Reciting the Qur'an to your children and teaching them how to read it is of great importance, but there is something that is even more important. That is giving your children the sense that what is being recited is "the word of Allah." Nowadays, one of the common problems we meet is that -unfortunately- the Qur'anic verses recited by some people just do not go beyond mere sound. If you can set a good example by reciting the Qur'an and do so as if you were reciting it before the Almighty Lord or beside the blessed soul of Allah's Messenger (pbuh), then you will have conquered the hearts of those around you once again. If you let your tears stream down your cheeks while you recite the Qur'an, your child will learn much. Reciting the Qur'an flatly may lead us to becoming insensitive.
A hadith declares the following: "The person who recites the Qur'an most beautifully is the one who recites it in a solemn sadness." Another hadith states: "The Qur'an was revealed in a sad fashion."
Given that the Qur'an deals with human beings, who have various worries (they surely do), we must reflect due sadness when we recite it. One of the most important points in attaining this level is to understand what the Qur'an is telling us. We must respect the Qur'an, even if we do not understand what it says, for it is the word of Allah. However, if we make some efforts to understand its meaning, then this is an indication of further respect for it. Moreover, your child will feel the teachings of the Qur'an more deeply in his heart and mind, and in this way, he will satisfy his spiritual thirst to the extent that his level of understanding allows.
Those who are content with understanding only the literal meaning can be considered as having a poor sense or understanding of religion. As for those who do not have even that slight connection with the Qur'an, they are at a total loss. Learning the deeper meanings of Qur'anic verses and teaching what we have learned to our children bear the utmost significance in terms of attaining the rewards promised by the Qur'an.
As an explanation of the hadith mentioned above, Hafiz Munawi narrates the following event: "A little boy was about to complete learning the Qur'an by heart. He spent the nights reciting the Qur'an and performing prayers, and in the morning he went to his teacher, pale and tired. His teacher was a great scholar and a true spiritual guide. He inquired of his students about that boy. His students replied: 'O master, that student of yours keeps on reciting the Holy Qur'an until the morning light without sleeping, and in the morning he comes to your lesson.' The master did not wish his student to recite the Qur'an in this manner, so he advised the following: 'The Glorious Qur'an must be recited in the same fashion as it was revealed, my son.' And he added 'From now on, you will recite it as if you are delivering what you learned to me.' The boy left and that night, he recited the Qur'an as his master had told him. In the morning, he went to his teacher and said, 'Sir, I only managed to recite the first half of the Qur'an.' His master said: 'Alright son, tonight, I want you to recite the Qur'an as if you are reciting it before Allah's Messenger (pbuh).' "
"This time, the student recited the Qur'an more carefully. He thought excitedly to himself: 'I am going to recite the Glorious Qur'an before the very person to whom it was revealed.' In the morning, he told his master that he was able to recite only a quarter of the Qur'an. On seeing the progress his student was making, the master elaborated the task step by step, as any good tutor would do, and he said: 'Now, this time you will recite the Holy Qur'an, imagining the moment when the blessed angel Gabriel revealed it to Allah's Messenger (pbuh).' The next day, the student came back and told his master: 'O master, I swear by Allah that I only managed to recite one sura last night.' And finally, his master said: 'My son, now recite it as if you are reciting before the Almighty Lord, Who is beyond thousands of veils. Think that Allah is listening to what you recite, following what He previously revealed for you.' In the morning, the student came to his master weeping: 'Master, I recited 'Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,' and I went on until 'Master of the Day of Judgment' but I just couldn't manage to say 'Only You do we worship'. I just worship so many things, I bow in submission before so many things that I could not dare say 'Only You do we worship' when I imagined I was reciting it before The Lord.' "
Hafiz Munawi states that this boy did not live much longer and passed away a few days later. The wise spiritual trainer who helped him attain this level stood beside his grave, contemplating the young man in the Hereafter. Then, the boy called out from the grave: "O master, I am alive. I have attained such a spiritual rank that I was not called to account for my deeds."
Reciting the Glorious Qur'an by reflecting upon the meaning of the verses, considering every single word and showing due respect to Allah's word is vital for the opening up of our hearts; these genuine feelings draw both the one who recites it and the one who listens to the recitation into the blessed climate of the Qur'an, the gates of Heaven open wide.
By narrating this event, I am not trying to say "do not recite the Qur'an unless you feel this way." On the other hand, paying due heed to what the Qur'an tells us is a necessity of being honored as His addressee. If Qur'anic verses do not effect great changes within our souls, then they cannot be expected to dominate our individual and social lives. We should be changed by the Qur'an, we should turn to Qur'anic horizons and we should keenly sense its depths; in this way will it open up its mysteries to the vision of our hearts.
Let us get back to the event we mentioned previously. That youngster did not die. He had merely returned to his Dear Lord. The excitement within his soul which was caused by the Qur'anic verses stopped his heart and he walked toward the Almighty. Surely, he would live forever. He had not been not able to go beyond "Only You do we worship", so he kept repeating this until the dawn. Once, another person had the same experience inside the Ka'ba. When his head touched the wall of the Ka'ba, he said: "O, Lord!" and he just stopped spellbound… He was unable to go on any further, possessed by the thought: "Are you capable of saying that? Why don't you give up hypocrisy?" Nevertheless, what that man experienced can neither be expressed, nor can such a feeling be explained to other people. This is what he felt for a few moments. Even the man himself could not later explain his feelings.
In conclusion, if we maintain a certain attitude that reflects how devoted we are to the Qur'an and if our acts indicate our inclusion in the Prophet's circle; then our environment will rapidly bloom, just like green plants after a spring shower; there will be successive revivals and the Angels will envy our life.
1) Not Causing our Children to Dislike Religion
In the recent past, the encouragement and instruction in points of our religion have not been properly conveyed to younger generations in Muslim countries. When we look at the situation with a pure heart and a sound mind, we will see that the underlying reason is ignorance and indifference about "meaning". Unfortunately, believers say: "We have faith in Allah" but they are not fully conscious of the meaning inherent in this statement. They are unable to maintain the coordination between the outer world and their inner worlds, and they fail to comprehend religious concepts correctly. This has been a recurring error throughout history.
Even now, we cannot say that we are making good use of the opportunities granted to us by Allah. When our children come to us with questions concerning religion on their minds, our duty is to fill their hearts with the love of Allah and His Messenger (pbuh), rather than intimidating them by obliging them to memorize some prayers, prayers which if left to time, they will learn spontaneously in the future. If we feel content with teaching our religion as if it were only a set of formalities to be learned by heart, our children may end up feeling antagonized by our religion. After just one lesson, they may refuse to learn. We do not feed a six-month-old baby with adult food.
Likewise, we should not insist that children memorize until they are of age. Hopefully, they will try to learn what they should without being told to do so. Our approach should be based on making them love, making them think about and making them internalize Islam.
Believers must be sensitive to this subject and try to make religion as enjoyable as possible. They should try to open up their children's hearts and minds to spirituality. They should love the Qur'an so much that they will be saying "O, Almighty Allah! Grant me the ability to comprehend the religion, enable me to learn the divine purposes so that I shall be filled with Qur'anic truth" and their life will become centered around this perspective.
2) Continuing the Routine of Obligatory and Non-Obligatory Worship
Parents should perform their religious duties properly, no matter what conditions prevail, so that their children will not see any lapse in their servanthood to the Lord. Allah's Messenger (pbuh) never abandoned performing tahajjud (night prayer) and he had particular prayers which he recited when he got up in the night. He would perform a "make-up" prayer whenever he missed the recitation of these prayers, even though they were not obligatory. In this way, he clearly demonstrated that any practice of worship at home or outside is never to be abandoned.
The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) were perfectly aware that once you commenced a practice of worship, you should continue in the same manner. Abdullah ibn Amr ibn As, who was one of the ascetics of the time, wished to fast everyday and keep vigil at prayer every night until dawn. Furthermore, when he married, he kept away from his wife for days. When his wife complained to our Prophet (pbuh) through her father in law, Abdullah ibn Amr ibn As had to go to Allah's Messenger (pbuh) and he was reprimanded for neglecting his wife. That day, Allah's Messenger (pbuh) wanted him to reduce his supererogatory worshipping; yet Abdullah ibn Amr insisted on worshipping more and said: "O Allah's Messenger (pbuh), I am capable of performing more." In the end, Allah's Messenger (pbuh) convinced him to fast every second day, to sleep for one third of the night and to keep vigil for the rest. This is reported in Bukhari and Muslim. Later, this blessed companion said to another: "I wish I had agreed with what Allah's Messenger (pbuh) had told me. It is so difficult to keep up such practices at this old age. Nevertheless, I don't want to abandon the supererogatory worshipping I have been performing. I want Allah's Messenger (pbuh) to find me exactly as he left me."
Abdullah ibn Amr is a good example; one should not abandon habitual worship. Allah's Messenger (pbuh) stated that "The most meritorious kind of worship is the one that is performed steadily, even if it is of little amount". If you cannot do much, stick to what you can and perform such prayers regularly, so that your child will form a good opinion of you. If you can only perform the obligatory and the sunna (The Prophet's Tradition) prayers, you should perform them thoroughly. If you have begun to perform any kind of supererogatory prayer (Tahajjud, Awwabiyn, Duha, etc.), you should continue to do so. Otherwise, your child may wonder why you are neglecting them. Through keeping a steady habit of worship, the subconscience of your child will be dominated by positive views on prayer.
So far, what we have discussed appeals to those who share our way of thinking. This is the path we need to choose, if we are to bring up our children as sensitive, pious and learned Muslims. Every aim is acheived through a particular method. In order to enable our children to attain happiness in this world and in the Hereafter, our method should be to set them a practical example. All this may sound like some complicated prescription, but it is not that difficult to carry out.
3) Respect for the Sacred Concepts
There are certain concepts that bear utmost sanctity. Belief in Allah is a pillar of Islamic faith. One who does not believe in Allah cannot be said to have an Islamic life or faith. We should keep in mind that the conquest of our children's hearts by these exalted and sacred notions is our responsiblity when they come of age (usually the ages between 7 and 9 is considered an ideal time). Ensuring that a child lives with the remembrance of Allah's Messenger (pbuh) can be achieved by talking about Allah at home, every now and then. If your primary topic of conversation is the celebrities who appear on TV, then these people will naturally dominate the imagination of your child. He will tell you the names of various movie stars, sportsmen, musicians and other celebrities easily, but he will be unable to memorize even a few of the names of the companions of our Prophet (pbuh). His memory and subconscious will be occupied by useless things.
Our actions must reflect due respect for anything sacred to us. The Ka'ba for instance, is a sacred place. When you express your feelings about the Ka'ba near your child, you should be very respectful. When we step into the borders of the Ka'ba or approach Madina, our feet should touch the ground with full respect. We should even go so far as to say -as did Imam Malik - "This is not a place to go ride or walk with shoes." Whenever that great imam reached the borders of Madina, coming from a long distance to teach hadith at Masjid-i Nabawi or another mosque, he would dismount and say that this was the way one should act within that city. Naturally, any child who observes this kind of behavior will overflow with respect for the owner of Rawda-i Tahira .
The same goes for the Glorious Qur'an. The Qur'an states: "…and he who venerates the sacred rites of Allah - it is the fruit of the piety of the hearts." (22/32). The source of the veneration of the sacred rites is piety of the heart. Piety of the heart is to be attained through the heart's recognition of Allah, by turning to Him in respect, by taking refuge in Him, by obeying Him and by discerning the Divine Truth. This kind of veneration is of vital importance. Mosques, for instance, will have such an exalted place in the child's mind that he will think all the roads to Allah start from the mosques.
When the beautiful voices of the muezzins call out from minarets, saying "Allahuakbar", your child should echo the words of the adhan, and when it is over, they should open their hands and recite the adhan prayer (O Allah! Lord of this perfect call and of the salah to be performed, grant our Master Muhammad (pbuh) nearness to Haqq, reaching Heaven and beyond; and elevate him to the Maqam-i Mahmood (The Praised Position) which You have promised him).
In conclusion, if we nurture love for Allah, if we really have feelings of respect for the essentials of Islam, then we should convey these feelings to our children's hearts, show them the greatness of Allah, make them love Him and take His love very much to heart, so that our children will see that there is no one else to be truly loved, sought for or longed for other than the Absolute Lord. In a hadith which Tabarani reported to have been narrated by Abu Umama, Allah's Messenger (pbuh) stated: "Make Allah's servants love Allah, so that Allah will love you." Allah can be loved only by being familiar with Him; human beings are friendly to what is familiar and hostile to what is strange. Pagans or atheists are hostile to Allah because of their ignorance of Him. If such people knew him well they would love Him. In the Qur'an Allah decrees: "I have not created the jinn and mankind except to worship Me" (51/56). Ibn Abbas and Mujahid interpret the expression "except to worhip Me" as 'so that they become familiar with Me', which means if one is familiar with Allah, then one is fulfilling one's duty as a servant; if not, then one is ungrateful to one's Lord.
So, first of all we should make a child familiar with Allah, then the child's heart will be full of His love and they will pay due respect to Him. There must be a particular way of introducing Allah, a way which suited to the age of the child. Merely stating the fact that the dinner on the table comes from Him can be sufficient to make our point. At an older age, it would be wise to tell the child that the rain, which all humans, animals and plants need, pours down from the sky by the Grace of Allah; the showers which enliven the earth overflow from His treasures of Mercy. To an older child, we need to tell about more intricate physical facts, such as how evaporation takes place, how rain pours down in tiny drops, and explain why none of these cannot be the result of pure coincidence; we need to tell them that everything takes places through His bestowal. As for children of further discernment, you can tell them about Allah, using factual support put forward by contemporary science.
Once Allah's Messenger (pbuh) stated the following: "Love Allah for He grants blessings to you; love me, for I am His Messenger; and love my family for you love me."
It is not difficult to make your children love Allah's Messenger (pbuh) and his companions, so long as you find the right method. If we give them the blessed life story of the Prophet (pbuh) to read instead of more frivolous books, or at least provide them with Yusuf Kandahlawi's "Hayat-us Sahaba" (Life of the Companions), a very good reference book, then they will have a chance to learn about our Prophet, his companions and about the children of the companions. In this way, each of these blessed people will have a high place in our children's view; they will be aching to be as courageous as Hamza, as strong as Ali, as truthful as Abu Bakr and as just as Umar ibn Khattab.
It is of utmost significance that the Qur'an, the life story of our Prophet (pbuh) and other books on the life of his companions have a place of honor at home; our children's hearts will be saturated with and illuminated by our historical figures.
I would like to draw your attention to an important point here. Although using different arguments against philosophical theses and notions that threaten our faith is a logical reaction, merely dealing with just logic can damage our spiritual life and lead us to despair. After having grasped a logical explanation, your child will want to see some practical examples. Even if you construct a beautiful ladder that ascends with thousands of subjective and logical proofs for the existence and oneness of Allah, if you fail to give practical examples from life your child will find all these proofs too theoretical and difficult to comprehend; he might perceive the religious thought that you were trying to present as nothing more than some obscure philosophical view.
If you do not make it clear that what you are talking about really took place at a certain period in history, it may just sound like a fairy tale. This is why we have to show children that certain principles were put into practice and can be put into practice again.
Until quite recently, it has sometimes been said: "What is said about the companions may be true, but probably this has only happened once and it is nearly impossible for such things to happen again." Such negative thoughts were like an epidemic. However, when we see the young people today who know the Exalted Creator and His Glorious Messenger (pbuh) and who love them deeply, then we can believe that there can again be a community whose lifestyle resembles that of the companions. Considering the hints and glad tidings given in the Qur'an and supported by the Hadith, we can have faith in the advent of a community described by Allah's Messenger (pbuh) as being the "qaribs", people who will carry Islam to the top level.
The piety in your heart, the love and veneration you have for Allah, your respectful acts towards mosques and the sacred rites will seem to a child as radiant signs that invite him to Allah's path.
Adhan (the call to prayer) is a symbol of Islam and a means of concentration before the prayers. At the same time, adhan is an invitation from Allah to His servants to fulfill their duties, a reminder of His Greatness. If you manage to bring up your children with such feelings in their hearts, whenever they hear the adhan, they will be on the verge of tears, moved, excited and full of love for the Lord; they will tremble like a leaf. In spite of all misfortunes, this sacred duty was properly carried out by previous Muslims and -Inshallah- it will be carried out again with the same effectiveness in the near future. We will teach new generations to pay due homage to the pillars of Islam, we will teach everyone to love Allah and His Messenger.
To sum up, our religious duties should be thoroughly fulfilled at home; any doubts or hesitations concerning our religion and faith in our children's minds should be eliminated as early as possible. In addition, there should be certain times of the day when we pray to the Almighty, when Divine Mercy flows in abundance, when we turn to Allah in supplication, expecting His Mercy; at a particular hour our hearts will overflow with sadness. In such an hour as this, the presence of Allah's Messenger (pbuh) will be felt in the home through the behavior of the master and the mistress.
The values your child will acquire in this way are so great and priceless that in his future life he will enjoy the fruits of your efforts and pray for you in gratitude.
Respecting the sacred pillars means to accept and display the greatness of values that are held dear by Islam. The love of the Most Exalted One will blossom in young hearts with "Allahuakbar" during adhan, this love will wave like a flag in their spiritual worlds, it will possess their hearts completely and you will be gratefully smiling in return for these divine blessings.