Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE MOST BENEFICENT, THE MOST MERCIFUL
Many of us worry about this; we frequently ask: “how do we teach kids Islam from an early age?”
We find people anxiously searching for Islamic schools and perfect Qur’an teachers for their kids. These are amazing and much needed means, but they are not the first means to consider!
The problem is that this seems as though we want to delegate our tasks to someone else. Someone else will take the responsibility of explaining to our kids what Islam is, who Allah is, who Muhammad is etc.
The thing is, WE are the first and primary messengers who deliver the message of Islam to our kids. The real question is: are WE equipped as messengers to deliver this noble message to our kids?
Islam is not simply a ‘subject’ kids will learn at school.
Islam is life. Show them this life. Live and embody this life proudly and graciously. This will create meanings and experiences that become inseparable from your kids’ hearts, minds, souls and identities.
What we mean here is that instead of saying “Islam teaches kindness and nobility towards women”, you need to actually show kindness to your own spouse and credit it to the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) who lived some of the most noble, elegant and heartwarming moments with his wives. And he said:
“The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Instead of telling them “Islam covers all aspects of life and helps us have fun and meaningful times,” we need to actually live that…
Show them that feeding their Mother in her mouth is an act of worship taught by the Prophet and rewarded by Allah, and this is how beautiful this religion is.
Show them that smiling at one another and uttering words of love and kindness are acts of worship taught by the Prophet and rewarded by Allah, and this is how beautiful this religion is.
Show them Islam in the day to day life. Let them live, experience and breathe Islam truly and wholeheartedly.
We don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel or come up with extraordinary techniques, we already have the path of the messengers and the perfect path of the last and final messenger (peace be upon them all) to follow and emulate.
This has been laid down to us in the Qur’an and Sunnah. These are not words in books; they’re not bed time stories. They are a life that sometimes we neglect or attempt to learn very little about.
If we ourselves are not living this life passionately and committed, we can’t expect kids to learn it from schools, camps or retreats. Islam is not a badge that kids stick to their chests at some point when they grow up and go to school. It is an emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical journey that we live, and kids need to see us leading this journey with love and passion.
So here are a few ideas to consider with our kids in order to help them – and us- find meaning, purpose, enjoyment and fulfillment in the beautiful path of Islam.
Love Your Wife and Her Family
It is truly mind-boggling how Islam and/or Muslim men have become synonyms to treating women badly, while honestly and truthfully I’ve never come across anything that honors and respects women as much as what Allah and His Messenger taught!
Some claim Muslim women are mistreated, while this is what our Teacher did:
It was narrated that ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:
“I would drink while I was menstruating, then I would hand it to the Prophet (pbuh), and he would put his mouth where mine had been and drink. And I would nibble at the bone on which some bits of meat were left while I was menstruating, then I would give it to the Prophet (pbuh) and he would put his mouth where my mouth had been.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]
Those are valuable moments that have emotional and spiritual impacts. If we made sure we actually follow this example, our kids will be brought up in an environment of love, intimacy and mercy in a way that fulfills them and make it unlikely for them to believe or accept accusations against their religion.
The Prophet continuously lived and embodied meanings that make our hearts tremble every time we remember them.
When he was asked “which of the people is most beloved to you?’ He said: “Aishah.’ Then he was asked, ‘And among men?’ He said: ‘Her father.’”
He prioritized the love of his wife over anyone else alive. The second dearest person to his heart is the one who brought this love to his life: her father.
Do we take these stories as legends, or do we at least try our best to follow them?
Loving your spouse and the family of your spouse (against all temptations not to do so) is a revival of the Sunnah of the Prophet; they’re rewarding acts and are meant to bring goodness to ourselves, our kids and our communities.
Tips: fall in love with your spouse, and remind your kids that this is what your religion teaches you, and this is what they should do too.
Play with your wife. The Prophet always managed to find time to entertain, love and play with his wife.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was on a journey along with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). She said “I had a race with him (the Prophet) and I outstripped him on my feet. When I became fleshy, (again) I had a race with him (the Prophet) and he outstripped me. He said: This is for that outstripping.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
When was the last time you played with your spouse in front of your kids?
There are tens and tens of stories and examples from the life of the prophet that if you follow, you’d really instill happiness, warmth and true belonging to Islam in the hearts and minds of your kids.
And always seek the help of Allah, His blessings and His protection from all evil whispers and inclinations.
Let the Qur’an be part of their entire beings
Experiencing the Qur’an deeply through listening, reading and contemplating is truly a transformative experience!
Instead of putting the entire burden on a teacher to teach kids Qur’an and tajweed (which are amazing, beautiful and must-do acts), it’s very essential to start helping your kids build a more deep relationship with the Qur’an.
Tips: Do Qur’anic reflections with your kids often or as a part of your weekly routines/conversations. You can share with the kids your reflections on how you lived and witnessed the meaning of a specific verse from the Qur’an.
For example, you can share with them the verses:
“And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him…” (Qur’an 65: 2-3)
Recall an experience when you prioritized the taqwa of Allah/the obedience of Allah over an immediate gratification/wrongdoing, and how this opened doors for you. We all experience those moments when we try to follow the path of Allah despite challenges.
We all truly see those meanings come to life. So let them live and witness that with you.
Share with them the verse:
“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” (Qur’an 94: 5–6)
And tell them how a seemingly unsolvable situation eventually got resolved and Allah brought relief, light and ease after the darkness and difficulty.
Let them live the Qur’an and witness its truth and manifestations in their lives with you.
Reflect always on the Qur’an and how it is so relevant to us and how it explains some very deep meanings in our inner beings and our surroundings in brilliant ways.
“We will show them Our [ayat] signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth.” (Qur’an 41:53)
This is Truth! Allah continues to show us His verses and His signs in the universe/world around us and in our own selves and personal experiences, and this is a means for us to witness the truth of His Book.
So live This Book with your kids.
Connect them with The Source of Peace
Allah is The Ultimate Source of Peace, this is one of His Names: As-Salam.
Connect all their experiences with Allah. Connecting with Allah is not only through prayers, but through realizing that it is He who created those tasty foods and drinks you just had, it is He who created the love and mercy parents have for their children, it is He who blessed us with good health and beautiful forms …It is He who created all beauty we see around us in nature, it is He who created what we look at in awe…Be in awe, love and connection with Allah wherever you are as He is always with you wherever you go.
“It is He who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne. He knows what penetrates into the earth and what emerges from it and what descends from the heaven and what ascends therein; and He is with you wherever you are. And Allah, of what you do, is Seeing.” (Qur’an 57: 4)
Tip: Instill the love of Allah and connection with Him in your kids’ daily routines.
Let them talk to Him, befriend Him, rely on Him and be grateful to Him…
You cannot imagine how this deep bond at young age will help them later on against all trials, temptations and tests of life….
Remind them of the purpose of life and their path
Teach them the meaning of what we do and why we do it. The path of Islam is really lively, vibrant and full of meanings and passion.
Allah honored us and created us for a noble purpose:
“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” (Qur’an 17: 70)
It is not a small deal that Allah honored us; it is truly humbling and it is a reason to be eternally grateful to Him. Allah chose us among all other creations and gave us the ability to know about Him, learn about Him and grow closer and closer to Him.
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’an 51: 56)
This is not symbolic, robotic or meaningless movements and rituals. Worship here means to deeply learn about Him, connect with and commit to Him. Allah did not create the universe and mankind and then simply let them go around with no purpose or direction. Is there any creator who creates anything (mobile, car, TV or any machine) without explaining and giving instructions on the purpose of this creation and the best ways to use it?
Allah also sent us His words that explain life, explain this universe and explain us! He sent the Qur’an. He sent messengers: from Adam, Noah, and Ibrahim to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (upon them all be peace). All of them are beacons of light to His creation, and Muhammad is the perfection and completion of this path.
The Prophet said, “My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: ‘Would that this brick be put in its place!’ So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets.” [Sahih Al Bukhari]
Islam is a perfect path in harmony and connection with all messages sent by the Creator from the beginning of time until the end of time: There is One God, Worship Him alone, The Creator, and follow His messengers.
Now, every pillar of Islam we follow is essentially connected with actualizing our purpose in life.
So, it is not simply about teaching kids how to pray. It is about showing them how to speak to Allah. Prayer is a connection and communication; we recite the words of Allah, listen to His Words, then we speak to Him in dua, asking Him and telling Him about everything in our chests.
Out of love, care and mercy, we take breaks five times a day from the hustle and bustle of this life to peacefully connect with the Source of Peace, and get reminded of our Destination: we belong to Allah, and to Him we will return. We are all going back to Him. No one can stop that from happening.
Similarly, each pillar of Islam has a meaning and a purpose. The understanding of the Shahada, for example, gives a sense of direction, focus and intellectual peace. Zakat instills deep concern for others, and deep belief in the unseen. Fasting is a spiritual and physical cleansing and purification. Hajj is a transforming journey that unites mankind and connects them with their Creator.
Everything we do has a meaning.
You can explain to them how their Mom, for example, is beautiful and her full beauty is not a free commodity to be accessed or displayed to all strangers in the street. Teach them haya’ (bashfulness, modesty, and respect). Teach them that true noble men keep their eyes and hearts to their wives, strong men are those who control themselves, not blindly follow their desires. And it is ultimately Allah who can instill pure and pleasurable fulfillment between spouses who seek lawful commitment. It is not through wandering gazes or fleeting relationships that we get true and complete satisfaction. It won’t help if they suddenly find themselves having to obey an order of lowering the gaze or covering up at a critical age (puberty) without knowing the noble meaning and value behind those instructions…
Tips: Remind your kids constantly of those meanings instead of merely asking them to perform physical acts while missing the soul of those acts.
Share with them maybe stories of how you talked to Allah in prayer about an issue that was troubling you, and how He responded and gave you relief and answers in His most beautiful and wise ways. Let them know that prayer is the answer to their quests, not the burden of their day.
Remind them of what Allah prepares for us after this short, temporary journey in life. Connect this life with the next so that they don’t panic about anything in dunya. The Next Life is the much better extension of the blessings we have here. Meeting Allah, The Source of All Beauty, Source of All Love, Mercy, Might, Power, Light, Knowledge, Wisdom…. is the ultimate goal and desire that our hearts yearn for…
Watch what you pass on to them
In the Qur’an, the mother of Mary (peace be upon her) spoke to Allah upon giving birth to her child and said:
“…And I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah].” (Qur’an 3: 36)
Later on when Mary (peace be upon her) grow up and a man came to her in her place of worship, she said:
“Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah.” (19: 18)
The spirit of humility, modesty, sincere connection and neediness of Allah was transferred from the mother to her daughter, and the daughter embodied those meanings her mother lived by.
This is a reminder to all of us.
Live the values, meanings and principles that you want to see in your kids. Don’t expect them to export that from an external source.
If we truly love and fear Allah and live life in His remembrance, then this is what our kids will see, love and follow…
It is truly amazing and brilliant how Allah described those who wish for righteous kids saying:
“And those who say, “Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” (Qur’an 25: 74)
THIS is it. This is the key: He linked what we want to achieve with us being “an example for the righteous”. This is the message.
Our example and desire for being righteous is a means to accomplish our purpose of having spouses and offspring that are true comfort to our eyes, minds and hearts.
The journey starts with us. Teach yourself Islam, love it and embrace it wholeheartedly. Your kids will see it and fall in love with it and fall in love with you for showing them this path of true inner peace, modesty and deep, eternal connection with their Beautiful Creator.
all praise is due to Allah.