Three Stages of Life

From infancy up-to the age of 21-22 years, one’s life may be divided into three stages:

The First Stage is up-to the age of 7. Ancient philosophers were of the opinion that the human mind in the very beginning is completely blank, and it is only gradually that it starts using the faculties of sight, hearing etc.

During childhood, it becomes strong enough to understand common words and ideas and associate names with objects. Still it is not developed enough to bear the strain of logical reasoning and abstract ideas.

That theory basically is accepted even today. And tests and experiments have led modern psychologists to believe that as a general rule the child’s mind up-to the age of 7 and 8 years is not strong enough to grasp book knowledge. Children who are required to cram pages and pages of books at such a tender age suffer a lot and their originality is sacrificed on the altar of written pages.

The Second Stage begins at 8 years and goes to 14-15 years. In this period the mind remains alert and easily grasps logical reasoning and abstract theories. The child’s interest in acquiring knowledge is at its peak at this age. The freshness of mind and ability to learn more is never as marvellous as is in this period. This is because the curiosity to learn about the unknown is generally not bridled by any responsibility.

The Third Stage is after 14-15 years. The human mind becomes strong; adolescence opens new horizons before the eyes. Sex, marriage, domestic life and its complex problems come to the fore. The child of yesterday is the youth of today. He appreciates that soon he will be required to look after himself; he knows that every passing day brings him nearer to the responsibilities of a family with all that that entails.

These thoughts prepare him to exert himself to earn his own livelihood, and he starts looking for a way to do so.

In this perspective let us look at the following ahadith and see how our Divine philosophers explained these aspects of life which modern psychologists have discovered after hundreds of experiments

1) al-Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a. s.) said:

Let your child play up to seven years (1st stage); and keep him with you (for study etc.) for another seven years (2nd stage); then if he succeeds (well and good); otherwise, there is no good in him.

2) The Holy Prophet said:

The child is the master for seven years (1st stage) ; and a slave for seven years (2nd stage) and a vizier for seven years (3rd stage) ; so if he builds a good character within 21 years, well and good, otherwise leave him alone because (if you looked after him for 21 years).

you have discharged your responsibility before Allah.

As the first stage is a care-free period, it has been called mastership; the 2nd stage means taking orders from teachers and parents, therefore it has been called slavery; in the third stage the child is expected to help his parent in earning his livelihood, so it has been named viziership.

For each of these periods, the Islamic shari `ah has given some guidelines.

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