What is meant by religious education is to link the child, from when he starts to realize the principles of faith, and teach him the pillars of Islam, and the foundations of Shahadah. By the principles of faith we mean belief in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day and Divine predestination. By the pillars of Islam we mean, witness to Allah’s Oneness without partner and that Muhammad § is the messenger, fasting, Zakah (alms-giving) and pilgrimage to whoever can afford it. And by the foundations of Shari’ah we mean all that is related to Islam, as creed, worship, manners and rulings. So the educator must inculcate such concepts of faith and Islamic teachings into the child’s soul, and the Prophet ﷺ recommended instilling the principles of faith and pillars of Islam into the child’s mind during his early years of his life.
As mentioned in the previous class we need to start early, and we need to walk the talk as in set an example and practice what we preach as the children follow their parents.
Teach them the basic principles of belief in a simple and straightforward manner according to their ages, such as the Oneness of Allah, may He be exalted, and that He can hear them and see them, and that He rewards for good deeds and adhering to the rulings of Islam.
The fact that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbaas was very young did not prevent the Prophet ﷺ from saying to him eloquent words about Tawheed and ‘aqeedah (belief). It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: I was behind the Messenger of Allah ﷺ one day and he said: “O young man, I shall teach you some words (of advice): be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help of Allah. Know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already decreed for you, and that if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would only harm you with something Allah had already decreed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” (Tirmidhi, classed as sahih by al-Albaani).
Teaching Children about Allah
Guide them to believe in Allah, His undefinable Might, and His wonderful creativity through contemplating the creation of the heavens and the earth during their age of discretion. A child can be taught about Allaah in a suitable manner, according to his level of understanding. He can be told that Allaah is One and has no partner. He can be told that He is the Creator of all things, so He is the Creator of the earth, the heavens, people, animals, trees, rivers, etc. The educator can make the most of some situations by asking the child, whilst walking through a garden or in the countryside, about Who made the water, rivers and things in the natural scenery around him, to draw his attention to the greatness of the Creator. The father, mother or educators in general may be with a child or group of children in a car on a journey or a trip at the time of sunset, when the sun disappears from sight gradually. All that the educator has to do at that point is to draw the attention of those who are with him to the power of Allaah displayed in that.
A child can also be taught to understand the bounty of Allaah and the blessing of good health that He has bestowed upon him. For example, you could say to him, “Who gave you your hearing, sight and mind? Who gave you strength and the ability to move?” and so on. The child can also be encouraged to love Allaah and to thank Him for this blessing and bounty. Making a child love Allaah and the things that Allaah loves is a good action which will bring educational benefits sooner or later, by Allaah’s Leave.
Man is exposed to sickness and diseases, and a child may fall ill. Then his illness should be an opportunity to strengthen his relationship with Allaah, by reminding him of the virtues of good health, and that it is the blessing of Allaah, and that we must thank Him for that, and that man has no power and no strength except with his Lord.
A child may ask about his Lord, whether He eats or sleeps. In that case we have to answer and tell him that there is nothing like Allaah, and He is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing; neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. Allaah is not like us, He does not need to sleep, eat or drink.
If these meanings are made simple for a child and explained to him in a way that is suited to his age, then the veneration of Allaah in his heart is one of the things that will help him to be aware that Allaah is watching him in secret and in public.
When a child absorbs, from the very beginning, the unequivocal issues of faith, and stable evidences of the oneness of Allah, no destructive tool can strike his lively heart, nor can evil advocates have any influence on his faithful mind, due to unshaking belief, well-established certitude, and full conviction he has acquired.
The spirit of submission towards Allah
Inculcate into their souls the spirit of submission, piety and servitude to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. This can be achieved by focusing their attention on the undefiable Might and the Dominion which is great in every sense, in the sprouting plant, the growing tree, the aromatic beautifully coloured flower, myriads of wonderful creatures with magnificent formations. The heart cannot help but submit to the magnificence of Allah What can the soul do but feel the piety towards Allah and experience the pleasure of submission and sweetness of servitude to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
Instilling Love for the Prophet ﷺ
There are a number of ways to instil love of the Prophet ﷺ in the hearts of our children, such as:
The Sahaabah and the salaf (early generations) were keen to teach their children about the life of the Prophet ﷺ, and they would teach it alongside teaching the Qur’aan, because his seerah is the interpretation of the meanings of the Qur’aan, as well as stirring up emotions and demonstrating true Islam and having a wondrous effect on the soul. It also carries the meanings of love and striving to save mankind from misguidance and bring them to guidance, from falsehood to truth, from the darkness of jaahiliyyah to the light of Islam.
When telling their children about the life of the Prophet ﷺ and the lives of the male and female Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them), the father and mother must tell them about things that they can relate to, such as the childhood of the Prophet ﷺ, some stories about his life with (his wet-nurse) Haleemah al-Sa’diyyah, and how Allaah bestowed goodness and blessings upon Haleemah and her family because of him ﷺ, the night of the Hijrah and how Allaah covered the eyes of the mushrikeen, and other stories which demonstrate how Allaah helped him. Thus the child’s heart will be filled with love for Allaah and love for His Messenger ﷺ. It would be a good idea if the parents devote a suitable time for teaching the life of the Prophet ﷺ during the daily family lesson, when the children can read about seerah in simplified books, or the father or mother can tell them these stories in a manner that is appropriate to the child’s age.
Teaching them Adhkaar
As discussed in the previous class, we should start very early and be audible in reciting eh Duas in front of the child even when he/she cannot speak so they have these adhkaar in their subconscious memory and part of their soul growing up.
Repeat the Kalimah often and use it as a positive que, as in when you see good things or good things happens so they associate with it good. Try teaching them Kalimah as part of their first words they say.
A child can be taught, from the age of three or four, the adhkaar to be recited in the morning and evening, and when going to sleep, eating and drinking. If a child hears these adhkaar, and memorizes and recites them, this will form a strong bond between his soul and Allaah, so his soul will develop and his nature will be sound and free of deviations.
A couple of stories to show the positive impact:
1. A family went on a trip to the countryside, and when they made a stop, their child went running around the countryside in joy. Then he quickly came back and asked his mother, “What is the dhikr that we should say in this place?” Of course, the dhikr he meant was that which was narrated from the Messenger ﷺ: ‘Whoever makes a stop whilst traveling, then says, “A’oodhu bi kalimaat Allaah il-taammati min sharri ma khalaqa (I seek refuge in the perfect words of Allaah from the evil of that which He has created),” then nothing will harm him until he moves on from that place.’” (Narrated by Muslim).
This child realized that there are specific adhkaar that the Muslim should recite, some of them are connected to certain times, some to certain places, and so on. This child understood the real nature of the relationship with his Lord and realized that it is ongoing, because of what he had learned from his parents. If a child is brought up in such a manner, then he will be righteous, insha Allaah, and he will have an influence on his friends and those with whom he is in contact.
2. Another story about a child growing up remembering Allaah and having a relationship with Him is that one day a small child who was just four years old came to his mother wearing new clothes that his thirteen-year-old sister had put on him. His mother said to him, “Let me teach you the du’aa’ for wearing new clothes.” The child said, “I have already said it.” The mother was surprised because she knew that the child had not yet learned this du’aa’. But the child told his mother, “My sister said the du’aa’ and I repeated it after her.” Look at the mindfulness and righteousness of this girl that had such an effect even on her little brother.
Practical tips to start Islamic education at home
1. Connection with Arabic Language, Create a connection between them and the Arabic language, and instil a love for it in their hearts, because it is an important key to understanding and loving Islam.
2. Teaching the obligations. Although salaah, fasting, hijaab and such matters are not compulsory on children yet, it doesn’t mean we should not teach them these matters and encourage them. From an early age you will notice your child imitating you while you pray. Show them how pleased you are with that; this may be in the form of a huge hug, a gift, or a simple thumbs up. Acknowledge what they are doing and praise them for it. By the time they reach five, you should start making certain that you dress them modestly. This does not necessarily mean you should put them in hijaab from this age, however, be selective of the clothing you dress them in.
Commanding them to worship at the age or seven. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Command your children to pray at the age of seven, and he them for not praying at the age of ten, and separate between them (males and females) in beds.” (Abu Dawood). In analogy to prayer, they must be trained to fast some days if they can endure fasting, and make pilgrimage with their father if he can afford it, in order that the child may learn the rulings of worship at an early stage of his life and become familiar with performing it.
3. Children love stories. Before they learn to read, they love being read to and told stories.
4. Super heroes are a big thing for kids. They look for heroes and role models. As stated previously you, the Mom and Dad, are your child’s first role model and hero. But as they grow, they look for others as well. Before they get hooked on Superman and others, teach them about the Prophets, the Sahaabah and other great Muslim personalities. Tell them true stories of bravery and heroism from the lives of these genuine heroes so they aspire to be like them. Wouldn’t you rather that your child want to be like Khalid ibn al Waleed or Salahud-Din al Ayyoubi or Sumayyah or Khadijah bint Khuwaylid than Batman or a Spiderman or Batwoman or Elsa?
5. Clearly distinguish what is unlawful. When the child starts school, he is expected to participate in a lot on un-Islamic activities such as dancing, singing, taking part in celebrations such as Halloween, Christmas, Diwali etc and parents happily oblige thinking it’s just a child and they will miss out on fun if they do not participate. But we should remember that our children are never too young to be taught about what’s permissible and what is not.
6. Communicate with them. As your kids get older, you need to talk to them more and more about the importance of salaah, fasting, hijaab etc… in the life of a Muslim. Alhamdulillaah, they have seen you praying and maintaining your (religious) duties so far and thus this should not be very difficult. Let them know why they need to observe these rites and that the payoff is huge (i.e. al Jannah). Teach them the purpose of life (to worship Allaah) and what this means in our everyday lives. By the time they have reached age seven, you need to insist that they pray regularly and by the time they reach age ten, you need to discipline them if they are negligent towards the prayers. Remind them of this duty everyday and for each prayer. This in and of itself will show them how important this matter is. Talk to them regularly and remind them what a great thing it is that they pray while others don’t. Let them know that this is part of who they are.
As the children grow, the better their understanding and the more their questions will be. It is important that parents communicate with their children; make sure to listen, talk to them and address their questions.
7. Connected to the Masjid. Make them feel an attachment to the mosque, by encouraging them to pray and attend classes; you can also make that attractive to them and encourage them by giving them gifts and prizes every time one of them shows some progress in his or her classes.
It is also a good idea for you to go with them to the mosque, to encourage them to go there and pray.
If it is not easy for them to go to the mosque because it is far away or the route is not safe, then do not neglect to teach them to pray on time at home. There is a binding instruction (from the Prophet ﷺ) to teach those who reach the age of seven to pray and to make them do it; before this age they may be taught but not by way of making them do it.
8. Connect with Quran. Let them hear Qur’an recited in beautiful voices, so that the Qur’an will be held in high esteem in their hearts. The Book of Allah is a Book of guidance and light for people, which will illuminate the way for them and make them steadfast in adhering to the straight path, by Allah’s leave.
9. Islamic shows. Watch Islamic cartoons and movies so that they can compare what they see and hear in them with what they see and hear in other movies. Here you have an important role to play in explaining the differences between the two, and highlight how Islam encourages people to do good, uphold ties of kinship, show kindness and be merciful, and it forbids evil, severing ties of kinship, corruption and hardheartedness.
10. Islamic Websites. Show them Islamic websites that will be beneficial for them, each according to his age and whilst being careful not to let them roam freely on the internet; rather that should be through you.
11. Take them for Umrah. Something that you should think about seriously and that will help you in what you are seeking to achieve is taking them to do ‘Umrah and visit the sacred House of Allah, for these visits have a far-reaching impact on the hearts of young people as is also the case with adults.
12. Islamic Schools. Put them in Islamic schools and keep them away from corrupt schools, so that the Islamic schools can take care of their beliefs and conduct; choose the best of them according to what you see fit.
We have many routines for our children including morning, school, homework and bedtime routines. How much emphasis do we put on Islamic routines? Take some time out to draw up an Islamic routine for your children that looks like the following:
With routines, children learn to be independent and consistent. We need to teach them to learn to wait, help and be patient, thereby developing solid tolerance levels for patience.
14. Make sure they have good Friends
Help them get to know friends of their own age and background who are practising Muslims. It is essential that these friends should be of good character and righteous, so that they can influence your children and be an example for them in their righteousness and adherence to Islam, and the manner in which they interact with their parents.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “The likeness of a good companion and a bad companion is that of one who carries musk and one who works the bellows. With the carrier of musk, either he will give you some or you will buy some from him, or you will notice a good smell from him; as for the one who works the bellows, either he will burn your clothes or you will notice a bad smell from him.” (Bukhaari & Muslim)
Do not forget these important matters
We conclude, from what has been mentioned above, that the responsibility of religious education is important and serious, as it is the source of all virtue and the origin of perfection. It is the main basis for entering a child into the domain of faith and Islam. The parent and educator should not refrain from seizing any chance to provide the child with the proof of the existence of Allah, and with guidance that consolidates belief and strengthens faith. This way of seizing the chance of providing advice is the way of the first educator, Muhammad ﷺ.
We ask Allah to help us all to do that which is good and to guide our children to that which He loves and which pleases Him.