Obligations of Parents Towards Their Children
(1) Abu Rafey, the manumitted slave of the Apostle of God, relates that “I saw the Apostle of God saying the call to prayer (Azan) of Salah in tile ear of this maternal grandson), Hasan bin Ali, when the child was born to (his daughter), Fatima.”
– Tirmizi and Abu Dawood
In it, only the chanting of Azan in the ear of Hazrat Hasan is mentioned, but in another Tradition quoted in Musnad-i- Abu ya’ali Mosuli, on the authority of Hazrat Husain bin Ali, and reproduced in Kanzu Ummal, it is told that the holy Prophet prescribed the saying of Azan in the right and Iqamat (or the second call to prayer just before the prayer commences) in the left ear of (the new-born child), and, also, explained its propitiousness. He said that, on account of it, the child remained safe from infantile epilepsy.
As these Traditions go to show, the primary claim of a child on his family was that his ears, and through the ears, his head and heart were made acquainted with the Name of God, and with His Oneness and the Call of Faith and Namaz. The best way to it, evidently, is that Azan and Iqamat were said in its ears, as these impart the knowledge of the spirit and fundamental tenets of Islam in a most effective manner.
The holy Prophet has enjoined the saying of Azan and Iqamat in the ears of a Muslim child, at the time of its birth, and the offering of Namaz-i-Janazah (Funeral prayer) when a Muslim dies and his body has been bathed and covered with a shroud and made ready for the burial. He has, thus, stressed that the life of a Muslim begins with Azan and ends with Namaz, and ought to be spent in the way it is done while waiting and preparing for Namaz after the Azan has been given. Besides, the foremost claim of a Muslim is that Azan is said in his ears at the time of his birth and the last is that Namaz-i-Janazah is offered over him when he passes away.
One of the manifestations of the deep devotion the Companions had for the Prophet was that when a child was born in their family, they brought it to him so that he might bless it, and apply, on its palate, the pulp of a date etc, he had chewed himself and drop the saliva in its mouth which, they believed, would have the effect of averting evil from the child and bringing it good fortune. It is called Tahnik in the Islamic parlance.
(2) Narrates Ayesha that “people used to bring their (new-born) children to the Apostle of God, and he would bless them and perform (the ceremony of) Tahnik.”
Several instances of Tahnik are found in the standard collections of the Traditions. From these, we learn that when a child is born in a Muslim home, it should be taken to a virtuous bondsman of the Lord to receive his blessings and have the Tahnik done. It is one of the Sunnats which have, now, sadly become extinct.
In almost all the communities of the world, the birth of a child is considered a blessing and some ceremony is held to celebrate the event. Besides being natural, it, also, serves a special purpose, and makes it known, in a most suitable and dignified manner, that the father has accepted the child as his own and there is no doubt or suspicion in his mind concerning it. It shuts the door to many a mischief that can arise in future. The custom of Aqiqa (The ceremony of shaving the head of a new-born infant on the seventh day of it’s birth, and a sacrifice made, and a feat held on that day) was observed among the Arabs, even during the Age of Perversion, for that very reason. The hair on the child’s head, with which it was born, was cut a few days after the birth, and an animal was sacrificed as a mark of rejoicing which is a characteristic feature of Millet-i-lbrahimi (the community of the Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham). While preserving the practice, in principle, or, rather, exhorting his followers to observe it, the holy Prophet gave appropriate instructions, and himself set an example of how it was to be done.
(3) It is related, on the authority of Buraidah, that “when, during the Age of Perversion, a child was born to the wife of anyone of us, we used to slaughter a goat and smear the head of the child with its blood. Later, after the dawn of Islam, our practice became, (on the advice of the Apostle of God), that we sacrifice a goat of Aqiqa, on the seventh day of the birth of a child, and shave the head of the infant and apply saffron on it.”
– Abu Dawood
(4) It is related by Hasan Basri, on the authority of Samurah bin Jundub, that the Apostle of God said: “Every child is pledged in exchange for the animal of its Aqiqa. The animal should be sacrificed on seventh day, and the child’s head should be shaved, and a name given to it.”
– Abu Dawood, Tirmizi and Nissai
(5) Salman bin Aamir el-Zahbi relates that he heard the Apostle of God say: “With the child is Aqiqa. (Whoever is blessed with a child should have its Aqiqa performed). So, sacrifice an animal on behalf of the child and have its head shaved.”
The Aqiqa ceremony, as these narratives show, consists of two acts: the shaving of the head, and the sacrifice of the animal. There is a peculiar identity between the two acts, and these acts are among the religious practices of Millet-i-Ibrahimi. In the Haj, too, they go together and the pilgrims have their heads shaved after the Qurbani (i.e., the sacricial offering of animals). Thus, Aqiqa, also, is a practical demonstration of our association with Hazrat Ibrahim as well as of the fact that the child, too, is a member of the Ibrahimi community.
Tasmiya (the giving of name)
(6) It is related by Abdullah bin Abbas that the Apostle of God said: “It, also, is a claim of the child on his father that he give him a good name and teach him good manners.”
(7) It is related by Abu Darda that the Apostle of God said: “On the Day of Resurrection, you will be called out by your name and the name of your father. (The call will be: so-and-so, son of so-and-so). So, give good names.”
– Musnad-i-Ahmad and Abu Dawood
Good breeding and religious up-bringing
(8) It is related by Sa’eed bin el-‘Aas that the Apostle of God said: “No father gave a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.”
(9) It is related by Anas that the Apostle of God said: “Show respect to your children and adorn them with good manners.”
What showing of respect to one’s children denotes is that they should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and a trust of God, and brought up with care and affection.
(10) It is related by Abdullah bin Amr bin el-Aas that the Apostle of God said: “When your children attain the age of seven, insist upon them to offer up Salah (regularly), and when they are ten years old punish them if they do not and have separate beds for them (to sleep on).”
– Abu Dawood
Importance of showing kindness to daughters
Even now daughters are considered an unwanted burden in some societies and instead of rejoicing, an atmosphere of grief and disappointment is produced in the family at their birth. This is the position, today, but, in the pre-Islamic times, the daughters were positively considered a shame and disgrace among the Arabs, so much so that even the right to live was denied to them. Many a hard-hearted parent used to strangle his daughter to death, with his own hands, when she was born, or bury her alive. Says the Qur’an: “When if one of them receiveth tidings of the birth of a female, his face remaineth darkened, and he is wroth inwardly. He hideth himself from the folk because of the evil of that whereof he hath had tidings, (asking himself): Shall he keep it in contempt, or bury it beneath the dust”. (XVI: 58-59). Such was the attitude of the Arabs towards daughters among whom the sacred Prophet was raised up. Against this background, let us, now, examine the following Traditions.
(11) It is related by Abdullah bin Abbas that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever becomes the father of a girl, he should neither hurt her nor treat her with contempt nor show preference over her to his sons in kindness and affection, (Both boys and girls should be treated alike). God will grant him Paradise in return for kindly treatment towards the daughter.”
– Musnad-i-Ahmad and Mustadarak-i-Haakim
(12) Ayesha relates that she heard the Apostle of God say: “The bondsman or bondswoman upon whom the responsibility of daughters was placed by the Lord, (and he or she fulfilled the responsibility in a good manner), and treated them properly, for him or her, the daughters shall be a means of protection nom Hell.”
– Bukhari and Muslim
In another version of the same Tradition, the incident is, also, mentioned which had led the Prophet to make the above observation. It is narrated that a very poor woman, with two daughters, came to Hazrat Ayesha’s place to beg. By chance, Hazrat Ayesha had only one date with her, at that time, which she gave to the woman. The woman broke the date into two parts and gave one part each to the girls. She did not eat anything of it herself. When, after sometime, the holy Prophet came, Hazrat Ayesha related it to him, upon which he remarked, “The bondsman or bondswoman upon whom there is the responsibility of daughters and he or she discharges it well and treats them with affection, the daughters will become for him or her a means of deliverance in the Hereafter.”
In another account of Hazrat Ayesha of the above Tradition, quoted by Imam Muslim, it is stated that a poor woman came to her, holding two little daughters in her arms, and asked for charity. Hazrat Ayesha gave her three dates of which she gave one each to the two girls and was about to put the third in her own mouth that the girls asked for it as well. The woman, thereupon, did not eat it herself, but gave half of it to one girl and half to the other. Hazrat Ayesha was so strongly affected by it that she described the incident to the sacred Prophet. The Prophet, thereupon, said, “On account of this very act of the woman, God gave for her the decision of Paradise and freedom from Hell.”
The two events may have taken place at different times, and, it can, also, be that it was the same incident and the variation was due to the difference in the statements of the narrators.
(13) It is related by Anas that the Apostle of God said: “The bondsman who bears the responsibility of two daughters and supports them till they attain puberty, he and I will be close to one another like this on the Day of Requital.” The narrator, Hazrat Anas, adds that the Apostle of God showed by joining the fingers of his hand (that as the fingers were close to one another in the same way will the bondsman be close to him on the Day of Final Reckoning).
– Abu Dawood and Tirmizi
(14) Abu Saeed Khudri relates that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever bears the responsibility of three daughters or sisters or even of two daughters or sisters, and bears it well, and looks after their training and welfare properly, and, then, gets them married, God will reward him with Paradise.”
– Abu Dawood and Tirmizi
In these Traditions, the holy Prophet has not only told that kindly treatment was the natural right or claim of the daughters, but, also, that the bondmen who fulfilled the obligations towards them in a good and proper manner would be rewarded with Paradise in the Hereafter. He, further, gives the joyful tidings that such a man will be close to him, on the Day of Last Judgement, as the fingers of a hand are, when joined together.
Equality of children in liberality and beneficence
The holy Prophet, again, has emphasized that parents should be just and fair to the children, particularly in matters of liberality and beneficence, and it must not be that while one got more, the other got less or nothing. Besides being desirable in itself, it, also, meets the demands of justice and equity which is pleasing to the Almighty. Apart from it, if discrimination is made among children and one is favoured more than the other, it will lead to ill-will and jealousy, and nothing but evil can come out of it. The child who is discriminated against will, again, bear a grudge against his father, the painful consequences of which are easy to imagine.
(15) Narrates Noman bin Bashir: “My father took me to the Apostle of God,” (according to some reports – “in his arms”) and said: ‘I have given a slave to this son of mine.’” (In other narratives, a garden is mentioned in place of the slave). “The Prophet enquired: ‘Have you given the same to all of your sons?’ ‘No’, my father replied. ‘(I have given it only to him).’ The Apostle of God, thereupon, said: ‘It is not correct. Take it back.’”
[In another version, it is stated that the Apostle of God asked: “Do you want all your children to be equally devoted to you?” “Yes, Sir,” replied Bashir, “Of course.” The Prophet observed: “Then do not act like that. (Let it not be that you gave some property to one child and excluded the others).” In yet another account it is added that the Apostle of God remarked, “I cannot be a witness to an act of injustice.”]
– Bukhari and Muslim
In this Tradition, it is enjoined upon parents not to discriminate among their children when it comes to giving them something as a gift etc.” [Such a course has been condemned by the holy Prophet as unjust and unfair. Some authorities have even gone to the extent of calling it Haraam (forbidden), but a majority of them, including three of the founders of the four leading schools of Islamic Jurisprudence – Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Maalik and Imam Shaf’ee – hold, on various grounds, that though it is not Haraam: it is Makrooh nevertheless, and highly undesirable.
(16) It is related by Abdullah bin Abbas that the Apostle of God said: “Treat all your children equally in regard to free giving. Were I to show preference, in this matter, I would show it to women, i.e., daughters. (If equality was not necessary and binding, I would have decreed that more was given to daughters than to sons).”
– Sunan-i-Saeed Ibn-i-Mansur and Tabrani
Some legists have concluded from it that though, after the death of the parents, the share of daughters in ancestral property is half of the sons, in their lifetime, the share of both, the sons and the daughters, is equal. Therefore, whatever, the parents give to the sons, in their lifetime, should, also, be given to the daughters.
Responsibility of marriage
It is the duty of the parents to arrange for the marriage of their children when they come of age. The Prophet has stressed that it should be taken seriously and with a full sense of responsibility.
(17) Abu Saeed Khudri and Abdullah bin Abbas related to us, saying that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever is blessed by the Lord with children should give them good names, and a good training and teach them good manners, and arrange for their marriage when they arrive at puberty. (If he does not pay due heed to it), and fails to get them married, on reaching the marriageable age, (due to negligence), and they take to ways that are forbidden, the father will be held responsible for it.”
In it, the marriage of the children, too, on their attaining the marriageable age, has been made a responsibility of the father. But, alas, we are growing increasingly indifferent to it mainly because we have made marriage a most tedious and expensive affair by following the example of others and adopting their customs. If we take pattern by the good example of the Prophet and begin to perform marriages as he had performed his own marriage or the marriages of his daughters, the whole thing will be as easy and simple as it is, so to speak, for a Muslim to celebrate the Friday prayers. Blessings will, then follow of which we have deprived ourselves through thoughtless imitation of un-Islamic societies.