As parents, our behavior will be the model to which children will turn. Therefore, we should continually seek dhikr to remind us of our duty to do that which would improve our lives and please Him. In particular, we are required to do our best in maintaining a righteous life on earth, in taking care of our environment, seeking knowledge, and helping the oppressed to be liberated. Children will have a better understanding of the real meaning and aim of ‘ibadat if they see parents practicing this, and if they are taught that life is meant to be a test of people’s qualities and their struggle to do their best in both the private and public aspects of society.
The following verses establish the foundations of a worldview in the mind of the child: Say: “Indeed, my prayer, my emotional devotion, my livelihood, and my demise are for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. There is no partner with Allah, and that is what I have been ordered, and I am at the forefront of those who submit.” (Qur’an 6:162-163)
Prayer restrains [one] from shameful and unjust deeds and aggression.
… and who give food – however great be their own want of it – unto the needy, and the orphan, and the captive [saying, in their hearts.] “We feed you for the sake of God alone: we desire no recompense from you, nor thanks.”
Allah has promised, to those among you who believe and perform righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance [of power}, as He granted it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their religion – the one which He has chosen for them; and that He will change [their state}, after the fear in which they [lived}, to one ‘of security and peace:
They will worship Me [alone} and not associate aught with Me; and whoever disbelieves after that, they are the rebellious ones. (Qur’an 24:55)
Teach Children Love of the Our’an
To raise children who love God, parents need to introduce the Qur’an to them so that it becomes more than just a sacred Book which is to be read on a few religious events and then shelved for the rest of the year. Should the emphasis be on giving information or should it be on the more important emotional and psychological development of the heart and soul of the child? Gaining knowledge and information continues throughout one’s entire life, whereas healthy emotional and psychological development must occur early in childhood, mostly before the teen years.
What is happening today is that Muslims repeatedly frighten children from their early years with accounts of Hellfire (jahannam), rarely mentioning Allah’s Love, Mercy, and Compassion, or the beauty of Heaven. We emphasize how they will burn in Hell if they disobey God or their parents or make mistakes. Meanwhile, we neglect to mention how they will be rewarded and served in Paradise if they act righteously, obey Allah, obey their parents, help others, and do what is right. We continually threaten children and remind them about punishments as if they are evil criminals, yet seldom encourage them or mention the love of God and the rewards they get for good behavior. In this environment, children grow into terrified and fearful adults.
They harbor a negative attitude and lack self confidence and, at worst, are discouraged from their faith altogether.
Teachers usually start teaching the Qur’an to children from the last Part (juzu’ ‘ammah or Part 30). This Part contains short chapters (surahs), which were revealed in Makkah at the beginning of the Revelation. These short chapters were aimed at the deviant and arrogant oppressors from the tribe of Quraysh and their cruel pagan leaders (like Abu Iahal and Abu Lahab). In these early chapters the Qur’an is addressing those who tortured Muslims, killed some of them, plotted to kill the Prophet $, and waged war to annihilate the believers. These surahs were meant to bring these tyrants to their senses, and the strong verses fell on their ears like thunder, because they contained dire warnings. Look at the following examples:
Destruction upon the hands of Abu Lahab, and destruction upon him. (Qur’an 111:1)
Horror to every liar and gossiper. (Qur’an 104:1)
Has there come unto thee the tiding of the Overshadowing Event? Some faces will on that Day be downcast, toiling [under burdens of sin], worn out [by fear], about to enter a glowing fire, given to drink from a boiling spring. No food for them save the bitterness of dry thorns. (Qur’an 88:1-6) Horror to the cheaters. (Qur’an 83:1) Say: “0 you who reject Faith!” (Qur’an 109:1)
When the Earth is shaken to its [utmost] convulsion. (Qur’an 99:1) It is unfortunate that although this harsh form of address was not meant for innocent children, these are the very verses that are first taught to them nowadays. The reason for teaching these surahs is that they are very short and are considered easy to memorize.
Instead of frightening children at this young age with an emphasis on Hell and punishment, we need to emphasize the love of God, the mercy of parents, and the beauty of Heaven. This fits into their psychology instilling feelings of security, love, warmth, generosity and tenderness during early childhood. It is better to begin with God’s Love, His Mercy, Kindness, Compassion, Forgiveness, and Generosity, in addition to His many other beautiful attributes. Children should also be told that they are good and that God loves them before teaching them that they should love God. The sequence should be God’s love (first) and then (second) their obligation to love God.
Once children begin to understand, parents can gently bring in the subject of Hell as punishment for evil doing. Surahs containing warnings and threats for committing major sins are supposed to be introduced when children can draw lessons from them instead of succumbing to fear. This is usually during the late childhood and teen years, when they are older and can better comprehend abstract ideas and the consequences of their actions.
Care needs to be taken over how we develop our children’s mentality and psychology, especially when teaching the Qur’an. It is imperative that parents select the most suitable verses on which to focus during the different stages of their children’s growing up.
Most of the Companions iSahaboh) of the Prophet $ were introduced to the Qur’an when they were adults. At that age, the Qur’an had a profound effect on them. Their already courageous and strong character was strengthened and the Qur’an directed them to high moral standards. Specialists in Qur’anic sciences, together with education experts and social scientists, can advise parents on how to teach children, including the sequence of verses relative to their age. Certainly, all the verses of the Qur’an are to be taught during the life of the individual. However, the question is: In what sequence should they be taught? Which verses need to be emphasized and at what age? It is clearly not suitable to start with the whole of the 30th part just because it contains 37 short surahs. What is considered easier to remember should not be the only consideration.
Non-Arabie-speaking parents have to explain to their children the meaning of the verses in their own languages. Currently, emphasis is placed on simply being able to read the Arabic and memorize the verses without knowing the meaning. Parents are strongly recommended to acquire a good translation of the Qur’an and supplement their reading lessons with interpretation (tafslr) lessons, so that they start to develop a relationship with the world view and message of the Qur’an. If parents are unable to do this, they can find a teacher and monitor what and how their children are taught. Recordings of the Qur’an can be played regularly at home so that children become familiar with its sound. It is important to establish a pattern of reading that is consistent and organized so that children become used to reading the Qur’an every day. Learning Arabic as a second language also helps children learn the Qur’an and interact with it first hand. Many good children’s books have been published containing stories of the prophets taken from scriptures, and the lessons to draw from these stories. Parents have to purchase or borrow these stories to supplement the Qur’anic readings so that children become familiar and comfortable with the Qur’an.
Teach Children Prayers: Continual Remembrance of God
There are many short prayers that bring to mind the idea of a watchful, caring God, Who is ever present with us. These are easy to introduce and help children acquire the habit of thanking Him, and seeking His guidance and protection. They also combat any attempt to push God into the background. Parents, for instance, should thank God out loud before they eat, and when finishing eating, and ask children to repeat the du’a’ (supplication) after them. Again, when entering the house, when leaving the house, when going to sleep, and when waking up, a point should be made of saying a du’a’. This instills an attitude of gratitude. Simply saying Bismillah (in the Name of God) when beginning an activity will be observed by children and copied. Although it may seem trivial and dull for children at first, it is worth persevering. Eventually this habit will promote in children the practice of dhikr and make this communication with the Almighty a natural aspect of their life. They will also come to realize God’s merciful hand in everything. When it comes to salah (ritual prayers), again, this should be made an important and natural element of the parents’ daily life. Parents set the best example for their children. Make the call for prayers (adhtm) in front of your children and treat the time for prayer seriously. The television should be switched off and everyone should be prepared so that the prayer starts in the right atmosphere. Parents should pray in front of their children with consciousness and calmness. Too often there is an impatience for the prayer to end, and this rush will be noticed by children and no doubt imitated without concentration on prayers. A du’a’ has to be made before and after the prayer so that the children learn to do the same; it can be a request for anything you feel you need from the Almighty.