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Parenting Series | Part IV: Connection with Qur’an and Instilling Islamic Character

Parenting Series | Part IV: Connection with Qur’an and Instilling Islamic Character

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | | Part V(b) | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

Age 5 and the Book of Allāh:

Memorization before the age of 2: Many people wonder when is the best time to begin a more structured relationship with with the Qur'an. In my experience, children are best equipped to study and retain the Words of Allāh beginning at the age of five. Some indirect memorization may start at the age of 2, such as reciting to them every night Ayat al-Kursi. The next step is to encourage them to repeat each word with the parent, which enables them to quickly memorize the verse. Similarly, any athkar or surah can be taught even before they turn four.

Some parents may possess particular interest in their children memorizing the Qurʾān in its entirety. Many parents have asked me about the age I started with my own children, which was age 5. The exact process that I went through, inshā'Allāh, will be a topic for another article.

However, not every child is meant to be a hafith of the entire Qurʾān. Nevertheless,  every child must build a relationship with the Book of Allāh.

Go over the meanings: Sit with them for an hour a day, every day, and read one page or even less of the Qur'an. Then the translation and the explanation of the verses should be discussed and pondered over. They may/will not master the explanation or tafseer, or even the meaning of every verse, but it will help form and enhance a relationship with the Speech of Allāh, and at least something will register in their minds which inshā'Allāh will bring about positive results  later in their lives.

Difficult ayahs: Some ayahs are difficult to understand, even after reading the explanation. This shouldn't worry a parent, and it is okay to just read the meaning without elaborating, such as the verses related to the rulings of inheritance or divorce. Children will ask questions and they can simply be told that they will have a better understanding of these verses when they are older, inshā'Allāhand that the topic of these verses do not apply to them at their current age. At least they will remember that Islam has every aspect of life covered and later in their lives when they need answers, inshā'Allāh they will know that they can turn to the Qur'an. There is always good in the Speech of Allāh, although we may not pay attention at times. Still, the words of Allāh hold great wisdom and guidance.

Books of ahadith: Once we are through explaining the Qur'an to our children, we can begin with a book of hadith, or Prophetic sayings, as well. Specific recommendations are the book Riyad-ul-Salihin, which deals with the manners and character of a Muslim, and Bulugh-al-Maram, which tackles our everyday fiqh issues. However, first and foremost we know that we must be thorough in explaining to them the Qur'an.

A world of imagination: The stories of the Prophets, people of the past, hellfire, paradise, and so forth that are contained in the Qur'an all help towards the Islamic upbringing of our children. They have strong imaginations and we, as parents, must use that power to help them imagine matters of reality. I was once listening to a research by child psychologists about how reading books to children helps them imagine different worlds because children have a very strong sense of imagination. So, as capable as they are of imagining a world of dinosaurs or princesses, they possess even more brain power to imagine the Madīnah of the Prophet, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, the Day of Judgement, Hell and the beautifulJannah. When we go over these subjects, we help them understand the concept of a Creator, instill in their hearts love for Allāh as well as, of course, love for the Prophet and his companions.

Empty recitation vs. “meaningful” recitation: I firmly believe that empty recitation of the Qur'an which is enforced by many parents at an early age upon their children really doesn't benefit them much. They recite without even knowing what they are reading, and perhaps that is one of the reasons why they fail to develop a connection with Qur'an because it remains an “alien” book for them. Going over the meanings may slow down the process of recitation, but is okay to go slow and know what is being recited, because what they learn at that early age will stick with them for the rest of their lives, inshā'Allāh. Hence my sincere advice to the parents is to take advantage of this young age.

Instilling Khuluq or Manners of a Muslim:

The teaching of the religion must be accompanied by instilling Islamic manners and the characteristics of a positive Muslim. This should be done with inspirational stories from the Prophet, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam and his companions, and a reminder of why we should develop the Akhlaq of a true Muslim.

Among many virtues that we should aim to teach are:

  • Patience
  • Forgiveness
  • Overlooking shortcomings of others
  • Giving the benefit of the doubt
  • Concentrating on their families' and friends' good traits
  • Hiding their families' and friends' mistakes
  • Anger control
  • Clean language
  • Make du‘ā’ for others
  • Rights of our neighbors, even if they are non-Muslims
  • Treating younger ones with love
  • Offering the best to the guests

During the workshop, I usually expound more using specific examples on how to help implement various positive traits. However, due to the length of this article, I would prefer avoiding long discussions. Still, to give a small example, we don't have to wait for our children to become older or anything major to happen before we can start instilling these traits in their lives. We should remind them from an early age and on a regular basis, like, during normal fights/arguments with siblings or friends to be patient or forgiving. It maybe a good idea to post the ayahs that encourage us to forgive on their room's wall, and direct their attention to those ayahs every time they get angry. Plus, we as parents, must praise and appreciate our children as well for implementing these virtuous traits.

If they complain about someone, which children normally do, we should encourage them to concentrate on the good habits of the person they may be complaining about and overlook the weaknesses of that person, unless it is a “harmful” weakness.

In short, remember that these characteristics are best taught through a parent's own actions first. We must take this opportunity to improve our own akhlaq, dealings with others, and develop a positive Muslim personality. And while we ourselves practice these traits in our lives with our friends and overcome a difficult situation in a positive way, we must share that experience with our children. It is not to brag about oursevles, rather to encourage our children, share highs and lows, and build a sense of “team work.”

Challenges around the Age of Seven and Onwards:

If a parent has maintained good communication with his/her children, built a relationship between them and the Qur'an, and kept steadfast with du‘ā’ to seek the help of Allāh, then by Allāh's Mercy the next few years should not be too strenuous. Though, keep in mind that these ages are rough estimates. Every parent, especially mothers, should know her child well enough to understand their level of maturity and judge accordingly.

Our parenting skills go through a challenging stage when children are between the ages of seven and ten. This age requires motivation and inspiration, with a lot more emphasis on positive reinforcement. Also, this is the age when children start opening up a lot more. Up until this age the parent had to initiate a “friendship” but around age 7 or 8 children are ready to reciprocate. They begin to seek out a friend to lend an ear and if the parent, especially the mother, is not available they will resort to seeking elsewhere.

Communication is the KEY

I cannot emphasize enough the importance and necessity of talking to our children, to eliminate the “generation gap,” to understand their world, and to make them understand ours. Even if an effort was not exerted to build good communication with them before the age of 7-8, it can still be done because, as I said earlier, it is usually around this age when they look for a “talking-buddy.”

Communication with children doesn't have to be organized or conducted in a formal or scheduled meeting. It should actually come naturally, at any time of the day, such as while driving, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or even during household chores. Talk to them about their day, their friends, other family members, siblings, school, stuff that interest them like computers, games, sports, etc. Tell them about yourself, your day, your school, your interests, the activities you are involved in, your friends, and your experiences. Remember, for them to open up to us, we MUST open up to them first. It's a two-way street. There should not be ANY topic that we cannot discuss with our children. There should not be ANY question that they cannot approach us with. Make sure that we verbalize this to our children, such as saying “You can talk to me about anything” or “Ask me any questions you want and don't feel shy and don't be hesitant.”

Once a teenager told me when she was young her mother encouraged her to open up to her, saying that she could ask her mother about anything she wanted. Of course she popped the common question,

“Where do babies come from?”

Her mother's reply was,

“Well, other than this question, you can ask me anything!”

This mother missed a golden opportunity to open up lines of communication between herself and her child. Such uncomfortable issues that are inevitably raised by a human mind must not be put off or lied about. A parent would not appreciate their child receiving answers elsewhere that may not suit them, so they need to directly address their question with age-appropriate answers.

The offer we give our children for them to open up to us should not just be mere words spoken, and when they dare ask us a difficult or embarrassing question we end up biting their heads off. While staying calm, an answer can be given that does not have to include all the gory details.

On the other hand, parents may raise a number of concerns:

  1. What happened to haya and adopting modest speech?
  2. Why do we need to talk to our children about such issues?
  3. Our parents didn't talk to us about these issues so why is it deemed a necessity to talk to our children about them?
  4. My child will lose her/his “innocence” if I address these issues.
  5. Why can't my child learn these issues at school?

inshā'Allāh, we will discuss these questions in detail next week!

allah du'a insha'allah inshaallah medina quran

About Umm Reem

Umm Reem has a bachelors degree in Islamic Studies from American Open University. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She was one of the founders of Daughters of Adam magazine and remained the publishing director until 2007. She had been actively involved with MSA, TDC, and other community activities. She has also been actively involved with the Muslim women of her community spiritually counseling with marital and mother-daughter issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities, including special workshops regarding parenting and issues related to women.

21 comments

  1. I’ve always noted that kids start getting annoying and obnoxious (to me :) ) from about seven up… they start developing attitude then (especially if they’re going to school and pick up bad habits from other kids)… how do you suggest one deals with these attitude issues, and in particular a new reluctance to pray with the family, go to the masjid, fast, etc.?
    It’s funny how a 4 year old will rush to copy you when you’re praying, but then at age 7 when you try to encourage them to pray, they make excuses and run off.

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    • how do you suggest one deals with these attitude issues, and in particular a new reluctance to pray with the family, go to the masjid, fast, etc.?

      sounds like the kids need to be motivated, perhaps more positive reinforcement or trying to make the trips to the majsjid a bit more fun?

      my husband had a point system for our son for praying at the masjid, every time he went he got a point and after a certain number of points (10 i think) he would get a baskin robins treat.. It worked well alhamdullilah.
      Now he uses the same tactic for our neighbors kids and it is working well with them too, alhamdullialh :)

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  2. My daughter is only 5.5 and she has already asked me the babies question! Subhan Allah.
    I told her a few details about the womb and the stages of development but left the core/basics out and reassured her that in the future, when she is a bit older, I will explain it all to her. I also told her that the whole creation process is in the Quran, which she will study in-depth later on, insha’Allah.
    She was very satisfied with the answer, alhamdulillah.
    Great article!

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    • It is true, kids ask these questions at a very young age these days. And I have discusses this in detail in the next article that instead of giving false answers, parents must uphold the truth. If the child is too young for certain answers, parents should tell their children that they are too small to understand the issue at hand and that the parents will tell the children as soon as they are old enough to understand.

      And i suggest that the parents should keep the children in confidence by telling them that if they ever get too curious or if anyone else ever tries to tell them about these issues, then they should stop that person from telling them anything, rather approach the parent right away and the parent will tell them immediately.

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  3. Looking forward to your next article Umm Reem!

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  4. I’d love to hear more about your memorization experiences, will be waiting for the future article! Are your kids huffadh? I have a son who has a strong memory so I think he could memorize the Qur’an insha Allah. We started just before age 3 and sometimes I wonder if perhaps waiting would have been better. We’re also studying reading at the same time.

    Also your point about empty recitation vs meaningful recitation needs to be shouted from the roofs I think :) It’s a huge issue, because parents are pushing their kids to recite and memorize but with zero emphasis on the meaning. What’s the point, then if Qur’an is “Hudan lil-muttaqeen”?

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    • yes alhamdullilah 2/3 are.

      I think 3 is still too small to go through the formal memorization process. But if it is a few surahs, i think that is fine. I started my children when they were five. But i just met a couple and their son finished memorizing Qur’an when he was five, mashaAllah!! They are arabs though and arabic is their first language, which makes a big difference.

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  5. Thanks for the great article. I have a question that is a bit off topic. I have a 9 month old baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. I have been reading a lot about the different methods to get the baby to sleep (i.e. cry it out, etc) and I really don’t like those methods as they appear to me to be very harsh. Do you have any advice for me on how to get my baby to sleep through the night? He wakes up every hour or two right now and I just breastfeed him to sleep. It is getting to be very difficult for me to get enough sleep and have enough energy for him during the day and my husband is also finding it challenging to get through his 12 hour shifts at work with the lack of sleep. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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    • I know you asked this of the author but I couldn’t help answering. I don’t know if its the experience of other mothers but I don’t think its possible for MOST babies to sleep through the night for the first year at least. there are good nights and there are bad nights. At that age they are teething or they are going through growth spurts and some nights they sleep well some they don’t.

      My advice for you would be to get some rest time during the day….set aside 2 hours where you can sleep without having to take care of him if possible. My son is 11 months old and he is now starting to sleep for at least four hours before he wakes up for milk. And some nights he still wakes up every 2 hours to feed and for the last week or so he has been wakes up around 1ish and tosses and turns for a good 1.5 hours until he finally tires himself and goes to sleep. His top two teeth are taking forever to come in and i think that’s why he does this..as he did this when his bottom teeth came in.

      I don’t believe in the cry it out method either. Most of time the child just needs to be comforted and he/she will sleep and their stomachs are so small at that stage so they feed more often understandably.

      My advice would be to get some rest during the day and be patient …this phase will be over. =)
      Also whenver your child sleeps during the day …try and go to sleep at that time with him as well.
      Every child is different so maybe other more experienced mothers have more advice.
      Wallahu alim.

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      • I totally agree with Sister Saba’s advice:

        My advice would be to get some rest during the day and be patient …this phase will be over. =)

        At the time it seems forever, but inshallah your precious baby will get out of this phase and sleep thru the night. Very soon….

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    • lol, it’s funny that I’ve been having the same problem the last few nights with my 7 month old :)
      As the others said, this is apparently quite normal… no baby will sleep the whole night (at least not often) ’till they’re at least a year or so old…
      My suggestions: sometimes the baby is just too ‘awake’ and doesn’t want to sleep; in that case, take him/her out of the room and play with them quietly… read Qur’an over him/ her… cuddle together under a blanket and tell them stories… give him some cereal or some “solid’ food if he appears genuinely hungry.
      And then try to nap frequently during the day so that you can catch up on your own lost sleep :)

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    • Dear AS,

      Assalamu alaikum sister.

      try to keep your baby up in the day time. and make night time sleep start after around 10pm… i have a 6yrs old son, 4 yrs old son and also 4 month old baby. she was not sleeping until 2 am when she was 2 – 3 months… and she spits out milk. so i have made her routine to start night time sleep bit late. cant put them to sleep by 8 pm with the other older children. normally i put the older children to sleep by 8pm n do house work, preparing a breakfast for the next day morning while playing or talking to my 4 month old… this will take at least 2 hours… but i make sure that the house is bit noisier because when it is silent she is prone to sleep fast… but always wakes up within an hour…

      the other thing to remember is to keep a different method to go to sleep in the night… i usually wipe my baby, powder or massage with a bit of cream, then wrap her with a blanket tell her that we are about to sleep… dim the light n feed n put her to sleep… then the baby gets the message that its time to sleep… another thing i do is, in the day time i make sure she naps on my bed, but the night time sleep for long hours is her cot… so when i keep her in the cot she gets the message in that ways too…

      this is my night time routine for all my kids… because with my elder i had a very bad time as same as you and i know how difficult is that… and also husbands are bit hard and not supportive with the first kid as its new to them… anyway as the other sisters stated, be patient… even it is hard and a challenge for you, keep in mind that it is making your sins forgiven… it is a good chance for you to repent for your sins… inshallah everything is temporary in this life, so as this too… ;-)

      take good care of the baby as it is your gift from Allah swt…

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  6. I have been reading a lot about the different methods to get the baby to sleep (i.e. cry it out, etc) and I really don’t like those methods as they appear to me to be very harsh.

    I never agreed with most of those methods, and to be honest, a few times when i even tried i didn’t have the heart to go through that harsh process. When the child cries, the mother should be there for him/her. :)

    So as the sisters said, be patient. Right now your time is for your child. Try to get some rest in the day time.
    Try to take your child out of the room when he wakes up at night so your husband can get sleep. This way at least one parent will be getting enough sleep.
    Try feeding him some solid food before he falls asleep.

    To be honest, i’ve noticed this is a common problem with the breastfeed children. They wake a lot at night. I had the same issue with all my children. But this phase will be over soon inshaAllah :)

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    • “To be honest, i’ve noticed this is a common problem with the breastfeed children”

      Not a mum, but my own mum has said this too. Formula milk is ‘heavier’, takes longer to digest, and so the baby sleeps for longer, as babies often wake up when they’re hungry. However, breast milk has more nutrients and protective properties, so I am not suggesting that anyone reach for the formula!

      It’s a shame we don’t use wet nurses anymore! That would make things easier for mums. ;)

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  7. Bissmillah

    Dear sister,

    Assalam Alikum,
    Mashallah, very nice article. Although you have tried best to cover all topic not doubt. Can you please suggest any famous book on this topic.

    Jazakum Allahu Khairan Katheerah,

    Wassalam,

    Your sister in Islam,

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    • try these:

      Positive Discipline, Jane Nelsen, Ed.D.

      scream free parenting by Hal E. Runkel

      and you can also google positive parenting techniques…there are a lot of good articles available.

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  8. I think some might find these links useful.

    here are some different links to article about many different aspects of parenting, from birth to health to breastfeeding to parenting/ cosleeping/education/ EC
    health matters
    http://thinktwice.com/articles.htm
    birthing
    http://birthfaith.org/midwives/birth-in-the-standing-position
    also see homebirth.org.uk very good website full of references and medical lit.

    all about EC
    http://www.naturalbabyworld.com/elimination-communication.html

    parenting, some helpful information, i take what is in accordance with islam and leave the rest.
    http://www.naomialdort.com/

    this is another good site with many parenting and education articles from many different people
    http://www.naturalchild.org/

    I also like this one, it has parenting, educational, farming, growing your own, aquaponics, sustainable lving etc articles
    http://www.naturallifemagazine.com/naturalparenting/index.htm

    heres one all about breastfeeding which i am sure most muslims know is the right of the child and is a sunnah we should be fulfilling
    http://www.theecologist.org/trial_investigations/268337/breastmilk_vs_formula_food.html

    hope you all find them useful

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  9. Bismillah,

    @Umm Reem & parenting jazak Allah Khairan Kathira

    Aaisha

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  10. Asa,

    Most of my friends would tell their kids that their little siblings came from the hospital and left it at that. I always thought that wasn’t satisfying for the children. When our second child was born and the older was 3 and half, and the same question was asked: How did we get this little child? I thought to answer simply and to save myself the complicated situation i said: Allah gave her to us. Allah knew you needed a little friend to play with and He gave us a sweet little baby. She called the baby: Angel!

    Now alhumdulillah, i am studing the Qur’an in depth and Surah Hajj has such an amazing description of Allah’s process of creation, it is amazing. So much better than any “What to Expect when you’re expecting” books! Subhan Allah!

    JKK for the article and sharing.

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