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Destination Jannah: Raising the Inhabitants of Jannah

Most Egyptian men, at some point or another, have to serve in the Egyptian army. Usually when they’re done with their education, they are called for their military training…

I heard a story of this one Egyptian mother who had a son in the army. When she realized the army might go out and kill innocent protesters at Rabaa Square and other places in the summer of 2013, she called him and said: I would rather see you imprisoned for life for failure to obey orders than know you have killed a single innocent person. I would rather cry over your dead body than know you have taken a believer’s life unlawfully.

This is a serious statement. Those who refuse to obey the orders of their army leaders can easily be imprisoned, tortured and even killed. As a mother, she knew that was a possibility for her son if he failed to obey an order. And as a mother, she understood how painful her life would become if she really did lose him.

I don’t know anything about this woman. I don’t know her name or her son’s name or where in Egypt she lives. I only know of her incredible statement to her son. I think about her often, and I think about what her statement means for me as a mother.

What sets her apart is her unwillingness to sacrifice her son’s position with his Lord in order to ensure his physical safety. Many parents want to keep their sons and daughters physically safe by any means necessary, regardless of the consequences. But a parent who understands the true purpose of this existence would rather see his/her child perish in this world for the sake of God than to know he is ‘safe’ but has earned the anger of God.

It’s hard for parents (myself included) to worry more about their children’s future in the hereafter than their future in this paltry existence. It isn’t always as extreme as the example above which involves life and death. It could be us letting our kids cheat to get ahead, or turning a blind eye to them missing their prayers when they’re at sports events, when they need to get “a good night’s sleep” or even when they’re at school. Getting ahead is important, physical activity is important, school is important – but none of these things are more important than the submission to and worship of God.

Every human will be held accountable for his or her own deeds – but for parents, we have an additional amanah (trust) for which we will be called to account: our children. Whether they eventually remain on the path of truth or deviate from it is in their hands; we cannot always guide those we love. But we can teach them their purpose and help them prioritize their relationship with God above all other relationships and commitments.

As parents we have a lot of fear that we will lose our children. For some of us, it keeps us up at night. But for the most part, our fear is misplaced. We should fear that we won’t do our best to keep them on the straight path. We should fear for our children’s status with God.

It’s better for your child to fail again and again than to cheat even once. It’s better for your child to be tired at school because he waited up to pray isha prayer, or got up early to pray fajr. It’s better for your child to miss 5 minutes of class so she can pray. It’s better for her to not get hired for a job instead of compromising her values.

So this woman – this mother who made the decision to tell her son something that was very painful for her to say – she understands priorities. She pushed her own emotions to the side to tell her son: your ultimate purpose is to worship Allah in everything that you do and stay away from what is prohibited…no matter how difficult it is. No matter how much it might hurt me or you.

We aren’t exclusively raising doctors or teachers or businesspeople. We’re raising the future inhabitants of Paradise. And if God has mercy on us, we are raising our future companions in Paradise, too.

“O you who believe! Protect yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels, stern and severe, and who disobey not the commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded” (66:6).

May Allah guide us to be parents who always understand the higher purpose.

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