A child was visited at home by her friend. That night the child declined to sleep in her room. She insisted on joining the parents in their bedroom. The fear was triggered when the friend asked the child, "Are you afraid to sleep close to a window when ghosts and spirits peep directly into the room?"
The tactful approach to the situation should have been for the parents to accede to what the child had pleaded for, at least for that night, knowing that such fears wear off or become much less the next day. Instead, they thought it a good opportunity to enforce parental discipline over the child so that she abandons what was perceived as a trivial and weak trait.
The child was restless that night because - she was a human child - and if only the parents knew that! Why believe in a ghost or spirit when you have seen none and will see none of them ever in your life? The father's argument kept ringing in her ears, and she would ask herself: Indeed, why?
The child was betraying nothing more than a simple natural fear of an Unseen - never seen before - because she, as a human, has been created in the nature of readily believing in the Unseen - that Unseen, which basically includes Allah, Angels, Jinns and Shaitan. No wonder the fundamental teaching in Islam is Iman bil Ghaib which means Belief in the Unseen.
The subject of Al-Ghaib reveals one thoughtful aspect for discussion here. Fear! It is part of the instinct for self-preservation or survival. It is not something that a child can be made ashamed of. In fact, a manifestation of fear is a welcome sign of mental normalcy in him.
To ask the child to banish fear is like asking her to banish her human instinct. A good authority on the natural aspect of fear in children states: A characteristic of the child's personality is the presence of many fears. These fears result from uncertainty combined with easy recourse to the imagination. The imagination runs toward superlatives, and when a child indulges in fantasy, things are either very attractive or very threatening.
We can ascribe a reason for this in the context of Islam: Imagination by the child or her fantasy is a phase of manifestation of her attempt at perceiving things that are and remain Unseen. The child's negative fear of the worst, because it is caused by her uncertainty of an Unseen like ghost and spirit itself, indicates one important thing - the existence of the natural positive capacity also for submission to the best, that is her Creator, - in the realm of the Unseen - because it is derived from certainty which is Al Iman bil Ghaib.
So let the child be a 'child' because by treating him as an adult, a child cannot become an adult!
May Allah help us relate to our children as Prophet Muhammad ﷺ related with his grandsons. May He help us treat them mercifully when they need affection and compassionate firmness when they need discipline.
This article is contributed by one of the readers of the weekly IslamiCity Newsletter. We thank Br. Mohammed Khalfan of Dar el Salaam, Tanzania.