Would you please do us a favor by showing the stages of the cultural growth of children in the light of the Islamic view?

Question: Would you please do us a favor by showing the stages of the cultural growth of children in the light of the Islamic view?
The answer: There are four stages:

First, the stage of suckling, which begins from birth and lasts until the child becomes a year and a half. In this period, the child receives his cultural growth through his attempts of success and failure. The mother must undertake her basic role in this important stage because the child is a deposit of Allah in her hand. If she does not help him to begin his life with the name of Allah, he will get to the Satan and the responsibility will be on her.

Second, the stage of childhood, which is composed of two periods: the first one begins after the year and a half of suckling up until the age of seven and the second period begins from the seventh year up until the twelfth.

The child learns in the first period – until the seventh year of his age – words, concepts, morals, and habits by watching and imitating. Therefore, those who are responsible for educating the child must pay close attention to this opportunity of teaching the child good morals and habits. These morals and habits can be noticed when the child imitates his father or mother in some of his plays such as the way of their speaking, gaits, and looking.

In the second period – until the twelfth year – the child begins analyzing meanings to comprehend bigger things. However, the family still has an effective role on his growth, but it is less than that of the first period because, in this age, the child is connected with school and classmates, and therefore, his presence among his family becomes less than before, and on the other hand, his mind opens for other things.

In this period, the child looks for a role model. It is very important for parents to either be good examples or find their child a good example to imitate. The socio-psychological studies have showed that most of the deviate youth and criminal men were, in this period, receiving their deviate and criminal lessons from their bad role models. Let parents beware that their children not take their role models, in this period from seven to twelve, from films or other programs that they watch.

Third, the stage of adolescence, which is from the twelfth until the eighteenth year. This is the most critical stage of growth that the Prophet (S) has described as “a kind of madness” and Imam Ali (a.s.) has said, “It is intoxication”.

The physical changes that take place in this stage are:

1. Quick growth; some changes take place in the outer shape of a man in this stage that cause a teenager to often look at himself in the mirror and ponder long over his new shape.

2. Change in the tone of a teenager’s voice to becoming rough and hoarse

3. Growth of the sexual lust; if a teenager is not instructed with the lawful and the unlawful concerning the matter of sex, he will become involved in sin.

The psychological changes are:

1. Excitement and nervousness

2. Secret thinking and pondering over what will happen

3. Feeling independent

The changes in the practical field:

1. Mutiny and objection

2. Taking occasional and sudden decisions without premeditation

3. Acting and then thinking

4. Taking famous persons as examples

5. Not accepting the supervision of others; a teenager does not tolerate the direct ordering or forbidding from his parents.

6. The desire of venturing and showing one’s personality

In this stage, the influence of parents on the youth weakens while the influence of the street, school, and the outside becomes strong. If parents spend the previous stages with their child in the correct way, they can easily, in this stage, connect their child with mosques, Islamic foundations, good scholars, and faithful friends to help them pass this stage without troubles; otherwise, the hands of the devils will snatch him to educate him with the culture of the people of Hell.

Fourth, the stage of youth, which begins after the eighteenth year when the storm of adolescence gradually calms down. Now, a young person begins his/her practical thinking of his/her scientific and professional future and thinks of choosing a spouse. This responsible state continues and becomes stronger after marriage and parenthood. Due to past and present cultural spheres, discernment and serious thinking emerge in one’s personality. The general social spheres and the cultural establishments surrounding man have a great effect on forming his personality.

What is the best way to raise children and teenagers: closely watching and managing their affairs, or trusting them and giving them freedom?

Question: I am often confused as to how to deal with my children. In this age, in which corruption has spread everywhere, I do not know which way I should follow in educating them, especially those among them who are teenagers. I am very careful for them and precise in watching them because I am afraid that they may do some things secretly that may displease the Lord. Their father is opposite to me and this causes disagreements and disputes between us many times. He says that my way will lead them to deviation while I think that his way in not watching them will be responsible for their deviation if one day it happens-Allah forbid! What do you think, Your Eminence?

The answer: Moderation in everything is the aspect of the umma that Islam wants us to adopt. We are people of a religion that permits neither waste nor excess. It announces clearly that (And thus We have made you a medium (just) nation that you may be the bearers of witness to the people and (that) the Messenger may be a bearer of witness to you).

Dear sister, if you are excessive in the educating of your children, please read carefully what I quote here from a letter written by a twenty year old young man to his mother complaining of his state to her for she has been excessive in watching him. He says:

‘I like to choose my concerns by myself. I like if you would permit me to try life. I like to travel by myself. I like to…

But you always say to me: if an accident happens to you, then what? If some misfortune afflicts you, then what? If…

You still want to catch my hand and take me with you wherever you like. My opinion and thought have no value in your judgment.

You say to me: What if you fall into an accident? Or you are involved in a trap? Or you commit a sin? Or you become corrupted…?

O mother, everyday you repeat these words many times instead of guiding me with what I should do in order to not fall into an accident or become involved in a trap or commit a sin or slip into corruption!!

O mother, now I am twenty years old, but I have no will. Do you know why?

It is because of your excessive fears; you have killed confidence inside me. You have prevented me from learning self-confidence in taking decisions because you always made decisions for me. Perhaps, you wished to sit beside me on the chair in my classroom fearing that I might make mistakes in my school lessons!

O mother, today I am unsuccessful in my social relations. Between myself and those of the same age, there is a big difference in mentality. They say to me: O weak, fearful, pampered, coward…

Yes, I really am so. I fear all. I trust in no one. I have no hope for the future. Today, I am unable to even choose my university specialization or my future job.

O mother, I like to do many things, but your “NO” makes me give up everything. With this “NO” you have closed my way. I think if you could breathe for me, you would…!’

Dear sister, with the aforementioned lines, I do not want to say that you are mistaken in watching your children, but I want to say that too many warnings that exceed reasonable limits will have the exact opposite effect from what you want.

By the way, it is said that one day a father saw his son on the front edge of the house’s roof and ordered him to go back lest he should fall down. The son went back a few steps, but the father, out of his fear for his son, ordered him to go back further and the son went back a few more steps. The father was still worried and ordered his son to go back even more until the son fell down from the other side. The father hit his head crying: O my son!

It is necessary for parents to know that each age has its own particular moralities that should be acknowledged within the general topic of morals in Islam. Let us not complicate our children and then cause them to appear abnormal among people! At the same time, we should not let them be so free to do whatever they like as if they have no religion and forsake the best of the heavenly religions.

You would be better off in allowing your children to advance in their lives, but with teaching them virtues and warning them of vices and their ends.

When you detect some deviation in them, you must suppress your anger and be calm and give them advice in a wise way. You should know that Allah has opened the door of repentance to His people, especially to the youth, and He knows they are weak. Hence, you should not suspect them and not be severe to them because this will take them away from religion and make them resist and go astray.

Besides all this, you should discuss the matter with your husband if he is lacking in his relation to the children. You should sit together and formulate wise methods of dealing with your children because they represent you before others and will replace you after your death. See how you want others to regard you!

What are practical methods for raising upright children?

Question: How should we educate our child and feed him with religious teachings, moral values, social principles, and historical lessons? Could you suggest a practical and successful method?

The answer: There are still fathers and mothers like those of the past who at bedtime tell their children nice stories with useful meanings and in a wonderful manner of telling. Many of those meaningful stories have educated children with sound concepts, and when they became old, they still remembered them and took sufficient lessons from them.

In our present age, we should not ignore the sincere efforts of those who spread modern Islamic information through audio and video cassettes, CDs, magazines, and books. May Allah reward them with the best of good.

It is wrong to think that a child does not understand or comprehend what we mean or that he does not benefit from our stories. The Islamic experts, based on the traditions of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and different experiments, have discovered that a child is able to comprehend the meanings of others’ words from the fourth month in his mother’s womb. Therefore, traditions recommend mothers to recite the Holy Qur’an during the period of pregnancy and after giving birth even if it is through audio cassettes because a child responds and reacts to the Qur’anic inspirations, which have an influence on his mentality, morals and behaviors when he grows up. Similarly, the azan and iqama are recited in the two ears of a newborn child.

Thus, a meaningful story with good moral and social contents leaves a constructive effect on the personality of a child in the present and future.

From among the necessities of education at this stage is buying some books for the child that fit his intellectual level, and it does not matter if he tears them, because after tearing the tenth book, for example, he will make friends with the eleventh book. He will keep it safe and read it. Here you can win his friendship with books throughout his life, and the loss of tearing ten books in comparison with this winning is not so important.

Parents can read to their child from the storybooks of children, and they will thus kill two birds with one stone, because the child will like books and benefit from the contents of the stories at the same time. I suggest that you hang this statement on the most noticeable wall in the house: “a good book should be read several times, discussed several times, and relied on throughout one’s life.”

6 Strategies o Build Confidence in Our Children

confidenceAll children are created worth wise and are due the rightful personal respect and dignity. But how can we, as parents, build strong egos and indomitable spirits in our children? There are strategies by which we can instill confidence and self-worth:

  1. Examine Your Own Values

Are you secretly disappointed because your child is ordinary? Have you rejected him, at times, because he lacks charm or is awkward? Do you think your child is stupid?

A sizeable portion of a child’s self-concept emerges from the way he thinks you see him. When the child is convinced he is loved and respected by the parents, he is inclined to accept his own worth as a person.

Many children know they are loved by their parents, but don’t believe they are held in high esteem by them. A child can know that you would give your life for him, yet still detect your doubts about his acceptability. You are nervous when he speaks to guests. You interrupt to explain what he was trying to say, or laugh when his remarks sound foolish. Parents need to guard what they say in the presence of the children.

Parents must also take the time to introduce children to good books, to fly kites and play football with them, listen to the skinned-knee episode and talk about the bird with the broken wing. These are the building blocks of esteem.

  1. Teach a “Think Positive” Policy

 One of the characteristics of a person who feels inferior is that he talks about his deficiencies to anyone who will listen.

While you are blabbing about your inadequacies, the listener is forming an impression of you. He will later treat you according to the evidence you have provided. If you put your feelings into words, they become solidified as fact in your own mind.

Therefore, we should teach a “think positive” policy to our children. Constant self-criticism can become a self-defeating habit.

  1. Help Your Child Compensate

Our task as parents is to serve as a confident ally, encouraging when children are distressed, intervening when threats are overwhelming, and giving them the tools to overcome the obstacles. One of those tools is compensation. An Individual counterbalances weaknesses by capitalizing on his strengths. It is our job to help our children find those strengths.

Perhaps a child can establish his niche in arts. May be he can build model airplanes or keep rabbits or play football. Nothing is more risky than sending a child into adolescence with no skills, no unique knowledge, and no means of compensating. He must be able to say: “I may not be the most popular boy in the school, but I am the best football player in the team.”

I recommend that parents assess a child’s strength, and then select a skill with the best chance for success. See that he gets through the first stage. If you find you have made a mistake, start again on something else. But don’t let inertia keep you from, teaching him a skill.

  1. Help Your Child Compete

 A parent who opposes the stress placed on beauty, brawn and brains knows his child is forced to compete in world that worships those attributes. Should he help encourage his “average” child to excel in school?

I can give you only one opinion. I feel I must help my child compete in his world as best he can. If he is struggling in school, I will seek special coaching. We are allies in his fight for survival.
But while helping my child to compete, I also instruct him in the true values of life: love for mankind, integrity, truthfulness, and devotion to Allah.

  1. Discipline With Respect

 Does punishment, and particularly spanking, break the spirit of a child? The answer depends on the manner and intent of the parents. A spanking, in response to willful defiance, is a worthwhile tool, but belief in corporal punishment is no excuse for taking about your frustrations on little child; it offers no license to punish him in front of others or treat him with disrespect.

It is important to recognize however, that one way to damage self-esteem is to avoid discipline altogether. Parents are the symbols of justice and order, and a child wonders why they let him get away with doing harmful things if they really love him.

  1. Avoid Overprotection

 Preparation for responsible adulthood is derived from training during childhood. A child should be encouraged to progress on an orderly timetable, taking the level of responsibility appropriate for his age. An overly protective parent allows the child to fall behind his normal timetable.

Source: Family Life written by Aisha Mutuku

What Are Three Stages of Upbringing a Child in Prophet’s View?

03d214cThe Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) said:

The child is the master for seven years (1st 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: Mastership

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 behaviour 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 respect 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

`Abdullah 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 years, teach him seven times to recite ( la ilahailla ‘ llah). Then  leave him at that till he is 3 years 7 months and 20 days old; then train him to say (Muhammadun rasulu ‘llah ). Then leave him at that till he completes 4 years. 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 him face qiblah 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 salat Allah forgives the sins of his parents.

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

Second Stage: Slavery

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 inconspicuously 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.

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 hijab ( 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: Viziership

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 be-come 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 offspring 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.”

Source: Islamic Family Life written by Allamah Sayyid Sa’eed Akhtar Rizvi

When Should Parents Start Upbringing Their Children?

Parents-and-KidsFrom the time a child is born until he separates from the family to establish a shared life with others, he passes through two phases in his upbringing.

  1. Childhood, from birth until the age of seven, is the time when the child is not well prepared for direct instruction as he does not know his world.
  2. From the age of seven to the age of fourteen is the time when the intellect grows gradually, in preparation for intellectual activities. In this stage the child can learn and be instructed.

In the first period, instruction has to be indirect without commands and psychological pressure. Rather, the child becomes familiar with good manners and is instructed by the people surrounding him. In fact, the moral foundation of his character is laid and good memories and proper treatment become etched in his mind.

In the second phase, the child should not be left free to behave and do as he pleases and his faults should not be ignored. Rather, his ill manner should be discouraged and he should be taught order and discipline, while emphasizing the proper use of time and he should be encouraged to perform religious worship and do good things.

Unfortunately, most people do not know when to begin to train their children. Some parents believe that instruction should begin after the age of six and some say that instruction should begin at the age of three.

Nevertheless, such beliefs are incorrect because when a child has completed the third year of his life, 75% of good and bad characteristics have already become formed in him.

A number of psychologists believe that the training of a child begins from the moment of birth. However, some others are cautious and say that the training of a child begins on the first day of the second month after his birth. In depth practical research at the University of Chicago has reached the conclusion that:

“Any healthy child gains 50% of his intelligence by the age of four, 30% by the age of 8 and 20% by the age of 17. Then, any 4-year old child has 50% intelligence and the changes between the ages of 2 and 3 are far more important than the changes between the ages of 8 and 9.”

For training to be effective, one has to begin much sooner than is generally thought nowadays, i.e. from the very first weeks after birth. First, one has to consider the physiological issues and from the first year, the psychological issues.

One point to consider is that the value of time is not the same for a child as for an adult. One day at the age of 1 is much longer than the same period of time at the age of 30 and it perhaps includes six times the physiological and psychological occurrences. Therefore, one should not leave such a fruitful period of childhood unused, for in the first six years of life, the outcome of the performance of the rules of life is more definitive.

It is because of this that Imam ‘Ali said, “He who does not learn in childhood, cannot progress in adulthood.”

Therefore, childhood is the best time for learning the right way of living because the child is very apt to imitate, adopt and learn. At this time, the child records in himself all the movement, speech and behavior of the people surrounding him, with the utmost care, as if recorded on film.

Therefore, the child’s psyche needs to be guided to the right path simultaneously with his physical growth and development because it becomes very difficult at the adult stage to change the character of one who was not properly instructed in childhood.

The happiest people are those who have been reared in a correct and healthy manner from the very beginning and who have adopted good characteristics.

According to some psychologists, a child is like a sapling that the gardener can easily change according to his own plans. Yet, correcting those who are like old trees and have grown accustomed to bad ways, is very difficult indeed. One who intends to change the attitudes of such individuals must endure many hardships.

Source: The Prophet’s Attitude towards Children and Youth written by Muhammad Ali Chenarani

8 Ways to Respect Our Children’s Personalities

Muslim woman and her son on laptopIn today’s world, children are considered to be very important. Full attention is given by societies and governments to their upbringing and respecting their personality in the family and the society. In spite of this, people today do not pay as much attention to children’s instruction as the Leader of the Muslims did.

The Prophet had a special love of children, whether they were his own children or those of others. It has been written about him: “Kindness towards children was one of the special practices of the Prophet.”

This same practice was continued by the Imams and they respected children’s personalities as well. Some examples have been provided below.

  1. Asking Children’s Views

Imam ‘Ali asked his children intellectual questions in the presence of others and in some cases, he would let his children answer the questions of others.

Once Imam ‘Ali asked his children, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain some questions. The latter responded wisely and briefly. Then Imam ‘Ali turned to someone known as Harith A‘war, who was present in the gathering and said: “Teach these wise words to your children to improve their reasoning and thinking abilities.”

 Thus Imam ‘Ali expressed his respect for his children in the best possible way and contributed to the creation of the greatest personality and independence in them.

  1. Sociability

One of the most basic factors in the development of a child’s personality is sociability and proper treatment. Prophet Muhammad clearly advised his followers concerning this. He told them: “Respect your children and treat them with good manners and in an acceptable way.”

Therefore, those who want to have children with a strong personality must guide them with good training and avoid treating them improperly as an improper practice cannot lead to the upbringing of worthy children who have a strong personality.

  1. Fulfillment of Promises

Fulfillment of promises towards children contributes to the development of their self-confidence and affects their personality. The true leaders of Islam have given much advice about the fulfillment of promises to children. Some examples are as follows:

Imam ‘Ali said: “It is not appropriate to tell lies, whether seriously or jokingly. It is not appropriate to make a promise to one’s children and fail to fulfill it.”

Imam ‘Ali also said: “The Prophet said, ‘If any of you makes a promise to his child, he must fulfill it.”

Numerous sayings have been recounted in Islamic sources from the Imams about the necessity of parents, fulfilling their promises.

  1. Familiarizing the Child with the Difficulties of Life

One of the ways to strengthen a child’s personality, especially in the case of boys, is to familiarize them with the difficulties of life so as to prepare them for the future; children must understand in practice that one has to work hard to obtain anything. If a child is not familiar with the problems and difficulties of life, when he does face difficulties, he will become easily frustrated. This has been discussed in the statements of religious leaders as well.

Imam Musa ibn Ja‘far has said, “It is better for a child to become familiarized with the unavoidable difficulties of life, which are the toll of life, during childhood so that he can be patient during youth and adulthood.

It must be remembered that familiarizing the child with the difficulties of life should not bother the child, i.e. the jobs given to him to do should not be beyond his capabilities. Therefore, the child’s abilities must be taken into consideration as well.

The Prophet reminded us of four points in this respect:

  1. What the child has been able to do should be accepted.
  2. The child should not be asked to perform difficult tasks beyond his abilities.
  3. The child should not be persuaded to commit sins or be rebellious.
  4. The child should not be told lies and silly things should not be done in front of him.

It has been narrated elsewhere that, “One day, when the Messenger of God was seven years old, he asked his nanny (Halimah Sa‘diyah): ‘Where are my brothers?’ (The Prophet lived in Halimah’s house and he called her sons as brothers.) She answered: “Dear child, they have gone to graze the sheep with which God has blessed us.’ The child responded: ‘O Mum, you did not treat me justly.’ ‘Why?’ she asked. ‘Is it right that I should stay in the shade of the tent and drink milk while my brothers are in the hot desert sun?’”

  1. Appreciating What the Child Does

The Prophet himself practiced all that he advised his followers concerning the upbringing of children and respecting their personality. One of the things he often did was to give a high value to actions performed by children.

‘Amr ibn Harith has been quoted as saying: “The Prophet passed by ‘Abdullah ibn Ja‘far ibn Abu Ṭalib, while the latter was a little child. The Prophet thus prayed for him, ‘O God, bless him in his dealings and commerce.’”

  1. Rising in the Presence of Children

In order to show respect to his own children, the Prophet would either lengthen his prostration during prayer or would end the prayer quickly (depending on the circumstances). In all occasions he respected children and he would teach the people in practical terms how to train the personalities of their children.

One day, Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn arrived while the Prophet was sitting. The Prophet rose to show respect to them and waited for them. As they were little children and weak, this took some time. The Prophet went towards them to welcome them. He opened his arms, took them both, put them on his shoulders and walked, while saying, “What a good ride you are having and what good riders you are!”

The Prophet would also stand in the presence of his daughter, Fatimah Zahra.

  1. Foresight for Children

One day Imam Mujtaba called his children and his nephews and said to them, “You are the children of the society. It is hoped that in the future you will be great members of the society and that you will strive to acquire knowledge. Any of you, who cannot memorize scholarly material, should write it down, keep the written material at home and refer to it whenever necessary.

As you see, Imam Mujtaba thought of the future of children and familiarized parents with this reality. It was reported that:

“A man from among the Helpers died. He had a small amount of capital which he had lost towards the end of his life in worship and in seeking God’s pleasure. On the same day he died, his children were forced to ask the people for help. This story was told to the Prophet. He asked, ‘What did you do with his body?’ They replied: ‘We buried it.’ ‘If I knew this earlier,’ said the Prophet, ‘I would not have allowed you bury him in the Muslim cemetery, because he lost his wealth and properties and left his children to beg among the people.’”

  1. Teaching Religious Edicts

If children practice praying and other acts of worship, these activities will have a bright effect on their internal characters. Although a child may not understand the meaning of the words and sentences in the prayer for example, he will no doubt begin to understand the need to focus attention on God and this will enable him to have a close relationship with God, experience peace of mind in times of hardship and obtain His infinite mercy and support. God says:

“Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the remembrance of Allah. Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.”

In order to bring up pious, God-fearing children, there needs to be harmony between their bodies and their souls. To this end, Islam has obligated parents to draw the attention of their children to God and to teach them to worship Him and the knowledge of religious precepts. Islam has ordered parents to make their children pray.

Mu‘awiah ibn Wahab asked Imam Sadiq, “At what age should we make children pray?” “Between the ages of six to seven years, make them pray.” Imam said.

The Prophet is quoted as saying, “Make your children pray at the age of seven.”

In another narration about parental duties with respect to children’s faith, Imam Baqir is quoted as saying, “At the age of three, teach the child the words of monotheism, i.e. La ilaha ill-Allah. At the age of four, teach the child to say Muhammad rasul Allah (Muhammad is God’s Prophet). At the age of five, make him face the kiblah and order him to prostrate before God. At the age of six, make him bow before God and teach him the right method of prostration. At the age of seven, tell the child to wash his hands and face (ablution) and pray.”

Parents and instructors should be aware that religion is of the greatest help to them because faith is like a burning torch that lights up the way and awakens the conscience. It can easily show the right path wherever there is deviation.

Source: The Prophet’s Attitude towards Children and Youth written by Muhammad Ali Chenarani

What Kind of Friends Our Children Should Have?

friendship-heartA good friend and companion is the greatest gift of God. In adversity, a friend only is the refuge for a person and solace for his heart and soul. In this world, that is full of hardships and hurdles, presence of a true friend is absolutely necessary for every individual. One who doesn’t have any friend, will be like a person, all alone, away from home. He will not have anyone to commiserate with him in the times of need.

Imam Musa ibn Ja’far was asked what is the ideal source for comfort in this world. The Imam replied:

“An airy house and plenty of friends!”

Imam ‘Ali says:

“The weakest person is one who cannot make anyone his friend and brother.”

“Not having friends is like being a stranger in one’s own land and being a loner.”

As the grown-ups need friends, the children too want friends and companions. A child who doesn’t have friends, will always be lonely and forlorn. The child, by nature, needs a friend and companion. He cannot be denied this natural need. There is also a subtle difference between a friend and acquaintance. Perhaps, a child may have acquaintances but no friends. Sometimes a child selects a friend from his class fellows and the children in his neighborhood. The cause for picking up a particular person as a friend may not be evident. Perhaps the spiritual similarity between the two has brought them together.

The Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali, says:

“The hearts of people are like migrant nomads, whosoever loves them, they are attached to him.”

A friend cannot be thrust on anyone. The parents cannot very much restrict the child to accept particular persons as friends. The child must be free to make his own choice of friends. But this freedom will be with some conditions and restrictions. The character and conduct of the friends will have to be observed by the parents before they permit the child to pick a friend. If a child selects a courteous and polite friend, he will definitely benefit by picking up his good habits. To the contrary, if the friend has undesirable habits then, naturally, the child will take to some of his bad habits. There are plenty of children and youths fallen into the morass of sin because of indiscreetly selecting bad friends. .

The Prophet of Islam has said:

“A man follows the faith, ways and habits of his friend.”

‘Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

“The most fortunate are those who have connections with good people.”

This is the reason the Religion of Islam exhorts its peoples to abstain from bad company.

‘Ali said:

“Avoid making friendship with transgressors and sinning persons because evil creates evil.”

Imam Zain ul Abidin told to his son, Imam Muhammad al Baqir:

“O my son, avoid acquaintance of five type of persons:

  1. Don’t be friends with a liar. He will be like a mirage. He will trick you. When a thing is far, he will say it is near; and when it is at hand, he will say that it is very far.
  2. Don’t make a transgressor and sinner your friend because he might sell you for as low a price.
  3. Don’t make a parsimonious and stingy person your friend who may not help you in times of need.
  4. Don’t make a stupid person your friend, lest he bring harm to you with his stupidity. It is possible that with all good intentions, he might bring harm to you with his foolish actions.
  5. Don’t be friend with those who deprive their kin of their rights. Such persons are shorn of Allah’s Blessings and are accursed people.


Responsible and thoughtful parents will not be totally unconcerned with the type of friends their children cultivate. While the parents must know the type of friends a child has, they should not appear to be interfering in their personal matters.

If the parents can provide a good friend to their child, they have made a great contribution to his virtuous future. But this is not such an easy task. The best way is to acquaint the child with what is good, and what is not, when he comes to the age of understanding. They should explain to the child the defects that might be there in undesirable friends.

The parents must keep a subtle watch over the activities of the child and his friends from a distance. If they find that the friends are good, they must appreciate them. They should create opportunities for the child to meet such friends. But if they notice that the child has picked up an undesirable acquaintance, then they should discreetly try to cut this friendship short. If the child persists in such friendship, deal with the matter strictly.

The parents can help the child in making good friends by another method. They should pick children in their neighborhood with good behavior, character and background. Create opportunities for the children to meet and react with one another. If they become friends, encourage them to cement the friendship. This way, even if there are some minor defects in their own child, they can be warded off in the company of good children. For example, if a child is timid, he might overcome his timidity by being friends with a bold and courageous child.

The parents should not be totally oblivious of the type of friends their child has. Particularly when the child is on the threshold of youth. This will be the period in his life when habits take root. .Any negligence on the part of the parents might result in irreparable harm to the character and conduct of the child, if he persists to be in bad company. They should remember the dictum: Prevention is better than cure!

‘Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:“For everything there is a calamity, and for virtue the calamity is a bad friend.”

Source: “Principles of Upbringing Children” written by Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini

Why is Choosing a Good Name for the Child so Important?

Eco-Baby-photographyOne of the prime responsibilities of the parents is the selection of a name for the new-born child. They should not treat this important thing as a triviality. Individuals and families are recognized with their names. If the name is affable the person will be well received by the people.

Persons with unpleasant sounding names will not get good attention from others and sometimes even they might ridicule them. The persons who are given improper names will be victims of inferiority complex. Therefore Islam requires the parents to exercise care in selecting good names for their children.

The Holy Prophet has said:

“It is the responsibility of every father to choose a good name for his child.”

“The children have three rights over their fathers. The first is that they are given good names. Secondly, they are provided good education; and lastly, they help them to select good spouses.”

Imam Musa al-Kadhim said:

‘The first good that a father does to his child is that he selects a worthy name for him.”

On the other hand the name of a person has a lot of social significance too. It is his name, which gets recognition to a person that he belongs to a respectable family. If the parents have high regard for a well-known poet, they may name their child after him. If the parents are fond of high learning they may select the name of a reputed scholar.

The highly religious parents name their children after the prophets, the Imams and other religious personalities. If the parents desire their children to struggle in the cause of the faith, they name them after Muhammad, ‘Ali, Hasan, Husayn, Abul Fadhl, Abbas, Hamza, Jaffar, Abu Dharr, Ammar, Saeed etc.

If the parents are enamored of any sport they like to name their children after renowned players of that sport. Similarly if the parents appreciate the art of any musician, they may prefer to name their child after that person.

When the nature of the parents is tyrannical, they take pride in naming the child after historical personalities like Alexander, Changes, Timor etc. It is noticed that while naming the child the parents generally associate themselves with certain groups and people of the past this will have a definite impact on the nature and thinking of the child when he grows up.

The Holy Prophet has said:

“Keep good names, because on the Day of Judgment you will be called by these names only. It will be proclaimed, ‘so-and-so son of so-and-so Rise and get associated with your light, So-and-so, son of so-and-so Arise that there is no light for you that can guide you!’”

One person said to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq, “We name our children after your name and the names of your revered ancestors. Is this beneficial for us. ”The Imam replies, “Yes By Allah’s faith anything else than love for the pious and hate towards the profane!”

For the propagation of their beliefs people derive benefit from every opportunity to project the names of the important personalities. They go to the extent of naming the towns, streets and other landmarks after important personalities. A responsible and devoted Muslim too takes every opportunity to perpetuate the names of the great personalities of Islam and one of such acts is to name his children after them.

Yes Hasan, Husayn, Abul Fadhl, ‘Ali Akbar, Hur, Qasim, Hamza, Ja’far, Abu Dharr, Ammar are amongst the names which enliven the spirit to remember the valiant acts of the great persons and encourage the coming generations to groom themselves on those models. When a person is named after the Holy Prophets like Ibrahim, Musa, Isa or Muhammad he is bound to have a feeling that he must try to be as righteous a person as he can. When a person is named after the friends and devotees of the Holy ahl al bait like  Salman, Abu Dharr, Maithum and Ammar he will realize the significance of the deeds of those great men. An intelligent Muslim will not give the names of tyrants and enemies of Islam to his children.

Imam Baqir says:

”Beware of the Satan when he hears that someone is called as Muhammad and ‘Ali, he melts in such a way as the lead melts and when he hears that someone is named after one of our enemies he is overwhelmed with happiness.”

The Prophet of Islam said:

“Whoever gets four sons, and he has not named even one after me has been cruel on me.”

Imam Muhammad Baqir said:

“The peerless names are the names of the Prophets.”

The Holy Prophet attached so much importance to names that if he did not like the name of any companion or a place, he would immediately change the name. He changed the name of Abd al Shams to Abd al Wahab. He named Abd al Uzza ( the slave of Uzza the idol) to Abd Allah. Abd al Haris (the tiger) to Abd ar Rahman and Abd al Ka’aba to Abd Allah.

Source: “Principles of Upbringing Children” written by Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini

Why is the Mother’s Milk the Best Food for the child?

Mother’s MilkThe mother’s milk is the best and complete food for the child. In many ways it can be preferred over the other food products available for them, like: the milk of cow, goat or commercially branded milk foods.

  1. The mother’s milk, on account of its nutrient value, will be ideally suited for the machinery of the child. It is very compatible for the child’s needs because it has been drawing nutrition from the mother for nine months during the pregnancy and will continue to get the same contents from the milk provided by the mother.
  2. Because the mother’s milk is utilized in its natural condition it retains its nutritive value. To the contrary the cow’s milk has to be boiled before use and many nutrients might get destroyed in the process.
  3. From the point of view of the child’s health the mother’s milk is most preferable because it is least likely to be contaminated with germs because it is fed to child directly from the bosom. The other milk passes through many utensils and can be infected by germs in the process.
  4. The mother’s milk is always consumed fresh, while the other milk might spoil during storage.
  5. There is no likelihood of adulteration of mother’s milk but other milks have that risk.
  6. Mother’s milk will be free of disease causing germs but other milk has the risk of carrying such organisms.

Mother’s milk is the safest food for the newborn and other babies. The children brought up on the mother’s milk are healthier as compared to those who are fed on milk from other sources. Infant mortality in children fed on mother’s milk is also found lesser than in the case of the other group.

There is another advantage in the mother feeding the child on her own milk is that her periods are delayed and the chances of her getting pregnant again are postponed to that extent.

Islam too stresses the importance of the mother’s milk for the child and terms it the natural right of the child to be fed on it.

‘Ali, The Commander of the Faithful, says:

“No other milk is as good as the mother’s milk for the child.”

The mother’s milk is of such prime importance in the eyes of Islam that when she feeds her child on it, she is earning rewards for the Hereafter.

The Prophet of Islam has said:

“As many times as a mother suckles her milk to the child, so many times Allah’s reward to her will be equivalent to freeing a slave from the tribe of Ismail. When she reached the weaning stage, an Angel would put his hand on the arm of the mother and say,’ start your life afresh that your past sins have been pardoned!’”

The responsible and informed mothers who are interested in the welfare of their children don’t deprive them of the bounty that Allah has provided to them. These women know the effect of the milk on the body and mind of the growing child.

Therefore they sacrifice their own comfort for the health and welfare of the child. Only such women deserve to be called mothers and not those ignorant and selfish women who, despite proper lactation, render themselves dry and bring up the children on dried milk powder.

Source: “Principles of Upbringing Children” written by Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini