In this counseling answer:
“When your son asks where does Allah live, it is important to first point out that Allah is not like us or anything else in creation. Then, rather than trying to tell him where Allah is – for a six year old cannot understand that Allah is above having direction, beginning or end, i.e. He is not bounded by place or time or space – try to tell him that He is the Creator of us as well as where we live and everything in it. Point to His attributes of mercy and grace by mentioning how Allah creates all the things that your son loves, all the beauty in nature, animals, fish, etc. ”
As-salamu`alaykum dear sister,
The burden of raising a good Muslim child is indeed a challenging one, that’s why its reward is paradise, and the higher the degree in paradise you want the more the effort you should make.
This duty is even more difficult to parents raising their children in the west where you have to do several jobs concerning`aqeedah (beliefs).
First, building the true belief of a Muslim which means linking the child (since he starts to realize) to the principles of faith, the pillars of Islam and the foundation ofShari`ah ( worship, manners, creed..)
Second, preventing the other believes around from penetrating into the pure innocent minds of our children.
Third, guarding this belief all through his childhood and adolescence until he is fully responsible of himself.
To build a true knowledge of Allah, we have to start very early and give the right amount of information according to age, and the best way of building the Muslim faith is to do it insensibly, that’s what I do with my children, and al-hamdu lillah it is working, but how to do it insensibly?
The moment the child is borne we should say the Adhan (call to prayer) in his right ears and the Iqamah in his left one, and try to make the words la ilah ila Allah (there is only one God), one of his first uttered words
During his childhood let the Qur`an be on as much as you can, read the Qur’an beside him and let him play around, hold him on your legs and let him look in the pages while you read.
Let him be around during your prayers, and allow him to jump over you without shouting at him, let him listen to your du`aa’ (which is very effective), speak about Allah as something real in your life, e.g:
-Allah was so generous with me today
-Al-hamdu lillahthis errand was easy
-I needed money and Allah gave it to me
-Mention His name before and after eating
-Say subhan Allah (glory be to Allah) upon seeing thunder, rain, and so on. Don’t expect a child to learn everything at one go, only what is easy to pronounce.
Check out this counseling video
-When you get him a new clothes or a new toy, instead of saying daddy got it , say Allah gave us..etc
The aim behind all of this is to entrench Allah’s existence in their talk and in their minds. Additionally, we need them to get used to the sayings of Allah’s Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in all situations, Always smile when you mention His name and insert words like compassion, mercy, love within your words, this is called conditioning, and this way the child will grow up having a very deep sense of Allah, His presence and His gifts, and your son will insensibly love Allah followed by you as a living example. By demonstrating the spiritual in your lives, a child growing up is then more able to grasp and understand the subliminal nature of things, and the presence of Allah in everyday life.
So where is He and what does He look like? The problem is that you live in a Christian environment which tends to personify Allah, so don’t panic and take it easy, these are just as you said” pure 6-year-old questions”, try to follow these guidelines:
-Start as early as three or four years (before he start asking) to say words as Allah is so beautiful, but He doesn’t look like us, yet He sees us and hear our du`aa’, He knows our needs and feel our pains, and don’t get bored of repeating these meanings in different ways, your son will get their sensation even if he didn’t fully understand their meaning.
-The reciting of Qur’an and memorizing it (preferably in masjid) could start as early as four years, let him say Surat Al-Ikhlas a lot, it miraculously builds the `aqeedah
“Say: He, Allah, is One, Allah is He on Whom all depend, He begets not, nor is He begotten, And none is like Him” (112)
-When he start asking, don’t shout at him or give him a bad look, it is much better to ask than to keep questions within his chest and grow up in suspicion. Tell him calmly and with a smile that we can never imagine Him and only true believers will be permitted to look at him in paradise, He is so glorious that our eyes can’t see him and at that age it is enough for him to know that Allah is up high in the sky as this is what prophet Muhammad accepted from a young uneducated girl, when he asked her where is Allah and who am I? She said Allah is in the sky and you are His messenger and this was enough for her age.
As he gets older you can explain more what you have already established in his heart. For example:
Allah although so high in His throne yet near the true believer and listens to his thoughts.
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me” (Al-Baqarah 2)
And He says:
“We are nearer to him than his life-vein”(Qaf 50:16).
And we can’t see him because a God should not be seen, if our eyes sees something then it has accommodated it and had power over it which contradicts with the utmost power of God.
“No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things” (Al-An`am 6)
Besides as you know, not seeing something is no proof that it doesn’t exist, we don’t see people in other countries yet they exist, we don’t see electricity yet we feel its effect, we don’t see our souls yet it is within us, we don’t hear people talking in “Malaysia” yet sure there are some of them talking, we don’t understand the theories of Newton now but when we grow up we might understand them, similarly…our eyes can’t see Allah now and our ears can’t hear Him now , that’s why in paradise we will be created or modified in a different built capable of seeing the Almighty.
“Some faces, that Day, will beam (in brightness and beauty);- Looking towards their Lord“ (75:22– 23)
Even Moses the great prophet couldn’t see Allah in the way he is but in paradise he will be able to see The Lord in sha’ Allah
“My Lord! show me (Thyself), so that I may look upon Thee. He said: You cannot (bear to) see Me but look at the mountain, if it remains firm in its place, then will you see Me; but when his Lord manifested His glory to the mountain He made it crumble and Musa fell down in a swoon” ( 7:.143)
Logically and calmly ask him about the provisions around us, did someone invent them or they have invented themselves, then ask him did we see all those inventors, and if not, so similarly Allah created us and still we can’t see Him.
Bedtime is a good time for stories, you can teach him whatever you want through stories and you can read to him about the manners of the little Muslims and recite the bedtime du ‘aa`, and tell him that it protects you and you are safe now. Always talk with kindness, confidence, and an encouraging smile that what you are saying is the truth and that he is on the right path.
Be patient with him as he may come back from school with lots of stories, information and myths, just listen to him and don’t let him keep anything inside for fearing your reaction, answer logically while stressing upon the fact that he is different than others in his belief and that his belief is the right one.
A bit by bit and through the years you will build a very good Muslim in sha’ Allah just don’t rush things and give him religious teachings relevant to his perception level. Consider age and degree of understanding and always make du`aa’ that Allah would help you and reward you for your deeds.
I’ll always be happy to help you if you son has more questions because his inquisitiveness is a good sign. So, prepare yourself with faith and knowledge and may Allah bless you all.
And finally – Any good is from Allah and any mistakes are from myself.
From Counselor Abdul-Lateef Abdullah
As salamu `alaykum,
As parents of young children we are often faced with the incredible challenge of laying the groundwork for our children’s understanding of God and Islam. Undoubtedly, the answers we provide them at this early age will have a major impact on their understanding and practice of Islam perhaps for their entire lives. Even though the questions sound very basic, they are in no way easy to answer and even as adults I am certain that many of us continue to ask the same questions everyday.
An important consideration in trying to answer your child is the language that the family is used to using on a daily basis. This is important so that when you respond to your child, you answer him/her in a way that is easy to make sense of given the language that he is used to hearing. For example, if you try to respond to your son with a lot of Arabic terms that he has never heard before because that is how you understand the question, chances are he will not have a clue as to what you are talking about. As such, you must explain it to him with things that he sees and is familiar with.
Rather than answer the question directly, which in reality cannot be answered in such a manner due to the nature of the question and the reality of Allah, it is better to focus on Allah’s works, acts and attributes. In other words, focus on the painting rather than the painter.
So, for example, when your son asks where does Allah live, it is important to first point out that Allah is not like us or anything else in creation. Then, rather than trying to tell him where Allah is – for a six year old cannot understand that Allah is above having direction, beginning or end, i.e. He is not bounded by place or time or space – try to tell him that He is the Creator of us as well as where we live and everything in it. Point to His attributes of mercy and grace by mentioning how Allah creates all the things that your son loves, all the beauty in nature, animals, fish, etc. etc.
Try and use analogies, such as the painter and the painting. Even though we may not ever see the painter, we can know a lot about him by his paintings. Or the writer, the same idea, or the musician and so on. Everything has a creator and Allah is the Creator of everything! In this way, try to build your son’s level of appreciation, gratitude and love of Allah as the One that provides him with all the things he sees and likes, rather than ending up giving anthropomorphic answers (astaghfirullah) to such difficult questions.
Don’t try to directly answer questions like Allah having eyes and ears like we do, but rather talk about how Allah is so great that He sees and hears everything in a way that we cannot yet fully understand. Don’t focus on the eyes and ears, but rather talk about hearing and seeing all. It’s also ok to admit that you don’t know something as a parent. That’s a lot better than lying to your child or giving erroneous information, or worse, telling the child that he cannot ask questions simply because we cannot answer them!
These types of answers simply suppress a child’s natural desire to know His Lord which is an essential aspect of our fitra. If it is not handled in a gentle and tactful manner, we may end up suppressing that natural desire to learn and know about Allah, which is a terrible crime in and of itself.
This is a good reminder for all of us as well. By looking carefully and being conscious of all the wonderful and beautiful things we see in life, we can re-orient ourselves to be more like our children by increasing our awareness of Allah’s greatness and sublimity through his creation.
But this does not have to wait until our children ask questions about it. In our daily lives we should be mentioning Allah’s greatness by talking with our families about these things. We should be reminding one another in our homes as to where our blessings come from that we receive every day, and who is the Creator of them all. We should be contemplating and reflecting on our life events and sharing with one another about Allah’s mercy, grace and appreciation of obedience and remembrance.
By doing this, your child will have an easier time understanding it for it will help him to begin to think and understand everyday things in this manner, rather than just asking a random question here or there. If you are already doing this, then al hamdu lillah, for we all should be more conscious of doing it.
The inability to ‘see’ Allah with the eyes is a fact of this life alone. However, the Prophet (SAW) and his family and Companions taught us that we will be able to gaze upon our Lord, in sha’Allah, in the Akhira (Hereafter). This is and should be the ultimate motivation for all of us, i.e. the vision of Allah. We are taught that there is no greater state or goal than this – to be in the direct presence of Allah through His mercy. As such, this should be our ultimate motivation as Muslims and how we live our lives:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Once the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) asked him: O Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), Will we be able to see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection? He said: Do you feel any difficulty in seeing the Sun at noon when it is not cloudy. They said: No. He further said: Do you feel any difficulty in seeing the Moon at the night of full moon when there is no cloud. They said: No. Thereupon he said: By Him who holds my life! You will not face any difficulty in seeing Allah as much as seeing one of them… (Muslim, Abu Daud)
Use this as a motivator for yourself and your family. This life is to learn about Allah through His attributes, names, acts and qualities, i.e. to know His greatness so that He can be known as God/Lord/Sustainer of all that exists.
This requires us to use our intellect to develop the yearning to know Allah through obedience, contemplation, investigation, reflection, admiration and worship to arrive at awe of the Creator in spite of not being able to ‘see’ His essence.
The ‘veils’ of creation that do not allow us to see Allah’s essence are what define this existence. However, once the veils have been removed through death, Allah – as the Prophet (SAW) taught us – will be seen in all His glory, in sha’Allah.
So this life has a wisdom of its own that we must try to teach our children, which is to know Allah through the wonderment of what He creates as well as through His revelation (i.e. the Qur’an) and our own selves. This is why Islamic education is not complete unless it uses all three of these as means and signs pointing to the Creator.
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