“Daddy’s little girl” is spoiled, coddled, and cuddled as a child – but what happens when she’s no longer a little girl, but growing up into a young woman?
Amongst the many family dynamics issues that the Muslim community is beginning to address, one of the least-discussed subjects remains that of father-daughter relationships.
It is an issue which has been overlooked, ignored, and generally treated with a sense of discomfort. Particularly amongst immigrant families, the relationship between a father and his daughter(s) is often a distant one; girls are encouraged to spend the majority of their time with their mothers and other womenfolk.
A girl might be “Daddy's little princess” as a baby, a toddler, a child, but as she grows closer to puberty she will often find herself left at home instead of taken to the masjid, attention deflected from her and turned towards her brothers instead (if she has any). This practice not only has extremely negative repercussions – for the fathers, the daughters, and indeed the Ummah at large – but is also against the Sunnah of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had four daughters, all of whom he loved dearly; yet the greatest amount of narrations regarding his relationship with them is specifically in regards to his youngest daughter, Fatimah bint Muhammad.
Fatimah (radhiAllahu ‘anha) was approximately seven or eight years old when she used to accompany her father to the Ka’bah, where he often went to worship. In some regions and communities, it is as this very age where many fathers stop taking their daughters with them to public places – especially the masjid. As girls reach the end of their childhoods and inch closer towards the onset of puberty, many fathers prefer to start distancing themselves both physically and distantly from their daughters. Instead, girls are encouraged to spend more time with their mothers, learning ‘womanly skills.’
In pre-Islamic Arabia, it was almost unheard of for fathers to be deeply involved with their daughters; unfortunately, it remains the case even today in many parts of the world. RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), however, was a mercy to mankind who came to revolutionize the world… and that included revolutionizing the concept of fatherhood.
As Fatimah grew older, RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) never pushed her away or minimized his relationship with her. In fact, if anything, their bond only grew stronger.
The historian Ibn 'Abdullah writes that whenever RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came back from any journey or after taking part in a battle, he would first go to the his Mosque in Madinah and pray two rak’aat (units), and then visit his daughter Fatimah and then visit his wives.
Imagine the type of fatherly love that caused RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to choose to see his daughter even before his wives! The wives themselves did not feel any resentment or animosity regarding this, however, because they understood the importance of the relationship between RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and Fatimah (radhiAllahu ‘anha).
A'ishah (radhiAllahu anha) commented, “I have not seen any one of God's creation resemble the Messenger of God more in speech, conversation and manner of sitting than Fatimah, may God be pleased with her. When the Prophet saw her approaching, he would welcome her, stand up and kiss her, take her by the hand and sit her down in the place where he was sitting.” (Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa)
Even amongst Muslim fathers who do have good relationships with their daughters, some may feel shy or embarrassed to show it or discuss it publicly due to culture-based embarrassment. RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), however, was never shy to publicly profess his love and affection for those dearest to him.
When Ali ibn Abi Talib admitted that he was considering marrying another wife, RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ascended the minbar and declared:
“Whoever pleased Fatimah has indeed pleased God and whoever has caused her to be angry has indeed angered God. Fatimah is a part of me. Whatever pleases her pleases me and whatever angers her angers me.” (Narrated by al-Bukhāri, 3437; Muslim, 4483)
The role of a father in his daughter's life is pivotal: he is the first man in her life; the one who teaches her what he, a male, thinks of her, a female; and thus shapes her sense of self-worth in the eyes of other men; the one whose behaviour and mannerisms will influence her mental image of “the perfect man” and her choice of life partner.
Due to many unfortunate cultural standards, Muslim men often don’t realize this, or that the Sunnah of RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) reflected the ideal relationship that every father should have with their daughter(s).
Some of the greatest heroines of Islam – including Fatimah (radhiAllahu ‘anha) – had the strength, courage, and faith that they did because their fathers invested time, love, and du’a in them. Fatherhood is not just a beautiful gift from Allah, but an honour. A father’s relationship with his daughters could very well be a means of him entering Jannah… and of raising the next generation of heroines of Islam.
RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Whoever has two daughters and treats them kindly, they will be a protection for him against the Fire.” (Ahmad, Ibn Majah)