By Aisha Stacey
Children 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 the fire.
“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) …” (At-Tahrim 66:6)
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 Ibrahim, did tahneek with a date and prayed for God to bless him, then he gave him back to me.”
Noted 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.
The 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 Ibrahim.”
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 Qur’an. 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.
In 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 neighbors 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.
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, honor, 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.” (Al-Nur 24:52)
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” (Al-Baqarah 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 infant’s needs.
“God does not want to place you in difficulty, but He wants to purify you, and to complete His Favor to you that you may be thankful.” (Al-Ma’idah 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 Luqman 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.” (Luqman 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 endeavors to stop while believers focus their attention on God. Children learn this by observing the behavior 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 Qur’an. 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 young age.
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 the fast.
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 custody issues.
In the previous pages, 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 commitment.”
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 different.
“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”. (At-Talaq 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 Ibn Uthamien, 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.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:8)
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.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
 Tuhfat al-Mawlood, p. 111
 Saheeh Muslim
 Tuhfat al-Mawlood, p. 69
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
 The (USA) Federal government source for women’s health information. (http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/benefits/)
 At-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood.
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
 Saheeh Al-Bukhari
 This is taken to include mother, caregivers, and guardians.
 Al-Mughni (8/190).
 Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawood.
 Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
 Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (16/193)
Taken with slight editorial modifications from islamreligion.com.
Aisha Stacey is an Australian revert to Islam. She currently spends her time between Australia and Qatar. Aisha works as a writer at the Fanar Cultural Islamic Centre in Doha, Qatar while studying for an Arts/Psychology degree.