An awesome question came from a mother during the Gulf tour who asked: “My son is two-and-a-half years old. When do I begin to teach him Arabic grammar, Quran, Tajweed, and memorization because I want him to be raised with the Quran?”
What a beautiful concern you have with your child that you want him to learn the Quran, but he is three years old! What were you doing when you were three years old? You don’t remember! Kids are on the Fitrah – they are beautiful. Let them be. Teach them. Yes, teach them lovingly. Some kids have more aptitude and want to learn quickly, so you give them that opportunity. Some kids want play more – let them play more and take their time.
Parents have to be flexible with their children and not impose the same standards (on all of them). They should not compare one child to the other, especially in terms of their Quran. I have six kids; not all of them memorize Quran the same way. Not all of them study the Quran the same way. I have one child who memorizes something in five minutes – she’s so fast, amazing! I have another child for whom the same memorization could take a month. And I don’t compare: “Why don’t you do it like your sister, huh?” I don’t do that. This is Zulm, and it creates hatred towards Deen. “Because of this Book, my father likes my other sister more than me.” That’s wrong – stop it! Stop being so stressed over your kids. Allah (swt) doesn’t want your child to be a Hafiz; Allah (swt) doesn’t want your child to be an Alim (scholar). Allah (swt) wants your child to be a good Muslim. Allah (swt) wants your child to love his or her Deen. That’s what He (swt) wants.
Some people came to me and said: “You know our children are five or six years old. We show them videos of the signs of Judgement Day, and we talk about Dajjal.” I said: “Why do you do that? Why are you talking to your kids about Dajjal? Your kids are only five years old – that’s traumatizing! I get scared reading about Dajjal.”
Children are on the Fitrah. Do you know what that means? It means right now they are not responsible for any wrong that they do. Why do you want to put the fear of Allah (swt) in them when they don’t have to have the fear of Allah (swt) in them? They don’t. Fear of Allah (swt) is for someone who will be held responsible for their deeds. Yes or no? Right now is the age to expose them to the love, mercy, and care of Allah (swt), the gifts of Allah, and the love of the Prophet (sa). Nothing about fear, Jahannum (hell), Yaumul Qiyamah (Day of Judgement), Dajjal, or the great wars. This is not what kids need; it will traumatize them. They will think of their Deen in scary terms. Children get terrified. Some parents tell me: “But we tell them some positive things, too.” No, that’s not how it works. You can’t show a child a horror movie and give them a teddy bear after that so things would work out. No, you don’t do that; it is so very damaging for children.
In the beginning, we should nurture their Fitrah. They already came with love of Allah (swt). That’s what Allah (swt) put inside them. Nurture that love and don’t replace it with fear. Fear will come later when they mature, and we start talking about responsibility and accountability. Then, at a later age, you can teach them about Judgement Day. Teaching ahead of time just takes it all away. The same happens with teaching the Quran. The same happens with teaching anything to your children, for that matter. Make things age-appropriate and loveable.
The biggest accomplishment in our day and age with our children is not how much they will learn. How much they will learn means nothing. I am sorry if that sounds offensive to you. It means nothing. What will mean something is the amount of love they have for their Rabb (swt) and their Prophet (sa), how truthful and honest they are, how easy it is for them to admit a mistake, and how openly they can communicate with you. Their character is the most important thing, not their knowledge. Knowledge is superficial. It is for show to others. I am not saying knowledge is not important. But knowledge will always be secondary to character. Always.
Right now, we should nurture their character and personality and give a little bit of knowledge along the way. Plenty of children have memorized the entire Quran at a very early age, but they have no character. And it is not their fault. The only thing emphasized to them was memorizing the Quran. These kids lie, are mean, and make fun of their friends who don’t memorize the Quran with them as quickly. They do all the things that you, as a Muslim, are not supposed to do. But they are the Huffaaz of the Quran. They are the trophies of the community. Come on! What have we done? We emphasize things that Allah (swt) doesn’t emphasize, and we overlook things that Allah (swt) emphasizes, and yet we say we are serving the Deen. We have to restore the balance. Knowledge has its place, character has its place, and the balance between the two has to be struck. It certainly has to be struck.
May Allah (swt) give us maturity and sense in raising our children with the right religious upbringing and a balanced, loving approach to Deen, so that they don’t find things to love other than Islam.