people disregarded Nuh’s message. Allah decreed that the people who had disregarded Nuh’s message would be destroyed by a flood. He also ordered Nuh to construct a boat - and ark - to save himself and other believers from that deluge.
According to the scholars of Islam, Nuh had four sons whose names were Ham, Shem, Yam, and Japheth. One of Noah's sons was a disbeliever who refused to come aboard the Ark. Instead, he arrogantly tried to climb a mountain to escape the flood. Islamic scholars deduce that it was Yam who did not follow his father’s advice and thereby drowned. The other sons remained believers.
Nuh’s family tragedy didn’t end there. His wife also refused to believe his message and was drowned. So Nuh’s remaining sons lost both their mother and brother as a result of the prophesied flood.
Prophet Nuh, however, remained steadfast. He continued to preach tawheed and live a righteous life. When he was about to die, he shared words of advice with his remaining sons. Abdullah ibn Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“When death approached Nuh, upon him be peace, he called his sons and he said: Verily, my time is short and you must receive instruction. I command you with two and prohibit you with two.
I forbid you from committing idolatry and arrogance. I command you to declare there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah, for if the heavens and the earth and everything between them were placed on one side of the scale and the declaration of no deity but Allah were placed on the other, it would surely outweigh it. Were the heavens and the earth a ring of solid iron and the declaration of no deity but Allah were placed upon it, it would shatter it to pieces.
I command you to declare the glory of Allah and His praises, for it is the prayer of all things and by it all things are given provision.”
(Musnad of Ahmad, #7101)
- Give a clear message.
- Emphasize the most important points, i.e., the essential ideas and understandings you hope will endure when you are no longer with your children.
- Remind your love ones to uphold the remembrance of Allah by praying, glorifying Him, declaring His Oneness, and praising Him.
Luqman’s Advice to His Sons
Luqman, who is also known as Luqman the Wise, lived during the time of Prophet Dawud. Born in East Africa (either Ethiopia or Sudan), he was enslaved and taken to Jerusalem. There, the abundant wisdom that Allah had bestowed upon him became apparent to the people. We can read his story and his advice to his son in the chapter of the Quran that bears his name. Embedded in that chapter is Luqman’s advice to his son (Surah Luqman, 31:12-19).
12. “And indeed We bestowed upon Luqman the wisdom saying: "Give thanks to Allah." And whoever gives thanks, he gives thanks for (the good of) his own self. And whoever is unthankful, then truly, Allah is All-Rich, Worthy of all praise.”
13. “And (remember) when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him: "O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily! Joining others in worship with Allah is a great dhulm (wrong) indeed.”
14. “And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination.”
15. “But if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do.”
16. "O my son! If it be (anything) equal to the weight of a grain of mustard seed, and though it be in a rock, or in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Verily, Allah is Subtle (in bringing out that grain), Well-Aware (of its place).”
17. "O my son! Establish the salat. Enjoin good and forbid evil, and bear with patience whatever befalls you. Verily! These are some of the important commandments ordered by Allah with no exemption.”
18. "And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not each arrogant boaster.”
19. “And be moderate in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the ass."
- Be grateful to Allah.
- Affirm tawheed and shun any form of shirk.
- Honor your parents.
- Repent sincerely.
- Accept the decree of Allah and acknowledge His Power over His creation.
- Be mindful of your ultimate destination.
- Be steadfast.
- Establish the salat.
- Enjoin good and forbid evil.
- Be patient.
- Be humble.
- Watch your overall behavior and manners.
Our Responsibility to Our Children
One of our main responsibilities to our children is to cultivate within them a belief in tawheed, the Oneness of Allah. This should ideally happen before adolescence. By the time the child is an adult, the parents’ role is to remind him/her of our duty to Allah. It is to advise them sincerely, with love, and concern. It is to provide encouragement. It is to pray for them.
Candice “Sister Islaah” Abd’al-Rahim reverted to Islam in 1976 and considers herself a student of knowledge. She has deep education credentials which include a M.A. in Teaching, Certificate of Advanced Studies (Post-Masters) in Administration and Supervision, B.S. in English, and experiences as a principal (in fact the first hijab public school principal in Maryland!), curriculum and staff developer, mentor, and classroom teacher of grades pre-K through 12. She is a former adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate School of Education and is a doctoral candidate in Islamic Sciences at the International Online University. Islaah’s contributions to the field have earned her honors in the Who’s Who of Distinguished JHU Alumni. She is wife, daughter, mother, and grandmother and is an active member of several Muslim communities in the Baltimore area
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