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CHILDRENS RIGHTS ON PARENTS

Shaikh Musa Ibrahim Menk   

We begin this article with the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam)s sayings regarding birth of a newborn child and the duties of parents towards their offspring.

Saying of Azaan in the ears
Hadhrat Abu Rafey relates that I saw the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) saying the Azaan of Salaah in the ear of his grandson, Hasan, when the child was born to his daughter Hadhrat Fatimah.

In this Hadeeth only the saying of Azaan has been mentioned, but in another Hadeeth reported by Hadhrat Husain, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) prescribed the saying of Azaan in the right ear and Iqaamah in the left ear (of the new-born child), and also mentioned its auspiciousness.  He said that on account of it, the child remained safe from infantile epilepsy.

As these Ahaadeeth show, the primary right of a child on his parents is that his ears, and through his ears, his head and heart are made acquainted with the name of Allah, the Almighty and His Oneness and with the Call of Faith and Salaah. The best way to it, evidently, is that Azaan and Iqaamah are said in his ears, as these impart the knowledge of spirit and the fundamental practices of Islam in a most effect manner.

Tahneek
When a child was born in the family of the Sahaabah (Copmanian of Prophet, SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam), they would take it to the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) so that he would bless him / her, and apply the pulp of a date, chewed by him, to its palate, which the Sahaabah believed would help to keep the child safe from evils and bring it good fortune.  This is called Tahneek in Islamic terms.

Hadhrat Aayeshah narrates that the people used to bring their new-born children to the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) and he would bless them and perform the Tahneek.

This shows that when a child is born in a Muslim home, it should be taken to a virtuous and pious person to receive his blessing and have the Tahneek done.  It is one of the Sunnah practices that have now sadly become extinct.

Aqeeqah
In almost all the communities of the world, the birth of a child is considered  a blessing and some ceremony is held to celebrate the event.  Besides being natural, it also serves a special purpose, and makes it known, in a suitable and dignified manner, that the father has accepted the child as his own and there is no doubt or suspicion in his mind concerning it.  It shuts the door to any mischief that can arise in the future. The practice of Aqeeqah was observed among the Arabs, even during the Age of Ignorance, for this very reason. The hair on the childs head was shaved off and its weight equivalent was sacrificed as a mark of rejoicing - which was a characteristic feature of Millat-u Ibrahim (the religion of Prophet Ibrahim). While preserving the practice in principle, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) gave appropriate instructions, and he set an example of how it was to be done.

It is reported by Hadhrat Buraidah that during the Age of Ignorance, when a child was born to anyone of us, we used to slaughter a goat and smear the head of the child with its blood.  Later, after the dawn of Islam, our practice became, (on the advice of the Prophet, SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) that we sacrifice a goat of Aqeeqah on the seventh day after the birth of a child, and shave the head of the infant, and apply saffron on it.

Since the Aqeeqah serves as a useful purpose in many ways, and was also in keeping with the spirit of Islam and, perhaps, like the rituals of Hajj (Pilgrimage), it was among the remaining practices of Millat-u-Ibrahim, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) preserved the reality of Aqeeqah, but corrected the backward practices that had become associated  with it.

The Aqeeqah ceremony was also observed by the Jews, but they sacrificed an animal only in the case of a male child - which was indicative of the lesser value placed on girls in the pre-Islamic times.  The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) corrected this too, and enjoined that the Aqeeqah of girls should also be performed, like that of the boys. However, keeping in mind the natural difference between the two sexes, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) laid down that while one goat was to be sacrificed in the Aqeeqah of a female child, two should be sacrificed in the Aqeeqah of a male child - provided that ones financial position permitted it.

It is reported by Abdullah ibne Amr ibn-ul-Aas that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said, To whomsoever a child is born, and he wants to perform a sacrifice of Aqeeqah on behalf of it, he should sacrifice two goats for a boy and one for a girl.

It is evident in this Hadeeth, Aqeeqah is not obligatory, but it is among the Mustahab (the liked ones) acts, i.e. those acts which are recommended and rewarding but are not binding or compulsory.  In the same way it is not necessary to sacrifice two goats for a male child. It is better to sacrifice two if one can afford it otherwise one is enough.

In some Ahaadeeth, the giving away in charity of silver equal in weight to the childs shaved hair, or its price in cash, is also mentioned, in addition to the sacrifice of the animal.  This, too, is Mustahab and not compulsory.

The command to perform the Aqeeqah on the day of the birth has not been given, perhaps for the reason that, at the time the family is occupied with the needs and comforts of the mother and the shaving of the hair (head) can also be harmful to the child. Generally, after a week the mother gets well and does not need special attention and the baby, too, becomes strong enough to go through the shaving of the hair.

In some other Ahaadeeth, it is said that the child should also be named on the seventh day, together with Aqeeqah, but from few other Ahaadeeth it appears that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) had named children even on the day of their birth.  There is, as such, no harm in naming the child before the seventh day, but if it has not been done, the child should be named on the seventh day, together with the Aqeeqah.

So we can say that the Aqeeqah ritual consists of two acts: the shaving of the hair (head) and the sacrifice of the animal.  There may a peculiar link between the two acts and these acts are among the religious practices of Millat-u-ibrahim.  In Haj, too, they go together - where the Hajis (Pilgrims) have their hair (head) shaved after the Adhiyah (Sacrifice of Animal).  Thus, Aqeeqah also, is a practical demonstration of our association with Prophet Ibrahim and of the fact that the child, too, is a member of the same community.

Tasmiyah
That the child be given a good name is also an obligation of the parents.

Hadhrat Abdullah Ibne Abbas relates that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said It is also a right of the child on his father that he gives him a good name and teaches him good manners.

In another Hadeeth, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said that on the Day of Qiyaamah (Resurrection), you will be called out by your name and the name of your father. The call will be, so and-so, son of so-and-so, therefore, give good names.

From these sayings and the practices of the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam), we get the guidance that it is the responsibility of the parents to give names to their children. Good names naturally means either name with good meanings or named after a pious person.

Religious Upbringing
All the prophets, and, lastly the Prophet Mohammad (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) have stressed that the brief earthly stay of a human being is an introduction to the everlasting life of Eternity.  It, therefore, follows that a greater attention is paid to the betterment of prospects in the life to come and attainment of happiness in the Hereafter than to the affairs and interests of this life.  Thus, the Holy Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence in Youm-ul-Qiyaamah (the Day of Judgment).

It is related by Hadhrat Abdullah lbne Abbas that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said Have your children utter, first of all, the Kalimah of Laa-ilaha-illallah, (i.e. let the pledge that There is no God but Allah be the first words that they speak), and emphasize upon them to utter the same Kalimah at the time of their death.

The child begins to receive the impression of what it sees or hears from the time of its birth.  The saying of Azaan and Iqaamah in the ears of a newly-born infant, also, gives a clear indication of it.  This Hadeeth shows that when a child begins to speak, it should be taught to utter the Kalimah, as a first step towards its education.  It further tells that when the dying moment is near, a person should, again be urged to pronounce the same Kalimah.  Blessed indeed is the man who when he utters the first words, on coming into this world, it is the Kalimah, and the same Kalimah does he recite lips when he departs.

The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) has said No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.

It is related by Hadhrat Anas that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said, Show respect to your children and adorn them with good manners. Showing of respect to ones children denotes that they should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection.

In another Hadeeth, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said When your children attain the age of seven, insist upon them to offer Salaah (regularly), and when they are ten years old, punish them if they do not offer Salaah, and have separate beds for them (to sleep on).

Children generally, develop the faculty of understanding at the age of seven, and it is time that their feet were set  on the path of the worship of Allah. They should, therefore, be told to offer Salaah regularly when they attain that age.  At ten, their powers of discretion and intelligence are fairly advanced and they begin to approach maturity.  At that time, the observance of Salaah ought to be enjoined strictly upon them, and they should be taken to task, in an appropriate manner, if they fail to do so.  They should further be required to sleep on separate beds and not together (which is permitted up to the age of ten).

All these, in brief, are the rights of children, both boys and girls, on their parents, and the parents will have to render a full account in respect of them on the Day of Qiyaamah.

Showing Kindness to Daughters
Even now daughters are considered an unwanted burden in some societies and instead of rejoicing, an atmosphere of grief and disappointment is spread in the family at their birth. This is the position, today, but in the pre-Islamic times the daughters were positively considered a shame and disgrace among the Arabs, so much so that even the right to live was denied to them.  Many a hard-hearted parent used to strangle his daughter to death, with his own hands, when she was born, or bury her alive.  The Quraan says:

When news is brought to one of them, of the birth of a female, his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief.  He hides himself with shame, from the people, because of the bad news he has had. (Asking himself): shall he keep it in contempt or bury in the dust.  Ah: What an evil choice they decide.

Abdullah Ibne Abbas reports that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said Whoever becomes the father of a girl, he should neither hurt her nor treat her with contempt nor show preference over her to his sons in kindness and affection. (Both boys and girls should be treated alike.) Allah will grant him Paradise in return for kind treatment towards the daughter.

It is narrarated that a very poor woman, with two daughters, came to Hadhrat Aayeshahs place to beg.  By chance, Hadhrat Aayeshah had only one date with her, at that time, which she gave to the woman.  The woman broke the date into two parts and gave one part each to the girls.   She did not eat anything of it herself.  When after some time, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) came, Hadhrat Aayeshah related the incident to him, upon which he remarked: The believing man or woman upon whom there is the responsibility of daughters and he or she discharges it well and treats them with affection, the daughters will become a means of freedom, for him or her, in the hereafter.

It is related by Hadhrat Anas that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said, The believer who bears the responsibility of two daughters and supports them till they attain puberty, he and I will be close to one another like this on the Day of Qiyaamah. Hadhrat Anas adds that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) showed, by joining two of his fingers (the fingers were close to one another), in the same way will the believer be close to him on the Day of Qiyaama.

Hadhrat Abu Saeed Khudri relates that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said, Whoever bears the responsibility of three daughters or sisters or even of two daughters or sisters, and bears it well, and took care of their grooming and welfare properly, and then, gets them married, Allah will reward him with Paradise.

In these Ahaadeeth, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) has not only stated that kind treatment was the natural right of the daughters, but, also that the believers who fulfilled the obligation towards them in a good and proper manner would be rewarded with Paradise in the hereafter.  He, further, gives the joyful tidings that such a man will be close to him, on the Day of Qiyaamah, as the fingers of a hand are, when joined together.

Treating Equally
The Holy Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) has emphasized that parents should be just and fair to all the children, particularly in matters of gifts and kindness, and it must not be that while one gets more the other gets less or nothing. Besides being desirable in itself, equality to all the children also meets the demands of justice and equity which is pleasing to Allah, the Almighty.  Besides, if discrimination is made among the children and one is favored more than the other, it will lead to ill-will and jealousy, and nothing but evil can arise from this.  The child who is discriminated against will bear a grudge against the father, the painful consequences of which, are easy to imagine.

Narrates Hadhrat Nomaan Bin Bashir, My father took me to the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) and said (to him), I have given a slave to this son of mine. The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) enquired, Have you given the same to all of your sons? No, my father replied.  The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam), thereupon, said, It is not correct.  Take it back.

In another version of the same Hadeeth, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) asked, Do you want all your children to be equally devoted to you?  Yes, of course, he replied.  The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said Then do not act like that. (let it not be that you give some property to one child and exclude the others.)

In yet another version it is added that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) remarked, I cannot be a witness to an act of injustice.

So, it is enjoined upon parents not to discriminate among their children when it comes to giving them something as a gift etc. This has been condemned by the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) as unjust and unfair.  Some of the learned people have gone to the extent of calling it Haraam (Prohibited), but the majority of them hold the view that though it is not Haraam, it is Makrooh (Undesirable), and highly unwanted.

It must, however, be emphasized that the command applies only to a situation where the preferential treatment is based on a consideration that is not lawful or justifiable in the eye of the Shariah, otherwise no blame will be attached to it.  For example, if a child is physically handicapped and cannot earn his livelihood like his brothers, a special favor to him will not be incorrect, but to an extent it will be essential and worthy of Divine reward.  Similarly, should any child dedicate himself to the cause of Imaan or public welfare and have no time to look after his economic needs, it would also be correct and deserving of reward, to make a reasonable allowance for him over the other children.

There is no harm if preference is shown to one of the children with the consent of the others (i.e. the brothers and sisters).

In a Hadeeth, the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) says, Treat all your children equally in regard to free gifts.  If I were to show preference in this matter, I would show it to daughters. (If equality was not necessary and binding, I would have declared that more be given to daughters than to sons.)

It can be concluded from this Hadeeth that though, after the death of the parents, the shares of daughters in ancestral property is half of the sons, in their life-time, the share of both the sons and the daughters is equal. Therefore whatever the parents give to the sons, in their life-time, should also be given to the daughters.

Responsibility of Marriage
It is the duty of parents to arrange the marriage of their children when they come of age.  The Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) has stressed that it should be taken seriously and with a full sense of responsibility. Hadhrat Abu Saeed Khudri and Abdullah Ibne Abbas narrated that the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) said, Whoever is blessed by the Creator with children should give them good names, a good training, teach them good manners, and arrange for their marriage when they attain the age of puberty.  If he does not pay due heed to it and fails to get them married, on reaching the age of marriage (due to negligence) and they take to ways that are forbidden, the father will be held responsible for it.

In this Hadeeth, the marriage of the children, too, on their attaining the appropriate age, has been made a responsibility of the father.  But alas we are growing increasingly indifferent to it mainly because we have made marriage a most tiresome and expensive affair by following and adopting the customs of others.

If we follow the good example of the Prophet (SallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) and begin to perform marriages as he had performed his own marriage or the marriages of his daughters, the whole ceremony will be as easy and simple, as it is for a Muslim to observe Salaatul Jumuah (Friday prayers). Blessings will then flow from it - of which we have deprived ourselves, through thoughtless imitations of un-Islamic societies.
 

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