Childcare Principles in Islam
Islam addresses the issue of childcare with a lot of concern in order to provide a healthy and safe environment for children, placing emphasis on the welfare of children in all their phases of development. The Prophet, peace be upon him, urged people to choose righteous spouses, saying, “When someone whose religion and character pleases you proposes to one of you, then marry to him. If you do not do so, then there will be turmoil in the land and great corruption.” He also said, “A woman may be married for four reasons: for her wealth, her status, her beauty and her religion; seek out the religious woman and you shall not regret it.”
Due to the importance of proper childcare in the formation of righteous people, numerous verses from the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet addressed the issue. The following are a number of examples prophetic childcare principles:
Manifestations of the Prophet’s Childcare:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, treated children with sympathy and affection, took into account their innate tendencies, and established principles and values for their proper upbringing.
Childcare from the moment of Birth
1. Anas Bin Malik narrated that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “My son was born tonight and I named him after my father: Ibrahim.” He then sent him to Umm Saif, the wife of a blacksmith called Abu Saif. The Prophet went to him and I followed him until we reached Abu Saif and he was blowing fire with the help of blacksmith’s bellows and the house was filled with smoke. I hastened my step and went ahead of Allah’s Messenger, peace be upon him, and said, Abu Saif, stop it; here comes Allah’s Messenger. He stopped and the Prophet, peace be upon him, called for the child. He embraced him and said what Allah had desired.
Although the Prophet, peace be upon him, bore the responsibility of a whole nation, these responsibilities did not prevent him from taking care of his newborn child. This Hadith teaches negligent parents to pay more attention to their children.
2. The Prophet’s interest in proper education:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, placed great emphasis on the proper education of children. Here are some examples:
1. Aisha narrated that The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Whoever treats his daughters generously, they will be his shield for him from Hell.”
2. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Whoever raises two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Day of Resurrection like this.” (The Messenger of Allah joined his fingers illustrating this.)
3. The Prophet, peace be upon him, also placed emphasis on the child’s parents who greatly influence him, and said,”Every child is born predisposed (to faith in Islam). It is his parents who make him a Jew, a Christian or Magian.” Thus, this Hadith indicates that the child’s environment is a key factor in the formation of the child’s character and behavior.
4. The Prophet, peace be upon him, directed us to discipline children through kind conduct and the implementation of Islamic values, as Umar bin Abi Salama narrated, “I was a boy under the care of Allah’s Messenger and my hand used to go around the dish while I was eating. So Allah’s Messenger said to me, ‘O boy! Mention the Name of Allah, eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish what is nearer to you.’ Since then I have applied those instructions when eating.”
5. The Prophet, peace be upon him, taught young people to respect adults and taught adults to be merciful toward children, saying, “Those who do not show mercy to our young ones and do not realize the right of our elders are not from us.”
6. The Prophet, peace be upon him, promised to release the prisoners of Badr if they managed to teach children reading and writing, and asked people to seek knowledge. He further said, “He who goes forth in search of knowledge is considered as struggling in the Cause of Allah until he returns.”
Meeting children’s innate tendencies:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, acknowledged children’s natural need to play and enjoy their time, as Abu Qatada Narrated, “I saw the Prophet, peace be upon him, leading people in prayer with his granddaughter Umama, the daughter of Abu’l-‘As and Zainab, on his shoulder. When he bowed, he put her down, and when he got up after prostration, he lifted her again. He did that every time he kneeled until he finished the prayer.”
This indicates the Prophet’s compassion and concern for childrens’ feelings and needs.
4. The Prophet’s concern for children’s health care:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, placed a lot of emphasis on children’s spiritual, moral, ethical, and physical wellbeing. For example, the Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us to rub the child’s palate with dates when he is born. Asma narrated about the birth of Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, “I migrated to Medina while I was at full term of pregnancy and dismounted at Quba, where I gave birth to him. Then I brought him to the Prophet and put him in his lap. The Prophet asked for a date, chewed it, and put some of its juice in the child’s mouth. So, the first thing that entered the child’s stomach was the saliva of Allah’s Messenger. Then the Prophet rubbed the child’s palate with a date and invoked for Allah’s Blessings on him, and he was the first child born amongst the Emigrants in Medina.” Thus, what the Prophet did is of utmost importance to this child’s health, since rubbing the child’s palate with the date is a crucial preventive treatment, for most premature babies need immediate glucose intake after birth in order to regulate insulin in their blood.
Muslim children are encouraged to learn different sports to strengthen their bodies. Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “Teach your children swimming, archery, and horse riding.”
5. The Prophets’ cheerfulness with children:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, was cheerful with children, as Abu Hurayrah narrated, “The Prophet, peace be upon him, put Hussein on his lap and kissed him, then said, ‘O Allah, I love him, so love Thou him.’”
Thus, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was cheerful with children, and although he was the greatest Islamic figure, he never considered cheerfulness with children an embarrassing thing like some fathers nowadays think.