The Holy Prophet’s compassion towards children

Hanan Ahmed Manan, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya UK
Photo by Ayse Bek on Unsplash

In everything he did, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, reached a level of what could perhaps best be described as human perfection, or human completeness. He possessed every noble quality imaginable, to the highest degree attainable for human beings. His manners in general, and his treatment of children in particular, were certainly not exceptions to that rule. 

While the character of the Holy Prophetsa portrays him as cheerful and kind-hearted, it should not be misconstrued that he was not a serious and dedicated individual committed to his mission. He came with a serious message upon which the fate of mankind hinged. And yet, because of his lofty manners, a smile could frequently be seen on his face. He cared a great deal for his Companions, and if he was kind towards adults, he was even more kind and caring towards children. In fact, in his dealings with children, the Holy Prophetsa was not only merciful and kind but playful as well. 

While we acknowledge that no one among us can match his level of kindness and mercy, we must endeavour to emulate his lofty manners and compassionate dealings to the best of our abilities. The following are examples that illustrate the Holy Prophet’ssa kindness towards children and his cheerful and playful attitude when dealing with them. 

Compassion and playfulness

Recalling an incident that occurred during his childhood, one of the Holy Prophet’ssa Companions, Hazrat Mahmud ibn Ar-Rubu‘ said, “When I was a boy of five, I remember the Prophetsa drawing water with his mouth from a bucket and splashing it on my face.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-‘ilm, Hadith 77) The Holy Prophetsa did that either playfully or with the intention of blessing the child. The latter option is possible because the Holy Prophetsa was truly blessed (which is why, for instance, the Companions would gather the water he would use for making ablution), and it occurred on more than one occasion that he would do something similar as a means of blessing the children of his Companions.

The Prophet’ssa gentle gesture: A fragrant encounter with children

Hazrat Jabirra ibn Samura recounted: “I joined Allah’s Messengersa in prayer for the first time. Afterwards, as he returned home, I accompanied him. Along the way, he encountered some children and affectionately patted the cheeks of each one. He also patted my cheek, and I sensed a refreshing coolness or fragrance as if his hand had been dipped into the scent bag of a perfumer.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-fada’il, Hadith 2329) Hazrat Jabirra ibn Samura likened the coolness he felt from the Prophet’s touch to the sensation one experiences when a perfume vendor’s hands cool upon contact with fragrant oils.

This hadith highlights yet another way the Holy Prophetsa would show affection and interact with children. 

Holy Prophet’ssa endearing affection for Imam Hasanra and Imam Husainra

Although the Holy Prophetsa had great kindness for all children, he had a particular love for his two grandchildren, Hazrat Hasan and Hazrat Husain, may Allah be pleased with them both. Despite countless such accounts portraying the Holy Prophet’ssa compassion for his two grandchildren, the following should suffice to show how dear the Holy Prophetsa held the both of them. 

Hazrat Abu Hurairahra narrated that once, in the presence of a person, Allah’s Messengersa kissed Hazrat Hasan bin Alira. Seeing this, the person remarked, “I have 10 children and have never kissed any of them.” In response, Allah’s Messengersa looked at him and said: 

مَنْ‭ ‬لَا‭ ‬يَرْحَمُ‭ ‬لَا‭ ‬يُرْحَمُ

“Those who lack mercy towards others will not receive mercy.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-adab, Hadith 5997)

Similarly, we read another narration in which Hazrat Aishara said that a bedouin approached the Holy Prophetsa and said to him that he showed affection to children and added that he, himself, did not. The Holy Prophetsa replied, “I cannot instil mercy in your heart after Allah has stripped it away.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-adab, Hadith 5998) 

It is narrated that the Holy Prophet, with regard to his grandchildren, said:

‭ ‬هُمَا‭ ‬رَيْحَانَتايَ‭ ‬مِنَ‭ ‬الدُّنْيَا

“They both are my two Raihans of this world.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-adab, Hadith 5994) 

The word raihan means basil, which is an aromatic plant of the mint family. What the Holy Prophetsa meant by the statement mentioned above is that they are from the things that Allah has bestowed or honoured him with.

The Prophet’ssa tender ways

It is narrated by Shaddad that on one occasion, while carrying either Al-Hasanra or Al-Husainra, the Holy Prophetsa went out to the people to lead them in one of the two evening prayers. Upon entering the mosque, Allah’s Messengersa went to the front, past the first row of worshippers, and placed the child he was carrying on the ground. In the course of that prayer, the Holy Prophetsa performed an exceptionally long prostration. His head remained on the ground for so long that one of the worshippers, Shaddad’s father, raised his head to see what was happening. He saw that Allah’s Messengersa was still performing prostration and that his grandson was sitting down on his back. Seeing that nothing was wrong, Shaddad’s father lowered his head and resumed his prostration. When Allah’s Messengersa completed his prayer, the people said, “O Messengersa of Allah! Verily, during your Prayer, you performed an exceptionally long prostration – so long that we began to think that something was wrong or that revelation was descending upon you.” 

In response, the Holy Prophetsa explained: “That didn’t occur. However, my son [meaning his grandson] was on my back, and I preferred not to disturb him until he had enough.” (Sunan an-Nasa’i, Kitab at-tatbiq, Hadith 1141)

Loving prayers for Hazrat Usamara and Hazrat Hasanra

Another child the Holy Prophetsa had excessive love for was Usama ibn Zaidra, the son of his adopted son Hazrat Zaid ibn Harithahra. Hazrat Usama ibn Zaidra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa would take him and place him on one of his legs, and he would seat Hazrat Hasan ibn Alira on the other. Then he would bring his two legs together and say:

اللَّهُمَّ‭ ‬ارْحَمْهُمَا‭ ‬فَإِنِّي‭ ‬أَرْحَمُهُمَا

 “O Allah, have mercy on them, for indeed, I have mercy on them.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-adab, Hadith 6003)

According to one account, the Holy Prophetsa said:

اللَّهُمَّ‭ ‬إِنّي‭ ‬أُحِبُّهُمَا‭ ‬فَأَحِبَّهُمَا

“O Allah, I indeed love them, so love them as well.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab fada’ili ashabi n-nabiyysa, Hadith 3747)

An act of love for children 

Hazrat Abu Qatadahra reported that the Holy Prophetsa would sometimes pray while carrying Hazrat Umamah bint Zainabra, who was one of his granddaughters. Hazrat Abu Qatadahra said that, when the Holy Prophetsa would perform prostration, he would gently place Umamahra on the ground; and that, when he would then stand up, he would pick her up and carry her again. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab as-salat, Hadith 516) This narration confirms that the Holy Prophetsa would sometimes pray while carrying a child and that doing so in no way invalidates a person’s prayer.

Hazrat Umm Khalid’sra encounter with Prophet Muhammadsa

Hazrat Umm Khalid ibn Sa’eedra, who was originally from Abyssinia, related that, when she was just a small child, she went with her father to visit Allah’s Messengersa and on that day, she was wearing a yellow-coloured shirt. Upon seeing her, Allah’s Messengersa playfully said, “Sana Sana.” 

The word Sana in the Abyssinian tongue means “good”; thus, the Holy Prophetsa was playfully building a rapport with the child by saying something to her in her native language. Then Umm Khalidra began to play with the Holy Prophetsa. When her father reproached her for doing that, Allah’s Messengersa said to him, “Leave her (i.e., let her continue to play).” Then the Holy Prophetsa prayed for her three times, invoking Allah to give her a long life: That was the meaning or gist of his prayer:

‭ ‬أَبْلِي‭ ‬وَأَخْلِقِي،‭ ‬ثُمَّ‭ ‬أَبْلِي‭ ‬وَأَخْلِقِي،‭ ‬ثُمَّ‭ ‬أَبْلِي‭ ‬وَأَخْلِقِي

“Wear this dress till it is worn out and then wear it till it is worn out, and then wear it till it is worn out.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-jihadi wa s-siyar, hadith 3071)

The narrator states that what was meant by this prayer was that the Holy Prophetsa hoped she would remain alive even after the clothes she was wearing became torn and ragged. 

Mercy for both the mother and her child

When he would hear the sound of a baby crying, the Holy Prophetsa, out of mercy for both the mother and her child, would shorten the length of his prayer. Hazrat Abu Qatadahra related from his father that the Holy Prophetsa said:

“When I stand for prayer, I intend to prolong it but on hearing the cries of a child, I cut it short, as I dislike to trouble the child’s mother.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-azan, Hadith 707)

Playful interactions with children

One day, Hazrat Anas ibn Malikra passed by a group of children and extended greetings of peace to them. He then explained his behaviour, saying, “This is what the Prophetsa would do.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-isti’zan, Hadith 6247)

Hazrat Anasra also states, “Of all people, the Prophetsa had the best manners. I had a brother whose name was Abu Umair. Once the Prophetsa came to us, I think that at the time Abu Umair was just a newly-weaned child, and said:

يَا‭ ‬أَبَا‭ ‬عُمَيْرٍ‭ ‬مَا‭ ‬فَعَلَ‭ ‬النُّغَيرُ؟

“O Abu Umair, what has the nughair done?” (Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-adab, Hadith 4969)

The word nughair, which means a small bird, rhymed with the child’s name, Abu Umair. The Holy Prophetsa used this rhyming play on words to cheer up Abu Umair.

The Prophet’ssa patience: Response to a baby’s mishap

Hazrat Umm Qays bint Mihsanra once visited the Holy Prophetsa bringing along one of her sons, who had not yet begun to eat solid food. After the Holy Prophetsa placed the baby in his lap, the baby urinated, thus spoiling a part of the Holy Prophet’ssa garment. Rather than become angry or upset, the Holy Prophetsa simply sprinkled water over the affected part of his garment. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-wudu, Hadith 223)

These accounts are only a handful taken from a plethora of heart-touching narrations about the Holy Prophet’ssa affection, especially towards children, which is in direct accordance with his judicious statement:

“He is not one of us who does not have mercy upon our young, nor knows the honour of our elders.” (Jami‘ at-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-birri wa s-silati ‘an rasulillahsa, Hadith 1920)

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