The Muslim and His Children

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He demonstrates his love and affection for them

One of his primary paternal duties is to demonstrate his love, mercy and affection towards his children so that they will grow up confident, positive, optimistic and with high levels of self-esteem.

Compassion is a basic Islamic characteristic, and was one of the most prominent characteristics of the Prophet (s), as Anas (r) told us:

´I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than the Messenger of Allah (s). His son Ibr h¯m 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 mercy and love towards the Muslim children included little ones at play. Anas (r) reports that whenever the Prophet (s) passed by a group of boys he would smile fondly and greet them. (Bukhari and Muslim)

An example of his enduring educational wisdom is the advice:

´He is not one of us who does not show compassion to our little ones and recognize the rights of our elders.'5

Note: 5. Reported by Ahmad and al-Hakim. Its isnad is sahih.

Abu Hurayrah (r) said:

´The Prophet (s) kissed al hasan ibn Ali, and al Aqra' ibn Habis said: 'I have ten children, and I have never kissed any of them.' The Prophet (s) said, 'He who does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.' (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (s), this great educator, always sought to instill the quality of mercy and compassion in people's hearts, and to awaken their potential for love and affection, which are the most basic of human characteristics.

One day a Bedouin came and asked the Prophet (s), "Do you kiss your sons? We do not." The Prophet (s) said, ´What can I do for you if Allah has removed mercy from your heart" (Bukhari and Muslim)

'A'ishah (r) reports:

´Whenever Fatimah came into the room, the Prophet (s) would stand up, welcome her, kiss her and offer her his seat, and whenever he came into the room, she would stand up, take his hand, welcome him, kiss him and offer him her seat. When she came to see him during his final illness, he welcomed her and kissed her. (Bukhari and Muslim)

In the light of this guidance, the true Muslim cannot be stern towards his children and treat them in a rough or mean fashion, even if it is his nature to be grim and reserved, because this religion, with its enlightenment and guidance, softens hearts and awakens feelings of love and affection. So children are a part of us, going forth into the world, as the poet said:

´Our children are our hearts, walking among us on the face of the earth,/ if even a little breeze touches them, we cannot sleep for worrying about them.'6

Note: 6. These lines by the poet Hittan al-Mu'alli are to be found in Shar­ al-Hamasah by al-Tabrizi, 1/275.

Parents should be filled with love, affection and care, and willing to make sacrifices and do their best for their children.

He spends on them, willingly and generously

Islam does not rely only on the parents, natural instincts to care for their children, because sometimes parents may be reluctant to give up some of life's pleasures for the sake of their children, or else hard times and poverty may cause parents to complain about the heavy burden of expenses. So Islam reinforces the parents, natural instincts to care for their children by promising them a great reward, which encourages them to make sacrifices and helps them to bear their poverty.

Umm Salamah said:

´I said, 'O Messenger of Allah, will I be rewarded for what I spend on the children of Salamah" I am not going to abandon them in any case, for they are my children too.' He said, 'Yes, you will be rewarded for what you spend on them.' (Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Masud al-Badri (r) said:

´The Prophet (s) said: 'When a man spends on his family with the intention of pleasing Allah, then it will be counted as Ñadaqah (charity) on his part.' (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam considers spending on one's wife and children to be one of the best kinds of spending, one of the deeds which will bring the greatest rewards. This is borne out by the hadith which Muslim reported from Abu Hurayrah (r), who said: ´The Prophet (s) said:

'Money you spend for the sake of Allah, money you spend to free a slave, money you give in charity to the poor, and money you spend on your family . . . The greatest in reward of all of these is spending on your family. (Bukhari and Muslim)

In another report, narrated by Muslim, the Prophet (s) said:

´The best money a man can spend is money he spends on his children, money he spends on his mount for the purpose of jihad, and money he spends on his friends for the sake of Allah."

The true Muslim is happy to spend on his family, because he is certain that whatever he spends on them and others, with the intention of pleasing Allah, will bring him reward, even the morsel of food which he may raise to his wife's mouth in a light-hearted gesture of affection. This is clear from the hadith narrated by Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas (r), that the Prophet (s) told him:

´You will never spend anything for the sake of Allah without there being a reward for it, even the food which you put in your wife's mouth.' (Bukhari and Muslim)

The true Muslim cannot abandon his children and leave them in poverty and misery, when he hears the words of the Prophet (s) threatening men who neglect their responsibilities towards their families and warning them of the worst punishment and torment in the Hereafter:

´It is sin enough for a man to forsake those who are under his care.' (Muslim, Abu Dawud, et al)

He does not discriminate between sons and daughters in his affection and spending

Some people are disappointed to have daughters, and wish that Allah had given them only sons. They do not know of the great reward which Allah has promised to the father who has been given daughters, and accepts them, takes care of them, gives them a good upbringing, and showers love and affection upon them. If they knew the reward that awaits the caring, merciful father of girls, they would feel jealous of him and would want that for themselves too.

The Prophet (s) said,

´Whoever has three daughters, and is patient with them, gives them food and drink, and clothes them from his earnings, they will be for him a shield against the Fire of the Day of Resurrection.'7

Note: 7. Narrated by Ahmad in al-Musnad, with a sahih isnad.

In another report, he (s) said: ´Whoever has three daughters and shelters them, provides what they need and shows compassion towards them, will certainly deserve Paradise.' A man among the people asked, ´And if they are two, O Messenger of Allah?' And he said, ´Yes, even if they are two.'

How could any man resent bringing up daughters and spending on them when he hears of the rewards and blessings that Allah has promised him?

Islam, this practical religion which recognizes the realities of people's lives in all times and places, recognizes the fact that a daughter may get divorced and return to her father's house, and that her father may be in straitened circumstances with a low income or many other children to care for, so it offers him the comfort that will soothe his troubled spirit and ease his stress. Islam tells this father that whatever he spends on his daughter who has come home to him is one of the greatest acts of charity and one of the deeds that will bring him closest to Allah.

The Prophet (s) said to Suraqah ibn Ju'sham: "Shall I not tell you about the greatest form of charity?" He said, "Of course, O Messenger of Allah." He said, ´Your daughter who has come back to you and has no other breadwinner.'8

Note: 8. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

What comparison can there be between the great affection and love with which children in the Muslim world are nurtured, and the harsh life suffered by children in the West, where when a child, boy or girl, who has barely reached the age of eighteen, leaves the family home to face the stark realities of life and to struggle to earn a living before he is ready to or before he has had enough love and support from his family? There is a huge difference between the laws of Allah, which bring happiness to mankind, and the inadequate laws of man which only cause suffering. Not surprisingly, in western countries, as a result of these materialistic laws, there are armies of promiscuous young men and hordes of unfortunate young unmarried mothers, and their numbers are increasing daily.

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