Merciful Parenting: The Prophetic Example

Most parents have strong views on discipline and the best way to raise a child.
Equally, there are many who are confused by conflicting advice in the modern culture.
Instead of turning to the latest parenting “expert” or following the latest fad, we should look to the example of our beloved Prophet (SAW).

What did he do? How did he treat the children in his Blessed household?

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The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was the ultimate example for us and guided us through his actions. He showed us how children should be treated well and respected within the family; but above all else, he showed us that we must be merciful.

This is illustrated in this Hadith, narrated by Aisha (RA):

A bedouin came to the Prophet (SAW) and said, “You (people) kiss the boys! We don’t kiss them.” The Prophet (SAW) said, “I cannot put mercy in your heart after Allah (SAW) has taken it away from it.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

His exemplary manners extended to all areas of his life.
In this famous narration, the Prophet (SAW) was praying as an Imam, when his grandson Hasan, (RA) rode his back while he was bowing. The Prophet (SAW) lengthened his bow. When he finished his prayer, some of the companions said, “You lengthened your bow?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “My grandson rode my back and I hate hastening him”.

Even when he was leading a prayer, the behaviour of Hasan (RA) did not stir him to anger or irritation. Instead, he thought only of what would make his grandson happy. How many of us have risen from our prayer mat angry because the children were making too much noise or the toddler was pulling on our clothes? Next time you feel these emotions, remember the example of the Prophet (SAW).

Anas ibn Malik (RA) grew up in the household of the Prophet (SAW). He said,”The Messenger of Allah (SAW) had the best disposition among people. One day he sent me on an errand and I said, ‘By Allah, I will not go,’ but it was in my mind that I would do as the Messenger of Allah had ordered me. I went until I came upon children playing in the street. Then the Messenger of Allah, (SAW) arrived and he caught me by the back of my neck from behind. As I looked at him, I found him smiling, and he said, ‘Unays (Anas’ nickname), did you go where I asked you to go?’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, yes, I am going.'” Anas said further, “I served him for nine years, but I do not know that he ever said to me about anything I did, why I did that, or about anything I had neglected, why I had not done that.”[Muslim]

This incredible account shows that the Prophet (SAW) did not nag his children! He did not complain or question them about their behaviour. How often do we say the like of, “Why did you do that?” or “Didn’t I just tell you not to do that!”

The Prophet (SAW) led by example; an example of mercy and patience.

Our children are a trust from Allah (SWT); entrusted into our care and protection by God. We have an obligation to provide them with everything they need to grow into believing men and women. Part of this parental duty is to treat them well, as exemplified by the Prophet (SAW).

If we succeed in this test, we will be rewarded in this world and the next; and if we neglect our responsibilities, we will have to face the consequences in the hereafter.

“When a man dies, his action discontinues from him except three things, namely, perpetual sadaqah (charity), or the knowledge by which benefit is acquired, or a pious child who prays for him.” [Sunan Abi-Dawud]

Imam Bukhari and Muslim reported that the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said, “Every newborn has the correct instinct, his parents make him Jewish, Christian or a fire-worshipper.”

Every child is born in a state of “al-Fitra” with an inclination towards Tawheed (oneness). Children can often act as mirrors of their parents’ behaviour. Many of the “bad” character traits our children display may be traced back to what they see at home.

So Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) warned us by saying, “The person is following his company behaviour, so everyone must watch for his company.” (A good hadith reported by Imam Abu-Dawoud and At-Tirmidhi.)
You are your children’s company at home, and so it is important that you reflect on the lessons they are learning from watching you.

Be patient and merciful to your children; and follow the example of the Prophet (SAW), the best of examples and the best of mankind.