As parents we feel the need to fulfill every requirement of our growing children, be it food, education, leisure time, etc. In terms of physical needs being met, most of us go all out. But how about their spiritual needs? We may think that they are young and cannot understand much, what spiritual needs could they possibly have? Ultimately, the greatest need of a child as he/she grows up is the cultivation of his/her faith (imaan). As incumbent it is for crops to be cultivated, so too is the necessity of imbuing Imaan into the hearts of children. You see, every child is born with the seed of Imaan in their heart. How we choose to nurture that seed is entirely dependent on us.
Can we teach Imaan to a child by saying, “Open you Aqaaid book and learn about Allah!” or “Repeat after me ten times, Allah is One.” Surely that is not the way. Let us look at the Hadeeth of Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) related by Abdullah ibn ‘Abbaas (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu). “O boy, I shall teach you some words. Remember Allah! He will protect you. Keep Allah in mind and you will find him in front of you. Whenever you ask, ask Allah. Know that if all the people were to assemble to do good, they cannot do you any good except for what Allah has destined. And if they were to gather to do you some harm, they cannot do you any harm save for what Allah has destined for you. The pens have been lifted and the papers dried.” [Tirmidhi]
Note that Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) taught Ibn Abbaas (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) while he was behind him, riding his animal. It was a pleasant environment Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) did not tell him, “Come to me if you need anything I am the Nabi of Allah.” He was diverting his attention only to Allah. So exactly should we turn the gazes of our children from the apparent worldly things to the power(Qudrah) of Allah- that benefit and harm lies only in the Divine Will of Allah. In order to teach children imaan, we need to talk about the greatness of Allah through their senses. The things around them should be attributed to the greatness of Allah. Their bodies, nature, earning of wealth… simple things, its so easy!
Explain and talk to them with smiles, loads of hugs, warm expressions and in a comfortable environment or surrounding, just as Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) did with Ibn Abbaas (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu). When we do this, we create positive memories and this is clinically the best way a child can learn. If they range from 2-4 years of age, tell them stories (of Ambiyaa appropriately), rather than read it. This age group would appreciate their moms and dads lively expressions when telling stories.
If they are a tad older, teach them to ask their needs through du’a and salaah. Never forget to always reward them with a beautiful du’a or sincere praise or cuddle when they have done this. In this way we show them the value of what they have learned, as children cannot perceive the magnanamity of such actions. So to have mom’s praise and affection for now as their little minds perceive is enough. This is what we call positive connotation or association.
Later on as the child becomes older he/she will aim for the praise and pleasure of Allah. However when a child has been rebuked or beaten when being taught a valuable lesson in his life, it creates fear or bad memories. Notice how insulting a child or harshness when teaching him/her has the adverse effect.The child now has a negative perception of learning and this marrs his progress despite his ability.
Imaan is not just taught to a child. It is experienced. You can read something, but when the same happens to you, it is different, is it not? Anyone can teach, few can train. For training progresses over time. Ibn ‘Abbaas (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) was not just taught those words by Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and that was it. No, no, no. He witnessed the life of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and that, coupled with the words Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam), was the foundation for his Deeni education. Parents train their children throughout the time they are with them. This has a significant effect on the children, and can help create a virtuous personality. It is not always an easy task, because children have their own personalities, traits and habits and if these are negative, it will hamper progress of the child. Inherited traits (genes) may be overcome or diminished through training the child this beautiful religion of ours. And when we feel that we’ve hit a brick wall, there is always Allah… for us all. Effort and du’a goes hand in hand for change to take effect.
Children need to be constantly reminded not scolded. They learn from positive memories created and more importantly, our example. So remember to always provide your child with daily doses of emotional and deeni nutrition as you would for their growing bodies. Bodies grow old and die and even decompose, but the soul (rooh) lives forever. By us not teaching and actively taking interest in our children’s Deeni knowledge and well-being, we are confusing our children. You ask any child this “If you received a present, would you keep the box or the actual present?” Obviously any adult or child would give the same answer- “What’s inside of course!” Use this metaphor to show them that the box is our bodies and the actual present inside is our soul and spiritual self. If WE do not show importance and take active part in their lives in imparting the religion of Islam, we will be held accountable to Allah for not fulfilling our duties as a parent. Let us keep the example of Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) infront of us always. “Indeed (for you) the life of Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) is a perfect example.