The Nuture of children in Islam

Islam means submission to God and a Muslim is one who submits to God. Islam is a complete code of life. It tells about the purpose of the creation and existence of the human race, its ultimate destiny, its place among other creatures, and more importantly, provides it with guidance to lead a purposeful life aimed towards its success in the life hereafter. The Islamic way of life is based on total obedience to Allah. the proper name of God.

Marriage is the basis of family life in Islam, where husband and wife are equal partners and play their part in their respective fields. The family is an important unit in the Islamic social system because of its role in the perpetuation of the faith. Its basic functions are child-bearing, child-rearing and upbringing in the right path of Islam. The type of environment prevailing in a family provides opportunities for the education, orientation, character-building and gradual initiation of children into religion and culture. It is because of these responsibilities that family care becomes a full-time job. In the early Islamic era, these functions were mostly carried out within the family. with the parents taking a dominant role, but in modern society, some of these have been taken over by the nursery, school and other institutions, while some have been taken over by the community at large.

With this dichotomy. some of the roles of the family have been partially taken over or neglected in their full scope (example: moral training in the schools is based on secular, but not religious principles) and the development of the integrated personality of the child has failed to emerge. A successful family is the one which is alert to such changes and takes effective measures to converge all possible influences and bridges the gaps for the evolution of a well-balanced Islamic personality in the children. Where this leadership fails to materialise, the family disintegrates and children go astray and become a menace to society. Thus the effective role of the family is paramount for the cultural development of children.

There is an important hadith (tradition) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which states that every child is born in the din al fitrah (natural religion of Islam) and that it is its parents who transform it to another religion. This means that a newly-born child is innocent and sinless unless home influences lead him elsewhere. Immediately after birth, two simple family ceremonies confirm the arrival of the newlyborn into the fold of Islam. These are the soft chanting of the text of the adhan (call to prayer) and aqiqah (sacrifice); these are followed by the bestowing of a Muslim name. Muslims are enjoined by the Holy Qur’an (42:49-50) to accept the birth of a child wholeheartedly whatever the sex of the baby, for each individual soul is precious in the Plan of Allah and the variations of a male or female child, besides their reactions on parents and on society have a purpose to fulfil in Allah’s large plan.

The key role in the proper development of the family is played by the mother. Whereas the father is obliged to run about in search of a living and attend to the demand of employment and work, the mother exclusively devotes herself to the family. She runs and rules the homely world and looks after its physical. emotional, educational and other needs. ‘Through mutual understanding and the realisation that God has placed on each other’s shoulders, the Muslim husband and wife are able to fulfil their personal lives and create a firm family unit’ (S. N. Nasr. Ideals and Realities of Islam, G. Allen and Unwin 1966. reprinted 1972).

The first few years in the life of a child are crucial. The child is breast-fed for two whole years (Al-Qur’an 2:233) and by growth and using the senses becomes able to identify near relations. The child appreciates the love, kindness and support received in a harmonious environment and is as eager to learn more. The Prophet has said: ‘Of all that a father can give to his children, the best is their good education and train- ing’, On another occasion, addressing the parents, he remarked, ‘Give them a good education and training. treat them with kindness till Allah makes them stand on their own feet. By Allah’s grace, you have earned for yourselves a place in Paradise’. These injunctions clearly show that it is the duty of parents to train their children with the fundamentals of Islam at home through their own exemplary behaviour and at the madrassa (Qur’an School) attached to the local mosque for a formal education.

The parents have to show through their daily routines that they themselves are true followers of Islam. They exhibit their love and obedience to Allah by practising the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They lead a life which is righteous. It is not material or monetary wealth or origin of race that matters, but the commitment to Allah in one’s lifetime. As true devotees of Allah. the parents have to produce and maintain an Islamic atmosphere within the home. Their thoughts and actions should reveal the following for the children to learn and imitate:

1. Total belief in the unity of Allah and in Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as His messenger.
2. Offering five ritual prayers punctually at the prescribed times daily.
3. Observing fasts during the month of Ramadan with total commitment.
4. Giving out a small portion of their savings as charity for the welfare of the poorer section of the Community.
5. Performing a pilgrimage to the Ka’ba at Makka at least once in a life-time.

In addition to the above, social habits like exhibiting decency, humility. forgiveness. justice. fair play. kindness, love, service to the needy. honouring promises made, good relations with the neighbours and respect for parents. teachers and elders are most respected qualities of Muslims. Other habits to be inculcated among the children are personal hygiene, observing dietary regulations (certain foods and drinks are forbidden), and wearing decent dresses: whilst free mixing of grown up boys and girls, and sex before marriage are illegal in Islam, and total abstinence from gambling and intoxicants (drugs) is required.

A mosque occupies a pivotal place in Muslim life. It is not only to be regarded as a respected centre of worship, but with additional facilities, it can serve as a hub of Islamic and social activities. Parents should come to the mosque with the whole family as often as they can for ritual prayers, Islamic and Arabic instructions and educational and social activities. The imam and elders of the community instruct the children in the various practices of Islam and provide tafsir (commentary) on the Holy Qur’an and Hadith particularly on their relevance to the modern times. Mosques are also important for the Salat al-jum’ah (congregational prayers) on Fridays when Muslims assemble to hear a Khutba (sermon) on religious issues from the imam before the prayer service.

Muslim festivals have a special significance to the Muslims. They are occasions of joy and happiness and are held to seek the pleasure of Allah. The two special days are Id al-fitr and Id al-adha. The former marks the end of the Ramadan fasts and the latter is observed on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Dhul Hijjah, when pilgrims have gathered at the holy places around Makka. The celebration of these and other festivals show to the children the vastness of the Islamic brotherhood that spans the whole world. At the local level, congregational prayer-services are held at the mosques and relatives and friends share the joys of these festivals.

In conclusion, Muslim children form a link in the Islamic social order. Their nurture is based on the high values and ideals of Islam, which, as we have seen, has prescribed rules and regulations on acts of worship, mode of behaviour, community life, food and dress with a sense of responsibility prevailing at every turn. “They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works; they are in the ranks of the righteous”. (Al-Qur’an 3:14)


Quotations are from Pickthall, Muhammad M. The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an (1930) and Ali, A. Y. The Holy Qur’an (1934). Readers may also find it helpful to consult Ahmed, K., Family Life in Islam, Islamic Foundation (1979, reprinted 1980, 1981).

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