Teach Children Tawbah (Repentance) Children need to understand that actions have consequences, that misbehavior is shameful and is known to God, and that they need to repent when they have committed bad deeds. It is not enough for children to say sorry and move on. Children need to understand that one’s regret of misbehavior needs to be addressed to God. This also opens the door to further God consciousness, and allows the parents to teach their children God’s love and mercy. Children can then establish a deeper relationship with Him.
Parents will not be thanked for their teaching efforts by children; on the contrary, they are likely to encounter tantrums and all manner of resistance. Nevertheless, persistently explaining the situation in a firm voice and giving plenty of affection when tawbah has been made will reinforce in the children the practice of repenting and refraining from wrong actions. Later on when the children are older, if they hurt or do something wrong to others, they will know what to do to make amends with God.
Teach Children About Prophet Muhammad $ and Other Prophets
Parents are advised to invest in a small library of books and acquire the habit of reading regularly with their children. They can read or narrate stories of the Prophet (PBUH) (including his life, his childhood, his character and his message), stories of his grandchildren, and stories of his Companions. Prophetic stories enable children to enter the world of the prophets, form a strong association with them and emulate them as role models. These stories need to be tailored and addressed to the children’s age group and center on aspects to which children can relate. Parents can also read to children stories of strong men and women and moral leaders throughout history.
Teach children about the achievements of Islamic civilization. Take children to museums and allow them to experience Islamic art, history, and architecture. Museums are a wonderful place for children to be inspired by history, and they often have activities for children, which parents can take advantage of.
There are also excellent Internet sources devoted to this subject, for example, “1001 in- ventions:’ showcasing Muslim achievements of the past thousand years: http://www. 1001 inventions. com. It is recommended that parents also invest in a copy of the book, 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World. This is an easy-to-read, beautifully illustrated guidebook taking readers through a thousand years of science and technology and into the lives of medieval pioneers whose ingenious inventions have helped create our world today.
Websites and books/DVDs containing audio-visual material showing the great beauty of the world in which we live are also another great source of guidance. Children should be shown visually appealing films, especially those describing the wonders of creation (such as the miracle of the bee).
In addition, as children become older, the effects of a secular world view will encroach more deeply into their growing conscience. Be prepared to answer questions about topics such as the theory of evolution. Children will
be vulnerable the minute they enter the wider world, and parents are extremely naive if they leave belief to filter in through a sort of Islamic osmosis. Once the knowledge of God and His creation are deeply ingrained in children, the sophistries of some secularist discourse will be easy to deal with. Children need a confident and firm foundation from which to deflect and/or ignore any attempts to distort their world view.
Teach Children Adab (Manners)
Islam’s concept of behavior includes the concept of morals (adab). Children should be taught to say please and thank you, as well as al-hamdulillah (all praise be to God), insha’Allah (if God wills), and al-salam ‘alaykum (peace be upon you). Too often, this beautiful greeting is allowed to slip into a “hi”, “hello”, or “bye”. Children need to be taught the adab of proper eating and drinking, wearing decent clothes, and how to act respectfully in a social setting.
It is important to keep children and the home environment clean, tidy, and organized so that they absorb these habits themselves. Do not spoil children; sometimes, it is better to cook a plain dish other than a fancy dinner so that they learn to value food when they are given a particularly delicious meal. Frequent exaggerated praise and admiration of children may instill vanity or arrogance. It is not necessary to buy them every toy they demand; if they really want something, then occasionally they can be allowed to work for it by doing little chores. They should be reminded that
the Almighty God may give them something better. Working out alternative solutions, for instance, when they cannot have what they want, prepares children for the reality waiting for them in the real world, and all the values
and discipline they learn will serve them well throughout their lives.
What Should You Tell Your Children First: They Love God or God Loves Them?
If children are taught to say “I love God, He created me and created the earth, the sun and the moon” what kind of message are they being given? First of all, children have no concept of God, for it is an abstract idea that they
do not comprehend yet. What does it matter to them to love or not to love something that they do not know? Furthermore, for children, their existence as well as the universe around them is a matter of fact and it is nothing special. However, if the issue is reversed and the children are taught “God loves you, He created you and created the universe for your enjoyment;’ they will then want to know eagerly who this Being is who loves them, and cares
for them and their pleasure. They will certainly want to have a relationship with such a loving, caring Entity and to know more and more about Him.
There is a strong relationship between worship, life, and voluntary submission to the Will of the Creator. Our good behavior has to be based on a desire to please Him, the Ultimate source of Goodness and Truth. The way to please God is to follow His directives and guidance to improve the quality of our lives as well as those of the people around us.
We strengthen our spirituality by being good, hardworking, honest, useful, and helpful to others, thus moving closer to the Creator. We help ourselves by helping others, by respecting the rights of life, property, and honor; and by
promoting justice, compassion, and freedom, avoiding tyranny, and resisting oppression. All of these struggles require a continual awareness and remembrance of God and His beautiful attributes. Observing the religious
rituals strengthens this awareness and our love for the Almighty. In this way, we will be blessed and the sincere worshiper can gain the strength to succeed in doing what is good and right.
Know Thy Self: The Problem with Arab Education
There is a loud cry for learning, freedom, and ijtihad (research): The United Nations Arab Human Development Report (2009) shows a worrying trend across the modern Arab world in terms of scientific advancement and research. Today’s Arabs lag behind other nations even in sustaining their own rich cultural tradition. A 1991 UN study showed that Arab countries have one of the lowest publication figures in the world. Europe is in the lead, producing over five times the number of publications in comparison with the Arab countries.
The report highlights an increasing disparity between Arabic countries and the rest of the world. In their obsession to control, authoritarian Arab states have stifled creativity and all argument. “Freedoms that are hostage to false matters of security, to censorship, and to self-appointed watchdogs of public morality are freedoms denied. The first victims of this denial are creativity, initiative, innovation and knowledge:’ (The Economist 2003).
Parents should not shun their responsibility towards children by relegating their role to governments. Parents, as role models and primary teachers to their children, must stand up to the challenge and become a major factor in effort to change society. Parents are the “ignition key” for the process of effective reforms; the drivers are the intellectual reformers and educators who teach parents what to do and how to do it. If the parents are convinced, they will eagerly do what is required. They possess a far-reaching moral influence on their children and can reshape the character of future generations.
ACTIVITY 21: PROGRESS OF JAPAN AND GERMANY VS. THE BACKWARDNESS OF MUSLIM COUNTRIES
In an informal meeting with a group of 3 couples, discuss these questions: Why is it that many Muslim countries have not progressed, whereas Japan and Germany, which were decimated during World War II, are now among the leading nations of the world? Why do some Muslim countries still throw garbage into rivers, have a poor education system, and export raw materials cheaply only to buy them back as highly expensive manufactured goods? For example, a ton of iron ore is exported for $2000 and then bought back as computers and electronic gadgets for millions of dollars.
Why does the Muslim world have some of the highest levels of illiteracy despite the Qur’anic injunction to read (iqra’)?
ACTIVITY 22: MAKING THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CHILDREN AND THEIR CREATOR – EARLY ON!
Although the five daily prayers remind us of God in a systematic way, there are many other activities which we need to connect with the Creator as we perform them. Children need to be taught to do continual dhikr (remembrance) of the Creator. One effective way is to teach them to memorize the following supplications practiced by the Prophet (PBUH) from the time of waking up to bedtime. These do not take long and they improve our state of mind and they orient our action in the right direction (especially on these two occasions, when we begin eating and when we finish eating). Parents may choose one or two items each week and ensure correct practice before going to the next one. Teach children the meaning of these supplications.
(If the Arabic is difficult to recite, it is acceptable to say them in the native language or in English).
ACTIVITY 23: APPRECIATING THE FAVORS AND BLESSINGS OF GOD In the spirit of these formal supplications (above), children are requested to make their own personal requests to the Almighty in their own language and to discuss them with their parents. ACTIVITY 24: PUTTING PROBLEMS INTO PERSPECTIVE
Let one child read aloud this true story and discuss it, adding your own experiences. Gratitude for the smallest things from God leads to contentment, which stops us from feeling jealous, bitter and sad. This is the secret of happiness and the cure for anxiety.
I knew a young woman who was dealing with serious problems. Her parents were divorced, she was looking after a sick mother whilst holding down a full-time job and had financial problems. However, her attitude to life was cheerful: “IfI can wake up in the morning and walk on my feet, I am perfectly all right!” In other words focus on what you have and look (and strive) for the best possible outcome in life. The following hadith sums up this great attitude:
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Whoever wakes up secure amongst his people, physically healthy, and has enough
food for the day, it is as if the whole world had been gathered for him:’ (AL TIRMIDHI AND IBN MAJAH) ACTIVITY 25: SEVEN CONCEPTS TO TEACH CHILDREN Let a child read the following hadith, then reflect on each principle and relate it to real experiences.
“There are seven whom Allah will cover with His shade on the day when there is no shade except His shade: a just ruler, a youth who grows up worshiping Allah, a man whose heart is attached to the mosque when he leaves it until he returns to it, two persons who love each other for the sake of God and meet for that and part for that, a man who remembers God when he is alone and his eyes overflow with tears, a man who refuses the approaches of a highly positioned and beautiful woman, saying, ‘I fear Allah’, and a man who gives charity and conceals it so that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives:’ (AL-BUKHARI AND MUSLIM)