The rights of the child in Islam

Today is World Children’s Day. I’m pretty sure many of you have no idea of this. It was established in 1959 by the UN National Assembly when they adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and since that time 20th November is Children’s Day. They outlined the rights as:

  • The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
  • The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured.
  • The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
  • The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
  • The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.

The right to have good guardians

Long before this, Allah Almighty taught us the rights of children over 1400 years ago in the Quran. There are many verses on the rights of children.

The sunnah of the Prophet (peace be on him) also teaches us certain rules, obligations and etiquettes in raising children.  

Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet (May be upon him) said:

Beware. Every one of you is a shepherd and everyone is answerable for his flock. The Caliph is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (as to how he conducted their affairs). A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shall be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and moral well-being). A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband and his children and shall be questioned about them (as to how she managed the household and brought up the children). A slave is a guardian over the property of his master and shall be questioned about it (as to how he safeguarded his trust). Beware, every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust. (Muslim)

There are many narrations about looking after children and nurturing them in all aspects, including their education as well as emotional and social wellbeing. It is an obligation to look after them properly.

Pre-birth rights

Islam gave rights to children before their birth. Foremost, the child has the right to a good mother and father.

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) said:

The mother of every person gives him birth according to his true nature. It is subsequently his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian. Had his parents been Muslim he would have also remained a Muslim. Every person to whom his mother gives birth (has two aspects of his life) ; when his mother gives birth Satan strikes him but it was not the case with Mary and her son (Jesus Christ). (Muslim)

By default, Allah Almighty created each child with innate fitrah to recognise and follow the truth. It is their parents’ duty to ensure that the fitrah of the child is not polluted and corrupted.

Choose the right partner

It is incumbent on individuals embarking on marriage to choose a partner who will be a good parent to their children, as each child deserves good parents.

Dua at the time of conception

Today, we talk about looking after the wellbeing of the foetus during pregnancy, yet in Islam, we have a dua for the child even at the time of their conception, ensuring they have the best possible outcome in their life and akhirah.

Even before they have been conceived, when they are in the unseen, we prepare for their arrival. There is a special dua you recite to protect the child from shaytan.

Bismillaah. Allaahumma jannibnash-l Shaytaana, wa jannibish-Shaytaana maa  razaqtanaa.

With the Name of Allah. O Allah, keep the I Devil away from us and keep the  Devil away from that which You provide for us. (Bukhari and Muslim)

باسم الله اللّهُـمَّ جَنِّبْنا الشَّيْـطانَ، وَجَنِّبِ الشَّـيْطانَ ما رزقتنا

Birth rites

Once they are born, it is from the sunnah to call the adhan in the baby’s right ear and the iqama in the left with a gentle voice. Not loudly as they are still babies!

We have the sunnah of tahneeq, which is to place a piece of date in their mouth so they can taste its sweetness. We shave the baby’s hair and weigh it and pay the equivalent in silver to charity. We do an aqiqa for the baby, where we slaughter a sheep and distribute some of its meat to the poor in the community.

Naming the child

It is the child’s right to be given a good name. The Prophet (peace be on him) changed his grandson’s name to al Hasan, after his father Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) has named him Harb (War).

Rights in infancy

It is the right of the children to be breastfed, where possible. Where it is not possible that is an exception.

Allah Almighty stated in Surat al Baqarah, in the Quran:

“Mothers shall breastfeed their children for two whole years, for those who wish to complete the term” (2:233)

Physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs

We have rules around the custody and maintenance of children.

In addition each child has the right to be loved, looked after and cared for. We have to form relationships with our children that are full of mercy and love.

The Prophet (peace be on him) exhibited mercy in the way he looked after his children and grandchildren. When he would take his grandchildren to the mosque with him, they would jump on his back during his sujjud and out of his mercy he would prolong his sujjud til they had jumped off his back.

Creating the right environment for nurturing

We have to create a good environment around them and provide them with a good education. And on top of that, it is the parents’ responsibility to introduce them to imaan and salah. Each child’s parents should be good role models for them.

Children have a whole host of rights not just on one day in the year, but parents support their children in many ways, and impart their experience and wisdom to children throughout their lives and as they progress through different phases and stages of their life.

Children are the future

It is important to invest in our children as they are our future. If we choose the right parents for them, provide the right education and create good relationships with them, we are securing our future. Don’t forget that the righteous children benefits their parents not only in their life but after their death.

Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“When the human being dies, his deeds end except for three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him.” (Muslim)

Extend your care to vulnerable children

There are 2 billion children in the world – almost a third of the global population. Yet a large proportion of them are in desperate situations.

Within the UK alone, 4 million children live in poverty. In countries torn by war and conflict, children lack the food, sanitation, shelter, health care and education they need to survive and thrive. Across the world, about 1 billion children lack necessities as basic as nutrition or clean water.

We need to do our best to help those who are in desperate situations as much as possible. Today is a reminder to look after our own children and those around us.

Our ummah was taught the rights of the child so that we would be good parents to our own children and so that we would extend our care to vulnerable children.

May Allah Almighty make us of those who fulfil our responsibility and raise our future generations in the best way.

Ameen

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001.His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College).He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.