The Messenger of Allah (صلي الله عليه وسلم) said: “The Pen is lifted from three (i.e., their deeds are not recorded):

  1. a child until he reaches puberty;
  2. an insane man until he comes to his senses;
  3. one who is asleep until he wakes up.”

[Recorded in Abu Dawud #4403, and Ibn Majah #2041]

This is an important hadith, fundamental to usool-ul-fiqh. This hadith applies in practically every situation and with every issue. It gives us understandings such as that children don’t need to pray or fast prior to puberty, that the insane are not criminally liable, and so on. It’s fundamental to usool-ul-fiqh, the since of how we derive fiqh.

But what does this hadith REALLY mean? Well, first recall the definition of fard: an action which, if done, entails reward, and if neglected, entails punishment. Recall that haraam means the opposite–an action which, if done, entails punishment, and if neglected, entails reward.

With this in mind, we can re-articulate this hadith to mean: there is no sin upon children, the insane, and the sleeping (some conditions apply to the sleeping–i.e. intentionally sleeping at 4am when Fajr is at 4:30am with the claim of “I’ll wake up” is just fooling yourself), though they can still earn the rewards, insha’Allah!

How amazing is that! You should encourage your children to perform more good deeds–not just to get them into the habit, but also for the potential of the reward!

And what’s more, think twice before you get angry at your children–remember that the one above the heavens is not angry with them! So why should you be?

May Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) help us all to understand this hadith and implement it wherever possible in our lives, ameen ajma’een!