Parent’s Duties Toward Children
Islam teaches that parents should consider children as a bounty of Allah and not as a burden due to financial hardships, physical illnesses or any other reason. It says that parents should celebrate the birth of a child, be it a girl or a boy, with expression of joy and exchange of greetings, and welcome it with thanks to Allah and prayers for His Grace and Blessings.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We shall provide for them as well as for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin.” (17: 31)
Islam has laid down certain duties on parents vis-a-vis children, which begin with their birth and end with their marriage. It has also made the father responsible for the provision of food, clothing and shelter of his children and their mother.
The first thing that a father is supposed to do after the birth of a child is to say Adhaan and Iqamah (calls to prayer) into the ears of the newborn. According to a Tradition, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said the Adhaan in one ear and Iqamah in the other ear of his grandson Husain.
The primary claim of a child on his parents is that his ears, and through his ears, his head and heart are made acquainted with the name of Almighty Allah and His Oneness and with the Call of Faith and Prayer. As the child begins to receive the impression of what it sees or hears from the time of its birth, this practice imparts the knowledge of spirit and the fundamental practices of Islam in a most effective manner. The Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) said that on account of this practice, the child also remains safe from epilepsy.
When a child was born in the family of a Companion, he would be taken to the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him), who would apply the pulp of a date chewed by him to its palate. In Islamic terminology, this practice is called ‘Tahneek.’ It implies that when a child is born in a Muslim home, it should be taken to a virtuous and pious person for Tahneek.
Seven days after the child is born, the father should perform the child’s Aqiqah, which is also a Tradition recommended by the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him). The practice, besides being a way of celebrating the birth, serves a special purpose as it makes it known, in a suitable and dignified manner, that the father has accepted the child as his own and that there is no doubt or suspicion in his mind concerning it. It thus shuts the door to many misgivings that may arise in the future.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “To whomsoever a child is born, and he wants to perform a sacrifice of Aqeeqah on behalf of it, he should sacrifice two lambs for a boy and one lamb for a girl.”
The Aqiqah consists of two acts: shaving the head and sacrificing the animal or animals. In some Traditions, it is said that the child should also be given a name on the seventh day, together with Aqeeqah, but from a few other Traditions it appears that the Prophet (peace be upon him) named children even on the day of their birth.
That the child be given a good name is also an obligation of the parents. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “It is also a claim of the child on his father that he gives him a good name and teaches him good manners.” In another Tradition, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “On the Day of Resurrection, you will be called out by your name and the name of your father. Therefore, give good names.”
In keeping with the Islamic tradition of circumcision, set by Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and subsequently followed by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the male child should be circumcised on the seventh day of his birth. If for some reasons the operation is put off, it is obligatory to get the circumcision done before the child reaches the age of seven.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has enjoined upon parents to impart Islamic teachings to their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgment. He said: “Have your children utter, first of all, the Shahadah – La ilaha illallah (There is no deity but Allah) and emphasize upon them to utter the same Shahadah at the time of their death.” This Tradition shows that when a child begins to speak, it should be taught to utter the Shahadah as a first step towards its education.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.” According to another Tradition, he said : “Show respect to your children and adorn them with good manners.” Showing respect to one’s children denotes that they should be treated not as a burden, but as a blessing and as trust from Allah, and brought up with care and affection.
In another Tradition, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When your children attain the age of seven, insist upon them to offer regular prayers, and when they are 10- years old, punish them if they do not, and have separate beds for them (to sleep on).”