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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 - Health and Hygiene

Article Index

The dress of the child should be so designed that it suits the weather and the climate of the environment in which it is living. The dress should be such that the child should neither sweat during warm weather nor should it shiver during winter Soft and simple cottons are ideal for the child. The clothes should not be tight fitting which obstruct the movements of the child. Changing tight fitting garments is inconvenient for the child and the mother finds it difficult putting them on or removing them.

It is a practice among people that they pack the child in tight clothes that its limbs do not move. Definitely, this is not a good practice and is harmful for the child. Doing this the freedom of the tiny baby is badly curbed. Such practice does hamper the normal growth of the child.

One author from the West writes:

“No sooner the child is delivered from the mother’s womb, it wants to move its limbs and enjoy its freedom. This is when many mothers confine them to tight clothes. They first stretch the limbs of the babies on the ground, wrap them with many cloths and tie a belt around them that they are unable to move. Thus the growth of the children, which has to be dynamic at this stage, slows down very much and they are stunted. The countries where this uncivilised practice is not prevalent, the children have their normal growth and the people are generally robust, healthy and strong.

To the contrary the areas where babies are tied up after birth there come about many deformities like lameness, dwarfing etc. Can one imagine the impact of such upbringing on the mind and soul of the children? The first thought the child gets is of being a captive because it is not able to move freely. The condition of the child will be worse than that of a prisoner. Such children become irate and start crying and shouting. Imagine, if your limbs too are tied up, would you not cry and shout!"

The child too is a human being. It will have feelings and sensations. It also wishes to have freedom and comfort. When its freedom is curbed by tying it up tightly it will naturally feel the pain. But it cannot defend itself and the only reaction it can show is that it starts crying. This creates pressure in the child’s mind and in stages makes him excitable, peevish and short tempered. The child’s dress should always be kept clean. Whenever it wets the clothes, they must be immediately changed. The child’s feet must be washed at intervals and the body given massage with olive oil so that it doesn’t develop a dry skin. After a few wettings, the child should be given a bath. This way the child can be prevented from many ailments. Such a child will also appear clean, tidy and attractive to the eyes of the beholders.

The Prophet of Islam has said:

“Islam is the faith of purity. You must try to be pure and clean because only the clean can enter the Heaven."

(Majma al-zawaid, v5, p.132)

"Clean the children from oily dirt because the Satan smells them and they get scary dreams and the Angels get agitated.” (Bihar al-anwar, v104, p.95)

Circumcision of the male child is a mandatory Islamic custom. This is very important for the health and hygiene of the child. This operation will prevent the child against the possible infection of the male genital organ. The circumcision can be postponed till the child grows up, but it is better to perform it within the first few days of the birth. Islam prescribes that the circumcision should be done on the seventh day of the birth of a male child.

Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:

“Do the circumcision of your child on the seventh day of his birth. This is best for him. It is also beneficial for his proper growth and upbringing. Certainly, the earth abhors the urine of the person who has not been circumcised".(Wasail al-shiah, v15, p. 171)

The Holy Prophet says:

“The new born must be circumcised on the seventh day of its birth that he gets healthy growth and upbringing." (Wasail al-shiah, v15, p. 175)

Tonsuring the baby on the seventh day is prescribed in Islam. An equivalent of the weight of the tonsured hair in gold or silver has to be given in charity. On the same day as aqiqa a fat tailed ram (dumba) is butchered and the meat distributed to the poor and needy. They can also be invited to partake of it in a feast. The aqiqa is a good charity and will avert any evil in store for the child.

The new-born is very delicate. It needs all the care and attention of the parents. The foundation of health and happiness, or otherwise, will be laid in early childhood. The responsibility for this is on the shoulders of the parents. The parents, who are the cause of the child coming to the world, bear the responsibility to strive and bring it up as a robust, healthy human being. If the parents neglect this duty, they will be answerable for the consequences.

The child is always surrounded with the possibility of several illnesses. It can be prevented from them with good care. The ailments, which can affect the children, are infantile paralysis, boils on the body, measles, diphtheria, convulsions, kalazar etc. Preventive vaccinations against such ailments are given to the babies.

Generally paediatric hospitals have facilities of giving free preventive vaccinations to children against these diseases. The parents have no excuse to neglect their duty of getting timely preventive care for the children. If any disease afflicts the child because of their carelessness, they will be answerable to Allah and their conscience too will ever curse them. It must be understood that it is the responsibility of the parents that they take good care of the health and well being of their children that they grow into fit humans.

The Childs Sleep and Freedom of Movement

During the first few weeks after the birth, the child sleeps most of the time. Approximately a new born sleeps for about 20 hours in a full day, but progressively the duration of waking hours increases. The need for total rest and sleep for a baby cannot be over stressed. Too much disturbance and noise makes the child restless and fidgety. The child prefers a peaceful environment so that it can sleep comfortably. Too much hugging, kissing and shifting from the arms of one person to another and bringing in too many visitors to see the baby will upset its tranquillity.

Noisy environment and blaring sounds of television and radio might affect the delicate nerves of the child. The sound sleep of the child should not be disturbed by careless behaviour. It should not be moved around unnecessarily. If this practice is continued, over a period of time, the child will become short-tempered, excitable and peevish.

The newly born baby dislikes noisy surroundings and getting moved around. Care has to be exercised to see that its environment is kept noise free and the child is moved around only when it is absolutely necessary. The child prefers to be on the mother’s lap or in its cradle, delicately swung, which makes it feel comfortable. With the motion of the cradle the child feels that some caring person is around. If there is total quiet and there is no movement the child feels lonely. This is more so because the mother’s womb is a cradle in which the child keeps moving and when it arrives in the world, it wants to move too. The mother’s sweet lullabies too comfort the baby.

The child’s first year in the world is the period for the exercise of its body and limbs. The child likes movement for which it throws around the limbs. For this purpose the garments of the baby have to be loose fitting and of soft fabric. Tying up a child in many layers of clothing will impede its free movement and will have ill effect on its nerves. Such children have no other alternative than crying which will be the precursor of rebellious and angry nature.

The Most Delicate Period of Life

The most delicate and crucial period of life is the childhood. The foundation for the future personality of the individual is established at this time. The slightest neglect might cause irreparable harm to the child’s future personality and temperament. In fact, the first three years of the child’s life play a very crucial role in the metamorphosis of its personality and character.

Perhaps all, and definitely most, people don’t realise this very important aspect of upbringing of a child. They generally say,

“Small children, and babies in particular, have no capacity to comprehend anything. They cannot speak and therefore are incapable of expressing their thoughts and feelings. They are so helpless that they even have no control over their bowels and hence have no capability to learn anything on their own".

With such an attitude the parents squander the period of early childhood of the baby. This is the most impressionable and delicate period of the child’s life. During this apparently uncomplicated period the moral, cultural and religious instincts of the child take shape.

In this early three years’ period the child picks up several hundred words and gets acquainted with their meanings. It will start distinguishing between good and bad, friendship and enmity, pretty and ugly, small and big; it will also get the faculty of identifying different colours, the taste of foods.

It develops the faculty of observation and speech. It starts showing rudiments of the thought process. It learns to crawl and walk. It will learn to laugh and to cry. During this three years’ period there will be thousands of events that might affect the psyche of the child and have a bearing on its future temperament.

Despite all this, there will hardly be any person who can recall events of the first three years of his life. All the events of the time will be under a cloud of oblivion and forgetfulness. But, all the same, those forgotten memories would already have had tremendous effects on the nature and personality of the individual. Several psychological ailments, fears, traumas, anger etc are the products of the events of the first few years of the person's life.

One psychologist writes:

“If the child doesn’t develop a strong personality in the early years of his life, then he will not have the capability to bear the onerous responsibilities which will confront him in the future. He will become the victim of several psychological defects. Therefore it is observed that the origin of nervous defects in a person can be traced to his childhood. ……. Whenever a psychiatrist investigates the causes of any mental illness he draws an inference that the person had such conditions in his early childhood that are affecting the chances of his escape from his existing psychological problems" (Ruwan shinasi Khudak o baligh, p. 106)

Dr Jalali writes:

“The foundation of the child’s social behaviour is laid in the first year of its life. ….Its bent of mind becomes evident during this period only.”(Ruwan shinasi Khudak o baligh, p. 302)

Because of this, the responsible parents don’t neglect this delicate and impressionable period in the child’s life. They do not postpone the training of the child for the future. In fact the training and upbringing of the child commences with its birth.

Some intellectuals observe:

The child starts getting trained from its birth itself. The attention that the adults and other children around give him will be the first step of his training. Similarly the scenes and anecdotes that the child experiences and the sounds that he hears will have impact on its subconscious and have a bearing on his learning experience. Several habits and experiences that are the building blocks of the person’s character are connected with his childhood. Whatever attitude the parents adopt towards the child from its birth will have definite bearing on its upbringing and education. (Ilm al nafs al Tarbi, p. 19)

The time for commencement of moral training is the moment of the birth of the person. This is the time when the training commences without any possibility of failure. If the training is commenced later on, there will be likelihood of confronting negative attitudes in the child. (Dar tarbiat, p. 79.)

Ali told to his son, Imam Hasan

“The child’s mind is like the virgin land. Whatever is put into it, will be accepted. Therefore, before your heart turned hard and engrossed otherwise, I took steps to make you polite." (Wasail al-shia, v?, p. 197)

The Newborn and Moral Up-bringing

When the child arrives in the world, it is very delicate. It has a mind but it does not think. It sees with its eyes but does not recognise the objects around it. It does not have the faculty to identify colours and faces. It will have no idea about distance. It hears sounds but is unable to comprehend them. Similar will be the condition of its other senses. But, despite all this, the child will have the faculty to use all these senses and going through the experiences it learns to use all of them. Allah says in the Holy Quran

“Allah has delivered you from your mothers wombs in such a condition that you knew nothing and endowed you with ears, eyes and hearts that, perhaps, you will become thankful." (16:78)

The main activities of a baby will be eating, sleeping, flailing its limbs crying and making water. For some weeks the baby is able to perform only these activities. Although the activities of a new born are few and very simple, it establishes a rapport with the other members of the family through these, it makes experiments, forms habits and acquires knowledge about himself and the things around him. These are the contacts and experiences that go to make the moral fabric of the person of the future.

Ali has said:

“As the days go by, the mysteries unravel." (Ghurar al-hukm, p. 47)

The child is a weak societal individual. Without others help it can neither be alive nor can find sustenance. If others don’t come to its rescue, and don’t fulfill its wants, it would perish. The persons in whose care is a baby, also are responsible for its complete upbringing including moral and religious training.

Thoughtful and caring parents, through their well-planned attitude, fulfill the needs of the new arrival and provide the ideal environment for the growth of its body and soul. They infuse good morals and habits in the child. To the contrary, uninformed parents, through thoughtless actions create undesirable habits in the child.:

The new-born baby feels hungry and needs nutrition. It feels its need and looks to a Higher Being who can assuage its want. This is the reason the baby cries to attract the attention of the mother towards its need. If good care is taken to fulfill the child's needs, on the basis of a well-planned schedule, then it will sleep comfortably and will wake up at the correct time when it has to be given the feed. The nerves of such properly attended babies are at ease. They get used to good and regular habits.

At this stage when the babies do not recognise anyone, will have their attention only on two things—their own frailty, helplessness and have their attention riveted on the Superior Power, which is Provider of all needs. They cry to get succour from that Hidden, Invisible Power that is the Creator of all things. The babies, on account of their frailty and infirmity, attach themselves to a Power that is Munificent. If this feeling in the children is perpetuated, it will become the foundation of Belief, Faith and Spiritual contentment in their future.

The Prophet of Islam has said:

“Never beat the children if they cry. Fulfill their needs. Because, for the first four months of the life of a child, its cries are a witness to the Existence and Unity of Allah, Almighty." (Bihar al-anwar, v 104, p. 103)

For the first four months the newborn babies wouldn’t have acquired the social entity. They would not recognise anyone, even their own mothers. This is the only period when the babies have their attention focussed on One unseen Power. But those babies who are victims of the negligence of their mothers helplessly cry to attract attention for help. The nerves of such children will be disturbed and mostly they are restless. In stages the peevishness of these children become their second nature. There will be lack of self-confidence in these children and they will be unruly and quarrelsome.

Religious Upbringing of the New Born

It is a fact that the new born children are unable to comprehend the meaning of what is told to them but they definitely are able to identify the surroundings and the faces around them. They do hear the sounds and their senses and the minds take note of them. Therefore it is not correct to say that the newborn babies don’t take any impression from what they see and what they hear in early childhood. Although the new born are unable to understand the meaning of the talk going on around them, the sounds of the words are registered on their minds and in stages they start to understand the meanings and they become a part of their vocabulary.

Even amongst adults it is noted that the words which impress the mind most are retained in the memory. The adults recognise well-known persons easier than casual or occasional acquaintances. Similarly the new born baby too, living in a spiritual environment, hearing the recitation of the Holy Book, the word of Allah coming to their ears and having seen the parents offering prayers in their presence will develop into religiously upright persons. On the other hand the new born babies who are surrounded by irreligious persons, hear the sounds of uncivil and abusive language, are exposed to amoral music and songs, will no doubt grow up to be persons similar to those in whose company they are growing up.

Intelligent and thoughtful parents will not waste any opportunity of training their children. They go to the extent that they take care to see that the children get to hear only good sounds and see good things.

The prophet of Islam too has given his view on this important aspect of training of the children. He has said:

“No sooner the child is born, recite the adhan ( the Call for Prayer ) in the right ear and the iqamah ( the Call to rise for Offering the Prayer ) in the left."

Ali narrates from the Holy Prophet:

“When a child is born in any family, the adhan should be recited in the child’s right ear and the iqamah in the left ear that the child is protected from the evil of the Satan. He (The Prophet) gave the same instruction at the birth of Imam Hasan and Imam Hussain. In addition he asked for recitation of ayat al Kursi, the final verses of Hashr, al Ikhlas, al Nas, and al Falaq to reach the child’s ears" (Mustadrak al-wasail,v2, p. 619)

In some traditions it is narrated:

“The Holy Prophet himself recited the adhan and the iqamah in the ears of Imam Hasan and Imam Hussain at their birth."


The Holy Prophet was aware that a child is not able to comprehend the meanings of adhan and iqamah recited into its ears, but the impact of the words which will be there on the mind of the new-born was not over looked. The Prophet was stressing on the point that these pious words would have salutary effect on the mind and spirit of the new arrival.

Perhaps, the Holy Prophet was intending to instruct the parents about the proper upbringing of their children, that they commence their task right from the birth of the child. When a thoughtful parent recites the adhan in his child’s ear, then he is proclaiming that he is attaching his child to the group of worshippers of Allah.

The effects the child takes in its early days are not related to the sense of hearing only. But, it can be said that whatever exposure the child’s other senses get will impact its mind and memory. For example, if a child witnesses any amoral act, although it may not understand the purport of the act, it will definitely have effect on its psyche.

This is the reason the Holy Prophet has said:

“If the child in the cradle is seeing, the man should refrain from copulating with his wife." (Mustadrak al-wasail, v 2, p. 546)

The Sense of Belonging

The newly born baby will be a delicate identity who cannot live on without support from others. When he was in the mother’s womb, he had a warm and cozy corner for himself, where the nutrition and warmth was provided by the mother. He had no concern for any needs. Now that he has arrived into the world, he has started to feel dependent. The first need the baby feels is, perhaps, the need for warmth because the environment it has come into is cooler. Then he feels the need for satisfying its hunger.

For the first time it knows that for warmth and food he has to depend on others. At this stage he doesn’t know any one who can help. By nature he is aware of his needs and focuses his attention on an unseen Power to satisfy these needs. From the very beginning of his life the child is possessed with this sense of belonging, and this sense will be there with him throughout life. When the child feels hungry or thirsty, it cries. It will cling to the bosom of the mother and feels soothed with the lullabies sung by her. If the child gets the feeling of any danger around him, he clings to the apron strings of the mother.

This sense of belonging which later on manifests itself in the habit of following the lead (taqlid) of others. The child models his morals and behaviour on the morals and attitudes of the persons in his immediate surroundings. This sense of belonging which later on helps the child to make friends and play with his mates. The fraternity and affection towards the spouse and his own children are a natural continuation of the sense of belonging. This development in the child is the precursor of the gregarious nature of human beings. Therefore the sense of belonging that a child has is no triviality and is the most important aspect of the structure of the human society.

The child develops the faculty of hope and contentment. He will develop the feeling of camaraderie towards others, he thinks good of others and expects their co-operation. When his opinion about the society is good, then he would extend his hand in support to it and make the necessary sacrificestowards this end. The people in the society will consider him as their well-wisher.

Contrary to this, if the sense of belonging is suppressed, and is not utilised rightly, then the child might deviate from the straight path that God has assigned for him. The view of the psychologists is that at many stages the child, on account of the happenings in its environment, might get the rudiments of feeling of fear, restlessness, lack of confidence, shame, loneliness, sadness and even suicidal tendencies.

If you want to satisfy the sense of belonging of the child properly, then always try to be its supporter. When it is hungry, feed it. Provide means of comfort to it. If the child has any discomfort or pain, try to ameliorate it. Keep his programme of sleep and feed in control in such a way that it has no inconvenience.

Avoid beating the child. The child doesn’t know anything other than its immediate needs. It only trusts an Unknown Power and it cries seeking the help of that Power. Don’t take out your ire on the child by beating it.

The Holy Prophet says:

“Do not beat the babies when they cry, because when a child under the age of four months cries, it is bearing witness to the Unity of Allah." (Bihar al-anwar, v104, p.104)

Be a supporter of the child under all circumstances, even if you are unable to perform a task for him, try to treat him with love and care. If the child is uncomfortable, try to remove the cause of the discomfort. Never reprimand the child and threaten him that you would leave him alone and go away. Doing such acts might affect the child’s psychology. The child expects to be the cynosure of the eyes of the parents. If they don’t show affection to the child, it will be very upset.

The child always tries to get the love and affection of the parents. Some parents make a wrong use of this tendency and tell him that if he did not obey them, they would not love him. They should avoid using this pretence. These subterfuges might ultimately affect the psyche of the child in stages. If the child cries, it can also be to attract the attention of the parents. The parents should handle the child with patience and thoughtfulness.

If the child is admonished or beaten when it cries, it might quieten for the moment, but this will be the quietness of disappointment which might have dangerous impact on its mind. The child is always happy with the parents around and is uncomfortable when they are away. The parents should never talk about their death in the hearing of the child that will be very upsetting and disturbing for him. A sick parent should not mention possibility of his death in the presence of the child. If a parent has to travel away from the child for a considerably long period, prepare the child for the event. While away, maintain contact regularly.

When a child refuses to take medicine, don’t frighten it by saying that if it did not comply, it would die. Take a positive attitude and try to console and convince him to take the medicine to get well. If the child is suffering from a serious ailment, maintain calm and composure in its presence. The parents should always try to be good friends and well wishers of the child throughout their lives.

It should be borne in minds that the expression of love and affection for the child should be moderate. Pampering a child might be harmful for it in a long run. Wherever a child is unable to perform a task, the parents should assist it. But when the child is capable of doing a thing by itself, the parents should leave it alone to accomplish it. Sometimes, a child might try to get attention of others by crying despite having the capability of performing its own task. In such an event, it should be ignored.

Russell writes:

“If the child cries for no reason, then it should be left to its own scruples and allowed to cry as much as it could. If any other attitude is adopted in such circumstances, the child might become dictatorial and misbehave more often. Whenever a child cries for a genuine need, the attention given should not go to the extent of pampering it." (Dar tarbiat, p. 79)