Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dealing with a child’s fears

Q) I have a child who is afraid of everything, even his own shadow, and I do not know whether the way I am bringing him up is wrong, or how I can teach him to be brave.

A) Praise be to Allaah.

Specialists in child psychology think that in his first year a child may show signs of fear when hearing a sudden noise, or if something falls suddenly, and so on. A child may be afraid of strangers starting from the age of approximately six months, and in the second year a child may be afraid of many things such as animals, cars, slopes, water, etc.

In general, females show more fear than males, and the intensity of the fear may vary according to the intensity of the child’s imagination; the more imaginative a child is, the more fearful he may be.

Several factors and reasons may increase a child’s fears, such as:

- The mother scaring her child with ideas of ghosts and ghouls, or soldiers, or shadows, or ‘ifreets (jinn) or strange creatures, etc.

- Too much coddling on the part of the parents, or their being too anxious and sensitive about him.

- Raising the child in isolation, keeping him within the four walls of the house.

- Telling fairy stories that have to do with jinns and ‘ifreets…

… and other reasons.

A child may be made susceptible to fear by picking up the fears of his parents through what he sees. Fears acquired in this manner are characterized by their lengthy duration. Hence, setting a good example plays a major role in training a child not to be afraid. What is required here is an example of bravery in all kinds of different situations, and not being afraid of animals that are not harmful or of people in high positions when demanding one’s rights, and generally not being afraid for no reason.

In order to deal with a child’s fears, the parents must pay attention to a number of matters, including:

- Bringing him up from the earliest age to believe in Allaah and worship Him, and to turn to Him in all situations of anxiety and fear.

- Giving the child some freedom and responsibilities, and letting him do things, according to his stage of development.

- Not scaring him, especially when he cries, with ideas of ghosts, hyenas, thieves, jinn and ‘ifreets, etc. This comes under the heading of “better”, as in the hadeeth: “The strong believer is better and is more loved by Allaah than the weak believer.” (Narrated by Muslim, no. 2664).

- Encouraging him from an early age to mix with others and giving him the opportunity to meet them and get to know them, so that he will feel from the depth of his heart that he is loved and respected by everyone whom he meets and gets to know.

What the psychologists and educationalists advise is giving the child the opportunity to get to know the thing that is frightening him, so that if he is afraid of the dark, there is nothing wrong with letting him play with the light-switch, turning it off and on; if he is afraid of water there is nothing wrong with letting him play with a little water in a small bowl, and so on…

- Parents can also tell him stories of the heroic salaf (early generations of Islam), and train him to adopt the attitudes of the Sahaabah, so that he will develop a brave and heroic nature.

But if the child’s fear is a form anxiety, then its cause may be a number of interconnected factors which according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), should be dealt with in a wise and careful manner. These factors include:

- Giving the child more to do than he is able, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “He who does not show mercy to our young ones and acknowledge the rights of our old ones is not one of us.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, no. 4943; al-Tirmidhi, 1921; also narrated in Saheeh al-Jaami’ by al-Albaani, 5444).

- Not satisfying his need for success. It was narrated that ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “I never heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saying ‘May my father and mother be sacrificed for you’ to anyone, except Sa’d, to whom I heard him say, ‘Shoot, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you!’ And I think that was on the day of Uhud.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, no. 6184; Muslim, no. 2411). This shows that parents should encourage their children no matter what the level of quality of their performance, so that they will motivated to do even better.

- Going to extremes in physical punishment and dealing harshly with them. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever is deprived of gentleness is deprived of all goodness.” (Narrated by Muslim, no. 2292).

- Difficult living conditions which lead the parents to vent their anger on their children – such as a lack of harmony between the spouses, or the mother’s work, or not being happy at work. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The strong man is not the one who can wrestle another to the ground, rather the strong man is the one who can control himself at times of anger.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, no. 6116).

Finally, we must point out that this does not mean that the child should never be afraid. Fear is necessary in some cases, because it is essential to the child’s survival. He must fear Allaah, and fear the harm that people may do, and fear committing sin, etc. That should be a natural kind of fear, not too great or too small.

From Tanshiy’at al-Fataat al-Muslimah, p. 159, by Hanaan ‘Atiyah al-Toori al-Juhani.

He owns Iraqi dinars; should he pay zakaah on them?

Q) I have one million Iraqi Dinars. Its exchange rate with foreign currency is zero. How shall I pay Zakah on this amount?

A) Praise be to Allaah.

These bank notes come under the heading of “trade goods”, because they actually have some value in the market, even though they do not have any value in financial institutions.

The one who owns these bank notes should work out their value at the end of the zakaah year, and pay zakaah on them at a rate of 2.5%. This applies if their value reaches the nisaab (minimum threshold) or if he has other cash which completes the nisaab.

The nisaab is the equivalent of 595 grams of silver. See the answer to question no. 2795.

And Allaah knows best.

Islam Q&A

Istikhaarah asking to be guided to the more correct of two scholarly opinions

Q) Can a person pray istikhaarah to be guided towards doing something the CORRECT way regarding a matter over which there is a scholarly dispute, because both opinions are convincing yet opposing, and the person wants to know which one is right and which one s/he should follow.

A) Praise be to Allaah.

It is narrated that some of the salaf prayed istikhaarah concerning matters of knowledge concerning which there was a difference of opinion, and it is proven that some of them prayed istikhaarah asking to be guided concerning the status of narrators (of hadeeth) concerning whom there was a difference of opinion. For example:


‘Abd al-Razzaaq narrated in al-Musannaf (10/301) from Ibn al-Musayyab that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab wrote a document about the grandfather and kalaalah (issues of inheritance when a grandfather of the deceased was still living, or if the deceased left behind no children), and he continued to pray istikhaarah, saying, “O Allaah, if You know that there is some good in it then let it be.” Then when he was stabbed he called for the document, and erased it, and no one knew what was in it. He said: “I wrote something about the grandfather and kalaalah, and I prayed istikhaarah asking Allaah for guidance, then I decided to leave you as you are now.”


Imam al-Shaafa’i (may Allaah have mercy on him) was one of the scholars who prayed istikhaarah the most with regard to matters of knowledge. He stated in his book al-Umm almost fourteen issues concerning which he prayed istikhaarah asking for guidance. For example, he said in al-Umm (2/44):

It was said that zakaah is due on jewellery for personal use, and this is what I pray istikhaarah about, asking Allaah for guidance. Al-Rabee’ said: He prayed istikhaarah, asking Allaah for guidance concerning it, and al-Shaafa’i said: There is no zakaah on jewellery for personal use. End quote.


Among the muhadditheen, Ibn Hibbaan used to pray istikhaarah, asking Allaah for guidance concerning narrators whose status was uncertain or unclear. He mentions this often in his books, especially in al-Majrooheen, for example when he says (1/194): Bahz ibn Mu’aawiyah ibn Heedah al-Qushayri, one of the people of Basrah, who narrated from his father, from his grandfather; al-Thawri and Hammaad ibn Salamah narrated from him. He made many mistakes. As for Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Ishaaq ibn Ibraaheem (may Allaah have mercy on him), they quoted him as evidence and narrated from him, but a number of our imams ignored him. Were it not for the hadeeth, “We will take them [the camels that are due as zakaah] and half of his camels as the due of our Lord”, I would have included him among the thiqaat (trustworthy). He is one of those concerning whom I pray istikhaarah, asking Allaah for guidance. End quote.

There are many examples of scholars who turned to praying istikhaarah when they were uncertain about issues. I have only quoted a few of them in order to make the point.

But what is meant by their words “This is one of the matters concerning which I pray istikhaarah, asking Allaah for guidance” and “He is one of those concerning whom I pray istikhaarah, asking Allaah for guidance”?

The apparent meaning is that they said du’aa’, asking Allaah to guide them to the correct opinion concerning an issue or a narrator. It does not mean that they used to pray istikhaarah in the sense of the naafil salaah and du’aa’. That is because the du’aa’ is not applicable to what they sought. In du’aa’ al-istikhaarah it says “then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me.” How can this be applicable to a matter of fiqh or the status of a narrator of hadeeth?

It seems that these imams were asking Allaah to help them to reach the right conclusion with regard to matters of knowledge, not that they were saying the du’aa’ of istikhaarah with the salaah offered beforehand.

The aim of istikhaarah is to ask for guidance from Allaah to the better of two matters concerning which one is hesitating, because guidance and help come from Allaah; He knows and we do not know; He is the Knower of the unseen. The one who relies on himself will go astray, and the one who trusts in his reason and does not seek the help of his Lord will be doomed. The most important thing concerning which a person should seek the help of Allaah is correct understanding of Allaah’s religion and choosing the most correct and best opinion, and istikhaarah or seeking Allaah’s guidance in choosing is the best means of achieving that; it may be the best way of choosing between two opinions when the evidence is very confusing.

There is no reason why the du’aa’ of the imam or faqeeh, asking his Lord to guide him to the correct opinion regarding issues of knowledge should not be preceded by salaah (prayer), and this action may loosely be called istikhaarah, or that name can be applied to the du’aa’ and not the prayer. As for the salaah and du’aa’ mentioned in the famous hadeeth of Jaabir, this cannot be what they were referring to when they spoke of praying istikhaarah, asking Allaah for guidance concerning such and such.

And finally:

It should not be thought that asking for guidance with regard to matters of knowledge is contrary to what Allaah has enjoined of seeking evidence and proof. Resorting to istikhaarah or praying for guidance is to be resorted to when there is no evidence or it is not clear, or there is a contradiction with equally strong evidence, or when the issues is confused in the scholar’s mind and he cannot understand it. None of that means ignoring evidence and proof, rather it is seeking the help of Allaah to understand, and turning to Him and asking Him for guidance to the truth. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to ask Allaah to guide him to the truth.

It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah the Mother of the Believers (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) got up to pray at night, he would start his prayer with the words: “O Allaah, Lord of Jibra’eel, Mika’eel and Israfeel, Originator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the unseen and the seen, You judge between Your slaves concerning that wherein they differ. Guide me concerning that wherein they differ of the truth by Your leave, for You guide whomsoever You will to a straight path.”

Narrated by Muslim (770).

For information on Salaat al-Istikhaarah and some of the rulings concerning it, please see the answer to question no. 2217 and 11981.

And Allaah knows best.

Islam Q&A

Competition writing the beautiful names of Allaah among members of a forum

Q) It became widely known nowadays in forums what is know as the competition of ‘Allah’s beautiful names’ the members of forum participate in it aiming to increase their good deeds. A member starts writing one name of Allah’s beautiful names, then another member writes another name, and so on. This might differ from a forum to another. Some forums start by writing the name and its explanation. What is the ruling on this? Is it considered congregational dhikr, which is known as impermissible? Please bear in mind that every member might enter the forum in a different time to other members. Please clarify this matter to us.

A) Praise be to Allaah.

There is nothing wrong with holding this kind of competition, because it is spreading goodness, benefiting all concerned, and increasing knowledge, especially if the participant writes the meaning of the name that he mentions. But it is important to use sound books for this information, and to beware of quoting from people of misguidance and deviation.

The one who wants to adhere to the names of Allaah that are proven in the Qur'aan and Sunnah is advised to refer to al-Qawaa’id al-Muthla by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) and Sifaat Allaah ‘azza wa jall al-Waaridah fi’l-Kitaab wa’l-Sunnah by Shaykh ‘Alawi al-Saqqaaf (may Allaah preserve him).

The members should be encouraged to memorize these names and pay attention to them, because of the report narrated by al-Bukhaari (2736) and Muslim (2677) from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him), according to which the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has ninety-nine names, one hundred less one. Whoever memorizes them will enter Paradise.”

The memorizing mentioned in the hadeeth includes the following:

1. Learning them by heart.

2. Learning their meanings.

3. Acting upon their meanings. So if a person learns that He is al-Ahad (the One), he should not associate anyone else with Him. If he learns that He is al-Razzaaq (the Provider), he should not seek provision from anyone else. If he learns that He is al-Raheem (the Most Merciful), he should not despair of His mercy, and so on.

4. Calling upon Him by them, as He says (interpretation of the meaning): “And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allaah, so call on Him by them” [al-A’raaf 7:180]. That is by saying for example: Ya Rahmaan irhamni (O Most Merciful, have mercy on me), Ya Ghafoor ighfir li (O Oft Forgiving, forgive me), Ya Tawwaab tubb ‘alayya (O Accepter of repentance, accept my repentance) and so on.

This competition does not come under the heading of communal dhikr which is an innovation, because that is recited in unison, which is not the case here.

For more information please see the answer to question no. 111562.

And Allaah knows best.

Islam Q&A