Children: The Butterfiles of Heaven [Archives:1999/38/Health]

September 20 1999

By: Dr. Azza Mohammed Abdo Ghanem
Professor of Psychology

So much is being said these days about female rights and to some extent, children’s rights. United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, humanitarian groups and even opportunists are wagging the same flag, though for diversified reasons. I will not be surprised if men started considering creating their own charter of rights, it is high time they started to entrench themselves somewhere along this complicated equation.
Let me share with you a beautiful article written by a poet from Dubai- Dr. Shihab Ghanem, who summerized the Islamic stance on children’s rights:
“Islam is a comprehensive system that covers all aspects of life; including the spiritual, political, economic and social aspects. It pays great attention to the inter-family relationships, since the family is the building block of society. Both the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (P) elaborate the rights of parents over their children, the rights of the husband and wife over one another and the duties of people towards their relatives. Similarly, the rights of children over their parents and the society at large are similarly elaborated”.
Shihab Ghanem then goes on to explain the first rights afforded to children 1400 years ago in order to protect them.
1- The Right to live and survival:
“And when the news of the birth of a female child is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark and he is filled with inward grief. He hides himself from the people because of the evil he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly evil is their decision”. Surah Al-Nahl 16-58.
“And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Surely, the killing of them is a terrible sin.” Surah Al-Isra 17-31.
This is self-explanatory, but let me just add that before Islam, baby girls were buried alive. Islam, emphatically, stopped this practice. This was the survival dilemma then. Today, the survival dilemma is between primary health care.
2- The right to carry the biological father’s name only:
“Call them (adopted children) by the names of their real fathers. That is more just in the sight of Allah” Surah al-Ahzab 33-5.
This does not forbid adoption in Islam, but rather the giving of the adopting parents name to a child whose name is known. This was also because of the confusion it could have caused in matrimony.
3- The importance of breastfeeding and nursing:
“The mothers shall breastfeed their babies for 2 years, that is for those who desire to complete the term of suckling, but the father of the child shall bear the cost of the mother’s food and clothing on a reasonable basis”. Surah Al-Baqarah 2-233.
If the mother could not breast feed or had no milk, a healthy foster mother was to be chosen carefully. Omer Ibn Alkhattab, the second Khalifa, set the first child allowance benefit in the history of mankind when he allocated an allowance to children when they were weaned.
4- The safeguarding of inheritance of children who lose parents:
“And give the orphans their property and do not exchange your bad things for their good ones, and devour not their substance by adding it to yours. Surely, this would be a great sin” Surah Al-Nisa 4-2.
Islam specified exactly the shares of each relative and child. Boys got the double of girls because males carried the responsibility for the family while girls did not. Except for this logical difference all children received equal shares and the parents cannot exclude them from inheritance, even if they wanted to bar them.
5- Government care of orphans and poor children- Bait-al-Mal The treasury is responsible for taking care of them until they grow up.
6- The right to an education and upbringing
Seeking education in Islam is a duty of males and females. The Prophet (P) said “Teach your children, for they will face a time different from yours”. “Seek education as far as China”. In Islam whoever teaches young children well will be rewarded.
7- The right to be give love and compassion
The Prophet (P) would kiss his grand children and play with them, he even prolonged the prayer if they climbed on his back while paying. Omar was about to appoint a governor to one region, but refrained when he learnt that he never kissed his children, i.e. showed no compassion.
8- Equal treatment of boys and girls
The Prophet (P) encouraged equal treatment of all offsprings, boys and girls. “Your best children are the girls.” “If you go home with gifts start with the girls.”These are some of the rights that Shihab Ghanem stressed. In addition, Islam sets the most intricate details about child development, nutrition, health care, cleanliness and guidance.
In Islam, children are like beautiful butterflies and most touching, is the way parents love and protect them, even when there are so many of them in the same extended family home. Often, it gets difficult for grand parents to remember all their names.