The Onset of Puberty For A Muslim Child
The beginning of puberty is a huge milestone in life and highly impacting on a child. In our current age it is considered as an indication of the beginning of teenagehood, but in Islam, it is considered as an indication of the beginning of adulthood. This is incredibly significant for our children as it indicates:
When their obligations become binding
When their sins begin to be recorded
When they become responsible for themselves
Because of this change of puberty, it is personally obligatory (fard) in Islam for parents to:
Be aware of the signs of puberty
To teach these signs to their children
To educate their children as to its significance
To explain to their children that it is Allah’s way of letting them know when they have become accountable
While a certain shyness may be felt by some parents in discussing these types of details with their children, parents should know that failing to fulfill this obligation due to shyness is blameworthy and sinful. It is detrimental to your child's wellbeing, as they will most likely become more mindful when they know that their deeds are being recorded and this can consequently save them from earning sins otherwise acquired. According to Islam, puberty has begun and a child has become an adult when:
A boy has a wet dream
A girl has a wet dream or starts menstruation (blood seen after reaching 9 lunar years)
Or if neither of these occurs, it is considered to have begun when the child reaches 15 lunar years
We should then explain to our children about the obligations that are incumbent upon them, such as:
Any obligatory prayers missed after this age is a major sin and must be made up (qadha)
Zakat becomes obligatory on them in the Hanafi madhab(1) on any zakatable amount of money that the child owns
They have an obligation to don the hijab (this usually occurs prior to puberty, however the sin for failure to not wear it would now register in the child’s account(2).
For this reason, it is imperative that parents ensure that prior to the age of puberty, their children know the fiqh of worship is binding(3) on them, and that they have already been habituated to it. Once the signs are known by the child, they will be able to inform their parents when it occurs. At this time many scholars have recommended sitting your child down and reviewing with them:
The pillars of Islam
The articles of iman
The other tenants of aqeedah as well as their fiqh
The fiqh of menstruation should be reviewed with daughters to ensure that they know it well, as they will now be applying that knowledge and will fall into sin if that knowledge is not firm.
It is also recommended to remind the child that:
Now the angel on their left side has begun to write(4), in other words, they have become accountable for all that Allah SWT has made obligatory (fard)
To warn them to stay away from the haram that they are likely to encounter
At the same time warning them of the punishments of Jahannam and inciting in them the beautiful rewards of Jannah
It is particularly beneficial to remind them of the hadith of the high rewards for youths who are obedient to Allah SWT, and at the same time warning them of the hazards of this age at a time:
When desires can be higher
The next life can seem far off
They can tend to incline to worldly desires
I also personally recommend at some point, to discuss the concept of regret with them. I say this due to my own personal experience. I went to a Catholic school and in one lesson, a monk caused us to reflect on emotional suffering, such as regret, and how it is worse than physical suffering. That lesson had a profound impact on me! Allah SWT calls on us to reflect on regret often in the Qur’an, when He SWT describes to us the emotions that the losers will experience on the Day of Judgment.
Ustadha Hedaya Hartford, author of the book, "Coming of Age – A Muslim Girl’s Guide (on puberty)", recommends speaking with our children about having feelings for the opposite gender. Then teaching them that it's normal but at the same time teaching them how to deal with those feelings and the proper adab about it. I wish someone had sat me down when I began puberty and explained to me that I might have feelings of:
As though no one understands me
I wish I had been told that my body and face would be changing and that I might go through a ‘gawky’ stage. I wish I had been told that all of this is temporary, normal and that most people go through it. I wish most of all, that I had been given the Islamic tools of dealing with all those feelings, and given an Islamic outlook on life so as to put these feelings into their proper perspectives. I believe that if I had been taught all of this, as well as how to build a strong relationship with Allah SWT, then puberty would not have been, quite frankly, as traumatic as it was for me. For this reason, I recommend addressing all these facets of this precarious age with your children.
It has been said that building a very good relationship and strong bond with one’s children prior to puberty is one of the best ways to counter the negativity that can occur between parents and children in teenage years.
Due to it being a difficult age, children need an increased amount of love, compassion, and patience at that time. It can be challenging for parents, given the worst of your child may be seen in this age. It is our duty as parents not to allow our children to be disrespectful to us, as it being one of the most major of sins. However, nothing can be a better cure for some of those bitter emotions than love, understanding, and communication, even if the fruits of your labor are not seen until the storm of teenagehood passes.
1. In the Shafii madhab, it is obligatory for the parents/guardians to pay zakat on a child’s money even before puberty.2. Hijab is obligatory from the age in which a girl becomes apt to show signs of physical attractiveness to a person of normal disposition. This usually occurs around the age of 9 years but can vary from child to child. If a girl does not wear hijab at this time and prior to puberty, the sin is recorded in the parents/guardians record.3. It is not obligatory to know the fiqh of acts which are not obligatory on one and that one is not engaged in, e.g. a person does not need to know the fiqh of Hajj until they are going on Hajj, nor does one need to know the fiqh of zakat if they do not own a zakatable amount of wealth.4. Good deeds of a child are recorded prior to puberty.
AUTHOR ARSHIA: I left my childhood home in rainy England and settled in the US after graduating from a London law school. When my two little ones came along, I quickly realized that I had another endeavor upon me - to pursue tarbiya and homeschooling. The feeling of responsibility for such an immense trust that our children represent, has never really left me from the moment they were born to this day. Knowing the deen with firmness, depth and beyond mere ritualism, is necessary to fulfill the trust to raise obedient, devout slaves of Allah. Undeniably, tawfiq is from Allah alone. At present I am a stay-at-home mommy, student of ilm, and author of articles and children's stories.