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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 - Justice and Equality

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A family consisting of a few members is like a small society and the parents manage the affairs of this small habitation. As running a country is not possible without justice and equality, so is the management of a household not possible without these concomitant factors; namely Justice and equality for all. Selflessness, love, affection and unity is possible only in an environment of justice and equality. The children will get proper upbringing in this atmosphere. The inherent traits of the children will find expression and they will learn to be just and fair from the example set to them by their parents. If the parents are ignorant of the need for justice and fair play, so will be their children.

Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:

“.As pure and cool water is craved for by a thirsty person, so do people desire to have justice and equality and their taste is sweeter and better for them. There is nothing better than justice." (Usul al-Kafi, v 2, p. 147)

“Three types of persons will be closer to Allah on the Day of Reckoning: First: Those who are not cruel to their subordinates in times of anger. Second: Those who go to mediate between two litigants, but don’t do anything against the requirement of justice. Third: Those who always uphold the truth, even if they come to personal harm by doing so." (Bihar al-anwar, v 75, p. 33)

Allah says in the Holy Quran:

“Allah orders for Justice and Fairness." (Quran, 16:90)

Just and equitable parents treat all their children equally. They don’t show particular preference for any particular child. Be it a son or a daughter, pretty or not so pretty, capable or mediocre; the parents have the same feelings of love and affection for all of them. They give equitable treatment to all their children

The Prophet of Islam has said:

“Keep justice for all your children in your mind even when some of them are away. If you desire treatment of love, kindness and justice from your children, then give them similar treatment." (Makarim al akhlaq, v 71, p. 252)

The Prophet noticed that a person was more attached to one son than to the other. He told him:

“Who don’t you keep the need for justice and equality of treatment in mind?" (Makarim al akhlaq, v 11, p. 252)

One person was sitting in the company of the Prophet when his son arrived. The person kissed the boy and made him sit on his lap. After a while the person’s daughter came there and the person made her sit in front of him. Then the Prophet told to the person: “Why didn’t you keep in your consideration the need for justice and equality between your children ?(Majma al zawaid, v 8, p. 156)

Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

“Delivering justice and equality to people is the best of politics." (Gharar al hukm, p. 64)

One woman came to the presence of the Prophet’s wife, Ayesha, with her two little children. Ayesha gave her three dates. The mother gave one each to the two children and then equally divided the third date and gave one to each of them. When the Prophet returned home, Ayesha narrated the incident to him.

The Prophet said:

"Why are you surprised at the action of that woman?For keeping justice and equality in view Allah will give her a place in the Heaven!!" (Sunan, Ibn Majah,v72, p. 1210)

If the parents treat their children unjustly in a partial manner they will create a very harmful impression on them. viz:

1. The children will take after the unjust attitude of the parents and behave the same way with others. With time this attitude will become a part of their natures.

2. The children who had been the victims of injustice from their parents will carry rancour for them in their minds It is possible they turn rebellious and disobedient.

3. With treatment of injustice and partiality there is chance of jealousy and enmity springing up between brothers and sisters and it might go to the limit of sometimes harming each other.

4. The children who have received unjust treatment at the hands of their parents will have feelings of dejection and oppression that will get engraved in their minds.It is quite possible that later on they develop psychic disorders.

The parents will be responsible for all the consequences of their partial and unjust treatment meted out to their children.

But the parents, in all fairness, give equitable treatment to all their children. At different ages the children will have differing requirements. Because they are born at different times and are of different sexes, they may not have similar requirements all the time. The law of justice and equality too is not rigid about equal treatment in such differing circumstances.

Will it be right to lift the elder child in your lap like you do to a babe in the cradle? Similarly, will it be right to give the same amount of pocket money to a child of three years as is given to his sibling who is eighteen years old. Can a daughter be given the same freedom of movement that is given to a grown up son? Fair play and justice don’t approve of any such concessions and we too don’t recommend them.

The parents must thoughtfully adopt such fair and just standards of treatment for their children that they don’t give rise to the feelings of partiality in some of them. This matter has been dealt at some length in the chapter on Jealousy which you may refer. .

One person writes in his memoirs:

“The memory of my childhood is very bitter and I am unable to forget it. Dad used to discriminate between us brothers. He used to comply with all his wishes and never for once considered my wants. He used to treat my brother with respect and treated me insultingly. Father loved him more and always had kind words for him. As a result of this treatment I started thinking that Dad and my brother are not good. I used to think of taking revenge on my Dad for the unjust behaviour with me. In my worried state I preferred to be alone by myself. I started spitting on the walls and tarnishing them. I used to break the glass window-panes to take out my spleen. What was the alternative for me? But Dad was totally unconcerned about this. He didn’t know that my actions were solely to harm his interest."

One lady writes in her diary:

“…. One of our closest relatives had two daughters One was a good student and very bright while the other was mediocre. Both used to go to the school. The elder daughter, who was not bright, used to secure lower grades in her examinations. The younger girl always used to perform very well in her studies. Their mother always used to brag about the brilliance of her younger daughter and run down the elder one. She used to be full of praise for the younger daughter and always criticised the elder one that she was wasting all the expense incurred on her schooling. She even used to say that all the good dresses and food given to her is a waste.

The same elder daughter is now married. She has several children. She is a ordinary housewife. She gives a unhealthy look and seems a victim of inferiority complex. She looks tired and lost in her thoughts. At parties she takes a quiet corner and doesn’t converse with others. When I egg her on to talk, she only takes a sigh and says,’ about what can I talk?’ I remember, prior to her marriage, I took her to a psychiatrist. The doctor, after a long session of discussion with her, said that there was nothing wrong with her. In fact, her parents are sick that they have not treated her properly and reduced her to the present plight.

Once the doctor asked her, ’Can you cook?’ She started crying and said,’ I can cook. But whenever I prepare anything my parents say that my younger sister cooks better food.’"

Respect for the Children

The child too is a human being and every human being instinctively loves oneself. He wishes that others recognise his worth and respect him. When others show respect to him he feels proud and thinks that he has been praised. The parents who love their children should show them due consideration and respect. In the training of a child, showing respect to him is considered as a very important element. The child who receives respect and estimation will grow into a sober and respectable person.

He always tries to maintain his reputation and refrains from doing anything wrong. He tries to keep doing good things to rise in the estimation of others. The child who is not treated by his parents with due respect, he tries to emulate them while dealing with others. The child is a man in miniature and like all men he loves himself. He will be displeased if he is not treated properly and with respect. The parents who treat children badly without giving any thought to their hurt feelings, create rancour in their young minds. Sooner or later such children turn hostile and become stubbornly difficult.

Ignorant parents, whose number unfortunately is not small, consider that treating the children with respect spoils them. They take cool, condescending, and vain attitude towards the children. This way they crush the personality of the children and give birth to the inferiority complex in their impressionable minds. From the point of view of good breeding this attitude of the parents proves a major impediment. If the parents treat their children with respect, then the child will try to reciprocate. The child will get the understanding from that very tender age that the parents treat him humanely and give him importance. He will therefore abstain from doing anything that is not considered good in the society.

He will try to do good things to maintain the respectable treatment he has been receiving from the parents. It is a matter of concern that in our societies the children are not treated with respect. They are not treated as members of the family till they are grown up. In parties and celebrations they are generally not invited and go with the parents as appendages. In parties they are seated at an insignificant corner When they arrive at the party and leave it, they are not given any attention. In the car they will not have any space for themselves. They either go standing or sit on the lap of the father. They are not allowed to speak in the party. And even if they take courage in their hands to speak, they don’t get any attention from the elders. They are summoned, if ever, with indecorum.

Islam gives all attention to the need for showing respect to the children. The Prophet of Islam has said:

"Respect your children and give them good training so that Allah rewards you."

Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

“The meanest person is one who shows disrespect to others." (Bihar al-anwar, v 104, p. 45)

The Prophet always, and everywhere, used to treat children with affection and respect. Whenever he returned from his travels, the children used to run out and receive him. He used to hug and kiss them. Some of the children used to mount with him on the steed. He used to ask his other companions to take the other children on their horses. This way he used to enter the ramparts of the city.

Insulting behaviour with children, even with babes in arms, is forbidden. Umm al Fadhl says:

“The Prophet, when Imam Hussain was a babe in the arms, one day took him from me and hugged him, the child wet his clothes. I snatched Hussain away from the Prophet at that moment, when the child started crying. The Prophet told me, ‘ Umm al Fazl, Keep your cool.Water can clean my clothes. But who will remove the displeasure and hurt of the child Hussain’" (Hadiya al ahbab, p. 176)

One gentleman writes:

“I had no significance in the consideration of my parents. Not only that they did not have any respect for me, they used to insult and admonish me time and again. They never allowed me to do any work. If ever I took initiative to do some work, they used to find fault. They used to insult me in the presence of their friends and mine. They never allowed me to say anything while others were around.

All these things made me carry the feelings of inferiority and shame for myself. I started considering myself a useless person. Now that I am a grown up man, I continue to labour under the same feelings of dejection. If I am confronted with difficult tasks, I feel myself helpless and incapable of doing it. I feel that because I am unable to have my own opinion about my capability, others should volunteer their opinion about me. I consider myself insignificant and absolutely incapable. I have no confidence on myself. Even I find myself at a loss to speak in the presence of others. When I utter something in such situations, I ponder for hours whether what I said was right for the occasion or not"

Self Assessment and Meaningful Existence

The entire lives of the animals are spent in eating, sleeping, and breeding. The intelligence and knowledge of animals is imperfect. They are unable to discriminate between good and bad. Therefore they don’t have any responsibility imposed on them. They will not be required to account for their deeds. There is no preordained responsibility for them. But man, who is the best of the creations of Allah, is not like the animals.

Man has wisdom and capability. He can discriminate between good and bad, pretty and ugly. Man has been created for a perpetual and eternal existence and not for extinction. Therefore he carries a great responsibility and duty ordained for him. Man is the vicegerent and trustee of Allah in this world. The purpose of the life of the man is not just eating, sleeping, satisfying desires and procreation.

But the man has to tread such a path that he proves himself even more superior than the angels. He is human and must strive to promote his humanity. Man should have a goal in life. The goal has to be idealistic. Man strives in Allah’s cause and to serve His creations and not only for achieving the worldly benefits. Man has to search the Truth and to follow the Truth.

Yes the human existence is such a precious jewel which is far superior than all the animals. It is a shame that lot of men have squandered their invaluable worth. They spend their lives literally like animals. In their view eating, drinking, sleeping, fulfillling carnal desires alone are the purpose of their lives. It is possible that a person might live for a hundred years without understanding himself and die in utter ignorance, He comes into the world like an animal and will die an animalHe will remain aimless and itinerant all his life. The result of all his striving will be nought.

Man should know himself. Who is he? From where he has come? Where he has to go? What is the purpose of his birth? What path he must take? What is the real goal and what is auspicious for him?

Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

“The best enlightenment is that the man recognises himself, and the greatest ignorance is when a person doesn’t know his own self." (Gharar al hukm, p. 179)

“One who did not recognise himself, he strayed from the path of salvation, and took the road to ignorance and aimlessness." (Gharar al hukm, p. 77)

“For Allah the most abhorrent person is one who has made eating and satisfaction of carnal desires the sole purpose of life." (Gharar al hukm, p. 205)

“One who has made achievement of Salvation on the Day of Judgment his purpose in life will get fulfillment." (Gharar al hukm, p. 693)

The parents should give the lesson of self-assessment and purposeful existence to their children. They can progressively give a purposeful character to the lives of the children. The child, with the help of the parents, should be helped to know himself. From where he has come? What is the purpose of his existence? Where he will go ultimately? What are his duties and responsibilities in this world? With what programme and aim he should live his life? If the parents know themselves and have definite aims in life, then they will be successfully able to guide their children on the desired path.