Islam teaches us to respect the elders and have mercy on the young. Do we practice this anymore? Maybe respecting the elders is still being practiced as it has been ingrained in some cultures, so we may still do it without even knowing that this is a teaching of Isam. However, having mercy on the young, it’s not necessarily a cultural practice, not as much as respecting the elders is. So, in many cases, this is no longer done and sadly, we don’t even consider not doing this as something wrong.
Narrated Um Qais bint Mihsin:
I brought my young son, who had not started eating (ordinary food) to Allah’s Messenger () who took him and made him sit in his lap. The child urinated on the garment of the Prophet, so he asked for water and poured it over the soiled (area) and did not wash it.
حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ يُوسُفَ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنَا مَالِكٌ، عَنِ ابْنِ شِهَابٍ، عَنْ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُتْبَةَ، عَنْ أُمِّ قَيْسٍ بِنْتِ مِحْصَنٍ، أَنَّهَا أَتَتْ بِابْنٍ لَهَا صَغِيرٍ، لَمْ يَأْكُلِ الطَّعَامَ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم، فَأَجْلَسَهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي حِجْرِهِ، فَبَالَ عَلَى ثَوْبِهِ، فَدَعَا بِمَاءٍ فَنَضَحَهُ وَلَمْ يَغْسِلْهُ.
From this hadith, we can clearly see that the prophet sallallaahu alayhi wasalam, was the busiest man there is! Yet, he (sallallaahu alayhi wasalam) still made time and has the humility to hold babies in his (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) lap. We also see how the women would bring their babies to him (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) with such a level of ease and familiarity, showing how approachable the prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam is.
We on the other hand, well, some of us (to be fair), tend to push the little ones to the side. I remember once, we had an event at the masjid where there was a speaker present. A mother had told her daughter to sit and watch her younger siblings. At one point, I think some mothers were telling my daughters to go in the babysitting room and watch the kids too. I was fine with it. But it was when I got home that I was exposed to a different perspective. I told what happened to hubs, and he said,
“But the girls have a right to listen to the speaker too.”
Having older siblings babysit the younger ones is (I would think) a normal thing a mother would do. However, hubs also has a valid point in this. He himself actually, would always prove this through action. Throughout the years, he would always babysit the kids so I could attend live classes. Once, Z was only 3 months old and still nursing. Hubs told me to sign up for the class, and offered to babysit the kids and in fact, even stay on campus around the class area with Baby Z, so I could nurse him during breaks. So for the whole weekend, hubs lingered around campus with the kids, while I attended class. This wasn’t the only time he did this. He has sacrificed this way many times, enabling me to attend many Al Maghrib classes and other classes.
We may be tend to send our children off to the corner of a room somewhere when something important is happening. True, there are some circumstances where you need the concentration and can’ thave children milling about, doing what they do best. Yet, we also have to accommodate them such that they become a part of important events too. This is the chance to teach and train them adaab in attending important events such as a lecture maybe. How else would they learn? When shut off in the babysitting room, they do childish things. If we keep segregating the children with their peers, how would we expect them to become mature? This is actually one of my many reasons for homeschooling. I believe that children should spend a lot of time around adults, and we adults should accommodate them and make them feel welcome and important (such as sincerely asking their opinions in important matters) as this is part of their training and tarbiyyah.
How often do we see adults not paying the least bit attention to children at the masjid? Adult would say enthusiastic salam to each other (alhamdulillah!) but would ignore the children, sometimes to the point of not even acknowledging their presence! We tell them to be quiet when they are noisy, and we ignore them. We are indirectly training them to behave like children. But then, we expect them to behave like adults without actually training them by including them in important events.
There are many instances where the Prophet salllaaahu alayhi wasallam would go out of his way to make conversation with children, one of them being the story of Abu Nughayr, the young boy whose bird had died. My son has always tagged along with my husband whenever he goes to the masjid since he was 5 years old. I noticed that he has a keen sense of observation, critical thinking, and maturity compared to my girls, and I tried to figure out why. My conclusion was, that the brothers would actually include my son in conversations and actually treat him like one of them. The sisters on the other hand, usually don’t. Well, there was a group of young sisters who did, but when we moved, I couldn’t find sisters like that in our locality. So my girls are usually sent off to the side, not included in conversations, and in fact, ignored. To be fair, I have to say there are some sisters who do make the effort mashaaAllah, but it wasn’t enough to give my girls the training and exposure that my son had.
So, subhanallah, there are definitely benefits and wisdom behind being merciful to our young ones. The Quran and sunnah is complete, but unfortunately, we lack knowledge in them as an ummah. So we miss out on their benefit. A lot of the self help books actually at times contain the sunnah, but because as an ummah, we don’t know the Quran and sunnah well enough, we look up to these modern information and think of the Quran and sunnah as backward and outdated. Subhanallah, we are the ones who are outdated! We are the ones who are ignorant in our own religion and rich heritage!
We should take it upon ourselves, to sincerely learn our religion and learn it well. Yes, not everyone has to become a scholar, but if knowledge of the religion is what will change our actions for the better, why would we not want to put forth effort to attain it? As much as we put effort in attaining worldly knowledge, we should put as much if not more effort in attaining Islamic knowledge, mainly the Quran and sunnah at least. It’s like saving money. You spend this much each month, yet you save an equal amount or more that same month. We want balance, right? We don’t want to be extreme, right? So why is it that we are mostly extreme in chasing the worldly things, leaving behind the hereafter, relegating it to the back burner, and then we accuse people who do more in the deen of being extreme?