In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
May Allah bless our Master Muhammad and his family and Companions and give him peace.
Abu Muhammad 'Abdullah ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, may Allah be pleased with him and make him pleased, says:
Praise be to Allah who begins the creation of man as a blessing from Him and fashions him in the womb by His wisdom and brings him out into His tender care and to the provision He eases him to and teaches him what he did not know - "Allah's bounty upon him is ever great."
Allah makes him aware of Himself through the signs in what He has made and has left no excuse for him by virtue of what His Messengers, the best of His creation, have brought. He guides in His generosity, those whom He has granted success and He leads astray, in His justice, those for whom He has decreed debasement. He eases the believers to ease in both the worlds and opens their hearts to the Reminder. So they believe in Allah, pronouncing this belief with their tongues, being sincere about it in their hearts and acting according to what has come down to them through His Messengers and His Books. They learn what He teaches them and keep within the limits He has prescribed for them. They are happy with what He has made halal for them and avoid what He has made haram for them.
May Allah assist both us and you in taking care of what He has entrusted us with and in holding to His Shari'a. You have asked me to write a short treatise for you about what is obligatory in the dîn - those things which should be pronounced by the tongue and believed by the heart and done by the limbs; and about those sunnas which are associated with these obligatory actions - the confirmed (mu'akkada), the optional (nafila) and the desirable (raghiba); something about the courtesies (adab) associated with them; along with certain of the key principles and derived judgements in jurisprudence (fiqh) according to the madh-hab and way of Imam Malik ibn Anas, may Allah have mercy on him; and in addition to mention what the great men of knowledge and fiqh have said about unclear matters in the madh-hab in order to make them easier to understand.
You have made this request because of your desire to teach these things to children in the same way that you teach them how to read the Qur'an so that they may first of all gain an understanding of the deen of Allah and His Shari'a in their hearts, which will hopefully bring them blessing and a good end result.
I have responded to this out of the same hope of gaining for both myself and you something of the reward of those who teach the deen of Allah or call to it.
Know that the best of hearts is the one which contains the most good and those hearts which are most likely to gain good are the ones which no evil has been able to get into. The thing that the people of advice are most concerned about and which those who desire its reward most want is to put good into the hearts of the children of the believers so that it becomes firmly established in them; and to make them realise what the bases of the deen and the limits of the ShariÔa are in order that they may be satisfied with that and to make them realise those things in the dîn which their hearts have to accept and their limbs are required to do.
It is related that teaching the Book of Allah to young children extinguishes the anger of Allah and also that teaching something to someone in their childhood is like engraving it on stone.
I have made these things clear and if Allah wills they will get benefit from learning them, nobility from knowing them and happiness from believing them and acting according to them.
It has come down to us that children should be ordered to do the prayer at seven years old and beaten for not doing it at ten years old and be separated in their beds. Similarly, they should be taught before they reach puberty those words and actions which Allah has made obligatory for people so that when they reach puberty these things are fixed in their hearts and they are at ease with them and their limbs are used to doing them. For Allah has made certain beliefs obligatory for the heart and certain acts of obedience obligatory for the limbs.
I will arrange what I have undertaken to talk about in chapters so that it will be easier, if Allah wills, for those who are studying it to understand. It is Him we ask for guidance and Him we ask for help. And there is no power nor strength except by Allah, the High, the Mighty. May Allah bless our Master Muhammad, His Prophet, and his family and Companions and grant them much peace.
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