September 10, 2011

Sunnah of Childcare: Teaching Good Manners

I never grew up around small children. So it's no surprise that for most of my life I thought of children as being entirely different from adults. To me, children were their own special breed of mammals that were to be treated and raised uniquely from everyone else on the planet. 

It wasn't until after having children of my own that I learned first-hand how wrong I was. Alhamdulilah for that! Children aren't that different from adults and often have the same needs such as love, protection, mental stimulation, social interaction, and a guiding hand to help them learn the ways of the world. As my older brother would say, "children are people, just in smaller packages." 

And just as important as it is for us "big people" to learn and implement proper Islamic manners, so it is for our children. 

In his book, Raising Children in Light of the Qur'an and Sunnah, Shaykh 'Abdus Salaam bin 'Abdillah As-Sulaymaan says, "After weaning, the child enters a stage when he is distinguished for having a pure and clean disposition as well as a love for following and imitating. So he is like a soft piece of dough (ready to be molded). Therefore, you must not belittle this stage in their lives and say, 'He is young - he doesn't understand...You must familiarize him with the etiquettes of eating, sleeping, and greeting...He should also be made to get used to the characteristics of honesty and trustworthiness." 

The Shaykh notes a couple of examples where the Prophet Muhammad, sallahu alayhi wa sallam, corrected and taught the youth of his time manners in different situations.

Abu Hurairah, rahimahuAllah, reported: “Al-Hasan, rahimahuAllah, once took a date from the stockpiles of charity and placed it in his mouth. So the Prophet said, ‘Kakh, Kakh! Throw it away, throw it away. Don’t you know that we don’t eat from charity?’” (Bukhari and Muslim)

‘Umar bin Abee Salamah, rahimahuAllah, said: “I was a young boy under the care of Allah’s Messenger, and my hand would go around the dish when eating. So the Messenger of Allah told me, ‘O young lad, mention the name of Allah, eat with your right hand, and eat (from the dish) what is closest to you.’ Ever since then I applied these instructions when eating.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad)

Towards his closing the Shaykh says, “So it is an obligation on the parents to prevent their child from things that are prohibited even if their child is at the age where he is not accountable for his actions. This is since if he is accustomed to doing the unlawful in his youth, he will become attached to it when he gets older and it will be hard for him to stop at that point.”

Below are a few Islamic manners from the Qur’an and Sunnah that we can teach our children, inshaAllah.

Greeting with the Islamic greeting of peace, “Asalaamu Alaykum”
“But when you enter the houses, greet one another with a greeting from Allah (i.e. Asalaamu Alaykum) blessed and good.”—Qur’an, 24:61

Asking permission before entering a person’s house, room, or any private space
“O you who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission.” –Qur’an, 24:27

Shaking hands when meeting another Muslim
“Shake hands with one another; any hatred will go away…” – Related by Maalik with authentic chains

Choosing good companions
“A person is upon the religion of his close friend, so let one of you be careful about the person with whom he establishes friendship.” – Related by Abu Dawood, graded hasan by Albaanee

 Speaking good
“…And whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, then let him speak good or remain silent.” – Related in Bukhari

Mentioning Allah’s name before eating (Bismillah)
(see above hadith from ‘Umar bin Abee Salamah)

Performing wudu before going to sleep
“When you go to your bed, then perform the same ablution that you perform for prayer…” – Related by Bukhair, Muslim, Ahmad, and Tirmidhee

Being a good neighbor
“The best of companions with Allah is he who is best to his companion, and the best of neighbors with Allah is he who is best to his neighbor.” – Related by Tirmidhee who graded it hasan ghareeb

For detailed descriptions of these and other manners, and their place in the sunnah, please read The Book of Manners, published by Darussalam.

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