I was on Facebook the other day when a status of a dear sister read something like this: We are inclined to the Qur’an as it is our fitrah (natural instinct) to know our Lord. But as we progress in this world, we become distracted with other things, like music, television and other activities, that the Qur’an becomes a boring referendum, something that is read out of obligation.
As parents we shouldn’t have to make the Qur’an sound interesting for our children, but we end up competing with their distractions because our children suddenly become inclined towards other things that matter more to them as they lose their innocence over time.
As usual, I stared blankly at the screen, and then clicked the “like” button. My sister’s status made me think a lot about how the Qur’an played a part in my life, especially now, as a mother of three young children. Was I continuously clamoring to read the Qur’an, to understand the words and messages behind each verse? Was I always enthralled to learn something new from the Holy Scripture? How many times a day would I reach out and purposely open the pages of the Qur’an as I did with the walls of facebook with a few easy clicks?
Qur'an in our Children's Life
|My five year old is an ardent reader, busy sticking her nose into encyclopedias and coming to me with endless streams of questions. How did she feel about reading the Qur’an?|
I answered those questions on my own and my thoughts turned to my children. My five year old is an ardent reader, busy sticking her nose into encyclopedias and coming to me with endless streams of questions. How did she feel about reading the Qur’an?
As a homeschooling Muslim parent, I had known from the beginning that Qur’anic and Islamic studies had to take priority in our household and I had been slowly plodding through a program called" Al-Furqan", getting her to know the Arabic alphabet, the sounds the different letters could make, the gelling of the letters together and generally the basics of reading of the Qur’an. I tried little by little but was not sure if I was making much progress over the year.
As a non-Arab, I felt that by the fact I was poorly versed in Arabic was a handicap in coaching her to read, although like all my comrades, we (as children) had read and memorized part of the Qur’an, (without understanding most of the words), and shamefully to say, even the messages behind the verses.
But as we trawled through Al-Furqan, I found that my five year old was catching on faster than I could teach, and soon I enlisted help with a teacher, who was not only fantastic with children but a native Arab speaker. I also found a set of tafseer books (interpretation books) that were tailored for little kids, relaying the meanings of the Qur’anic verses in simple English and was full of fun activities for five year olds. I immediately purchased the tafseer for Suratul Fatiha, the opening and first verse of the Qur’an and the last nine verses of the Holy Scripture, the short and simple verses that children in our system learned to memorize first.
Soon, by the Grace of Allah, my daughter was barreling through the last chapter of the Qur’an, reading fluently and committing the short verses to memory. I had not realized that it was that easy for her to pick up sentences that we were non-native to. But who was I to kid myself? Children are born in the state of pure innocence and had the softest of hearts.
Interesting to Little Hearts and Minds
Armed with my mini tafseer series, my daughter and I spent the evenings reading each verse in detail after the initial introduction by her teacher. Her enthusiasm was contagious. Before the daily sessions, she would lay out all her mini-tafseer books in a row, gleaming and smiling with pride at her own collection. As book junkies, we house an entire library for our three children, but this set was my daughter’s pride and joy.
We would then pick one tafseer book and read it side by side. She would stop at every sentence, wide-eyed and with more mind-boggling questions that I had to answer. Sometimes she would want to work on the activities, summoning her three year old brother for help with coloring; other days she would decide that reading was more than enough. And it was.
As I watched my little girl delving into the Qur’an, I realize how my enthusiasm to read the Qur’an pales in contrast with hers. She became obsessed, reading and rereading lines that she liked either the original verses or the tafseers. Sometimes she was trying to understand the concept a little better; sometimes she was plain excited; at times, things got a little hairy.
My qualms about learning the tafseer with her reached its pinnacle with the story of Abu Lahab, one of the staunchest enemies in Islam and how such evil could exist in the world, especially the world from the eyes of an innocent 5 year old. But she could handle Abu Lahab and his horridness; learning about Shaytaan (the devil) and the evil he propagates. My daughter even decided the best way to deal with the Abu Lahabs she was going to meet in the future would be to ask for protection and guidance from Allah.
|she would lay out all her mini-tafseer books in a row, gleaming and smiling with pride at her own collection|
As I write this I notice how much, at age 5, she is becoming a Qur’an-junkie, reciting each verse before bedtime; shouting out key words and startling everyone in the middle of meals; and deeply reflecting on a certain story or message, looking for assurance that her understanding of a verse is correct.
Deep inside, and I know many Muslim parents feel the same way, I would love if she could commit the entire Qur'an to heart and let that be her towering oath of faith no matter what comes her way. But like my sister’s Facebook status read, we become distracted by other things, and the appeal of the Qur’an diminishes with each foreign interest that enters the heart, especially when the bad outweighs the good. As a homeschooler, we are rather eclectic.
Besides reading, a little bit of writing, mathematics, and Arabic class and now, the Qur’anic studies, I let the children dabble in any interest they like – after all, they are still tiny and their world really is their oyster. But I realize that at the same time, I have to curb the distractions. They do watch television, but I am picky about the programs they indulge in. They seem inclined to music, so I have become selective about the nasheeds (Islamic songs) they listen to. And all their other activities that they engage in have to play in sync with the messages of the Qur’an and not the other way around.
It Can't Be a Side Dish
I have had friends who have grown up without the Qur’an in their homes and I realize how it has affected them. The Qur’an is just a book that they don’t really read, and some of them don’t even own a copy of the Scripture, despite being Muslims their entire lives. Just recently another friend told me about her colleague who introduced English Islamic songs into the English class she was teaching to six year olds at a secular, but Muslim-populated school. The parents of these Muslim children filed a complaint against her for mixing Islam and the English language!
Since when has Islam become a side dish that doesn’t reach the gourmet standards of some Muslims? Why has the Qur’an become a mere subject in some schools – another book to be read for the sake of exams? And why are parents upset for having teacher fold goodness into their innocent children’s inquisitive minds?
Having my daughter become so enthused in learning about the Qur’an has been a real eye-opener. Allah speaks to those whose hearts are soft, gentle, innocent and inquisitive – not to those who have become so terribly distracted with other temptations. He doesn’t light passionate fires in hearts that find His words a boring humdrum in relation to the excitement the temporary world has to offer. He has laid out the entire Islamic way of life in one book, and it is up to each individual to reach for their copy on that high shelf and flip through the pages.
As I rake through my homeschooling plan for my children, the Qur’an comes first, thanks to the innocent little 5 year old with yards of questions, that apparently I have to google, if “I don’t know the answer.” Part of this journey with my children brings the realization of blessings and it is through them that I too have softened through the biggest blessing to mankind – the Holy Qur’an, an interest that had waned over the tresses of time.
Related Links:The Quran... Why So Important?
The Quran in Focus
Introduction to the Qur`an