By Mohammed Hannan
14 December 2018
For many of us, it can be quite difficult to find a role model for our younger children to genuinely connect with. It is common to speak about great traits of popular adult figures of the past, such as the loyalty of Abū Bakr and Khadījah (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhuma), the intelligence of ‘Umar and Ā’isha (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhuma), or the bravery of Salahuddīn (Raḥimahu Allāhu) and Nusayba (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhuma). However, have we educated our youth about the young children around the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam), who went on to become pillars and legends in our Islamic heritage?
The Prophet’s Visionary Approach
Our Prophet (ﷺ) had profound compassion and mercy for children even before they were born. Ā’isha (Radi Allāhu ʿAnha) once asked the Prophet (ﷺ) whether he had encountered a day harder than the day of the battle of Uhud. Recall that this was a day in which the Prophet’s (ﷺ) helmet was smashed on his head, blood covered his face, his tooth had broken and rumours spread that he was killed.
However, to Ā’isha’s (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnha) surprise, the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) answered that there was indeed a harder day. It was when he went to Tā’if looking for an alternative place to settle after being driven out by his own people in Makkah. The people of Tā’if not only refused to take him in, but abused him, and left him badly injured. How did the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) respond to this horrific experience?
It was said to the Prophet (ﷺ):
يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ سَمِعَ قَوْلَ قَوْمِكَ لَكَ وَأَنَا مَلَكُ الْجِبَالِ وَقَدْ بَعَثَنِي رَبُّكَ إِلَيْكَ لِتَأْمُرَنِي بِأَمْرِكَ فَمَا شِئْتَ إِنْ شِئْتَ أَنْ أُطْبِقَ عَلَيْهِمُ الأَخْشَبَيْنِ
“Muhammad, Allāh has listened to what the people have said to you. I am the angel in charge of the mountains, and Allāh has sent me to you so that you may order me with what you wish. If you wish that I should bring together the two mountains that stand opposite to each other at the extremities of Makkah to crush them in between [I would do that].”
The response of our Prophet (ﷺ) is a primary and astonishing example of foresight:
بَلْ أَرْجُو أَنْ يُخْرِجَ اللَّهُ مِنْ أَصْلاَبِهِمْ مَنْ يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ وَحْدَهُ لاَ يُشْرِكُ بِهِ شَيْئًا
“No, rather I hope that Allāh will bring from their descendants, people who will worship Allāh alone without associating partners with him.”
This was the vision of the Mercy to Mankind (ﷺ), whose actions were encapsulated with great foresight and care. In this case, this hope in Allāh was manifested through a man by the name of Sufyān b. ‘Abdillāh al-Thaqafi (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhum), who not only became a Muslim, but a companion of the Prophet (ﷺ), whose Hadīths can be found in the famous Sahīh of Imām Muslim and the 40 Hadith collection by Imām al-Nawawi (raḥimahu Allāhu).
There are three particular great individuals from Islāmic history who I would encourage our readers to learn about, who were young children around the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam), but went on to become the most influential companions of Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam).
Anas b. Mālik
Anas (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhu) served the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) for ten years, from the age of 10 to 20. What made him so special, is that no other companion brought forth a unique insight into how the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) was both at home and outside to the public. And as a result, he spoke authoritatively on questions about the Prophet’s (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam daily routine and habits.
Anas (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhum) experienced and brought to life the key characteristic of ‘Rahma’ the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) embodied. As a child, he witnessed his brother, Abū ‘Umayr, lose his pet sparrow which he loved dearly. In such cases, many of us would say, “To Allāh we belong and to Him we shall return.” But, the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) understood that part of the healing process of losing someone beloved to you is to talk about them.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said to young Abū ‘Umayr:
يَا أَبَا عُمَيْرٍ مَا فَعَلَ النُّغَيْرُ
“O Abū ‘Umayr! What happened to the little sparrow?”
Such experiences added an additional dimension to the characteristic of mercy the Prophet (ﷺ) embodied. You and I can read and relay the Tafsir of the following Qur’ān verse, but without such examples, be unable to connect to this Prophetic approach in the way Anas (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhum) was able to.
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ
“And by the Mercy of Allāh, you [O Muhammad] dealt with them gently.”
‘Abdullāh b. ‘Umar
Ibn ‘Umar (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhum) was the son of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhum), and similar to Anas, was 20 years old when the Prophet (ﷺ) passed away. He also migrated to Madīnah at the age of 10 and spent the following ten years with the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam).
The Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) would often engage people through thought-provoking questions. On one occasion, he compared believers to a green tree in which leaves do not fall. No one knew what type of tree was being described except young Ibn ‘Umar (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhum), who narrated the following.
فَأَرَدْتُ أَنْ أَقُولَ هِيَ النَّخْلَةُ. وَأَنَا غُلاَمٌ شَابٌّ فَاسْتَحْيَيْتُ
“I intended to say that it was the date palm tree, but I was a young boy and felt shy [to answer].”
He later explained this to his father, who encouraged him to speak next time. We can see from this example self-confidence and self-esteem were characteristics developed within both the young companions by the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) and his senior companions.
‘Abdullāh b. ‘Abbās
Ibn Abbās (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhuma), who we view as a wise authority in the field of Tafsir, was only 13 years old when the Prophet (ﷺ) passed away. Unlike Anas and Ibn ‘Umar (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhum), he only lived in Madīnah for less than three years, but within these few years, he was able to learn and understand the Qur’ān like no other. He was very beloved to Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam), as can be seen in the following Hadith in which he was embraced in a loving manner:
قَالَ ضَمَّنِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ إِلَيْهِ وَقَالَ “ اللَّهُمَّ عَلِّمْهُ الْحِكْمَةَ وَتَأْوِيلَ الْكِتَابِ
“The Messenger of Allāh embraced me and said: ‘O Allāh, teach him wisdom and the [correct] interpretation of the Book.’” 
It was also through this loving manner that the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) taught belief to Ibn ‘Abbās (Raḍi Allāhu ʿAnhuma) as a 9-year-old child. We know that children learn better when they are happy and enjoying themselves, and in the following Hadith, we can see that the Prophet (ﷺ) taught Ibn ‘Abbās (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhuma) some of the most fundamental principles of Tawhid whilst riding on a mount.
قَالَ كُنْتُ خَلْفَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَوْمًا فَقَالَ يَا غُلاَمُ إِنِّي أُعَلِّمُكَ كَلِمَاتٍ احْفَظِ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْكَ
“One day I was [riding] behind the Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) and he said: ‘O boy! I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allāh and Allāh will protect you…’” 
The key message I hope our readers can benefit from is that the greatness of the companions cited in this article did not develop from nothing, but from a lifelong process. The Prophet (Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam) prepared them in their most pivotal moment; all three individuals were entering their adolescence. This is a time in which they could start practising and implementing what is taught, and grow up attached to these fundamentals. By the time they became men, they understood what they were doing and what their purpose in this world was.
In fact, the Prophet (ﷺ) showed us that such teachings are more important to young children than adults. How is this the case?
If a person is taught these fundamental beliefs from a young age, they become intertwined with their flesh and blood. If they are left without them, their thoughts and behaviours will become more rigid, no matter how much a person tries to convince them later. The earlier a transformation happens, the more long-lasting, effective and stable it can be.
So, when you are thinking about potential role models for children, have a scan through history. Relate such examples like these young companions, which children can make a connection with and can extract characteristics and lessons to apply to their lives bi’idhnillāh.
 Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Ā’isha (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha). Sahīh Muslim, Book 32, Hadīth 135
 This hadīth can be found in: Sahīh Muslim, Book 1; Hadīth 66. 40 Hadīth Nawawi, Hadīth 21
 Al-Qur’ān, Sūrah Al-Baqarah 2:156
 Narrated by Abū Dawūd, on the authority of Anas ibn Mālik, Sunan Abī Dāwud, Book 43, Hadīth 197
 Al-Qur’ān, Sūrah Al-Imrān 3:159
 Narrated by Bukhāri, on the authority of ibn ‘Umar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), Sahīh al-Bukhāri, Book 78, Hadīth 149
 Narrated by ibn Mājah, on the authority of ibn ‘Abbās (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), Sunan ibn Mājah, Book 1, Hadīth 171
 Narrated by Tirmidhī, on the authority of ibn ‘Abbās (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), Jāmi’ al- Tirmidhī, Book 11, Hadīth 2516
 Jamāl Al-Dīn M. Zarabozo, 1999. Commentary on the Forty Hadīth of Al-Nawawi. Al-Basheer Company for Publications & Translations
Mohammed Hannan is a Global Data Scientist by profession at AstraZeneca. Having graduated from Queen Mary, University of London wherein he was actively involved in the Islamic Society, Mohammed’s core focus now evolves around his Islamic studies and development. He is currently working on youth projects focusing on holistic development, as well as community activism. Mohammed hopes to translate the strategic mindset he has developed during his studies and the corporate world, into thought-provoking articles for the audience to benefit from.