Question and answer details
|My daughter is 3 years old. I feel it is the right age to start introducing the concept of the existence of Allah. However, I do not know how to begin; I feel this concept is very much abstract to be perceived by a 3-year old. But, in the same time, I feel it is necessary to start introducing it in her awareness; not only the existence of Allah, but the fact that He is the Creator, his Will is the only thing that could make things happen or don’t happen, that he is the one who gives us money, food, people we love; and the fact that we try to be good people and to stop doing bad things so that Allah loves us and rewards us with Jannah. I am afraid I would say it in a way that would make her intimidated instead of making her understand the concept and love Allah. Please advise me whether it is too early for this or it is the right time to start; and if it’s the time I need to know how to deliver these messages in an appropriate way.|
Sister, ma sha’a Allah, I commend you, because you are very much aware, of what should be done in order to provide your beloved daughter, although being still very young, with the emotional stability and healthy psychological development needed. I will begin by citing your own words:
“I feel it is necessary to start introducing such concept in her awareness; not only the existence of Allah, but the fact that he is the Creator, his Will is the only thing that could make things happen or don’t happen, that he is the one who gives us money, food, people we love; and the fact that we try to be good people and to stop doing bad things so that Allah loves us and rewards us with Jannah.”
In other words, you are aware about the WHAT should be done, but you are asking about the HOW to do that. To understand how to commence the dialogue about Allah, as a Creator, His Will, His characteristics and ultimately his instructions, let us go one step back and try to understand our child, his development and needs.
“An interesting fact that is often not known by parents, is that 90% of a child’s brain develops during the first 5 years of their life. The time of an infant’s brain development is vital for preparing the child’s intelligence, emotional stability, and personality.” (A citation from a recently published article of Dr. Hanan Dover, an Adjunct lecturer at University of Western Sydney)*[i]
In other words, the brain is not fully developed when a child is born, contrary to other organs. This is why, that during the first 5 years of a child’s development, there is such a tremendous influence his caregivers (parents or otherwise) can have over his emotional and psychological development. Doesn’t this scientific fact, remind you of something? It reminds us of the Hadeeth of Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H.): "Every new born has the correct instinct, his parents make him Jewish, Christian or a fire worshipper."
This shows how much a child’s experience, child’s development and character is shaped, molded and impacted by those surrounding him during his childhood. That’s why it is very important to interact with the child in a positive way, a way that goes in accordance to his needs, as a child. Hence, it is important for parents and those surrounding the child to talk to him, play, sing and tell stories. As it is through these acts we can ‘teach’ whatever is abstract in a very simple and yet effective way. This is so important, because talking, playing, singing, loving, caring, storytelling and living together in a passionate manner will, inshallah, lead to a healthy emotionally developed child. Don’t forget the Prophetic advice: “Play with your son [for] seven [years], then discipline him [for] seven [years], then be his friend for seven years, then give free rein to him.” This of course, goes for both genders. According to the Hadeeth, we are still in the first phase, the phase of ‘Playing’.
What has all that to do with your question? This is the core of the answer. What you have to do is simply trying to convert all abstract concepts (Allah, Creator, His Will, His Blessings ….) whilst doing all the previous actions. Children at that age do not need excessive academic or educational (in the sense of schooling) activities to develop their brain. They need to be nurtured, within the context of their daily life. Here is a set of examples:
Allah, the Creator
If you want to ‘teach’ your beloved little 4 year-old daughter about Allah being our and everyone’s Creator, walk with her in the garden and admire the beauty of flowers. In a very natural context smile and spontaneously, say, “Mash ‘Allah, what a beautiful flower. Why shouldn’t it be beautiful? Isn’t Allah its creator?” Look at the sun and relate its creation to Allah. “Masha’a Allah, how big is the ocean, the sea, the sun, the sky… Allah is its Creator, Allah is the Greatest, the most Powerful, the most Capable and the most Merciful.”
This should be happening in the usual daily life context- when opening the window and feeling a slight breeze entering the room, when smelling delicious food, when admiring the smiling face of a nearby passing baby… “Masha’a Allah, how Great and Merciful is Allah. It is only Allah, who can create such beauty, such perfection…
Blessings of Allah
It is very important at this early age to pinpoint to the blessings and bounty of Allah. Again, this has to happen, in the context of the daily life routine. This can be done very easily. “Do you know why we are able to hear? Because Allah blessed us with ears. Without His Blessings, we won’t have been able to hear, see, smell or breathe. Let your daughter hear your heart beats, smell roses and flowers, touch running water and differentiate between the smooth surface and a rocky one. Always, explain what it would be like without each blessing: What would it be like if we were not able to differentiate between woolen clothes and those made of silk or cotton? We won’t be able to wear the right clothes, when we feel cold and when it is winter. How awful would it have been, if we could not smell? We wouldn’t be able to differentiate between fresh and sour milk, and so on.
Allah and our deeds
It is very important to nurture our children with the passion and love towards Allah. Children at your daughter’s age are unable to discern between right and wrong. Hence, it is up to us as parents to nurture their emotions in a beneficial and helpful manner.
One of the ways to do that is to associate ‘Good deeds’ with the Will of Allah (SWT), and His Contentment. For example, “Allah loves those who respect and obey their parents” or “Allah is most pleased with you when you are doing your homework so you can learn because Allah loves his creation to gain knowledge through education”. Again citing some words from Dr. Hanan’s article:
“By honoring Allah’s name and loving characteristics, you are aligning the love of Allah and encouraging good in a way that makes sense to a young child. In this way, a child’s brain can be nurtured with love, good thoughts, and the cultivation of good and righteous behavior manifest.”
At last, do not forget to make duaa, may Allah bless your little child with the right understanding, a strong faith and real love and passion towards Allah and Islam.
[i] Dover, Hanan (25 May 2010). Nurturing the Love of Allah into our Children and Brain Development . From: http://muslimvillage.com/2010/05/25/nurturing-the-love-of-allah-into-our-children-brain-development/ Retrieved on October 31, 2010.