The topic of Islam and children includes the rights of children in Islam, the duties of children towards their parents, and the rights of parents over their children, both biological and foster children. Also discussed are some of the differences regarding rights with respect to different schools of thought.
In the Qur'an
The Qur'an uses various terms for children (e.g. Arabic terms dhurriyya; ghulām; ibn; walad; walīd; mawlūd; ṣabī; tifl; saghir), but, according to Avner Giladi, the context seldom makes it clear whether it is exclusively referring to non-mature children, or simply offspring. The Quranic statements about children, Giladi states, are mainly concerned with "infanticide, adoption, breast-feeding, and orphan children." These statements were of a normative-ethical significance for later Muslim jurists who formed the foundations of Islamic legislation.
Muhammad established laws and examples (sunnah) in respect of which is obligatory for the Muslim community to follow.
Muhammad had seven children, three boys and four girls. All his sons, including Ibrahim ibn Muhammad, died in infancy. Because of this, his experience as a father is sometimes described as "sorrowful". Muhammad also had an adopted son, Zayd, who is said to be the object of Muhammad's parental affection. He also had two grandsons, Hassan and Hussein, and three granddaughters, Umm Kulthum, Zaynab and Umamah. In one Islamic tradition, Muhammad ran after Hussein in a game until he caught him. Muhammad used to let Umamah sit on his shoulders while he was praying. When someone expressed astonishment at the Prophet when the Prophet kissed his grandchild, he responded, "what can I do if God has deprived your heart of all human feeling?"
Muhammad has been described as being very fond of children in general. Watt attributes this to Muhammad's yearning for children, as most of his own children died before him. He comforted a child whose pet nightingale had died. Muhammad played many games with children, joked with them and befriended them. Muhammad also showed love to children of other religions. Once he visited his Jewish neighbor's son when the child was sick.
Once, Muhammad was sitting with a child in his lap, and the child urinated over Muhammad. Embarrassed, the father scolded the child. Muhammad restrained the father, and advised him: "This is not a big issue. My clothes can be washed. But be careful with how you treat the child. What can restore his self-esteem after you have dealt with him in public like this?"
- Pre-Islamic Arabia
In pre-Islamic Arabia, like the Jewish and Christian tradition, sexual relations between males and their milk-mothers or milk-sisters are looked upon as incest, also if they were adopted they couldn't breast feed.
- Advent of Islam
The Quran forbade sexual relations between males and their milk-mothers or milk-sisters. According to Avner Giladi, verses 233 of sura 2 (Al-Baqara) and 6 of sura 65 (At-Talaq) aim at "protecting repudiated but still lactating women and their nurslings by guaranteeing them economic support from the father for at least two years and by sanctioning non-maternal nursing when needed."
The Quran in 19 verses forbids harsh and oppressive treatment of orphaned children while urging kindness and justice towards them. Six-year-old Muhammad himself became an orphan after his mother died in 577, and his father died before he was born. An early Quranic verse celebrates God's providence and care towards him(Surat Ad-Duha). Other Quranic verses identify those who repulse the orphan as unbelievers, rebuke those who do not honor the orphans, and encourage the unbelievers to feed the orphans. The Quran speaks of the reward waiting for those who feed orphans, poor and the prisoner for the love of God. It also warns those who wrongfully consume the property of orphans that they will be punished in the hereafter with "fire in their own bellies". The Quran also gives concrete instructions to guardians (Walis) regarding the orphans, particularly on how to protect their wealth and property rights.
Islamic scholar and prominent thinker Muhammad Husayn Tabatabaei (1904–1981), who is given the titles Allamah and Sayyid, renowned for his Quranic exegesis, explains that verses 57 to 59 of sura 16 (An-Nahl) indicate how God admonished paganpolytheistic tribes for their sexism:
They used to assign girls to God and for themselves choose whatever they wanted, meaning that they would choose boys for themselves. For the same reason, they used to bury daughters alive. In conclusion, the things they did not prefer for themselves, they would prefer for God almighty. God admonishes them for this statement.
Rights of children
- Children have the right to be fed, clothed, and protected until they reach adulthood.
- Children must have the respect, to enjoy love and affection from their parents.
- Children have the right to be treated equally, vis-a-vis their siblings in terms of financial gifts.
Prophet Muhammad was reported as saying: "Be fair and just in terms of the gifts you offer your children. If I was to give preference to any (gender over the other) I would have preferred females over males (in terms of giving gifts)."
— Abdulrahman Al-Sheha, Women In the Shade of Islam
Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said that preferential treatment of a child is permitted if he or she is handicapped while others are not. (In Al-Mughni, vol. 5, p. 605, it is stated that special treatment of a child is permissible due to a need, a handicap, blindness, his or her being from a large family, being engaged in studies, or something of the sort, as it is aIso permitted to withhold from a child who would spend what he is given on sinful or wicked things.)
- The child has the right to be not forced by its step parents or its birth parents.
Islam has given parents so much right on their children. But it does not mean that the parents have been given licence to ill-treat their children. Muhammed has said: “Allah has cursed those parents who (by their behaviour) compel their children to disobey them.”
If the parents themselves do not care about the rights of their children; if they do not give proper religious education; if they neglect their character-building; if they put so much burden upon them that is beyond their strength; if they behave towards the children tyrannically - then it is they who are compelling the children to revolt against them; and they will become candidates of the above-mentioned curse of Allah.
- Children have the right to education. A saying attributed to Muhammad relates:
"A father gives his child nothing better than a good education."
— Hadith collected by Tirmidhi and Al-Bayhaqi
- Parents are recommended to provide adequately for children in inheritance.
A Hadith says, “It is better for parents to leave their children well provided (financially) than to leave them in poverty”.
Depriving, or banning the right of inheritance, or other financial gifts during the lifetime of the parents or the preference of a parent for one child over the other is considered according to Islam as an act of injustice. Injustice will definitely lead to an atmosphere of hatred, anger and dismay amongst the children in a household. In fact, such an act of injustice may, most likely, lead to animosity amongst the children, and consequently, this will affect the entire family environment.
But, if a parent granted one of his children financial help to fulfill a necessity, such as a medical treatment coverage, the cost of a marriage, the cost of initializing a business, etc., then such a grant would not be categorized an act of injustice and unfairness. Such a gift will fall under the right to spend in the essential needs of the children, which is a requirement that a parent must fulfill.
- A father is responsible for teaching his children according to Islam as follows:
- Basic information about belief and worship
- Basic information about high moral qualities
- Information on what to be careful about in relations with other people
- Vocational education
Muhammed said: "Everyone of you is a protector and guardian and responsible for your wards and things under your care and a man is a guardian of his family members, and is accountable for those placed under his charge." (Bukhari and Muslim)
"And those who believe and whose offspring follow them in Faith, to them shall We join their offspring, and We shall not decrease the reward of their deeds in anything. Every person is a pledge for that which he has earned." (Quran: 52:21)
Muhammed, in this context, said: "When a believer dies, his work ceases to be except in three areas: a perpetual Sadaqa (charity), some useful knowledge he leaves and a righteous son praying for him." (Muslim)
- Marrying children when they are old enough to get married
One of the rights that children have over their parents is to be provided with marriage when they are old enough, without delaying it. Both the Quran and Muhammed orders that young people and orphans be married when they are old enough.
- Umar in a Sunni tradition summed up some of the rights of children in the following anecdote:
One day a man came to Umar ibn al-Khattab to complain of a disobedient son. So Umar had brought the boy to him and he blamed him for his disobedience. Then the boy addressed Umar by saying "O Commander of the faithful: Are there no rights for a boy against his father?". Umar said "Yes". Then the boy said "What are these rights O Commander of the Faithful?" Umar said, "To choose a good mother for him, to select a good name to him and to teach him the Quran" Then the boy said: "O Commander of the faithful; my father has not accomplished any of these rights. As for my mother, she was a black slave or a Magian; As for my name, he has named me Jual (beetle); and he has not taught me even one letter from the Quran". Then Umar turned round to the man and said "You came to me complaining disobedience on the part of your son, whereas you have not given him his rights. So you have made mistakes against him before he has made mistakes against you".
— Abd-Allah Nasih Ulwan, Child Education in Islam
Rights of parents
With regard to Islam, some of the prerogatives of parents with respect to children, and countervailing rights of children are:
- The first and foremost right of the parents is to be obeyed and respected by their children but the parents must give some rights and they should be kind to their children/child.
Narrated Abu Bakr The Prophet said thrice, "Should I inform you out the greatest of the great sins?" They said, "Yes, O Allah's Apostle!" He said, "To join others in worship with Allah and to be undutiful to one's parents." The Prophet then sat up after he had been reclining (on a pillow) and said, "And I warn you against giving a false witness, and he kept on saying that warning till we thought he would not stop. (See Hadith No. 7, Vol. 8)
— Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari
- The mother has the right to receive the best treatment than accorded to any other person, in addition the mother has the right of custody of the child in general circumstances, at least until she remarries.
Narrated Abu Huraira: A man came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man said. "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man further said, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man asked for the fourth time, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your father. "
— Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari
- Parents have the right to be looked after by their children, and to receive physical or financial help as necessary, especially in their old age but also parents must not force its children/child as it is sharia.
Main article: Marriage in Islam
All Sunni schools of thought agree that forced marriages are strictly forbidden in Islam, as Islamic marriages are contracts between two consenting parties referred to as mithaq. It has been quoted from Muhammad:
"The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until their order is obtained, and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained."
In addition, Muhammad gave women the power to annul their marriages if it was found that they had been married against their consent.
"When a man gives his daughter in marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be annulled." Once a virgin girl came to the Prophet and said that her father had married her to a man against her wishes. The Prophet gave her the right to repudiate the marriage.
In Islam, marriage is essentially a contract. However, the distinction between sacred and secular was never explicit in Islam. Any action or transaction in Islam has religious implications. It is not quite accurate, therefore, to designate marriage in Islam simply as a secular contract.
For a valid marriage, the following conditions must be satisfied, this is in accordance with all schools of thought:
- There must be a clear proposal.
- There must be a clear acceptance, but silence is taken as acceptance as well.
- There must be at least two competent witnesses. This is necessary to exclude illicit sex and to safeguard legitimacy of progeny. It is recommended that marriage should be widely publicized.
- There must be a marriage gift, little or more, by the bridegroom to the bride.
The Maliki school of thought gives the right of Ijbar to the guardian. Ijbar is defined as the annulment of marriage due to objection by male guardian. According to Malik ibn Anas, children due to their immaturity may choose an unsuitable partner for themselves, hence, the power of Ijbar has been given to the guardian so that he may overrule the child to marry someone he thinks is unsuitable for her. This is the legal right given to the guardian for girls by Maliki school of thought. In addition, Islam requires that parents be followed in almost every circumstances, hence parents may ask their children to divorce a certain person, but this cannot be upheld in an Islamic court of law and is not a legal right of the parent.
Age of marriage
See also: Aisha § Age at marriage, and Criticism of Muhammad § Aisha
No age limits have been fixed by Islam for marriage according to Reuben Levy, and "quite young children may be legally married". The girl may not live with the husband however until she is fit for marital sexual relations. The Hanafi madhhab of Islamic fiqh maintains that a wife must not be taken to her husband's house until she reaches the condition of fitness for sexual relations. Levy adds:
"In case of a dispute on the matter between the husband and the bride's wali (her nearest male kinsman and her guardian), the judge (qadi) is to be informed and he is to appoint two matrons to examine the girl and report on her physical preparedness for marriage. If they decide she is too young, she must return to her father's house until she is judged fit. Betrothal may take place at any age. Actual marriage is later, but the age for it varies in different lands."
— Reuben Levy, The Social Structure of Islam
In Islamic legal terminology, Baligh refers to a person who has reached maturity, puberty or adulthood and has full responsibility under Islamic law. Legal theorists assign different ages and criteria for reaching this state for both males and females. In marriage baligh is related to the Arabic legal expression, hatta tutiqa'l-rijal, which means that the wedding may not take place until the girl is physically fit to engage in sexual intercourse. Some Hanafi scholars hold the opinion that sexual intercourse may take place before puberty, as long as it's not injurious to one's health. In comparison, baligh or balaghat concerns the reaching of sexual maturity which becomes manifest by the menses. The age related to these two concepts can, but need not necessarily, coincide. Only after a separate condition called rushd, or intellectual maturity to handle one's own property, is reached can a girl receive her bridewealth.
Adoption and fostering
Main article: Islamic adoptional jurisprudence
Islam highly recommends the "fostering" of children, defined as "assuming partial or complete responsibility of a child in lieu of the biological parents". However, Islam forbids naming the child as one's own, or creating any "fictive relationships". Islamic adoption is sometimes called "fostering" or "partial adoption" and is similar to "open adoption". Traditionally Islam has viewed legal adoption as a source of potential problems, such as accidentally marrying one's sibling or when distributing inheritance.
If a child is adopted he or she does not become a son or daughter, but rather a ward of the adopting caretaker(s). The child’s family name is not changed to that of the adopting parent(s) and his or her guardians are publicly known as such. Legally, this is close to other nations' systems for foster care. Other common rules governing adoption in Islamic culture address inheritance, marriage regulations, and the fact that adoptive parents are considered trustees of another individual's child rather than the child's new parents. Usually an adopted child inherits from his or her biological parents, not automatically from the adoptive parents. If the child is below the age of consent at the time of inheritance (from the biological family), his or her adoptive parents serve as trustees over the child's wealth, but may not intermingle with it.
Adoption was a common practice in pre-Islamic Arabia. According to this custom, the adopted son would take the name of his adoptive parent, and would be assimilated into the family in a "legal sense". Islam viewed this practice as "erasure of natal identity". This practice was sometimes done for emotional reasons, such as pity, but adoption was also a means through which slaves were stripped of their identities and given the name of their slavemaster. The Quran replaced the pre-Islamic custom of adoption by the recommendation that "believers treat children of unknown origin as their brothers in the faith".
From verses 4 and 5 in sura 33 (Al-Ahzab) in the Quran, Allah instructed adoptive parents to refer to their adoptive children by the names of their biological parents, if known:
...nor has He made your adopted sons your sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths. But Allah tells (you) the Truth, and He shows the (right) Way. Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is juster in the sight of Allah. But if ye know not their father's (names, call them) your Brothers in faith, or your maulas. But there is no blame on you if ye make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
- ^ abStewart, p.113
- ^ abcWatt (1974), p. 230
- ^ abYust, p.72-3
- ^ abPhipps, p. 120
- ^Kassamali, Tahera. Raising Children. Tayyiba Publishers & Distr.
- ^Quran 4:23
- ^Quran 2:233, 65:6
- ^Quran 93:6–8
- ^Quran 107:2
- ^Quran 89:17, 90:14–15
- ^Quran 76:8–9
- ^ abGiladi, Avner. Orphans, Encyclopedia of the Quran. Brill, 2007.
- ^Quran 16:57–59
- ^ abcI. A. Arshed. "Parent-Child Relationship in Islam". Retrieved 2015-09-21.
- ^Al-Sheha, Abdulrahman. Women In the Shade of Islam. pp. 33–34.
- ^Reported by Imam Bayhaqi
- ^The Rights of Children In Islam
- ^"Imam Al-Ghazali’s views on children's education"
- ^ abfrom Hadith collections compiled by Tirmidhi (#4977) and Baihaqi
- ^Ulwan, Abd-Allah Nasih (2000). Child Education in Islam. Dar Al Salam. ISBN 977-342-000-0.
- ^Parents' rights in Islam
- ^Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:48:822
- ^ abMother in Qur'an & Sunnah
- ^"Child Custody After Mother's Remarriage"
- ^Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:73:2
- ^ abcProf. Abdur Rahman I. Doi Professor and Director, Center for Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira, Nigeria. "Marriage – The Free Consent of the Parties". Retrieved 2007-03-28.
- ^ abcde"Hannan, Social Laws in Islam"
- ^Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:62:67–68
- ^ abProf. Abdur Rahman I. Doi Professor and Director, Center for Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira, Nigeria. "Marriage – Ijbar: A Safety Valve". Retrieved 2007-03-28.
- ^Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:73:7–8
- ^ abLevy, p.106
- ^Levy, p.107
- ^John Esposito, Islam, Oxford University Press 2003
- ^Masud, Islamic Legal Interpretation, Muftis and Their Fatwas, Harvard University Press, 1996
- ^ abIngrid Matison, "Adoption and Fostering", Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures
- ^ abA. Giladi, saqir, Encyclopedia of Islam, Brill
- ^Adoption in Islam
- ^Quran 33:4–5, 33:37–40
- ^Quran 33:4–5
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- Khalil bin Ishaq. Mukhtasar tr.Ignazio Guidi and David Santillana (Milan, 1919).
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- Yust, Karen-Marie (2006).Nurturing Child And Adolescent Spirituality: Perspectives from the World's Religious Traditions. Rowman & Littlefield.
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Your parents and your children, yeknow not which of them are nearest to you in benefit. . .(Qur'an, 4:11)
This ayah shows the Islamic attitude towards the relationship between parents and children. From infancy to adulthood, it is unparalleled tender love and care of the parents which brings the child from the stage of absolute weakness and helplessness to perfect strength and independence.
Conversely, in old age a man becomes like a small child; the mind and body turn so weak that Allah says:
If We grant long life to any, We cause him to be reversed in nature . . . (Qur'an, 36:68)
Yesterday, your parents looked after you when you were too feeble to look after yourself; today you must look after them.
Why so much Emphasis on the Rights of Parents?
Here is a point to ponder over: We do not find in the Qur'an and hadith so much emphasis on looking after the children as is the case with the rights of the parents. Why?
The shari `ah has put a new challenge to those who think. Find out how logical this attitude is.
The fact is that the parent's heart is the fountainhead of the love for the child; this affection becomes the life-blood of the parents. The Qur'an has alluded to this instinctive parental love in several places.
On the other hand, children especially when they are no longer in need of parental care, do not feel so much love for the parents. We are not speaking about respect. Here the talk is about instinctive love; and experience is a reliable witness to confirm this observation
It is a known fact that sign-posts are not needed on straight highways; but at a crossroads where several routes branch out, one cannot expect to get onto the right path without a guide or a sign-post.
It is for this reason that Islam does not emphasize in so many words those aspects of life which are taken care of by human nature itself. It is where the hold of natural instinct is loosened that Islam extends its helping hand and leads man on the right path by telling him what he is expected to do.
It was for this reason that Islam did not explain the rights of children so forcefully; but full emphasis was given to the rights of the parents, as will be observed in coming chapters.
Rights of Children
The Holy Prophet said to `Ali (a.s.):
O' `Ali, there are as many rights of children incumbent upon parents as there are rights of parents incumbent upon children.
Rights and duties are inter-related. The right of `A' is the duty of `B'. Although, as mentioned above, natural parental love was a sufficient surety for the upkeep, welfare and upbringing of the child, Islam prepared some wonderful guidelines for the parents.
There are many important turning points in human life - right from birth to adulthood - in which a wrong step may prove fatal for happiness and success - both of this world and of the life hereafter.
Most important is education and character building. Here are a few sign-posts concerning these two aspects.
Amir al-mu'minin, `Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) said:
The first beneficence of a parent towards his child is to give him a good name; therefore, you should name your child with a good name.
It is a fact that good names may have a good influence on the mind of a person. A child hears his name day and night; and it is reasonable to believe that the meaning of that name subconsciously strengthens those characteristics which are implied in that name. of course, it does not mean that no evil person has a good name. What is emphasized here is the fact that a name has a psychological effect on the person, provided it is not countermanded by rearing or society.
A bad name has one more tangible evil effect. Whenever that name is announced, the person will feel embarrassment and the name will become a source of constant irritation, effecting his outlook of society. Hence the emphasis in ahadith on giving good names to children. .
The Holy Prophet used to emphasize this aspect of life so much that al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: ”(The Apostle of Allah) used to change the bad names of people and places.”
It is recommended that the child should be named after the Holy Prophet and his family. Strangely enough, nowadays people name their children after film actors and actresses. This trend points to a far deeper malady of our society.
It shows that now our daily life and dominating thoughts have lost their connection with the founder of Islam and his family. Now we are glorifying those whose lives are diametrically opposed to Islamic tenets; and who depend on haram (forbidden) actions for their livelihood. By giving our children the names of such anti-Islamic persons, we are teaching our children not to care about Islam in their lives.
Three Stages of Life
From infancy up-to the age of 21-22 years, one's life may be divided into three stages:
The First Stage is up-to the age of 7. Ancient philosophers were of the opinion that the human mind in the very beginning is completely blank, and it is only gradually that it starts using the faculties of sight, hearing etc.
During childhood, it becomes strong enough to understand common words and ideas and associate names with objects. Still it is not developed enough to bear the strain of logical reasoning and abstract ideas.
That theory basically is accepted even today. And tests and experiments have led modern psychologists to believe that as a general rule the child's mind up-to the age of 7 and 8 years is not strong enough to grasp book knowledge. Children who are required to cram pages and pages of books at such a tender age suffer a lot and their originality is sacrificed on the altar of written pages.
The Second Stage begins at 8 years and goes to 14-15 years. In this period the mind remains alert and easily grasps logical reasoning and abstract theories. The child's interest in acquiring knowledge is at its peak at this age. The freshness of mind and ability to learn more is never as marvellous as is in this period. This is because the curiosity to learn about the unknown is generally not bridled by any responsibility.
The Third Stage is after 14-15 years. The human mind becomes strong; adolescence opens new horizons before the eyes. Sex, marriage, domestic life and its complex problems come to the fore. The child of yesterday is the youth of today. He appreciates that soon he will be required to look after himself; he knows that every passing day brings him nearer to the responsibilities of a family with all that that entails.
These thoughts prepare him to exert himself to earn his own livelihood, and he starts looking for a way to do so.
In this perspective let us look at the following ahadith and see how our Divine philosophers explained these aspects of life which modern psychologists have discovered after hundreds of experiments
1) al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a. s.) said:
Let your child play up to seven years (1st stage); and keep him with you (for study etc.) for another seven years (2nd stage); then if he succeeds (well and good); otherwise, there is no good in him.
2) The Holy Prophet said:
The child is the master for seven years (1st stage) ; and a slave for seven years (2nd stage) and a vizier for seven years (3rd stage) ; so if he builds a good character within 21 years, well and good, otherwise leave him alone because (if you looked after him for 21 years).
you have discharged your responsibility before Allah.
As the first stage is a care-free period, it has been called mastership; the 2nd stage means taking orders from teachers and parents, therefore it has been called slavery; in the third stage the child is expected to help his parent in earning his livelihood, so it has been named viziership.
For each of these periods, the Islamic shari `ah has given some guidelines.
Instruction for the Three Stages
It has been explained that the child should not be burdened with books in this period. But this does not mean that his mind's faculties remain suspended. On the contrary, the atmosphere of society continuously influence the child's mind, though he himself is not aware of this process. Therefore, it is essential to give utmost priority to the proper upbringing and character-building.
The best way to inculcate good behaviour in children is to behave with them with good grace. In this way, they will learn etiquette, good behaviour and noble character. The Holy Prophet said: “Respect your children and teach them good behaviour, Allah will forgive (your sins).”
It is emphasized that children should be kept in a good environment. The Holy Prophet said: “O' `Ali, it is among the rights of the child on his father to . . . teach him good manners and keep him in good society.”
Also, it is desirable to gradually give them religious training, because the impressions gained in childhood are very difficult to erase and if respect and love of religion is infused in his mind in childhood, he will always remain attached to the religion. The syllabus of such training is given in the following hadith
`Abdullah ibn Fadl narrates from al-Imam Muhammad al-Bdqir (a.s.) or al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a. s. ): When the child reaches 3 years, teach him seven times to recite ( la ilahailla ' llah). Then leave him at that till he is 3 years 7 months and 20 days old; then train him to say (Muhammadun rasulu 'llah ). Then leave him at that till he completes 4 years. then teach him seven times to say (salla 'llahu ala Muhammadin wa aaliMuhammad). Then leave him at that till he reaches the age of 5 years; then ask him which one is his right hand and which one is the left. When he knows it then make him face qiblah and tell him to do sajdah (prostration).
This is to continue till he is 6 years of age. Then he should be told to pray and taught ruku` (to kneel down) and sajdah. When he completes 7 years, he should be asked to wash his face and hands, and then told to pray. This will continue till he reaches the age of 9 years, when he should be taught proper wudu' (ritual ablution before prayer - and should be punished if he is not careful) and proper salat (prayer - and should be punished if he is not regular). When he learns proper wudu' and salat Allah forgives the sins of his parents.
Every sentence of this valuable hadith deserves attention. See how gradually the child taught his duties of the shari`ah without putting any burden upon him. of course, a child may be taught wudu' and salat in a short period of 3-4 days when he is 12 or 13 years old. But that crash-programme training will not have the benefits of that gradual and early training recommended in the hadith.
Now comes the period of formal education. It is the most crucial period of life, the foundation-stone of the future. Islam directs that in this period a child should first be given necessary religious education so that he may not be misled by anyone in belief or action.
Al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
Make haste in teaching your youngsters hadith before they are approached by murji 'a or Murji'ite (a wrong sect).
Children are like a green, tender branch; they may easily be bent in any direction. If they are not given proper religious education at this stage, then only Allah can save them from misleading influences.
Unfortunately, our people do not care at all about this instruction. There was a time when the teaching of the Qur'an and elementary religious subjects was a MUST. Alas! now our children in quite a tender age are sent to such institutions where inconspicuously they are saturated day in and day out with anti-religious propaganda. No wonder that when they grow up the anti-religious feeling also grows up to become a deep-rooted bias.
In 1948 the writer had occasion to visit a village of Ithna `asharis. On asking questions it appeared that even aged people did not know usulad-din (principles of religion) or the names of the Imams. It was one village. How may other such villages must be in the length and breath of Indo-Pakistan Sub-continent? It is a frightening thought.
The Holy Prophet emphasized the teaching of two things to male children. He said: “It is the right of the male child on his father to . . . teach him the Book of Allah . . . and riding and swimming.”
Al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said that it is the duty of the father to teach his son writing.
These traditions guide us to compulsorily include `Religion', `physical training' and writing in the syllabus of male children. In addition, other subjects (which are in conformity with the aptitude of the child or are necessary for earning his livelihood) may be added. In other words, the above-mentioned three are compulsory subjects while others are optional.
A separate syllabus has been prepared for the girls.
The earlier mentioned hadith of the Holy Prophet goes on to say:
And if the child is female then it is her right that she . . . should be taught the surah of ` Light' and she should not be taught the surah of Yusuf and should not be allowed to go on the roof or windows.
According to the Qur'an and traditions, what she is obliged to learn and do is as follows:
She must learn the fundamentals of faith and the commandments of the shari `ah; and obey her husband by allowing him his conjugal rights.
But she is not obliged to earn her livelihood; nor is she duty-bound to take up the drudgery of domestic work. Similarly, it is not her duty to bur den herself with matters concerning the general welfare of society, nor to learn various subjects other than those mentioned above, nor to participate in industrial or agricultural ventures.
She is not obliged to do so. But if she acquires such additional knowledge, or perform her domestic work, or participates in matters useful to society, it will be regarded as her additional excellence, provided she keeps within the limits of hijab ( woman's veil) imposed upon her by the shari `ah To sum it up, the girls should be given such an education which makes them the “Light of the Home” not a “Decoration of Public places.”
Our readers should note that even a part of the Qur'an (i.e., Surah of Yusuf) is not permitted to girls to learn because it contains the references to the love of Zulaykha towards Prophet Yusuf (a.s.). Seeing this restriction, those Muslims who allow their children (and especially girls) to read sexy novels, visit cinemas where they are practically taught all kinds of obscene thoughts and deeds should be ashamed of their irresponsible behaviour. Such parents should be ashamed of themselves, if they have an iota of Islamic feelings left in their hearts.
This is the period of earning one's livelihood. But it is not possible to go into the details of “Livelihood” here.
Also, this is the period when children should get married. And much emphasis has been given to getting girls married as soon as possible.
The Holy Prophet said that it is the right of the girl upon her father that he should make haste in sending her to the house of her husband.
It is very unfortunate to see many Muslims nowadays ignoring and neglecting this responsibility till the girls sometimes reach the age of 35 or 40 years; and then nobody wants to marry those old maids. The harm which is done by this “irresponsible parenthood” is too obvious to need any description. But the sad facts is that their attitude is governed by snobbery - sometimes it is financial superiority and sometimes it is caste or clan - and those people would rather let their daughters grow into old spinsters than marry them to a young man of good character who is not equal to their financial or tribal status.
The Holy Prophet said that “Every believer is equal in status (in matter of marriage) to any other believer.” But we are so much influenced by un-Islamic cultures (based on caste or race system) that we tend to look down upon our bright Islamic culture. May Allah have mercy upon us.
The same hadith guides us about male children; that they should be married when they be-come mature. It does not necessarily mean that the boys should be married just after reaching the age of 15 years.
The first marriage of the Holy Prophet was performed when he was 25 years of age. Amir al-mu'minin `Ali (a.s.) also married Fatimatu'z Zahra' (a.s.) when he was 25 years old. But even then, there is no criterion for age. The only thing which matters is that when a young man becomes emotionally mature and he feels an urge to enter into matrimonial relationship then he should get married without any delay. It is a condition which cannot be measured by age or time.
At this stage the parents' responsibility towards their offspring comes to an end. If anyone brings up his children remaining within these Islamic limits, then that child surely will be the apple of the parents' eyes and the delight of their hearts; and it is this child who, in his turn, may be hoped to fulfil his obligation towards his parents.
Referring to such offspring, the Holy Prophet said that “The virtuous child is a flower from the flowers of Paradise.” Also he said: “Among the good fortunes of a man is the virtuous child.”
Rights of Parents
Allah says in Hadith al-Qudsi:
I swear by My Glory and Power that if a (child who is) disobedient to his parentscomes to me with all the good deeds of all the prophets, I will not accept them from him.
The parents proceed to the old age side by side with the progress of the children towards youth. Naturally the love and kindness of the parents and their efforts in caring for the children must be reciprocated by the children with obedience and help.
In this world, it is the parents who are the cause of the existence of the child; it is they who strive to bring it up; it is they who endeavour and look forward to take it to the height of perfection.
If there is anyone, after the Creator, who is directly responsible for the existence and progress of the child, it is parents. Metaphorically speaking, the parents are the lords of their children. It is for this reason that the Qur'an has, in many places, mentioned the obedience of the parents side by side with the worship of Allah.
And worship Allah and join not any partner with Him and do good to parents . . . (Qur'an, 4:36)
And thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents (Qur'an, 17:23)
It seems that the lordship of parents is a mirror of the Lordship of Allah. Right from birth to weaning, and from protection to upbringing, at every stage it is the parents who are the means of conveying the Grace of Allah to the child. Like-wise, the rights of the parents are very much akin to the rights of Allah.
The rights of Allah may be divided into three categories:
• First: The right upon the “soul”, e.g., the knowledge of Allah.
• Second: The right upon the “body”, e.g., prayer and fast.
• Third: The right upon “property and wealth”, e.g., zakat and khums (religious tax).
The rights of the parents also may be divided into these very categories:
First let us look at this ayah of the Qur'an (together with the explanation of al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq [a.s.] given in parenthesis):
And thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him and that ye be kind to parents, (behave kindly with them and do not compel them to bring their needs to your attention; but fulfil their requirements before they have to tell you, even though in reality they are not in need of your assistance); ifone or bothof them attain old age in thy life, (and be-come angry with. you) say not to them asingle word of contempt, and (if they beat you) repel them not; but address them in terms of honour (and respect, i.e., say to them `May Allah forgive you') and, out ofkindness, lower to them the wing of humility(and whenever you look at them, look with gentleness and kindness; do not raise your voice upon their voices, nor your hands above their hands; nor walk before them); and say:“My Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.”(Qur'an, 17:23-24)
This explanation covers all three rights of parents: To cheerfully bear the hardship inflicted by parents, to talk to them gently, and not to raise your hands and voice above theirs and not to pre-cede them in any way, all these injunctions cover the obedience by the body. To look at them with kindness and mercy and always to ask Allah's Mercy for them shows love. And to fulfil their needs before their demand concerns the rights on wealth. And thus the similarity between the rights of Almighty Lord and these metaphorical lords reaches the last point of completion.
Now, let us look at this in more details with the help of traditions.
The Similarity Between the Financial Rights of AlmightyAllah and Parents
Firstly: Almighty Allah (Who is the Lord of not only man and his wealth but of the whole universe) has no need to demand any part of man's wealth in His name. Still, He prescribed a portion from it as offering to Himself. So these weak-structured metaphorical lords (i.e. parents) have more right to benefit from the earnings of their children; to enjoy the fruits of the garden which they developed so lovingly in their early life. Even if they are not in need of such assistance, their metaphorical lordship demands that the children should offer them a part of their earning as a tribute.
It is for this reason that al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said that you should: “Fulfil their requirements . . . even if they in reality are not in need of your assistance.”
Secondly: Also, we have to look at the fact that, though Allah has a right to demand financial tribute from every person, He has made it compulsory only on those who have a specified amount of wealth; and for others, the spending in the ` way of Allah' has been highly recommended (but not compulsory). Thus a vast field for the test of the gratitude to aim has been opened for us. Likewise, we see that everyone has been exhorted to give financial help to their parents.
. . . (O' Prophet), tell them that whatever (wealth) ye spend, it is (primarily) for parents and relatives. . . (Qur'an, 2:215)
And We exhorted man to do good to parents(Qur'an, 46:15)
But this obligation towards the parents is only at the time when the child has ability to maintain himself and his wife and is still able to help the parents provided the parents need his help. If either of the conditions is not fulfilled, there remains no compulsory obligation; but the emphasized recommendation to help the parents remains in its place, because al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a. s.) said:
These expenditures are essential for him whether he be affluent or in a strait condition.
Furthermore, if we look at the ahadith which repeatedly exhort a man to look after his parents and keep them comfortable, we will have to admit that spending on the comforts of the parents is highly emphasized even if the child is himself poor and even if the parents are not in need of his help.
Thirdly: It is known that the worship of Allah is one of the important ways of attaining prosperity and happiness. It is said in surah Nuh:
So I said to them, `Ask forgiveness from your Lord; for He is oft-forgiving; He will send rain to you in abundance, and will give you increase in wealth and sons, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers (of flowing waters).” (Qur'an, 71:10-12)
Likewise, Allah has made the obedience to parents and financial help to them a means of expanding livelihood and sustenance and longevity of life, so that even poor children should look after their parents by their own will in the hope of getting increased sustenance and prosperity.
The Holy Prophet of Islam has said:
Anyone who likes long life and increased livelihood should do good to their parents; because doing good to them is in fact obeying Allah.
Another tradition from al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has the same meaning, but instead of long life, it mentions ease at the time of death. And surely all the promises of Allah are true.
Allah says in the Qur'an:
Verily, Allah forgives not that anything be associated with Him; but He forgives what is besides that of whomsoever He wishes(Qur'an, 4:48)
Likewise, it is said in Hadith al-Qudsi:
Tell (O' Prophet), to the child who is obedient to his parents: “Do whatever (good deeds) you want (to do), you will never enter the Fire (of Hell);” and say to the child who is disobedient to his parents: `Do whatever (good deeds) you want (to do), you will never enter Paradise. ”
But there is a difference. The Almighty Allah is above all rulers and superiors; therefore, His commandments can never be superseded by any other rule, regulation or order. But the superiority of parents is derived from the superiority of Allah; their authority is based upon the commands of Allah. Therefore, if ever they give any order which is against the Law of Allah, it must be ignored and disobeyed. Allah says in the Qur'an
And We enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him; and in two years was his weaning: Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents. To Me is your return. And if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with fairness and consideration … (Qur’an, 31:14-15)
The following hadith refers to the above mentioned ayah
Al-Imam `Ali ibn Musa ar-Rida (a.s.) said that the Holy Prophet said: “Verily, Allah has ordered three things joined with three other things. He ordered prayer and zakat (wealth-tax), so if someone prayed and did not pay zakat, his prayer will not be accepted; and ordered to show gratitude to Him and to his parents, so if anyone did not thank his pa-rents, he did not thank Allah; and ordered to fear Him and join the relationship, so if anyone did not join his relationship, he did not fear Allah.”
Likewise, al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
There are three things in which Almighty Allah has not given any option to his servant: To return to the owner the thing entrusted to one's care, whether the owner be a pious or a debauchee; and to fulfil the promise whether it was (made) to a pious or a debauchee; and to do good to parents whether they be pious or sinners.
According to the Right of Love
Before explaining this subject, it is necessary to mention that, according to our faith, love for the Holy Prophet and his family is an integral part of love for Allah. So we will not look at the similarity between the love of parents and love of Allah. Instead, we will consider the similarity between the love for parents and love for Ahlu'l-bayt (a.s.).
First: Allah has made the enmity of the rightful wasi (successor) of the Holy Prophet a criterion of illegitimacy and it surely leads to Hell. Abu Zubayr al-Makki says: “I heard Jabir ibn `Abdillah al-Ansari saying, `O' People of ansar, teach your children the love of `Ali, and if any-one rejects it then investigate the morality of his mother.” This saying of Jabir ibn `Abdillah al-Ansari is based upon the tradition of the Holy Prophet.
Now here is a similar hadith about parents:
Anyone who beats his parents is an illegitimate child.
Second: The hadith of the Holy Prophet about Fatimatu'z-Zahra' (a.s.) is accepted by all the Muslims that:
Fatimah is a part of mine; whosoever hurts her, hurts me; and whosoever hurts me hurts Allah.
Likewise, the Holy Prophet said about the parents:
Anyone who hurts his parents hurts me; and one who hurts me hurts Allah; and whosoever hurts Allah is cursed in Tawrat, Injil,Zabur and Qur'an.
The Holy Prophet, in one hadith, has described himself and `Ali (a.s.) as fathers of this ummah: “`Ali and I are Fathers of this ummah.” One of the reasons of this description may be to show the greatness and importance of the parents of his ummah.
Anyhow, the net result of all these ahadith is that love for parents is a part of love for Allah; and, as the man who disobeys or has enmity to wards the beloved ones of Allah, is an enemy of Allah and far from Paradise, likewise the person who hurts the feelings of his parents is an enemy of Allah and far removed from Paradise.
According to the Right of Obedience
Love and obedience are two inseparable things. Love is like the flame of a lamp and obedience is like its light. Thus, after exhorting the children to love their parents it is but natural to expect them to obey them. And in this respect also obedience of parents is a mirror of obedience of Allah. The ayat (verses) mentioned in the beginning are enough to show this aspect. Furthermore, the following similarity is worthy of attention:
Now comes a very interesting aspect of this discourse: Allah is Ever-living and Self-existent; He is Eternal; He can never die, nor can His `Lordship' and `Rule' ever come to end.
But the life of a man is flanked by `non-existence' on both sides. First he was non-existent, then became existent, then again he dies.
Ordinarily, it would have been quite enough to order the child to obey his parents so long as they are alive, and make him free of all obligations as soon as they depart from this world. But it would not have been in keeping with the 'metaphorical lordship' of parents. Islam ordained that as the Lordship of Allah does not come to end; like-wise, the lordship of the parents is not effected by their death. It continues so long as the child is alive.
Al-Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a. s.) said:
Verily, a servant of Allah remains good to his parents when they are alive; then they die and he neither repays their loan nor asks pardon (of Allah) for them. At that, Allah writes him as a disobedient child. And, verily, he remains disobedient to them during their life-time, not being good to them, but when they die, he repays their loan and asks pardon (of Allah) for them. Then Allah writes him as an `obedient and good' child.
A man from Banu Salamah asked the Holy Prophet, “After the death of my parents, is there any right of theirs, still remaining which I should perform (by which I should do good to them)?” The Holy Prophet said: “Yes, praying for them, asking pardon of Allah for them, fulfiling their promise and respecting their friends.”
The above hadith shows one more similarity. To respect the chosen servants of Allah (like Prophet and Imams) is an important part of the rights of Allah. Likewise, to respect the friends of one's parents is among the compulsory rights of the parents.
Superiority of Mother's Rights
Uptil now, I have explained the joint rights of both parents on the children. But we know that during pregnancy and rearing children, the mother gladly suffers such turmoils which paternal love can never endure. Islam is the natural religion; it has nowhere ignored the natural urges. It is for this reason that many ayat specially refer to the troubles endured by mothers.
. . . in travail upon travail did his mother bearhim, and in two years was his weaning . . .(Qur'an, 31 :14)
We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents. In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth. The carry-ing of the child to his weaning is thirty month(Qur'an, 46:15)
Hakim ibn Hizam asked the Holy Prophet “O' Messenger of Allah, whom should I do good to?” The Holy Prophet said, “Your mother.” He asked, “Then who?” The Holy Prophet again said: “Your mother.” He again asked, “Then who?” The Holy Prophet again said, “Your moth-er.” He asked fourth time, “Then who?” Then the Holy Prophet said, “Your father.”
It is because of this hadith that Muslim scholars say that the right of the mother is three times greater than the right of father. Also, the Holy Prophet has said: “Paradise is under the feet of mothers.”
Islam has given parents so much right on their children. But it does not mean that the parents have been given licence to ill-treat their children. Tyrant parents are a danger to Muslim society and family.
As a check against such high-handedness, the Holy Prophet has said: “Allah has cursed those parents who (by their behaviour) compel their children to disobey them.”
How can this happen?
If the parents themselves do not care about the rights of their children; if they do not give proper religious education; if they neglect their character-building; if they put so much burden upon them that is beyond their strength; if they behave towards the children tyrannically - then it is they who are compelling the children to revolt against them; and they will become candidates of the above-mentioned curse of Allah.
The Qur'an and the Gospels
The Rev. G. Margoliouth has written in the introduction of the translation of The Koran by Rev. J. M. Rodwell:
The shortcomings of the moral teaching contained in the Koran are striking enough if judged from the highest ethical stand-point with which we are acquainted.
Well, we have seen what the Qur'an and the Prophet of the Qur'an teach about the moral and ethical obligations of parents and children. Let us see what light is thrown on this subject in the Gospels
While he (Jesus) yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one (man) said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, who is my mother? and who are my brethren? (Mathew, 12: 46-48).
What a gentle way of talking about one's mother and brethren
of course, we Muslims know that Prophet `Isa (a.s.) could never talk like this about his mother. But this knowledge comes not from the Gospel, but from the Qur'an itself, where he is quoted as saying:
(Allah) has made me kind to my mother, anddid not make me over-bearing or miserable.(Qur'an, 19:32)
Now, we may easily judge which book presents the “highest ethical stand-point.”
Rev. J. M. Rodwell has translated the 40th ayah of 4th surah like this:
“Worship God, and join not aught with Him in worship. Be good to parents . . .
And under this ayah, he has written the following foot-note.
An undutiful child is very seldom heard of among the Egyptians, or the Arabs in general. Sons scarcely ever sit, or eat, or smoke, in the presence of the father unless bidden to do so; and they often wait upon him and upon his guests at meals and on other occasions; they do not cease to act thus when they have become men.1
This foot-note under this ayah is an acknowledgement that this respect and honour of the parent in the Muslim societies is the direct result of the teaching of the Qur'an.