Nurturing Faith for Children

As mentioned earlier, nurturing faith is vital to ingraining the correct creed in the mind and heart and to developing good habits and codes of ethics. People establish their vision and attitude towards the world during childhood.

These visions and attitudes shape their happiness in this life and success in the hereafter. Therefore, it is the parent’s duty to assist their child in this early and critical stage of life. In the Quran, Allah says: {Allah instructs you concerning your children.} (4:11).

  1. Faith is inborn in human nature. Whoever deviates from it ultimately deviates towards loss.
  2. Parents’ have a responsibility to raise children and maintain their natural state of mind.
  3. Children’s surroundings affect their state of mind.

It is a blessing from Allah to have an inborn pure faith since childhood without an effort to achieve it. Accordingly, parents must do their best to protect their children’s inborn nature. They must raise their children to accept the true religion built on the Qur’an and Sunnah and never go with the flow. Moreover, in times when the world is at the fingertips of children, imitating other Muslims does not protect children from deviation or identity loss.

A child’s pure heart is vulnerable. If a child grew up learning what is good, he or she will eventually apply it and achieve happiness in this life and success in the hereafter; parents and mentors will also be rewarded for their effort. Conversely, if a child was neglected or raised poorly, he or she will be miserable in life and doomed in the Hereafter; parents and mentors will also be held responsible for their negligence. Childhood is the best stage to shape a person. The older a person gets, the harder the change.

Children who grow up in families committed to true Islamic teachings will copy their parents and adopt their personal perceptions. Introducing religion harshly can lead to adverse effects on children. Uncommitted Muslim parents will find it difficult later to attract their children to religion because these children did not see the benefits of religion early in their life.

The Development of Faith in Children

For children, religion begins with the principle of Allah’s existence. Other principles (e.g. creation, the Hereafter, Angels, and Jinn) form later. Religion develops in children through four characteristics:

  1. Tangibility: at first, children attach tangible elements to religious concepts. As they approach teenage and comprehend reality, they separate the two
  2. Imitation: children imitate adults in worshipping and supplications without understanding their meaning or spiritual essence. Parents should take advantage of the children’s fondness at this stage to familiarize them with the pillars and effects of Islam and Eman.
  3. Reward: children observe parent’s satisfaction when performing acts of worship. Thus, they perform worshipping to gain parent’s love and admiration, to gain` some benefits, or to escape punishment.
  4. Loyalty: Children are spiritually attached to religion due to their need for connection

Parents should utilize the growth of faith in children by teaching them the six pillars of faith, especially the belief in Allah. To believe in Allah and to love him leads to the rest of the five pillars. Loving Allah is one the main indications of believing in Him and submitting to Him. Loving Allah is a prerequisite for obeying Him and denouncing His enemies. This devotion must be higher than any love to anyone else. Allah the Almighty says: “Say, [O Muhammad], ‘if your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.” Allah indicates that the first trait of the worshippers He is pleased with is that they love Him: “O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion – Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favor of Allah; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and all-Knowing.”

Allah also indicates that pure monotheism can never exist without the ultimate love of Allah:“And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” Devotion to Allah is the highest level of love. Furthermore, it is the manifestation of the core element of Islamic faith: Monotheism, that stresses on complete devotion and love to Allah. In fact, Monotheism is not accomplished until the servant’s devotion and love to Allah outweighs the love of anything else.

Faith based upon love is one of the greatest methods of straightening children’s behavior and aligning it with Islamic principles that submit to Allah and His messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). Furthermore, A heart filled with love for Allah and His messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) is dedicated to Allah in faith, worship, and ethics. No matter how many minor sins or forgetfulness one commits, the love of Allah will always guide him or her back to the straight path – may Allah permit. After all, love is an internal affection, not a mere external display of emotion.

The vision of existence that the Islamic creed provides is in harmony with the inborn human instinct and mental well-being. This vision has characteristics that are not found in any other religion: it is comprehensive in its intellectual, credal, and legislative structure: it provides a thoughtful explanation for the beginning of the universe, its end, and the truths inside it and beyond it. It also clarifies an explanation for the beginning and end of human life. It points out the purpose of creating the universe and humankind. Therefore, it answers existential questions that satisfies people’s cognitive abilities. People can never be satisfied in this life without finding satisfactory and healing answers; otherwise, they will live in continuous anxiety and confusion in their search for the meaning of life.

The Benefits of Nurturing Faith

Children gain many benefits when their faith is nurtured; including the following:

  1. They will engage in doing good deeds and seek activities that gets them closer to Allah and His mercy.
  2. They will be better at refraining from bad deeds.
  3. They will abstain from indulging in luxuries because life is not the center of their interest and their hearts are not attached to it.
  4. They will gain divine support; Allah takes care of those who believe in Him. They will achieve happiness in this life and in the Hereafter.
  5. They will gravitate towards Allah. As faith flourishes, the servants’ trust and affection for Allah and detachment from His creatures increase.
  6. They will let go of negativity and hostility. As faith grows in the heart, the effect of personal inclinations becomes limited. Moreover, determination strengthens and drives them towards noble behavior.
  7. They will have positive outlook to the world; the strong believer seeks to improve himself and those around him.
  8. They will achieve peace and tranquility. Trust based on faith is ingrained in the heart. Fears that haunt others diminish.

The Cornerstones of Faith Nurturing

Teaching faith includes the following:

  1. Teaching children the six pillars of faith that contain the belief in Islamic laws and their alignment with human nature. This should be accompanied by refraining from direct orders that lack the spirit of faith. Instead, parents should utilize practical ways that awaken the heart, inspires the mind, and nurture attitude towards life.
  2. Raising children to love the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), his family, wives, and companions without exaggeration or negligence.
  3. Raising children to revere religious practices and manifestations and to refrain from degrading them or showing apathy towards them.
  4. Teaching children that faith is not complete without benevolence. Faith increases with good deeds and decreases with sins. Therefore, nurturing true faith benefits ethics, attitude towards life, and devotion.
  5. Teaching children about the Day of Judgment and that our actions will determine our fate in that day. People who do good deeds will be rewarded and those who do bad deeds will be punished.
  6. Teaching children that Allah oversees everything. He the Almighty sees them, hear them, and no one can hide from Him.
  7. Teaching children to stick to truth and proudly and strongly hold on to it.

Education Techniques for Teaching faith

Techniques to strengthen faith can be divided into two categories: Early childhood techniques and Middle and Late childhood techniques.:

In early childhood, parents should focus on the following:

  1. Explaining names that indicate devotion (e.g. Abdullah, Abdulrahman, Abdulkarim) in brief. Also, ensuring that children listen to the call of prayers, teaching them daily supplications and reciting them in their presence, reminding them of Allah’s gifts upon them – especially during meals – and teaching them to mention Allah’s name prior to eating, and thanking Him afterwards.
  2. Helping Children memorize and understand“1 chapters from the Quran , the word of Allah, starting with ‘Al-Fatiha, Al-Ikhlas, Alfalaq, and Al-Nass( i.e. surah 1,112,113, and 114). Parents should also teach children songs that teach faith. Nurturing respect for the sacredness and commands of the Noble Quran in an attractive way teaches a child that mastering recitation elevates a person to the level of the righteous angels. A child should be taught the ethics of reading and listening to the Quran (i.e. seeking Allah’s protection, mentioning Allah’s name and listening with respect). Listening to the Quran improves children’s Arabic and drives them towards further reading the Quran. In addition, parents should repeatedly narrate the stories of the Noble Quran in a simple and comprehensive manner using various methods.
  3. Mentioning Allah in happy and good times. Allah should not be linked to cruelty and torture in childhood. Parents should avoid focusing on Allah’s anger, punishment, and Hellfire.
  4. Bringing the beauty of creation and its coherence to children’s attention so that they feel the greatness of the Creator and love Him for providing this creation to us.
  5. Training children to have positive attitude, mercy, cooperation, manners of talking and listening and linking it to the love of Allah and His commands. This should be done through leading by example which allows children to live in an atmosphere full of benevolence and awareness of Allah’s presence.

In Middle and Late Childhood, parent should further expand on these techniques. For example:

  1. They should continue teaching their children the extent of the universe’s greatness and intricate creation so that children can comprehend glorifying Allah. Allah says: “It is the work of Allah, who perfected all things.”
  2. They should remind children about the wisdom in Allah’s actions and creations (e.g. the wisdom of creating night and day, sun and moon, and the senses) so that children love Allah and thank Him – Allah says: “Do they not contemplate within themselves? Allah has not created the heavens and the earth and what is between them except in truth.”
  3. They should also take advantage of available moments to wisely guide children through current issues and advise them on making right decisions and avoiding evil. For example, if a child gets sick, we should attach his or her heart to Allah by teaching him or her supplications, by encouraging them him or her to trust in Allah, and by reading the Quran. If we give our child a treat, we should remind him or her to thank Allah. Parents should avoid discussing faith with children during hard times because a child does not have the cognitive ability to understand the concept at the time.
  4. They should continue leading by example and practicing Islam so that children attach religion to everyday life. Leading by example allows children to observe sincerity which is an essential element in faith and avoid hypocrisy
  5. Parent should also continue teaching children through stories and songs that highlight Islamic concepts and values. Parents should also introduce the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) to children by narrating his biography (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), particularly his childhood, his kind encounters with children, his appearance, and his noble character. Parents should also narrate the stories of his companions, wives (mothers of the believers), and family (may Allah be pleased with them all).
  6. Having mentioned these techniques, one should stress that parents should be careful not to overwhelm children. After all, children need fun and entertainment in their life. Therefore, we should not exhaust them and hinder their natural and psychological development by overlooking their main needs.
  7. Children should be allowed to behave normally without adults’ interference and parents should provide activities that allow children to explore their abilities and surroundings. This develops and strengthens their love for exploration.
  8. In addition, parents should be positive with their children by supporting them and encouraging them to do their best. Improving children’s attitudes with love and reward is a better way to achieve a balanced attitude towards life.
  9. Nurturing respect for the sacredness and commands of the Noble Qur’an in an attractive way teaches a child that mastering recitation elevates a person to the level of the righteous angels. A child should be taught the ethics of reading and listening to the Qur’an (i.e. seeking Allah’s protection, mentioning Allah’s name and listening with respect). Listening to the Quran improves children’s Arabic and drives them towards further reading the Quran. Children should be taught the meaning of some of the Qur’anic verses they memorized that contain faith concepts… like ‘The Opening’, ‘The Purity’, ‘The Daybreak’ and ‘Mankind’. In addition, parents should repeatedly narrate the stories of the Noble Qur’an in a simple and comprehensive manner using various methods of demonstration.
  10. We can apply a Q and A method when teaching faith, and ensure that questions contain the information needed to be delivered and that answers are brief and suitable the age and level of awareness. This method provides children with values, noble morals, and positive attitude.
  11. Fun activities: Children can also learn by coloring pictures that contain various faith concepts. Children can also learn through contests. The more dynamic and interactive a contest, the better.
  12. Storytelling: Children can learn about faith through simple and attractive stories that suit their mental and cognitive capabilities. Children can also learn through repeating phrases that ingrain faith such as: “Allah has decreed and whatever He wills, He does,” “rely upon Allah” and “Allah has the power over everything.” With the help of parents, children can decorate their bedroom with faith phrases and expressions like: “I am a Muslim,” “I love Allah” and “The pillars of faith”. The repetition of these educational methods ingrains faith in children’s minds.
  13. At later childhood stages, parents should begin teaching children that everyone experiences hardship. Allah tests everyone in this life with hardship. We should teach children that there is wisdom behind Allah’s decisions and ingrain in their mind that Allah is the One who brings goodness and prevents evil and that His mercy surpasses His anger. We should explain to children that relief always comes after distress and strengthen their trust in Allah because this is part of devotion. So, we believe that Allah’s decisions are better than our choices and that people can do nothing but be patient and perform their duties in difficult times. They should also be content as they wait for Allah’s reward. Finally, we must teach children supplications (Duaa) that benefit them.

Important Educational Tools to Ingrain Faith in Children

Among the most important education tools to ingrain faith in children are the following:

  1. Role Models: role models are one of the most important tools that influence children. The Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) highlighted the importance of role models for children: Abdullah ibn Amer narrates: “My mother called me one day when the Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was sitting in our house. She said: Come here and I shall give you something. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) asked her: What did you intend to give him? She replied: I intended to give him some dates. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: If you were not to give him anything, a lie would be recorded against you”. In another narration, the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) says: “Whoever calls his child (come here, take this) then doesn’t give him, then it’s a lie.” Therefore, being a role model is an effective method in raising children; the two narrations highlight the importance of honesty in raising children.
  2. Sincere Advice: preaching is either direct or indirect (e.g. allegories, dialogues). We should choose the right time and words so that the child does not get bored.
  3. Reward and Punishment: This way is one of the most powerful and emotional ways of educating children because it relates to human nature. It must be done without exaggerating the reward or punishment. Sensitive Children should be encouraged rather than intimidated; Children at young age need encouragement rather than intimidation.
  4. Training, practice and building habits: children should be trained to please, fear, and depend on Allah. They should also understand that everything is in His Hands. All that brings strength and firmness, that help them withstand every distress, and satisfaction that relieve their hearts.
  5. Repetition: modern science and experience confirm the effectiveness of repetition in teaching and ingraining knowledge.
  6. Conversation: conversations with widens their perceptions; however, a parent must respect the child’s opinions, listens carefully, and calmly steer discussions so that conversation becomes fruitful. In discussion, we can apply a question and answer method while teaching faith; we should ensure that questions contain the information needed to be delivered and that answers are brief and suitable to the age and level of awareness of the child. This method provides children with values, morals, and positive attitude; it will be adequately discussed further down.
  7. Books: it is important to have a suitable library that contains scientific, cultural, and religious material in all forms including audiovisual and digital material. It is important that these books contain stories because, as mentioned, stories are an important educational tool. There are a lot of eloquent stories about the biography of the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and his companions.
  8. Modern educational tools and technology: These tools should be utilized in an appealing and colorful way that attracts the child and makes him or her psychologically healthy.
  9. Natural Instincts: Children have natural motives that parents can utilize when raising them. These include playing, cooperation, imitation, etc. Through playing, children discover their surroundings and express their ideas and extent of awareness. We can take advantage of these instincts to clarify the true meanings of life and universe and establish values. This can be done through observation and taking advantage of situations. Noting and guiding children leave everlasting marks.
  10. Supplication: last but not least, supplications prove that people need Allah and have hope in Him. Allah encourages people to ask Him and He promised to answer their call: “And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” A parent can utilize supplications to raise children. It is the way used by the greatest mentors ever – Allah’s prophets (peace be upon them) – to affirm monotheism: “And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said, “My Lord, make this city [Makkah] secure and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols.” Therefore, praying for children illustrates benevolence.
  11. Acting: Children love imitation. They should have a chance to perform the role of Imams by praying, reciting Quran, and giving sermons or lectures. This helps them appreciate the worthiness of these job positions.

Important traits parents should embrace as they teach their children about faith

  1. Kindness: raising children is not fruitful unless done with kindness. Al-Aqraa ibn Habis watched the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) kissing Al-Hasan and Al-Husain and said: “I have ten children and I have never kissed anyone of them,” Allah’s messenger (peace be upon him) looked at him and said, “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” The prophet also said: “The Compassionate has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, He who is in the heaven will show mercy to you.”
  2. Tolerance and Forgiveness: our prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) is the most tolerant and forgiving man. Anas ibn Malik says: “I was walking with Allah’s messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and he was wearing a garment from Najran with a thick cape. A Bedouin followed him and violently pulled his garment; I noticed the side of the shoulder of Allah’s messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) hurt because of that violent pull. The Bedouin said, ‘O Muhammad! Give me some of Allah’s wealth which is with you.’ Allah’s messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) turned and looked at him, smiled and ordered that he be given something.’”

    Forgiveness is also related to tolerance. Allah says: “Take what is given freely, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant.” To become tolerant, the messenger (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) warned against anger. In a narration, a man said to the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and asked for advice. The prophet peace be upon him said, “Do not become angry” The man asked (the same) again and again, and the prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said in each case, “Do not become angry.”

  3. Patience: parents must be patient when raising or educating children. They should not rush the results to avoid disappointment. A parent without patience is like a traveler not equipped for travel.
  4. Justice: parent must treat their children on equal basis. Treating children differently without valid reason hurts positive communication and harmony between children. Injustice is always a disgrace.
  5. Honesty: parents must be truthful and honest when dealing with children. Honesty is a trait of Allah’s messengers and it is a basic requirement for mastering any task and achieving goals.
  6. Piety: Allah supports those who obey him in unexpected ways. Piety is the companion of success in life and in the Hereafter.
  7. Sincerity: actions that are not for Allah’s sake are not accepted and not rewarded. Insincere people gain nothing but lost effort.
  8. Knowledge: Unlike the ignorant, a knowledgeable person is more aware of the importance of present and the future. He or she is also more prone to making the right decisions.
  9. Wisdom: A parent who makes good judgments reaps the benefits of his judgment. Therefore, a parent endeavors to understand personalities and utilize his or her knowledge in guiding and raising children
  10. Confidence: Raising children is a psychological and spiritual effort. Only those who trust their capabilities will succeed.
  11. Constant improvement: parents take care of improving their abilities to be competent.
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