Islam is a religion revealed by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) for all people, in all places, at all times. As such, Islam is accessible to everybody and is particularly mindful of the importance of respect, rights, and responsibilities. The words of the Quraan and the authentic Ahaadeeth (Traditions) of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) contain the rights and responsibilities granted by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) to humankind. They are not subject to the whims and desires of men or women therefore they do not change. These unique rights mentioned in Islam also include the rights of children. Children’s rights are not guaranteed by the actions of their parents, their communities, or even their governments. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) Himself guarantees children’s rights.
Islam establishes a legal framework, and embodies a code of ethics, designed to protect the rights of an individual including his or her right to live in a secure society. For children, security is of the upmost importance. The rights of a child begin even before birth; in fact they begin before conception. The Quraan and the Ahaadeeth of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) make it clear that two people should not enter into a marriage carelessly. A great deal of thought and preparation is necessary before man and woman commit to each other and to the family that may result from their union. Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) was heard to say:
تُنْكَحُ الْمَرْأَةُ لأَرْبَعٍ لِمَالِهَا وَلِحَسَبِهَا وَجَمَالِهَا وَلِدِينِهَا، فَاظْفَرْ بِذَاتِ الدِّينِ تَرِبَتْ يَدَاكَ
“A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be a losers.” (Bukhari)
If a man and a woman have both dedicated their lives to worshipping and pleasing their Creator, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), then the rights of any children they may have are automatically guaranteed. Worshipping Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) means obeying His commandments and His commandments include securing the rights of the child. By marrying rather than having an illicit relationship the couple has already begun to secure the rights of their future children. A child has the right to know and understand his or her lineage.
Once a child is conceived, it has the right to life. The Quraan makes it very clear that all life is sacred. It is never permissible to terminate a pregnancy because one fears being unable to financially support a child or another child. It is Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), who is the Provider and Sustainer of all life.
وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ مِنْ إِمْلَاقٍ نَحْنُ نَرْزُقُكُمْ وَإِيَّاهُمْ [الأنعام: 151]
“… and do not kill your children because of poverty – We will give provision to you, and to them as well…” (Al-An’aam 6:151)
When making a decision to terminate a pregnancy it is important to remember that having a child is a blessing from Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and all such blessings should be accepted with joy and gratitude. There are many people in the world today who are not able to have children, therefore when Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) blesses a family with one, it should be a cause for celebration and happiness. However, children are not toys or possessions. With them comes great responsibility.
The Quraan and Ahaadeeth of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) speak clearly about the responsibility that comes with raising a child. It is an obligation upon the believers to raise and care for children by bringing them up as moral, righteous human beings. Secure in the knowledge that they are valued members of the human race, and their particular families. Neglecting this duty could potentially lead a person away from the path of righteousness and away from Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ عَلَيْهَا مَلَائِكَةٌ غِلَاظٌ شِدَادٌ لَا يَعْصُونَ اللَّهَ مَا أَمَرَهُمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ [التحريم: 6]
“O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire, the fuel of which is human beings and stones, appointed on which are angels, stern and severe, who do not disobey Allah in what He orders them, and do whatever they are ordered to do.” (At-Tahreem 66:6)
Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) said:
أَلَا كُلُّكُمْ رَاعٍ وَكُلُّكُمْ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ فَالْإِمَامُ الَّذِي عَلَى النَّاسِ رَاعٍ وَهُوَ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ وَالرَّجُلُ رَاعٍ عَلَى أَهْلِ بَيْتِهِ وَهُوَ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ وَالْمَرْأَةُ رَاعِيَةٌ عَلَى أَهْلِ بَيْتِ زَوْجِهَا وَوَلَدِهِ وَهِيَ مَسْئُولَةٌ عَنْهُمْ وَعَبْدُ الرَّجُلِ رَاعٍ عَلَى مَالِ سَيِّدِهِ وَهُوَ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْهُ أَلَا فَكُلُّكُمْ رَاعٍ وَكُلُّكُمْ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ
“Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master and he is responsible for it. No doubt, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Caring for and raising children in the proper manner is a duty on parents and it is not always easy. In fact, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) reminds us in the Quraan that children may even be a great trial for their parents. The triumphs and tribulations of life are a test and children are no exception. They can bring great joy and at times they can bring great sadness as well. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) in His infinite wisdom never leaves a human being alone and unable to face all of life’s trials.
إِنَّمَا أَمْوَالُكُمْ وَأَوْلَادُكُمْ فِتْنَةٌ وَاللَّهُ عِنْدَهُ أَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ [التغابن: 15]
“Your riches and your children are but a trial. As for Allah, with Him is a great reward” (At-Taghaabun 64:15)
Following the teachings of Islam enables a believer to face all life events including the trials the tribulations and the triumphs. The correct Islamic advice for raising and rearing children covers all aspects of life. Just like Islam itself, it is holistic advice. Physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing are all of equal importance. It is interesting to note that Islam has always covered the rights of children. The Islamic view of childhood states that it is a unique period in an individual’s life.
(Reference may be obtained through the book, “Children rights in Islam from the Qura-an and Sunnah”. Details can be searched at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12284321/. The site mentions that in Muslim countries, children make up 45% of the population. Muslims revere their children. Therefore they must raise their children to be considerate and moral. They regard children as gifts of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). Some believe procreation is their religious duty. In traditional societies, children signify economic resources since they work when very young to add to the family’s income. Further, they provide social security for aged, unemployed, and/or ill parents. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and the Prophet (SallAllaho ‘Alaihe WaSallam) gave parent certain obligations to assure children’s rights. Children have the right to genetic purity. They also have a right to life which includes a fetus after having taken shape or ensoulment. Each child has the right to legitimacy and a good name. Further, each has the right to shelter, maintenance, and health care. In addition, mothers are obligated to breast feed each child for at least 2 full years. Children have a right to separate sleeping arrangements, especially adolescents. Parents are obligated to see to their religious training, proper education, and training in sports and self-defense of their children. In addition, they must not show preference of sons and suppression or negligence of daughters.)
This is in sharp contrast to Western / European ideology where the concept of childhood was not addressed until the 16th century.
(Refer the publication of some forty years ago of the landmark work by Philippe Ariès, entitled “Centuries of Childhood” in its widely-read English translation, unleashed decades of scholarly investigation of that once-neglected target, the child. Since then, historians have uncovered the traces of attitudes toward children — were they neglected, exploited, abused, cherished? — and patterns of child-rearing. They have explored such issues, among others, as the varieties of European household structure; definitions of the stages of life; childbirth, wet nursing, and the role of the midwife; child abandonment and the foundling home; infanticide and its prosecution; apprenticeship, servitude, and fostering; the evolution of schooling; the consequences of religious diversification; and the impact of gender. For details see: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1353/ren.2007.0147)
It is not that the west did not have children or young people but rather they considered them to be small adults with the same needs and wants as adults.
Throughout Islamic history and in Islamic literature the rights and responsibilities pertaining to children are clear cut. Parents, families, and communities have certain responsibilities towards children. Many of them are obligatory, and on the Day of Qiyaamah (Resurrection), Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) will question adults about the treatment of their children.
One of the Ulamaa (Muslim Scholar) described children as a trust given to parents by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). Children are to be well fed, well-groomed. Children are to be enlightened through proper education, religious learning, and spiritual guidance. Their hearts must be filled with faith and their minds entertained with proper guidance, knowledge, and wisdom.