My Boy, I Am Teaching You Words
The Prophet (Pbuh)kept himself close to children and their world, and addressed his Message to them the same as adults.
Whenever he (Pbuh) passed by children who were playing, he (Pbuh) greeted them.1 Anas narrated,
“The Prophet (Pbuh)passed by us while we were playing and said: Peace be upon you, O boys.”2
By greetings of peace the Prophet (Pbuh)was implanting a sublime Islamic moral in early childhood.
“The young should greet the old, the passerby should greet the one sitting, and the small group of people should greet the large group of people.” 3
Simply greeting one another with the salutation of Islam, “Peace be upon you”, and returning the salutation with “Peace be upon you too and Allah’s Mercy and Blessings” is the way to love, faith, and ultimately Paradise in his eyes, “You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I guide you to a thing which if you do it, you shall love one another? Spread Salam (the greeting of peace: peace be upon you) among you.”4
He (Pbuh) thus taught them the ethics of a Muslim in a practical way, and sowed in them from a tender age the seeds of firm belief in the Oneness of Allah and absolute reliance on Him Alone, for them to grow up balanced on psychological, intellectual, and moral levels.
Ibn ‘Abbas was riding behind the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh)(on the same mount) one day when he (Pbuh)said to him, “O my boy, I am teaching you words. Guard (the Commands and Prohibitions of) Allah, He will guard you. Guard (the Rights of) Allah, you will find Him before you. When you ask, ask Allah. When you seek help, seek it from Allah. Know that if people gather together to benefit you with something, they will not benefit you except with something that Allah has decreed for you. And if they gather together to harm you with something, they will not harm you except with something that Allah has decreed for you. The pens have been raised and the pages have dried.”5 That is, the pens inscribing fate have ceased writing. All destinies are already inscribed and decided.
Children responded to their Messenger (Pbuh) and became eager to learn from him not only the obligatory acts of worship, but also the supererogatory ones through which a servant can approach Allah more closely.
Ibn ‘Abbas t said, “Once I stayed overnight at the house of my aunt Maymunah (the Prophet’s wife) to see how the (supererogatory) Salah was offered by the Prophet (Pbuh) during the night. The Messenger of Allah (Pbuh)talked with his wife for an hour and then lay down. When it was the last third of the night, or part of it, he (Pbuh)sat and looked towards heaven, then recited (Allah’s Saying): (Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for people of understanding.)Then he (Pbuh)got up, performed ablution, cleaned his teeth with Siwak (teeth-cleansing twig), and offered eleven Rak‘ahs (units of prayer). Then Bilal pronounced the Adhan (call to prayer), so the Prophet (Pbuh)offered two Rak‘ahs and went out to lead the people in Subh (Dawn congregational) Prayer.”6
Although younger than ten years of age at that time, Ibn ‘Abbas did not miss the chance of joining the Prophet (Pbuh)in voluntary night prayer. He said, “I rose and performed ablution just as he (Pbuh)did, then I came and stood on his left side. But he (Pbuh)took me by his right hand and turned me from behind him, and made me stand on his right, and I prayed with him.”7
Another Companion, As-Sa’ib bin Yazid said,
“I was taken to Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) in the company of the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh)when I was seven years old.”8
Therefore, it matched the spontaneity and originality of his preaching the Message that the first among men to pray with the Prophet of Allah (Pbuh)was not one of the chiefs or sages of the Arabs, but simply an eight-year-old boy, standing side by side with him, unmindful of people’s mockery of the little believer in his Message, to paint with his modesty an image certainly sincere, certainly penetrating.
‘Afif t narrated, “I was a merchant. I set out to Hajj. I went to Al-‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib, who was a merchant, to buy from him some merchandise. By Allah, I was at his place in Mina when a man came out of a tent close to him, looked at the sun, and when he saw that it had declined he rose to pray. Then a woman came out of the same tent from which that man had come out, and she stood behind him offering prayer. Then a boy, who had yet to attain puberty, came out of that tent and he stood with him offering prayer.
I asked Al-‘Abbas, ‘Who is this man, O ‘Abbas?’ He said, ‘This is Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib, my nephew.’ I said, ‘Who is this woman?’ He said, ‘This is his wife, Khadijah bint Khuwailid.’ I said, ‘Who is this boy?’ He said, ‘This is ‘Ali bin Abu Talib, his cousin.’ I said, ‘And what is he doing?’ He said, ‘He is offering prayer and he claims to be a prophet. But none has followed him in his matter except his wife and his cousin, that boy.’” ‘Afif added, “Would that Allah blessed me with Islam on that day to be the third after ‘Ali bin Abu Talib (to pray with the Messenger of Allah r).”9
Thus children, in the echelon of the first forerunners in faith in Islam, came in their natural third place in the hierarchy of life and family, thereby shaping the first Muslim seed of the Ummah: a woman, a man, and a child. The woman was Lady Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), the first believer in Allah and His Messenger r. The man was Abu Bakr , the second believer in Islam and the first believer among men. Then came ‘Ali t, who embraced Islam at the age of eight to be the first boy to accept Islam, the third believer in Islam, and the first to pray with the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh)after Lady Khadijah.
Young age was no limitation during that beautiful era in which children lived close to their Prophet(pbuh). It did not prevent them even from Imamate (leading the people in congregational prayer), if they were worthier of it than grownups.
‘Amr bin Salamah narrated, “We lived in an urban region which people would pass by whenever they went to the Prophet. They would visit us on their way back and inform us that the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh)said such-and-such. I was a memorizing boy. I memorized a great part of this Qur’an. My father set out to the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh)accompanied by a group of his people. He (Pbuh)taught them Salah and said, ‘Let the one who leads you in Salah be the one who reads the Qur’an the most among you.’ I was the one who read the Qur’an the most among them owing to what I memorized of it. So they made me their Imam (leader of congregational prayer). I used to lead them in Salah while wearing a small yellow garment of mine; but when I prostrated myself, I was uncovered. When one of the women complained, saying, ‘Hide from us the private parts of your reciter,’ they bought me an Omani shirt. Truly, I was never happy with anything after Islam the way I was happy with it. I used to lead them in Salah when I was only a seven-or eight-year-old child. ”10
Yet, the Prophet (Pbuh)cared not to overburden the children with obligations beyond their capacity. ‘Abdullah bin Hisham narrated that his mother, Zainab bint Humaid (may Allah be pleased with her), took him to the Messenger of Allah (Pbuh)and said, “O Messenger of Allah, take the pledge of allegiance from him.” The Prophet (Pbuh)said, “He is young.” He (Pbuh)then caressed his head and supplicated Allah for him.11
- Anas bin Malik narrated that the Prophet r passed by a group of boys and greeted them. He said, “The Prophet used to do so.” Reported by Al-Bukhary, Book of Al-Ista’dhan (Asking Permission), Hadith no. 5778. Abu Dawud also reported in Book of Al-Adab, Hadith no. 4526 that Anas bin Malik said, “The Messenger of Allah r came to some children who were playing and greeted them with Salam.”
- Al-Mukthrin, Hadith no. 12429.
- Abu Hurairah, Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Al-Ista’dhan, Hadith no. 5763.
- Abu Hurairah, Sahih Muslim, Book of Iman, Hadith no.81.
- Sunan At-Tirmidhy, Book of Sifat Al-Qiyamah wa Al-Raqa’iq wa Al-Wara‘ (Description of The Day of Resurrection, Softening of Hearts and Piety), Hadith no. 2440.
- Translated meanings of Al-‘Imran 3: 190.
- Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Tawhid (Monotheism), Hadith no. 6898.
- Ibn ‘Abbas said, “The Messenger of Allah r died when I was a ten-year-old boy.” Reported in Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Fada’il Al-Qur’an (Virtues of the Qur’an), Hadith no. 4647.
- Sunan Abu Dawud, Book of As-Salah, Hadith no. 516.
- Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Hajj (Pilgrimage), Hadith no. 1725.
- Musnad Ahmad, Book of Banu Hashim, Hadith no. 1691
- Sunan Abu Dawud, Book of As-Salah, Hadith no. 495.
- Sahih Al-Bukhary, Book of Al-Ahkam (Judgments), Hadith no. 6670.