Did you know that our body parts have rights assigned by the Almighty (SWT)?
How many of us learned the song “head and shoulders” growing up? I am pretty sure that’s how I came to know the names of my body parts as a child.
When children reach the ages of 1-2, they become more aware of themselves. At this stage, we often teach children their body parts through the infamous children’s song, “head and shoulders.” We enter the five senses and assign senses to each body part, and more often than not, that’s where we stop.
Knowing the parts of your body and understanding your senses is very important, but why let it stop there? Allah (SWT) has given rights to our body parts, and we can teach our children those rights at a young age.
Muslims believe everything created in this universe and beyond has a purpose. Nothing is by accident. In some cases, the purpose is obvious; sometimes, we need to seek it through research and guidance from our respected scholars; and sometimes, the purpose remains unknown. Regardless, everything happens for a reason.
Before I get into the rights of the body parts, the purpose Allah (SWT) created for each of our body parts, and how you can incorporate these teachings with your children, let’s talk about the ideal time to teach this to your children.
This post is all about the rights of our body parts using an Islamic perspective.
When to Teach the Rights of Our Body Parts to Young Children:
The age between 0-7 is critical as it lays the foundation for a child. This is true in both Islam and western thought.
At the tender age of one, children are ready to learn the names of their bodies, and by two to three years of age, toddlers can usually identify some of their body parts independently.
According to the CDC, toddlers at this age desire independence and experience immense learning, thinking, social and emotional changes that help them explore their environment as they make sense of it at a new level.
Once toddlers enter the age between 3-5, their awareness expands further, and they will start asking questions that are part of their worldviews. Toddlers can typically recognize and understand the five senses at this age, although they’ve been using them since birth.
The Rights of The Body Parts:
Allah (SWT) created the tongue to speak of good things. We can make love and happiness or hate and sadness, and everything in between with the words we utter. The Quran eloquently states, “…they should speak righteous words to people” (2:83).
Our tongues enhance our spiritual selves and spread positivity. In moments of anger, frustration, and stress, the words you utter may be hurtful. This is perhaps why Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s.) says “the affliction of a human being is in his tongue” (Al-Amudi, 4148), and “one who restrains his tongue is safe from regret” (Amudi, 4188).
According to Islamic literature, the tongue is a crucial limb in a person’s body. If used correctly, words can spread immense positivity, and if misused, they can result in an abundance of negativity.
Islamic scripture makes many references to the power of the tongue on a person’s character, but this isn’t solely an Islamic perspective. There are references to the tongue in Christianity as well— “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). Western psychologists have also associated the extreme misuse of our words with emotional abuse and verbal abuse.
How to incorporate teaching the purpose of the tongue at home:
When discussing taste and watching your toddler decide if they enjoy a specific type of food, you can explain that some foods taste better than others. Just like that, certain words make us feel better than others. When we speak nicely, using words that make us and those around us feel better, our day goes by better, and Allah (SWT) always rewards us for that behavior in many unique ways. When we speak ill of others and use hurtful words, we affect ourselves and those around us. These words can lead to negative consequences, and Allah (SWT) would love for us to be rewarded by saying nice things.
Aim to use your tongue to speak positively for the sake of Allah (SWT). In doing so, you may build a strong relationship with Him, yourself, and those around you.
The ears must refrain from listening to what Allah (SWT) has forbidden. In the Quran, it reveals, “when they hear impious words (lies), they keep away from them, saying, ‘we shall be responsible for our deeds, and you will be responsible for yours'” (28:55). In another verse, the Quran says: “those who do not attend gathering for unlawful songs and when they come across something impious, pass it by nobly” (25:72). These verses tell us that the ears should not hear what is prohibited.
We already know that toxic information, whether gossip, rumors, hate comments, promiscuous songs, or the like, can affect our well-being and mental state. The information one hears can form a person’s thoughts and character. Western science has found that gossip, rumors, and bullying can result in exhaustion, anxiety, and depression, to name a few. Western literature also offers solutions to prevent these, and one of those solutions is to avoid hearing hurtful things and not engage in such dialogue. This is similar to the verse in the Quran mentioned above (25:72).
How to incorporate teaching the purpose of the ears at home:
When practicing the sense of hearing, you may learn different pitches from whispering to screaming, or you may listen to the sound of rain hitting the window, grains of rice pouring out from a bag, or water running from the tap. These demonstrate the unique sounds we hear and encourage our children to be mindful of the sounds around them.
Consider explaining that your child can allow their ears to hear good things. You may say something nice and then say something that can be hurtful and ask your toddler how each made them feel. Your child will likely feel good when they hear something nice and feel upset or sad when hearing something hurtful. You can use this opportunity to discuss how important it is to refrain from listening to words that might affect us. Allah (SWT) wants us to surround ourselves with people who speak about good things, listen to the good, and prosper as individuals.
Note: This is not to say children should not listen to parents if they are being firm and correcting bad behavior. It is more so applied to situations where bad words are being used, name-calling, or other situations that may have lasting effects on a child. This becomes especially important as children get older.
Focus on training your ears to listen and hear what Allah (SWT) has made permissible to you and to walk away from idle talk that may have long-term effects on your mind, body, and soul. Engage in meaningful conversations that help you become a noble person.
The eyes should not look at what Allah (SWT) has forbidden and should always look away from unlawful things. The famous verse in the Quran states, “tell the believing men to cast down their eyes and guard their carnal desires; this will make them more pure” (24:30).
Eyes are a test for all of humanity. There is so much to physically see that may be helpful for us and much that may be harmful in this world. Islam recommends lowering the gaze to what it prohibits.
How to incorporate teaching the purpose of the eyes at home:
When using the eyes to see the world around you, ask your toddler to open the Quran and look at the beautiful Arabic text. This is the time to explain and show what Allah (SWT) wants our eyes to see to be better people in this world and the hereafter. You may also read any book and demonstrate the power of knowledge and learning, explaining how our eyes capture information for our brains to use.
Use your eyesight for learning, knowledge, and education to better yourself and society.
Your hands should be used for what Allah has made lawful to you. “And make not your own hands contribute to your own demise, for the Lord loves the actions of good.” (2:195).
With your hands, give more than you take. Give in charity, prayer, and help those in difficult situations or those facing oppression. Do not use your hands for unlawful activities such as stealing, aggression, or assisting wrongdoers.
How to incorporate teaching the purpose of the hands at home:
While experimenting with the sense of touch, you could discuss texture and feel. In this conversation, you could also talk about why Allah (SWT) gave us hands and use that opportunity for your child to give sadaqah (charity) with their own hands while touching, feeling, and experiencing the money or the charitable item.
Promote the use of your hands in prayers, to give without accounting, personal hygiene, and any action that Allah (SWT) favors.
Use your legs to walk toward what pleases Allah (SWT). “And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!'” (Quran, 25:63).
We have the free will to walk amongst this world as we please. Some places benefit us, and others do not. Choosing the path that leads to Allah (SWT) is always the right path. Opting to travel in directions that cause more harm than good often opens doors to long-term consequences, some of which may be irreversible. Use your legs to walk toward places of worship, jobs, and contributions to society, and avoid unlawful acts such as robbery, entering harmful facilities, etc.
How to incorporate teaching the purpose of the legs at home:
The legs are not technically a sense, but your little one will learn to jump, skip, hop, run, and use their legs for various activities during toddler years. In conversation, you may talk about the importance of legs. Explain that we use our legs to help us get from one place to another, but we have a choice in the places we go, and Allah (SWT) wants us to walk toward a path of goodness. You might create a scenario where someone pushed another child, and your toddler saw this happen. You can ask your toddler what they think they should do. When your child elects to walk toward the child that fell to help them, you can explain that Allah (SWT) loves it when we use our legs to walk toward people who need our help and will help us become better people.
Use your legs to walk a path of goodness and righteousness.
Why Teach the Rights of the Body Parts to Young Children?
Knowing what Allah (SWT) has ordained for our body parts allows young children to hold their bodies in high regard as they grow up with an understanding of the body’s purpose.
Parents and Islamic schools often teach the body’s rights when children are older or even after they have meddled with the unlawful.
According to psychologists, knowing ‘why’ we do things helps our responses to guidelines and expectations. We are more likely to accept a concept if we can understand its reason, whether it’s in our favor or against us. Knowing why Allah (SWT) created each of our body parts makes us more likely to use them for those purposes.
Conclusion on the Rights of Our Body Parts:
Your child may not be fully ready to apply this information, but that’s not the point. You want to establish awareness and build on that knowledge simply, so your child has the tools to navigate the challenges they will face as they come of age.
Young childhood years of curiosity are an opportune time to introduce the rights of the body parts in simple terms to help your toddler associate responsibility to each body part. Establishing this understanding at a young age allows the brain to store this information long-term. By taking this approach, your child is more likely to be aware of their actions and use their body parts intentionally.
What are some ways you teach the rights of our body parts to your children?
This post is all about the rights of our body parts.
Al-`Amuli, Al-Hurr. Combat with the Self. Saqi Books, 2003.
“Child Development: Toddlers (2–3 Years Old) | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Mar. 2020, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/toddlers2.html.
“Child Development: Preschooler (3–5 Years Old) | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2021, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/preschoolers.html.
“How Rumors and Gossip Can Actually Make You Sick.” WebMD, 21 Feb. 2018, www.webmd.com/balance/health-rumors-gossip.
Lickerman, Alex. “Why We Need to Know Why.” Psychology Today, 15 Nov. 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201011/why-we-need-know-why.
Sarwar, M. The Holy Quran. Sajjad Foundation, 2011.
Source: 4148 – Ghurar Al-Hikam Wa Durar Al-Kalim, Exalted Aphorisms And Pearls Of Speech
Source: 4188 – Ghurar Al-Hikam Wa Durar Al-Kalim, Exalted Aphorisms And Pearls Of Speech
“The Noble Quran.” Quran.Com, quran.com. Accessed 2 Jan. 2022.
“The Tongue Has the Power of Life and Death.” Vian Tenkiller News, 25 Sept. 2018, www.viannews.com/commentary/tongue-has-power-life-and-death#:%7E:text=Proverbs%2018%3A21%20puts%20it,they%20can%20tear%20them%20down.&text=Wives%20have%20lashed%20out%20with%20tongues%20that%20slice%20and%20dice.
“3. The Treatise On Rights, Risalat Al-Huquq.” Al-Islam.Org, 4 June 2015, www.al-islam.org/life-imam-zayn-al-abidin-baqir-sharif-al-qurashi/3-treatise-rights-risalat-al-huquq.
Usul al-Kafi, vol. 3, p. 271.