Most Muslim parents are concerned with how to teach our kids to be good, “modern” citizens without losing their Islamic identity and values. The answer is balance. We, and our children, must take what is good from this world around us and leave what is bad. Likewise, we must absorb the good, peace-loving aspects of true Islam and leave the perverted, radical Islam so prevalent today.
Okay, sounds easy enough, but how do we put it into practice?
One of the most important things we can do is to play up Islam’s fun, lovely side. It’s too easy to let Islam be all about the don’ts: don’t date, don’t eat pork, don’t celebrate Christmas, and on and on. When Islam becomes a religion of no’s, we have stripped it of its inherent beauty. When that happens, our children are not living as Muslims, they are simply living under Islamic rule. There is a difference. Before we start filling our kids with rules, we need to teach them to love Allah, Islam, and Muhammad (PBUH).
- Teach kids about the beauty of Allah’s creation. Take time to really see, feel, taste, and smell. Take long, leisurely strolls around your neighborhood, the woods, and the water. Talk about the wonder of it all. Let it really sink in that Allah created all of this from nothing.
- Teach kids some of the beautiful stories of Allah’s Prophets, peace be upon them all. Kids especially love the stories of Adam and Eve (Huwa), Noah’s (Nuh) ark, and Abraham (Ibrahim). Many stories of Muhammad’s life enthrall youngsters, too, including the story of the revelation and the cave.
- Teach Islamic songs. Astrolabe, Soundvision, and Noor Art all sell collections of Islamic songs for kids. For very young children, I strongly recommend We Are Muslims. This fun tape features kid-friendly, easy-to-understand Islamic songs, all sang to the rhythm of familiar songs, chants, and nursery rhymes. The song, “We Are Muslims,” for example, is sung to the tune of “This Old Man.” This tape is available with or without musical accompaniment.
- Instead of drilling Surahs into your children’s heads, make it fun. Sing the Surahs. Listen to them on tape. Chant the words as you do your housework. If the kids hear the words of the beloved Koran often enough, they will absorb the words and meaning. Make the Koran part of daily life and your kids will automatically learn.
- Spend time at your local mosque. Many mosques today have playgrounds– go there sometimes, instead of the park. Pack a picnic and spend the day at the mosque. When it’s time for prayer, take a break and pray in congregation. Spend time at the mosque’s carnivals and festivals.
- Get to know other Muslims in your area. We all need friends who share our faith, customs, and holidays.
- Buy Islamic toys. It is important not to compartmentalize Islam. Islam should be a part of our everyday lives, including play.
- Celebrate Islamic holidays! This should be a given, but, sadly, it isn’t. Too many people treat the Islamic holidays as any other day. It’s easy to do. Since Islamic holidays are not national holidays, most of us have to work. However, most Islamic associations will give you a letter excusing your family from school and work for the holidays. Take the days off and spend them with family and friends. Make your own traditions. Give your children something to look forward to.
These are just a few suggestions for making Islam a fun, positive part of your children’s lives. If you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them! There is still the issue of dealing with non-Islamic things in our environment, and I will address that in a coming blog, en Sha Allah.