10 tips to get your child to pray with you… In Sha Allah!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

As I watched my almost 4 year old son pray at Jumuah today, I found myself reminiscing over the memories of him lying helpless on the prayer mat as I prayed beside him when he was only a few weeks old. I can’t believe it was the same kid standing beside me today.

Though the requirement to perform Salaah is only incumbent on kids at a later stage, it makes me proud to see him show such enthusiasm and respect for what is such an integral part of our faith and indeed our lives.

It might be easier to put off Salaah until kids are older, but the best habits are formed early in their childhood development, why not make Salaah one of them.

After 4 years of hands-on experience and 1 amazing wife at my side, this is what I have learnt. My 10 tips to getting your kids to pray with you…

  1. Pray with them, make it a habit of praying in front of them when ever possible – I started praying with my son beside me when he was a month old.
  2. Don’t make Salaah a chore – Allow them to witness the joy and peace you experience through Salaah.
  3. Play with them before/after you pray – let the prayer room/area/rug be a place of comfort for them too.
  4. Don’t be quick to pack up the prayer mat -leave it out for the kids to explore.
  5. Pray together, pray as a family – Let Salaah also becomes an activity the whole family can participate in and benefit from.
  6. Answer their questions, talk about Salaah and feed their curiosity – they’ll be emulating your actions in no time.
  7. Let them know when it’s time to pray – make room for them beside you in case they decide to join in.
  8. Entice them with a little kids prayer mat – make it fun and interesting.
  9. Visit the mosque with them – this can sometimes be tricky but I’ll leave it for another post In Sha Allah.
  10. Lots and lots of praise – acknowledge and praise their efforts! I recall my wife constantly questioning me about whether or not I praised our son when he prayed with me. And you can’t argue with wifey wisdom!

It’s not rocket science, but we often take these things for granted. It’s a matter of priorities and lots of patience. I need to test this strategy on our daughter now!

I pray that our children are the coolness of our eyes In Sha Allah.

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Islamic Edutainment… My thoughts on ‘Zaky & Friends’

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

With Eid around the corner, I’ve noticed a number of ads for the Zaky & Friends Series of Videos and I thought I’d share my thoughts on these.

Zaky Range of Movies

I remember buying one of the ‘Zaky Movies’ for my little sister a few years ago. As a teenager (at the time), I didn’t care much about the movie itself but I thought it would be a nice gift for my baby sister. My sister was known for her endless questioning and so I was bombarded with questions about the movies which gave me some insight into how a child might absorb such stories.

Fast forward a few years and my little sis gave me these very movies for my son who was only a year old at the time but I decided to hang on to them and keep them safe for him. As he grew older and took a keener interest in the colours eminating from the tv screen, we began watching some of these movies with him and would often use them to keep him occupied while we were busy.

As first time parents we were concerned about some of the effects television and movies could have on our son and found comfort in re-running these movies from time to time as a little distraction for him. He watched the movies over and over for several months and eventually tired of them and asked us not to put any ‘Zaky Movies’ on for him. I must admit, at this point I had memorised the scripts and soundtracks of all the movies so I didn’t mind the change up.

By 2 years of age he had tasted the sweetness of television and started watching ABC for Kids. We were very mindful of his television habits and kept a close eye on the content. In my 12 weeks as a stay at home dad, I found a number of supposedly children’s television shows to be completely inappropriate for kids and with the help of my wife was able to filter through the tv guide and only allow him to watch a select few shows that we were comfortable with.

A few months passed by and though he was enjoying watching Sesame Street and one of my favourites, Fireman Sam, he began asking questions about some of the stories he had learnt in the Zaky videos. I was amazed at this since he hadn’t watched any of the movies in a while and you usually don’t expect a toddler to retain such information for such a long time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed our little conversations and to be honest, it was an amazing feeling as a parent.

His questions and curiosity got us back into the movies, I bought the entire set and for Eid that year, we got him the accessories and toys to go with the movies.

His favourite movie was Story Time 2: The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) which I watched with him a few more times so I could correctly address his questions and concerns. It was only then that I realised the power of these movies and the extent of their impact on a child’s mind. The questions he was asking related to matters of Faith including the concept of God and Good vs Evil which can sometimes get tricky when you’re dealing with a toddler. By taking the time to answer hes questions, unbeknownst to us, we had given him what I believe is the best Madrassah lesson you could possibly give a 2 and a half year old kid.

While the concept of God, particularly as The Creator was something he was already familiar with, the movie gave him an understanding of God as The Care-taker, The Protector, The Loving and Powerful as evidenced in the story of Prophet Ibrahim. He grasped the idea of idol worship being contrary to God’s teachings which also gave him a foundation for the criteria of what is right and what is wrong. He was also able to understand the concept of Prophethood and related it back to God.

The incident of the Fire in the story of Prophet Ibrahim introduced him to the power of God over all things as well as the concept of miracles. He even acknowledged the existence of the Angels which was something I was slightly concerned about due to the complexities of the unseen world.

I didn’t realise that he had understood and absorbed so much of this story until a few months later when I began reading the series of kids books titled ‘Stories of the Prophets’ to him.While I had prepared myself for the questions that might have ensued, to my astonishment, he had a firm understanding of the core concepts which facilitated his understanding and appreciation of the stories of all the Prophets – This is when I truly appreciated and understood the value of these movies.

I’ve also seen kids watch some of these videos without benefitting at all from them so it’s important not to force it on to young kids and to ensure you have the time and patience to address their questions and concerns. Parents should be watching these videos with their kids so it becomes more than just entertainment. I believe this applies to all types of entertainment, if you’re comfortable exposing your kids to something, the least you can do is expose yourself to it so you know exactly what your child is being subjected to.

The Zaky and Friends brand has grown substantially over the last few years and as a Muslim Parent in Australia, I am proud of their success and grateful for their efforts. May Allah increase them, I look forward to many more videos In Sha Allah and I’m hoping my daughter also enjoys their works.

The DVD’s and merchandise are available on the One4Kids website as well as a number of other Online Stores. Click here for a preview of Story Time 2: The story of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim)

In the words of Merril J Fernando… ‘Do Try It’ 😉 – Your kids will thank you one day!

I hope many more kids can benefit from these videos In Sha Allah!

Assalaamu Alaikum!

Ramadan Prep… Clearing up the clutter once again!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Ramadan 2014 is fast approaching and with only a few weeks to go, it’s time to re-visit a few Lifestyle Optimisation Strategies. Clear up the clutter now so you can take advantage of every opportunity during the month of Ramadan.

  • Make up previous year’s missed fasts / Pay Fidyah, etc. depending on your circumstances
  • Take advantage of fasting during the month of Sha’ban
  • Recite Quran – if possible, complete your current recitation and begin a new one in the month of Ramadan
  • Get a good sleep cycle going so you can handle waking up for Suhoor/Sehri
  • Go easy on socialising and social media so you can avoid unnecessary talk/chat, etc – something I need to work on this In Sha Allah.
  • Limit the amount of Entertainment/Television/Gaming, etc
  • Plan your meals early – Ramadan is not just about food but since we need to eat and drink, plan your menu in advance and make all necessary preparations so you don’t waste time in the kitchen. My wife’s in charge of this department and I’m sure she’ll be sharing some of her Ramadan recipes on ModestMunchies.com
  • Shop now – get your shopping done early, stock up on groceries and your Eid clothes too so you’re not frequenting the shops when you can be benefiting from  the virtue of this auspicious month.
It’s been a year since the last Ramadan, take this opportunity to get back into the zone so you don’t waste valuable time trying to find your feet. Prepare early, prepare well and get ready for the month of Mercy.

Over the years I’ve observed how Ramadan preparation changes with our circumstances. Ramadan as a child with my family, then as a teenager, as a husband with my wife, as a new father, last year with a toddler, this year with my 4 month old daughter…Alhamdulillah.

Circumstances often change but the yearning for Allah’s mercy remains and continues to grow. This is also from the blessings of Ramadan.

May Allah extend our lives so we may witness the month of Ramadan In Sha Allah.

Hajj at home with my wife & kid!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

It usually starts with Hajj Package posters outside the mosque, then a few Hajj preparation seminars and finally the meeting and greeting as the chosen people depart on the spiritual journey of Hajj. Despite the emphasis on the importance of Hajj and in particular the first 10 days of the month, growing up I always assumed that the auspiciousness of the month of Hajj was exclusive to those actually performing the pilgrimage.

As a child I was always aware of the occasion, but I can’t remember anything special or different during the month of Hajj. The one time it really impacted me was the year my parents undertook the journey and left my sisters and I at home with the grandparents. When you’re a kid and you’re parents leave for such a long time, the Hajj memories you’re left with aren’t so great. Nevertheless, it was the one year, we experienced something different during the month of Hajj.

This year was a little more eventful and spiritually uplifting. As soon as Hajj approached, Facebook & Twitter were flooded with messages and reminders of the importance of Hajj and some of the commendable acts of worship associated with the first ten days. I was reminded everyday and the reminders alone instilled a sense of awareness and I found that engaging in some of these acts of worship and even fasting during these days became instinctive. Social media is not all bad, but you have to be engaged with the right people, groups & organisations to benefit from them.

At home I was reminded about Hajj through my wife’s awesome idea of a Hajj advent calendar for our 2 and half year old son. The calendar had little pockets for each day of the first 2 weeks of Hajj and he would get to open one of the pockets each day. I’ll leave the details of the calendar for my wife’s blog but by acknowledging the importance of each day and making an effort to do activities relating to the events that took place and take place during Hajj, we were constantly reminded of the importance and significance of Hajj and then Eid.

My son loved the idea and by Eid day had learnt about Hajj, the Ka’ba, Ihram, Tawaaf, Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) etc and became enthused about Eid day and the idea of one day visiting the Ka’ba In Sha Allah. All it took was a poster and a brilliant idea from my wife but the results were amazing. Being able to celebrate and enjoy Hajj at home with the family was truly a blessing. The highlight of my Hajj at home was watching my son get confused with the extra Takbeer at the Eid Salaah… truly heartwarming.

With the end of the month of Hajj and the beginning of a new Islamic year, my aim is to find ways of integrating faith and spirituality into every month. Ramdhan and Hajj are special indeed, but in order to counter the moral imbalance of the world our children live in, we need these reminders more often. I’m hoping the wife has a few more ideas up her sleeve or possibly on her blog.

 

Ramadhan Prep… Clear up the clutter… Again!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Ramadhan 2013 is fast approaching and with only a few days to go, it’s time to consider a few Lifestyle Optimisation Strategies. Clear up the clutter now so you can take advantage of every opportunity during the month of Ramadhan.

  • Make up previous year’s missed fasts / Pay Fidyah, etc. depending on your circumstances
  • Read Quran – if possible, complete your current recitation and begin a new one in the month of Ramadhaan
  • Get a good sleep cycle going so you can handle waking up for Suhoor/Sehri
  • Go easy on socialising and social media so you can avoid unnecessary talk/chat, etc
  • Limit the amount of Entertainment/Television/Gaming, etc
  • Plan your meals early – Ramadhaan is not just about food but since we need to eat and drink, plan your menu in advance and make all necessary preparations so you don’t waste time in the kitchen.
  • Shop now – get your shopping done early, stock up on groceries and your Eid clothes too so you’re not frequenting the shops when you can be benefiting from  the virtue of this auspicious month.
It’s been a year since the last Ramadhan, take this opportunity to get into the Ramadhan zone so you don’t waste valuable time trying to find your feet. Prepare early, prepare well and get ready for the month of Mercy.
Over the years I’ve realized how Ramadhan preparation changes with our circumstances. Ramadhan as a child with my family, then as a teenager, as a husband with my wife, as a new father, this year with a toddler… It’s a good feeling!
May Allah extend our lives so we may witness the month of Ramadhan InshaAllah.

Re-thinking kids entertainment…

In the name of God, most Gracious, most Merciful.

As part of my house husband duties over the last 6 weeks, I had to keep my boy entertained while I worked through my to-do list in the office. Unfortunately  the TV is a great distraction so when I needed time to get some serious work done, I would be happy for him to keep himself occupied watching some of the kids tv shows that play through the day. We have been mindful of the types of programs he watches but when you’re busy and occupied yourself, it’s not easy to regulate what he watches.

Just today I was getting some work done in the lounge and I heard something very peculiar on one of the kids channels. This ice man character was trying to convince this fire-ish mummyfied looking creature not to harm the little kids so he began offering him bribes, this was on of them… “here’s a pair of night vision x-ray goggles for when you have a lady friend over”.

My kid’s 2 and half and I know he didn’t get it but what the hell is this sort of content doing on a kids show… on the ABC? I’m a big fan of mature humour and wit in certain animated features but as a father, I can not accept adult or sexual humour on a kids show. Not to mention the fact that the mummyfied creature represented a being that was created from fire and at one point during the show attempted to possess the little kid. This is not children’s entertainment.

If you have young kids and you’re happy with them spending hours watching tv everyday, you should seriously stay home and watch with them one day. You will be disgusted at what they are exposed to and what passes as entertainment these days. I’ve been home for the last 6 weeks and I am not comfortable any more.

I don’t agree with the TV being used as a tool of distraction in the first place but I will admit, it works and sometimes that’s what you need. I think it’s important to know and understand the tv shows they do watch and it’s our responsibility as parents to protect them from anything that might not be appropriate for them.

I didn’t think I’d have to do this for a 2 and a half-year old and I’m afraid of what he might be exposed to as he grows up. Some of the older kids/teenage shows are very disturbing and unlike toddlers, there aren’t too many alternatives. For now I’ll stick to Play School, Sesame Street and our collection of Zaky videos. I’m looking for more Islamic kids entertainment as well which will be helpful with Ramadhaan around the corner.

Wife’s done this week InshaAllah so I’m hoping that with the 2 of us at home, we can find a viable alternative to the TV. Bearing in mind that kids will always do what they see their parents doing, we might need to make some changes first.