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Training the Potty Way

31 October, 2017
Q My wife, for whose family this practice is normal, is keen to potty train our 9 month old son. This is based on a plan derived from observations (e.g. to notice when he needs ‘naturally’ urinate) and training (to teach him that, when he is on the potty, this is the right time to go).The problem is that, in the meantime, he occasionally urinates in our flat (we do not have carpets, so smells and stains are not an issue) and, whilst she tries to ascertain when he needs to go, he is uncovered beneath his waist. Effectively, we are exposing his genitals all the time at home except when we have visitors. My wife and I use ‘Makaton’ sign language. And we are teaching him the sign for needing the toilet in the hope he will be able to indicate, in due course, exactly when he needs to go.However this observation period seems to be going on for rather longer than I had hoped and my question is therefore, is it appropriate for him that he is spending so much time uncovered? Are we failing to protect his dignity, or is this an acceptable phase to go through in order to potty train him? Please answer in the light of wisdom from Qur’an and Sunnah, as I am becoming increasingly concerned that our actions may be contrary to Islamic teachings.

Answer

 As-salamu `alaykum,

May Allah bless you and your wife, and your proactive roles as parents that extend beyond the physical issues (though important) to the moral issues which should always come first.

The way you and your wife have chosen to train your son seems fine, but it seems that you are getting board: “is going on for rather longer than I had hoped”. I want to assure you that every child grows and learns at his own pace, it is only when we start comparing our children to others that we become restless and begin suspecting whether they are ‘average ‘ or not. Please don’t put yourself into this vicious circle, it will only make things more difficult, not only in potty training, but pertaining to every milestone of his growth.

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Pertaining to your covering his private parts, the area of the private parts is a very sensitive one, an extensive network of nerves, arteries and veins lie there nurturing the sensitive genitalia. To keep it slightly warm Allah (SWT) surrounded it by numbers of glands, as it shouldn’t be too cold. When we keep it uncovered for a long time we are counteracting the effect of these glands and we are subjecting the genitals to “ascending infection” i.e. infection by germs from the surrounding environment , which in turn may cause irritation to the urethra and urgency, thus prolonging the time of potty training.

Islamically speaking, we all know that the child is not held accountable until he reaches the age of maturity, meaning that the concept of “awrah” and the sin for uncovering the private parts is not perused yet. But nevertheless he should be trained for keeping his dignity very early in life, simply because Allah has created every one in a pure and descent state not only in belief, but in manners and behavior as well.It is his parents and the surrounding environment that stains this purity either by not nurturing the seed of goodness he owns or by adding wrongs from every direction.

The child is born having the seeds of haya` (Shyness) within, we know from the holy Qur`an, that when Adam and Eve ate from the tree they were aware of their nakedness for the first time in their lives and in that awareness, they covered themselves with the leaves of the garden. Why then they were keen to cover themselves knowing that there are no other people living with them !! it is the fitrah (Primitiveness)then.

Allah praised people who had haya` and so did prophet Mohammad (PBUH). He once saw a man washing in a public place without a lower garment.

“Allah is characterized by modesty and concealment. So when any of you washes, he should conceal himself.  (Abu Dawud 31 #4001)

“Every deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty “  (Muwatta: 47, # 2.9)

It is also preferred that parents start teaching high moralities while their children are so young, and not wait until they become older, if we wait until they are seven or ten it would be too late . For example we teach our children to stand beside us as toddlers while we pray to get used to the act of prayers, yet we begin teaching them the actual prayers when they are seven. Prophet Muhammad used to teach his grand sons Al Hassan and Al Hussein morals while they were still learning how to walk, and Allah praised prophet Yahya for being knowledgeable in deen and in morals while still a child.

(O Yahya! take hold of the Book with strength, and We granted him wisdom while yet a child, And tenderness from Us and purity, and he was one who guarded (against evil), And dutiful to his parents, and he was not insolent, disobedient ) (Maryam 19:12-14)


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About Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah
Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Science Study’s Community Education and Youth Studies Laboratory, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He received his B.A. from the University of Delaware (U.S.), his M.S. from Columbia University (U.S.) and his PhD from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies (PEKKA), Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005 in the field of Youth Studies. Abd. Lateef is an American who has been living in Malaysia since 2001. He is married and has 2 children.