IT is narrated that a man came to a knowledgeable person from among our pious predecessors and asked him, “I just had a child, what should I do?” The answer came, “If you are just now asking this question, then you have already lost.”

This narration shows how serious Muslims used to be about raising children. So much so that they told this man, who had just had a child that he had lost. This is because they believed correctly that the proper upbringing of a child begins even before the child is conceived. It begins by us being good Muslims ourselves, choosing good mates and educating ourselves about Islam, and how to be good parents and how to raise good Muslim children. Unfortunately, many Muslim parents today do not understand the importance of raising good Muslim children the way they should.

As we go about our daily lives, pursuing our occupations as homemakers, doctors, businessmen, teachers or whatever we may be, how often do we forget that the most important job we have is being a shepherd, and that it is this job that Allah will call us to account for on the Day of Judgment. For Allah ‘s Prophet(peace be upon him) said:” All of you are shepherds and each one is responsible for his flock. A leader of a people is a shepherd and responsible for them. A man is a shepherd over his family and is responsible for them. A woman is a shepherdess over her husband ‘s house and his children and she is responsible for them. And a servant is a guardian over his master’s property and is responsible for it. So all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges.” (Bukhari)

As parents, Allah, has made us responsible for our families. It is the primary responsibility of parents to raise their children as Muslims. And therefore, as shepherds we must never give our children the impression that Islam is merely a series of rituals to be done in a certain way, day in, and day out.

Rather, we should be keen to tell them and to convey to them Islam as a complete way of life, and it is the way of life that brings about true peace and happiness, in this world as well as in the Hereafter.

As shepherds, we must realize that it is our responsibility to guide our flock and to keep them away from the prohibited pastures. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said “Whoever indulges in these suspicious things is like a shepherd who grazes (his animals) near the hima (private pasture) of someone else and at any moment he is liable to get in it. (O people) Beware! Every king has a hima and the hima of Allah on the earth is His illegal (forbidden) things.” (Bukhari)

As parents, are we outraged when our children bring home bad grades from school, yet we are indifferent when that same child misses salah(prayer). Are we more concerned with our child’s place in Harvard than we are with his place in the Hereafter? Are our homes places where the Qur ‘an is only dusted off for the ritualistic reading during the month of Ramadan?

So, how do we become good shepherds? The first step is to make a self-evaluation. We need to ask ourselves, are my feelings about Islam in accordance to what Allah requires of me? Does my action match my speech? How much of my time do I spend learning about Islam and/or performing acts of obedience to Allah? Only after affirming the strengths and weaknesses of our own Islam and constantly striving in our practice of Islam, can we begin to guide our flock on the path that is pleasing to Allah.

As parents and as shepherds our primary responsibility is fulfilling the commands of Allah “O you who believe, save yourselves and your families from the fire.” (Qur’an; 66:6)

Our flocks are the future of this religion. Are we raising them to be good shepherds?