Introducing Justice and Fairness to Children

teaching justice to kids

Islam has given Muslims a set of values that were modeled with perfection by the last Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (sa). These values need to form the core of our character, because the best amongst Muslims is he, who has the best manners and character. The Prophet (sa) told us:“The dearest and nearest among you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be one, who is the best of you in manners; and the most abhorrent among you to me and the farthest of you from me will be the pompous, the garrulous and the arrogant.” (Tirmidhi)

As Muslim parents, it is our duty to inculcate these values in our children. The values we impart to our children today, consciously or unconsciously, will have a major impact on the Muslim Ummah tomorrow.  Justice and fairness is one such important value.

Justice and Fairness

Children’s understanding of justice and fairness is very different from that of adults. Children see black and white and are sometimes unable to understand or accept situations that don’t feel fair to them. Also, in their dealings with others, children have a hard time giving priority to being just and fair over what they desire.

Here are some ways to teach your children about justice and fairness:

Discussion Questions

This can be a preliminary exercise to the activities given below.

What does justice and fairness mean?Try to lead them to these answers:

  • Treating all people with honesty and respect.
  • Giving everyone equal opportunities.
  • Cooperating with one another.
  • Celebrating the uniqueness and value of everyone.
  • Making sure others are not treated badly.

Do you feel you’re treated fairly at home?

Are you treated fairly at school?

How do you feel, when someone treats you unfairly?

Is it okay to cheat for winning a game? Why or why not?

Do you think it’s fair your older sibling gets to stay awake later than you? (Or any other example pertinent to your family’ssituation.)

Relate to them some stories from the life of Sulayman (as), who was given the ability by Allah (swt) to make sound, fair and just decisions.

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Lessons of Bravery from Umm Sulaym Bint Malhan (ra)

A fort in Khyber.

A fort in Khyber.

Umm Sulaym’s (ra) participation in the battles

The Muslim men and women equally participated in the defence of Islam. While the men fought the enemy with their swords and arrows, the women looked after the wounded. Umm Sulaym (ra) participated in the Battle of Uhud, the Battle of Khyber, and the Battle of Hunain under the leadership of the Prophet (sa). While her husband shot the enemy with his bow and archer, Umm Sulaym (ra) attended to the injured and served water to the thirsty soldiers. When the leather flask would get empty she would rush to get it filled.

Umm Sulaym (ra) carried a dagger with her. The Prophet (sa) inquired what she planned to do with it. She replied that she would attack the enemy if he approached her.

Lessons to draw: We see Umm Sulaym (ra) is always prepared to defend Islam. She was aging but she remained active. She did not stay behind in wars. She attended to the tasks that the women performed in the battles. We should never sit back when there is an opportunity to gather Khair.

We see Umm Sulaym (ra) is always prepared to defend Islam. She was aging but she remained active.

The woman of Paradise

We know about the ten male companions who were promised Paradise in their lifetime. But, not many of us know about the women promised Paradise in their lifetime. To name a few, they were: Prophet’s (sa) first wife Khadijah bint Khawalid (ra), Prophet’s (sa) beloved daughter Fatimah (ra), Aasiya (as)- the wife of Pharaoh, Mariam (as), Umm Ruman (ra)- the black woman who suffered from epilepsy and so on.

Umm Sulaym (ra) was a truthful woman, steadfast in her religion, recognising the rights of her Lord and His creation, obedient to the Prophet (sa), strong against the unbelievers and hypocrites, and an example for the generous.

Anas ibn Malik (ra) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “When I entered the Paradise, I heard someone’s footsteps. I asked who it was. The angels replied that it was Ghameesa bint Malhan.” (Muslim). Another narration states that he was informed that it was Bilal (ra).

Islam does not discriminate between men and women. Women have many opportunities to raise their scales in the Books of Allah (swt)

Umm Sulaym (ra) also has the honour of narrating Prophetic traditions. From her many other companions passed it on to others including Anas ibn Malik (ra), Abdullah ibn Abbas (ra), and Zaid ibn Thabit (ra). Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim also recorded Ahadeeth from her.

Lessons to draw: Islam does not discriminate between men and women. Women have many opportunities to raise their scales in the Books of Allah (swt). Let us balance our worldly life with seeking eternal pleasures of the hereafter, Insha’Allah.

(Adapted from the book: Seerat e Sahabiyat k Darakshan Pehlu by Mehmood Ahmad Ghazanfar and the lectures of Dr. Farhat Hashmi: Seerat e Sahabiyat)

Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Anam 1

pearls3As we are seated in our houses in comfort and peace, there are fellow Muslims across the globe suffering for various reasons. Some of them are being tested by famine. Some of them are showered with bombs. Some of them are gripped by civil war. We might not be able to lessen their sufferings, but at least we can make Dua. We need to be sensitive to others people’s pains. May Allah (swt) bring them comfort and relief. Ameen.

“Remind!” for reminder has benefits

Allah (swt) has sent us several reminders through the Quran. These reminders are not merely to be heard, but we also need to pay heed and reform our lives to the pleasure of Allah (swt). The previous nations were much stronger and powerful than us, yet they were perished due to their negligence and disobedience. We need to study their stories so that we don’t repeat their mistakes.

Allah (swt) says, “Have they not seen how many a generation before them We have destroyed whom We had established on the earth such as We have not established you? And We poured out on them rain from the sky in abundance, and made the rivers flow under them. Yet We destroyed them for their sins, and created after them other generations.” (Al-Anam 6:6)

What goes around, comes around

Messengers after messengers were sent but it did not move their hearts. Their hearts were hardened. They would mock the messengers and hurt them. Sometimes today in our gatherings when Shaytan overtakes us, we make fun of the scholars. Remember, if today, we make fun of the messengers or the message that they brought; the scholars and the knowledgeable; the pious and the friends of Allah (swt), then someday, we will be made a laughing stock of. “And indeed, (many) Messengers were mocked before you. But their scoffers were surrounded by the very thing that they used to mock at. Say (O Muhammad (sa)): Travel in the land and see what was the end of those who rejected truth.” (Al-Anam 6:10-11)

Mock at your own risk

Don’t laugh at others. Sometimes, we lose our peace because we made fun of a scholar, a pious person or a friend of Allah (swt). We used the tongue that should be engaged in Quran recitation and Dhikr in abusing someone. We need to seek repentance and make Dua to Allah (swt) to soften our hearts; so that we don’t end up like the perished nations. This is the main purpose of reminders: to guide us and give us a wakeup call.

Further Allah (swt) talks about the reverence of the prophets, Allah’s (swt) message and friends of Allah (swt). The discussion, then moves on to Shirk, i.e., associating partners with Allah (swt). This is the most repeated topic of Surah Al-Anam, since the main addressees of this Surah were the idolaters of Makkah. Allah (swt) says, “And on the Day when We shall gather them all together, We shall say to those who joined partners in worship (with Us): Where are your partners (false deities) whom you used to assert (as partners in worship with Allah)? There will then be (left) no Fitnah (excuses or statements or arguments) for them but to say: By Allah, our Lord, we were not those who joined others in worship with Allah.” (Al-Anam 6:22-23) We need to thank Allah (swt) that unlike some other people who bow before a passing animal or revere an idol, He made us of those who worship the Creator. Alhamdulillah!

This world – a temporary abode

There are some people who say, “You live only once, do as you please.” They do not believe in the Resurrection. Allah (swt) addresses such people in the Quran and says, “And they said: There is no (other life) but our (present) life of this world, and never shall we be resurrected (on the Day of Resurrection). If you could but see when they will be held (brought and made to stand) in front of their Lord! He will say: Is not this (Resurrection and the taking of the accounts) the truth? They will say: Yes, by our Lord! He will then say: So taste you the torment because you used not to believe.” (Al-Anam 6:29-30) Yes, we do live our lives in this Dunya once; but one day we will be resurrected for an eternal life, and we don’t want to lose that.

Turn a deaf ear to the fools

Then Allah (swt) reminds us of how the Prophet (sa) was persecuted by the people of Makkah in the early days of Prophethood. He was called a sorcerer, a magician, a person after position and power, a person after money and so on; yet he remained patient and brought about victory.

Here’s a lesson for us. If the best of the creation was not spared, then how can we be spared? People will spread rumours about us and disturb our peace. Ignore them. Don’t waste your time in replying to them. And please don’t go into depression. Look at what Allah (swt) says, “We know indeed the grief which their words cause you (O Muhammad (sa)): it is not you that they deny, but it is the Verses (the Qur’an) of Allah that the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers) deny. Verily, (many) Messengers were denied before you (O Muhammad (sa)), but with patience they bore the denial, and they were hurt, till Our Help reached them, and none can alter the Words (Decisions) of Allah. Surely there has reached you the information (news) about the Messengers (before you).” (Al-Anam 6: 33-34)

If you are truthful and you have not snatched the rights of others, then Allah (swt) will protect you. As the saying goes, His help is near. Be patient and endure a little more.

Advocate the truth

This also teaches us another lesson. When we receive any information about someone else, if it does not concern us we don’t need to spread it around. And in case that we must share it with others, then we must verify its authenticity first before spreading the word; whether it is true or not! When we are away from Allah (swt), He puts a difficulty in our lives so that we might raise our hands in Dua. The question is: Must we wait for a calamity to strike before we connect with Allah (swt)?

Rags or riches – living with humility is the key

He says, “Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad (sa)). And We seized them with extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss in health with calamities so that they might believe with humility. When Our Torment reached them, why then did they not believe with humility? But their hearts became hardened, and Shaytan (Satan) made fair-seeming to them that which they used to do.” (Al-Anam 6: 42-43)

Sometimes, we look at people living in big houses and driving fancy cars; we look at them and conclude Allah (swt) must be really pleased with them to grant such blessings upon them. It is the way of Allah (swt) to open the doors to His treasures and let people enjoy themselves. He then observes their attitude. One would hope it would soften their hearts and make them humble. On the contrary, being blessed with worldly treasures people engage in all kinds of sins. Shaytan beautifies for them their sin. Their hearts become hardened and they do not even realize the evil that they are committing. It is then that they are struck by Allah’s (swt) wrath.

The point is that material possessions do not communicate one’s closeness to Allah (swt). Rather, it is one’s actual connection with Allah (swt) that determines one as the favoured ones. If the connection with Allah (swt) is missing from our lives then everything else is insignificant.

Muhammad (sa), Allah’s (swt) Messenger, owned very little and lived his life in poverty. Yet, he was the most content of the people. You know why? It is because he lived within his means and was generous. He never yearned for the treasures of Dunya. And if ever he was sent some gift or food, he would share it with others, especially the poor. Our problem is that we have increased our wants; which is why we see more and more people taking loans. Then committing suicide for not be able to pay the mountain of debt that they have burdened themselves with. Financial constraint has been noted as one of the reasons for marriage failures. You want peace? Limit your wants. For how long are you here in this world? Learn to live within the sustenance that Allah (swt) has provided you with.

A person sitting high above at the top, with every little blessing of this world within his means, can be destructed by the smallest nudge at the bottom. Ever observed a stack of books? You have meticulously arranged a pile of books. When you are placing the last book on the top, your foot accidentally touches the books at the bottom and there collapses your tower. One small nudge and all is gone. That is how Allah (swt) destructs nations.

Equality rules

Islam prohibits its followers from making money as the sole focus of their lives. When money and things become the criterion for judging someone’s character and status- the ones wealthy are considered as high and noble; while the poor ones are considered as unworthy and low. We learn that the weak and the poor were the first to accept Islam. Then Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (ra) and other rich Muslims spent their wealth in freeing of slaves. In Prophet’s (sa) gatherings, these weak and poor would be seated near to him, listening attentively to what the Prophet of Allah (swt) had to say. The Makkan leaders demanded the Prophet (sa) that if he wished to see them in his gathering, then he first needs to get rid of the weak and the poor. The Makkans were filled with pride and ostentation; they could not envisage being seated next to someone who was once their slave. Allah (swt) said, “And turn not away those who invoke their Lord, morning and afternoon seeking His Face. You are accountable for them in nothing, and they are accountable for you in nothing, that you may turn them away and thus, become of the Zalimun.” (Al-Anam 6:52)

Meet and greet

Further, He said, “When those who believe in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) come to you, say: “Salamun ‘Alaikum” (peace be on you).” (Al-Anam 6:54) The weak and the poor are to be greeted by the most honourable greeting of the Muslims: Salam-un-Alaykum.

This tells us not to be a racist or judge people according to their skin colour, language or wealth. Don’t underestimate anyone; they might be the first ones to enter Paradise while we will still be defending ourselves in the court of Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) protect us, Ameen.

A person is judged by the company he keeps

One way of protecting our hearts and tongues from doing or uttering the most detested thing is not sitting with those who make fun of the verses of Allah (swt), as He says, “And when you (Muhammad (sa)) see those who engage in a false conversation about Our Verses (of the Qur’an) by mocking at them, stay away from them till they turn to another topic. And if Shaitan (Satan) causes you to forget, then after the remembrance sit not you in the company of those people who are the Zalimun.” (Al-Anam 6:68) In discussions people say, “Hey! We are studying the Quran and trying to understand religion.” But when these discussions are filled with foul language, abuses, mockery and ridicule then there is no Khair (goodness) in them. Get up and leave unless they talk about something else. If one keeps sitting with them, he will be influenced and become like them.

The courage to speak up, stop and leave the gathering of evil results in peace. If they can mock the Book of Allah (swt), tomorrow they will be ridiculing you. May Allah (swt) help us realize the consequences of our deeds, Ameen.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)