Why I Let My Child Quit The Quran

By Hooyo Said (a pseudonym)

I write this on the evening that I told my daughter's Qur'an teacher that I wanted my child to quit memorising the Qur'an. That's right, quit.

Who am I? A highly experienced educator mother who's taught children in Pupil Referral Units, mentored Muslim youth and consoled and advised parents about the 'plight' of their troublesome teenagers. Dealing with the challenging behaviour of 'problem' pupils has always been intuitive to me. I enjoy the mental gymnastics involved in getting the best out the toughest kids. My husband is a polymath, a multidisciplinary creative and dynamic educator who also happens to be studying for his PhD. So how then have we managed to mould a child who dislikes memorising Qur'an?

Our home is a loving environment rich in Qur'anic recitation and exegesis. Whilst my daughter was invitro, her father and I would affectionately recite the Qur'an aloud. As a baby, we'd engage her active listening skills by playing short surahs in the car and at home, reciting along so that Allah's book became less background noise, more immersive audio experience. We'd recite in bed whilst having a cuddle under the duvet. Or pitch a makeshift tent in the living room reciting Qur'an and sharing Islamic stories illuminated by strobe light (a torch) and cinematic sound effects! By the age of two and a half, and without any formal teaching, my daughter knew many short surahs and would eagerly “sing” the Qur'an. At that point, her Qur'anic journey has been entirely organic; absorption by osmosis.

If our daughter's induction into Qur'anic memorisation had started so well then why would we let her quit? I'm too Tiger Mother, too Dweckian to allow that to happen to my children. My husband and I share an outlook found amongst many Chinese communities in that success (in any domain) is inextricably linked to work ethic before talent (although talent certainly helps). Moreover, we believe in the value of loving to learn as an end itself. So then, how do I reconcile my daughter 'quitting' whilst not becoming a 'quitter?' Easily. My role as a parent (in my estimation) is to nurture the best out of my children, cultivating their strengths and addressing areas to improve. My husband and I do so by inculcating a reflective/reflexive methodology in our children; we learn from our inevitable faux pas! And this is where my daughter trips up. My girl is a six-year-old going on sixteen: driven yet doting (to her baby brother); creative yet competitive; sensible but sensitive. Hyper sensitive in fact; a highly volatile package!

With such an explosive combination of characteristics, I was cognizant that the Madrasah would be the wrong place for my daughter to learn the Qur'an. Distracted Ustadhs fiddling with phones, reading newspapers or even dozing off; even more distracted children, off-task with their studies, talking amongst themselves and seeking elopement from the “learning” environment at the first opportunity by taking prolonged trips to the toilet. My husband and I knew we could only entrust our child's Qur'anic journey with the right teacher. Alhamdulilah, after much du'a we found just the person. A young sister whose first language was Arabic and had teaching experience in state and faith settings at home and abroad. So we had a great teacher and a child with good tarbiyah a great success story right? Wrong!

My daughter's first official Qur'an lesson began well. She was excited, engaged and eager to flaunt her skills of recitation to impress her new teacher. However, as the weeks progressed, she grew more and more frustrated with her errors in memorisation and pronunciation. Time after time my daughter would stumble and trip over the same ayah, not a story to dissimilar to most other children one imagines. I made it clear to my daughter that learning the Qur'an can be a challenge and that experiencing difficulties during the process was okay, in fact Allah would be even more proud of her effort! Nevertheless, I could see that my six year old wasn't responding to the teaching methods employed by her Ustadah so like any good practitioners, my husband and I ran an “audit.” We switched things up.

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We gave the Qur'an teacher creative license to do whatever it took to engage our daughter. Some weeks that entailed warming up with a chat, other weeks playing with blocks of lego or drawing in her beloved sketchpad, all of this without even touching the mushaf. But my daughter was still stuck, trapped in a place where emotions consumed her. Fiercely competitive yet angry at not “winning,” our little competitor couldn't overcome her frustrations. Talking or laughing about it didn't help either. It only edified the emotional and psychological deadlock. So in my Amy Chua “manhaj,” I dug my heels in. Mademoiselle dug them in even further. Worst of all, it became disconcertingly apparent that my daughter's heart was no longer invested in learning the Book of Allah. In one lesson, she became so incensed that she flung the Qur'an across the room and stormed off! Calm and collected, I didn't react. I simply wrote my baby girl a note. It read: “When you're ready to talk, I'm ready to listen. Love Hooyo.” I later find an apology letter she had penned to Allah hidden beneath her story books.

In spite of all the ire and resistance, my daughter had made some progress, but in the process I was losing her; the child whose eyes lit up when we spoke of Allah were now stony cold. The child who would happily “sing” the Qur'an would rather remain mute. I couldn't shake that image from my mind. I -the self-proclaimed “expert” – had unwittingly excised the love of learning the Uncreated Speech of Allah from her heart. That's when my husband and I decided our daughter was going to take a hiatus from Qur'anic memorisation – for the time being. Instead, we'll continue to live and enjoy a halal lifestyle rooted in Islamic identity, aesthetics and ethics with the Qur'an a constant presence, albeit in the background. And, as adoring parents, we'll continue to support our daughter's development in “antifragility” (to quote Nasim Nicholas Taleb) so that we may return to learning the Qur'an when she's emotionally ready for the rigors of recitation and memorisation.

Ultimately, my daughter knows learning to read the Qur'an just like praying salah is non-negotiable but as a 'stakeholder' in her spiritual development she will have considerable input in how Qur'an is officially reintroduced. As emotionally intelligent educators responsive to our pupil's needs, my husband and I have decided to address the root cause of our daughter's 'insurrection' rather than resorting to extrinsic motivators – be they sugary snacks, sticker charts, high-fives and/or sycophancy – to instill (begrudging) obedience. By allowing our daughter to quit the Qur'an, a bold and somewhat unconventional move for a practising Muslim family, we have emotionally accepted that the process of memorisation will be interrupted in the short-term.

However, looking forward to the future, we hope and pray that our daughter's relationship with the Qur'an will be edified, enriched and ultimately enduring. Moreover, it is even more paramount that we address her “combustible cocktail” of character traits, as our cold world does not care about her sweet sensibilities. I'm already planning and engineering scenarios where my daughter has to deal with loss and defeat so that she may learn to become more robust and resilient. My baby girl is a work in progress – aren't we all? With diligence, determination and du'a I'm confident my daughter will emerge from her chrysalis and blossom just like Austin's Butterfly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27 Responses

  1. Yusuf

    I too went through this struggle when I was young, 60 years ago. My Quran teacher had pronounced I will never be able to learn Quran. Today, I teach Islamic Studies at a major university. In light my childhood experience, I had decided that my children would learn Quran recitation during summer breaks only when not preoccupied with other school work. This way, they would be able to learn intensively and also quickly. And they did well.

    I agree there is a need to change the method too. Unfortunately, the traditionally trained teachers while apt as using all electronic gadgets still use the outdated method when it comes to teaching Quran and they also repeat outdated irrational comments on the meaning of the Quranic verses, which makes today’s well informed children confused.

    It is best to teach it yourself creatively or seek teachers familiar with new methods and are creative too.

    Best wishes.

    Reply
  2. Moshe

    Hi, “in vitro” is Latin for “in glass” and refers only to a child conceived outside the womb with “in vitro fertilization”. The embryo only stays in the glass or other laboratory equipment for a few days at most, so I don’t think that’s what you meant to say.

    Reply
  3. Norma Tarazi

    Children develop at different rates. Remember that some start walking at 9 months and some at 18 months. Some normal kids don’t develop their brains for reading until later childhood, while others start reading at 4. Memorization is a skill some develop earlier than others. Some memorize easily and some have great difficulty. I know an imam who is very highly educated but he has always struggled with Quran memorization. He has many gifts and an excellent memory, but rote memorization is very difficult for him. He needs context and meaning for memory storage apparently. Isolated facts don’t stick with him. I’m glad you stopped the struggle for your child. She will pick up enough for salah and if she can read Arabic script, she will memorize what she can when she can later. Allah gives each of us different gifts and different struggles.

    Reply
  4. Adam

    The title of your piece itself is a scary. Since when we allowed our children decide what is good or bad for them. A practical example, our children will never accept injecting needle in their body if they are given the option to decide. Yet, we force them taking soar medicines antibiotics and painful procedures for a reason.

    Memorizing Quran has a lot benefits and highly encouraged in our religion.

    It is understandable if you have concerns about teachers in your daughter’s Madrasa and their method of teaching. But by saying “she will have considerable input in how Qur’an is officially reintroduced” is beyond comprehension. I strongly believe taking children the Madrasa and attending Quranic sessions weights more by quitting from the Madrasa.

    I can’t agree you more it is time to review and make changes to the traditional method of teaching Quran to our children by incorporating new methods of teaching. But quitting and giving children choices is not an option.

    As a parent we are accountable in front of Allah, teaching our children their religion and Islamic values.

    Reply
      • Adam

        Let me clarify what I mean by that. Giving choices and options depends on the age of the child and the nature of the item in question. It is solely the primary responsibility of the parents to decide certain things like treatment options, early education and guidance. There are certain things that children can be left to make their own choices like what kind of game they like playing or which park they like to visit.

        Even if the children are gaining nothing from Madrasa, children will benefit by attending Madrasa environment. They will meet other Muslim children, possibly from different ethnic groups who are there for the same reason. It is an issue of identity and being a member of your own group.

        On the other hand, the monthly fee paid by the parents support the very existence of such Madrasa. When you pull out your child from Madrasa, your contributions is missing. When the number of parents who pull out their children increases, it will eventually lead closing the Madrasa.

        If there are concerns or issues to address about Madrasas, I would suggest parents to be active and involve the admin of the Madrasa.

    • Mahamoud Haji

      I agree the title is scary. shouldnt it have been “Why I Let My Child Temporarily Quit The Quran”? Yes, it is tactical withdrawal until an ambient environment exists to nurture the learning and understanding the Holy Qur’an. Although the content of the article explains furthern the ‘quiting’, remember as Muslims we need to communicate effectively at the earliest opportunity to avoid double guessing and misleading headlines.

      Reply
    • Muhammed Salih

      You did the right thing, I dont get it when people say memorizing Qur-an is encouraged. (hoping for replies), I know learning Qur-an is better for us and reading it without knowing the meaning is discouraged. should we distress kids with Tajweed before they gets the meanings (and thereby deny their chance to be inspired). shouldn’t we rather ensure their faith first and put into kids interests to learn Arabic with regard to faith instead of outright tutions (and even worse, tution on Tajweed before Arabic). We live in an age were kids dont lack sources to learn but lack interests, wouldn’t they do better with enough interest, sense of need and a knowledgeble facilitator.

      In this case, she already had interest and might even have started learning to learn on her own, but some Tajweed issues sticked on to her.

      Reply
  5. M.Mahmud

    I do not understand this kind of emphasis that people have on memorizing the Quran. It does not seem to me that the first generations emphasized it in the same way as Muslims do today. They seem to have enphasized different things than we do today.

    It is dangerous to conflate parental ego “my kid is a conpetitive champ” with their iman which is tender and fragile.

    I would rather have a kid who only knows the first and last three surahs by heart but he loves Allah and His Messenger and fears Allah and the Akhirah and weeps whenever it is recited and is eager to pray and enter the masjid.

    Of course being an excellent memorizer and having those attributes are not mutually exclusive.

    But if putting my kid in a competition will distract him even for a moment from the terror of the akhirah, even for a moment from the love of Allah and His Messenger, even for a moment takes his niyyah from the moment he stands face to face before Allah subhana wa ta’ala then I can’t imagine not taking him out.

    In fact, I cannot see competitions doing anything except that except for a few kids and there is no way I am willing to take that risk.

    I think you did the right thing and I hope she’ll turn to a better way and insha Allah her dunya competition(and despite its “Islamic” veil is truly just that) is replaced with a competition for the akhirah. Insha Allah she will return to the way she was and better.

    Reply
    • Khatam

      I think it was a wise decision. We push things onto our children which they may not be ready for. Memorising the whole Qur’an is an amazing feat, but not whete anyone esp a child loses the love for it. Adam yes we are accountable in teaching our children however Allah (swt) is most merciful and highly likely understands difficulties faced. The more important point is the child is able to learn when she feels she is ready and does it with love & dedication. There is no point otherwise. Forcing a child is negative and that is not Islam. Ensuring the basics are instilled, the rest will come as she gets older and has a better understanding of why we undertake certain tasks etc.

      Reply
      • dyana

        I believe not all parents had entered their kids for quran memorisation class jusy so they can win some competitions. I would let my kids enter quran class for the sake of gaining reward from Allah as the one who is hafiz can help their parents in the akhirah.also, memorisation can help one’ s brain become a lot smarter.

    • Amina Ali Abdi

      Well said .kids have different levels of understanding .I have a 8 year old who finds it so hard to memorise let alone read. I will let her take her time inshAllah she will get there

      Reply
  6. Olivia

    Loved this article. I also pulled my children out of the traditional “madrasah” environment: it was killing their spirits as Muslims, their love and enthusiasm for the Deen. Why did I feel like I had to undo damage from a place that was supposed to be benefitting them? The madrasah outlook is stale and backwards in not all but many places.

    Reply
  7. RSN

    Seems to me that not learning the Surahs in correct pronunciation later created frustration for the little girl. This is true for anyone, especially for non-Arabic speakers.

    Reply
  8. Muslima

    I feel the title should be changed. Muslims never quit the Qur’an. It is our oxygen, and we can’t survive without it. I think you should reconsider.

    Reply
    • Khatam

      The title isn’t such a big deal. It’s the issue which has been written about. It seems the most important point is forgotten but a minor issue such as the title is heightened. You are right the Quran is our life but not where one is brought to the point where they don’t have it as a part of their lives due to having being forced or reprimanded constantly for not reading correctly. It is a hard task and very very difficult for some. As long as we incorporate the Quran into our daily lives, memorisation is secondary.

      Reply
  9. mohamed Ibrahim

    Although the title is bit mismatching with the content of the article yet your communication is clear. Memerization the holy Quran is not among the fundemental principles of Islam and to my believe the Muslim parents should not of worry their children not memorizing the entire Quran but rather dispose enormous effort on how the children would of good practising Muslims which is very difficult on these days and especially raising Muslim family is a test. May Allah make her those who understand and practise the Quran and Sunnah. Abti soo barbaar.

    Reply
  10. umm moussa

    Assalam Aleykum , As a parent , I have no doubt you know your child better . I am just throwing some more ideas to think about .Have you considered if she has any form of learning difficulties ? my child has it but he compensates very well with everything english so no one understood his problem until his difficuties becomes prominent during learning Quran & Arabic ( we are non arabic). So he literally ran off where Quran .Adhan ,anything arabic was being played ( Some suggested otherwise !!) .
    However priority in our deen is never as much to memorize but to Understand & Apply Quran in our life . When she is in Love with Quran , she would want to memorize it inshallah .
    But I do not recommend , Quitting quran altogather . As Quran is a healing for us . as per our scholars ,
    ” If you want to rectify your heart, or want to see a change for better , in your child or companion—or whoever it is for that matter, then direct them to places where the Qurʾān is recited and direct them to be in the company of the Qurʾān. Allāh will then cause them to become better, whether they are willing to it or not”
    — Imām ash-Shāfiʿī, in: ḥilyat al-awliyāʾ 9/123.

    Reply
  11. Wazir

    Dear sister, most of the comments do not appear to touch the crux of the problem. As we all know, there are more Muslims who are non-Arabic speakers and yet we recite the Quran daily in a parrot like fashion. We do not try to understand and ponder upon its meaning. I have only just started to understand now (I am 57 years old), yet I learnt to read and recite when I was very young. I began to read the meanings and tafseer in English but that wasn’t enough. Then a friend introduced me to Quranic Arabic learning a few years ago. Now, although I am not a fluent Arabic speaker, I read the Quran and Surahs and understand (maybe not fully) what Allah is saying, and because I understand the meaning I want to read more, again and again. Each time I read a particular section, I understand more and more. Perhaps this is what is missing in most of our lives and we should strive to understand and ponder upon the message that Allah is giving us.

    Reply
    • Shafkat

      Masha’Allah … May Allah(swt) make it easy for you …. What ‘Qur’anic Arabic’ course did you participate in ?
      JazakAllah khairan.

      Reply
  12. Cass

    I think this is a good decision as long as Quran is reintroduced. Forcing her to learn when it’s clearly hurting her is only going to make her hate the Quran and by extension Islam as well. From what has been written in the article, I gather that the child will only be giving up memorising and not listening to the Quran.

    Reply
  13. Moumina

    Assalaam aleikum. May Allah Azza wa Jall reward you all, and especially sr Hooyo who put this issue in the open. I fully understand your decision, but yet again; your daughter seem to be so very young. Yes of course it is the best age to develop an excelent memorization skill, though every child is different, as sr, Norma Tarazi mentioned. By the way, I like to take the opportunity to thank sr Tarazi so much for her book “the child in islam”. It has truly been a mentor for me. Jazakamullahu khairan. I only like to comment on this to share my own experience. Yes, absolutely its important to learn our children to memorize al Quran al Kareem, but sadly I have to say that it havent worked so well with my children when it comes to hafizh. First of all, arabic is not my language, not even english. Their fathers mother- tongue is arabic, but the way he started to them suras was with anger, pressure, insult and harshness. He wouldnt let them go to any madrasa, because according to him none was good enough. We live in a non muslim country, so the madrasas was put up by local mosques with different nationalities. I was scared that my children would end up hating to learn quran, so little by little I tried to learn them arabic letters and script and to read arabic from the little I new, and go for small suras for memorisation to at least to be used in salaat. Most of the time we did this when the father was not home, otherwise they woldnt dare to recite anything loudly with what was doomed to be with mistake. My biggest concern was that they could develop a steadfast islamic identity, to have a personal relationship with Allah, and to reflect over verses from the Quran in our own language. When we went to learn a sura, short once, I made sure they also understood the meaning of it as well. Stories from Quran, from seerat, from prophets and ahadith, became more in focus than memorizing. Yes, I have to admit that I felt some envy on sisters I met who could tell how much their children had memorised from the quran, how much they learned from the madrasas and so on. But again, I could only make my dua towards the Almighty that my children would be steadfast in their deen, and alhamdulilleh now when they are big I feel my duaas answered. Because growing up in a non Muslim country is not taken for granted that a child would never be affected from the society around. Sadly, I’ve also seen children I new from they where very young, who memorized big part from Quran, have fallen far away from the religion and its practise. Others again, have gone to the very extreme; hating everything and everybody who’s not muslim! So there is a challenge in keeping a balance, no matter where we live; in a muslim or non muslim country/enviroment.

    Reply
  14. Masjid Al Aqsa

    I agree there is a need to change the method too. Unfortunately, the traditionally trained teachers while apt as using all electronic gadgets still use the outdated method when it comes to teaching Quran and they also repeat outdated irrational comments on the meaning of the Quranic verses, which makes today’s well informed children confused.

    Reply
  15. Mohsin

    My mother forces me memorize the Quran and I dont know what to do. The more she forces me I can see the more I lose love for the Quran and deen. For example, when I was not forced to memorize, I would read Quran aloud and read Quran on my free time and I would also go to the masjid frequently. But when my mother started forcing me to memorize, I started to not read Quran on my free time and I would not like going to the masjid and I am slowly losing more and more love for Islam and the Quran. I dont want to lose the love for Islam and I dont know what to do.

    Reply

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