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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books Family The Family Life Of Islam

The Family Life Of Islam - Part Two : Parents and Children

Article Index



8. PARENTS AND CHILDREN

. Your parents and your children, ye know not which of them are nearest to you in benefit. . (Qur'an, 4:11)

This ayah shows the Islamic attitude towards the relationship between parents and children. From infancy to adulthood, it is unparalleled ten der love and care of the parents which brings the child from the stage of absolute weakness and helplessness to perfect strength and independence.

Conversely, in old age a man becomes like a small child; the mind and body turn so weak that Allah says If We grant long life to any, We cause him to be reversed in nature . . (Qur'an, 36:68)

Yesterday, your parents looked after you when you were too feeble to look after yourself; today you must look after them.

9. WHY SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON THE RIGHTS OF PARENTS?

Here is a point to ponder over: We do not find in the Qur'an and hadith so much emphasis on looking after the children as is the case with the rights of the parents. Why?

The shari `ah has put a new challenge to those who think. Find out how logical this attitude is. The fact is that the parent's heart is the fountainhead of the love for the child; this affection becomes the life-blood of the parents. The Qur'an has alluded to this instinctive parental love in several places.

On the other hand, children especially when they are no longer in need of parental care, do not feel so much love for the parents. We are not speaking about respect. Here the talk is about instinctive love; and experience is a reliable witness to confirm this observation It is a known fact that sign-posts are not needed on straight highways; but at a cross-roads where several routes branch out, one cannot expect to get onto the right path without a guide or a sign-post.

It is for this reason that Islam does not emphasize in so many words those aspects of life which are taken care of by human nature itself. It is where the hold of natural instinct is loosened that Islam extends its helping hand and leads man on the right path by telling him what he is expected to do.

It was for this reason that Islam did not explain the rights of children so forcefully; but full emphasis was given to the rights of the parents, as will be observed in coming chapters.

10. RIGHTS OF CHILDREN

The Holy Prophet said to `Ali (a.s.) O' `Ali, there are as many rights of children incumbent upon parents as there are rights of parents incumbent upon children. Rights and duties are inter-related. The right of `A' is the duty of `B'. Although, as mentioned above, natural parental love was a sufficient surety for the upkeep, welfare and upbringing of the child, Islam prepared some wonderful guidelines for the parents.

There are many important turning points in human life - right from birth to adulthood - in which a wrong step may prove fatal for happiness and success - both of this world and of the life hereafter.

Most important is education and characterbuilding. Here are a few sign-posts concerning these two aspects NAME: Amir al-mu'minin, `Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) said The first beneficence of a parent towards his child is to give him a good name; therefore, you should name your child with a good name.

It is a fact that good names may have a good influence on the mind of a person. A child hears his name day and night; and it is reasonable to be lieve that the meaning of that name sub-consciously strengthens those characteristics which are implied in that name. Of course, it does not mean that no evil person has a good name. What is emphasized here is the fact that a name has a psychological effect on the person, provided it is not countermanded by rearing or society.

A bad name has one more tangible evil effect. Whenever that name is announced, the person will feel embarrassment and the name will become a source of constant irritation, effecting his outlook of society. Hence the emphasis in ahadith on giving good names to children.

The Holy Prophet used to emphasize this aspect of life so much that al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: "(The Apostle of Allah) used to change the bad names of people and places." It is recommended that the child should be named after the Holy Prophet and his family. Strangely enough, nowadays people name their children after film actors and actresses. This trend points to a far deeper malady of our society. It shows that now our daily life and dominating thoughts have lost their connection with the founder of Islam and his family. Now we are glorifying those whose lives are diametrically oppossed to Islamic tenets; and who depend on hardm (forbidden) actions for their livelihood. By giving our children the names of such anti-Islamic persons, we are teaching our children not to care about Islam in their lives.

11. THREE STAGES OF LIFE

From infancy upto the age of 21-22 years, one's life may be divided into three stages: The First Stage is upto the age of 7. Ancient philosophers were of the opinion that the human mind in the very beginning is completely blank, and it is only gradually that it starts using the faculties of sight, hearing etc.

During childhood, it becomes strong enough to understand common words and ideas and associate names with objects. Still it is not developed enough to bear the strain of logical reasoning and abstract ideas.

That theory basically is accepted even today. And tests and experiments have led modern psychologists to believe that as a general rule the child's mind upto the age of 7 and 8 years is not strong enough to grasp book knowledge. Children who are required to cram pages and pages of books at such a tender age suffer a lot and their originality is sacrificed on the altar of written pages.

The Second Stage begins at 8 years and goes to 14-15 years. In this period the mind remains alert and easily grasps logical reasoning and ab stract theories. The child's interest in acquiring knowledge is at its peak at this age. The freshness of mind and ability to learn more is never as marvellous as is in this period. This is because the curiosity to learn about the unknown is generally not bridled by any responsibility.

The Third Stage is after 14-15 years. The human mind becomes strong; adolescence opens new horizons before the eyes. Sex, marriage, domestic life and its complex problems come to the fore. The child of yesterday is the youth of today. He appreciates that soon he will be required to look after himself; he knows that every passing day brings him nearer to the responsibilities of a family with all that that entails.

These thoughts prepare him to exert himself to earn his own livelihood, and he starts looking for a way to do so.

In this perspective let us look at the following ahadith and see how our Divine philosophers explained these aspects of life which modern psy chologists have discovered after hundreds of experiments

1) al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a. s.) said Let your child play upto seven years (1 st stage) ; and keep him with you (for study etc.) for another seven years (2nd stage) ; then if he succeeds (well and good) ; otherwise, there is no good in him.

2) The Holy Prophet said The child is the master for seven years (1 st stage) ; and a slave for seven years (2nd stage) and a vizier for seven years (3rd stage) ; so if he builds a good character within 21 years, well and good, otherwise leave him alone because (if you looked after him for 21 years) you have discharged your responsibility before Allah.

As the first stage is a care-free period, it has been called mastership; the 2nd stage means taking orders from teachers and parents, therefore it has been called slavery; in the third stage the child is expected to help his parent in earning his livelihood, so it has been named viziership. For each of these periods, the Islamic shari `ah has given some guidelines.

First Stage: It has been explained that the child should not be burdened with books in this period. But this does not mean that his mind's faculties remain suspended. On the contrary, the atmosphere of society continuously influence the child's mind, though he himself is not aware of this process. Therefore, it is essential to give utmost priority to the proper upbringing and character-building.

The best way to inculcate good behaviour in children is to behave with them with good grace. In this way, they will learn etiquette, good behav iour and noble character. The Holy Prophet said: "Respect your children and teach them good behaviour, Allah will forgive (your sins)."

It is emphasized that children should be kept in a good environment. The Holy Prophet said: "O' `Ali, it is among the rights of the child on his father to ... teach him good manners and keep him in good society."

Also, it is desirable to gradually give them religious training, because the impressions gained in childhood are very difficult to erase and if res pect and love of religion is infused in his mind in childhood, he will always remain attached to the religion. The syllabus of such training is given in the following hadith `Abdulldh ibn Fadl narrates from al-Imam Muhammad al-Bdqir (a.s.) or al-Imam Ja'far as- Sadiq (a. s. )

When the child reaches 3 vears. teach him seven times to recite illa ' llah) .

is 3 years 7 months and 20 days old; then train him to say madun rasulu 'llah ). Then leave him at that till he completes 4 vears. then teach him seven times to say (salla 'llahu ala Muhammadin wa aali Muhammad). Then leave him at that till he reaches the age of 5 years; then ask him which one is his right hand and which one is the left. When he knows it then make The Family Life of Islam ( la ilaha (Muham him face giblah and tell him to do sajdah (prostration).

This is to continue till he is 6 years of age. Then he should be told to pray and taught ruku ` (to kneel down) and sajdah. When he completes 7 years, he should be asked to wash his face and hands, and then told to pray.

This will continue till he reaches the age of 9 years, when he should be taught proper wudu' (ritual ablution before prayer - and should be punished if he is not careful) and proper salat (prayer - and should be punished if he is not regular). When he learns proper wudu' and saldt Allah forgives the sins of his parents.

Every sentence of this valuable hadith deserves attention. See how gradually the child is taught his duties of the shari`ah without putting any burden upon him. Of course, a child may be taught wudu' and saldt in a short period of 3-4 days when he is 12 or 13 years old. But that crashprogramme training will not have the benefits of that gradual and early training recommended in the hadith.

Second Stage: Now comes the period of formal education. It is the most crucial period of life, the foundation-stone of the future. Islam directs that in this period a child should first be given necessary religious education so that he may not be misled by anyone in belief or action.

al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.)said:

Make haste in teaching your youngsters hadith before they are approached by murji 'a or Murji'ite (a wrong sect). Children are like a green, tender branch; they may easily be bent in any direction. If they are not given proper religious education at this stage, then only Allah can save them from misleading influences.

Unfortunately, our people do not care at all about this instruction. There was a time when the teaching of the Qur'an and elementary religious subjects was a MUST. Alas! now our children in quite a tender age are sent to such institutions where unconspicuously they are saturated day in and day out with anti-religious propaganda. No wonder that when they grow up the anti-religious feeling also grows up to become a deep-rooted bias.

In 1948 the writer had occasion to visit a village of Ithna `asharis. On asking questions it appeared that even aged people did not know usul ad-din (principles of religion) or the names of the Imams. It was one village. How may other such villages must be in the length and breath of Indo- Pakistan Sub-continent? It is a frightening thought. The Holy Prophet emphasized the teaching of two things to male children. He said: "It is the right of the male child on his father to ... teach him the Book of Allah ... and riding and swimming." al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said that it is the duty of the father to teach his son writing.

These traditions guide us to compulsorily include `Religion', `physical training' and writing in the syllabus of male children. In addition, other subjects (which are in conformity with the aptitude of the child or are necessary for earning his livelihood) may be added. In other words, the above-mentioned three are compulsory subjects while others are optional.

A separate syllabus has been prepared for the girls. The earlier mentioned hadith of the Holy Prophet goes on to say And if the child is female then it is her right that she ... should be taught the surah of ` Light' and she should not be taught the surah of Yusuf and should not be allowed to go on the roof or windows.

According to the Qur'an and traditions, what she is obliged to learn and do is as follows:

She must learn the fundamentals of faith and the commandments of the shari `ah; and obey her husband by allowing him his conjugal rights. But she is not obliged to earn her livelihood; nor is she duty-bound to take up the drudgery of domestic work. Similarly, it is not her duty to bur den herself with matters concerning the general welfare of society, nor to learn various subjects other than those mentioned above, nor to participate in industrial or agricultural ventures.

She is not obliged to do so. But if she acquires such additional knowledge, or perform her domestic work, or participates in matters useful to society, it will be regarded as her additional excellence, provided she keeps within the limits of hijdb ( woman's veil) imposed upon her by the shari `ah To sum it up, the girls should be given such an education which makes them the "Light of the Home" not a "Decoration of Public places."

Our readers should note that even a part of the Qur'an (i.e., surah of Yusuf) is not permitted to girls to learn because it contains the references to the love of Zulaykha towards Prophet Yusuf (a.s.). Seeing this restriction, those Muslims who allow their children (and especially girls) to read sexy novels, visit cinemas where they are practically taught all kinds of obscene thoughts and deeds should be ashamed of their irresponsible behaviour. Such parents should be ashamed of themselves, if they have an iota of Islamic feelings left in their hearts.

Third Stage: This is the period of earning one's livelihood. But it is not possible to go into the details of "Livelihood" here.

Also, this is the period when children should get married. And much emphasis has been given to getting girls married as soon as possible. The Holy Prophet said that it is the right of the girl upon her father that he should make haste in sending her to the house of her husband.

It is very unfortunate to see many Muslims nowadays ignoring and neglecting this responsibility till the girls sometimes reach the age of 35 or 40 years; and then nobody wants to marry those old maids. The harm which is done by this "irresponsible parenthood" is too obvious to need any description. But the sad facts is that their attitude is governed by snobbery - sometimes it is financial superiority and sometimes it is caste or clan - and those people would rather let their daughters grow into old spinsters than marry them to a young man of good character who is not equal to their financial or tribal status.

The Holy Prophet said that "Every believer is equal in status (in matter of marriage) to any other believer." But we are so much influenced by un-Islamic cultures (based on caste or race system) that we tend to look down upon our bright Islamic culture. May Allah have mercy upon us.

The same hadith guides us about male children; that they should be married when they become mature. It does not necessarily mean that the boys should be married just after reaching the age of 15 years.

The first marriage of the Holy Prophet was performed when he was 25 years of age. Amir al-mu'minin `Ali (a.s.) also married Fatimatu'z Zahra' (a.s.) when he was 25 years old. But even then, there is no criterion for age. The only thing which matters is that when a young man becomes emotionally mature and he feels an urge to enter into matrimonial relationship then he should get married without any delay. It is a condition which cannot be measured by age or time.

At this stage the parents' responsibility towards their offsprings comes to an end. If anyone brings up his children remaining within these Islamic limits, then that child surely will be the apple of the parents' eyes and the delight of their hearts; and it is this child who, in his turn, may be hoped to fulfil his obligation towards his parents.

Referring to such offspring, the Holy Prophet said that "The virtuous child is a flower from the flowers of Paradise." Also he said: "Among the good fortunes of a man is the virtuous child."