Principles of Upbringing Children
- :Sheikh Ibrahim Amini
Principles of Upbringing Children
Author : Sheikh Ibrahim Amini
My friend Riaz Ahmed gave me a copy of the Urdu translation of the book to read and attempt its translation into the English language. He told me that the sponsors are keen to have the book published in the English language for the benefit of young, eligible, girls, newly married couples and expectant mothers who do not have proficiency in Persian, the language of the original text, nor can they read Urdu in which it has been translated and published.
After reading the book I am convinced that it is a highly commendable project. I feel a copy should reach every household. It should be a part of the dower of newly wed brides, it should be presented to the young married couples and it must be there on every family bookshelf. The book should adorn the bed-side table of every young couple and will be a very useful reference and guide for proper upbringing of children.
Ayatollah Ustadh Ibrahim Amini has rightly pointed out in his foreword that the western libraries are chock full of works on child rearing and upbringing, but we find hardly any comprehensive reference on the subject with particular emphasis on the Islamic norms and guidelines for upbringing of children. The Western works are more materialistic which emphasize only on the material and moral aspects of child rearing. It is Islam that covers all the aspects including the religious and spiritual guidelines for bringing up the children as good Muslims and citizens. He has extensively quoted from the Holy Book and the Traditions of the Holy Prophet and his Infallible Descendants.
The need for English translations of Islamic works is universally felt and lot of work is being done in this direction. There is a very large section of Muslim youth, although fluent at speaking in their native languages, are more comfortable communicating in English which has assumed the status of lingua franca for them. We also come across people from other faiths who are curious to know more about Islam and they wish to have access to good literature on the subject in the English language. If the publication of the translation of this book sees the light of the day, it will be another small, but significant step, towards dissemination of Islamic precepts to a wide spectrum of people in the East and the West. Insha Allah.
11, Methodist Colony, Begumpet,
There is pronounced difference between education and training or upbringing. Education means inculcation of knowledge, or imparting the meanings of the contents of curricula. But upbringing is moulding of personalities on desired lines. The society can be transformed with proper upbringing of its population.
It is imperative that upbringing is based on well thought out programme to ensure the degree of desired success. Upbringing is not only sermonizing and admonishing but it requires creation of the right environment towards attainment of the desired results. The criteria necessary for proper upbringing can be listed as:
1. The mentor should be properly acquainted with the student whose upbringing he is assigned to take up. He should familiarize himself with the physical and mental status of the student.
2. The mentor should have defined aims of the training programme for the student. The ultimate goal of the upbringing process has to be the development of the student into a humane person.
3. The training programme to be inclusive of the desirable criteria and conditions for producing best results. The mentor then can expect positive results over a period of time.
The best period for commencement of the upbringing or training is the childhood of the student. Childhood is the most impressionable period in the life of a person. At this delicate and responsible juncture the parents can play a very crucial role. But upbringing of small children is not an easy and simple function and requires deep thought of identification , knowledge, experience, determination and perseverance in the mentor or the parents.
It is sad that most parents are found ignorant of the art of upbringing of the children. This is the reason most children are not receiving upbringing on desirable lines and they keep growing like self sustained saplings.
In the progressive countries of the West and the East upbringing of children receives prime importance. They have conducted lot of research in this field. Many useful books have been published on the subject and they have many experts in the field.
But in our country scant attention has been given to this crucial matter. We have few knowledgeable persons in this discipline and very few books on the subject which are absolutely insufficient. Quite a few books have been translated from other languages into Persian which are available to people. But these books from the West and the East have two big lacunae.
The first lacuna is that they treat of only the physical requirement of the students and the stress is on the worldly education of the subjects. All the research rotates around these aspects only and they are totally silent on the spiritual aspect of human life and have ignored any reference to mention of the concept of hereafter.
In the West the only objective is to train the children for their bodies and minds for the attainment of worldly conveniences and pleasures so that when they grow up they have ideal living conditions at their disposal. And if these books deal with the subject of morality they limit themselves to the treatment of morality specific only to the worldly benefits and are totally silent about the rewards or retribution which one can earn on the basis of his actions during the worldly life.
The second lacuna is that the training problems in the West are dependence for a solution only on past experiences and statistics. There is no impress of "Faith” in this process. Therefore, these books are not of comprehensive utility for the people of the Muslim Faith. In the eyes of a Muslim the human being has two pronounced aspects—one is the body and the other is the spirit. One pertains to the worldly life and the other to the Hereafter.
In view of this the writer has decided to study and research and thereafter present the conclusions to the seekers of knowledge in the form of a book. For the writing of this book the main source of information has been the Holy Quran, the books of tradition and the writings on moral science. Reference has also been made to works in Arabic and Persian on the training of children, their psychology, health etc.
The books written by Iranian scholars on the upbringing of children were also kept in view. The personal experiences of the author have also been invaluable in this effort. It is hoped that this humble presentation will be of use to the mentors who are associated with the training of impressionable minds in the Muslim community.
In the eyes of Islam the status of the father and the mother is very exalted. Allah, the Holy Prophet and the Infallible Imams have exhorted the people in this regard. There are a lot of verses in the Holy Book relevant to the subject. The exemplary behaviour of children towards their parents is rated as one of the best invocations.
"Your God has decreed that thou shalt worship only Him and adopt good behaviour with (thy) parents”(Quran, 17:23)
Imam Jafer as Sadiq observes:
"Three actions are the best: (a) Offer the five mandatory prayers with punctuality.(b) Maintain good behaviour with your parents.(c) Struggle in the cause of Allah (Usul al Kafi, book 2, p. 158)
Now the question arises why this exalted position has been bestowed on the parents of the FaithfulIs Allah giving this status for no specific reason? What big deed the parents perform for their progeny that they are deemed deserving of the august status. The father, in satisfaction of his carnal desire transfers his sperm into the womb of the mother where it compounds with the ovum and a new being starts to develop and after nine months of the incident arrives into the world as a tiny babe.
The mother suckles it and gives it other nutrition. Sometimes she cleans it and sometimes changes its raiment. She cares of its wetness and dryness. During this time the father takes care of the expenses required for the upkeep of the child. Don’t the parents have any other responsibility besides these?
Is it because of performing these duties that the parents have been endowed with the exalted status?Do the parents only have a right over their off-spring and the children don’t have any rights over them? In my opinion no one will accept any such one sided privilege. The traditions of the Infallibles of the Holy Prophet’s Family are quoted in this regard:
The Holy Prophet of Islam has said: "As your father has a right over you, so does your progeny have a similar right.”(Majma al zawaid, v 8, p. 146)
The Prophet also said: "As are the children disinherited for their disobedience so also it is possible that the parents may be disowned by the children for not fulfillling their bonden duties. (Bihar al-anwar, v 19, p. 93)
The Prophet said: "Allah’s curse on such parents who become the cause of disinheriting their children.”(Makarim al akhlaq, p 518)
Imam Sajjad said: "Your children have a right that you consider if they are good or they are bad. You have been the cause of their birth and the world recognizes them as your offspring. It is your responsibility that you teach them good manners and guide them toward the recognition and obedience of Allah. Your behaviour towards your children must be of a person who believes that a good deed shall get a suitable reward and ill treatment shall call for retribution.”(Makarim al akhlaq p. 484)
The Commander of the Faithful, Ali says: "Beware, your behavior might render your family and your relatives part of the ill fated people.”(Ghurar al hukm, p. 802)
The Prophet said: "Whoever wishes that his children are safe from disinheritance, he should help them performing good deeds.”(Majma al zawaid, v 8, p. 158)
The Prophet also said: "To whomsoever a daughter is born should strive to impart norms of good behaviour to her and make efforts to educate her. Provide means of comfort to her that she becomes a cause of his deliverance from the Hell Fire. (Majma al zawaid, v 8, p. 158)
Above all, Allah says in the Holy Quran: "O, BelieversSave yourselves and your dependents from the fire whose fuel are humans and the stones.”(Quran, 66:6)
The time when a child is in the process of adopting a way of life which can make him either virtuous or wicked, he can be metamorphosed into a perfect human being or a degraded wild animal.
The virtue or wickedness of a person will be dependent on the upbringing he receives and this responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents. In fact the parents are instruments of shaping a human being, good or bad, from the child. The greatest service which the parents can render to their children is that they train them to be good mannered, kind, friends of humans, well meaning, freedom loving, bold, just, wise, righteous, noble, faithful, dutiful, hard working, educated.
The parents must mould their children in such a way that they are successful both in the world and hereafter. Only such people are those who are endowed with the exalted status of parenthood, and not those who in fulfilllment of their carnal desire caused the birth of children and left the children to fend for themselves and rendering them likely to fall into evil ways.
The Holy Prophet said: "The best thing a father provide to his child is good manners and ethical training.”(Majma al zawaid, v 8, p. 159)
The mother has a more important function to perform towards the upbringing of the progeny. Even during the pregnancy the mother’s food habits and her behaviour affects the future virtuosity or otherwise of the developing child.
The Prophet of Islam said:
"Lucky is the one whose foundation of his virtue has been made in the womb of the mother and unlucky is one whose wickedness had its rudiments in the mother’s womb as well”(Bihar al-anwar, v 77, pp. 115-133)
“Heaven (i.e janna)is under the feet of one’s mother.”(Mustadrak al-wasail, v 2, p 38)
The parents, who don’t pay attention to the education and training of their children, become guilty of gross negligence. Such parents must be asked whether the innocent child pleaded with him to give him birth in the world to be abandoned like sheep and cattle. Now that you have become the cause of his existence, by virtue of religious tenets and human wisdom his education and training is your bonden duty.
The parents are also answerable to the society. Today’s children will be men and women, the citizens of tomorrow. The fabric of the society will be made of these individuals. Whatever lessons they learn today, they shall put them into practice tomorrow. If their upbringing today is perfect, the society of tomorrow shall be flawless. And if today’s generation follows a faulty programme of training it is imperative that tomorrow's society will be evil and perverted.
The personalities in the field s of politics, education and society shall emerge from these elements. Today’s children are tomorrow’s parents. Today’s children can be tomorrow’s reformers. If they have received good training at the hands of their parents, they in turn can carry forward this practice with their children. If the parents have the will, they can be the instruments of the reform of the society for the future and with neglect of the children they can be the cause of the ruination of the society. By giving the right training to their children, the parents can render invaluable service to their society.
Education and training should not be treated as an insignificant subject. The efforts which the parents make to educate their children and the hardships that they undergo in this quest result in the creation of thousands of professors, doctors, and engineers. It is the parents who strive to nurture perfect human beings, capable and pious mentors and other professionals.
The mothers in particular bear more responsibility for the upbringing of the children. The children spend most of their childhood with the mothers. The foundation of the direction their future is bound to take is laid here. So, the key to the vice or virtue of a person and the progress or decline of a society is with the mothers of the society. The woman’s place is not in the shop floor, ministerial or administrative positions. These functions don’t measure up to the importance of a woman as a mother. Mothers breed perfect human beings. Virtuous ministers, lawyers, professors owe their positions to the loving care received from their mothers during their formative years.
The parents, who nurture truthful, pious children not only serve their children and the society but also create a niche for themselves in the society. These children will be a support of the parents in their frail old age. If parents strive towards the education and upbringing of their children they reap the harvest of their troubles during their lifetime only.
Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:
“Evil off-spring is among the greatest hardships for the parents.”(Ghurar al hukm, p. 189)
“Evil off-spring causes loss of respect for the parents and the successors are shamed." (Ghurar al hukm, p. 780)
The Prophet of Islam says:
“May Allah bless the parents who trained their children to behave justly with them." (Makarim al akhlaq, p. 517)
Therefore those who attain parenthood have great responsibility on their shoulders. This responsibility is to Allah Almighty as also to their fellow human beings and also to their own children. If they discharge the responsibility properly they will be rewarded in this world and hereafter. But if they falter in the discharge of this responsibility then they themselves will be the losers and they will be tantamount to have cheated their own children and the society at large and they would be perpetrating an unpardonable sin.
The Knowledge and Mutual Co-Operation of the Educators
The training and upbringing of a child is not an easy and simple task that the parents can perform with little or no effort. This task requires, in fact, delicate handling and temperament. There are myriads of fine points to be considered to achieve success in the efforts. The mentor has to relate himself with the spirit of the child. He cannot perform the task without knowing the spiritual, psychological, educational and practical niceties of the job.
A child’s world is a world of his own and his imaginations and fantasies will be unique to him. These cannot be compared to the thought process of the adults. The child’s spirit will be delicate and will be very impressionable. The child will be a human being in miniature that has not as yet assumed a permanent identity but it has the capability to attain this change. The mentor of the child has to be capable of fathoming and identifying a human being and, also, identifying the mind of the children. He should have a keen eye on the intricacies of the process of upbringing. He should be aware of the human capabilities and failings. He should have sense of responsibility and keen interest in the job on hand
He should be patient and courageous that the hardships don’t overpower him. Besides, the rules of training are not rigid and cannot be implemented the same way under different circumstances. In fact these rules have to be modified and applied to each individual child according to his physical make up and mental capabilities. The parents must keenly observe the physical built of the child and educate him keeping this factor in mind. Otherwise, the effort may not bring about the desired result.
The man and woman should acquire knowledge about education and training before parenting a child. The education of the child commences with its birth and, in fact, from the time of conception. During this period the foundation of the child’s nature is established and his nature, behaviour, thinking process starts taking shape.
It is not right that the parents remain unconcerned during this visibly dormant period.
They postpone the upbringing of the expected new arrival till its actual arrival. They tend to keep away this task till the child is capable of distinguishing between good and bad behaviour. While it may be easier to correct the behavioural defects in the early stages, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to effect these corrections once the habits are formed.
Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:
“The most difficult politics is bringing about changes in the habits of people." (Ghurar al Hukm, p. 181)
“Habits settle down upon people.” (Ghurar al Hukm, p.580)
“Habits become second nature." (Ghurar al Hukm, p.260)
Shunning habits is so difficult that doing it is considered amongst better invocations.
Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:
“Overcoming bad habits is amongst benevolent invocations." (Ghurar al Hukm, p.176)
Another important factor in imparting ideal training to the child is the coordination and cooperation between the parents and other mentors like the grand parents on the programme of training to be followed. Their joint effort will produce the desired results. But if any one of them takes a cavalier attitude on the training process, the results may not me as desired.
The child should be made aware of its duty. When the parents give contrary directions the child gets confused. Particularly if they insist on their contrary points of view, there is likelihood of negative results in the process of the training of the child. The biggest difficulty in imparting training to the child is that the father makes a decision about him and the mother or the grand parents insist on a contrary course. There is always a need for such understanding between the mentors that the child is able to clearly understand what he has to do and the idea of doing anything against this does not enter his mind.
Sometimes it happens that the father is well educated and reasonable and the mother of the child is ill tempered and uneducated. Sometimes the situation is reversed, when the mother is better equipped to train the child and the father is not. Many families face this problem. Children in such families do not receive proper training. But this doesn’t mean that they should give up efforts of properly training their children.
In such a difficult situation the responsibility become more pronounced. The need in such a situation is to give more thought to the programme of educating the child. The parents should make sincere efforts to overcome the lacunae in their character and behaviour and give more attention to the children. With good actions the parents can attract the children’s attention and set a desirable example before them. The parent’s action should help the child to decide what is good for him and what is not. If the mentor is wise, thoughtful and patient he can to a greater extent counter the negative impact of his wife’s behaviour on the training of the child. This is no doubt a difficult task but there is no way out of it.
One intellectual says:
“A family in which the father and the mother think alike about the upbringing of the children and are able to mould their character and actions accordingly the impact on the senses of the children will be ideal. The family unit is a small society in which the child’s moral character assumes definite form. A family in which the members are friendly towards each other their children are generally mild mannered, self respecting and judicious. Against this, a family where the parents have the habit of contradicting each other their children will be morally deficient, pretentious and excitable."
Training through Deeds, not Just Talk
Most parents think that oral instructions and occasional talk about dos and don’ts is sufficient for good upbringing of children. They presume that the upbringing of the child is thus taken care of and they do not have to do anything about the upbringing of the child concerning other walks of life. This is why such parents do not feel any need to think of the upbringing till the child is a tiny tot. They say that the child is still a babe and is incapable of understanding anything about upbringing.
When the child comes to the age of understanding they give a thought to its upbringing. It is the period in the life of a child when he starts discriminating between good and bad. While this thinking is incorrect, the child, as a matter of fact, is ready for the upbringing the day he is born. He gets trained every moment and his nature is moulded in a particular way. Whether the parents are aware of this process or not the child does waits not for any initiative on their part. The child’s active mind and other senses are like a camera, which keeps preserving images of what happens in its environment.
A child of five to six years would have acquired a certain character. Good or bad habits would have got engrained in its nature and it would be a difficult task to bring about a change in his behaviour. The child, as a matter of fact, is a mimic. It tries to emulate its parents and the other inmates in its surroundings. The child views its parents with a degree of respect and makes efforts to copy their life style. Their actions become his yardstick for good and bad actions. The nature of a child is not cast in a mould but it takes the parents as the example to follow. The child depends more on the behaviour of the parents as a model for its actions than any amount of sermonizing.
The daughter observes her mother and learns the niceties of house keeping. She sees her father and understands the nature of men. The boy takes lessons about life from his father’s actions and from his mother’s behaviour he learns about the nature of women.
It is therefore necessary for responsible people to reform themselves at the outset and if they have any flaws in their behaviour they should avoid them. In a nutshell, they should mould themselves into good human beings before they embark on the road to parenthood.
The parents should give a thought to what sort of offspring the desire to give to the society. If they feel that their child should be a morally upright, kind, humane, freedom loving and responsible person then they too have to be owning such characteristics that they set an example for him to emulate. The mother wishes that her daughter should be responsible, kind, equanimous person who respects the feelings of her spouse then she should herself try to fit into these norms. The daughter will then observe the behaviour pattern of the mother and automatically mould herself the same way. If the mother is an ill tempered, lazy, disorderly, untidy and selfish person then she cannot expect to train her daughter only through lecturing on the norms of good behaviour.
Only those persons can competently train and bring up children properly who had similar upbringing themselves in their childhood. They will have better understanding of the nature and psyche of the children. The parents who have differences and pick up fights over trivialities will be incompetent in bringing up children. Similarly professional educators who have taken up the task only for the material remuneration, who are impatient, excitable and do not have an understanding of the child’s nature and psyche will not be able to put their trainees on the right track.
Dr. Jalali writes:
“Whosoever has the responsibility of upbringing a child should occasionally do introspection on his own character and behaviour, realize his responsibilities and try to correct his failings."
Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:
"The person who is in the lead should first reform himself and then try to correct others. Before teaching the norms of good behaviour to others he should set an example himself. One who educates himself in learning and manners is more deserving of respect than he who only teaches the norms of good behaviour to others." (as quoted in the edited work, Nahj al balaghah)
“You respect your elders that your children respect you." (Ghurar al Hukm, p.546)
“If you wish to reform others, then commence the exercise with reforming yourself. If you like to correct others and keep yourself flawed it will be the biggest blemish." (Ghurar al Hukm, p. 278)
“When the talking tongue is silent on sermonizing and the actions of the sermonizer speak for themselves, then no ears can keep the sermon out and nothing is more effectively beneficial than this." (Ghurar al Hukm, p.232)
One lady writes in a letter:
"…. my parents’ character has deeply impressed me. They have always been kind to their children. I never found any flaw in their words or deeds. We also acquired this habit. I cannot forget their good character and behavior. Now that I am a mother my endeavour is to see that I don’t do any thing in the presence of the children, which is not considered good. My parent’s character is the example to be emulated in my life. I try to see that my children too are brought up the same way."
Another lady wrote in a letter:
“…. When I recapitulate my past life I recall that my mother used to argue and shout on trivial matters. Now that I am a mother I feel that with a little difference my condition is nearly the same as my mother’s was. All her negative manners have become a part of my character. The strange problem is that however much I try to reform myself I am unable to make much progress. Definitely it is proved in my case that the parents’ character and behaviour has far reaching effect on the moulding of the character of their children. The saying, therefore, is correct that a mother with the good training of her children can transform the world."
Abstain from Domestic Differences
For a child the home is like a nest. He feels very much attached to it. His heart is always tied to it. If the parents are on friendly terms his nest remains durable like a warm lap. The child in such a home feels contented and secure. Getting an upbringing in such congenial atmosphere the latent qualities and capabilities in the child will truly find expression and will bring out salutary results. But if the parents are excitable and fighting type then the child will lose its calm and contentment and he will be uneasy and restless. The parents who argue and fight do not realise that the feelings of the poor child.
In such a situation the children get frightened and with hurt hearts they seek some corner to hide themselves wondering as to why their parents are behaving in that manner. Otherwise they seek the avenues of fleeing from the nest that has been so dear to them and seek refuge in some lane or bazaar. The bitterest memories of a child are the times when the parents have heated, loud arguments and fights. The children are unable to forget such scenes till late in their own lives. These events remain etched on their psyche and have deleterious effect on their natures.
Such children have weak hearts and stunted physique. They will be heart broken and spend their lives miserably. It is quite possible that daughters of such parents carry an impression that all men are as harsh and rude as their own father is. This may lead to abhorrence of the very thought of marriage for such girls. It is also possible that the sons of such homes think that all women are as ill mannered as their own mother is and decide to remain celibate all their lives.In such an environment the children become rebellious and start hating the parents and the things come to such a pass that some children become revengeful. The statistics indicate that lot of gallivanting, alcoholic and anti social children is the consequence of the disturbed atmosphere at home If one thinks of the bitter events of his childhood when the parents had bitter differences then he will feel that despite the passage of long years the unpleasant memories are remaining etched on his mind.
One intellectual writes:
“The parents should know the fact that when there is an argument or fight between the elders of the house there will be deleterious effect on the thinking of the children. The type of relations the elders keep will have definite effect on development of the children….if the atmosphere of unity and peace is absent from the house then it is not possible to give proper upbringing to the children. When the elders become argumentative and excitable they forget that the impressionable children are with them whose upbringing is their responsibility. In such an atmosphere the children do not learn any good lesson. The children then become secluded and ill tempered. Particularly children of slightly higher age find the situation very difficult. Their hearts cry over the attitude of the father. They are unable to decide whose side they should take. In some cases they become antagonistic to both the parents."
Another person writes in a letter:
"….from the most unpleasant incidents of my childhood the vividly etched on my mind are those when my parents used to fight exchanging abusive language. During these events my sister my brother and myself used to stand shivering in a corner. As long as the fight continued we used to watch helplessly. I remember my sister used to cry at such events and these fits lasted for long. She is now a victim of nervous breakdown. It seems that the wrangles of our parents had a very bad effect on the spirit of my sister…."
Another person writes:
“…. the thought of an unpleasant event of my childhood doesn’t leave my memory. My father was ill mannered, excitable and selfish. He used to invent excuses to fight at home and shout at everyone. Our parents used to fight throughout the day. I wonder they never tired of doing this. The fights generally used to be on trivialities. There was no night when I went to bed without shedding tears. This was the reason that my nerves were weak. I am a scared person and I get bad dreams. I have consulted doctors who say that the reason for my condition is the effects of the atmosphere at my home. He says that there is no cure for this other than rest and peace at home. My happy days started when I got married and I escaped from that house. Now, although my life is peaceful, I have a feeling that I am a defeated person and I cannot make much progress in life. I appeal to parents, In the name of GodIf you have any differences, do not fight in the presence of your children!"
He further writes in his long letter:
“The worst event of my life happened when I was eight years old. That day my parents had a very bad fight. All the children went scurrying to corners. The event had such a sad effect on my spirit that for a long time I couldn’t erase the thought from my memory. I was fed up with my family and myself. I used to think that I should not return home from school. I used to offer a silent prayer to God that I die of some serious sickness. Many a time I thought of committing suicide. Several times I dreamt that I was married and fighting with my spouse. During such dreams I used to plan a strategy for preserving my rights.
After my marriage I tried several times to pick up a quarrel with my wife to demonstrate to her that I am an angry person. Luckily my wife is of a cool nature. She treats me with love and affection and convinces me with good arguments and advice. It is my good luck that the ill temper did not last long with me. When I recall the mistakes of my parents I did introspection over my own failings and I tried hard to mend my nature. Now I am leading a peaceful life."
Another gentleman writes:
“…. When I was nine years old my parents separated because of acute differences. They left me, my sister and my brother in the care of our paternal grand father. We used to cry there very often. While visiting my mother I used to dream while sleeping that I wouldn’t go to my father’s house. After some time some well-meaning relatives intervened and made my parents to reunite. My mother returned back to our home. But during that short break my spirit got so much affected that even now I feel sad about it. Now I make a serious effort that whenever I have any differences with my wife, we don’t give vent to our feelings in the presence of our children."
Another letter reads thus:
“…. there are many bitter memories of my childhood and pleasant memories are but few. When I remember those days I become sad and I am unable to control the tears welling my eyes. The reason for this sadness is that I always found my parents arguing and fighting. Thus they made life difficult for us brothers and sisters. We are a family of eight children. I never argue with my husband that I do not become the cause of the bitterness of my husband and children."
In one letter someone writes:
“…. Age five is the best part of one’s childhood. When I was of this age there came about bitter differences between my parents. My father brought a second wife. Because of these differences my mother secured a divorce from my father. We were six brothers and sisters. One day turned very bitter for us. I was playing with one of my brothers when our mother came to say her adieus to us. God knows how sad we children were. Our mother went away and we remained with our father and the new mother.
We remained away from our own mother for two years bearing the pangs of negligence that our father showed to us. Then one day our mother came and took me and one of my brothers home. She had received some legacy from her mother’s property. With that inheritance she carried on our upkeep. Later on the other brothers and sisters too joined us. Our mother gave us the treatment of both a mother and a father. We cannot forget her courage and sacrifices."
Another lady writes in her letter:
“…. my parents always used to quarrel and there was turmoil in our home. My mother always used to be angry. I was eight years of age when she used to leave my other siblings in my care and go out. My sister and brothers were of age two, four and six. I used to care for them to the best of my capability. Sometimes I used to get beatings from our father. Despite all the difficulty I was trying to continue my studies but I failed in my second standard. My tutors were aware of my difficulties. They took pity on me and gave me grace marks. In such circumstances I reached high school. Now I am also a mother. I make a sincere effort that differences do not plague me and my family."
The parents who feel their responsibility and they have interest in good upbringing of their children refrain from giving rise to any differences and fights in the family and they definitely avoid airing any differences in front of the children. There is no worse act than the parents disturbing the children by squabbling in their presence and leaving them behind. If they realise the feelings of the children during such absences, however brief they are, then they would try never to fight again. Such events are remembered till the end of one’s life. However there are hardly any families where there is no meaningful difference of opinion. But in marital life there is always the need for rapprochement.
Wise and informed couples resolve their differences with cool and calm discussions. If the children learn of the differences of their parents, they should handle the matter tactfully and convince them that the matter is being sorted out and they need not worry on that count. The parents should take care that they do not talk of divorce in the hearing distance of their children. This not only affects their married life but can cause damage to the delicate minds of the children. Separation between husband and wife is a grave injustice to the children. They feel that their nest has fallen down. And their lives are shattered.
This is naturally because the children have love for both the parents and cannot imagine any one of them abandoning them. If the children remain in the custody of the father after the divorce and he gets a second wife they will be required to unwillingly live under the care of a step mother. However good and gentle the stepmother is, she cannot take the place of the real mother. General observation is that most stepmothers do not take good care for stepchildren. The newspapers carry many stories of bad treatment of children at the hands of stepmothers. If the children revert to the care of the separated mother, they still feel the void created by the absence of the father. And if the parents are so thoughtless that they leave the children to the care of foster parents, it will be very sad for the young kids.
Anyway, the husband and wife are free till they have children. But they have added responsibility after they have children and this will be the time when they have to make sincere efforts to avoid any serious differences cropping up. They must protect the good atmosphere at home and do not become the cause of worry to the children. Otherwise they will be answerable and subject to retribution in the Court of Allah.
Starting Life as a Mother
When the sperm of the man enters the womb of the woman and fuses with the ovum, the process of fertilisation and the woman becoming a mother commences. The fertilised egg(the ovum) starts fast metamorphosis and ultimately takes the final shape of a human being. In fact the age of a person can be counted from the day the process of fertilisation takes place.
One intellectual writes:
“When a person arrives in this world, he would already have completed nine months of his age. And in these preliminary nine months he passes through a metamorphosis which determines the shape he gets ultimately as a complete human being for a complete lifetime."
When a woman is pregnant, she becomes a mother from that moment. She bears the responsibility for the child developing in her womb. It is a fact that the father’s germ has a bearing on the legal inheritance, the physical and psychological make up of the person but the new arrival’s future depends more on the care of the mother. The father’s germ is like the seed but the development depends much on the developing environment it gets.
Another intellectual writes:
“The parents of a child can provide a growth environment which is ideal for it’s progress and can also give an environment which may be deleterious to its optimum development. If the growth environment is not proper it is not congenial for the immortal spirit of the off spring. This is the reason that the parents bear a heavy responsibility for the upbringing of the child."
Every person’s welfare, illness, strength, weakness, looks, character take shape in the mother’s womb. The rudiments of the child’s morals and fate are established from the very womb of the mother.
The Holy Prophet says:
“The Fate, good or bad, of a person is determined when he is in the womb of the mother." (Bihar al-anwar, v 77, p. 115)
The pregnancy is a very delicate period and puts tremendous responsibility on the expectant mother. A woman who is aware of her responsibility does not consider the pregnancy as an ordinary time and doesn’t indulge in careless behaviour. She knows that slight carelessness might affect her health badly and the baby she is carrying might get damaged. This damage could be so severe that the child arrives with irreparable defects that it may have to carry for the life.
Another intellectual writes:
“The mother’s body and the events connected with it have an effect on the child she is carrying. The child in the mother’s womb is very sensitive to the changes her body is undergoing. This is because the mother’s body is complete and the child is developing to take the final shape.Therefore it is the duty of every expectant mother to keep a good environment at the house. She can succeed in this if she knows what events can have salutary effect on the child and what will not.
A careful mother can provide the right environment for the ideal development of the child in her womb. An ideal environment for the child in pregnancy and immediately after birth is an utopia. But the parents make their best effort to see that they provide an environment as near to perfect as possible. But the accidents of ignorance cannot be ruled out. If people are not aware of the consequences of carelessness, they may be faced with problems during pregnancy and after delivery of the child. One should realise that coming into the world without any physical defect is the right of every human being.
In the womb of the mother the foetus is not an integral part of her body although it gets sustenance from her blood and nutrition. A pregnant mother’s food has to be properly planned and balanced which has to provide nutrition not only for her maintenance but also to the foetus.
Therefore a pregnant woman’s recipe of nutrition has to be meticulously planned. Otherwise there is always a risk that the deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals in the food may prove deleterious to the health of the mother and the child.
In the eyes of Islam the nutrition of the pregnant woman is of prime importance to the extent that she can be exempted from mandatory fasting during the month of Ramadan. She is given the liberty to fulfilll her obligation after delivery of the baby.
Research proves that eighty percent of the genetically deformed children with physical and mental aberrations are because of deficient food given to the mother during her pregnancy. (Aijaz e khurakiah, p.220)
Dr. Jazairi, an eminent nutritionist, writes:
“It is known since long that the development of the foetus and the baby before birth and during feeding on mother’s milk the nutrition received by the mother is very important. The mother has to take care that all the essential proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, fats and other materials are taken in optimum quantities and at proper intervals for proper growth of the living cell that is the foetus. The foetus, which remains in the stage of metamorphosis in the womb, requires all these essentials for proper and healthy growth. It does happen during pregnancies that the mother remains healthy outwardly but due to deficiency of certain vitamins the foetus shows abnormal growth." (Biography Before Delivery, p. 182)
“Sometimes the reason for a new-born being abnormal is that although the seed is good it doesn’t get a proper environment in the womb. It also is sometimes because although the womb’s environment is good the seed is defective. In these conditions babies are born with several deformities like cleft lips, small and sunken eyes and flat soles of the feet etc. Earlier these defects were thought to be genetic of nature but now the research points out that they are caused by deficient availability of elements like oxygen during the pregnancy. The living environment and the surroundings during the pregnancy of a woman are considered the cause of the congenital defects like paraplegic limbs etc.
Imam Sadiq says in a tradition: “Whatever a pregnant mother eats or drinks, the foetus draws its sustenance from that." (Bihar al-anwar, v 6, p. 342)
The Effects of the Mothers Nutrition on the Foetus
During pregnancy the type of food taken by the mother has a marked effect on the nature, intelligence and capability of the child. This is because the brain of the child responds to the quality of nutrition provided to the foetus by the mother during its growth. Islam has clearly defined that the mother’s food intake during the pregnancy has a definite effect on the character of the child. Here some traditions on the subject are sited:
The Holy Prophet says:
“The mothers must ensure that during the final phase of pregnancy they must eat dates that their children grow to be gentle and sober." (Mustadrak al-wasail, v 3, p. 113)
“Ensure that your expectant wives eat behdana seeds (Seeds of Quince, a Central Asiatic tree of the rose family the fruit of which resembles a hard fleshed yellow apple). Such wives bear children with good health and character.’ (Mustadrak al-wasail, v 3, p. 116)
Imam Reda said:
“When pregnant women eat behdana seed it enhances intelligence and wisdom of the child." (Makarim al akhlaq, v 1, p. 196)
The prophet of Islam said: “The pregnant woman who eats melons will give birth to pretty and polite children." (Mustadrak al-wasail, v 3, p. 635)
The Mothers Nutrition
Research on the different types of food materials is not in the scope of this book nor can we enumerate the qualities of each because it is a subject that requires consideration at length. Nor is the author an expert on the subject of nutrition. Luckily many useful books have been published on the subject and the readers interested in a more detailed study may refer to such books. But it will not be out of place if we have a cursory look on the subject.
Although the nutrition intake requirement of pregnant women increases, it is a matter of worry that their appetite generally reduces in this condition. Many of them feel listless and dull. In such a state they need to plan to consume concentrates which are foods with lesser bulk and more nutritive value. The nutrients required by the human body are contained in different types of food materials. Therefore keeping variety in the ration of a pregnant woman gives scope for designing ideal feeding programme for her.
The experts in this field write:
“To keep the body fit not only food intake is necessary but also it should be a planned mix of food materials taken at planned intervals.” (Ilm o zindagi, p 462)
The mother should ensure that she takes supplemental vitamins and minerals with the morning and evening meals that will help the foetus in the seventh month. This will not only help in the proper growth of the teeth and the gums but also some other important bones of the body. (Biography Pesh uz tawallud, p. 80)
Dr. Giasuddin Jazairi writes:
“Consumption of yoghurt and cheese during pregnancy provides vitamins and fats to the woman and prevents her from consuming many other unnecessary things which she might otherwise be inclined to eat. She should however avoid taking sour yoghurt. Stale cheese may also not taste well. At breakfast she should take a glass of milk and a broth of oats. Vitamin B is present plentifully in liver, kidneys, intestines that are useful foods and should form a part of the pregnant woman’s diet. (Aijaz khurakia, p.223)
It is better that the pregnant women should take milk at regular intervals. This is a complete food and the Prophets in the past were very fond of this food.
Imam Jafer al Sadiq says:
“Milk is the food of the Prophets." (Bihar al-anwar, no vol/page)
Dr. Giasuddin Jazairi writes:
“Most women feel pain in the limbs and the back due to deficiency of calcium during pregnancy. They also find their nails breaking during this period. They are therefore advised to consume fruits and vegetables that are rich in calcium. They have also to be particular to regularly take soup made from bones of sheep and lemon juice. " (Aijaz khurakia)
Generally for people and in particular for the pregnant women the raw and cooked vegetables and fruits are considered good food. The plants derive the nutrients from the soil, water, air and sunlight and store the food for us. All the fruits have good nutritive value but particularly apples, quince, pears, dates are very useful. Likewise every vegetable has its own nutritive value.
Different vitamins and minerals are provided to the body by different food grains, fruits and vegetables. A person who wants to take good care of his nutrition should take a mix of fruits and vegetables and try to eat all the seasons fruits, even if occasionally. Particularly, the pregnant women should make a careful mix of different food materials in their diet. Islam exhorts its people and the pregnant womenfolk to eat fruits and vegetables. A few quotations are given here to prove our point:
Imam Sadiq says:
‘“Everything adorns some place or other and similarly the vegetables adorn the dining area." (Mustadrak al-wasail, v 3, p. 148)
One day when Imam Rida sat for his meal he found the vegetable salad missing from the fare. He told to his servant, “You know that I don’t eat food without the salads. Please bring the salads for me.” vWhen the salads were brought the Imam commenced his meal.
The Holy Prophet is on record saying,
“Eat quince because it enhances your intelligence, removes worries and makes the child gentle." (Makarim al akhlaq, v 1, p. 196)
The Prophet also said:
“Eat quinces and present it’s good fruits to your friends because it improves the eyesight and makes the hearts mellow. The pregnant women too draw lots of benefit from this fruit and their new born children are pretty and healthy." (Makarim al akhlaq, v 2, p. 116)
“During the last months of pregnancy the women should eat the dates that their children have forbearing natures." (Makarim al akhlaq, v 3, p. 113)
Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:
“Eat the dates that they are the cure of all pains." (Makarim al akhlaq, v 3, p. 112)
There are innumerable traditions of the Prophet and his Infallible Descendants that throw light on the high nutritive value of different fruits and vegetables. Nutritionists can devise ideal diet schedule including appropriate quantities of these fruits and vegetables for various requirements. Consulting a nutritionist or a specialist medical practitionerWill be very useful.
Pregnant women are advised to abstain from cigarettes and any other type of tobacco based product. Consuming of tobacco is not only deleterious to their personal health but will also have harmful effect on their foetus. In this connection we quote from a paper published in a foreign journal. We invite your attention to what it has to say:
“One study made in the Scandinavian countries on 6363 pregnant women showed that those of the group who smoke have given birth to babies on an average weighing 170 grams less than the babies of the women who do not smoke. This weight difference was recorded in 50% of pregnant women who habitually smoked.
On the other hand the height of the babies of the smoker mothers was recorded to be less than the other group. Similarly the heads and the bladders of the babies of smoker mothers were found to be smaller than those of non-smoker mothers are. The infantile mortality of the babies of the smoker mothers has also been recorded to be six times more than those from the other group. The children of the smoker mothers are likely to be born with physical defects than those of non-smoker mothers.
The use of cigarettes causes deficiency of oxygen in the blood of the foetus thereby causing excessive production of haemoglobin. Congenital heart disease is 50% more prevalent in babiesborn to cigarette smoking mothers than others. Statistics prove that children of mothers who smoke are poorer at their studies when they go to school than those of the other group. The intensity of this condition depends on the quantum of smoking the mother did during her pregnancy because the tobacco causes reduction in the cells of the brain of the foetus.
What has been said above is only a part of the damage that can be caused to the baby of the mother who consumes tobacco. Perhaps there are more serious damages caused by cigarette smoking that have not been identified so far. Therefore, all those mothers who are concerned about their own and their children’s health should avoid smoking." (Maktab Islam, Year 15, Issue No. 6)
Dr Jazairi writes:
“Tobacco smoking is harmful for the mother and also for the baby growing in her foetus. Alcoholic beverages too are very dangerous for carrying mothers. In addition to the poisonous effect of the alcohol it destroys the vitamins which are the essential requirement of the mother and her foetus. Such women have the risk of giving birth to babies with disabilities. Smoking and consumption of strongly brewed tea too are very harmful for pregnant women. " (Aijaz khurakia, p.215)
Dr Jalali writes
“Alcohol, marijuana and other drugs get into the blood stream of the parents and move into the embryo thereby affecting the growth of the foetus adversely. Some experts are of the opinion that when pregnant women smoke cigarette, the heart of the foetus is affected and its beats increase abnormally.(Rushinasi Kudak, p. 222)
When a pregnant woman needs medication for any indisposition, she has to exercise utmost care in the consumption of medicines because the medicines are generally designed for adults and might not be compatible for the delicate foetus and affect it adversely. It cannot be predicted what effect the drugs might have on the foetus.
It is a fact there is no medicine, which will not affect the foetus. This is the reason a pregnant mother must exercise maximum restraint in taking medicines. Firstly, she should avoid intake of medicine. But if the condition of the health becomes such that medication becomes absolutely necessary, then she should have access to it on the expert advice of a medical practitioner who can suggest the right medicine and the dosage.
When the illness is risky for the mother and the child, the pregnant mother should obtain expert medical opinion and treatment, as, otherwise it might cause irreparable damage to the foetus.
One expert writes:
“It is possible that certain viruses and microbes escape from the mother and the father into the indefensible foetus and infect it with the same disease which the parents were suffering from."
He writes at another place:
“Any change in the dietary habit of the mother, the medicines which she has to take and the diseases with which she gets afflicted will have effect on the embryo. Any diseased condition, which affects the embryo in the initial stages of conception, will progressively enhance. It is therefore imperative that the pregnant women should prevent themselves against diseases. Sometimes diseases may destroy their capacity to conceive in the future.
He also writes:
“There are several non-food materials which, when consumed by a pregnant mother, will adversely effect the development of the foetus. Most of the medicines are for adults and their trials are made only on grownups before they are approved for prescription. The viruses, bacteria and the germs in the body of the mother sometimes affect the foetus too.
Sometimes the foetus starts getting the same symptoms of the disease or sometimes abnormal growth takes place in the foetus because of the infection." (Biography Pish az tawalud, p. 182)
Effect of the Psychological Condition of the Mother on the Embryo
The experts have been deliberating the fact whether the psychological condition of the mother has any effect on the embryo she is nursing.
Some experts say that if a mother is confronted with excessive fear and unease then the foetus will get affected and there is a strong possibility that the child will be timid and also the tendency of jealousy and malicious nature of the mother will be there in the child. As against this the good nature, humanity, honesty, boldness and affection in the mother will have a salutary effect on the nature of the offspring.
These experts are of the opinion that the child in the womb of the mother is in fact a part of her and therefore it will be influenced by the thoughts and psyche of the mother. But there are some geneticists and child psychologists who reject this theory. They feel that it is not necessary that the psychological condition and thoughts of the mother influence the mind of the newborn permanently.
Dr Jalali writes:
“There is no direct contact between the mother and the foetus but it is only through the umbilicus which does not possess any senses and the closed umbilicus has blood carrying nerves, therefore the earlier opinion that the psychological condition of the mother influences the mind of the child may not be correct." (Rowan shinashi kudak, p. 188)
But, the truth is with the intellectual, that it cannot be claimed that the thoughts and psychological condition of the mother indirectly influences the mindset of the child. But it is not right to say that the mother’s thoughts have no direct effect at all on the mind of the child. This point of view is illustrated in the following arguments:
1. The human mind and spirit are connected to each other. The illness and good health of the human body and the strength of the nerves and physical potential or weakness and even the appetite or lack of it has a bearing on the thinking and morals of the person. The moral personality of an individual and his nature have a bearing on the development of his brain It is possible that the deficiency or absence of food might give rise to the nervousness and amoral thoughts in the brain.
2. The embryo utilises the food, which gets synthesised in the womb of the mother and reaches it. As long as the child remains in the mother’s womb it depends on her for its sustenance. The mother’s food habits therefore have a direct bearing on the physical and mental development of the child.
Dr Jalali writes:
Whatever is beneficial for the mother is also beneficial for the foetus. If the mother’s food is deficient in calcium, this deficiency will affect the development of the bones and the teeth of the child. (Rowan shinashi kudak, p. 188)
3. This is well known that extreme disturbance and restlessness in a person causes indigestion, constipation and affects his body. Excess of sadness or fear reduces the appetite of a person and his digestive system gets impaired. The digestive glands do not function normally.
In the light of the above three points it can be said that although the mother’s thoughts and spiritual condition do not directly transfer to the brain and nerves of the child, it is related to her digestive function which can ultimately affect the child’s physical and spiritual make-up.
The mother’s pangs of anger or uneasiness will affect her general nature and disturb her digestive system. This condition is damaging to the mother’s body as also to the foetus.
It is possible that the child in such a mother’s womb gets afflicted with such disease, which might manifest itself at a later stage.
Dr Jalali writes:
“The pangs of excessive uneasiness suffered by the pregnant mother and the unpleasant happenings in her environment are definitely harmful to the development and the nature of the child. Such conditions create problems and give rise to the unwanted glands. Because of this the digestive system is unable to perform its normal function. Perhaps this is the reason that some children have several nervous ailments. These conditions may also be responsible for the miscarriage of the foetus. (Rowan shinashi kudak, p. 222)
A pregnant lady physically and mentally at ease will have her foetus in good health. Such peaceful environment is ideal for the perfect development of the child in its mother’s womb. To the contrary the foetus of a jealous, envious, excitable, timid and mentally ill mother will not be properly nurtured and can be affected with several ailments of mind and body.
In this regard:
“The psychological experts have proved that 26% of psychologically ill children have inherited the condition from their mothers. Therefore if a mother is hale and hearty then her child too shall be the possessor of good physical condition. If the mother cares that her child is healthy then she should take good care of her own physical and mental well being during the pregnancy. The effects of the environment on the development of the child are always pronounced."
An Advice to Pregnant Women
Pregnant women are advised to abstain from lifting heavy materials. They should also avoid very tiring tasks. If a carrying mother tires herself, she is likely to tire the baby too. In such cases there is the danger of miscarriage of the pregnancy.
Travelling during the last months of pregnancy too is not advised. If there is no urgent need of travelling, it is better the carrying mothers do not undertake a journey in that period. However doing light work and restricted movement is not harmful and, in fact, is beneficial for the health of both the mother and the child.
Dr Jalali writes:
Share this article