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Sheikh Abdullah Nimer Darwish
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CHILDREN ARE GIVEN TO US AS A SACRED TRUST

Children have rights even before they are born. They are entitled to loving parents who respect one another, a reasonable economic status, the right to inherit etc. After birth, the infant is entitled to be suckled by his mother, and to be under the care of an adult. Sometimes infants exploit their developing skills in order to damage objects in the home. They want our attention and not only in order to fulfill basic needs such as food, clothing, hygiene and sleep. Therefore it is incumbent on us to establish a connection with our children, to buy them suitable toys and to concern ourselves with their development. The objective of educating children is to do the will of God. Hence it should be recalled that a child is not a plant, which needs nothing but nutrition. The education of children entails far more that providing basic needs. The objective is, among other things, to inculcate in the child the basic tenets of faith from early infancy. One should not underestimate the importance of the early years for education, and parents who dismiss this period in the life of the child will later regret it.

In the pre-school period, the child asks many questions and takes an interest in the world around him and sometimes seems to argue a great deal. He can differentiate between what is forbidden and what is permitted, between good and bad. This being so, in this period it is possible to build the child's personality in all spheres (faith, science, culture, conduct, social skills, psychology, emotions, taste and love of beauty and creativity). These realizations led the scholar Ahmed Suleiman to claim in his book: "The Muslim child in light of the Quran and the Suna" that it is possible to educate a child in the early years to be capable of responding to and obeying the command of Allah: "Preserve your souls and the members of your household from fire." It is also possible to explain to a child the meaning of the verse: There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is the Messenger of God."

It is advisable to learn from the way in which the Prophet educated children and delved profoundly into the values of the faith with them. Thus the child will grasp the essence of the stories which connect him to God and will appreciate God and his Messenger, the Prophet Muhammed. In order to achieve this aim, it is recommended to encourage the child's positive actions or diligent study by granting prizes and gifts.

The child's manners and conduct develop through emulation of the conduct of his or her parents. When parents speak courteously and exhibit self-control during anger, the child will behave similarly. He should be taught to treat adults with respect, to greet them and ask permission before acting on his own initiative. It is important to teach him to treat animals properly and to explain that he should have mercy on them and not torture them. Children should be brought to the mosque and should be taught to love it. Beyond this, it is incumbent on parents to endeavor to understand the child and his feelings and to be aware of his needs. Care should be taken not to insult him in front of strangers and to ensure that he goes to bed each night with a light heart. He should be distanced from frightening things (as Professor Liz Elliot of Chicago University has pointed out).

I do not wish to write at length, but merely to offer an introduction based on the wisdom of scholars who have studied childhood. I have read the work of Bushra and the group of graduate students in educational counseling who are studying under Dr. Ofer Grosbard and my impression is that this pioneering experiment can serve as effective material for study. But, at the same time, I recommend refraining from expanded interpretation of the Quran verses, particularly those verses which reflect the concepts of the basic tenets of the faith.

In any event, I welcome this good idea and I wish every success to the team which is carrying out the project. I recommend profound study of Islam so that those interested can discover for themselves how mighty this Islam is and what power it contains on questions of education and raising children. To raise a child is a task for human beings while education requires the hand of Allah and the will of Allah.

Sheikh Abdullah Nimer Darwish
Founder of the Islamic movement
November 25, 2007