8th Edition Editor’s Note 

Breakfast at my home is usually a very communal affair. Every morning we collectively set the table and no one is left in dream land. One grabs the toast and accompaniments; one sets the table whilst the other is on coffee duty all in all switching roles as the flow requires. Sitting together over a meal is one of the only times we get to keep company as a family and just relax, speak openly and share thoughts. I truly do love this part of the day and I’m also aware however that it will not always be this way. The children will grow up and into themselves, rendering the importance of everything else of event unrelated to the social personality outside the house as a mere interlude to get through. Our distracted life in routine will soon see this moment of intimate exchange, a moment to absorb ourselves in bonded love turn into another listed activity in the day’s agenda. This is a common situation today. We consider ourselves lucky to be able to at least do this simple thing. But it isn’t quite as grim if you remember for a moment that whatever the children are going through, so are we, in our own collective and strange way throughout each new stage of life. They grow and so do we. For now, there is something so reassuring of your child’s need of you that really sets your heart at ease.

One morning, my wife and I picked up a discussion about adab (Courtesy/Behaviour). What came out of it was that ‘children ought to be treated as guests’. This is of course in the context of education. Imparting any behaviour to a child, first needs to be imprinted as a practised example. The first lesson in ‘service’ is being served by someone who knows how to serve. This is a subject that we can talk about for hours. And it is a wonderful subject in that there is always something new to discover about it. Really because, well, it is based on you and as you change more of it begins to emerge. How this relates to children, is that we wish to impart wisdom. We want the best for them. We want success for them. If, who you are and what is happening to you is of any importance to you, then what is happening with your child and who they are is of great importance to you. Children mimic, to a greater or lesser degree, what they see in their parents. Significantly, those things that they don’t understand yet and wish to grasp. You find it so often with children when they play with each other. It’s almost like a theatrical representation of what goes on at home. So this matter of behaviour is a great matter.
Modelling good behaviour toward your children starts with being courteous with them, and being of service to them in hopes that they will take from that a concern for others. In other words you model this so that they see what it is. But this wisdom does not occur out of a vacuum. It isn’t some simple formula whereby, doing things for them automatically translates it in them going out into the world to do things for others. That is because the relationship we have with our children is a deeply personal and intimate bond. So much is transmitted of our inner condition to each other in our actions. The way I put the food on the table is not the same way I did it yesterday. What they really see in us lies in the realm of things unsayable. They see your state; they see the meeting you just had at work, the state of the traffic on the road and the issues you have been dealing with for the past week now entering tipping point. The truth is that we cannot hide this from anyone. We have to imagine that whatever were going through our children go through as well.


Where do we go through from here? How do we transmit the best possible behaviour to them? The wonderful thing is that children are hard-wired to be sincere even when trying to cover up something they have done. You see in them this desperate need to be known. That in having done something they know is wrong, there is a subtle need to be caught and found out. As if the weight of covering up the act has become too much. They have no way of navigating through this emotionally on their own. We have to show them the way out. They are like the guests of life. We have to help them navigate through the world.
Why we are asking these questions, is that we want to be successful in transmitting this knowledge. How do we help our children navigate through the world, if we ourselves, struggle to navigate through it as well? If we never really get to the destination point. In other words never arrive at a place where we know all that needs to be known, then all we can do in our relations with our children is to emphasize on the journey of life. We have to educate them on how to walk this journey. Teach them how to deal with themselves, so that they get the most out of it.
In that we are going through all of these ourselves, our sense of responsibility for their future, then we need to learn how to deal with ourselves. This is key. When we learn to deal with ourselves properly, we will be able to transmit that to the children properly. Similarly, we cannot teach Adab or for that matter have Adab with children if we do not have Adab with ourselves. Not knowing of how to have courtesy with yourself is to be ignorant of what courtesy is. And if we are ignorant of it, we will transmit this ignorance and wonder why the child does not pick up the knowledge we intend for them.

Behaviour is the only school that mankind finds acceptable to learn from. In the current modern lifestyle we seem to favour the virtual experience over the real. Complaining that we never have the time for human experience, but in reality we find that we have become master ‘time-wasters’. This is what we’re really sharing with our children. What we want to believe were sharing with our children is what we just shared on Facebook. We have to make a decision on which world we wish to live in. If you have to send a WhatsApp message to your child to get them to respond to you, then you have to deal with the fact that something has gone out of control. Not with your children but with you.

Nabeel Abdalhaqq