Raising Children

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by

Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher

I just wanted to confirm that we should gently start treating children as adults when they reach age 7 , and start enforcing it at age 10. So my daughter, who is approaching 7 lunar years, should start wearing hijab at that time but I shouldn’t become upset if she is neglectful until age 10, right?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

Allah said in the Qur’an, “O you who believe, save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones.” (66:6)

After 7 years

When children complete 7 lunar years, it is obligatory for their parents or guardians to instruct them to perform all religious obligations such as praying and fasting (if they are able).  They should also be instructed to perform major sunnas such as using the toothbrush and attending the group prayer (for boys).  If need be, this instruction needs to be firm: if children won’t listen without some sort of threat, then the threat needs to be employed, although it should only be used if needed.  (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj + Hawashi, 1.448-450)  This is more than just a gentle recommendation.  The idea behind all of this is that children should be trained early: it is wrong to thrust them abruptly into their religious duties just when they become accountable for them.  By the time they reach puberty, they should already be doing everything demanded of them.

The Ideal Case

If parents have taken care to raise their children well by providing them with an atmosphere that attracts them to their religion, children will be eager to perform their religious duties, and it will only take the slightest encouragement from the parents to get them to pray, fast, and wear hijab, for example.  Often all it takes is to go out and buy one’s child a new prayer mat and a hijab and tell her that this is a gift for her and she’ll impatiently wait for the opportunity to put on her pretty new hijab and to roll out her colorful new prayer mat and pray on it, just like the rest of the household invariably does.  If her mother is meticulous about her religion, and other women and girls she knows all follow the Shari‘ah, she’ll want to be like them, too. 

Good companionship is of vital importance: parents should strive to make sure that their children have good Muslim friends.  The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) spoke the truth when he said, “A man is on the religion of his friend, so let all of you look carefully to whom he takes as his friend.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud)

 After 10 years

 Before children complete 10 lunar years, it is not permissible for parents to use hitting as a means to get them to perform their religious duties.  After they complete 10 years, however, parents have permission to use it.

 It should be noted here that the Shari‘ah does not give parents “a license to beat.”  The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever has been debarred from gentleness (rifq) has been debarred from goodness in its entirety,” (Muslim), and he certainly never hit any of his children or any of his wives.  Hitting is a last-resort measure that may be allowed under certain circumstances.  In the vast majority of cases, it is possible to achieve one’s goal by employing other means.  Some points that should be remembered are:  

·         The hitting cannot be severe.  If the child will only listen with a severe hitting, one may not hit.

·         The purpose behind hitting is to get the child to perform his religious duties.  As such, it is not permissible to hit the child if he won’t listen despite one’s hitting.

·         It is not permissible to hit if one fears the child will run away or be lost as a result.  This point deserves special attention for those living in the West: if one fears that hitting one’s child will result in one’s child being confiscated by some organization, it would not be permissible to hit the child.

·         According to Ramli, it is not permissible to use hitting as a means to make the child perform something that is sunna (such as using the toothbrush or attending the group prayer); it is only to be used to enforce something that is obligatory.  

(Tuhfa + Hawashi, 1.450-451)  

Children: A Responsibility 

Muslim children growing up in the West need to be raised with special care.  It is unfortunate that the only Islamic instruction many of them receive is on Sundays at the mosque, where they are forced to sit quietly (often under the threat of a stick) despite being bored to death.  If this is their memory of what Islam is all about when they grow up, it won’t come as a surprise if they are swept away by the un-Islamic currents all around them.  

Parents must raise their children so that they love their religion and their prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).  Love can only be fostered in an atmosphere of love.

And Allah knows best.


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