Every child has the right to be loved and protected by their community, especially by their parents. Within Islam, where parents have a right to be respected by their children, they also have the responsibility to uphold their duties to raise and nurture their children into happy and healthy individuals. In this article, we examine the ways we uphold the rights of children, both in Islam and within our communities.
Responsibility for and compassion towards children is an important matter both within religion and our communities. Whether we are parents, relatives or members of our communities who are carers or educators of children, we all have a duty to look after their wellbeing and support their needs in all aspects of their development.
Within Islam, taking good care of children is seen as one of the most commendable deeds someone can do, and it is especially important for parents and guardians of children to uphold this deed as their main caregivers. Just as children have a duty to honour, respect and care for their parents in Islam, parents and guardians also have a duty to nurture their children with love, patience and kindness, and raise them with good ethics and morals.
As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), in one hadith, said: “Take care! Each of you is a shepherd and each of you shall be asked concerning his flock; a leader is a shepherd of his people, and he shall be asked concerning his flock; and a man is a shepherd of the people of his house, and he shall be asked concerning his flock; and a woman is a shepherd of the house of her husband and over their children, and she shall be asked concerning them.” (Al-Bukhari)
In viewing how we can uphold the rights of children both within religion and broader society, these are actions and mannerisms we should keep in mind to further beautify our relationships with our children within our communities.
Caring for the Wellbeing of the Child in Our Community
Interest in and responsibility for the child’s welfare should be one of our first priorities as a community. All children have the right to be fed, clothed, given a good education and protected until adulthood, and it is our treatment and attitude towards them that shapes their personality.
Islam likewise acknowledges that the personality of a child is strongly sensitive to how they are raised, especially by their parents. Parents who treat their children with respect, kindness, patience, love and goodness will see those traits reflected back to them as their child grows, particularly if they’ve been an active part of their child’s life.
Parents should also not favour one child over another. As children have the capacity to easily distinguish when there is a difference in the attitude of the adults, having an adult they love and trust, especially a parent, display more love or a lack of love towards them will have a significant impact on a child. Hence, we should be conscious of our behaviour towards our children and be constantly aware of the emotions we project onto them.
It is also important that we do not spend all we have on providing the comforts and luxuries of life to our children. While each child deserves to be clothed and fed, financial support alone doesn’t fulfil a parent or guardian’s duty towards their child. Sometimes, families can even be so immersed in worldly life that they forget to pay attention to their children when what matters most to the child is to love and care for them wholeheartedly.
In turn, ensuring that our children are prepared and looked after when their parents and guardians pass is also a duty entrusted to our community. Within Islam, giving children this important education includes not only providing the means to learn bookish knowledge but also moral and spiritual training as well. It is famous hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in which He (PBUH) said: “The best of you is one who gives a good education (intellectual and moral) to his children”.
Therefore, we, as a community, especially as parents and guardians, need to be very focused and careful about our children’s upbringing and raise them in a proper manner and good education, with love and a gentle attitude.
The Prophet (PBUH) and His Love Towards Children
We can likewise learn how to preserve the rights of our children by following the example of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was fond of children and always took great importance in playing with them and showering them with love.
Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him), narrated an example of this fondness from the Prophet (PBUH) in this hadith:
“I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). His son Ibrahim was in the care of a wet nurse in the hills around Madinah. He would go there, and we would go with him, and he would enter the house, pick up his son and kiss him, then come back.” (Muslim)
The Prophet’s love for children was not restricted to his children and grandchildren either. The scope of his mercy and affection embraced all children, and he showed the same interest and gentleness to his Companion’s children and his young companions.
In turn, this hadith, narrated by Usamah ibn Zaid (may Allah be pleased with him) showed how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged his community, and, by extension, us, to raise their children in kindness:
“Allah’s Messenger used to put me on (one of) his thighs and put Al-Hasan ibn `Ali on his other thigh, and then embrace us and say, “O Allah! Please be merciful to them, as I am merciful to them.” (Al-Bukhari)
In all these examples, the Prophet (PBUH) expressed his conviction that his Muslim community would be noted among other communities for its kindness to children. In following in his footsteps, our communities should also show mercy towards children and raise them with respect and good role models.
Children are a great blessing to us, both as gifts from our Creator and the future of our communities. With their tender hearts, it is important that we treat children with care and give them the positive role models they deserve, so that they may grow into strong, sincere and kind individuals and receive fulfilment and success in this life, as well as the hereafter.