I think back to when and how I learned to pray namaz [islamic prayer], and I don’t actually remember formally being taught by someone all of the actions of prayer. It’s something that I don’t remember learning, because I was very, very young when I learned it.
My mother tells me how my Nanna [maternal grandmother] taught me to recite prayers when I was three years old. I have vague memories of lying in bed, tucked in her arm and repeating after her words over and over again, every night. I remember setting up my janamaz [prayer mat] next to my father’s, and mimicking his actions as best I could. Prayers and worship is not something I learned, it’s something that I lived with everyday through my elders.
And so the question I ask myself today as a parent is when should I teach my children to pray? I don’t think there’s any wrong time to do it. I just wonder what’s the best approach. Here I am pondering over this question, revisiting it, discussing with my husband, and I haven’t even realized that they are already learning it.
My daughter Ridha is a close observer, and she learns by watching something just once. Repetition is just a way of confirmation for her after she has already grasped the concept. I am blessed to have elders in my life that have impacted my daughter. And I have realized now that my smallest actions are helping to build her foundation.
Here are some ways I find have helped my daughters to learn the concept of prayer.
- Taking my children to Masjid [Mosque].
Although I am blessed to have been able to take my daughter to Iraq, Makkah and Medina, I can’t constantly fly over there. But doing our part and taking them to the Masjid [mosque] at a very early age and whenever possible has made a powerful impact. Like I mentioned, Ridha is an observer. She watches the motions of Jama’at namaz (congregational prayer) and tries her best to copy it. (She just doesn’t get the correct direction sometimes)
- Praying in front of them.
Making sure that I pray in front of both my daughters is pretty important. Many times I think to myself, I’ll wait until nap time so that I can pray in peace. But I’ve made the change and began praying in front of them so that they can observe and learn by seeing me. My daughters already want to copy everything I do. What better action for them to adopt than prayer.
- Involve other elders.
This one happened naturally, and had very little to do with me. There is some sort of gravitational pull that exists between grandparents and grandchildren, because they are just naturally drawn to each other. My daughters love to be near all four of their grandparents. Grandparents will take the time and patience needed to teach a child, when we parents are too busy in survival mode. Give your children time with this older generation. They’ll be able to teach young ones the things that you can’t, in a manner that you can’t. It’s a really beautiful blessing.
It really is never too early to teach your child how to pray, how to fast, and any other act. The earlier the better. The younger they are, the more information they are able to absorb. I’ve learned that the time is now, and building that foundation is evermore significant. There’s still a lot for them to learn, but we’re going to keep working on it.
What are some ways you’ve introduced the concept of prayer with your little ones? I’m always looking for ways to engage my daughters and would love to hear from you.