Unfinished Notes on the Islamic Ethics of Childrearing

Over the years, through classes, personal research, seminar preparation, and textbook development projects, various incomplete documents began to collect metaphorical dust on my hard-drive. In light of the fact that many of such writings were unfortunately left unfinished and I have no immediate intention to give them attention in the near future, I thought it would be in the interest of anyone who could benefit from the content itself or the goal behind the production of the content to post some samples of the unfinished works on this blog.

Below is an extract from my notes on Islamic manners, specifically the manners related to children, pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing.

The Blessing of Children

Children are an indescribable blessing from Allah the Most High and are, despite the challenges posed by their upbringing, of the most desirable aspects of human life. To desire children is to recognize the worth of one of Allah’s most amazing gifts. Although raising children is not without its expected and unexpected challenges, one must be thankful to Allah when He grants them the opportunity to leave behind offspring who may serve as heirs and benefit their parents in both this world and the next. Thus, one should not be shortsighted and feel like children are a burden and an impediment upon one’s happiness.

In strict condemnation of the unimaginable crime of infanticide, Allah says: Do not slay your children out of fear of poverty. We shall sustain them as well as you. Verily their slaying is an enormous sin. (Q 17:31)

Once a Companion asked the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace), “What is the greatest sin?” The Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace) replied, “Shirk.” The Companion then asked, “What next?” The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) observed, “Disobedience of parents.” The Companion further pressed, “What sin is greatest after it?” In reply, the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) said, “To kill your children fearing that they will share your sustenance.”

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) also narrates, “One day I visited the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and there was only myself, my mother and my aunt, Umm Ḥirām. When he came to us, he asked us, ‘Shall I pray with you?’ It was not the time of an obligatory prayer.” One of those listening to the person relating this asked, “Where did he put in Anas in relation to him?” The reply was, “He put him to his right.” The report from Anas continues, “Then he prayed with us and made supplication for us, the people of the house, that we would have the best of the blessings of this world and the Next. My mother said, ‘Messenger of Allah, make supplication to Allah for your little servant,’ and he asked Allah to grant me every blessing. At the end of his supplication, he said, ‘O Allah, grant him a lot of money and many children and bless him!’” (Al-Adab al-Mufrad 88)

Pregnancy

Contrary to what many may assume, the upbringing of a child starts at conception. Once a child is conceived, the mother’s health, diet, spiritual routine, etc… as well as the general external environment in which the parents reside can have lasting effects on a child. 

Affects of Diet During Pregnancy

The latest in research completed by the University of Adelaide, published in The FASEB Journal, suggests that moms-to-be who eat junk food during their pregnancies have already programmed their babies to be addicted to a high fat, high sugar diet by the time they are weaned.

The research, led by Dr. Bev Mühlhäusler, is the first to show the effects of maternal junk food consumption at such an early age of a child’s life. Researchers found from laboratory studies that a junk food diet during pregnancy and lactation desensitized the normal reward system fueled by these highly palatable foods.

Birth

After a child is conceived and is close to being born, one should recite the āyat al-kursī (2:255) and verses 54-55 of Sūrat al-Aʿrāf near the delivering mother. One can additionally recite Sūrat al-Falaq and al-Nās repeatedly and blow onto the woman for ease of delivery.

After the birth, one should clean the infant (either by bathing or thoroughly sponge-bathing) and recite the adhān in the baby’s right ear and the iqāmah in the left ear. This was the practice of the noble Messenger (upon him blessings and peace) as is reported at the time of the birth of his grandson Ḥusayn (may Allah be pleased with him). Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) observes in his Tuḥfat al-Wadūd:

The significance of this act is that the proclamation of the greatness and glory of Allah be the first thing to reach man’s ears. The affirmation of belief which he will render in full consciousness later in order to enter the fold of Islam should be conveyed to him the very first day of his life as a man is prompted to recite the testimony of tawḥīd at the time of his death. Another advantage of reciting the adhān and iqāmah in the ears of the child is that the devil, who lies in ambush planning to entrap humans in trials, flees upon hearing the sound of the adhān and before the devil can draw the soul of the child towards him, the child is called towards submission (islām) and the worship of Allah.

It is recommended that after the birth of a child something sweet like a chewed up morsel of date be placed on the infant’s palate and a prayer be offered invoking the grace and blessings of Allah upon the child. This is called taḥnīk. It is recommended that a pious elder or scholar, or elder of the family, perform the taḥnīk.

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