The most exposure that some of our Muslim kids today have with Islam are basic Sunday (or Saturday) school classes. There, they will learn Islamic tenets and rules. If they are lucky, and the teachers are knowledgeable, they will learn the proper way of doing wudhu, salaat and other important acts of worship. But then, naturally, learning Islamic tenets and manners have to be reiterated at home for them to gain a solid ground in a child’s life. Left to only Sundays, the child can grow out of practice and soon get further from his/her Muslim identity.
There is good news, however, for those parents who wish to help their children have a stronger connection with their Muslim identity. Besides Islamic books geared toward Muslim children, there are numerous resources, like Ali Huda, an Islamic “Netflix” for kids, Islamic songs and nursery rhymes, and activities geared toward specific Islamic themes.
While living in the West, Muslim parents who want their children to maintain their Islamic identity will have to work harder than the average parent.
Yes, it is tough, but if like-minded parents work with others, then it can help ease the difficulty.
This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to be home in Houston during the holy month of Ramadan. At the local Islamic center that I attend, the Islamic Education Center of Houston, a dedicated group of sisters started Ramadan classes for children. While kids were still in school, the classes were held on weekends only, but as soon as school was out for the summer, classes were held daily.
Classes were held for those kids ages 3-8, and included story time, a craft, a snack, and ended with prayer. Parents were asked to pay $2 for each child per class to help pay for supplies.
I spoke to one of the organizers of these classes and she told me the idea came to her when she heard of mothers’ frustrated with keeping kids entertained at the masjid while also trying to partake in worship. This particular sister shared the same frustration, but once her kids were a bit older, she got together with a few other like-minded sisters and they started classes for kids during the busy month of Ramadan.
“The main purpose for the classes was to make sure the kids are having fun and learning about religion,” said one of the organizers. “Even if they don’t understand everything we were teaching them.”
Following the success of the Ramadan classes that started about three years ago, these sisters also organized classes for the month of Moharram, and are trying to work on helping set up a mock Hajj program for Zilhajj, as well as a program for Arbaeen.
One sentiment that this particular sister shared was that kids should enjoy coming to the masjid. The only way they will want to come is if they feel welcomed. Parents often feel torn between bringing kids to the masajid and “forcing” them to sit during speeches they might not understand or partake in worship that is hard for them to do.
But this attachment to a community is important. Even if it is on very simple terms, like attending the local masjid for a weekly prayer. It is imperative to get kids connected to others who share their same faith. If your local masjid or center does not have any child-friendly programs or events, start something small with other like-minded parents. Take turns so not one person is left feeling burdened.
“I feel like Moms should just bring the kids to the masjid more. They should love going. Social learning is better than one-on-one.”
The sister I talked to said that she looks forward to teaching the Ramadan classes every year. And she finds it as a way to give back to the community and help children establish a love for the masjid and Islam. According to the sister, a lot of volunteers weren’t willing to come back and teach this year because they were tired, but then they all came back.
“It showed me that Allah’s work will always be done. Even if you think there is no one to do it.”
As a parent, the best part about these classes were not only that they let the parents listen to the main lecture, but that they helped keep the kids engaged with Islamic activities. My younger children would come home humming rhymes they sang in class, and proudly showing what they learned about the Quran or different Islamic aspects. They also made friends who shared the same religious values, and had a connection with their teachers, who they loved to see everyday.
Especially in the West, our children are surrounded by messages that might not run in line with our Islamic values. And it isn’t always easy to take our kids to the masjid for certain programs, because of our school or work schedules. So then it should be our priority to take time out and at least find a way to create the connection with our Islamic communities, be it during special months or on our own time.
May Allah grant us all the opportunity to help our children remain connected to our faith and enjoy attending the masjid.
Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Raising Faith” column by esteemed guest contributor and student from Qum, Sister Samira Rizvi. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog. Her column will focus on her experiences in tarbiyat—the upbringing of children based on Islamic values. For past articles in the column see here.