Author: Lisha Azad
“If it weren’t for Mummy’s guidance and the constant reference to cookbooks, I would never have mastered cooking,” Amina thinks skeptically. “Even then I made so many mistakes in the form of burnt, unpalatable food. Can I afford to make mistakes with Fatima and parent with a trial-and-error approach?”
Ever since Abdulla and Amina planned to have a baby, they have been assessing and asking themselves these and other important questions while preparing for the arrival of their baby: Will Amina go back to work? Will she use breast or bottle-milk to feed Fatima? Have they saved enough to feed and care for one more family member for life? These are questions which most of us parents-to-be or new parents would ask ourselves and they are pertinent because they help us plan and prepare for the long and arduous parenting journey ahead.
But perhaps we should all give thought to some more important questions such as: What right does this child have on us as parents? What responsibilities has Allah SWT placed on us by putting this child in our care? Because we are responsible for raising our children in an Islamically-approved manner, these are challenging questions, the answers to which are essential if we want to raise a generation of Muslims that is pious and virtuous.
So just what are the Muslim child’s rights upon his parents (and consequently his parents’ responsibilities towards him)?
- Right to noble birth – This is a matter which begins even before conception. The Prophet (SAW) exhorted Muslim men to select pious women as their spouses so as to ensure that their children would be raised in a virtuous environment.
- Right to live – Once the child is conceived, he/she is protected by Allah’s laws which generally forbid abortion
- Right to Tahneek – Aisha (RA) relates that “The people used to bring their new-born children to the Prophet and he would bless them and perform the tahneek” (Sahih Muslim). ‘Tahneek’ is the Arabic word for a ritual that was performed by our Prophet (SAW) when a child was born to one of the families of the righteous Sahaba. He would bless the child and apply mashed date pulp to its palate. These days, a Muslim child could be taken to a virtuous person who may perform this rarely practiced Sunnah ritual and pray for the child. Similarly, it is the right of the child to hear the adhan as soon as it is born. The male child has one more right, namely the right to be circumcised.
- Right to an aqeeqah – It has been narrated by Ali (RA) that the Messenger of Allah slaughtered a goat on the occasion of Hasan (RA)’s birth and said “Oh Fatima! Shave the head of Hasan and pay silver equal to the weight of the hair as charity” (Sahih Sunan at-Tirmithee). Likewise, it has been reported by Abdullah bin al-As that the Prophet said, “To whomsoever a child is born and he wants to perform a sacrifice of Aqeeqah on behalf of it, he should sacrifice two goats for a boy and one goat for a girl”. (Sunan Abu Dawood). In keeping with these Hadith, a new-born’s head should be shaved and an animal slaughtered for sacrifice.
- Right to be given a good name – The Prophet (SAW) said: “On the Day of Resurrection, you will be called by your names and by your fathers’ names, so give yourselves good names.” (Hadith Abu Dawud). Our Prophet always chose names with good and pleasant meanings, asking people to change their names if they meant something unpleasant.
- Right to be breast-fed – Until the age of two years, this is another right of the child “The mothers shall give suckling to their children for two whole years.” (Surah Al-Baqarah: 233)
- Right to love and affection – Little children need constant demonstrations of affection and love. Our beloved Prophet (SAW) loved children dearly and expressed this love. There are many authentic hadith relating how he would offer ‘salaam’ to children, play and make jokes with them. He would even allow his grandsons, Hassan and Hussain (R.A), to ride his shoulders during his prayers. It is reported that once a Bedouin saw the Prophet (SAW) kissing a small child. When the Bedouin wondered out loud, “I have eight children but I never kiss them”, the Prophet (SAW) remarked, “What can I do if Allah has taken away love and compassion from your heart?”
These are the basic rights that every Muslim child is entitled to and which most Muslim parents readily give. But the rights of a child continue and so do the parents’ responsibilities once the baby begins to grow and reach different stages in life such as toddler, pre-schooler, schoolboy/girl and teenager.
- Right to education – It is every child’s right to get a good education as part of his overall upbringing. As the Hadith goes, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim.” (Ibn Majah), so parents ought to make every effort to expose their children to all sorts of moral and intellectual knowledge.
Islam also emphasises the education of girls. The Prophet (SAW) once said, “He who provides good upbringing to 3 daughters shall go to Paradise”. A man asked, “What if one has only two daughters?” “He also shall go to Paradise”, said the Prophet. Another man asked, “And what if one has only one daughter?” “He too”, replied the Prophet (PBUH).
In today’s circumstances, a ‘good education’ would mean giving our boys and girls a chance to fully flourish, by developing every aspect of their personality as permissible within Islamic boundaries.
- Right to proper food, clothing and shelter – Children also have a right to be fed and clothed. With all the unhealthy, unwholesome food being consumed by the younger generation, it becomes the parents’ responsibility to see that the child imbibes good eating habits and is aware of the dangers of consuming packaged, ready-to-eat and/or fast foods. Otherwise the child’s health is compromised at an early stage and this sets him/her up for sickness and disease, thus preventing him/her from growing up into a productive member of society.
- Right to fair treatment – If there is more than one child in the family each child has the right not be discriminated against. Furthermore, parents should not favor boys over girls as, in Islam, there is no difference between having a daughter or a son.
- Right to be raised in a good Muslim environment – Raising a good child and raising a good Muslim child are two very different things. Parents seeking to raise a good Muslim child require knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Islam, therefore we must ask ourselves the following question: As parents, do we have within us the Islamic knowledge to raise a good Muslim child? Are we model Muslims ourselves?
Obviously, the first step in this regard would be to familiarize ourselves with the Islamic way of parenting by educating ourselves with the Qur’anic principles and hadith. Then we can mould our own behavior in line with Islamic teachings and become role models that our children can follow.
As rightly-guided parents, we can teach our children about halal and haram, Hell and Heaven and various other Islamic concepts through simple stories that link good manners to Islamic teachings. These teachings enable even the youngest child to make a connection between Islam and the world and the fact that Islam is indeed a ‘way of life’ more than just a ritualistic religion to be followed.
Some of us obsess about the friends our children keep and the schools they attend but seem oblivious to the fact that the TV, computer games and the Internet can also send out powerful messages, which are often un-Islamic. As parents, it is our responsibility to protect young minds from being morally corrupted. Surrounding ourselves and our children with Islamic role models is vital to good Muslims in today’s world.
Mothers should supervise the dressing of Muslim girls and explain to them the reasons for Hijab and the need for modesty. Girls and boys must be taught the reasons for segregation in public places and given guidelines for behaving with the opposite sex so as not to fall into sin, knowingly or unknowingly.
- Right to own and inherit property – There are Islamic laws that allow for ownership and inheritance of property from parents and other relatives. Even a minor or an orphan cannot be denied this right and it is a highly punishable sin in Islam to do so.
Finally, let us all remember that the early years of life are the best years in which we can mould our children and their personalities. This is true with respect to any aspect of a child’s life, be it as simple as eating habits or learning good manners or on a more serious note, learning the fundamentals of Islam. Parents are the child’s first and best teachers and the family is the first school. Lessons learnt in the family leave a lasting impression on any young mind.
Our children are entrusted to our care and we parents are responsible for them. If we raise them in an Islamically-approved manner, our children become our source of pleasure and contentment, first in this life and then in the Hereafter.
If Abdulla and Amina and the millions of Muslim parents among us would give some careful thought to the task of parenting, it would be fair to say that we are off to a good parenting start. However, in spite of all this preparation and planning, Allah (SWT)’s blessings and guidance are vital to our success as parents. Much dua’a is needed to help us succeed in molding our little ones into ideal Muslims. Let us pray to Him to ease our task, to help us to become the model parents we wish to become and to raise our children to grow up to be model Muslims of the next generation.
….Where Practice Makes Perfect
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