He was very kind and understanding with little children in an age when people thought the whip was the best way to bring them up. He used to joke with them, put the little ones on his knee and kiss them. He loves his two grandsons, Hassan and Husayn, with deep paternal devotion. When they were very young, they used to climb over his back while he was praying, and he would either carry them and continue to pray or put them down gently and continue his prayers.
One day he passed by the house of his servant, Anas ibn Malik, and found Anas’ little brother looking miserable and depressed. When he asked what the matter was, he was informed that the little boy had been in this mood ever since his little bird died. When the little boy came back again, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Abu ‘Umayr, what did the little bird do?” whereupon the boy burst out laughing and snapped out of his misery.
(The phrasing of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) question in Arabic has a very subtle humour. It begins by a solemn address and ends in anticlimax. Thus the Messenger taught him to accept life and death.)
Just as he was kind and understanding to the young, he was most kind and reverential to the old. The Holy Verses say:
“And bend your wing humbly down to them, out of mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy upon them, as they have brought me up when I was little.’” (17:24)
In an age when women were considered inferior (by Romans and Arabs) and that it was beneath a man’s dignity to love them, the Messenger insisted again and again that each man should be good to his womenfolk. In the very last talk he gave, his farewell speech, he charged men to be just and kind in dealing with women. To the treatment of slaves and servants he gave particular care.
The treatment of orphans has a very powerful and merciful legislation in the Qur’an, but in addition to this the Messenger used to say, “He who brings up an orphan has earned his place in Paradise.” Orphans are not only to be treated kindly, but to be educated, guided and treated as one would like one’s own children to be treated should one pass away.
Source: Al-Ismail, Tahia, The Life of Muhammad, Ta-Ha Publishers, London, UK, 1988. p.438-439.
* With minor changes.