The right of the child to health care and proper nutrition The right of the child to health care and proper nutrition

The right of the child to health care and proper nutrition

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As is known medically, health care for a child should begin with conception inside the womb. The fetus at this stage requires special nutrition high in protein, vitamins and minerals, including calcium. These nutrients can only be acquired through the mother, who should make sure she is well nourished herself.

It is for this reason that Sharia makes it incumbent upon the husband to sustain the mother and her child, and to increase her share of food and drink so as to remain healthy. It is his duty as well to provide her with psychological care.

The two parents must pay utmost attention to observing fully their duties towards their expected child by, on the one hand, avoiding whatever may harm the child, and, on the other hand, taking all necessary measures to enhance the child’s chances of enjoying good health. This is in direct compliance with the saying of the Messenger, Peace Be Upon Him:

“Allah will (on the Day of Reckoning) question each person in a position of responsibility about what he (she) was responsible for (in this life).”

A pregnant mother must make sure she does not expose herself to radiation or chemicals that may damage some of the cells or the tissues of the fetus, or that may lead to the occurrence of physical deformities. She must not use any medications during pregnancy without expert medical guidance.

The use of some medications, particularly in the early days of pregnancy, may induce deformities in the fetus or cause malformation of some of its organs. It is also the mother’s duty to have a doctor constantly supervise her pregnancy.

Diseases or physical deformities that go undiscovered or undiagnosed may develop and cause wider damage to the organs of the fetus. An early diagnosis of any such phenomena would provide an opportunity for the application of the appropriate treatment, or for surgical intervention inside the uterus prior to birth so that the child may be born sound and healthy.

During her pregnancy, a mother should avoid contact with individuals suffering from contagious diseases such as German measles or syphilis.

She must take all precautions in order to prevent the transmission of any of these or other contagious diseases to herself or her fetus. For that purpose, she should take whatever vaccinations are necessary. Additionally, the pregnant mother must refrain from smoking or drinking alcohol or taking narcotics, which are forbidden in Islam anyway. She must do her best to avoid passive smoking, for even this has been proven to inflict harm upon her fetus, which is likely to suffer from a low weight at birth.

Since the health of the newly born baby is very much linked to the health of the mother, it is incumbent upon the parents to avoid whatever may harm the mother’s health, such as early pregnancy below the age of 18 years, or late pregnancy above the age of 35 years, or pregnancies at short intervals apart.

Parents should spare no effort to prepare appropriate and wholesome conditions for the birth of a child. For instance, the delivery should take place at properly equipped medical facilities with the aid of qualified medical staff. It is the responsibility of parents to spare their child the risk of infection during delivery from non-sterilized tools, or the risk of suffering any physical disability. The likelihood of such eventualities is enhanced when delivery occurs at the hands of a person who is medically unqualified to perform such a task.

A pleasant reception for children as they are ushered into life should be granted to all, without discrimination between males and females. The Holy Qur’an chastizes those who used to celebrate the birth of male children, but expressed sadness and dissatisfaction when females were born. The

Almighty Allah deplores such an attitude in the following Qur’anic verses:

AND WHEN THE NEWS OF [THE BIRTH OF] A FEMALE [CHILD] IS BROUGHT TO ANY OF THEM, HIS FACE BECOMES DARK, AND HE IS FILLED WITH INWARD GRIEF! HE HIDES HIMSELF FROM THE PEOPLE BECAUSE OF THE EVIL OF THAT WHEREOF HE HAS BEEN INFORMED. SHALL HE KEEP HER WITH DISHONOUR OR BURY HER IN THE EARTH? CERTAINLY, EVIL IS THEIR DECISION. (AL-NAHL, THE BEES, VERSES 58-59)

After birth, a child has the right to be breastfed by its mother in a manner that should satisfy it physically, psychologically and emotionally. The Islamic Sharia insists that the mother foster, nurse and breastfeed her newly born. It would be sinful to fail in her responsibility towards her suckling infant, who is utterly helpless on his or her own. Such failure brings grave consequences, as stated by the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, who said: “It is a grave sin for one to neglect a person whom he is responsible for sustaining.”

Should the mother suffer from an ailment that would prevent her from breastfeeding, or should the infant refuse to take her breast, or in case the mother passes away, however, the husband has the duty to procure a person to breastfeed his child even if she has to be paid, or alternatively to arrange for the infant to be fed artificially.

Thus, one may comprehend the wisdom inherent in the saying of Almighty Allah:

THE MOTHERS SHALL GIVE SUCK TO THEIR CHILDREN FOR TWO WHOLE YEARS, [THAT IS] FOR THOSE [PARENTS] WHO DESIRE TO COMPLETE THE TERM OF SUCKLING, BUT THE FATHER OF THE CHILD SHALL BEAR THE COSTOF THE MOTHER’S FOOD AND CLOTHING ON A REASONABLE BASIS. NO PERSON SHALLHAVE A BURDEN LAID ONHIM GREATER THANHE CANBEAR. NO MOTHER SHALL BE TREATED UNFAIRLY ON ACCOUNT OF HER CHILD, NOR ANY FATHER ON ACCOUNT OF HIS CHILD. AND ON THE [FATHER’S] HEIR IS INCUMBENT THE LIKE OF THAT [WHICH WAS INCUMBENT ON THE FATHER]. IF THEY BOTH DECIDEONWEANING, BY MUTUAL CONSENT, AND AFTER DUE CONSULTATION, THERE IS NO SINONTHEM. AND IF YOU DECIDE ON A FOSTER SUCKLING-MOTHER FOR YOUR CHILDREN, THERE IS NO SINONYOU, PROVIDED YOU PAY [THE MOTHER] WHAT YOU AGREED [TO GIVE HER] ON A REASONABLE BASIS. AND FEAR ALLAH AND KNOWTHAT ALLAH IS ALL-SEER OF WHAT YOU DO. (AL-BAQARA, OR THE COW, VERSE 233)

When the child is strong enough and is past the nursing stage, and since he or she requires body-building nutrition that is appropriate for each age, his or her parents must satisfy the child’s right to be appropriately fed as he or she grows older and bigger. It is also the parents’ duty to attend to any medical needs the child may have as a result of illness.

They must take every precaution and protective measure to prevent the child from falling ill. Foremost among these precautions would be to administer to the child the vaccinations mandated at the times they are supposed to be taken. Neglecting such a responsibility would amount to a grave sin for which the parent is accountable before Allah, the Lord of All Creations.

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