The day was Sunday April 2, 2006. It was like any other Sunday, except that it was during the height of tax season, and I was over two hundred miles away from home, in a conference that I did not want to attend, listening to speakers that I did not care to hear.
There were only two speeches left before I could finally return home and get back to work. It was then, at the peak of my boredom, that the penultimate speaker took to the podium. He said that the Prophet Muhammad once saw a man playing with his son in the mosque. The Prophet asked the man, “Do you love your son?” The man replied yes, so he then asked, “Would you like me to tell you something that will make you love your son even more?” The man again replied, “Yes.” The Prophet continued, “Everything you do to please your son in this life, Allah will do to please you in the hereafter.”
Wow! Amazing! What a most excellent narration! This was not like forcing myself to get up at dawn every morning for prayer, or the exhausting task of fasting the thirty days of Ramadan. This was easy. This was something I would love to do. This was like receiving pay for play, only without the risk of head trauma. This was my ticket to paradise. I could not wait to get home to spend some quality time playing with my kids. Only I had no children and I was not married. My excitement subsided, and a strong resolve to get married quickly grew in its place. After the speaker concluded his speech one of my friends came to me and said, “I don’t know if you were serious, but if you were, I have someone in mind for you.” Less than two months later I was married to that special someone, and less than two years later, Allah blessed us with a baby girl.
As my daughter has grown, so has my understanding of this narration. From the day she was born, I have striven to please her so that I may receive the blessings described in the narration. She reciprocates my efforts with expressions of joy and affection, and proposals for marriage. Not only do I want to please her for the hereafter, but for the pleasure of her smile and laughter. It is a pleasure greater than that of breakfast after fasting the day of the summer solstice. I truly love my daughter more because of this narration. And while she is my greatest source of joy in this life and my ticket to paradise in the next, she is also a protection for me from the hell fire. She reminds me to supplicate before eating, asks me to recite the Quran before she sleeps, and wakes me up to ask for a glass of water at the break of dawn.
The Quran and the traditions of the Prophet teach us to spend on our children within our means. One thing we all have the means for, regardless of income, is to spend time with our children. The thing that most children want above all else, especially during their formative years, is the attention of their parents. My daughter asks for all the bells and whistles that kids ask for, but does not play with any of her toys, read any of her books, or watch any of her movies, unless she is playing with her dad, reading with her mom, or watching with her uncle. I know that it can be exhausting to play with our kids after a long busy day. But remember that every second we spend with our kids is an investment in our future. Our children will be our caretakers when we reach the age of senility. They will be the ones who supplicate on our behalf when we pass. And they will be our tickets to paradise in the hereafter.
Saief is a happily married father of two. He is a Rutgers alumnus, and a recovering fantasy football addict. A legend in his own mind, he can be seen gracing the front page of the Jersey Association of Muslim Sports flag football website (http://jams-league.com/football/).