35.3 Kindness to the Old and Young
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 loved his two grandsons, Hasan 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 or 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, Mohamed 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 question in Arabic has a very subtle humor. It begins by a solemn address and ends in an 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 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 servants and slaves he gave particular care.
The treatment of orphans has very powerful and merciful legislation in the Koran, 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.