Failing to bring up children as good believers: Am I a bad parent?
I find this question strange coming from a Muslim who reads the Quran and appreciates what it says about guidance and faith. If you read Surah 111 which condemns Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s uncle, can you say that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not do enough to bring his uncle into the Islamic fold? And when you read the story of Prophet Noah and his son who was an unbeliever, can you say that Noah was in the wrong at one point or another? The Quran informs us that Noah continued to advocate the divine message for 950 years, urging his people to believe, but only a few accepted his call and believed. Islam is very clear on this point: there is no responsibility on parents to ensure that their children grow up as believers. It is not within their control. Addressing the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), God the Almighty says in the Quran: "You cannot guide aright everyone whom you love, but it is God who guides him that wills [to be guided]; and He is fully aware of all who would let themselves be guided" [28: 56].
Guidance to the right path begins with the individual who should take the first step to believe in God the Almighty as the only deity in the universe. When the individual takes this step, God the Almighty will facilitate for him or her the road to guidance and makes it easier for them to follow it. With every step they take, God increases their ability to follow guidance, as He clearly states: "As for those who follow guidance, He increases their [ability to follow His] guidance and causes them to grow in God-consciousness" [47: 17].
The parents’ responsibility is to bring up their children properly, ensuring that they receive the proper education which should include religious education. Parents should know what to choose so that rigidity or extremism does not scare off their children. When the parents have done that, they should keep watch over their young children’s behavior and provide them with the necessary guidance. When the children become teenagers, parents must only advise and guide their children; they cannot force them to be good believers. Belief is an individual’s choice.