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April 18, 2014 | Jumada Al-Thani 17, 1435
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IslamiCity > Articles > The Prophet of the Little Ones Too
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Love for the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, the desire to win his approval and earn his praise, was sufficient motivation for the child companions to strive to do good.

The Prophet of the Little Ones Too
5/16/2012 - Religious Family - Article Ref: AJ1205-5089
Number of comments: 3
Opinion Summary: Agree:0  Disagree:0  Neutral:0  Ignored:3
By: Staff - Al-Jumuah
Al Jumuah* - 24-06

The Success Of guidebooks such as Supernanny and How To Speak So That Kids will Listen and Listen So That Kids Will Speak attest to the need parents have for advice, techniques, and direction in learning how to become effective parents. Different eras and divergent groups may debate the best way to raise children. But Muslims can look to the sunnah for the example the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, left us, both as a parent and a murabbi (moral mentor).

Children in the Household of the Messenger

Those who were children around the Messenger, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, report playing with him, laughing with him, and receiving his spiritual guidance. It is little wonder, then, that they became when they matured, perhaps, the greatest collective force dedicated to the transmission of his teachings.

They entered his home, and found in it not only a sanctuary, but a spiritual school.

Many children were raised in his household: His own children and grandchildren; members of his extended family, like Ah ibn AbiTalib; those that served him, such as Anas and Zaid; others for whom he took responsibility for raising by marrying their widowed mothers, like the children of Umm Salamah; and the nephews of his wives, including Abdullah ibn Zubayr, who spent large amounts of time in the house of his aunt 'Aisha, and Abdullah ibn Abbas, who grew up under his shadows. All of them hastened to spend time in his company, spending their childhoods under the spiritual tutelage of the Prophet, thus becoming primary inheritors of his rich legacy. These children were the men and women who rose to prominence as moral and intellectual giants among succeeding generations.

Secrets of His Success

If we hope to understand how the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, unlocked the human greatness in these children, we must try to cull the principles underlying his interaction with them, and apply them systematically as child raising strategies. At least 9 crucial characteristics emerge as patterns of prophetic qualities of parenting. By parenting, here, we mean all instructive or meaningful contact between significant adults and the children who come into their spheres, even for brief time. Here are the 9 virtues the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, practiced with children:

1. HE FREELY EXPRESSED HIS LOVE FOR THEM

None in his household ever doubted his love for him or her, for he was quick to display his affection.

a. He expressed his love through nurturing and comfort. He consoled them himself, but was also moved by the crying of children in the presence of their parents. On hear- ing his grandsons cry, he told his daughter, Fatimah to soothe them, for he had compassion for their distress. The orphaned children of his cousin Ja'far found comfort in the loving hands of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, who shared the pain of their loss, held them close, and took responsibility for their welfare.

b. He expressed his love through physical touch. His touch could be comforting, as it was when he held young infants or stroked the hair of the child on his lap. It could be playful, as it was when his grandchildren rode on his back. Even when Fatimah was an adult, he would rise to greet her and kiss her hands as an expression of his deep affection for her.

c. He gave them his focused attention and companionship. Whether they were young or older, he would be the first to greet, the most attentive of listeners, the last to remove his hand from the handshake, and the last to turn his back when the conversation had ended.

d. He expressed his love through verbal declarations. There were many, from Fatimah, to 'Aisha, to his granddaughter Umamah who he called the "most beloved" of people to him. But words of love were not only limited to his own family, as we see from the following hadith from Mu'adh: One day the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said to him: "Mu'adh, I love you! I am advising you to supplicate at the close of every salah (obligatory prayer): "O Allah! Aid me in Your remembrance, and Your due thanks, and what is most beautiful in Your worship." (Abu Dawud)

e. He preceded a lesson in worship by first declaring his affections for his young followers: What a wonderful way of engaging a student!

f. He expressed his love through du'a-and the Prophet's supplications were accepted! While carrying his grandson Hasan on his shoulders, he prayed for him: "O Allah! I love him. So love him."

2. HE WAS PATIENT, SEEING THE CHILD RATHER THAN THE ACT OF DISOBEDIENCE

From spills on the carpet, to broken vases, to forgetting to finish a chore, how often does our anger outstrip our remembrance that the child's psychology and spiritual make-up come first? Does our response to the mistakes of these young ones square with what is likely just normal behavior for that age?

Anas ibn Malik began serving the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, when he was 8-years-old. Although happy to be in the company of the Messenger, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, play often got in the way of accomplishing the tasks asked of him. He says:

The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, was the best of people in character. One day he sent me on an errand. I replied: "I will not go." But then, my conscience told me to do as he instructed. But when I came out, I passed by a group of children playing in the street, and I joined them. Later, the Messenger came out and caught me from the back, and I looked at him and saw that he was laughing. He said: "Anas. Did you do as I asked you?" I replied: "I am going, O Messenger of Allah." (Muslim)

No scolding, just a gentle reminder, and one that came with the Prophet's laughter at that, for the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, understood what lure a good game could have over a young boy. And that Anas, after all, was just a boy.

3. HE TAUGHT CHILDREN TO BE PROBLEM-SOLVERS

The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, included young people in his decision-making. Not only would he take suggestions from them, but he himself would call upon them for their opinions. When the Soorah of Al-Nasr was revealed, he asked the other Sahaba for their interpretations of the surah, before turning to his young cousin, Abdullah ibn Abbas for his explanation.

Indeed, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, went beyond this. He allocated serious responsibilities to them based on their abilities. Osama bin Zayd was but seventeen years old when he was appointed by the Messenger, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, as commander over the army to check the Romans, and his elevation over that of more senior Companions met with much surprise. As the son of Zayd, the freed slave and formerly adopted son of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, and Barakah, the freed slave woman who had lived in the household of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, since his birth and until after he became a Prophet at aged 40, Osama enjoyed a special relationship with the Messenger, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. But this was not nepotism. It meant that he had received special attention and extensive training from the Prophet, which resulted in superior judgment and spiritual character.

4. HE USED EVERYDAY CONTEXT TO TEACH VALUES AND PRINCIPLES

Although some Companions, like the impoverished Ahl al-Suffah, or homeless Companions of the Bench in the masjid of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, had special learning sessions with the Prophet, most of his lessons took place in everyday contexts.

Abdullah ibn Abbas, the Prophet's celebrated young cousin and the son of his beloved uncle, Abbas, narrates: One day, I rode behind the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, on his mount. He said to me: Young boy! Uphold (the limits set by) Allah, and He will uphold you. Uphold Allah and you will find Him ever before you. And should you ask of anyone, ask of Allah. And should you seek help, seek the help of Allah. And know, that if all the nations were to resolve to benefit you in any way, they could not benefit you, except as Allah has already decreed for you. And should they resolve to harm you in any way, they could not harm you except as Allah has already decreed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages dried." (at-Tirmidhi)

What a profound lesson for anyone, But imagine the intensity of its far-reaching affect on a youngster in whom it would steep and with whom it would mature through the years.

5. HE REFINED THE MANNERS OF THE YOUNG, TEACHING BY EXAMPLE

The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, paid key attention to the good manners and proper etiquette of all, but he particularly emphasized their importance for the young, stating, that no father gives his children a finer gift than good manners. But the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, did not stop at verbal instruction: He modeled appropriate behavior. A child once eating with the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, was moving his hand to all corners of the communal plate, when the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, gently intervened. He taught the boy to eat reservedly from what was nearest to him, not only telling him so but taking the boys hand in his own and showing him prophetic manner of partaking.

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