By Milana A.

The majority of Muslims are born into Islam, have been raised on Muslim morals and ethics, and have been told to pray and fast and abstain from consuming pork. Sadly, many of us have encountered Islam as something black and white, as Haram and Halal, Jannah and Jahannam, rather than understanding the purpose and philosophy behind the rules and limits Allah (swt) has set for us.

In essence, everything we do, every act of worship and every conscious decision to abstain from sin, serves the purpose of developing a relationship with our Creator and drawing closer to Him. If we’re lucky, we start to understand that in our late teens or early twenties after having done our own research. If we’re not, we remain in this dismal state of starving ourselves in Ramadan, reciting words in our Salah that we don’t understand from a book that we don’t understand, because we’ve been told to follow a Prophet that we have never bothered to understand either. We’ve become so lazy about educating ourselves and learning about Islam. In a Hadith recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari and narrated by Yusuf bin Mahk we learn why the Ayat on Iman and Taqwa were revealed before the ones forbidding us to consume intoxicants:

[…] Be informed that the first thing that was revealed thereof was a Sura from Al-Mufassal, and in it was mentioned Paradise and the Fire. When the people embraced Islam, the verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘Do not drink alcoholic drinks.’ people would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks.’ [Sahih al-Bukhari; 4993]

This indicates that Allah has given us a pattern to follow when educating about Islam and raising our children on Islam. He says in Sura al-Tahrim:

O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones […] [66:6]

So, how do we go about executing effective Dawah work at home? How do we encourage god- consciousness in our children and younger siblings?  How do we make them develop a deep love for the religion and practice it more consciously, without feeling forced to do so?

1. Dua

Our initial step in everything we do should be asking for His guidance and aid. We should keep our intentions pure and understand the huge responsibility we’ve taken over. Our goal is to please Him and Him alone by inviting others to goodness and we should remind ourselves of that frequently.

An example of a Du’a you can recite to ask Allah to guide those in your family is the following:

2. Consistency

Allah says in the Qu’ran:

“And he (Ismail) used to enjoin on his people prayer and Zakah and was to his Lord pleasing.” [19:55]

Ibn Kathir (may Allah have mercy on his soul) says in his Tafsir (commentary) that in this verse, Allah (swt) is praising Ismail (may peace be upon him) for his persistence in worship and calling his family towards obedience.

This is the example we should be following. Therefore, do not be discouraged if your efforts don’t work immediately; Da’wah is a tiring and time-consuming mission. With patience and persistence, in shaa Allah, you will see results.

3. Make worship fun

Children are programmed to reject everything that doesn’t spark their interest. They are literally bombarded with thousands of influences every day from television to video games, toys, and more. What makes us think, then, that giving them a set of rules, in a dry and uninteresting manner, will be fruitful in any way? Children’s minds need to be stimulated, and their connection to an idea or practice needs to be positive before they commit to it.

One possible way of encouraging the love of worship might be “Qiyam Sleepovers” with your children and their friends. On the weekends, prepare snacks, talk about Allah, His attributes, how amazing His Messenger (may peace be upon him) was etc. Share interesting stories from the Seerah, use relatable modern-day analogies to grab their interest, and don’t be afraid to narrate the stories in a fun, animated manner to make the children feel awe-inspired.

There are so many beneficial activities you can squeeze into an all-nighter. In the end, you may conclude the night with Salah; you can pray a voluntary 2, 4, 6 or however many units of Qiyam ul-Layl (night) prayer. Do this once or twice a month and you’ll see them enjoy spending time with you and being given so much attention and, in the process, learning the importance of Islam and acts of worship such as the Qiyam prayers.

(A side benefit for the parents is that they can take turns to host the children at their homes, or even join forces and prepare the evening activities and snacks together.)

Recommended Children’s Resources

Speaking of children’s activities, I’d recommend that you check out MyDeen Magazine – a wonderful monthly children’s educational activity book that encourages Islamic education through the use of stories, puzzles, reminders, games, crafts and much more.

Another fun resource for the children is Ali Huda – think of it as a Netflix for Muslim Kids, with a collection of family friendly Islamic education and entertainment videos.

Make it meaningful

Another thing I want to emphasize is: take time to teach them Tajweed, the Tafsir of Surah al-Fatiha and the supplications they utter throughout their prayer. What we want to avoid is to reduce the prayer to just a set of movements and words. By understanding what they’re reciting in the prayer and why, it’ll dramatically increase their focus and tranquillity and make the prayer less robotic. Prayer really is fundamental, so I advise you to focus on that first.

Ali bin Hussain ibn Ali bin Abi Talib (the grandson of Ali ibn Abi Talib) is recorded to have said:

“We were taught the Seerah of Rasool Allah like we were taught a Surah from the Quran.”

We find God by loving His Messenger and we love His Messenger by knowing him. There are beautiful biographies on the life of Muhammad (may peace be upon him), each focussing on a different part of his personality. There are beautiful books about his character and conduct, perfect for developing a love for Rasulullah (may peace be upon him) and learning how to carry ourselves in our own daily lives.

I’d also encourage you to read them excerpts from Al-Adab al-Mufrad by Imam Bukhari to teach them the Sunnah of mannerisms and conduct. There really are endless opportunities to introduce our children to the Prophet (may peace be upon him).

4. Be a teacher and a friend

Having spent hours talking about the law of preservation of momentum and how it proves the existence of an independent God with my 12-year-old brother, I can tell you: children are so curious and hungry for knowledge. Give them an opportunity to be open with questions and possible confusions, and do not become offended if they ask difficult questions. Instead, reward them for it, and endeavour to help them understand the points at hand to the best of your ability. They may have heard some things at school or from their friends, or even a movie, and are a little confused about how Islam understands the same issue. As long as they feel like you are on their side, they will remain open to hearing you out.

It all comes down to explaining and giving reasons why we do what we do. Whereas “You’ll go to hell and burn for all eternity if you don’t pray” may work for adults (which is debatable, to be fair), you’ll have more success explaining that prayer is meant to be a private conversation between them and God, that we are empowered by being reminded that the only thing we’re submitting to is a loving and caring God. Why do we pray? Why 5 times? Why is mum wearing a Hijab? Why do we not eat during the day in Ramadan? If we don’t give them answers, they’ll find them somewhere else and possibly reject the religion altogether, may Allah protect us.

5. Responsibilities

Another way of encouraging children is not to make them feel like children. What I mean by that is: give them an opportunity to take action.

For example, let them wake you up for Fajr once a week. Make them have this routine, a definite role and responsibility within your family. They will feel a sense of independence and motivation to earn rewards. Feeling like being acknowledged and involved has proven to be very beneficial for children.

Another example: organise Mini-Halaqas (learning groups/circles) for your children, your siblings or their friends. Let them take turns in picking topics to do their research on, prepare posters or handouts, and then educate the others about what they’ve found. Possible topics may be the character of the Prophet (may peace be upon him), the Sahaba, the names of Allah, the Angels etc. Provide them with resources and let them ask questions.

Simpler things such as buying them their own prayer mat, Mushaf (copy of the Qur’an) or other Islamic books will also be beneficial.

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May Allah keep us and our families on the right path, may Allah bless and honour the generations to come and make them an active, beneficial and successful part of our Ummah. Ameen!

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