Parents’ Responsibility to Preserve the Life, Health and Growth of Their Child

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The Islamic Sharia entrusts parents with the responsibility of preserving the life and health of their child, and providing care as he or she grows. The child is entrusted to the parents, who will be called to account by the Almighty, Who will question them about this trust. The child simply cannot take care of or protect him or herself; he or she lacks the ability to do so. Care and protection are the parents’ responsibility. Early in life, a child simply does not comprehend real danger. Parents have a duty to protect their youngsters from sickness and preserve them from dangers that may threaten their lives and impede their growth.


Under the joint responsibility of the husband and wife, parents have the obligation to take charge of all the affairs of their child, to guide the child, provide appropriate nutrition, and preserve or protect him or her from whatever sickness or disease causes harm.


Islam warns us against neglecting the need to provide our children with medical treatment or with preventive measures against fatal diseases or other illnesses. Islam prefers a strong believer to a weak one. The Messenger of Allah, Peace Be Upon Him, said: “A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than a weak believer.” It is true of course that the parents are instinctively inclined towards compassion for their children and may not need to be reminded or advised on this matter. Islam affirms the duty of providing protection and warns against negligence in this regard, however, so as to maintain an atmosphere of happiness for the family and across society. The objective is to facilitate the growth of a generation able to carry burdens without sorrow or hopelessness, and without becoming dependent upon others.


The Almighty Allah says:



Protecting oneself from ruin and harm in general includes protecting one’s family from ruin and harm. In as much as protection involves matters pertaining to the Hereafter, it involves matters pertaining to this world, for this world is nothing but a farm whose harvest will truly be in the hereafter.


Protection is not restricted to abstention from sinful or shameful acts considering that Islam seeks a balance between the requirements of the soul and the body. Protection should include the prevention of illnesses and diseases.


We can add two Hadiths of the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, in one of which he said: “It is a grave sin for one to neglect a person whom he is responsible for sustaining.” In the other, he said: “Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is accountable for his or her flock.” We would conclude that the injunction to protect our young ones and save them from diseases to preserve their life is indeed a religious duty, a social obligation and a national responsibility.


Child care requires the following measures:


      I.        Prior to marriage: medical examination and consultation are of utmost importance with regard to guidance on child care and prevention of hereditary diseases.


    II.        After marriage: Postponing the first pregnancy until the social and health conditions are appropriate for the raising of children is an important measure. In this way, one may secure the birth of healthy children. Scientific research has proven the medical necessity of postponing the first pregnancy until after the mother is 18 years old, for that is when a woman becomes mature. Prior to that age, the wife would still be a child whose body and sexual organs had not grown fully. There is a greater likelihood of delivering low-weight infants who are more susceptible to sickness and death. In case marriage takes place before the wife is 18, pregnancy should be delayed until she is 18 so as to avert these risks.


Prior to pregnancy:


      i.        Delaying pregnancy in the case of health or social necessities

    ii.        Proper nutrition as required for maintaining a woman’s health

   iii.        Appropriate spacing between pregnancies (family planning)

   iv.        Prevention from and treating microbial and parasitic infections

    v.        Seeking health consultation prior to pregnancy

During pregnancy:


      I.        Systematic follow up (antenatal care) provided by qualified and well-trained health providers

    II.        Proper and healthy nutrition

   III.        Refraining from smoking and avoiding unwarranted medications, hard work and pollutants

  IV.        Attending to the woman’s psychological needs, such as treating her well and providing her with the care she needs

   V.        Early detection of health problems and their immediate treatment

  VI.        Appropriate vaccinations

 VII.        Providing appropriate consultation to dispel rumours and false claims about pregnancy and delivery, as well as providing advice and guidance with regard to delivery, breastfeeding, the manner in which the mother may care for herself and her newly born baby, and the importance of giving an opportunity for natural breastfeeding as fully as possible by pregnancy spacing methods


At delivery:


a.    Delivery should be conducted with the assistance of trained and qualified medical providers.

b.    Delivery should take place in a properly equipped health facility.

c.    Breastfeeding should commence from the first hour after delivery.

d.    Those concerned must pay attention to family cohesion and provide the newly born baby and his or her mother with the care they need.

e.    Any medical or health problems should be identified as early as possible in order to render the necessary treatment to both the newly born baby and its mother.

f.     Those concerned should provide whatever is deemed necessary to advise the mother about natural and exclusive breastfeeding, as well as with regard to the need for spacing pregnancies (family planning) and sticking to whatever schedule is agreed upon.


Care of the young child:


A.   Attention should be paid to the health and medical needs of the infant, such as administering the appropriate vaccinations, monitoring weight increases, and making sure that the infant receives absolutely natural breastfeeding for at least six months without additions (exclusive breastfeeding), and that after the first six months the infant receives natural breastfeeding complemented with additional nutritional formulas for up to two years.


B.   Attention should be paid to cleanliness and the prevention of diseases, especially diarrhoea and infection with parasites.


C.   Care should be taken to avoid pregnancy throughout the nursing (breastfeeding) period.


D.   Attention should be given to the psychological needs of the child.


Care of the older child:


A.   Attention should be given to the proper and healthy nutrition of the child.

B.   Children should be encouraged to engage in regular sports (physical activity).

C.   Attention should be given to the psychological needs of the child.

D.   Attention should be given to personal hygiene.

E.   Monitor closely the health conditions of the child in order to detect medical or health problems at an early stage and attend to them with treatment.

F.    Provide the child with appropriate advice and guidance without neglecting its right to enjoy its childhood by playing, enjoying life and acquiring the skills that are appropriate for its age.

G.   Protect the child from exploitation, physical abuse or other activities that may be injurious to its health.


Care of adolescents and growing young people


Puberty, or sexual maturation, is the age at which young men and women become responsible and are expected to adhere to the rules of Islamic Sharia. It is of great importance that they should receive the advice and guidance they need as soon as they exhibit signs of sexual maturation. They need to be taught matters pertaining to their physical cleanliness and purity. Their psychological needs as well as general health and nutritional requirements should be addressed, with special attention to the need for regular physical exercise. They need to be advised against smoking or falling prey to any addictive habits or harmful practices.


All of these practical measures are supported by Sharia in the following aspects:


Spacing pregnancies


Islamic Sharia does not object to spacing pregnancies as long as this is aimed at providing children with the care they need, and to spare the mother the many dangers that may threaten her life as a result of too frequent pregnancies, without sufficient rest in between to restore her health, regain her strength and enjoy an opportunity to raise her child properly. Textual evidence proves the permissibility of family planning in Sharia.


It has been narrated on the authority of Jabir bin Abdillah that he said: “We used to practise withdrawal (coitus interruptus) during the time of the Messenger of Allah, Peace Be Upon Him, and while the Qur’an was still being revealed.” In another narration of this Hadith, it is stated, “The Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, knew about it and did not forbid us. “ Withdrawal means that a man discards his semen outside the body of a woman towards the end of intercourse between a husband and wife. This is a simple, primitive technique that used to be resorted to in the old days, and continues to be adopted nowadays as a contraceptive. It is a permissible technique, and so is every other technique that does not cause harm to the woman. By analogy and following the example of that simple technique, all similar methods are permissible.


Nutrition and breastfeeding


Islam urges, even compels us to preserve life and protect the mind. This may only be accomplished through proper and correct nutrition right from the early days of pregnancy through birth, and then throughout the stages of future life as youngsters are growing up and maturing. The Islamic Sharia calls for the adoption of a complete diet that comprises all the nutrients required by the body in order for it to grow in good health, and mature appropriately and wholesomely. The Messenger of Allah was right when he said: “A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than a weak believer.”


The human body is in need of a complete diet to nourish itself: to eliminate hunger, and make the body strong and fit to work. If this is the purpose of feeding, Islam calls on man to take what food is needed without extravagance.


The Almighty Allah says:


Attention to nutrition begins with the time of conception. The fetus requires proper feeding that can only be accomplished via taking care of his or her mother’s nutritional needs. By virtue of Islam’s attention to the child long before it is born, every effort should be made so that the child at the time of delivery is strong and healthy, and its mother comes out of delivery in good health and free from problems. Malnutrition would adversely affect both mother and child, and could lead to complications during delivery.


The newly born child might even start life underweight and susceptible to microbial infections, which are responsible for high death rates during the first year of life. The food the mother takes should be complete and healthy, and should consist of sufficient calories and the required amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals. For the first two years, the child should be breastfed naturally. During the first six months, the child should be fed absolutely nothing but breast milk. Other complementary foods may be added to the mother’s milk after six months, up to the age of two. From the age of six months, the child requires no less than three meals a day, in addition to breastfeeding, since at such a young age its stomach is too small for large amounts of food. The child’s nutrition should similarly contain sufficient calories, and the required amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals.


Vaccination according the rules of Sharia


The Islamic Sharia urges the defeating of illnesses. With regard to the preservation of human life, we find that the Sharia texts urge us to attend to sickness with remedy, and to seek every possible avenue in order to accomplish this objective. This meaning is found in the saying of the Messenger of Allah, Peace Be Upon Him:


“Servants of Allah, seek remedy for your illnesses, for Allah did not create an ailment without creating a remedy for it. There are those who know it and those who do not know it.” Scientific experimentation and medical research have only confirmed what this Hadith states. At different times, man is guided towards discovering the existence of a remedy for a certain illness. We draw from this Hadith that we should never lose hope of finding a remedy for any illness. Scientists and medical doctors should carry out their experiments and conduct their research in the hope of defeating sicknesses for which they are still seeking a remedy.


Vaccines are essential for preserving the life of the child and attaining healthy growth


One of the reasons for the decline in the rate of vaccination in the Islamic countries pertains to the abundance of misinformation and malicious rumours about vaccines.


These countries will need to exert intense efforts to raise the level of awareness and consequently the rate of vaccination. The objective of vaccinating humans, whether young or old is to immunize their bodies against a certain contagious disease. As a matter of fact, immunization is one of the factors that strengthen the body and enable it to defend against disease.


Logic demands placing something inside the human body to enable it to defeat that which may attack it. Sharia, ahead of logic, calls on man to do his best in order to keep his body healthy and free from disease. Sharia texts hail a strong person, hail beauty, call for the use of medication, urge the discovery of remedies for illnesses, and prohibit man from doing anything that may harm his body or the bodies of others. Such teachings are embodied in the Qur’anic verse:



They are also embodied in the saying of the Messenger of Allah, Peace Be Upon Him: “A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than a weak believer.” The Messenger of Allah, Peace Be Upon Him, also said: “Be keen on what is good for you and seek the assistance of Allah.” We find among the sayings of the Messenger of Allah, Peace Be Upon Him, a saying that is considered one of the major foundations for the rulings of Islamic jurisprudence. He said: “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” This means that we are ordered by Sharia to keep ourselves far away from whatever may cause harm to us or cause harm to others. The Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, said: “Allah is beautiful and he loves beauty.” It is known that man’s health is an aspect of beauty; it is the outcome of good nutrition and health care.


Vaccination serves the purposes of Sharia


We can say that vaccination against diseases serves the purposes of Sharia with regard to preserving life by defending it against threats from diseases. The importance of vaccination is illustrated when viewed through the prism of Sharia, because whatever deters harm from afflicting human beings is certainly required by Sharia, in accordance with the rule on preventing harm.


Since inflicting harm is to be avoided, according to Sharia and logic, man is required to prevent harm and close all avenues that may lead to it. One of the means of deterring harm from afflicting the body of man and causing him to suffer is vaccination, as recommended by the medical authorities to members of the community.


Some people have been urging a passive response to the call for vaccination under the pretext that some foreign circles aim via vaccination to harm people. This is clearly an erroneous attitude that is detached completely from the endeavour to serve the best interests of individuals and societies. Such an attitude indicates one of two things: It is either the outcome of ignorance concerning the rules of Sharia, or the outcome of ignorance of the serious repercussions that may unfold as a result of abandoning vaccination. Doctors and medical experts stress that all vaccines are subjected to all types of tests conducted under international supervision by international organizations such as the World Health Organization. Doctors further affirm the falsehood of the rumours that allege that vaccines reduce fertility or lead to infertility.


The call for rejecting vaccination will have an extremely dangerous outcome. Those who reject vaccination will have bodies that lack any resistance to contagious diseases covered by the vaccines. Many people will catch diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. These may be among the most threatening to human lives, including polio, tuberculosis and cholera.


There is a pressing need to educate people about the importance of vaccination for preserving individual lives and whole societies. The various mass media, such as newspapers, and radio and TV channels (whether local or satellite), have a duty to promote health awareness in the general public by explaining the advantages and benefits from vaccinating against diseases, and the dangers when vaccination is abandoned.


Special seminars and workshops should also be held for this purpose. Clerics also have a role to play in the campaign to enlighten the public on these matters.

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