What Islam Says About Children (part 1 of 5): God Guarantees
the Rights of Children
Description: Even before birth, children’s rights are respected.
By Aisha Stacey (© 2010 IslamReligion.com)
Published on 19 Apr 2010 - Last modified on 10 Nov 2013
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> Systems in Islam
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
the mercy and blessings of God be upon 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
worshipping and pleasing their Creator then the rights of any children they may
have are automatically guaranteed. Worshipping 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
“...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 the mercy and blessings of God be upon 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”.
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
“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 wellbeing 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.
This is in sharp contrast to western/European ideology where the concept of
childhood was not addressed until the 16th century.
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.
What Islam Says About Children (part 2 of 5): Children are
Blessings not Possessions
Description: Preparing for the birth of a child.
By Aisha Stacey (© 2010 IslamReligion.com)
Published on 26 Apr 2010 - Last modified on 10 Nov 2013
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> Systems in Islam
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
the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, advised his companions and all
believers to make the following supplication to God before having sexual
“I begin with the Name of God! O God! Protect me
from Satan and protect what You bestow upon us (our offspring) from Satan.”
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 the mercy and blessings of God be upon
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.
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.”
“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.
In part 3 we will discuss the manners of welcoming a
newborn child into the world and Islam.
What Islam Says About Children (part 3 of 5): Welcoming the
Description: The authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad benefit
children and the community.
By Aisha Stacey (© 2010 IslamReligion.com)
Published on 03 May 2010 - Last modified on 10 Nov 2013
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> Systems in Islam
One of the most important obligations in Islam is for parents
to love and nurture their children. Children have the right to be protected,
and the right to learn how to worship and obey God. As previously discussed
children’s rights come into play even before their conception and birth and God
warns humankind to protect themselves and their families from the torment of
you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) …”
The birth of a child, male or female, is a cause for
great celebration. In Islam there is certain etiquette involved in welcoming
the child into the family and community. There are a number of recommended rituals
from the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings
of God be upon him, that are to be done that ensure the newborn is received properly
by the Muslim society. However, the absence of any or all of these recommended
actions does not negate any children’s rights in Islam.
It is recommended that the parents or caregivers do tahneek
and pray for the newborn child. Tahneek means putting something sweet
such as dates or honey into the child’s mouth. One of Prophet Muhammad’s
companions, Abu Musa, may God be pleased with him, said, “I had a baby boy and I
brought him to the Prophet. He named him Ibrahem, did tahneek with a date
and prayed for God to bless him, then he gave him back to me.”
Islamic scholar Imam an Nawawi said that it is recommended to do tahneek
with dates for the child when he is born; if that is not possible then to use
some similar kind of sweet. The date should be chewed until it becomes soft
enough for the baby to suck on it with ease.
words of the call to prayer are often recited softly into the new born baby’s
right ear soon after birth. The first thing the child hears in this world, are
the words of submission to One God. It was reported that one of Prophet Muhammad’s
companions saw him say the call to prayer in the right ear of one of his newborn
grandsons. The newborn
child is entitled to a good name. Names are important; a person’s name conveys
meaning and becomes a symbol of that person. It is recommended that the child
be named on the seventh day after his or her birth, however Islamic scholar Ibn
al Qayyim said the matter was “wide in scope” and that it was permissible to
name the child after birth, or on the seventh day or at any time before or
after those days.
It is usual for the father to name the child however
scholars recommend that parents choose the name together. More important is
that the child should be given a good name, such as ‘Abd-Allah or ‘Abd
al-Rahmaan. Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon
him, said “The most beloved of your names to God are ‘Abd-Allaah (slave of
God) and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan. (slave of the Most Merciful)” It is also
recommended that the child be named after Prophets, or righteous predecessors. Prophet
Muhammad named his own son Ibrahim after Prophet Ibrahim. He said, “A
child was born to me last night and I called him by the name of my father
It is forbidden to use names that belong only to God,
such as al-Khaaliq (the Creator) and al-Quddoos
(the Most Holy), or names which are not befitting for anyone other than God,
such as Malik al-Mulook (King of Kings). It is also forbidden to use names
that imply enslavement to any one or anything but God, such as ‘Abd al-‘Uzza
(slave of al-Uzza – a pagan goddess), Abd al-Kabah (slave of the Kabah), Abd
al-Daar (slave of the House).
It is disliked to use
names that have bad or distasteful meanings, or which sound odd, or would cause
others to mock a person, or cause him embarrassment. It is also better not to
use names that are associated with sinners or tyrants. Some scholars also dislike
naming children after angels or the names of chapters of Quran. Names have
meanings and implied meanings and these meanings will have an effect on the
child for good or for bad. Parents must take great care when choosing an
appropriate name for their newborn child.
Islam it is recommended that parents observe the birth of a child with an
offering known as the aqeeqah.
When a child is born it is commonplace for the family to slaughter one or two sheep and
to invite relatives and neighbours to a meal, in order to allow the community
to share in the happy event.
Although an aqeeqah
is not obligatory it does contain many benefits. Ibn al-Qayyim, said that the aqeeqah
is a sacrifice by means of which the child is brought close to God soon after
he comes into this world, it is a sacrifice by which the newborn is ransomed
just as God ransomed Ismael with the ram and it is the gathering of relatives and friends for
the Waleemah (feast).
One of the rituals
pertaining to newborn children and part of the rights due to children is
circumcision. It is obligatory for baby boys to be circumcised. Prophet
Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said that five things
are part of the inherent nature of people. They are circumcision, shaving the
pubic hair, plucking the armpit hair, cutting the nails, and trimming the
moustache. These things are related to purity and essential
conditions of prayer and imply complete submission to the will of God.
It is from the authentic
traditions of Prophet Muhammad that the new born child’s hair be shaved and
that the weight of the hair be given in gold or silver to charity. It is sufficient to estimate the weight and give the
equivalent amount in currency.
Welcoming the newborn child
into the family and community is more than a celebration; the rights and
rituals performed serve to remind believers that children in Islam have rights.
Whether the parents are alive or deceased, present or absent, known or unknown
the child is entitled to be cared for and raised in security, surrounded by
God’s love and laws. Next week we will discover and explore the rights of
children as they grow into adulthood.
What Islam Says About Children (part 4 of 5): Nurture, Love,
Description: Teaching children the duties of Islam
By Aisha Stacey (© 2010 IslamReligion.com)
Published on 10 May 2010 - Last modified on 10 Nov 2013
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> Systems in Islam
Islam is a religion concerned with justice and respect
and as such, it takes rights and responsibilities very seriously. Islam states that it is the responsibility of each individual to treat
all of creation with respect, honour, and dignity. Respect begins with loving
and obeying the commandments of God and from this respect flow all the manners
and high standards of morality that are inherent in Islam. God expects us,
adult believers, to treat children with respect and to nurture, love and
educate them. When rights and responsibilities are taken seriously, it enables
one to love and respect God.
“And whosoever obeys God and His Messenger,
fears God, and keeps his duty (to Him), such are the successful ones.” (Quran
Small children need food, drink, sleep
and they also need love and compassion. Taking care of their physical needs
and disregarding their emotional and spiritual needs is inappropriate .
After the birth of a child, mothers are
advised to breastfeed. Breast milk was designed by God to specifically fit the
needs of each individual child. Modern science has proven
the remarkable qualities of breast milk. Breast milk has disease-fighting
cells called antibodies that help protect infants from germs, illness, and even
‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’.
Colostrum, the thick yellow fore-milk made during pregnancy and just after birth, will give babies the
best start at life. Milk changes over time to meet the baby’s needs. By the
third to fifth day after the birth breast milk has just the right amount of
fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth.
“The mothers shall give suck to their children
for two whole years, (that is) for those (parents) who desire to complete the
term of suckling” (Quran 2:233)
However, God does not put the believers
into any situation they cannot handle, therefore if
breastfeeding is not possible there are alternatives such as using a wet nurse
and more commonly feeding the infant baby formula designed specifically for an
God does not want to place you in difficulty,
but He wants to purify you, and to complete His Favour to you that you may be
thankful. (Quran 5:6)
As soon as they are old, enough to
understand children should be taught to love God. This is usually easy because
children as naturally disposed to know and love God. It is straightforward for
them to understand that God is the Creator. It is the parents or caregivers
responsibility to teach children that God is One, that there is none worthy of
worship but He.
And (remember) when Luqmaan said to his son when
he was advising him: “O my son! Join not in worship others with God. Verily,
joining others in worship with God is a great wrong indeed. (Quran 31:13)
Parents, guardians, and caregivers are responsible for
teaching their children the duties of Islam. Children must be
taught the correct way of worshipping God and the best way to do this is by
example. From the moment that they can interact with their surroundings children are learning. Even when a very small child hears the call to
prayer, he or she will know that it is time for all worldly endeavours to stop
while believers focus their attention on God. Children learn this by observing
the behaviour of those around them.
From the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy
and blessings of God be upon him, we learn that it is obligatory upon us to
teach our children to pray when they are seven years old and to admonish them
for not praying when they reach the age of ten The reality is that children who live in a household where
prayer and correct worship are visible, are eager to pray and often a very
young age can be seen bowing and prostrating at their parents side.
At seven years old children must be
taught how to pray correctly. By the age of ten children should be admonished
for not praying. Whatever discipline is used it should be
such that the child understands that praying is important. Beating a child is
never an option.
Children should be taught and made
to observe those around then performing all the other
obligations that come with being a believer in the Oneness of God. Children
should be able to see those around them fasting, and performing other acts of
worship such as reading Quran. They should also observe
their caregivers displaying good manners and morals. The companions of Prophet
Muhammad have narrated that children were taught the basics of Islam from a
We used to observe this fast after
that, and we used to make our children fast and make them toys of wool; if one
of them cried for food we would give him that toy until it was time to break
I was taken for Hajj with the
Messenger of God, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, when I was seven years old.
Islam is a holistic religion; therefore,
physical needs pertaining to this world must not be neglected. Children have
the right to live safely and securely, and have all their physical needs taken
care of. Noted Islamic scholar Imam an Nawawi said, “The father
should bring his children up with good manners in all
things, eating, drinking, dressing, sleeping, going out of the house, entering
the house, riding in vehicles, etc. He should instil in
them the attributes of a good person, such as love of (personal) sacrifice,
putting others first, helping others, nobility and
generosity. He should keep them away from evil characteristics such as
cowardice, stinginess, lack of nobility, lack of ambition,
etc. Children must also be protected from physical harm and anything that is
likely to lead them towards sinning.
Islam gives children many rights
and is concerned with their spiritual,
physical, and emotional well being. In the next and final
part of this series of articles, we will discuss fairness, equality, and
What Islam Says About Children (part 5 of 5): Custody &
Description: Rights are embedded in all issues involving children.
By Aisha Stacey (© 2010 IslamReligion.com)
Published on 17 May 2010 - Last modified on 10 Nov 2013
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> Systems in Islam
In the previous four articles, we discussed what Islam
says about children, particularly in relation to children’s rights. In this
final article, we will talk about some issues concerning children that do not,
at first glance, appear to be about the rights of children. The issues are
custody, gift giving and fairness among siblings. We will discover that the
rights of children and their best interests are embedded into all issues
pertaining to children.
The main issue in custody disputes is what is in the
best interest of the child. Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdisi, Islamic scholar of the 12th
century said , “Custody is aimed at looking after the child, so it should not
be given in a way that will be detrimental to his welfare and his religious
If a marriage ends and there is a dispute about who
should have custody of the children or who should financially support them;
then the solutions can be found within the teachings of Islam. Until the child
reaches the age of discernment, the mother is more entitled to custody than the
father, unless the mother remarries, in this case the custody belongs to the
father. That is unless
he agrees with the mother on something that is better for their child. Muslim
scholars over the centuries have differed in their views regarding child
custody; however, they have all agreed that the child's best interests must be
the primary concern.
A divorced woman whose ex-husband was claiming custody
of their child went to Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be
upon him, and said, “My womb was a vessel for this son of mine, and my breasts
gave him to drink, and my lap was a refuge for him, but his father has divorced
me and he wants to take him away from me. Prophet Muhammad said to her, “You
have more right to him so long as you do not remarry.”
According to Islam the period of discernment is around
the age of seven or eight, at which time the official period of custody ends
and the period of kafalah or sponsorship begins. This period lasts until
the child reaches puberty at which time the child is free to choose with which
parent he or she will reside with. The choice however is dictated by the need
for certain conditions to be fulfilled.
These conditions include that the parent or guardian is a
Muslim who is able to be held accountable (i.e., an adult of sound mind etc.)
is of good character and is able to fulfill all obligations towards the child.
Maintenance however is obligatory upon the father
whether the mother is rich or poor. He is responsible for accommodation, food,
drink, clothing and education, and other everyday needs. However, the monetary
amount is based on the father’s circumstances and means. Every situation is
“Let the rich man spend according to his means; and the man
whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what God has given
him. God puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. God will
grant after hardship, ease”. (Quran 65:7)
Fairness & Gift Giving
Islam tells us that it is important to treat children
fairly. Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said,
“Fear God and treat your children fairly.”
In relation to spending this means giving each child
what he or she needs. For instance, one child may need a school uniform worth
$200 while another child’s uniform may only cost $100. Another example would be
if one child is getting married and the parents have arranged it, they should
do the same for other children when they desire to get married..
It is not permissible to show preference to one gender
over the other or to one child over the others. This can lead to sibling
rivalry, jealousy, and bad feelings within the family. In extreme cases, it
may even lead to the breaking of family ties.
Some of the scholars are of the opinion that it is
permissible to show preference to some children in regards to gift giving under
certain specific circumstances. For instance, it may be permissible if one
of them is disabled or has a large family or is preoccupied with seeking
knowledge or if there is some other reason that means he or she is in need of
extra financial aid. It may also be permissible to withhold gifts or money
from your children if they are engaged in forbidden actions.
Sheikh IbnUthamien, noted Islamic scholar of the
20th century said, “If a parent granted one of his children financial
remuneration 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.
"Be just: that is nearer to piety; and fear God.” (Quran
Islam is a religion concerned with justice and respect.
It is a religion that places great emphasis on rights and responsibilities. It
is a religion concerned with individual needs only as far as they do not
impinge on the needs of a cohesive community. Children have certain rights,
the most important being that they are able to know and love God. It is the
parents (caregivers and guardians) responsibility to feed, clothe, educate, and
nurture the children that have come under their care.
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