The United Nations has marked November 20th as World Children’s Day. It is the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This international treaty, ratified in 1989, outlines the fundamental rights of children worldwide. Now, 196 countries are party to it, including every member of the United Nations, except the United States, which has signed it, but not ratified the Convention as yet.

The Convention emphasizes the importance of protecting children’s rights to survival, development, protection, and participation in matters that affect them. It has become a crucial instrument for promoting the well-being and dignity of children globally, setting standards for their rights and ensuring their voices are heard in various aspects of society.

This year’s observance is marred by the ongoing and senseless atrocities being carried out in Gaza, Palestine, which has claimed the life of over 13,000 innocent civilians, of which over 5,000 are children. Tragically, this is only adding to the tens of thousands of children around the world, if not more, who continue to be deprived of their basic rights, such as the right to life, clean water, adequate food, access to healthcare, safe accommodations, and education. Indeed, children represent a part of every population that does not have its own voice and cannot actively advocate for itself. 

Thus, world organizations, governments, leaders, businesses, and religious institutions need to foster and implement greater accountability in this matter, and earnestly strive towards making the world a safe and sustainable place for current and future children. No person is absolved of this responsibility because we are all obliged to preserve every right, opportunity and resource that we are consuming today. This is the root of how we protect our children. 

As such, the teachings of the Qur’an and the School of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) are valuable and inspiring sources for the necessary and urgent measures to protect children. The Qur’an introduces children as “God’s gift” and divine blessings to parents:

لِلَّهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ يَهَبُ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ إِنَاثًا وَيَهَبُ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ الذُّكُورَ ‎﴿الشوری/٤٩﴾‏

“To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He creates whatever He wishes; He gives/pleases/bestows (children) females to whomever He wishes, and males to whomever He wishes” [42:49].

And He considers it the responsibility of parents to protect them from crookedness and disorder, which are a symbol of the fire of hell:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا… ‎﴿التحریم/٦﴾‏

“O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from the Fire” [66:6].

One of the most comprehensive traditions about the importance of safeguarding the well-being of children in the School of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) is a unique advice from a unique father to a unique child, namely, a letter of Imam Ali (p) to his son Imam Hasan (p). Part of that letter is as follows:

“Dear son, indeed, the hearts of the young are like empty [fertile] lands, accepting anything planted in them. I have found you to be part of me, rather all of me, so that if anything befalls you, it befalls me, and even if death comes to you, it is as though it has come to me. Therefore, your matters meant to me what my own matters did. So, I hastened to you with words of education before your heart hardens and your mind becomes occupied, hoping that you accept these words with serious-ness, and such that you are sufficed from having to ask, and you are protected from having to learn from the pain of experience.

I advise you to fear God and obey His commands, fill your heart with His remembrance, and hold firmly to His Rope, as surely there is no means stronger than the means between you and God if you hold onto it.

Obtain [deep] understanding of religion, and accustom yourself to having patience during suffering, for indeed, patience for the sake of truth is an excellent quality. Protect yourself from the striking of worries with the firmness of patience and certainty of faith.

In all your matters, seek refuge in God, because you surely will be seeking refuge in a secure shelter and a powerful protector. Be sincere when asking from your Lord, since giving and depriving is in His hands.”

[Nahj al-Balagha (The Peak of Eloquence), Sermons of Imam Ali, 1412 AH edition, vol. 3, p. 37.]

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