Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Jamadi Thani 1424 H
August 2003
Volume 16-08 No : 200
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Hadith


Teaching Children to Keep Secrets

Teaching Children to Keep Secrets

A different Hadith mentioned by scholars under different headings is reported by Anas ibn Malik,
the Prophet's servant who joined him when he was ten and served him for ten years.
He says: "The Prophet passed by us, a group of boys, and greeted us.
He sent me on an errand and sat by the roadside waiting for me until I returned.
As a result, I was late when I arrived at Umm Sulaym's. She asked what had delayed me.
I said: 'The Prophet sent me on an errand.'
She asked: 'What was it?' I said: 'It is a secret.' She said: 'Keep the Prophet's secret, then'."

Commentary by Adil Salahi.

The Prophet (Pbuh) taught his companions all sorts of good manners, trusting that they would inform others, particularly in the following generations, so that his method would become the established standard of good social manners. His teachings included where one should sit when he joins a group of people. There is a Hadith in which Abu Saeed Al-Khudri would not sit where people who came earlier were sitting, although they offered him their places. He chose to sit at a place at the end where there was plenty of room.Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: "When any of you leaves his position and then comes back to it, he has a stronger claim to it (than anyone else)." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Muslim and Abu Dawood.) It is apparent from the way this Hadith is phrased that the person who leaves makes it clear that he would be absent only for a short while. If he does not make this clear and then on his return he finds his position occupied when he returns, he has no claim to it.

The point here is that a person who comes early to a public place, such as a mosque or a study circle, may sit wherever he wishes. If he sits in the front, no one who comes later can ask him to leave. He has more right to it than anyone who comes later.Therefore, if anyone else claims it, his claim has no basis. This applies on a wider scale. For example, if a scholar habitually sits in a certain place in the mosque where he teaches or answers people's queries and issues rulings, the place should be kept for him. The same applies to small traders who sit in the open market. When such a trader habitually sits at a particular spot, he has more right to it than anyone else. This does not mean that the place should be reserved for him as though he owns it. It only means that he has a claim to it until he finishes his purpose. Suppose such a trader normally finishes his work by midday and leaves, the place may be used by anyone else for the rest of the day. The following day the place should be kept free for the trader to conduct his business.A different Hadith mentioned by scholars under different headings is reported by Anas ibn Malik, the Prophet's servant who joined him when he was ten and served him for ten years.

He says: "The Prophet passed by us, a group of boys, and greeted us. He sent me on an errand and sat by the roadside waiting for me until I returned. As a result, I was late when I arrived at Umm Sulaym's. She asked what had delayed me. I said: 'The Prophet sent me on an errand.' She asked: 'What was it?' I said: 'It is a secret.' She said: 'Keep the Prophet's secret, then'." (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and others.)The most important point in this Hadith is the way Anas spoke to Umm Sulaym and her reaction. Umm Sulaym was his mother and she was very close to the Prophet, being related to him. When her son told her that he was on an errand for the Prophet, she naturally wanted to know what sort of errand. However, her son, who clearly was still young as he mentions that he was with a group of boys, told her that he could not give her that information, because it was a private matter. The mother immediately confirmed this and directed her son to keep the Prophet's secret. This is the proper manner of upbringing.

A child should learn how to keep other people's secrets, even from his closest relatives.In his book Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, which is an anthology of Hadiths concerned with good manners and moral values, Al-Bukhari lists this Hadith under the heading "sitting by the roadside". In this way he highlights the Prophet's action as he sat waiting for Anas until he returned. What all Muslims know is that if the Prophet did something, without any explanation of its status, then that thing is permissible, i.e. halal. People may do it if they wish. Hence, the Hadith indicates that there is nothing wrong with sitting by the roadside; it is perfectly permissible. Otherwise, the Prophet would not have done it. This is highlighted by the way Al-Bukhari reports this Hadith in this anthology.The same Hadith is reported differently by other scholars. Indeed, Al-Bukhari himself lists it differently in his main anthology, the Sahih, where we find it under the heading, "seeking permission". This refers to the fine point mentioned in the Hadith saying that the Prophet greeted the boys before taking Anas aside to tell him of the errand he wanted him to perform. It is as though the greeting served as a permission to take one of the group aside.

The Prophet would not have spoken to Anas on his own without greeting the group of boys who were with him. That they were only boys and he was God's messenger and the head of the Muslim state does not have any effect on giving the group their rights. Thus, the Prophet greeted them, before taking Anas aside and sending him on his errand.

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