The Prophet Muhammad (saw)
Social Life

The Problem of Homeless Children in light of the value given to Children by Prophet Muhammad


The phenomenon of homeless children: There are social, economic, political and cultural reasons why there are for homeless children. Urban poverty, the occurrence of urbanization and ghettos, family relationships, family problems (abandonment, abuse and neglect), modernization, urbanization and emigration, incorrect or insufficient education, insufficient care, economic troubles, the lure of street life and child labor are all reasons that have led to this problem.

How Islam views the problem of homeless children: Islam perceives children, no matter their age or sex, as valuable and honorable members of society. Islam is a religion that is centered on the human being, and it is involved closely with social issues. Islam organizes the relationship between Allah and people, and in the same way it organizes the relationships between people and society. The intention of Islam is to provide a reign of peace, prosperity and respect for rights in the life of the individual, family and society. One cannot devote oneself solely to worship, taking no interest in life; at the same time there must be social solidarity and cooperation must. One of the reasons why religion exists is so that solutions with social content can be found to society's problems. Therefore, a concept and mentality that rejects religion will bring with it many problems that are impossible to solve. Islam takes particular interest in the weakest sectors of society which are most likely to be abused (children, orphans, women, slaves, the poor...), and introduces a series of social precautions to protect them and to ensure that they are not left hungry or homeless. For example zakat, fitre, sadaka (charitable alms) and the sacrificing of animals once a year are all this kind of measure. In his time Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was close to such people, giving them value and these were people who quickly accepted Islam.

Prophet Muhammad said "One who sleeps while their neighbor is hungry is not one of us." (1) He also stated that a woman who had left her cat in a house to starve to death would go to hell, (2) while another woman who went down a well to fill her shoe with water for a dog that was close to dying of thirst would go to Heaven, despite the sins she had committed. (3) "He who has mercy will be treated with mercy by Allah. Be merciful to those on the earth so that those in the heavens will be merciful to you." (4) "He who is not merciful will not be treated with mercy." (5) Mercy, which comes to the fore in these hadiths, is not limited to people alone; it is something that should be shown to all living creatures.

Islam brought spiritual and financial responsibilities to believers. In a hadith it is stated that: "To neglect supporting someone is enough of a sin" (6) and in the verse "...give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot)..." (7) the matter of thinking of other people in society is qualified as a characteristic of the mature believer. (8) Prophet Muhammad states "As long as someone is assisting their brother/sister Allah will help that person," (9) and thus encourages people to participate in social solidarity. It is the duty of society to protect children who have lost one or both parents. In the verse, "Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness, nor repulse the petitioner (unheard)" (10) all Muslims are addressed through the person of Prophet Muhammad. "Those who unjustly consume the property of orphans consume a fire, putting it into their own bodies; they will soon be enduring a blazing fire!" (11) "And come not nigh to the orphan's property, except to improve it, until he attain the age of full strength;" (12)"Seest thou one who denies the Judgment (to come)? Then such is the (man) who repulses the orphan (with harshness), and encourages not the feeding of the indigent." (13) "Nay, nay! But ye honor not the orphans!" (14) These verses emphasize that ignoring the orphan or the poor is the behavior of immoral people and this type of behavior should be avoided.

The childhood of Prophet Muhammad and the value he gave to children: 

Prophet Muhammad was born into this world after his father had died, and he lost his mother when he was six and his grandfather when he was eight. For a long time he stayed under the protection of his paternal uncle Abu Talib. He grew up with his cousins and they were treated equally. He always said that he was looked after and treated well. The verses: "Did He not find thee an orphan and give thee shelter (and care)? ...Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness" (15) remind the Prophet that he was an orphan and state that he should care for other orphans. Prophet Muhammad grew up without a mother, father or grandfather and did not undergo any sort of education; rather he was educated by Allah. Not only did he grow up as an orphan, he knew the pain of losing a child; all of his children, except for Fatima, died while he was still alive, some while they were babies, some when they were older.

In the Age of Ignorance, children were seen as being worthless, and they often killed; sometimes due to matters of honor or chastity or sometimes out of the fear of poverty. Islam forbade all such inhumane acts. Prophet Muhammad took interest in young and old, male and female - in short in all sectors of society - and established a system of human relationships with them. He was always positive in his attitude to his own children and grandchildren and to other children as well; he saw them as human beings, and as an educator he treated them with tenderness and mercy. He loved children very much and would express this love verbally or physically in a number of ways. He would greet any child he met, ask how they were and would sometimes joke with them and visit them when they were unwell. (16)

Other than his own children and grandchildren there were some children who were brought under his protection. These were his cousin Ali, and Zaid b. Harisa and Anas b. Malik. There is a lot of information in the sources about his daughter Fatima and his grandchildren Hasan, Huseyin and Umama. He had a very close relationship with his granddaughter, the child of his eldest daughter Zainab; he would not send her away even when he was praying with people. He would put her on the ground when he bent over in the prayer and lift her up again to put on his shoulders when he raised his head from the ground. (17) He never made any distinction between girls and boys, even though this had been the norm in the Age of Ignorance.

The son of Zaid, whom the Prophet had adopted, Usama, said: "Allah's Messenger would put me on one knee, Hasan on the other. He would press us to his breast and say ‘O my Lord! Treat these with mercy, because I am merciful to them. (Allah grant them mercy and happiness! I wish for them blessings and happiness.)" (18) On another day, when holding a grandchild in his lap, he said: "O Allah, love him, because I love him much." (19)

Prophet Muhammad would place children on the back and front of his mount. When a child urinated on him he did not get angry, but washed it off. (20) He never beat children. There is no report of Prophet Muhammad beating a woman or servant throughout his life. (21) He forbid the killing the children of the enemy side during war (22) and said "Do not do this! Kill neither a woman, nor a child nor an elderly person." (23) He did not once speak harshly to Anas, who served him for 10 years. (24) He affectionately greeted every child who met him at the conquest of Mecca, and he put some on his saddle. When he heard a child crying during the congregational prayer Prophet Muhammad kept the prayer short so as not to cause suffering for mother or child. (25)

When the son of his daughter Zainab was near death the Prophet sent his daughter this reassuring message "Allah gives and takes. There is a determined time for everything in His presence. Bear this patiently and wait for recompense from Allah." (26) When his son Ismail died he wept and said "The eyes weep, the heart is sad..." (27) When he saw a mother crying at the grave of her child, he recommended forbearance and said "Fear Allah and forebear." (28) In another hadith he gave the glad tidings that a mother and father who lose children when they children are young, as long as the parents bear their grief and are grateful, would be awarded with Heaven. Any Muslim who loses three children before puberty would be placed in Heaven by Allah due to the mercy and tenderness they showed these children. The expression in the Quran: "Those who forbear will be rewarded without calculation," supports these hadiths.

Prophet Muhammad said: "he who does not love children and does not respect the elders is not one of us." (29) He practiced what he preached. At the same time he wanted there to be justice and equality in the care of children. "Fear Allah and be fair among your children." "One of the rights your children have over you is to be treated by you with justice" (30)

Protection of orphans in the hadiths: In both the Quran and the hadiths Prophet Muhammad explains the things that should and should not be done for or to orphans. If an orphan is looked after and treated well the person who brings them up is promised Heaven. "He who protects his or another's orphan will be found next to me in Heaven." (31)"If someone strokes the head of an orphan for the sake of Allah they will receive blessings for every hair that they touch." "If one takes an orphan that is among the Muslims and takes them to their home to give them food and drink, as long as they have not committed an unforgivable sin, Allah will certainly put them in Heaven." (32) These hadiths give a serious message about not abandoning orphans but rather taking care of them. Prophet Muhammad said that there were seven destructive things that must be avoided, and one of these was abusing the property of an orphan. He desired that great care be given to protecting the property of an orphan. "O Lord! I am wary of those who abuse the rights of two weak types of people, the orphan and women." (33) One should trade with the capitol of an orphan, to provide them with profit and thus prevent their fortune from lying idle. (34) Firstly, treating an orphan well is as important as taking care of them. "The most blessed Muslim home is the one in which an orphan is cared for. The worst Muslim home is that in which an orphan is treated badly." (35) "Stroke the head of an orphan, feed the poor."(36)

It is possible to find many examples of people who take care of orphans and treat them well in the era of Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad was very happy when he saw that many people took care of the daughter of Hamza, who had been martyred. Prophet Muhammad gave the duty to look after the orphan girl to the wife of Jafer, the girl's aunt. Two girls were orphaned in the Uhud Battle and when their uncles tried to confiscate their property, Prophet Muhammad intervened and prevented them. (37) The donation of a date orchard that had been purchased by one of the Ansar from an orphan pleased Prophet Muhammad and the Ansar was given the glad tidings that he had secured himself a garden in Heaven. The land on which the Masjid-al-Nabawi was constructed belonged to two orphans. Even though the orphans wanted to donate the land the Prophet refused this offer and paid the price of the land. (38) Bashir b. Akrebe became orphaned when his father was martyred in the battle of Uhud; Prophet Muhammad went to visit him and when he saw that he was crying said: "Do not cry! I am your father; would you not like Aisha to be your mother?" In this way the Prophet was able to comfort him. (39) This and other examples show to what degree orphans were protected and taken care of at that time. Today we have great need of such virtuous examples.

When a child was found living on the street during the reign of Caliph Omar, after thorough research into what had happened to the child's family, the caliph would give the child into the care of the family that had found him/her and the expense of taking care of the child would be the state's responsibility. At the same time Omar would donate 100 dirhem to the child until they reached puberty. The same practice was continued in the caliphates of Uthman and Ali. This practice is important both from the aspect that it shows the situation of the state finances and the support given to families both physically and spiritually.

1) Bukhari, el-Edebul-Mufred, thk, Halid Abdurrahman, Daru´l-Ma´rife, Beirut 1996, p. 52.

2) Bukhari, Anbiyâ, 54; Muslim, Ebu´l-Huseyn Muslim b. Haccac el-Camiu´s-Sahih, Selam, 151-152, Birr, 133-134, thk, M. F. Abdulbaki, Daru Ihyai´t-Turasi´l-Arabi, Lebanon, 1956.

3) Muslim, Selam, 155. In addition, see: Bukhari, Musakat 9; Muslim, Selam, 153; Abu Davud, Jihad, 44.

4) Tirmidhi, Birr 16.

5) Bukhari, Adab, 18; Muslim, Fedail, 65.

6) Muslim, Zakat 40; Abu Davud, Zakat 45; Ahmed b. Hanbel, Musned, Cagri Yay., Istanbul, 1993, II, 160,193, 195.

7) Hashr, 59/9

8) In addition, see: Al-Nisa, 4/36.

9) Muslim, Dhikir, 38; Ibn Maja, Muqaddima, 17.

10) Ad-Duha, 93/9-10.

11) An-Nisa, 4/10.

12) An-An´am, 6/152

13) Al-Maun, 107/1-3.

14) Al-Fajr, 89/17.

15) Al-Duha, 93/6-9.

16) Bukhari, Adab, 17, Isti´zan 

17) Muslim, Mesacid, 41-43; Bukhari, Adab, 18; Abu Davud, Salat, 165

18) Bukhari, Adab, 22

19) Bukhari, el-Edebu´l-Mufred, sh. 45, 85.

20) Bukhari, Adab, 21.

21) Abu Davud, Adab, 4; Ibn Maja, Nikah, 51; Darimi, Nikah, 34; Ahmed b. Hanbel, Musned, VI, 32. 

22) Bukhari, Jihad, 147-148; Muslim, Jihad, 137-140.

23) Malik, Muvatta´, Jihad, 10

24) Muslim, Fedail, 54; Abu Davud, Adab, I; Tirmidhi, Birr, 69.

25) Tirmidhi, Ebvabu´s-Salat, B.276.

26) Bukhari, Cenaiz, 3; Muslim, Cenaiz, II.

27) Bukhari, Cenaiz, 91.

28) Bukhari, Cenaiz, 32, Ahkam, 11; Muslim, Cenaiz, 15

29) Tirmidhi, Birr, 15

30) Bukhari, Hibe, 13; Muslim, Hibat 3; Abu Davud, Buyu´, 83.

31) Muslim, Zuhd, 42.

32) Ahmed b. Hanbel, Musned, V, 250.

33) Ibn Maja, Adab, 6.

34) Malik Muvatta, Zakat 12-15

35) Ibn Maja, Adab, 6.

36) Ahmed b. Hanbel, Musned II, 263, 387.

37) Tirmidhi, Feraiz, 3; Ibn Maja, Feraiz, 2

38) Bukhari, Menakib, 45.

39) Bukhari, et-Tarihu´l-Kebir, Haydarabat 1941, II, 78.

For the entire text please see: Saffet Sancaklı, Hz. Peygamberin Çocuklara Verdiği Değer Bağlamında Sokak Çocukları Sorununa Genel Bir Bakış (An Overview of the Problem of Homeless Children in the Lig


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