Children were always certain of kind treatment by the Prophet (peace be upon him). Whenever he saw a child, he received him/her with a smile and said some pleasant words, even when the Prophet was preoccupied with something very serious. Anas ibn Malik, who served the Prophet throughout his 10-year stay in Madinah, said: “I never saw anyone who was more kind to children than God’s Messenger.” (Related by Muslim.) He did not differentiate between boys and girls; he was very kind to all, teaching his companions that kindness to children must be an essential characteristic of every Muslim. We should put this in its proper perspective; his was a society characterized by its rough attitude in all situations, and particularly harsh in its treatment of girls and women. Some Bedouins visiting Madinah saw him kissing one of his grandchildren. One of them asked: “Do you kiss your young ones; by God we never do that.” The Prophet said: “What can I do for you if God has removed compassion from your heart?” This was a pointed answer, telling those rough people that their attitude was wrong and it should better be changed. Compassion is a virtue that we should nurture, and its primary aspect is to be kind to young children.
Whenever the Prophet returned to Madinah after being away on an expedition or travel, he was met by children who went out to give him a welcome. Abdullah ibn Jaafar, whose father was a cousin of the Prophet, said that on one such occasion, he was the first taken to the Prophet: “He took me up and placed me in front of him as he was on his mount. Then one of Fatimah’s two sons was brought to him and he placed him behind him. Thus all three of us entered Madinah on one mount.” (Related by Muslim.)
The Prophet was leading the Muslim army on its way to Khaybar when he passed by the living quarters of the Ghifar tribe. He noticed a girl who was walking fast alongside the army. Realizing that she wanted to give any help to the soldiers, the Prophet took her behind him on his mount. When they stopped for rest and he dismounted, he noticed that she looked very shy. He realized that she has just had her period. It was her first time, so he taught her how to clean herself and her clothes. She stayed with the army until after the battle. The Prophet gave her a necklace from the booty. She wore that necklace without ever taking it off. She grew up to achieve fame and was to be known as Layla Al-Ghifariyyah.
Whenever a child was with the Prophet, he would teach that child something simple, short and very effective. Abdullah ibn Abbas was a young boy when he once rode behind the Prophet on his mount. The Prophet said that he wanted to teach him some very useful words. These were: “Be careful with what God has given you, and He will take care of you. Remain within the limits God has set and you will always find Him before you. Get to know God in times of ease, and He will know you in times of hardship. Learn that what you have missed would have never been yours, and what you have got you would have never missed. Learn also that victory is assured with perseverance, a way out is certain to come after a time of stress, and that hardship is followed by ease.” (Related by Al-Bukahri.)
When we consider these words we realize that they were simple enough to be understood by a 10-year old, yet they can be fundamental in shaping a young man’s attitude to life in general. A young child can easily learn the Prophet’s words by heart, yet they will be of benefit to him throughout his life. Not only so, but the child in this case reported these words so that we can all learn them and bring our attitude to life events in line with them. Yet the Prophet’s teaching of children could be much simpler. Abdullah ibn Busr Al-Mazini reported that when he was a young child, his mother sent him with a bunch of grapes to give to the Prophet. On the way, he ate some grapes. “When I gave it to the Prophet, he held my ear and said: ‘You little cheat!'” Thus the lesson of delivering something intact was given to the young child in a very gentle way.
His companions realized that whatever prayer the Prophet said, God would answer in the broadest and fullest way. Therefore, when children were born, they were often brought to the Prophet to bless them. He would welcome them and do more than their parents hoped for. The whole Muslim community were delighted when Asma’ bint Abu Bakr gave birth to her son, Abdullah, the first child to be born to the Muslim community in Madinah after the Prophet and the Makkan Muslims migrated there. “She took her newborn to the Prophet. He took the child, put him on his lap, took a date and rubbed the child’s jaws with it before praying for him and blessing him.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)
In some societies, particularly the Arabian society at the time, when adults met, children were told to keep away. The Prophet’s attitude was different; he welcomed children and attended to them. His companions in Madinah were farmers. They often brought him the early ripe fruit, hoping for a prayer of blessing. “Whenever he was brought such fruit, he would pray: ‘Our Lord, bless our city, our fruit and measures, and make each blessing goes with another.’ He would then give the fruit to the youngest child present.” (Related by Muslim and Al-Tirmidhi). On one occasion he was talking to a group of adults and dates were served to them, when some children came in. He took a bunch of dates and gave it to the children. This was in total contrast to what any Arab host would have done. Had his children come in when he was entertaining guests, an Arab would have told them off and ordered them out.
In all this the Prophet set an example, not only for people in his generation, but for all future generations. Hence, you find that Muslim parents are always likely to take good care of their children, and to be compassionate to all young people. This ensures that family relations remain strong and families remain closely knit. This is a great blessing that has yielded great benefits to Muslim families in all societies, across countless generations.