Protecting your Greatest Investment: Embracing the Purpose of Parenting
Prophet Zakariyyah (as) was old in age and his wife was barren, and yet he still yearned for the blessing of a child.
He would go to where Maryam (as) was worshiping Allah and find her with provisions – all kinds of food and fruits that were not even in season. When he asked her “from where is this coming to you?” She said, “it is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account” (3:37).
Zakariyyah was astounded at hearing that, and immediately turned to his Lord saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication” (3:38).
Allah responded by giving him glad tidings of a son to come named Yahya…
Even in his old age with his weakened bones and white hair, Zakariyyah wanted a child to be his successor and to inherit from him. He said:
“And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife has been barren, so give me from Yourself an heir Who will inherit me and inherit from the family of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing [to You]” (19:5-6).
But the inheritance that he sought to leave with his child was not of a monetary nature. He didn’t need him to run a family business or to carry on his family name. Zakariyyah had spent his life dedicated to the worship of Allah, and to conveying the message of guidance to his people. Now he was asking Allah (swt) to bless him with a child so that the child would continue to carry the message of truth and guidance to his people.
That was his greatest motivation. This is what he wanted to invest his time, effort and resources into.
Why do you want a child? Or, why did you want the child that you now have?
Sure, it’s the natural order of things that humans procreate. It’s the natural order of things that one generation grows older and the next generation takes its place. It’s the natural order that humans want to establish a legacy and have it live on through their children.
But there’s so much more to it. There is so much more benefit that can be derived from raising your children well:
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (for the deceased).”
Your kids are your legacy. In addition to charity and beneficial knowledge, righteous children are an on-going source of good deeds for you after you’re long gone from this earth. Your good deeds increase each time they pray for you, each time they give charity on your behalf and each time they do or say something positive that you taught them.
When your soul departs your body and you are placed in your grave, you will wish, more than anything in the world, to be able to give another dollar in charity, or to pray one more prayer, or help one more person.
Your children are one of your greatest investments. You’re not raising them just for the adventure of it, or just because of your innate human yearning for offspring. You’re raising them to help yourself when you’re vulnerable and standing before your Lord, not knowing if the deeds you performed will be enough to outweigh the bad.
With righteous children in tow, your scales of good deeds will continue to become heavier as time passes. When you raise children who will carry on the torch of truth and justice, every person they help and guide, will be recorded in your book of deeds, too.
This is the sense of purpose you need particularly when your kids are going through the most difficult phases, and you feel incapable and exhausted. At that moment, it seems easier to put on blinders and turn on autopilot parenting. It seems easier to plough through the years and busy yourself with other things so you don’t notice how far your kids are drifting into the distance.
But if you invested a huge chunk of wealth into a start-up business, would you just idly sit by as the CEO of that business made one bad decision after another, driving the business into the ground? Or would you actively attempt to steer him in the right direction and work with him to make better decisions? You would obviously do the latter, because you want to protect your investment and get a good return on it as well.
So do for your children the same as you would do with any significant investment – follow up, be concerned, be consistent, be protective, offer your help. They are the greatest investment you’ll ever make.