Moral Power and Building the Child’s Morals

Moral Power and Building the Child’s Morals

Moral Power and Building the Child’s Morals

To develop the proper conduct of the child, you should teach him the duties that he has to do, and this takes place by being a role model and by sound upbringing and guidance.

The child will not learn to be truthful except from a truthful educator.

The child will not learn honesty except from an honest educator, and so on.

The father who picks up the phone and does not want to talk to the caller, then gives his child the phone and says to him, “Tell the caller that I am not here,” is teaching his child to lie and is a bad example.

Moral upbringing is the spirit of the Islamic upbringing, which does not mean neglecting other aspects. It is necessary to care for all matters related to the child, since he needs physical, mental, spiritual and academic strength. Therefore, we find that the spiritual and worship-related side is inseparable from the moral side.

Morality in the Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet (SAW) did not leave any aspect of human life but has drawn the ideal methodology for the sublime attitude in harmony, integration and structure. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhsallam, was the peak of morality, and the best way to noble morals is the way of the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) whom Allaah The Almighty Addressed Saying (what means): {And indeed, you are of a great moral character.} [Quran 68:4]

Stages of the child’s moral development:

Man’s moral development begins from the early stages of his life and will continue until the age of maturity, which is the basis of religious assignment and bearing responsibility. Man is born with a natural inclination to goodness, and the environment plays its effective role in shaping this natural inclination according to its readiness and inherited capabilities. Righteous upbringing helps it grow soundly and form perfectly, whereas corrupt upbringing erases the features of goodness in it and makes it tend to corruption and evil.

It was narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (RA) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Every human being is born with a sound innate inclination to the truth (i.e. Islam), yet it is his parents who convert him to Judaism, Christianity or Magianism.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

Moral development can be divided into three stages in line with dividing growth into three stages: the stage of early childhood, the stage of middle and late childhood and the stage of adulthood and adolescence.

The first stage of moral development:

The process of moral development begins in the first stage of man’s life during his early childhood, and at this stage the child’s instincts, needs and inclinations control him. These things need to be satisfied to help him lead a stable and happy life, and any deficiency in them, or severe and harsh treatment may lead to disorders in the child’s psychological, mental, emotional and physical health. Parents at this stage should not give the child any moral responsibility for his actions, attitudes, patterns of behavior, emotions and reactions, because he is incapable of distinguishing, understanding and making sound judgments. They should treat him with mercy, kindness, gentleness and tolerance.

This is what our noble Prophet (SAW) instructed us to do. He did not give children any responsibility for their wrong actions and inappropriate behavior according to the moral judgments of adults. Rather, he treated them with mercy, kindness and compassion, taking into account their powerless childhood, while being aware that they are not responsible for their actions and behavior because they have not yet attained the age of distinction and discernment. Abu Qataadah (RA) said, “The Prophet (SAW) came out while Umaamah bint Abu Al-‘Aas was on his shoulder. Whenever he bowed, he would put her down, and when he stood, he would lift her.” [Al-Bukhaari] This Hadeeth (narration) shows the mercy of the Prophet (SAW) his gentleness with his granddaughter and not holding her accountable for what she was unaware of, i.e., riding on his shoulders during prayer, which is the most sacred act of worship.

The second stage of moral development:

In the second stage of man’s life, i.e. the stage of middle and late childhood, the child’s social relationships and contact with others in the neighborhood, school and social relationships expand. He needs to adapt well to the situations and new attitudes in his life, and he begins to distinguish between the acts and behavior that others approve or disapprove of. The child’s happiness is associated with the satisfaction of others with him, and his pain and misery are associated with their anger at him. This constitutes the correct start of forming good conduct.

This positive moral development motivates the child to permanently create a balance between his wishes and the desires of others, and between his trends and religious and moral values; social customs, habits and traditions; and rules and laws. In that way, the features of the child’s moral responsibility emerge until they culminate in the third stage of moral development as his mental and emotional maturity is complete. At this stage, we should care for the child’s natural tendency to imitate, emulate and follow others because it is one of the most important foundations of the moral upbringing, the acquisition of values and virtues and the development of inclination to goodness.

The purified Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) highlighted this aspect and stressed the necessity for it to be considered wisely by parents, people assuming the upbringing process and all those responsible for the education and upbringing of youngsters. It urged them to be ideal role models in proper conduct, noble behavior, self-restraint, self-esteem and adopting good qualities and virtues.

The third stage of moral development:

At this stage, which is the stage of puberty and adolescence, moral development begins to take root and be firm. It culminates as mental, psychological and social maturity is completed. After that, man is able to control his inclinations and motives, and subject himself to the sublime ideals that he instilled and implanted within himself and made it a criterion for his moral and behavioral actions. He committed himself to them, regardless of the presence of an external authority represented in the laws, regimes, customs, habits, and traditions as well as the presence of social control.

Importance of a role model in building morals:

Anas ibn Maalik (RA) who lived with the best role model in terms of morality, narrated how he had experienced this in the character of the beloved Prophet (SAW).

Anas (RA) said,

• “I have never touched silk softer than the palm of the Prophet (SAW) nor have I smelt musk or amber that is sweeter than the smell of the Prophet (SAW).” [Al-Bukhaari]

• “The Prophet (SAW) was the best of all people in terms of morals. I had a brother called Abu ‘Umayr, who, I think, had been newly weaned. Whenever the Prophet (SAW) came, he used to say to him: ‘O Abu ‘Umayr! What did An-Nughayr (nightingale small bird) do?’ My brother was playing with this small bird. It happened that the time of prayer was due while the Prophet (SAW) was in our home, and he would order for the mat he was sitting on to be swept and cleaned, then he would lead us in prayer.” [Al-Bukhaari]

• “I served him for nine years; by Allaah, he never said to me about a thing which I had done why I did that or about a thing that I had left as to why I had not done that.” [Muslim]

• “The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) had the best disposition among people. He sent me on an errand one day, and I said, ‘By Allaah, I will not go.’ I had, however, this idea in my mind that I would do as the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) had commanded me. I went out until I happened to come across children who were playing in the street. Then, the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) came there and he caught me by the back of my neck from behind me. As I looked at him I found him laughing, and he said: ‘O Unays, did you go where I commanded you to go?’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, yes, I am going.'” [Muslim]

• “A slave-girl of Al-Madeenah would take hold of the hand of the Prophet (SAW) sand take him wherever she desired (to fulfill a need for her).” [Muslim]

Dear parent, and anyone who assumes the responsibility of the upbringing process, here is a set of the most important morals that we must implant in our children:

• Politeness with parents
• Manners of respect and reverence
• Manners of brotherhood
• Manners of respecting teachers
• Manners with neighbors
• Manners of seeking permission
• Manners of talking and extending Salaam
• Manners of appearance
• Manners of walking and sitting
• Manners of food and drink
• Manners of listening attentively during Quran recitation
• Modesty
• Truthfulness and avoiding lying
• Honesty and avoiding treason
• Keeping secrets
• Forgiveness and humbleness

However, there is an important question left: What is the best way to instill morality in the child? And, how should we hold our children accountable or reward them for it?

Imaam Al-Ghazaali said,

“Religious morals will not be instilled in the soul except when the person gets used to all good habits, leaves all bad acts, regularly practices and enjoys doing good acts, and hates and feels pain concerning bad acts. Good morals are acquired by getting accustomed to good acts and watching and accompanying those who do good acts – those people are the companions of goodness and the brothers of righteousness.

Dispositions copy from each other, and good and evil are equal in this respect. Children are, in principle, disciplined by keeping them away from evil friends. Every human being is born with a sound innate disposition, and his morals are refined by regular observation and upbringing. The boy should be honored and rewarded with something that he loves and be praised in front of people whenever he shows good manners and does a commendable act. If he violates the proper conduct once, he should be overlooked; if he repeats it, he should be blamed secretly without over-reprimanding him every now and then. This actually makes blame insignificant in his heart. It is preferable that the father maintains his solemnity above blaming him, whereas the mother intimidates him by the father.”

Finally, a gradual approach in upbringing, training and guidance is necessary for the child to acquire a quality or a skill and to implant a belief or a manner. Moral qualities and doctrinal principles resemble physical skills in as much that they need to be acquired gradually and practiced repeatedly. By doing so, man acquires, masters and performs them easily without much effort or difficulty.

It is like the man who learns to drive a car or play some kind of sport; he learns it step by step, and by repeating it, it becomes easy after it had been difficult and arduous. Frequent repetition helps the person to master and perform it perfectly and efficiently with ease in its performance and with minimal effort. Acquisition of morality is like sport that needs striving to force oneself to the work that a certain manner requires. A man who wants to acquire the manner of generosity and giving, has to oblige himself to give away, particularly money, to others. When a person continually forces himself to give even against his will and he finds it difficult, his soul will become used to giving and will do it easily. With the passage of time and repetition, giving becomes a quality in the person, and he will be generous.