Men can be divided into three categories in terms of the issue of bringing to accountability or holding someone to responsible for something: two extreme ends and the middle. As some men may spoil their children and never bring them into account or hold them responsible for anything; a matter which is by all means detested and abhorred. Whereas others bring their children into account for everything, be it minor or major, serious or trivial; a matter which is considered as a detested excess and extravagance in treatment. However, the third category is represented by those who take none of these two extreme ends and stay in the middle, which is considered moderation and this is the Prophetic method of educating children without any excess, abuse or carelessness.
The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) used to bring the minors to accountability for their mistakes and wrong-doings with moderation and without any excess or carelessness as is mentioned above. Even the degree of accountability or blame differed and was not of one degree all the time. It varied according to the graveness of the mistake or the wrong-doing and its dangerousness. It also varied according to the fact that whether the doer repented and blamed himself or he was insistent on the wrong-doing and persistent therein. It also varied according to whether the doer was ignorant of the Islamic ruling on the issue or s/he was fully aware thereof. In addition to many other factors according to which the degree of blame was different and gradable. An example of this is when the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) blamed Mu`adh ibn Jabal who was then a young man who used to lead his people in prayer and prolong it too much. The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said to him: “O Mu`adh! Do you want to cause fitnah among the people?!” (Narrated by Imam Ahmed)
Thus, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) did not ignore the mistake and at the same time did not overact in any way.
Sometimes, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) only kept silent and anger would appear on his face. As an example on this is what has been narrated by Lady A’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) who reported that she bought a carpet which had pictures on it. When Allah’s Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) saw that, he stayed at the door and did not get in. I perceived or I was made to perceive upon his face signs of disgust. She said: Allah’s Messenger, I offer repentance to Allah and His Messenger. (but tell me) what is the sin that I have committed. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: “What is this carpet?” She said: “I bought it for you so that you might sit on it and take rest.” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The owners of these pictures would be tormented and they would be asked to bring to life what they tried to create.” He then said: “Angels do not enter the house in which there is a picture.” (Narrated by Muslim)
At the same time, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) was very strict with Usama ibn Zaid when he tried to intercede for a lady from Banu Makhzum who committed theft as can be seen in the following hadith.
Narrated `Aisha: The people of Quraish worried about the lady from Bani Makhzum who had committed theft. They asked, “Who will intercede for her with Allah’s Apostle?” Some said, “No one dare to do so except Usama bin Zaid the beloved one to Allah’s Apostle.” When Usama spoke about that to Allah’s Apostle Allah’s Apostle said, (to him), “Do you try to intercede for somebody in a case connected with Allah’s Prescribed Punishments?” Then he got up and delivered a sermon saying, “What destroyed the nations preceding you, was that if a noble amongst them stole, they would forgive him, and if a poor person amongst them stole, they would inflict Allah’s Legal punishment on him. By Allah, if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would cut off her hand.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari)
Given this, let us avoid falling in any of the two extreme ends when dealing with our children’s mistakes and wrong-doings and let us better stick to the Prophetic guidance in dealing with them in a mild and moderate manner without any excess or carelessness. Let us learn from the noble Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) how to deal with and educate our children as he was, and still is, the best educator ever.
Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah Interanational Univerity, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator and researcher. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.