How many incidents that occurred in our childhood days do we still remember up until today, be they happy or sad memories? Think about your childhood and no doubt you will remember the day you received a certificate of achievement at school, or when someone praised you in a public gathering, and so on.
These are the sort of incidents that become imprinted in your memory such that you can never forget. We likewise remember the sad memories from our childhood, such as a teacher chastising us, or a fight with a classmate, or being humiliated by a family member. How often does the good treatment of children not only affect them but also their parents and families, and it earns their love and respect? It is often the case that primary school teachers are contacted by their pupils’ parents who thank them and express their love and respect merely for the fact that they love and respect their children. They may express their gratitude sometimes by words and sometimes as gifts. Therefore, do not belittle smiling at a child, winning his heart and exercising interpersonal skills with him. I once delivered a lecture about the importance of prayer to a group of children in a school.
I asked them if anyone knew of a Hadeeth concerning the importance of prayer. One of the children responded saying, “The Prophet has said: “Between a man and disbelief and polytheism is to abandon the prayer.’’ I was so amazed by his response and his zeal that I instantly took off my watch and gave it to him, although, my watch wasn’t anything special. This incident encouraged the child to study more eagerly and memorise the Qur’an, since he had felt self-worth. Years passed by, I went to a mosque and was astonished to discover that the Imam of the mosque was that same child. He had grown to become a fine young man who had graduated from the Shari’ah College, and was now working in a court. Although, I did not remember him, he had remembered me.
Notice how love and respect developed in his heart due to a childhood incident. I recall being invited to a wedding ceremony once where a bright young man approached me and greeted me very warmly, and then reminded me of his childhood memories of me when I came to his school to deliver a lecture. Sometimes we even notice children who have been treated kindly by someone bringing their parents to him or her and introducing them in the hope that the parents have the same love and respect for the man or woman that they do. I would not hide the fact that I am very kind and welcoming of children. I make it a point to attentively listen to their sweet conversations, even though they are usually of no substance. In fact, sometimes I am extremely welcoming to them simply in order to win the hearts of their parents. I used to meet a friend of mine every now and then who would have his son with him, and I would be extremely kind and playful with the son.
One day, this friend of mine met me at a wedding party with this son. He greeted me and said, “What have you done to my son? His teacher at school asked his pupils what they would like to be when they grow up. Some said doctors, others said engineers, but my son said: ‘I want to be Muhammad al-‘Arifi: You can sometimes notice the different ways in which people deal with children. When a person enters a public gathering with his son, he shakes everyone’s hand one by one, while his son follows suit. Amongst the people are those who would completely ignore the child, others would barely shake his hand, and others would warmly shake his hand saying, “Welcome, young man! How are you today?” It is the love of that person that will be engraved in the heart of the child, as well as in the hearts of his parents. The Prophet would display the best form of treatment with children.
Anas bin Malik – may Allah be pleased with him – had a younger brother, and the Prophet would play with him and nickname him Abu ‘Umayr. The child had a small bird that he played with. Whenever the Prophet would meet him, he would joke with him saying, “O Abu ‘Umayr, what happened to al-Nughayr?” meaning, the bird. He would be kind and playful with children. Whenever he would meet Zaynab bint Umm Salamah, he would playfully say to her, “O Zuwaynib! O Zuwaynib!” Whenever he passed by children playing, he would greet them. Whenever he visited the Ansaar, he would greet their children and place his hand on their heads out of compassion. Upon the return of the Muslim army from Mu’tah, the Prophet along with the rest of the Muslims and their children met them on their way back to Madinah. When the Prophet saw the children he said, “Take the children and carry them, and please pass me Ibn Ja’far.” They passed ‘Abdullah bin Ja’far on to him and he held him in his arms. One day as the Prophet was performing ablution, there came to him Mahmud bin al-Rabi’ who was only five years old. The Prophet took some water in his mouth and jokingly blew it out in his face. (al-Bukhari) Generally,
The Prophet was lively and merry with everyone. He would always try to make people happy. He would always be easygoing with everyone so that people would not become bored in his company. A man came to the Prophet wanting a camel to ride on for a journey or expedition. The Prophet said to him jokingly, “I will give you an offspring of a camel.” The man became surprised and thought of how he could possibly ride a camel’s offspring that could not carry his weight. He said, “O Messenger of Allah! What would I do with a camel’s offspring?” The Prophet said, ‘Does a camel give birth to anything but an offspring?’ Meaning; I will give you a grown camel, however, no doubt, it is still another camel’s offspring! Once, he jokingly said to Anas, “O you, the possessor of two ears!” A woman once came to the Prophet complaining about her husband, so he said to her, “Is your husband the one whose eyes are white?” The woman became worried and thought that her husband had become blind, in light of what Allah said about Jacob, “His eyes whitened from grieving so much...” meaning, he became blind. She went back to her husband terrified and began to look into his eyes carefully. He asked her what the problem was. She said, “The Prophet said that there is whiteness in your eyes!” The man said, “O woman! Did he not tell you that the whiteness in my eyes is more than the blackness?” meaning; everyone has whiteness and blackness in his eyes. The Prophet would react positively to whoever joked or bantered with him and he would smile. Once ‘Umar bin al-Khattab came to the Prophet who was at that time angry with his wives, due to their demanding of more allowance.
‘Umar – may Allah be pleased with him – said, “O Messenger of Allah! If you recall us when we were men of the Quraysh, we always controlled our women. If any of our women were to ask for more allowance, we would have jumped up and grabbed her neck! But when we came to Madinah we found the women controlling their men, so our women began to learn these tricks from their women!” Thereupon the Prophet smiled. ‘Umar continued to speak and the Prophet continued to smile. We read in various Ahadith that often the Prophet would smile till his molar teeth would show. He was indeed an extremely kind and friendly companion. If we were to train ourselves to embrace such skills, we would surely taste the sweetness of life.