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Teaching Children Islam: Now or Later?

Questioner

Z (31-male-Canada)

Reply Date

Dec 25, 2018

Question

I was wondering at what age should I start showing my son religion and what should I do about his schooling? Should I home-school them while their mother stays in her career, or should I return to work and put them in school, thus spending an average of only 4 hours a day with them? I hear some Muslim parents do not take their children to the mosque or teach them about Islam until they are in their late teens. Isn't this too late? I am a revert to Islam (31 years old) and I would like my sons (ages 3 and 4) to avoid the difficulties I am going through living life as a Muslim. Any advice would be great.May Allah reward you for all that you do.

Counselor

Answer


Teaching Children Islam: Now or Later? - About Islam

In this counseling answer:

“Teaching your children religion is one of their rights and a duty of both the mother and the father. As we mentioned above, if your financial situation permits, you should consider how to balance out and maximize the total number of hours of functional presence that you and your wife can have with the children. Plan ahead and make religion exciting and interesting for the children. The care you take now, along with your wife, in teaching them the basics of the religion will be well worth it in the future, in sha’ Allah.”


As-salamu `alaykum.

First, give thanks to Allah that you have the option of being a full-time father. The key term to remember with regards to the parent-child relationship is “presence,” being there for the children. It is rare for the father not to work and be away from the home for a set number of hours in the day.

While this is a great option for you to stay at home, we want to suggest strongly that you reconsider the arrangement you have with your wife. It is not recommended that you go back to work and just put them in school, unless your wife is able to stop working or to cut down the number of hours she is at work.

It is not a desirable situation if both parents work and can only spend four hours a day each with the children. At this age, your children need nurturing, and there is no doubt that a mother’s merciful and nurturing approach goes a long way in developing their character, in teaching them, and in socializing them.

Of course, this does not discount the role of the father, and that is why, if it is at all financially feasible, we suggest that you both work out a schedule where neither of you is a full-time parent but somehow the mother’s presence much greater than four.


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Second, we want to spend a little time defining presence, and differentiating between functional and dysfunctional presence of the parents. In essence, functional presence is when the parents are in the home, involved in the lives of their children, and available to the children to respond to their emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical needs. Children appreciate such a presence and a strong parent-child relationship has the potential to emerge.

The concept of dysfunctional presence is applicable to parents who are physically in the house, but engrossed in their own lives, attending to their own needs only, and for whom the presence of the children is a nuisance. These types of parents usually watch television and are annoyed when their children ask them a question, request food, want to talk to them and listen to their stories, or read a book together.

If only the father behaves this way then the burden is on the mother, and the children usually witness unpleasant arguments as the mother tries to convince the father to do this, that, or the other. Of course, the situation could also be reversed just as easily, where the mother is not involved and the father tries to convince her to be involved. And the worst scenario is where both the parents are home, but cannot be bothered with the well being of their children.

Third, because you have two boys, it is imperative that you focus your energies on socializing them to be upright, righteous Muslim men, in sha’ Allah.Mothers have a role to play by teaching the boys core values, but ultimately, the boys will look to their father for the gender role model.

Since we have suggested that you go back to work, one way of maintaining functional presence would be to make sure that you take the children to the mosque at least once a day, most likely for Maghrib Prayer (Sunset Prayer), since the other Prayer times might not coincide with the children’s sleep schedule or your work schedule.

If you cannot take them, then perhaps your wife can take them. On the days you cannot go to the mosque, sit down with the children and relate stories to them about the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and other famous characters in Islamic history. You can check out different Islamic bookstores for high-quality material, in sha’ Allah. The idea is to plan ahead to spend time with your children:

* How long can you sit with them?

* What will you do with them during that time?

* Will it be a physical activity like going to the park?

* Will it be an in-house activity like reading, craft making and so on?

Whatever you choose, plan ahead!

Finally, teaching your children religion is one of their rights, and a duty of both the mother and the father. As we mentioned above, if your financial situation permits, you should consider how to balance out and maximize the total number of hours of functional presence that you and your wife can have with the children. Plan ahead and make religion exciting and interesting for the children. The care you take now, along with your wife, in teaching them the basics of the religion will be well worth it in the future, in sha’ Allah.

Talk to your wife and review some of the thoughts we have shared with you. May Allah reward you for your concern and guide you to be the best parents, in sha’ Allah.

And Allah knows best.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

 




About Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah

Dr. Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Science Study’s Community Education and Youth Studies Laboratory, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He received his B.A. from the University of Delaware (U.S.), his M.S. from Columbia University (U.S.) and his PhD from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies (PEKKA), Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005 in the field of Youth Studies. Abd. Lateef is an American who has been living in Malaysia since 2001. He is married and has 2 children.

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