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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books Family Principles of Upbringing Children

Principles of Upbringing Children - Keeping Promises

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The human society cannot function without the institution of promises and assurances of their fulfillment. People make agreements and covenants with one another that goes to make families and clans. There will be agreements between cities that meld them together. People give great importance to these covenants because they are the basis of their collective lives. Keeping promises is an important aspect of human life and every person considers it very bad to do anything in infringement of a promise.

Every person who enters into a covenant with another expects that the terms of the contract will be adhered to implicitly. Whichever groups abide by the terms of their covenant will be termed as well organised units. The reason for their well being is that they will have trust on one another without any reason for conflict. The lives of their people will be successful and contented.

To the contrary the people of an area that doesn’t abide by its covenants with others will suffer from a feeling of uncertainty and unrest. They will be victims of perpetual conflict. Every individual or society who respect the agreements made with others will have the respect and confidence of others. Those who break their covenants will be abhorred and looked down upon by the others. Islam is a religion of nature that lays great stress on fulfillment of promises.

Allah says in the Holy Quran:

“ …. and fulfill (every) engagement, for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning). " (Quran, 17:34)

At another place in the Quran it is said:

“Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants” (Quran, 23:8)

The Prophet of Islam said:

“The person who has no covenant has no faith" (Bihar al-anwar, v75, p. 96)

“Whoever has faith in Allah and the Day of Reckoning, should fulfill his promises." (Usul al-Kafi, v 2, p. 364)

Ali has said to Malik al Ashtar:

“Breaking promises makes others unhappy as also Allah will be unhappy." (Bihar al-anwar, v77, p. 96)

“Where you cannot keep your promise, don’t make one. Where you cannot discharge a guarantee, don’t give one." (Gharar al-hukm, p. 801)

To perpetuate the habit of keeping promises and abiding by covenants in the society, it is imperative to train the people from their very childhood to be true to their word. This training starts with the childhood in the environment of the family. The child emulates the actions and words of the parents. The parents can set an example for the children. .By nature, the child expects that promises will be kept. When the parents fulfill their small promises the child gets trained in this important aspect of life. But if they take their small promises lightly and neglect them, the child takes the negative example and develops the habit of breaking his word. They start believing that promises are made to be broken.

If the parents make false promises to momentarily calm the child, they are inadvertently training the child to make false promises Can such children grow into respectable individuals? To quieten the child the mother promises to buy him sweets, ice cream., toys etc Sometimes she makes these promises to make him take the bitter medicine or to get him vaccinated.

She frightens him by saying that if he did a certain thing, she would send him to the police, report him to his Dad or deny him new dress for the festival. If you consider the lives of the people around you, or your own life, there will be innumerable instances of such false promises and threats made to the innocent children. Do the parents ever imagine what impact they are making on the impressionable minds of the children? This injustice is perpetrated on the innocent children quite innocuously!

The ignorant parents don’t know that they are sinning by making false promises and also they are training the child to follow in their footsteps.

This is the reason Islam requires the parents to keep the promises that they make with their children. The Prophet of Islam has said:

“Love the children. Treat them with kindness and if you make a promise to them, fulfill it without fail. The children think that you are the provider of sustenance for them." (Wasail al-shiah, v 15, p. 101, Bihar al-anwar, v104, p. 92)

Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

"Whenever you make a promise to the children, definitely keep it." (Mustadrak al-wasail, v 2, p. 106)


Love for the mother is a part of human nature. Man wants to own the things that he needs. He thinks he is the master of these things. He also expects others to respect his sentiment about his belongings. This instinct of ownership in the human nature cannot be completely obliterated.

Whichever way it is curbed, it will rise again. Ownership, although a notional phenomenon, is such a phenomenon that has assumed the garb of reality. Without the sense of ownership the running of human life seems impossible. From the time a child starts recognising himself, he identifies his needs, he instinctively thinks that he owns them.

When a child gets a thing lying on the floor, or takes it from someone else’s hands, he thinks that it belongs to him. He will not readily part with it. He knows that he is the owner of his clothes, shoes, toys and other things. He doesn’t like others handling these things.

You must have noticed that children love their toys, however bad shape might they be in. They protect them and even fight for them. They have pride of ownership in their natures. If someone rises to protect his rights, he should not be counted as evil. Sense of ownership is not a negative instinct. The parents must accept the child’s natural instinct.

It often happens that the children trespass over the ownership of other children and try to usurp the toys of other children. The parents should prevent such acts. If an older child bullies the smaller ones, the parents must intervene in a just manner. They must be convinced that they should not take away the toys of younger siblings by force. If the attitude continues even after this, the child must be strictly warned to behave. The human needs are ever growing. If some control is not asserted on them, the needs might surpass the means. They can also become the cause of destruction of the person.

The concept of ownership is for fulfillling the legitimate needs of persons. Work is deemed essential for achieving ownership. Love for wealth in legitimate limits is considered good. But if it exceeds certain limits, it can come under the category of avarice and parsimony. There are lots of people who can be termed mammon worshippers. They keep running after wealth tirelessly. They even compromise their rest, self-respect and honour in this futile search for wealth. It is a type of madness. They only want to create hordes of wealth that are useful neither to them nor to others. .These persons cannot be termed wise.

Therefore, the parents should encourage the sense of ownership in the child and also teach him to be contented with what he can acquire legitimately. He should have toys, but not too many of them. The toys should be sufficient to play and learn and not too many to create a hoard. If the child has too many new toys that are lying in the shelf, the parents should better give some to other children. But this should be done discreetly by telling the child that he has many toys and the other child has none.

If he gave him some, he will be happy. You will also be pleasing your parents and Allah too. The child will then be happy in parting with some of his toys. The child wants to please his parents. This instinct encourages him to listen to them and part with some of his possessions. This way the habit of sharing things is cultivated in the child. Sometimes the parents can encourage the child to lend his toys to other children for playing and return. This way the spirit of co-operation and sharing can be cultivated in the child.

In a nutshell the parents should keep in mind that there is moderation in all aspects of upbringing of the child. They should promote the sense of ownership in the child and see that it does not exceed certain limits. They must ensure that the child does not become a blind lover of wealth in his future life.


Generosity and magnanimity are excellent traits in a person. A magnanimous person strives hard to acquire wealth, but he will not have excessive attachment to riches. He wants wealth, but to share it with others. He doesn’t believe in hoarding wealth. He spends his life with his family and wholeheartedly participates in the welfare activities of the community. He helps the deprived and the needy. He makes the right use of his wealth.

A parsimonious person hoards wealth. He neither spends it on himself nor gives a helping hand to the needy. Such a person will be amassing wealth for the posterity.

Islam has condemned miserliness and praised generosity in very clear terms.

The Prophet of Islam says:

“Generosity is a part of iman ( the Faith) and the iman shall take one to the Heaven." (Jam’i al Sa’adat, v 2, p. 113)

"Generosity is such a tree in the Heaven the branches of which have reached the Earth. Whosoever caught hold of one of the branches, he will reach the Heaven." (Jam’i al Sa’adat, v 2, p. 114)

“Behisht ( the Heaven ) is the home of the generous people." (Jam’i al Sa’adat, v 2, p. 114)

“Allah is Munificent and Generous and likes generosity in men." (Jam’i al Sa’adat, v 4, p. 113)

The Prophet of Islam said:

“It is not proper for the mumin ( the pious ) to be miserly and cowardly." (Jam’i al Sa’adat, v 2, p. 112)

Generosity and magnanimity attract hearts and affections. People like a generous person and respect him. With generosity and magnanimity hearts can be subdued.

The Prophetof Islam says:

“A generous person is closer to Allah’s creations and the Heaven. He is away from the Hell. The miserly person is away from Allah, His creations ( the men) and the Heaven. But he is closer to the Hell Fire." (al-mahajjatul bayda,v 3, p. 248)

A miserly person doesn’t pay the legitimate rights. He therefore becomes eligible of the Retribution on the Day of Reckoning. .Generosity makes a person acceptable here and also in the Hereafter. The quality of generosity is instinctive as are the other virtues of men. But the parents have to nourish these qualities in their children.

It is true that every child is born with his own individual nature, but some natures readily accept to become generous and others tend towards miserliness. The parents training and upbringing can have important effect on the moulding of the natures of the children. They can influence the child in curbing the miserly tendencies to a greater extent and encourage him to be more generous.

The thing that has the maximum effect on the child’s progress is the character of the parents. The parents are always the role models for the children. If the parents are generous in spending on good causes, the children too will try to emulate them. In stages this habit of generosity takes root in the nature of the children. If, to the contrary, the parents are miserly, the children too will mould themselves on the same pattern. Habits go a long way in moulding characters.

Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says: “

Train your self to be generous, select the best of virtues and these virtues will become your habit." (Bihar al-anwar, v 77, p. 213)

“Generosity is amongst good habits." (Gharar al hukm, p. 17)

Imam Jafer al Sadiq said:

“To be a sinner it is sufficient for a person to spend nothing for his family and deprive them." (Wasail al-shiah, v 15, p. 251)

Parents can make use of the following guidelines for cultivating the habits of generosity and magnanimity in their children:

1. Encourage the child to give a part of the things he has to the parents and his other siblings. The child must be suitably praised for the generous act and thanked. .In the beginning the child may be reluctant to part with his possession, but, by and by, he will get into the habit of being generous. When the child is reluctant for this experiment, he should not be forced into giving. This might make the child stubborn.

2. Sometimes encourage the child to allow other children to play with his toys. The child should also be encouraged to share his sweets and chocolates with other children. When he does it, give him a pat on his back.

3. Sometimes encourage him to give a part of his pocket money to the poor and the needy. Or ask him to spend some money for any good cause. If this becomes a habit, it would have a salutary effect on the character of the child as he grows up.

4. Ask the child to invite his friends home for a meal and see that he entertains them with care.

5. The parents can give some money to the child everyday to be given as alms or for some good cause.

6. Discuss with the child the difficulties and hardships of poor people. If possible take him along with you to the hospital, the orphanage and the home for the poor and aged. In his presence help some needy persons

This way the child can be initiated into the habit of generosity. We, however, cannot claim that this method will work on all the children. The parents should make their best efforts and the success can differ from child to child. Every individual has his own nature and the capacity to accept change. For the children their habits also come as a genetic factor inherited from generation to generation. But careful breeding can definitely have some good effect.

A lady writes in a letter thus:

“…. At a pleasant place we had an orchard. Different varieties of fruits used to grow there in abundance. My Mom and Granny used to send some fruits to the needy. They were particularly generous to such of those needy persons who were serving our family. They used to entrust this task to me. From the age of six or seven years I got into the habit of doing this work. In the village there were families of two blind persons.

My heart used to feel much for them. Every day when I visited them, I used to catch their hands, bring them out for some fresh air and take them back to their homes. .I used to bring fresh water for them from the lake. These blind men used to bless me and pray for me. When I told my Mom and Dad about this, they were very pleased. My mom said, one who has become blind is really deserving of all help.

My parents always used to encourage me for doing good deeds. I used to save from my pocket money and give to the needy. Slowly I got habituated of doing this. I am now a member of a social help organisation that is taking care of fourteen needy families.

My children too have taken good effect from my attitude. One day a child said,’ Give me some money every morning.’ I asked him, ‘ Why?’ he said, ‘ I shall save this money’ I give him the money regularly and remind him not to waste it. After some days he came to me with his treasure-trove. He had forty-eight coins in that. He said, ‘ Momif you permit me, I shall give the money to a blind person. He lives on the way to our school.’ I was very pleased with the child and I kissed and hugged him.”

A Helping Hand in Good Work

Certain tasks that are big and important cannot be accomplished single-handed. But if there is some help available, the same job is done with ease. If man keeps working alone he will fall behind in doing many tasks. It seldom happens that a single person starts and runs an organisation for social welfare. An individual cannot run a hospital, school, mosque, orphanage, library etc without having others to help him. In fact, a person cannot even manage the administration of any such organisation individually. But with others’ help and co-operation the work can be accomplished to perfection. Any nation where the population has the spirit of mutual help and co-operation will be a prosperous nation.

In this respect Islam is a complete congregational system that invites people to come together for common good. The Holy Quran says:

“Help ye ( one another ) in righteousness and piety, and help ye not ( one another ) in sin and aggression" (Quran, 5:4)

Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

“Co-operating to withhold the truth is fidelity and probity." (Gharar al hukm, p. 48)

The spirit of co-operation and camaraderie takes root from childhood only. Luckily human beings have gregarious nature by birth. But there is always the need to utilise this instinct to advantage. The parents who are keen to give good upbringing to their children encourage the instinct of fellowship in them and provide to them toys and games that need group participation.

They can give them toys that need assembling by more than one child. They can encourage them to have a jointly save their money for use for a good cause with guidance from the parents. With this collective saving they can buy fruits and sweets to distribute to the sickly, poor and needy. The parents can add some money to this amount and also help them to buy and distribute the fruits etc. They can also give the savings periodically to some welfare organisation. They may also give the money to some public library to help buy new books. The parents can also encourage the children to form a small committee and initiate some welfare activity by themselves.

If the parents are members of a welfare organisation, they should initiate the children too to the activity. They can give some money to the child to personally contribute to the fund of the organisation and make him a regular member.


All are Gods creations. All humans are the off springs of the same first parents.(Adam and Eve. In fact all men belong to the same large family. Allah has created them and He likes them. He has assured sustenance to everyone. Allah only has endowed them with all their necessities in the world. He has given them control over the manipulation and use of these things.

He has given them wisdom and strength to gainfully utilise the things around them to their advantage. Allah has provided them the opportunities to raise their spirits to reach perfection in piety and earn rewards in the Hereafter. He provided the means of guidance in the forms of Prophets from time to time. He has Ordained (mansus) .

the Imams and then there are the religious guides, the mujtahids and maraja’h. All this because Allah loves men and He is extremely Munificent. He wants men to be kind to one another and strive for the general welfare. He wants men toassist each other both in fair weather and during calamitous conditions. Those who have welfare of other human beings in their thoughts and actions are the chosen people of Allah. They shall have plenty of rewards in the Hereafter. Islam, a gregarious Faith, has given particular emphasis to the need for service to humanity.

The Prophet of Islam has said:

“All men eat the food provided by Allah. Therefore from men the dearest to Allah are those who give sustenance to other men and please some families." (Bihar al-anwar, v74, p. 317)

Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:

“Allah says that people eat the food given by Me. Such of those men are dear to me who are kind to the other humans and strive hard to help them in the time of need." (Bihar al-anwar, v 73, p. 337

Someone asked the Prophet:

“Who is the dearest to Allah among men?’

The Prophet replied:

‘One who is most beneficial to other fellow-men." (Bihar al-anwar, v74, p. 239)

The Prophet of Islam has said:

“After the Faith, the wisest act for a person is the love and care of the other human beings, be they good or otherwise." (Bihar al-anwar, v74, p. 392)

"One who is not concerned with the good of the Muslims is not a Muslim". (Bihar al-anwar, v74, p. 347)

Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:

“Allah’s preferred men are those who are approached by men in need of help. These preferred men of Allah will be in the Care of Allah on the Day of Judgment." (Bihar al-anwar, v 74, p. 318)

The Prophet of Islam said:

“Allah is Kind on His men and likes those men who are kind to their fellow men." ((Bihar al-anwar, v 74, p. 339)

There are hundreds of such traditions of the Prophet and the Imams that are spread over many compendiums of the sayings of these Infallible Persons.

The Prophet has seen the Islamic society as a single unit and has asked the followers of the Faith to work for the common good. Islam is a Gregarious Faith and considers the welfare of individuals as the welfare of the society. It fights against all kinds of selfishness. A true Muslim can never be selfish and will never overlook the rights of others in the society.

Friendship for other human beings is a superior quality and it is imbued in the nature of every individual. But with proper training this quality can be made manifest. Sometimes it may happen that this wonderful quality might totally disappear from the nature of some individuals.

This is like other inherent instincts in all human being which start manifesting during early childhood in their rudiments and if they are not properly nourished, they might become dormant or totally recede into the recesses of the individual’s mind. It is the responsibility of the parents to make their children friendly to human beings and generous. If the parents themselves are generous to others and the children see the shades of generosity in their words and actions, they can naturally follow suit.

The responsible and informed parents sometimes describe the plight of the needy people, the poor, the handicapped and old, in the presence of their children. If possible they take out the children to meet these people. They tell the children that these are the deprived people and are in need of support and help.

They provide help to such people in the presence of the children to set a good example for them to emulate when they grow up and are capable of helping others. The parents sometimes describe to the children the unfair tyranny heaped by some people on hapless persons and also the pathetic condition of the unfortunate sufferers. They also talk to their children about the unfortunate orphans who don’t have parents to look after them and they deserve full support from others in the society. They take their children to the orphanage to meet these kids and sometimes invite some of them to their home. All this goes a long way in making the children realise their responsibility to help and assist the needy in the society.