Children’s Faith in Islam
Eliminating Any Questions in the Child’s Mind from the Very Beginning
Your children may have some questions concerning prayers and other religious matters. Introverted children are usually too shy to ask their parents such questions. However, it is of great importance that children open up and ask any questions on their minds concerning these subjects. If we leave such questions unanswered, then the questions will grow up alongside the child, and in the long run, doubts and hesitations will turn into a venomous snake that will poison their hearts.
Sometimes these doubts in the inner world of a child can become such a rapid-growing wound that one day they could cause the spiritual collapse of our child, but we may not comprehend the situation until it is too late. The child may even seem to be praying with you at the mosque, saying “There is no deity but Allah“. In reality, however, such a child may have yielded to his inner conflict, and may be lost in a spiritual chaos. When we send our child to university in order that they will achieve social status and succeed to a bright future, it is inevitable that they will adopt some thoughts and attitudes that are incompatible with our religion, unless the child has had a proper spiritual background. From this point of view, the child should never be deprived of mental, emotional and spiritual back-up, back-up that is suitable to the child’s age. In the past, children used to be entrusted to nannies. While looking after the children, these nannies would educate them spiritually as well, reaching into their inner world. In fact, this kind of education should be given to them by the parents themselves. If this cannot be, then they should ensure that this responsibility is fulfilled by a capable child-minder. In this way, parents will prevent their children from going astray. A firm belief, a sound consciousness of servanthood and perfected morality can only be realized through utmost sensitivity.
Making Our Children Familiar with Mosques at an Early Age
In the time of happiness, children were free to go to the mosque at any time they wanted, no matter what age they were. It is a pity that nowadays we think that we will violate the sanctity of a mosque by taking children along. Likewise, it is such a pity that in many mosques we see elderly people shooing children away, frightening them.
Unfortunately, these narrow-minded people think that they are preserving the dignity of the mosque by frowning on the children’s actions. In fact, what they are doing merely contradicts the tradition of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh). He counseled Muslims that while standing in prayer in a mosque that the men should stand in front, then small boys, and then women and girls.
If this order of placement is followed, children will witness the pleasure and zeal of the adults at prayer; consequently, they will become more eager to practice their religion. Thus, rather than frightening them away, we should be trying to encourage them with small gifts, if possible, so that they warm towards prayer. We should make them love the mosques and the gardens of the mosques, yet always strive to keep the sanctity of the mosque alive in their attitudes. When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) prayed in the mosque, he would take his granddaughter, Umamah, on his back, leaving her on the ground when he prostrated, and he would then take her on his back again before he stood up. This act is very important, as it is an example presented by Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), the ultimate guide. The glorious Prophet (pbuh) never used an expression or held an attitude that could be considered harsh concerning the matter of children being taken to mosques. Therefore, a beautiful corner of our neighborhood should be spared for a mosque and our homes should be places of prayer; children will see aspects of life that will remind them of Allah in everything that they see around them; they will look at life in pious wisdom, they will choose their path and walk that way by their free will and conscience. Let us consider the prescribed prayers. When a child is old enough to pray, the father should hold his child’s hand, take his child up to the prayer rug of the mother, inspiring spiritual depth and hearty devotion to Islam. Obtaining the expected result will be a great achievement, for prayers are of essential importance in terms of turning to Allah.
Bringing up a Child with Multiple Abilities
If we want our children to be courageous, we should not frighten them with ideas of vampires, ghosts, giants, etc. We should raise them as strong individuals with a firm faith which will enable them to face up to any kind of difficulty.
If we really wish our children to have faith, all our attitudes and sensitivities in certain subjects, the way we go to bed and get up, the way we exert ourselves in prayer, the way we spread our affectionate wings over our children, must all reflect our faith in Allah and their hearts must be filled with such faith. We should always try to be the ideal for them, to avoid any kind of behavior which might make them feel contempt for us.
We should always try to maintain dignity and to remain elevated in their view, so that what we tell them will influence their hearts and they will not rebel against our wishes. In this respect, it can be said that a father who lacks seriousness can probably be the friend of his children; but he can never be their teacher, and he will fail to bring them up the way he wants.
Our homes should always reflect the atmosphere of a temple and an educational unit at the same time; in this way we can satisfy our children’s spirituality, their hearts and souls, thus we can save them from being slaves of their material desires.
By M. Fethullah Gulen