Friday, May 24, 2013

What Islam Says About Children (part 2 of 5): Children are Blessings not Possessions

Islam is a holistic religion that covers all aspects of life.  Spiritual, emotional and physical needs are all dealt with equally, one is not more important than the other.  In fact, for a person to be spiritually healthy one’s emotional and physical needs must be taken care of.  This is not restricted to adults; the rights and the needs of children are of paramount importance.  As we discovered in the previous article children’s rights come into play even before conception.

When man and woman make the decision to marry and start a family they are securing their future children’s rights.  Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, advised his companions and all believers to make the following supplication to God before having sexual intercourse.

“I begin with the Name of God!  O God! Protect me from Satan and protect what You bestow upon us (our offspring) from Satan.”[1]

Once a child is conceived it is important to remember that this is a trust from God. Although the child is most certainly a blessing, it is not a possession.  He or she has God given rights that must be fulfilled. Throughout the pregnancy, the expectant parents must take care to prepare for the new arrival.  The mother must take care of herself by eating the correct food, getting the required amount of rest, and seeking medical aid when needed.  Preparing for birth also includes remembering God and seeking His aid.

“O my Lord! Grant me from You, a good offspring. You are indeed the All-Hearer of invocation.” (Quran 3:38)

“It is He Who has created you from a single person (Adam), and (then) He has created from him his wife Eve, in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living with her. When he had sexual relations with her, she became pregnant and she carried it about lightly. Then when it became heavy, they both invoked their Lord (saying), “If You give us a child, good in every aspect, we shall indeed be among the grateful.”  (Quran 7:189)

“Our Lord! Bestow on us from our wives and our offspring the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders of the pious.” (Quran 25: 74)

Muslims believe all children are born submitting to God, this means they are born innately inclined to love and worship God alone.  In his traditions, Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, made this very clear.  He said that no child is born except on his true nature (Islam) and that his parents may choose to give him/her a different religion other than submission to One God.[2]

When a child is born it is a cause for much happiness and celebration.  In Islam there is no preference for either a male or female child. Quran says that both the male and the female were created from a single person (Adam) and that are equal except in terms of piety and righteousness.

“And God said, ‘Oh humankind!  Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam) and from Him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women.” (Quran 4:1)

Islam was revealed at a time when the Arabs practiced infanticide and would often bury their female babies alive. This was an ignorant practice and Prophet Muhammad stated categorically that female children are a blessing and that raising them to be righteous believers is a source of great reward.

“And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonour or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.” (Quran 16:58 & 59)

 We have also learned much about the Islamic view of children from Prophet Muhammad’s beloved wife Aisha.  Traditions narrated by her show clearly that male children should not be preferred over female children and that raising daughters is a source of great reward.

A lady along with her two daughters came to me (Aisha)  asking for some alms, but she found nothing with me except one date which I gave to her and she divided it between her two daughters, and did not eat anything herself, and then she got up and went away. Then the Prophet came in and I informed him about this story. He said, “Whoever is put to trial by having to raise daughters and he treats them generously (with benevolence) then these daughters will act as a shield for him from Hell-Fire.”[3]

“Whenever a child was born among them, Aisha would not ask if it were a boy or a girl.  Instead she would ask, ‘Is the child healthy (and without defect)?’ If she was told, ‘Yes,’ she would say, All praise is for Allah, Lord of All the Worlds.’

When the great day arrives, a new life joins the imperfect world.  He is placed into the hands of his parents and becomes entitled to even more rights.  Islam sets out very clearly that there are ways of welcoming and dealing with infants and children.  They are entitled to have their physical and emotional needs met and they are entitled to being taught how to worship, love and maintain a connection to God.

Parents, extended families, guardians and the Muslim community at large have been given a trust, a tiny life completely dependent upon its caregivers for protection and care.  For  many children the world is immersed in terror.  Hunger, pain, suffering, torture, sexual abuse, and other horrors are the realities of life.  When their small attempts to reach for comfort are rejected or their cries are silenced God is watching, and angels are recording.


[1] Saheeh Al-Bukhari

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim

[3]Narrated by Aisha from Saheeh Al-Bukhari

What Islam Says About Children (part 1 of 5): God Guarantees the Rights of Children

Islam is a religion revealed by God for all people, in all places, at all times.  As such, Islam is accessible to everybody and is particularly mindful of the importance of respect, rights, and responsibilities.  The words of the Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, contain the rights and responsibilities granted by God to humankind.  They are not subject to the whims and desires of men or women therefore they do not change.  These unique rights mentioned in Islam also include the rights of children.  Children’s rights are not guaranteed by the actions of their parents, their communities, or even their governments.  God Himself guarantees children’s rights.

Islam establishes a legal framework, and embodies a code of ethics, designed to protect the rights of an individual including his or her right to live in a secure society.  For children, security is of the upmost importance.  The rights of a child begin even before birth; in fact they begin before conception. The Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad make it clear that two people should not enter into a marriage carelessly.  A great deal of thought and preparation is necessary before man and woman commit to each other and to the family that may result from their union.  Prophet Muhammad was heard to say, “A woman may be married for four reasons: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty, and her religious commitment.  Marry the one who is religiously committed.”

If a man and a woman have both dedicated their lives to worshiping and pleasing their Creator then the rights of any children they may have are automatically guaranteed.  Worshiping God means obeying His commandments and His commandments include securing the rights of the child.  By marrying rather than having an illicit relationship the couple has already begun to secure the rights of their future children.  A child has the right to know and understand his or her lineage.

Once a child is conceived, it has the right to life.  The Quran makes it very clear that all life is sacred.  It is never permissible to terminate a pregnancy because one fears being unable to financially support a child or another child.  It is God, who is the Provider and Sustainer of all life.

“...kill not your children because of poverty - We provide sustenance for you and for them”. (Quran 6:151)

When making a decision to terminate a pregnancy it is important to remember that having a child is a blessing from God and all such blessings should be accepted with joy and gratitude.  There are many people in the world today who are not able to have children, therefore when God blesses a family with one, it should be a cause for celebration and happiness.  However, children are not toys or possessions.  With them comes great responsibility.

The Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, speak clearly about the responsibility that comes with raising a child.  It is an obligation upon the believers to raise and care for children by bringing them up as moral, righteous human beings.  Secure in the knowledge that they are valued members of the human race, and their particular families.  Neglecting this duty could potentially lead a person away from the path of righteousness and away from God.

“O you who believe!  Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from God, but do that which they are commanded” (Quran 66:6)

Prophet Muhammad said, “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.  The ruler is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.  A man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock.  A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s household and is responsible for her flock”.[1]

Caring for and raising children in the proper manner is a duty on parents and it is not always easy.  In fact, God reminds us in the Quran that children may even be a great trial for their parents.  The triumphs and tribulations of life are a test and children are no exception.  They can bring great joy and at times they can bring great sadness as well.  God in His infinite wisdom never leaves a human being alone and unable to face all of life’s trials.

“Your wealth and your children are only a trial, whereas God, with Him is a great reward (Paradise).” (Quran 64:15)

Following the teachings of Islam enables a believer to face all life events including the trials the tribulations and the triumphs.  The correct Islamic advice for raising and rearing children covers all aspects of life.  Just like Islam itself, it is holistic advice.  Physical, emotional, and spiritual well being are all of equal importance.  It is interesting to note that Islam has always covered the rights of children. The Islamic view of childhood states that it is a unique period in an individual’s life.[2]  This is in sharp contrast to western/European ideology where the concept of childhood was not addressed until the 16th century.[3]  It is not that the west did not have children or young people but rather they considered them to be small adults with the same needs and wants as adults.

Throughout Islamic history and in Islamic literature the rights and responsibilities pertaining to children are clear cut.  Parents, families, and communities have certain responsibilities towards children.  Many of them are obligatory, and on the Day of Judgement, God will question adults about the treatment of their children.

The late Islamic scholar, Sheikh Uthaimeen, may God have mercy on him, described children as a trust given to parents by God.  He also said that children are to be well fed, well-groomed, properly dressed for seasons and appearance.  Children are entitled to education, religious learning, and spiritual guidance.  Their hearts must be filled with faith and their minds entertained with proper guidance, knowledge, and wisdom.  With that in mind, the following series articles will guide us through child care in Islam.


[1] Saheeh Bukhari & Muslim

[2] Gil’adi.  A  1992, Children of Islam: concepts of childhood in medieval Muslim society, Macmillan, Oxford.

[3] Aries, P 1962, Centuries of childhood, Vintage Books, New York.

Next: What Islam Says About Children (part 2 of 5): Children are Blessings not Possessions