Children are priceless treasures from God. As Muslims, we consider human life sacred, and that every child is a unique being, worthy of respect and dignity. Children are made to be loved, cherished, and provided with the opportunity to grow up in a healthy, happy environment.
Every child is precious in God’s eyes and deserves to be loved, nurtured, and honored with quality care, to enable them to develop their full potential.
It is indeed a God-given responsibility of every Muslim parent to impart to their children a deep appreciation, respect, and love for Allah, His Messenger, His Religion and the sacred principles contained therein.
We must, therefore, give utmost importance in the upbringing of our successors, by drawing upon lessons from the beloved Prophet s.a.w who has been the greatest role model for humanity throughout history, not just through his words which serves as a guidance for mankind, but also through his actions, which is a source of inspiration for many.
The Prophet’s personality was not merely exemplified for a specific period, generation, nation, religion or place. Rather, he is a lasting global symbol for all people, transcendent through time. The Prophet s.a.w said,
إِنَّ مِنْ أَكْمَلِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِيمَانًا أَحْسَنُهُمْ خُلُقًا وَأَلْطَفُهُمْ بِأَهْلِهِ
“Indeed among the believers with the most complete faith is the one who is the best in conduct and the most kind to his family.”
In Islam, our parents have rights upon us, and when we become parents ourselves, our children have rights upon us.
The key qualities every parent should strive to attain are epitomised by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, who adopted the following non-exhaustive approaches:
Needless to say, the Prophet’s s.a.w innate nature of being a mercy for all of God’s creations is undisputed. His mercy is unparalleled and indeed, his treatment of children, and not just his own progeny, is an example to us all. The Prophet s.a.w. would kiss and embrace children often, as an expression of his tender love and mercy towards them. In this hadith about children. Abu Huraira r.a. reported that al-Aqra' bin Habis saw Allah's Messenger s.a.w kissing Al-Hassan (the Prophet's grandson). He (al-Aqra') said: “I have ten children, but I have never kissed any of them”. Whereupon Allah's Messenger s.a.w. replied:
إِنَّهُ مَنْ لاَ يَرْحَمْ لاَ يُرْحَمْ
He who does not show mercy (towards his children), no mercy would be shown to him.”
He would also take an active interest in their lives, despite his busy schedule. For example, when the pet bird of a young child, Abu Umair, died, he went out of his way to try and console him.
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَدْخُلُ عَلَيْنَا وَلِي أَخٌ صَغِيرٌ يُكْنَى أَبَا عُمَيْرٍ وَكَانَ لَهُ نُغَرٌ يَلْعَبُ بِهِ فَمَاتَ فَدَخَلَ عَلَيْهِ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ذَاتَ يَوْمٍ فَرَآهُ حَزِينًا فَقَالَ مَا شَأْنُهُ. قَالُوا مَاتَ نُغَرُهُ فَقَالَ يَا أَبَا عُمَيْرٍ مَا فَعَلَ النُّغَيْرُ
Anas bin Malik r.a said: "The Messenger of Allah s.a.w used to come to visit us. I had a younger brother who was called Abu ‘Umair by nickname (kunyah). He had a sparrow which he played with, but it died. So one day the Prophet s.a.w came to see him and saw him grieving. He asked: 'What is the matter with him?' The people replied: 'His sparrow has died.' He (the Prophet s.a.w) then said: 'Oh Abu ‘Umair! What has happened to the little sparrow?'"
(Sunan Abi Daud)
In this hadith, we see the example of the Prophet s.a.w. who goes out of his way to help a young child, whereas many adults would brush away from such a seemingly trivial situation. This kind of relationship can build trust, open communication, and validation for the child.
In today’s day and age, many parents are struggling to spend sufficient time with their children so it is vital that any time spent together is of the best quality. A combination of heartfelt playful activities, combined with loving conversations will provide security and comfort, thereby ensuring that a child has a healthy emotional development.
Anas ibn Malik was a young boy when he had the honour of serving the Prophet s.a.w. It is narrated from him that during his ten years of service, the Prophet s.a.w never said a word of impatience or rebuked him. Narrated by Anas r.a himself:
خَدَمْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَشْرَ سِنِينَ، فَمَا قَالَ لِي أُفٍّ. وَلاَ لِمَ صَنَعْتَ وَلاَ أَلاَّ صَنَعْتَ
“I served the Prophet s.a.w for ten years, and he never said to me, ‘Uff’ (a minor harsh word denoting impatience) and never blamed me by saying, "Why did you do so or why didn't you do so?”
A child is bound to err at times but we are to bear with it patiently, whilst advising and guiding them. We shouldn’t be constantly admonishing our young ones. Making supplications or dua for your children is also the prophetic way. It is reported that a parent’s supplications for one's children are not rejected by Allah s.w.t.
The Prophet s.a.w used to play with Usama ibn Zaid r.a. when he was young. At around the age of 17 years old, he entrusted Usama with the leadership position in commanding the defence force of Madinah. Despite his young age, he was given such immense responsibility.
The Prophet s.a.w also reminded his community not to criticise Usama’s leadership merely due to his young age. In a hadith, it was mentioned that,
إِنْ تَطْعُنُوا فِي إِمَارَتِهِ فَقَدْ كُنْتُمْ تَطْعُنُونَ فِي إِمَارَةِ أَبِيهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ، وَايْمُ اللَّهِ، إِنْ كَانَ لَخَلِيقًا لِلإِمَارَةِ، وَإِنْ كَانَ لَمِنْ أَحَبِّ النَّاسِ إِلَىَّ، وَإِنَّ هَذَا لَمِنْ أَحَبِّ النَّاسِ إِلَىَّ بَعْدَهُ
"If you are criticising Usama's leadership, you have then criticised his father's leadership from before. By Allah, He was worthy of leadership and he was one of the dearest persons to me, and (now) he (Usama) is one of the dearests to me after him (Zaid)'."
Parents should not be afraid to trust or rely on their children according to their capabilities. A child yearns to be trusted, and a good way a parent may illustrate their trust is to make them a part of family decisions. By asking for their opinions and including them in important discussions, a child will feel that they are an important part of the family unit which can pave the way to strengthening family ties.
Whenever the Prophet s.a.w was visited by his youngest daughter, Fatimah r.a, he would stand to welcome her when she entered the room, take her by the hand, kiss her and make her sit where he was sitting. Conversely, she would do the same when he visited her. These beautiful acts, though simple, show the profound love and respect they held for each other. Aishah, the mother of the believers r.a said,
ما رأيتُ أحدًا كانَ أشبَه سمتًا وَهديًا ودلًّا برسولِ اللَّهِ صلَّى اللَّهُ عليهِ وسلَّمَ من فاطمةَ كانت إذا دخلت عليهِ قامَ إليها فأخذَ بيدِها وقبَّلَها وأجلسَها في مجلسِه وَكانَ إذا دخلَ عليها قامت فأخذت بيدِه فقبَّلتهُ وأجلستهُ في مجلسِها
"I have not seen anyone who resembled the Prophet s.a.w in terms of conduct, way, and manners, more than Fatimah". (Aishah continued,) "When the Prophet saw her coming, he would stand up for her, took her hand, kissed her, and brought her to sit in his place. When the Prophet s.a.w visited her, she would stand up for him, take his hand, kiss him and brought him to sit in her place.”
Respecting your child is so important and it must not be forgotten, that respect also includes keeping a child’s secrets confidential as well as not humiliating them publicly.
Sadly, a common problem amongst parents is to favour one child over the other. The Prophet s.a.w commanded fairness in the treatment of one’s children.
أنَّ أباهُ أتى بِهِ النَّبيَّ صلَّى اللَّهُ علَيهِ وسلَّمَ يشهَدُ علَى نحلٍ نحلَهُ إيَّاهُ فقالَ : أَكُلَّ ولدِكَ نحَلتَ مثلَ ما نحلتَهُ قالَ : لا قالَ : فلا أشهَدُ على شَيءٍ أليسَ يَسرُّكَ أن يَكونوا إليكَ في البِرِّ سَواءً قالَ : بلَى قالَ : فلا إذًا
It was narrated from An-Nu'man that his father brought him to the Prophet to bear witness to a present that he gave to him. He said: "Have you given all your children a present like that which you have given to him?" He said: "No." He said: "I will not bear witness to anything. Will it not please you if they were all to treat you with equal respect?" He said: "Of course." He said: "Then no (I will not do it)."
Always praising one child, constantly comparing children, preferring sons to daughters or showering one with gifts at another’s expense are all prevalent issues we face with parenting. This should be avoided at all costs, as it is dangerous to a child who may develop low self-esteem and in turn, an inferiority complex.
Indeed, we have seen how Prophet Muhammad s.a.w was a role model in caring for children. He has taught us how to treat them well, and how to express our love and joy for the gift of having them in our lives. It is now our obligation to learn how best to treat our children, and to incorporate these teachings into our own daily life.
Children who are devout to Allah, filial and regularly supplicate for their parents are the priceless gems we leave behind in this world. They are the true investments we should make in this world, for our hereafter.
And Allah knows best.