By Ustadh Abu Hudhayfah
In his Saheeh, Imam al-Bukhari collected the following hadith:
Sa`id narrated: Umm Khalid bint Khalid bin Sa`id said, “I came to Allah’s Messenger along with my father and I was wearing a yellow shirt. Allah’s Messenger said, “Sanah Sanah!” (`Abdullah, the sub-narrator said, “It means, ‘Nice, nice!’ in the Ethiopian language.”) Umm Khalid added, “Then I started playing with the seal of Prophethood. My father admonished me. But Allah’s Messenger said (to my father), “Leave her,” Allah’s Messenger (then addressing me) said, “May you live so long that your dress gets worn out, and you will mend it many times, and then wear another until it gets worn out (i.e. May Allah prolong your life).” (The sub-narrator, `Abdullah said, “That garment (which she was wearing remained usable for a long period.”).
The beauty of Islam is that it is not only a religion but a way of life that has been prescribed to us through the revelation of the Qur’an as well as the Sunnah of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Through the hadith, the teachings of the Prophetic Sunnah have been preserved in unbroken chains of narration which continue to this day. Hadith, such as the one that is written above, are of extraordinary significance to the life of the believer.
These anecdotes provide us with first-hand insights into the exalted conduct of the Prophet – a role model for all believers and whom we should strive to emulate in every aspect of our life. Parenting is certainly no exception, and there are many lessons we can derive from this beautiful hadith of Umm Khalid with regards to our interactions with our children.
1. Our words last a lifetime
First and foremost, what stands out regarding this hadith is the time and context in which Umm Khalid is narrating this. This encounter with the Prophet must have occurred when she was a young child. It is only many years later, however, that she narrates the incident as an adult. What is more, she doesn’t only narrate the story, but she recalls even the finest and smallest of details, from the colour of the dress which she was wearing that day to the duʿāʾ that the Prophet made for her at the end.
Considering the clarity with which Umm Khalid remembered this encounter; it is evident that it became a memory she would treasure for a lifetime. From this, we can infer an important realisation – that children can remember those words and actions which may not necessarily seem particularly significant at the time. As parents, there are times when we may say words that are harsh or hurtful in a moment of frustration, without really appreciating the impact these utterances could have upon our children in the future or even throughout their lives.
Numerous psychological studies have demonstrated that when a child is labelled negatively, then they may end up internalising and adopting those very characteristics. This is a phenomenon known as a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the implications can extend far beyond childhood and into adulthood as well. Alternatively, if we praise a child and speak kindly to them, then this can have a lasting positive and uplifting effect on them. A child who knows that they are understood, acknowledged, and loved will not only demonstrate constructive behaviour but will also be more confident and have stronger self-esteem.
It is crucial, therefore, that as parents we understand the weight of the responsibility we bear as well as the impact that our words and actions can have upon our children. It is something that should never be taken lightly because as Umm Khalid remembered the kindness of the Prophet years after this encounter happened, our children will also remember the way we behaved towards them at various points in their childhood long after they have become adults.
2. Allow children to be in the company of adults
In the hadith, Umm Khalid was accompanying her father when he went to see the Prophet. This is something that can be found in many narrations of the companions, who would frequently bring their children along to the gatherings of the Prophet. This is in stark contrast to the cultural practices which continue to be prevalent in some communities today, where children are prevented from participating in ‘important’ adult gatherings. Such an approach often isolates and shelters children from invaluable life lessons.
When your child is exposed to the presence of other adults then they can be taught skills and behaviours which will be indispensable to them throughout their life, if it is in an environment that fosters positivity, understanding, and learning. Children are at a crucial developmental phase in their life and interacting with individuals from all stages of life can promote healthy and accelerated development.
It has long been known that children who spend more time in the company of attentive adults will mature much more quickly, and as a parent the sooner you bring your child into the community the sooner you can ensure that their psychological and emotional development will flourish in conjunction with their biological development.
3. Communicate in their language
In the hadith, the Prophet complimented Umm Khalid by saying “Sanah Sanah”, which means ‘good good’ in Abyssinian. Abyssinian was Umm Khalid’s mother tongue, and we can see here that the Prophet went out of his way to address Umm Khalid in the language she was most comfortable with and acknowledged her presence by not only engaging with but kindly complimenting her.
As adults we should try to emulate the Prophet’s conduct with children by communicating with our child on their level, thereby encouraging a feeling of friendship and understanding with kind words. When we communicate with a child on their terms, we are setting the foundation for a strong relationship based on trust, affection, and assurance. Our children will be more forthcoming because they associate us with compassion and comfort, and it will become their natural inclination to turn towards us for fulfilment and empathy.
4. Be friendly and welcoming
Continuing from the third lesson, we can see the immediate effect that this warm welcome had upon Umm Khalid, who narrated “Then I started playing with the seal of Prophethood (which was between the two shoulders of the Prophet)”. This must have meant that the Prophet had come down to Umm Khalid’s level for her to be able to reach the seal of Prophethood, demonstrating how welcoming the Prophet was towards children. The Prophet’s kind demeanour meant that she felt comfortable enough being around the Prophet to approach him and begin playing with him, on friendly and affectionate terms.
As parents, it is always important that we spend a few moments of introspection thinking about our demeanour with our children. There is no doubt that they are beloved to us, but do we consciously try to create an environment for our children where they are happy, content, and can truly be themselves? Or do we inadvertently create a hostile and strict atmosphere in which our child lacks confidence and security when they are around us? When a child knows that they are unconditionally loved, then they will be more open to not only playing with us but also communicating and looking up to us whenever they need guidance or advice.
5. Be lenient with children
In the hadith, Umm Khalid narrates that when she was playing with the seal of Prophethood, “My father admonished me. But Allah’s Messenger said (to my father), “Leave her.” One question which certainly comes to mind is how would we react if we were to be in this situation? There are times when we are so quick to rebuke and scold our children when they are playing with something that they should not be, and hasty to lose our temper when they make a mess or speak too loudly. The thing is, however, these are often harmless and temporary behaviours that are typical of any normal child.
The Prophet intuitively understood that children are endlessly inquisitive and curious by nature, which means that they have not necessarily learned yet the boundaries of what is right and what is wrong. When Umm Khalid’s father admonishes her for her behaviour, the Prophet says, “Leave her” and does not interrupt her playing. Sometimes we just need to understand that children are so much more sensitive to and excited by stimuli than adults are, as we once were at that age.
By letting them be and allowing a child to be a child, at least within the home, then we can create an environment of learning, exploration, and adventure. And whilst some boundaries are important, we do not want the home to be a place of imposed orders and unexplained prohibitions, inhibiting the curiosity which is so crucial to their development.
6. Make duʿāʾ for them
As the hadith comes to an end, Umm Khalid says, “Allah’s Messenger (then addressing me) said, “May you live so long that your dress gets worn out, and you will mend it many times, and then wear another till it gets worn out (i.e. May Allah prolong your life).” It is then narrated that Umm Khalid did indeed go on to live for many years following this encounter.
Considering that she was a child, Umm Khalid remembers the duʿāʾ the Prophet made for her with stunning clarity. Duʿāʾ is one of the most empowering tools that a believer has at their disposal, a means through which we can communicate with Allah and know without a doubt that He is hearing every word we say. Always remember to make duʿāʾ for your child. Parenting is a momentous and at times a challenging experience, but it is certainly a comfort to know that the Prophet said that the duʿāʾ a parent makes for his or her child is never rejected by Allah.
No matter what the circumstances or difficulties may be, a duʿāʾ has the power to change everything. What is more, the Prophet recited the duʿāʾ aloud in the presence of Umm Khalid, and this meant a great deal to her. By making duʿāʾ in the presence of our children, we can bolster their confidence, because they will know that we desire only the best for them, in this world as well as in the hereafter.
May Allah make us of those who can learn and implement these valuable lessons taught to us by the best of all creation.
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