Tag Archives: Ramadan

Seven Strategies to Train Kids this Ramadan

By Shehnaz Toorawa 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “No father has given a greater gift to his children than good moral training.” (Tirmidhi)

The many aspects of Ramadan—fasting, prayers, moral values, charity, Qur’an, family, `Eid—provide a valuable opportunity to train kids. Whether they are your own kids or kids you teach, education or training isn’t an automatic or easy process. Children don’t bring empty minds and fill them with what we say. Training requires effort, energy, and a few techniques to take off.

Here are some training tips and techniques to transform your children’s minds and memories this Ramadan:

(1) Let them get their Hands Dirty

“The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.” Herbert Spencer

Children learn by “doing.” On average, students retain 75% of a lesson when they learn through hands-on activities compared to 5% through a lecture or 10% through reading (Brunmer, Jerome).

If, for example, you want to teach your kids the concept of zakah, get them to help you calculate your zakah, decide where to send the money, and mail the envelopes. Action and implementation can occur while children learn, not necessarily after!

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to bring his grandchildren Hassan and Hussein to the mosque as toddlers before they knew how to pray.

A concept becomes real and important to children when they experience it rather than simply read about it. They’ll remember how to do it years later when you may catch them telling their friends “I’ve been calculating zakah since I was a kid!”

(2) Involve their Emotions

When children get emotionally involved in an activity, they rarely want to leave it. Video games and TV shows target children’s emotions. As parents and educators, we can use the same technique for training.

Stories, songs, skits, crafts, and games grab children’s emotions. Once a child is interested and excited, they’re more likely to stay attentive till the end and get the message you want to give. Just as we remember events in our lives that were emotionally significant, children remember concepts learned through activities that were “fun,” “funny,” “exciting,” or “different.”

Don’t be afraid to stir some fun into your training—you don’t have to lose any content. Write a song about `Eid, create a Hadith treasure box, organize a Ramadan trivia night, or read a story about Ramadan in Madinah. If the kids enjoy it, they’ll come back for more!

(3) Reveal the Purpose

We often hear students complain, “why do we have to do this?” or “this math exercise is pointless.” Unfortunately, we often hear responses like “because I’m telling you to,” or “because you have to,” or worse, “you’ll get a new CD player if you finish the book.”

Like us, if children don’t see the purpose or importance of an action, they won’t have the motivation to complete it. To avoid getting similar comments from your kids about prayer or fasting, make sure they understand the purpose. Before you begin any lesson, whether it’s a story about the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)or an `Eid craft, explain exactly why you are the doing the activity and what benefits the children will gain from it.

Remind your children that they are doing acts of worship to please Allah, not you. Explain why we need to please Allah and how every action, including washing dishes or math homework, will help us achieve that goal. If children are praying only to please you, when you leave, their motivation and prayers will disappear.

If children are motivated to fast Ramadan or complete the Qur’an for a material incentive (like a CD player), they may never develop a love of Allah or an intrinsic desire to perform the action. They may, instead, learn to value material rewards and when the rewards disappear, the actions may disappear with them.

Help your children understand that for Muslims, rewards don’t necessarily always come in this life. They may have to wait for the bigger and better rewards of the hereafter.

(4) Highlight the Big Ideas

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Albert Einstein

Ask yourself how many equations or formulas you remember from your Grade 12 math textbook. It may be five, two, or none. Let’s be honest—most of us retained very little of the details we learned.

Children will not retain all the fiqh rulings of zakah, wudu’, or Salah, and they won’t need to! Make sure the little that they retain is exactly what you want them to remember. Focus on the big ideas, such as the awareness that Allah is watching us, that we get our rulings from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, that Prayer is a means of self-purification, etc. Repeat these ideas every day in different ways. While your children instil these principles in their minds, show them how to learn the rest on their own when they need it.

Help your kids learn “how to learn.” Teach them where to find the fiqh information they need or how to research a topic and who to ask for information. They will be better prepared if they master the basics and know how to get the specifics. Memorizing every ruling will be a waste of their time and yours.

(5) Let them Lead!

 Children often take responsibilities more seriously than adults. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) appointed Usamah ibn Zaid who was a young boy at the time, as commander of the Muslim army although many older and more experienced companions were present. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) trusted Usamah’s capability for the position.

Give children leadership over important tasks and step out of the picture. Assign one child to wake up all his siblings for suhur. Let someone else be in charge of updating the iftar time every evening. Allow the children to plan, budget, and buy `Eid gifts for all the relatives. Let them choose which task they want to be in charge of.

Allow children to make mistakes and realize on their own what they should have done. Experience often trains better than instruction. Once a child goes out into the cold without a jacket, he’ll remember, before you can remind him, to put on his jacket next time.

Train kids to be responsible for their own learning. If a child asks, “Does brushing teeth break my fast?” a simple “yes” or “no” may give them the answer, but it won’t provide any long-term training. Ask them instead, “Where can you look to find that answer? Let’s do some research.”

Begin the month of Ramadan by asking your children to do a research project on what breaks the fast and what does not. If they find the information themselves, they are likely to remember it and know exactly where to get it again next year.

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” Carl Rogers

(6) Get Excited!

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” W. B. Yeats

Kids catch on to your enthusiasm. Show some excitement and passion about the topic you’re teaching. Show your kids that you can’t wait for Ramadan to begin. Be cheerful at Prayer times. Decorate the house in anticipation of `Eid.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught by example. His character and actions motivated people to love and emulate him. Be the example you want your kids to be. Make a genuine effort to love the activities you want your kids to love.

7) Combine Love with Learning

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would greet children warmly by hugging them, kissing them and picking them up.

Abu Huraira reported that al-Aqra’ b. Habis saw the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) kissing Hasan. He said “I have ten children, but I have never kissed any one of them,” whereupon Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said: He who does not show mercy (towards his children), no mercy would be shown to him. (Muslim)

Show children that you love them, regardless of how they perform. Allow each child to progress at their own pace. Saying, “look at your cousin Aminah! She’s already finished the 15th Juz,” will only lower your child’s self-esteem and discourage what she’s already accomplishing.

Excessive competition and comparison can often result in helplessness and lack of motivation for children who learn in different ways or at a slower pace. Allow children to judge their own progress and compare themselves to their former level rather than that of others.

Make this Ramadan the beginning of a memorable and long-lasting training experience for you and your children!

Sources:

Bruner, Jerome S. The Process of Education. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1977.

Published on IslamOnline.net and SoundVision.com

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The Fasting of Ramadan: A Time for Thought, Action, and Change!

By Taha Ghayyur & Taha Ghaznavi

“Fasting in Ramadan develops in a person the real spirit of social belonging, of unity and brotherhood, and of equality before God. This spirit is the natural product of the fact that when people fast they feel that they are joining the whole Muslim society (which makes up more than one fifth of world’s population) in observing the same duty, in the same manner, at the same time, for the same motives, and for the same end. No sociologist or historian can say that there has been at any period of history anything comparable to this powerful institution of Islam: Fasting in the month of Ramadan. People have been crying throughout the ages for acceptable ‘belonging’, for unity, for brotherhood, for equality, but how echoless their voices have been, and how very little success they have met…” says Hammudah Abdalati in Islam in Focus.

“What is fasting?” “How does the fasting of Muslims in Ramadan differ from the fasting of other faiths?” “Why should one ‘torture’ one’s body in the first place?” “What do you really gain from fasting in the end?”…These are a few questions that a number of non-Muslim friends and colleagues often ask us, usually out of fascination with this spiritually-uplifting practice of Islamic faith, and at times out of pity and sympathy for us, thinking, why should anyone suffer from hunger and thirst like Muslims? I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us shared the same negative perception of Fasting.

It is important to note that Fasting in Arabic is called, “Sawm”, which literally means ‘to be at rest’. Fasting in the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is one of the Five Pillars upon which the “house” of Islam is built. During this month, every able-bodied Muslim, is required to fast, everyday from dawn until dusk

12 Reasons To Fast!

1. Fasting is an institution for the improvement of moral and spiritual character of human being. The purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint, self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a universal custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world, with more restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic Fast, as opposed to mere starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and obedience to God, thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination.

2. Ramadan gives us a break and provides us with a rare opportunity to think about our own selves, our future, and our families. It is a time to give our selves a mental break and to temporarily forget about the hundreds of worries and stresses we are constantly bombarded with. In hectic times, such as ours, and in places like the West, this valuable time to think about our lives, on individual basis, is a luxury and is desperately needed! It is a unique month of self-analysis, and of taking stock of one’s moral and spiritual ‘assets and liabilities’.

3. Fasting indoctrinates us in patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When we fast we feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context is that we are much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to their needs. “It is the month to visit the poor, the sick, and the needy to share their sorrows. It is the month where the food, sustenance and the earnings of a believing Muslim increases and they are blessed,” says the Final Prophet of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him), a man who was known for his noble humanitarian causes, for social justice, and for being the first to respond to other’s needs, despite the fact that he himself lived a very simple and humble life. It is only during such a trying time as Ramadan that we can reflect on the condition of those in this world who may not be as fortunate as us.

4. Fasting in Ramadan enables us to master the art of mature adaptability and Time-Management. We can easily understand this point when we realize that fasting makes people change the entire course of their daily life. When they make the change, they naturally adapt themselves to a new system and schedule, and move along to satisfy the rules. This, in the long run, develops in them a wise sense of adaptability and self-created power to overcome the unpredictable hardships of life! A person who values constructive adaptability, time-management, and courage will appreciate the effects of Fasting in this respect as well.

5. It cultivates in us the principle of sincere Love, because when we observe Fasting, we do it out of deep love for God. And a person, who loves God, truly is a person who knows what love is and why everyone on this Earth should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.

6. Fasting elevates the human spirit and increases our awareness of God. It strengthens our will-power as we learn to rise above our lower desires. The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions. Hunger is one the most powerful urges that we experience. Many, through over- or under-eating or consumption of unhealthy foods, abuse this urge. Thus, when a person purposefully denies something to their own self that it craves, they are elevating their mind above their body, and their reason and will above their carnal passions. “A fasting person empties his stomach of all the material things: to fill his soul with peace and blessings, to fill his heart with love and sympathy, to fill his spirit with piety and Faith, to fill his mind with wisdom and resolution,” says H. Abdalati in Islam in Focus. The person who can rule their desires and make them work, as they like, has attained true moral excellence.

7. With the clarity of mind and absence of distractions, also comes a greater focus. As students, the period of fasting, especially early during the day, serves as a tool to focus our minds on our academics. In the month of Ramadan, many Muslims try to avoid watching TV, listening to music, and some other leisure activities, which spares them more time and energy to be spent on more productive activities such as academics, intense study of Islam, voluntary prayers, social and humanitarian causes, and a quality time with the family, to name a few. It is a reminder of our duty to God, our purpose and higher values in life, as God Himself describes the purpose of fasting as follows, “O you who Believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop consciousness of God” (Quran 2:183).

8. Fasting has numerous, scientifically proven, benefits for our physical health and mental well-being. The time, length and nature of the Islamic Fast all contribute to its overall positive effect. One of the medical benefits is a much-needed rest to the digestive system. The reduced food intake during the day allows the body to concentrate on getting rid of harmful dietary toxins accumulated as natural by-products of food digestion throughout the year. The length of the Islamic Fast itself (around 12-14 hours) is in sync with the ‘transit time’ of food from the mouth to the colon of the large intestine, ensuring that no stimulus reaches the stomach or digestive system while it remains in homeostasis. Therefore, for the vast majority of healthy individuals fasting poses no medical risks but in fact provides many health benefits, such as: an increase in serum Magnesium, essential for cardio-vascular health and prevention of heart complications; improvement in the quality and depth of sleep; improvement in memory and slower skin aging over time; increased production of growth hormone, etc. Also, as a general note, it has been observed that underfed animals live longer than their heavily fed counterparts and suffer fewer illnesses during their lives.

9. The month of Ramadan provides us with a sort of “Boot camp.” It is a month of intense moral training. Since we know that Fasting is a special duty prescribed by God, we learn that any sins may spoil our record of fasting with God, so we go through great lengths making sure we are on our best behavior. Many people who experience fasting in this month, feel the impact that this intense training has on their habits, and realize the power of this transformative tool designed to make us better human beings- the ultimate goal of any spiritual exercise. The entire Ramadan atmosphere provides the driving force for this positive change.

10. It makes us realize the reality of life and death. Fasting makes us realize how dependant our lives are on things that we often take for granted, such as food and water. It makes us think about our dependence on God and God’s mercy and justice. Moreover, it reminds us of the life after death, which itself has a great impact on our character and our world-view.

11. Ramadan is a blessed month for a special reason: It is actually the month in which God first revealed His final message and guidance for mankind to our beloved Prophet Muhammad. This message has been perfectly preserved both orally and textually in the form of a Book, called the Qur’an (The Reading/Recital). Therefore, Muslims try to do an intense study of the Quran in this month especially, and evaluate their lives according to the standards and guidance contained in it.

12. After the month of Ramadan is over, Muslims celebrate one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic year: EID-UL-FITR, or the Festival of the Fast Breaking. It is a day to thank God for the blessing and training that He provides us with throughout the month of Ramadan. EID-UL-FITR is marked by praying in a huge congregation at an Islamic center or mosque, and by giving a small donation to the poor in the community. The adults give the donation on behalf of their children as well. Dinner parties, family outings, fairs, carnivals, and great joyous celebrations follow the prayer and charity.

In a nutshell, even though the real purpose of the dynamic institution of Fasting is to discipline our soul and moral behavior, and to develop sympathy for the less fortunate, it is a multi-functional and a comprehensive tool of change in various spheres of our lives, including: social and economic, intellectual and humanitarian, spiritual and physical, private and public, personal and common, inner and outer —all in one!

Originally Published in The Medium, University of Toronto at Mississauga. Re-published by IslamiCity.com & WhyIslam.org.

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