Feb 29, 2012

Our Little Ummah: Rights of Children in Islam (Part 2)

by Amatullah Aminah

Read Part 1 HERE


This part will shed light on the perpetual day to day rights of our children and the challenges we face in addressing them and/or recognising them. Usually, parents fail to recognise these rights because the child is in no position to claim them, especially when he is young. The parents, reined by their various cultural norms, innately know that an adult is always right, they know best and can never make a mistake in bringing up their children. A lot of us, unfortunately, are still living in ignorance and arrogance.

Arrogance prevents us from acknowledge our ignorance which subsequently leads to a smug self satisfied parent who thinks he knows all and is doing the best job of raising his children. We have to break this barrier and take efforts in educating ourselves, and I speak for myself first.

· Right to receive basic Islamic knowledge.

To receive basic Islamic knowledge is every child’s indisputable right, and this begins at a very young age. We have to take the responsibility to nurture them spiritually and work on their religious orientation. We must remember that there are only two ends; heaven and hell. Keeping this is mind we must prepare our children for the best fate. Allah azza wa jal says:

O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded. (Surah Tahrim 66:6)

The Noble Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam's said: “Everyone of you is a protector and guardian and responsible for your words and things under your care and a man is a guardian of his family members, and is accountable for those placed under his charge.” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Do you see how severely we are bound to discharge our duty? Our children have been bestowed upon us like a trust, and we have to take care of that trust. They are an amanah from Allah , for which none of us can escape accountability.

However, sometimes parents pay no heed to their obligations. Consequently the children lose ethical vision and grope in darkness. Parents get too engrossed in worldly affairs promoting their financial situation and hoarding wealth while they fall short to enquire about the company their children enjoy or to inculcate in them the basic understanding of good and evil. Duties of parents are not confined to catering for their child’s physical well-being, nutritious needs and clothing only; they are rather demanded to care about the spiritual side of their child’s character, feeding his heart with knowledge and faith. We rely on our children to pass down the message after we are gone, what can we expect them to teach the coming generations if we bring them in naivety and ignorance? What legacy are we leaving for them?

· Right to be provided materially.

Primarily it is the father’s duty to financially provide for his children. He has to see that his family is well fed, clothed and protected. ‘Protected’ does not only refers to physical protection but also psychological and spiritual protection from undesirable elements which may hinder a child’s progress as spiritually mature, healthy and confident human beings. Furthermore, the father is liable to take efforts in safeguarding the child’s future in monetary terms as well. They are eligible to be spent on in kindness, while maintaining a fine balance between extravagance and stinginess.

If parents are divorced or separated it still falls upon the father to fulfil his child’s financial needs, irrespective of whether the mother is in a position to provide or not.

· Right to be treated equally.

Children should not be favoured upon each other. It may be that parents hold a special place for a particular child, due to his exceptionally good character and obedience but that does not allow them to treat their children unequally. It is injustice in the eyes of Allah; furthermore, it comes with its own detrimental repercussion, brewing animosity between siblings, leading to broken or strained relations in the long run. Many cultures give preference to sons over daughters- another practice abhorred by our beloved prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. We find parents educating their sons and neglecting their daughters, or maybe not investing on a daughter’s education as much as on a son’s, sons are an asset while daughters are looked upon as a liability. Getting good education is as much a daughter’s right as a son’s.

Fear Allah and treat your children [small or grown] fairly (with equal justice).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Bukhari and Muslim reported a narration from An-Numan bin Bashir that his father Bashir bin Sa’d took him to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and said, “I have given this son of mine a slave.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, ‘Have you given all your sons the like?’ He replied in the negative. The Prophet (peace be upon Him) said, ‘Take back your gift then.’

· Right to choose their spouse

A very sensitive subject in most of the cultures, none the less, it is time for parents to accept that a boy or a girl has a right to decide whom they would marry or not. It is a common practice for the parents to choose spouses for their children, and present the bride or the groom as the final choice. With all due respect, parents may advise, make suggestions, and offer choices but the final word rests with the children.

Ibn Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice, between accepting the marriage or invalidating it. In another version, the girl said: "Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right [to force a husband on them.]” [ref 1]

Children beware! Do not misuse your rights and take it as a license to court, date, have affairs and indulge in all sorts of prohibited activities. You have rights but they must be exercised in all decency and within the parameters of Islam. If you like someone, due to their piety, character, virtues etc, and you are eligible to marry and can support a family, report to your parents and ask them to extend a proposal on your behalf in a sophisticated fashion. Do not fall for shaytan’s trap of “I should get to know her better, before I talk to my parents. Hmmm maybe we should hang out someday” oh no ...that is not an extension of your right!

· Right to be psychologically nurtured

Children need to feel loved, wanted and cherished. Each stage of life demands a different psychological need. The comfort and confidence a parent can provide is priceless. They need their parent’s attention in some form or the other throughout their lives. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was exceptionally kind towards children, narrations reveal how he loved them, hugged and kissed them, initiated salams , cut jokes and gave them gifts. [ref 2]
As they grow to be teens their needs also mature, they want their parents as friends, they look forward to share responsibilities and know that their opinion is counted too, they want to connect with their parents at an entirely different level. Parents should be ready to metamorphose with them. Hazrat Usama bin Zaid was barely 20 years old when The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam assigned him the responsibility of leading an army to byzantine empire. That not being his first of course[ref3]. From the narrations of young sahabas we learn how the youth was treated in the Prophet’s society, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. There are numerous accounts of young sahabas which are shining examples of how we should deal with our adolescents. [ref 4]

As they grow old they still expect their parent’s support, encouragement and kindness. Love remains the same its mode of expression needs to be changed with time and circumstances.

I wish to conclude with a supplication that may Allah make us a generation of parents who are willing and able to give rights to our children. Love them as they rightly deserve, be their prop and blanket, educate them and prepare them for the challenges of a new evolving world. May their weapons be knowledge and good deeds, may their strength be faith and may their strategy to excel be that of the Quran. Ameen

The Noble Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in this context, said: “When a believer dies, his work ceases to be except in three areas: a perpetual Sadaqa (charity), some useful knowledge he leaves and a righteous son praying for him.” (Sahih Muslim)

[1] ibn Majah no. 1873
[2] Prophet Muhammad: A Mercy for Children http://www.farhathashmi.com/dn/ProphetMuhammadAMercyforChildren/tabid/654/Default.aspx
[3] Usama ibn Zayd - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usama_ibn_Zayd
[4] Young Sahaba in the Prophet's circle - http://www.lastprophet.info/young-sahaba-in-the-prophet-s-circle


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