We are living in times of Fitnah. According to Ibn al-Arabi: “Fitnah means testing, Fitnah means trial, Fitnah means wealth, Fitnah means children, Fitnah means Kufr, Fitnah means differences of opinion among people, and Fitnah means burning with fire.” (Lisan al-Arab by Ibn Manzoor)
It is the responsibility of parents to make their children focused on the Akhirah. When children are referred to as Fitnah in the Quran, it means that the parents are being tested as to how much they can keep their children Akhirah-focused and how far can they keep the Dunya from their hearts.
Before enumerating the techniques that can be helpful in teaching kids about the Hereafter, we have to look into the Marshmallow Experiment conducted on children aged four and five, which they remembered into their young adulthood. The experiment was based on delayed gratification, which is recognized by researchers as a critical skill for prosperity. Basically, the children were offered a small reward in the form of a marshmallow or a cookie and simultaneously offered two rewards if they could wait for a short period. The results indicated that those who could delay gratification due to greater self-control were found to be healthier in adulthood and had better life outcomes.
On and off, whenever children have their assessments or tests at schools, parents should find an opportunity to talk about Akhirah and the temporary nature of this life. Physical bonding with the child is extremely important; hence, a mother can embrace the child and explain the parable of this life as a test and this world as an examination hall, pointing out that that the Quran and the Sunnah are just like the syllabus to prepare. The attitude of the parent has to be so loving and kind that the children actually believe and trust the parents. If they delay gratification, or do not watch those cartoons or give up on any bad habits, they can be sure that delaying will be worth in the next life.
“Verily, We give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before (them), and their traces [their footsteps and walking on the earth with their legs to the mosques for the five compulsory congregational prayers, Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s Cause) and all other good and evil they did, and that which they leave behind], and all things We have recorded with numbers (as a record) in a Clear Book.” (Ya-Sin 36:12)
When the parents receive the report cards of their children, they can present a similitude of the record that will be prepared for every human being. But the similitude had to be given about the parent and not the child. The sense of accountability should not be out of all-encompassing fear and agitation; it should be by discipline and awareness that our Master is watching.
A mother who was asked about how she manages teaching her child about the Akhirah said: “I tell him that every time he does something good, Allah (swt) adds a beautiful, glittery star on a beautiful golden book, which has his name written on it.”
Children are keen observers, and they can be taught contemplation from an early age to keep them Allah-conscious and remind them about the Akhirah. The changing of seasons, how land is brought back to life after rain, the falling of leaves in autumn, the short life of various insects (like the moth), the transition of a caterpillar to a butterfly, and various science projects can be used to teach about Akhirah.
Historical Examples and Stories
Kids need some ideals and examples to look forward to. If they are told stories of warriors and soldiers, who worked day and night to attain the pleasure of Allah (swt) and took care of their Akhirah, it will be easier for them to understand the entire concept. We have a lot of examples of the companions around the Prophet (sa) and their followers (Tabioon), which can be narrated to the children.
After a certain age, children start dreaming. If a child with all that zeal and excitement narrates a dream to their parent, he or she can be taught, how wishes and dreams will come true in Jannah and they just have to wait in this Dunya patiently.
Market and Shopping
Whenever the family gets a chance to go out for shopping, they can be reminded of the market in Jannah, so that they have something magnificent to look forward to. The inability to purchase everything we want in the markets here can be compared with a guarantee and an affirmation that in the next life, we can have anything we want: any dress, clothes, games, toys, gifts and whatever we think about will be immediately given to us. Why? Because we aced the test of the Dunya and sought the pleasure of our Master – Allah (swt)
“And whoso obeys Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)), then they will be in the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the Siddiqun (those followers of the Prophets who were first and foremost to believe in them, like Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq), the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are!” (An-Nisa 4:69)
Allah’s (swt) Mercy and Attributes
Abu Hurairah (rtam) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah (swt) has one hundred parts of mercy, of which He sent down one between the jinn, mankind, the animals and the insects, by means of which they are compassionate and merciful to one another, and by means of which wild animals are kind to their offspring. And Allah has kept back ninety-nine parts of mercy with which to be merciful to His slaves of the Day of Resurrection.” (Muslim)
This can be really important to nurture Iman and strengthen belief in the Akhirah. So many examples can be made in relation to this Hadeeth. If parents are non-violent and extremely compassionate towards their children and time and again, if the children undergo reliable experiences in which they truly understand how merciful Allah (swt) is they will work hard in attaining the ninety-nine parts that have been promised. Children have amazing imagination powers. The parent has a lot of responsibility here – if the child will feel loved and cared for, he or she will express it. Then, by stimulating their imaginative powers, they can be asked to think about the magnificence of Allah’s (swt) mercy and infinite love that we can gain in the Akhirah only.
Walk the Talk
This is the most effective method to teach kids about Akhirah. They have been observing the lifestyle of their parents since the beginning. If they have seen Taqwa in your personality and character, and if they know when and how you practice self-restraint or discipline your Nafs, they will follow your footsteps. This will make experiences real and reliable. When they go down their memory lane, they should see a mother or a father who controlled their urges and delayed their favorite activities just to have a better and a safer Akhirah.
May Allah (swt) empower us to have the right attitude to teach our children, and may He strengthen our Iman. May He accept our efforts and enable us to do every act of piety just for His pleasure and the betterment of our Akhirah. Ameen.