Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who shed a light on every field of life with the message that he conveyed to humanity, said much about education and introduced many educational practices. Prophet Muhammad indicated that his mission was in fact education with the following words: "I was sent as a teacher of knowledge" (Muslim, "Talaq", 4). The Prophet always demonstrated that he was involved in educational activities with his practices within the family, in the mosque and in other fields.
Prophet Muhammad not only endeavored to convey Islam to all people from all classes, but he was also involved in the education of the people who followed him and the children of those people. He introduced several practices in the education of children and also gave some instruction on this issue.
When we look at how the Prophet dealt with children, we see that he showed a great love and tolerance towards them; he cared about them, greeted them and asked them how they were. He gave importance to their desires and wishes, he ensured that there was justice among them, and he joked and laughed with them. It is clear that these points are important for communication with children.
We can list the issues that the Prophet emphasized in the education of children as follows:
- Teaching the principles of faith,
- Teaching how to worship,
- Teaching the Holy Quran,
- Teaching basic habits,
- Caring for their basic development.
TEACHING HOW TO WORSHIP
In religious terms, faith means believing in the existence, unity and the names and attributes of Allah, believing that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is His servant and His messenger, believing in all the messages sent by Allah through the prophets and accepting the authenticity of these messages.
Teaching the principles of faith means teaching the issues mentioned in the above definition, and raising children according to these. Teaching the principles of faith involves children understanding Allah in accordance with their levels of comprehension and being able to gain an understanding of the relationship between Allah and the universe, ranging from the simplest relationship to the most complicated.
When we look at how Prophet Muhammad dealt with the children in these terms, we can state that he tried to place Islamic faith in their innocent hearts, and he even uttered words that were related with faith to small children who were only learning to speak. Some of these words are as follows:
"Allah has no children and He has no partner."
"There is no god but Allah."
"I believe in Allah, and reject evil" (Ibn Abu Shayba, I/348).
It can be understood from such phrases that the Prophet tried to teach the principles of faith to children. When necessary, Prophet Muhammad also called small children to the faith. As a matter of fact, we can see from historical accounts that the Prophet invited Ibn Sayyad, who was on the threshold of adolescence, to Islam with the following words: "Do you bear witness that I am the Messenger of Allah?" Prophet Muhammad also visited a Jewish boy who worked for him when he was unwell and he invited the boy to Islam; the Jewish boy accepted Islam with the permission of his father.
TEACHING HOW TO WORSHIP
Learning the different types of worship and how to practice them are an important part of Islam, as is practicing what one has learned. Apart from teaching the information related to the religion, the Prophet (pbuh) not only was an example for others by practicing the religion, but he also stressed the importance of the worship of those around him.
In this respect, we can see from the following practices and hadiths that the Prophet showed the same awareness to the teaching of religion to children as he did to caring for and guiding them from an early age in order that they would become people who worshipped willingly and eagerly in their adulthood.
"The first piece of advice that the Prophet gave me was: "Do not tell anyone the secrets I have told you. Be a reliable person" For that reason, I would never tell anything to my mother or my wives when they asked about the secrets of the Holy Prophet.'
He advised me: ‘My son, make your ablution totally and carefully so that you have a long life. May the angels guarding you love you and protect you. '
Another piece of advice was: ‘Anas! Bathe well when making your greater ablution. Wet your hair well and wash your skin, cleaning it well. If you do so, you will become purified from your sins and mistakes as soon as you leave the bathing place.'
He said: ‘My son, keep your ablution as long as you can. He who dies in a state of ablution is given the rewards of martyrdom.' Finally, he said: ‘Anas! Hold your knees tight with your hands when making the ruku (bow) during prayer. Separate your fingers from each other. Do not hold your elbows close to your sides. My son, when you stand from the ruku make sure that all your limbs are in the correct place, as Allah will show no mercy for those who have not straightened their back between the ruku and prostration. My son, place your forehead and hands firmly when making the prostration. Do not lift yourself from prostration quickly like a rooster pecking at the ground. Do not rest your arms on the ground while in prostration. Do not look to the right and left during prayer.'
Finally he told me: ‘My Son, show care to perform your prayer regularly... If you do so, the angels will wish grace for you. Show respect for elderly Muslims and affection for the little ones....'"
(Bukhari, "Wasaya" 25; Abu Davud "Adab" 1; Tirmizi, "Birr" 69, "Ilm" 16).
Hasan revealed that Prophet Muhammad gave him the following advice: "Hasan! Perform your prayer five times a day without interruption. Abandon everything that is questionable. Head towards that about which you have no doubts, for the truth gives tranquility to the heart. Lying leads to agitation."(Tirmizi, "Qiyamah" 61). He also told him: "Teach your children how to pray when they reach the age of seven..."
(Abu Davud, "Salât" 25; Tirmizi, "Mawaqit" 182)
We see that during the era of Prophet Muhammad children were encouraged to fast from early ages and they became accustomed to these practices. It is striking that strong children who were eager to fast were encouraged and that they were provided with amusement before the time for breaking the fast so that they would find their hunger easier to bear. In addition to such forms of worship as prayer, fasting and pilgrimage, we see that children were trained to follow the path of Allah.
TEACHING THE HOLY QURAN
Comprehensive information related to the reading of the Holy Quran, of praising those who read the Quran and of reading the Quran during the prayers is provided both within the Quran and the hadith (sayings of the Prophet) sources. There can be no doubt that for people to benefit from the Quran, the basic source of Islam, they have to read it often and understand it well. As a result, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made great efforts that everyone read the Quran, both young and old. Naturally, people resorted to every possible means so that children would not be kept away from the knowledge of the Quran and its blessings.
TEACHING BASIC HABITS
In addition to the necessary knowledge and virtues that we need to live in this world, people need to be furnished with various skills in order to continue their lives. These skills not only cover the physiological needs of human beings, but they also prepare a ground which can cover their psycho-social needs if they understand and follow the rules of correct behavior. From what we have read above we can understand that people should provide their children with basic habits; they must have the necessary skills in matters such as sleep, food, clothing, neatness and code of conduct. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) emphasized the training of children in matters of faith and worship as well as stressing what basic habits children should have.
Nutrition is a part of human life and is closely related to one's health. The behavior that is linked to nutrition in Islam may be listed as: washing the hands before and after meals, starting meals with a basmala (saying "in the name of Allah"), finishing meals with prayers, eating from the side of the plate nearest to one, using the right hand, not resting one's hands on the right or left, not eating food lying face down on the floor, drinking water in three sips, not complaining about the food, even if we do not like it, breaking the bread into small pieces, not wasting even crumbs of food, not eating raw foods such as onion or garlic, which cause bad smells in the environment, not blowing into glasses or plates, and not eating meals when they are too hot.
Another habit children should be taught is regular sleeping. We understand from a hadith that Prophet Muhammad emphasized that children need to sleep during the daytime when necessary, and that they should clean their mouths and teeth before going to bed at night and when they wake up in the morning.
In addition to these basic habits, we can understand from children being given certain tasks during the day that they were intended to prepare the children for life in this way. According to what Anas reported, the Prophet gave children assignments, such as aligning the shoes, preparing the water and ewer for ablution, serving drinks to the guests and carrying letters. With these assignments, it was intended that children took their place in social life and that they acquire the necessary skills and talents.
CARING FOR THEIR DEVELOPMENT
Another point that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) focused on was to ensure the basic development of children. What is meant by basic development of children is language, physical, social, emotional and mental skills. The acquisition of the required degree of maturity in children in areas related to development will lead the child to become successful in their future life. As a result, we can conclude that within the Prophet's practices that were related to the education of children, he acted in a way to ensure the development in the above-mentioned areas.
We know that in the society in which Prophet Muhammad grew up the correct use of language by both children and grown-ups was an important issue. We also see that sensitivity was shown to ensure that children completed their social and emotional development and that they acquired self-esteem. The way in which the Prophet spoke with and greeted children and the fact that he would provide them with the opportunity to speak in public, treating them as if they were adults when necessary and accepting their respect leads us to understand that Prophet Muhammad was aware of this issue.
In addition to being concerned for the spiritual and social development of children, there are also recommendations in the hadiths aimed at their physical development. We see in a hadith that Hasan and Hussein competed at an archery contest in the presence of Muhammad, that they once wrestled and that the Prophet encouraged children to swim and advised people to teach children how to ride a horse and take them to competitions. All of these lead us to understand that children should be involved in games that may contribute to their social, emotional and mental development as well as their physical development.