The significance of fathers extends from the significance of men. Ever wondered why all the Prophets were men? This may be so because men tend to have a greater capacity for leadership, whereas women are known to have a greater scope for nurturing. And, there is no denying that the wisdom behind Allah's decree is best known to Him only. That said, there are many lessons that highlight the positive role of fathers. They are mentioned in the Quran for those who seek to reflect and lean on the teachings and guidance of Islam.
Learning through the Seerah of our Forefathers
The Quran acknowledges the unparalleled traits of some prophets who showcased remarkable characteristics of fatherhood. They leave behind a rich legacy for the forthcoming generations to learn from. Here are four of those notable figures.
1. Prophet Muhammad
Our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is by far the greatest symbol of humankind.
“We have sent you ˹O Prophet˺ only as a mercy for the whole world.
(Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:107)
He was the best father to his daughters and an exemplary grandfather to his grandchildren. And he always showed love, compassion, and mercy towards orphans and children (young and old alike).
Narrated Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, passed by a boy who was skinning a sheep. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said to him: “Step aside and I will show you how.” The Messenger of Allah put his hand between the skin and the flesh, and thrust his arm in until it disappeared up to the armpit, and said: “O boy, this is how you skin it.” Then he went and led the people in prayer and did not perform Wudu’.
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
Our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would show utmost respect and love towards his daughters and was not afraid of exhibiting it in front of others, such as in the case of his daughter Fatimah, may Allah be pleased with her. Narrated Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her:
“I did not see anyone who more resembled the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, in the manner of speaking than Fatimah. When she came to him, he stood up for her, made her welcome, kissed her and had her sit in his place. When the Prophet came to her, she stood up for him, took his hand, made him welcome, kissed him, and made him sit in her place. She came to him during his last illness and he greeted her and kissed her.”
When his grandsons would climb over his back during the prayers, he would lengthen his sujood or prostration out of love and devotion to help them build a love for Allah through positive associations.
2. Prophet Ibrahim
Despite the age difference between Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and his son Prophet Ismail, peace be upon him, they both serve as great examples for positive parenting. And, Muslims around the world are reminded of this every year when we perform the ritual of sacrifice for Eid ul-Adha.
When Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, to slaughter his son, he conveyed to him Allah's decree and sought his opinion.
"O my dear son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so tell me what you think." He said, "O my dear father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast."
(Surah As-Saffat, 37:102)
It is worthy of mentioning here that Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, did not just convey Allah's message to his son and demand blind obedience, but rather built up a conversation around it and asked him to impart his thoughts on the matter. This shows how they cherished a special bond of mutual love and respect, for the sake of Allah. Prophet Ismail, peace be upon him, who was just a young boy at the time, displayed immense maturity for his age when he agreed to submit to the will of Allah. This again highlights the supreme upbringing of Prophet Ibrahim, who managed to instill strong faith in his son at such a tender age.
Other than valuing his son's perspective, Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, also expressed utmost attentiveness towards his child when he made supplications for him. These are etched in the Quran and do not only cater to his son alone but to his future descendants, too. Moreover, these supplications are a witness to seeking what is best for our children’s success in this world as well as the Hereafter.
My Lord! Make me and those ˹believers˺ of my descendants keep up prayer. Our Lord! Accept my prayers.
(Surah Ibrahim, 14:40)
“Our Lord, and make us Muslims that submit to You, and from our descendants a nation that submits to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are Ever-Accepting of our repentance, the Most Merciful.”
(Surah al-Baqarah, 2:128)
3. Prophet Yaqub
Prophet Yaqub, peace be upon him, was blessed with twelve sons. His youngest was Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, with whom he developed and enjoyed a sacred bond. Their relationship thrived on healthy communication where Prophet Yaqub would actively listen to his son, and hence Prophet Yusuf was comfortable in sharing everything with his father openly, out of love, respect and value for judgement. Surah Yusuf mentions the occasion when Prophet Yusuf, shared his vivid dream with his father:
˹Remember˺ when Joseph said to his father, “O my dear father! Indeed I dreamt of eleven stars, and the sun, and the moon—I saw them prostrating to me!”
(Surah Yusuf, 12:4)
It was then that, Prophet Yaqub, peace be upon him, advised his son not to disclose the dream to anyone (not even to any of his brothers). Being a diligent man, he was aware of the different traits his sons held. Prophet Yaqub was mindful of choosing his words when he spoke to his son about his brothers, for he did not want to turn him against them. So he spoke in a respectful manner and clearly communicated his reason for not letting anyone know of his dream.
He replied, “O my dear son! Do not relate your vision to your brothers, or they will devise a plot against you. Surely, Satan is a sworn enemy to humankind.”
(Surah Yusuf, 12:5)
4. Luqman the Wise Man
Luqman, as most scholars agree, was not a Prophet, but due to his exceptional wisdom and faith in Allah, he was chosen to be mentioned in the Quran, as a lesson for the believers. Surah Luqman serves as a valuable resource for parents as it imparts reflections on truthfulness, accountability, gratitude, submissiveness, and reliance on Allah. Not only was Luqman gifted with all of these amazing qualities, but he imparted these good values and beneficial knowledge on to his son, too.
Luqman well understood the significance of cultivating a good understanding between himself and his son, in order to nurture their bond and so that he could share his wisdom with him to successfully navigate through life’s challenges.
Here are some of the verses from Surah Luqman which are reflective of his beneficial teachings to his son.
˹Luqman added,˺ “O my dear son! ˹Even˺ if a deed were the weight of a mustard seed—be it ˹hidden˺ in a rock or in the heavens or the earth—Allah will bring it forth. Surely Allah is Most Subtle, All-Aware. O my dear son! Establish prayer, encourage what is good and forbid what is evil, and endure patiently whatever befalls you. Surely this is a resolve to aspire to. And do not turn your nose up to people, nor walk pridefully upon the earth. Surely Allah does not like whoever is arrogant, boastful."
(Surah Luqman, 31:16-18)
The Quran clearly encapsulates how Luqman addressed his son in a loving manner and reminded him to remain steadfast and humble.
These and many other stories of fathers, mentioned in the Quran and Seerah, highlight the integral role of a father within the family and serve as a reminder that their duties are not restricted to only fulfilling material responsibilities. Instead, they can play a crucial role in positively shaping moral values in the lives of their children through their involvment.
We can also learn from the teachings of other Prophets, such as Prophet Dawud and his son Prophet Suleiman, Prophet Nuh and his sons, and many more. These stories are full of historic significance and also contemporary lessons.
Lessons for Reflection
When it comes to educating our children about making sense of right from wrong, it is generally considered that mothers play this strategic role. However, it is interesting to note that the Quran is filled with examples of conversations between a father and his child. Hence, there is much to learn and reflect upon when considering the successful upbringing of our children.
Here are some things to consider for a more positive outlook on parenting.
1. Establishing a Relationship with Allah
The one thing that our prophets purposefully worked towards concerning parenting goals was to establish a meaningful connection between their children and Allah. And, this indeed is one of the most crucial elements that we tend to overlook when it comes to parenting our children, because we often forget that it is not the values that we set which will help safeguard our children from going astray, but rather the love for our Creator and His deen which will help them remain steadfast.
As can be seen through the powerful stories of the above mentioned people of faith, they instilled a love for Allah in their children's hearts from an early age, not by demanding undue diligence but showing love, respect and honoring their relationship with their children for the sake of Allah.
2. Valuing Affection
Allah made receiving His mercy contingent upon having mercy on people at large, and youngsters in particular, for obvious reasons. Withholding expressions of love and affection from the kids, or leaving this to the mother alone, can have long term consequences.
Once a man witnessed our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, kissing his grandson. He boasted of never kissing any of this ten sons, to which the Messenger of Allah said:
“What can I possibly offer you if Allah has pulled the mercy from your heart?”
Through this example and from many others mentioned in the Seerah of our Prophets, it is evident how crucial the expression of love and affection is, and not something to be ashamed of.
3. Respecting Authority
There is a commonly referred to saying - “with great power comes great responsibility.” And this is also what Allah expects from us, when he decides to entrust us with an amanah or trust in the form of our children. Hence, we must be mindful of observing our duties and use our authority to care for and protect them in a loving and gentle manner.
The Prophet's companion, Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was well known and much respected for his leadership even though he was firm. This is because the people knew that the rules that he established were not meant to be followed by them only; rather he observed them strictly upon himself first. Demanding blind conformance towards traditions, imposing views about religion, and expecting absolute obedience in all matters is a sheer recipe for disaster and rebellious behaviour.
4. Practicing Patience
Patience is indeed virtuous, and just as it takes a great amount of effort to hone the skill of forgiveness, the same applies to patience. As seen in the case of Prophet Yaqub, peace be upon him.
“He cried, “No! Your souls must have tempted you to do something ˹evil˺. So ˹I am left with nothing but˺ beautiful patience! I trust Allah will return them all to me. Surely He ˹alone˺ is the All-Knowing, All-Wise.”
(Surah Yusuf, 12:83)
There is no doubt that our children are a test for us from Allah, but are we really doing justice to ourselves when we find ourselves complaining every now and then over trivial matters? So why not reflect and take heed from the lives of our Prophets.
5. Being a Good Listener
Generally speaking, parents quite often jump to conclusions before they even listen, assuming that since they have had more exposure in life, they are in a better position to advice. This most certainly goes against the teachings of our Prophets, who not only respected their children but also consulted them and asked them for their opinions pertaining to significant matters. As seen through the example of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and his son Prophet Ismail, peace be upon him.
6. Spending on your Family
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Out of the dinar (gold-currency) that you spend in Allah’s path, that which you free a slave with, that which you donate to the needy, and that which you spend on your family, the one yielding the greatest reward is that which you spend on your family.”
Regardless of how little or much you have, spending on the family is a way to earn tremendous reward. And the essence of it comes from not demanding appreciation for it. Surely, Allah is aware of our struggles and He is The Most Merciful, and it is only He who is capable of blessing us through unimaginable sources and ways. Hence, we must continue to spend as much as we can afford to provide for the comfort and shelter of our family.
7. Making Duaa for our Children
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"There are three supplications that will undoubtedly be answered: the supplication of one who has been wronged; the supplication of the traveler; and the supplication of a father for his child."
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
This leaves us in no doubt about the status of a fathers in Islam. It also serves as an opportunity for fathers to take advantage of this guidance to seek betterment of their children in terms of their upbringing and good fate in this world and the hereafter.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.