Mothers often wonder whether there are any Islamic “milestones” for very young children that they should work towards. Or how to start teaching Islam to little ones. At the age of two to four we are talking about instilling a pure belief in their hearts coupled with good actions. It is not about making them memorise chapters of Quran, or making them pray or having other extraordinary expectations. We should realise that learning happens all the time. At a very young age children learn many things simply by “observing” those around them. I believe that “observation” is a very powerful learning tool. So, it is very important that the mothers “show” their children what they “need” to see. Because, after observation comes imitation. So, our focus really should be to provide a rich Islamic environment at home as well as to develop a good character for them to model.
Here are some ways in which you can do this:
1. Establish Salah/ Prayer at home.
Our children must see us doing our daily prayers regularly. They should see that Salah is a significant part of our lives. Your child should see that no matter how busy, sick or where his or her mother is she never misses a prayer. Your toddler doesn’t have to join you in your prayers at all. However, to keep him involved you may buy him or her adorable hijab/ kandora and their own little Musallah/ prayer mat.
2. Recite Quran.
Your children should see and “hear” you reciting the Quran. They should see you being moved by its verses. They should see you pondering over its meanings. Although this may seem to have no immediate benefit but the picture of their mother reciting Quran and humbling herself will stick in their minds forever which will encourage them to follow your example. If a mother however only recites it with her tongue without any effect being seen on her face then the child most probably will end up reading like a parrot too without feeling any need for pondering. In addition to your own recitation you can also play Quran recitation audios at home when your children are up and around. If your young child is ready for it, you can help him memorise a short surah or two. But remember, the goal is to bond your child with the Quran and not to make him a recorder.
3. Engage in righteous activities.
Be an example for your children on how to spend one’s time by always being engaged in useful and righteous activities. A child who sees his or her mother wasting her time during the day will most probably not learn to value his or her time. Teaching children to value their time is one of the best lessons you can give them. Read Islamic books, listen to Islamic lectures, gain Islamic knowledge, memorise Quran, engage in a beneficial project or just sit in a corner of your home in devotion for sometime. Mothers often complain that their young ones make a fuss when they are engaged in some kind of learning. However, if you are constant yet flexible, your children will soon start cooperating with you – insha’Allah.
4. Be part of righteous gatherings.
Righteous gatherings have a lot of benefit on our hearts and souls, as well as on our children’s. Try to attend Islamic institutes, or halaqas or Masjid very often with your children. Keep good and righteous companies. Let your friends be modest and righteous. I felt surprised when my little son observed that some women don’t wear Hijab outside. If we think that our relatives or friends or guests have no impact on our children then we are mistaken. Let there be no mixed gatherings in your house or any other display of immodesty including in the screens. Just by observing you and your gatherings your children will learn what modesty is about in Islam.
5. Be a good role model.
Struggle to acquire all praiseworthy qualities in Islam as well as stay away from all the blameworthy ones. Continually account yourself and your behaviour. Also, keep a check on your conversations. What do you talk mostly about? What do you discuss when you are with your spouse or friends? Are your conversations pleasing to Allah? Your children hear you all the time even though you don’t notice it. Don’t tell your children to not lie, show them that you are always honest. Don’t tell your children to be good to their father, show them by being respectful and polite towards him. Let there be no contradiction in your speech and actions. Children are too good in smelling hypocrisy. They will not take your words seriously if they don’t see you living up to it.
6. Talk about Allah
Mention Allah, His Names and Attributes whenever there is an opportunity. Show them the creations of Allah ( whether you are outdoors or just flipping through some nature books together) and express how you are genuinely amazed at various beautiful and unique creatures of Allah. Talk about the blessing and favours of Allah in your day. Show your sincere gratitude to Allah and teach your little ones to be grateful. Little children get easily upset when they don’t get what they want, so counting your blessings with them can be a truly satisfying activity. You can also teach your children how all of us are in constant need of Allah. Teach them to ask Allah for their needs before they ask you.
7. Give reasons.
This is very important. Whatever good you do make sure you always take it back to “because Allah and His messenger said so”. Let your children know of your intentions. Speak it out loud for them. Let them learn that Salah, Hijab, reciting Quran, or not listening to music or always being truthful is not a habit or custom rather they are an act of worship. You are doing it to please Allah. Take this opportunity to introduce important concepts in bite size portions such as obedience to Allah, meeting Allah, Al Jannah and so on.
When you have done these you have basically laid a good foundation for your children towards righteousness. So, when you begin to teach them Islamic beliefs and teachings when they are older they will be able to follow it with great ease inshaAllah because they have always “seen” Islam in their homes and in their mothers. It will be simply a reinforcement of what they always “learned” during their young age.