The Rights of Children in Islam
By Abu Muawiyah Ismail Kamdar
All praise is due to Allah, the Most Merciful, and may peace descend upon his final prophet, the mercy to this universe, Muhammad and all those who follow his way until the Last Day.
Once a man saw the prophet (peace be upon him) kissing his grandsons and in shock this man commented, "We do not kiss our children!" In another narration, he said, "I have ten sons and I have never kissed any of them," The prophet (peace be upon him) replied, "What can I do if Allah has removed mercy from your heart," In another narration, he said, "Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy,"
This Hadith sums up the prophetic method of dealing with children, it is a relationship of love and mercy. This is the Sunnah and the way of Islam, compare this however to the following common scenario in our times:
A child enters a Masjid for the first time at the age of seven and is keen to see what the Masjid is like and what the pious people there are like. This experience will be his first and lasting impression of Islam and practicing Muslims.
The first thing he notices is that nobody is smiling, and all the old men with big beards and kurtas are frowning and glaring at him like they want to kill him. This child gets scared and either cries or wets his pants, and then all Hell breaks loose in the house of Allah! All of a sudden, the old Buzrooks are screaming and swearing at the child and his father, sometimes they might even hit the child or his father or both of them. This is the typical first experience of many children in the Masjid, if not on their first day then during their first year at the Masjid.
The result: This child grows up averse to the Masjid and all things associated with it, including prayer and growing a beard. The question that needs to be raised is when these elders studied Islam, didn't anybody teach them Islamic etiquette and how to treat children? In fact many of these people think that Islamic respect is all about respecting your elders while they treat their employees, wives, kids and anybody younger than them like crap.
The prophet (peace be upon him) said, "None of you is from amongst us unless he is respectful to his elders and merciful to the youngsters," This Hadith shows that all humans deserve respect and mercy, regardless of age, and you can not be truly pious unless you treat children with kindness.
Let us look at the practical example of the prophet (peace be upon him) and compare it to the common practice amongst Muslims today. The prophet (peace be upon him) once when delivering a Jumuah Khutbah, saw his grandson crying for him at the Masjid entrance, he stopped the Khutbah and went over and picked up the child and pacified him. Then continued with the Khutbah. How many Imams today would do that if a child is crying in the Masjid? You have to wonder, whose sunnah are they following?
Sometimes the prophet (peace be upon him) would take very long in his sajdah because his grandson would be riding on his back and he would not want to disturb or hurt the child. Other times he would pick up the child and carry him while praying if the child wanted him. How many of us do this today? How many of us get angry, swear the child and say things like, "You stupid child! Can't you see I am praying!" Whose sunnah are we following?
We need to realize that children are innocent and they do not do things with bad intentions, furthermore they are soft-hearted and absorb everything you do. How you treat them prayer time or in the Masjid will affect how they look at the Masjid and prayer. This is why the prophet (peace be upon him) would leave a special cluster of dates in a corner of the Masjid only for children. The children would come and eat from it and enjoy being in the Masjid. How many of our children enjoy going to the Masjid? Whose sunnah are we following?
Once a child companion's pet bird died. The prophet (peace be upon him) went to visit that child and give his condolences! How many of us give a child condolences when someone dies, leave alone their pets. They need it even more than the adults.
Anas Ibn Malik was a child who use to work for the prophet (peace be upon him) and says that in his ten years working for the prophet (peace be upon him), the prophet (peace be upon him) never reprimanded him! Once the prophet (peace be upon him) sent Anas on an errand, Anas saw some kids playing and forgot about the errand and joined them. Later the prophet (peace be upon him) came looking for him and found him playing, the prophet (peace be upon him) laughed and told him to go complete the errand and never shouted or reprimanded and never brought up the topic again.
We can see from all these narrations that the prophet (peace be upon him) understood the feelings and nature of children and he treated them in the best of manners. He never put them down, made them feel bad, shouted or hit them. He would listen to their opinions and play with them. he was a friend to them, rather than a boss. It was because of this exemplary behavior of his that the children at his time loved him so much, loved Islam and grew up to become the leaders of this Ummah.
In fact, most of the great scholars of the companions were children or teenagers when the prophet (peace be upon him) passed away, including Ayesha, Ibn Umar, Ibn Abbas and Ibn Amr, yet they became the leading scholars of their time because of his treatment of them and method of dealing with them.
I ask Allah to grant us all the mercy and manners of the prophet (peace be upon him) and to make us people who attract others to Islam, and save us from being the cause of chasing people away from Islam.
One last note: The prophet (peace be upon him) would smile most of the time, so smile!