Author: Aaliyah Umm Ibrahim
Muslim parents are often stressing over how to bring the deen (faith) into the everyday lives of their children. They, understandably, want their children to absorb the deen and be good Muslims. And with this intention they send their children to madrassas, Quran tutors, weekend schools, Islamic schools. Some join Islamic retreats and go on Islamic holidays as a family. All this is good, necessary and worthy. However many Muslim parents fall in to the trap of “Oh well, they learn that at Quran school anyway so now we ain’t gotta do nothing about it.”
Of course the extreme example of this are the well-off parents who enrol their progeny in the more exclusive (read: expensive) Islamic schools and then wash their hands off the whole matter- mostly at the stage when their children enter puberty and the parents wake up to realize that there is very little they can do to improve their “morale” – meaning mainly their modesty because they’re getting out of control.
This is of course foolish – we all realize that it is useless to shove kids into an establishment and expect it do our job, children will not easily adapt to something they haven’t learned from an early age, using Islamic school as some sort of a punishment or rectification method to a teenager can, and will backfire in an ugly way (children resenting their parents and the whole idea of Islam as a result). It is wrong both for the children but also to the Islamic school system that struggles with little support from councils and communities as it is.
But this aside, even those of us who have a more sensible approach have overlooked probably the easiest way of instilling Islamic values and manners as well as the Love of Allah, the Prophet SAAS and the Sahabah in to the lives of their children: family circles.
The family circles at mosques or community centers are not meant here – but family circles with the actual family. Most parents probably read Islamic books to their children but it’s usually either the mother or the father – and not as the whole bunch.
Dhul Hijja is a great time to start your own circle, and offers a range of interesting themes (like the story of Prophet Ibrahim AS and what the rites of Hajj are based on etc). Since the point of these circles is not to teach anything (many parents say they can’t teach Islam to their children because they have no knowledge), but to simply remind and remember, anyone can do this- in any language, with any background, with any amount of learning.
There is no etiquette of how to do this, as such, but what we do is:
Pick a time in the day (approx. 10 – 20 minutes. But you can start out with as little as 5 minutes)
- This should be a time when all family members are at home at the same time, some families only come together are meal times or just before bed time – everyone knows what works best for their own lot. A good time would be before one of the prayers, so that concentration and feeling in the prayer may be increased.
- The attitude to the time has to be flexible enough to be moved if necessary: life is unpredictable but Allah loves continuation in deeds, so if our usual time becomes otherwise occupied we should try to find another time for the circle
- You can use any book, suitable to your children’s ages, interests and needs. In my own family we use Fadhail Amal, that is a very basic book and has hadiths on specific topics
- If you decide to use a hadith collection, make sure you use a very basic one, unless you’re a scholar of hadith- many ahadith are seemingly contradictory (although they’re not really, but unless you have an explanation to each hadith you won’t know), and may confuse both parents and children. This is not the purpose.
Pick a book. Sit down with the family and choose a portion – a small portion – of the chosen book and read it.
In our family my son (he’s 7 and knows how to read quite fluently) mostly reads out a hadith in Arabic and then the translation three times (repetition aids memory and understanding especially in children who have just learned how to read)
- Children who can read should be encouraged to do the reading: this will not just develop their reading skills but also give them confidence and strengthen family bonds.
- We only do one or two ahadith per day, our children (ages: 7,3 and 1) can hardly be expected to be able to concentrate for very long, but you know your children best and know what kind of a pace and timeframe you’re looking at.
Discuss about what was read:
- Did the children understand the meaning? If not, what do they think it might mean? Explain in a child-oriented (ie. simple enough but not boring) way what the meaning was (make sure you KNOW what the meaning is yourself before explaining). What did the Prophet want to express by saying what he said? What does Allah want to show us by the said example? How does it apply to you as a family, how you could do amal (take into practice) what you’ve just read?
Make dua (prayer) for everyone in the family and extended family, for the children (and your own) teachers etc. Pray for your neighbours, and for the whole Ummah, and finish the circle by thanking Allah.
This will take 10 or so minutes of your time each day. That is not much, but the benefits are instant and many:
- The family members will feel more close to each other
- The family members will feel more close to Allah
- The family members will learn new, or be reminded of the old, good habits, sunnahs (prophetic tradition), and practices, and this is a sadaqa jaariya (on-going charity)- whatever you teach your children of Islam and they practice it, you will reap the reward there of – if they will teach it to their own children, you will be rewarded for that too, without it lessening their reward in the least
- A reminder a day keeps your nafs at bay, the family members can remind each other of what was read together when one of them slips and does something in the contrary: the parents should thank their children and praise them if they are reminded by them
- A family that prays together, stays together : remembering Allah together and making dua as a family is a great thing: Allah says ” Remember me, and I will Remember you” (2:125)
Even the parents, who regularly do deeds of worship during their day, tend to do them in solitude. This is, obviously, sometimes necessary for concentration, but our children should see us remembering Allah so that they would be motivated to do the same. The biggest motivation that I, my husband and our children have found for having a daily reminder circle is the hadith Qudsi, where Allah says:
I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.”
(al-Buhkari (also by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn-Majah))
The better assembly is explained by the scholars to refer to the assembly of angels. Allah, the Creator, Sustainer and Ruler of absolutely everything has honoured our remembrance of Him so much that He, in turn, remembers us in a gathering of these noble, incredible, always obedient creatures of his. This, in itself, should be an ample reward and benefit.
What easily goes wrong…
- Remember, that the purpose is not to lecture, scold or find faults
- Remember children find it sometimes difficult to understand terminology, don’t censor the words from your speech, but take time to explain what words mean. This will increase a child’s vocabulary without any extra effort (also children love to know difficult words and show off by knowing them: my son’s favourite, at a time was “hydraulic cylinder”)
- The children will mostly be reluctant to sit down at first; they will be even more reluctant to read. Make the first circles short, don’t harshly force – but do gently insist. Children must, as us parents, learn to take time for the deen and Allah. Surely you don’t want your children to believe that homework, hobbies or TV-shows are more important to a child than Allah. Therefore you must show that chores, work, What’sApp and Facebook are also not more important than Allah.
- If you have children who are too young to participate (like we do), you will probably find them wanting your attention as soon as you sit down with a book. They will eat the book, they will climb on your head, and they will tease their siblings. Do not let any of this get to you, nor let it detain you from doing the circle. Keep the smaller children with you regardless, they WILL learn and when they learn from a young age, they will benefit more when they grow up. Keep the reminders short enough so no one goes totally ballistic.
And may Allah bless us all and our families, and give us continuation in our deeds.
….Where Practice Makes Perfect
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