He loved children. And children loved him. Prophethood did not prevent him from giving them attention and affection. They attended his gatherings and accompanied him. He would initiate Salam to them, talk, kiss and embrace them, place them on his lap and shoulder, educate them and let them assume responsibility. Despite being the greatest Imam, leading noble men in prayer, he prolonged his Sajdah just to let his grandson riding his back have his fill. Unthinkable in our Masjids! He interrupted his sermon, descended the pulpit, picked up his faltering grandsons and then resumed. Not likely in today’s Islamic classes! His love and mercy were for all children. He deemed it a Muslim’s mark: “He is not one of us, who does not show mercy to our young ones and esteem to our elderly.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ahmad) His loving, patient, gentle, understanding and balanced attitude helped fashion those children into distinguished Muslims.
His example lives on, inviting the Ummah to treat children his way. Old or young, we owe him tremendously and repay by following his way, thus, paving the way for our own success and happiness. “….and whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) will be admitted to Gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), to abide therein, and that will be the great success.” (An-Nisa, 4:13) Following his Sunnah is Islam’s basic requirement, not just a matter of Thawab (reward). Obeying him spells the difference between success and failure, as the Uhud battle reminds us.
With this success formula in hand, how do we connect our children to the Sunnah? By getting connected to it ourselves! Learn what Sunnah is and be role-models for your children – children see what you do; they don’t hear what you say!
If our concept of Sunnah is correct, we can educate our children correctly. The term ‘Sunnah’ is often used narrowly referring to the Prophet’s (sa) manners of eating, drinking, dressing, sleeping, etc. Actually, it embraces all aspects of life: births, weddings, deaths, trading and combat. There is a Sunnah way of talking, conducting Dawah and dealing with parents, spouses, elders, children, servants, neighbours and the needy. Our children should see us emulating Sunnah wholly, not selectively. Follow it in Muamalat (interpersonal dealings), as you follow it in Ibadah (worship). Follow it in Akhlaq (manners), as you follow it at mealtime. Beautify your Hijabs and beards with Prophetic qualities of patience, honesty, gentleness, humility and generosity. Please your parents and control your anger; these are Sunnahs, too. Live simply so that accounts of the Prophet’s (sa) simple life don’t just make ‘nice, ancient stories’ for your children but a reality. Sahabah best emulated the Prophet (sa). Anas Ibn Malik (rta) narrated that he passed by a group of boys, greeted them and said: “The Prophet (sa) used to do so.” (Bukhari)
Our children need to see us loving and revering the Prophet (sa) above ANY other person. Let them not find us preferring family traditions or ‘scholars’ opinions’ over the Sunnah. Would we like our children to hear tons about the Prophet (sa) and then witness his Sunnah being disregarded at weddings and deaths? Wouldn’t they be confused to learn that the Prophet (sa) ordered Sahabiyat to attend Eid prayers, but find their mother missing out on the blessings, because her school of thought says women shouldn’t go to Masjid?
Certain Sunnahs are more basic and important than others, but none are unnecessary or purposeless, and none should be belittled. Sunnah is what the Prophet (sa) said, did and approved of. Study his Sunnah and Seerah (biography) thoroughly. The more you know, the more you can teach to your children, and the more you can love and follow him. Tell children stories about the Prophet (sa), about Sahaba’s extraordinary love and obedience to him and of the incredible efforts of Muhadditheen (Hadeeth scholars). Excellent books and audios about these are available for adults and children. Bring them home and share them with your family.
Take your Deen from the Quran and the Sunnah. These safeguard one’s beliefs and actions against deviations and provide clarity in an age of confusion, which our children see more of: “I have left amongst you two things which, if you hold fast to them, you will never stray: the Book of Allah and my Sunnah.” (Al-Hakim) Shun all Biddats (innovations). A mother was once brought a bag of candies by a friend, who received it as mid-of-Sha’ban celebration. The mother returned it in the children’s presence, nicely but clearly explaining that the celebration is an innovation, and innovations harm our Deen.
Quote the Prophet (sa) with care. Abdullah Ibn Masood’s (rta) face would change colour, when quoting Hadeeth due to a sense of responsibility. Although Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal knew hundreds of thousands of Hadeeth by heart, he would quote from his books to avoid the possibility of erring and distorting Hadeeth wording. If you don’t remember a Hadeeth exactly but are sure of its meaning, express it accordingly to your child. Feed their impressionable minds authentic knowledge.
Study the Prophet’s (sa) Salah in detail. Pray his way and teach your children likewise. Before Ramadan arrives, learn about his Ramadan and Eid. Eating dates in odd number and offering your children the same before leaving for Eid-ul-Fitr prayers, while saying Takbeerat, can give them life-long memories of Sunnah.
Everyday Sunnahs can be instilled from day one. Say Bismillah when nursing, and Alhamdulillah, when the baby sneezes. Cover her yawning mouth. Recite the various Duas taught by the Prophet (sa): leaving and entering the house, using the toilet, traveling, morning and evening Duas, Duas for illness, etc. Follow the Sunnahs of eating, dressing, relieving oneself and sleeping. Educate the children when they err, as did the Prophet (sa) with Umar Ibn Abi Salama, whose hand used to go around the dish. (Bukhari) If the children are outdoors, bring them in at Maghrib. If they ask why, say: “The Prophet (sa) has told us so. Wicked, invisible Shayateen are out there to hurt you.” Revive nearly-extinct Sunnahs, like sitting on the floor for meals, eating collectively from a dish, licking fingers afterwards and using Miswak and Kohl.
The Sunnah isn’t about spiritual matters alone; bodies benefit, too. Forget junk food and nourish children instead with Sunnah foods: honey, dates, olives, figs, barley, gourd, lentils, pomegranates, etc. When they fall ill, rush first to Duas and the Prophet’s (sa) medicine, rather than blindly trusting the increasingly questionable ‘modern’ medicine.
Remember Imam Hanbal? He recorded thousands of Ahadeeth, yet states that “he never penned down a Hadith of the Prophet (sa) that he did not abide by”! Imagine a world, where our children are surrounded by living examples of the Quran and the Sunnah. Can you help create that world?