Guidance on Bringing up Children
by Imam Ashraf Ali al-Tahanawi
It should be borne in mind that the bringing up of children in the proper manner is of prime importance. This is because whatever good or bad habits they learn in their childhood, they do not leave them for the rest of their lives. From the time of infancy till they reach maturity, the following matters should be strictly adhered to:
1. Ensure that the child drinks the milk of a pious, religious woman. Milk has a great effect in the life of a person.
2. It is the habit of women to frighten their children by mentioning the police or other frightening persons or objects. This is an evil habit. Children become weak-hearted because of this.
3. Set aside specific times for making him drink his milk or feeding him so that he may remain healthy.
4. Keep him clean, neat and tidy because one remains healthy in this way.
5. Do not beautify and adorn the child excessively.
6. If the child is a boy, do not lengthen the hair on his head.
7. If it is a girl, do not make her wear any jewellery as long as she does not reach the age where she has to observe purdah. This is because this will pose a danger to her life. The other reason is that it is not a good habit to create a love for jewellery in a girl's mind when she is still so young.
8. Have the habit of handing over the responsibility of distributing food, clothing, money, etc. that is to be given to poor people to your children. Similarly, give them the task of distributing food, sweets, etc. to their brothers, sisters and other children. This is so that they will inculcate the practice of generosity. However, you should remember that you must only ask them to distribute those things that belong to you. It is not permissible for anyone to ask them to distribute those items or things that belong to them from the Shar'î point of view.
9. You should mention the harms of over-eating to them. However, do not mention anyone by name. Instead, tell them that the one who eats too much is regarded as an ox (or any other similar example).
10. If it is a boy, incline him towards wearing white clothes and create a dislike in his heart for colourful and gaudy clothing by telling him that such clothes are worn by women and that he is a man. You should always teach him in this way.
11. If it is a girl, do not give her the habit of worrying too much about plaiting and parting her hair or wearing very stylish clothing.
12. When a child persists or insists on having something, do not fulfil all his wishes or else he will become spoilt.
13. Prevent the child from talking very loudly or shouting. Especially if it is a girl and she speaks in this loud shouting manner, you should scold her and reprimand her. If you do not do this, this habit will remain when she grows up.
14. Safeguard your child from speaking or mixing with children who have evil habits, who are not interested in their learning, who are in the habit of wearing stylish clothes or eating extravagant dishes.
15. Always inculcate a hatred for the following actions in your child, i.e. teach him to hate the following acts:
(a) becoming angry,
(b) speaking lies,
(c) envying someone,
(e) carrying tales,
(f) defending whatever he does or says,
(g) to unnecessarily "make up" stories,
(h) speaking excessively without any benefit,
(i) laughing unnecessarily or laughing excessively,
(j) cheating or deluding someone,
(k) not thinking about or not differentiating between good and bad.
If any of these acts or traits are found in him, stop him immediately and warn him.
16. If he breaks something or begins to hit someone, punish him accordingly so that he does not repeat such acts. Loving the child, consoling him or allowing him to commit such acts always causes the child to become "lost" or spoilt.
17. Do not allow the child to sleep very early.
18. The habit of waking up early should be inculcated in the child.
19. When the child reaches the age of seven, inculcate the habit of offering salât.
20. Once he reaches the age wherein he can go to madrasah, first teach him to recite the Quran.
21. As far as is possible, make him learn under a religious-minded teacher.
22. Don't ever allow him to absent himself from going to madrasah.
23. Set aside certain times in which you narrate stories of the pious to him.
24. Do not allow the child to look at books that contain love stories, stories that are contrary to the Sharî‘ah, stories that are obscene or that have no benefit, love poems, etc.
25. Give them books that cover the different aspects of the Dîn, and books that cover the necessary aspects of this world.
26. Once the child returns from the madrasah, permit him to play around in order to occupy him and so that he does not become dull-headed. However, the games must be such that there is no sin in playing them and at the same time there is no fear of physical injury.
27. Do not give the child any money to purchase fireworks, musical instruments or any other similar unnecessary items which amount to wasting of money.
28. The habit of watching games, matches, etc. should notbe inculcated in the child.
29. Always teach your children some sort of hobby or trade which will help them at the time of need or necessity whereby they can support their families.
30. Teach girls to write to the extent that they are able to write necessary letters and also work out the expenses of the house.
31. The habit of doing their own work should be inculcated in the children so that they do not become dependent and lazy. You should order them to lay out their own beds at night and to get up early in the morning and neaten their beds again. They should keep their clothes neatly. Clothes that become undone or torn should be stitched by themselves. Clothes that are clean or dirty should be kept in a place where there is no fear of moths.
32. Emphasize on the girls to check the jewellery that they are wearing before they go to sleep and once they wake up the following morning.
33. You should order the girls to watch attentively at the cooking, sewing, threading, dying, and all the other work that is carried out at home so that they will also learn these things.
34. When the child does something good, praise him, kiss him, reward him so that he will feel happy. When he commits an evil act, call him aside in privacy and make him understand that he has committed an evil act and that others will think bad of him, and that whoever else comes to know of it will also think bad of him. You should warn him against committing such an act again and explain to him that good children do not do such things. If he repeats that act, punish him appropriately.
35. It is the duty of the mother to create respect for the father in the child's heart.
36. Do not allow the child to do anything secretly. This is irrespective of whether it is some game, food or any other act. If he does anything secretly, you should immediately understand that he regards it to be evil. If the act is in fact evil, teach him to abstain from it. If it is a good act, such as eating or drinking, then tell him to eat and drink in the presence of others.
37. Set aside some strenuous work for the children which will keep them healthy, energetic and which will not allow laziness to overtake them. If it is a boy, he should do gymnastics, weightlifting or walking for a few kilometres. As for girls, it is necessary for them to work with the grinding stone and spinning wheel. The benefit of doing these things is that they will not regard such work to be below their dignity.
38. When walking, teach them not to walk very swiftly, nor should they raise their gazes when walking.
39. Inculcate the habit of humility in them. Their manner of speaking, walking, conversing, etc. should be such that they do not become boastful. They should be taught humility to such an extent that they should not even sit with their classmates and boast about their clothes, house, family, books, pens, ink, exercise books, etc.
40. Occasionally you should give them some money so that they may purchase whatever they wish. However, inculcate the habit in them that they should not conceal whatever they buy.
41. Teach them the etiquette and manners of eating, sitting and standing in gatherings. We will now enumerate a few of these etiquette:
The etiquette of eating
1. Eat with the right hand.
2. Read Bismillâh in the beginning.
3. Eat the food that is in front of you.
4. Do not commence eating before others.
5. Do not ogle or stare at the food.
6. Do not look at those who are eating.
7. Do not eat very quickly.
8. Chew the food well.
9. Do not take another morsel as long as the morsel that is in your mouth is not chewed and swallowed.
10. Do not allow the gravy and other liquids to drip onto the clothes.
11. The fingers should not be allowed to become too messy.
The etiquette of gatherings
1. Whoever you meet, meet with respect and speak kindly.
2. Do not spit in gatherings nor clean your nose. But if there is a need to do so, excuse yourself and go to another place.
3. If you have to yawn or sneeze, cover your mouth with your hands and try to muffle the sound.
4. Do not face your back towards anyone.
5. Do not face your feet towards anyone.
6. Do not sit by placing your hand under your chin.
7. Do not crack your fingers.
8. Do not look in the direction of anyone repeatedly and unnecessarily.
9. Remain seated with respect.
10. Do not speak excessively.
11. Do not take oaths over trivial matters.
12. As far as possible, do not commence with any conversation. When the other person speaks, listen attentively so that his spirits are not dampened. However, if it is a sinful conversation, do not listen. Either stop him, or leave that place.
13. As long as a person does not complete whatever he wishes to say, do not interrupt him.
14. If someone comes and wishes to sit in the gathering and there is no place, make way for that person and sit closely so that he may be able to get some place.
15. When you meet someone or bid them farewell, say As-salâmu ‘alaykum, and when replying to someone's salaam, say Wa ‘alaykumus salâm. Do not utter other forms of greeting.
(b) Meet their friends and relatives in a friendly way and also assist them wherever possible.
(c) If you have the finances, fulfil their unpaid debts and the permissible bequests that they have made.
(d) When they pass away, abstain from crying and wailing aloud or else their souls will be troubled.
6. According to the Sharî‘ah, the rights of the paternal and maternal grandparents are similar to those of the parents and they should be regarded as such.
7. Similarly, the rights of the maternal and paternal uncles and aunts are similar to those of the parents. This has been deduced from certain ‘Ahâdîth. (Rasûlullâh sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: "The maternal aunt has the status of one’s mother." - Tirmidhî)