Waking your Teen Up for Fajr Series. Part 3

Rise for Success!
A practical Fajr training programme for the whole family.

In the final part of this series, we introduce you to a programme of steps that can lead your whole family on a path towards Jannah, in shā Allāh.

As discussed in parts 1 and 2, setting the right example and modelling the behaviour you would like your teenager to have towards prayer, is essential in raising a young person who is able to pray Fajr regularly and with focus. Therefore, the following training programme has been developed to help the entire family learn and progress together towards obtaining better commitment to Fajr and a deeper connection with Allāh.

“For verily, with hardship comes ease. Verily, with hardship comes ease.” Qurān, 94:4-5

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Waking your Teen Up for Fajr Series. Part 2

A Deeper Understanding of the Realities of Fajr.

In the first part of our special series, we discussed some of the difficulties that many families face in successfully encouraging teenagers and children to pray Fajr. Now in this second part, we go deeper in addressing the realities of raising young people who pray consistently and on time. In conjunction with the practical steps in Part 1, we will help you discover the key to Fajr for all the family.

Finding the root cause
Encouraging your young person to get up for Fajr is no mean feat. Turning on the light, rousing them gently enough to wake them but not hard enough to shock them is tricky: you can end up with a moody, incoherent adolescent who gives a whole new meaning to irritable, OR you have a teenager who keeps saying “I’m getting up!” but promptly falls straight back to sleep. That is if your child rises at all – for some, no matter how much you tell them, it’s not that they can’t get up, it’s more that they simply don’t want to pray in the early hours of the morning.

Whilst you may have already implemented many of the practical steps in Part 1, you may be wondering why you haven’t seen a change yet in your teen’s attempts to pray Fajr. It is important to remember that discussing the importance of Fajr and sending them to bed earlier, won’t be a quick fix to motivating them to pray – not without the correct foundations in place.

New family habits.
Many psychological studies show that it takes repeated action of a new behaviour up to 30 times to instil a habit – and therefore break or replace an old one. Many of our behaviours are learnt. They are often concepts of what we believe we should say or do, learnt earlier in life. Often these learnt behaviours take place at a young age when our view of the world and where we fit within it was being formed. But just as a behaviour can be learnt it can also be unlearnt – and replaced with something better.

Instilling in your children and teenagers the correct way of life is more than providing them instruction on what to do. If your adolescent children have not experienced or witnessed you praying Fajr throughout their younger years, they have already learnt the option of sleeping through the prayer instead. They may have even gathered the opinion that Fajr is not important or does not apply to them.

Now that your children are older, no matter how many times you try and impart to them the wisdom of prayer, it has little impact upon them: in fact, you wonder if it simply goes in one ear and out of the other. As such, you feel your attempts at teaching your teenager to pray falls on deaf ears and their Fajr prayer remains non-existent, inconsistent or lacks sincerity. The example (or lack of) that they witnessed from you as they grew has now become a learnt behaviour for them, too.

Setting a sincere example.
All children look to the adults around them, their primary caregivers, for example of how to behave and to tell them what is acceptable, what is expected and to establish their identity.

In Islām, our responsibilities as parents should be taken very seriously. We are gifted children by Allāh as a trust but also as a test. How will we raise them? How will we look after them? What will we do and how will we show our gratitude to Allāh?
The Qurān mentions several times that children are a test and a trial for us. But what does this mean? Yes, surely it is a test to raise them, but this goes beyond the physical struggles or the trying of our patience. The test we have of our children relates fundamentally to the way in which we raise them and the gravity with which we understand this responsibility:

Ibn ‘Umar reported that the Prophet, (sal Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of the people of his house and he is responsible. A woman is the shepherd of the house of her husband and she is responsible. Each of you is a shepherd and each is responsible for his flock.” (Muslim)

Whilst the hierarchical structure of the family unity should be upheld, it can be humbling for a parent to also realise how our own behaviours manifest themselves in our own children. As they learn from us, they become a reflection of us:

Aboo Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (sal Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “A believer is a mirror to another believer” (Aboo Dawood).

It therefore stands to reason that in understanding the responsibility and trust of raising children we must also see that to raise Muslim children successfully, we must correct our own behaviours as much as we seek to correct theirs. That which we wish them to be, we must be first.

Encouraging your teenager to rise and pray Fajr consistently will be easier when they see you take the same approach to prayer and other areas of your life and Deen. When you demonstrate your own commitment, even when your children are young, you are setting them the example which will dictate their whole perception and understanding of how they view prayer and ultimately, how they view Islām. They will become the mirror of you.

Sincerity leads to attachment to prayer.
Helping your children to get up and pray is one thing although leading them to the prayer mat is only half the battle. Whilst going through the motions of prayer holds some merit, without Khushoo’ in prayer, your teenager may hold only an insecure attachment to the notion of praying. Khushoo’ is not something they can necessarily imitate from you – Khushoo’ comes from the heart of each individual and is between the Muslim and Allāh.

Developing Khushoo’ is something that many adult Muslims struggle with from time to time. However, without this, our prayer can become a series of ritualistic and empty motions. Although we may be praying and praying on time, we are depriving ourselves of the true benefit of prayer. For our young people as well, especially those starting out in prayer, lack of sincerity and focus during prayer can lead to distraction and abandonment.

Attachment leads to Khushoo’.
To help your teenager, develop Khushoo’ in all their prayers, including Fajr, you should:
Help them to understand the recitation – many parents don’t see the point of reading Qurān in English or another language. But if Arabic is not your mother tongue, a well-regarded transliteration can be an ideal accompaniment for giving context and meaning to Qurān recitation. When a person of any age, understands the words they are speaking in prayer, they will much more be able to focus and develop a closer connection to Allāh.
Turn off distractions: turn off any television, music, computer and put your phone on silent. Try and pray in a blank or clear space where there are not many items to be distracted by.
Encourage deep breathing and clearing the mind. Focus solely on intention to pray and why we should pray, before beginning salah.
Set the right example: pray with them, pray on time and pray even if your prayer is late (more on this below!) Show them the commitment you wish to see in them.

Balancing prayer and sleep
With all the advice and guidance about the importance of prayer for the young Muslim, it is only right that we should talk about the need of sleep. Children and teenagers need sleep – more than we as adults do. They also have long days studying at school and usually other commitments, too. Therefore, we understand that adequate sleep is essential to their healthy development, their mood, and has been linked to better academic performance and achievement.

For the child aged 11- 15, it is only natural to be concerned that waking in the night to pray will leave them sleepy and tired at school the next day. For the older teen, around exam time, this is also a very justifiable concern. Your teenager may also have existing health conditions that also require a good amount of sleep.

All of these are relevant parental concerns when teaching your child about the importance of Fajr prayer.
To counteract this, it is wise to instil a little common sense. Should you see your teenager not coping with the Fajr routine, consider lessening the time of prayer. Wake them just for wudhu’ and straight to the Fard prayer and immediately back in to bed. Keep main lights off and use a lamp or other muted lighting and get them to pray in their bedroom so they can fall straight back to sleep after.

If you feel that they cannot handle the prayer still, then bring their bedtime forward. Try this routine for a few days and see if it makes a difference. Alternatively, consider carefully the timing of Fajr according to the time of year. In the winter months, Fajr can finish as late as 6.30 – 7.00 am (according to the country that you live in) – meaning your teen could just get up a little earlier, pray Fajr and then begin getting ready for school or college.

Missing prayer – what to do?
Sometimes no matter how hard you or they try, the alarm goes off and the next thing you know your eyes open again and the time for Fajr has ended. What felt like a couple of minutes rest after hitting the snooze button, turned back into an hour or more of sleep! You or your teenager wake up and realise that the light coming through the window means only one thing: Fajr time has finished.

Many of us will at this point turn back over and continue sleeping – thinking that we can make up our prayer at any other time because of accidently sleeping through. However, this is bad practice and leads to a lazy approach to prayer and is something you should also teach your teenager to handle properly. Remember, when the prayer time has finished, that prayer can never be made up. If you accidently missed it, you can pray it and hope that Allāh accepts, and he will if you’re sincere, in shā Allāh. That is, if you wake up and realise you’ve slept through, then that is when you should pray straight away. This removes the burden from you as well as keeping you in the habit of waking from sleep to pray and helping you to work back towards praying on time. However, turning over and going back to sleep moves you from accidentally sleeping through, to being negligent of the prayer. It is important for your child to know the difference.

Developing a deeper understanding of the reality of the struggle of Fajr prayer is essential if you are to support your teenager. It may also help you with your own struggles. Fajr prayer is fundamentally important and missing it is one of the signs of a hypocrite. It is without comparison of its worth for the believer.

The Messenger of Allāh (sal Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘If the people knew what (reward) there is in the ‘Ishā prayer and Fajr prayer, they would come even if they had to crawl.'” (Ibn Majah)

Join us in our 3rd and final part for details of our 4 Tier Fajr Training system which will have the whole family up in prayer together Insha’Allah.

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Waking your Teen up for Fajr

How to win the early morning battle.

Training yourself to wake up for Fajr consistently is a struggle many Muslims are familiar with. The working day in the Western world does not accommodate well for middle-of-the-night prayer – consequently, getting out of bed to pray can be difficult.

Never more so than for teenagers who typically like to stay up late and then sleep in for long periods. Many parents the world over struggle to rouse their pre-teen and teenage children from their beds for prayer. What should be a peaceful and rewarding moment, can become a battleground and struggle with teenagers who simply refuse to get up or who do so with a moan and an argument.

Early morning reward
The reward for Fajr is so huge that it is not to be underestimated. Out of our five daily compulsory prayers, Fajr is the one which holds some of the biggest struggles but perhaps some of the best rewards, Allāhu alim.

The prayer is due at the time of dawn – hence it is known as Salāt al-Fajr or ‘The Dawn Prayer’. It is prayed just before the dawn begins and is heavily narrated and documented in the Qurān and Sunnah:

“So, establish the Prayer after the declining of the sun (from its zenith, for Dhuhr and then Asr) to the dusk of night (Maghrib and then ‘Ishā) and the [Qurānic] recitation of Fajr (prayer). Indeed, the recitation of Fajr is witnessed.” Qurān 17:78

“Whoever prays the dawn prayer, then He is under Allāh’s protection. So beware, oh son of Aadam, that Allāh doesn’t call you to account for being absent from His protection for any reason.” (Muslim)

It therefore goes without saying that to get up and pray Fajr is a necessity for every believing Muslim who is of age – which includes teenagers. Encouraging our children to pray at a young age gets them into the habit and routine of prayer so that it is not burdensome upon them when they are adults. But ultimately it is a rewardable act that will bring blessings, protection, foster a love for Allāh and is a means to wipe away sins.

Allāh’s Messenger (sal Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “During your sleep, Shaytān knots three knots at the back of the head of each of you, and he breathes the following words at each knot, ‘The night is, long, so keep on sleeping,’ If that person wakes up and celebrates the praises of Allāh, then one knot is undone, and when he performs ablution the second knot is undone, and when he prays, all the knots are undone, and he gets up in the morning lively and in good spirits, otherwise he gets up in low spirits and lethargic.” (Bukhari)

Rise and shine – not rise and whine!
The reward for Fajr prayer is immense, so why do so many adolescents struggle to get out of bed?
The most common reasons why your young adult son or daughter will find it difficult to pray are:
· Staying up late.
· Irregular sleeping patterns – constantly trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep.
· The need for longer periods of sleep due to changing and developing body.
· Screen time too close to sleep which interferes with brain activity.
· Lack of understanding of the Deen of Islām.
· Lack of understanding of the importance of prayer.
· Lack of fear and love for Allāh.

These obstacles can essentially be divided into 2 clear categories: lack of energy (physical difficulties) and lack of motivation (spiritual difficulties). All these issues contribute to a teen who simply does not get up at all to pray or who does so with a whole lot of whining!

When our teenagers are fully-grown independent adults, it will be down to them entirely to discipline themselves and get themselves out of bed for Fajr prayer. However, whilst we are parenting them, and, in their youth, there remains an obligation with us to do all we can to help them overcome these obstacles so that they too may benefit from reward.

6 Practical Tips to Beat the Battle and Rise for Fajr:

Going to bed at a reasonable hour may be half the battle when it comes to getting your teen up on time for Fajr. If you haven’t up to this point, it is not too late to instil a lights-out time and enforce it. Don’t allow them to go to bed at any time they wish – give them a clear time and make sure they stick to it. Numerous studies show that plenty of teens do not get adequate sleep and in fact they need more than most adults. Ensuring your teenager has a good amount of sleep (7 hours +) will also have the double effect of improving their behaviour, mood and attainment levels at school.

There is also more to it than just getting enough sleep. The time they go to bed will be broken in most instances to pray – depending on the time of year and therefore the time Fajr begins. It is well documented by doctors that most of us sleep in cycles of 1.5 hours, moving between light sleep, moving down to deeper sleep and dipping to REM sleep before moving back up. As we move through these cycles in on average 90 minutes, we will find it easier to wake in the peaks of lighter sleep.

Therefore, when working out bedtimes and waking times for Fajr, it is beneficial to calculate according to the 1.5 cycle. For example – if you need to wake for Fajr at4.30 am then it may work well for your teen or you to sleep at 10.00pm.

10.00 pm – 11.30 pm, 11.30pm – 1.00 am, 1.00am – 2.30 am, 2.30am – 4.00am. Waking at 4.00 am will then allow you enough time to do wudu and read Qurān before praying Fajr at 4.30 am.

2.Screen time.
Some of the battle that you may have when negotiating lights-out time with your adolescent may involve reluctance to turn off mobile phones, tablets, TV or computer games. This is where every parent needs to be disciplined. Not only do things like computer games and social media detract from an Islāmic way of life, they also pose a danger in terms of safeguarding. Ensuring your teen has only supervised access to the internet in any form and with proper parental controls is very important.

When it comes to how this affects them waking up for Fajr, screen time can have a direct affect on the quality of their sleep. The light emitted by screens as commonly used on smartphones and tablets is short-wavelength-enriched and has a higher concentration of blue light. This interferes with the brain’s ability to shut down and prepare for sleep by disrupting the production of melatonin, the hormone released in the brain to ease sleep.

Enforcing a no screen-time rule at least 30 minutes prior to sleep will make a big difference to the quality of sleep, the impact on their 1.5-hour sleep cycle and how easily they wake for Fajr.

Practically, how you wake up your teen will also have an impact. Whilst it is advisable and recommended for families to wake one another for Fajr, give your teen an alarm which they place on the other side of the room. Make the most of their beloved phone – set an alarm and disable the snooze! If they must get up and cross the room to turn it off, then they are up! And then it will be time for prayer. Alternatively, you can download several Apps which require the user to answer questions (general knowledge or maths) before the alarm will silence – these help to wake the brain up and remove the desire to hit the button and go back to sleep.

Of course, the best preparation for waking up in time to pray Fajr is going to sleep with the right intention. Help your teen to understand the importance of Fajr prayer and that by intending to wake up, they will be rewarded AND more likely have a chance of easily waking up. Our internal ‘alarm clock’ or the power of intention can actually help the body wake up in time. If Fajr is at 5.00 am, it is possible to train yourself to wake up a few minutes before – all by going to sleep with that intention.

Another aspect of preration before sleeping and which goes together with the no screen time rule, set bedtimes and right intention, is ending the day by reading from the Qurān. Encouraging reading of books before bed is a common practice and a good way to wind down in bed before turning off the light. Reading just a few pages of Qurān before sleep will help set the frame of mind for Fajr.

Going to sleep with wudhu’ is also another measure which is highly advisable and from the Sunnah. This in turn will also prepare body, mind and spirit for restful, productive sleep which is focused on Allāh and ready to wake for worship.

The Messenger of Allāh (sal Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “When you go to bed, you should perform the ablution (wudhu’) for the prayer, and then lay down on your right side. Then say, ‘O Allāh, I have turned my face to You and I have surrendered myself to You and I have committed my back to You out of fear and desire for You. There is no place of safety or refuge from You except with You. I have believed in Your book which You revealed and Your Prophet Whom You sent.” If you die that night, you will die in fitra (natural state). And make these the last words you utter.’” (Bukhari)

The final obstacle to tackle with your teen is around their motivation. No amount of adequate sleep or alarms will do much if they are not motivated to get up and pray. Ask them how easily they may get up to go shopping for the latest game or get up to go to a friend’s house? Ask them how easily and early they wake up on the day of Eid? For immediate and short-term, tangible reward, we can all wake up and get up easily. But for spiritual reward, especially that which you may not experience until the Hereafter, it is somewhat more difficult. This is the test of Islām, and the same test applies to the struggle of waking up to pray. Understanding this reward and being motivated to gain it will help with all aspects of their faith but ultimately when they are struggling to get up, it will motivate them, too.

Therefore, Identifying the obstacles that are making it difficult to rouse your son or daughter from sleep and implementing the above practical tips, will help you and them make significant progress in waking for Fajr prayer. It may not be an instant ‘fix’ but over time, the routine and the understanding will ensure that they can rise to pray with you and may even begin to wake you up! And when this happens, the rewards you will both experience and the contentment and peace will be endless, in shā Allāh.

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Spiritually-rewarding screen time?

How modern technology can help you to raise a God-conscious child.

Being blessed with a child is one of the greatest gifts that Allāh can bestow upon us. It is also, without a doubt, one of the biggest and longest tests we can face. From birth up to age 18 and even beyond, at times it seems that our hearts walk around outside of our body as we raise our children and send them out in to the world to fend for themselves. We hope and pray they are protected and successful in this Dunya but ultimately in the Aakhirah.

When we were children…
Many parents nowadays can relate and remember their own childhood as being starkly different to that which our children face today. Hours of outside play, often without a parent in sight, freedom to roam, less distractions and less consumerism meant many of us grew up safely and securely within our own realities. Our Islāmic upbringings were more solid, traditions upheld, innocence protected and too-soon temptations minimised.

The reality today is very different. We are no longer raising children in the same time and situation that we ourselves grew up in. In the last 30 years, modern technology has revolutionised society and brought opportunity and knowledge to our very fingertips. Outside play has reduced, dangers seem to lurk on every corner and an increased awareness of risk has transformed childhood to a very different experience of 30 or more years ago.

Growing up in The Digital Age
The relenting advance of the internet, social media, satellite television and interactive technologies mean that we now live in a world where it is possible to learn anything, do anything and experiencing nearly anything. Although this means that access to Islāmic information should be more prevalent, it also means that un-Islāmic influences are now much closer to home. As technology has improved quality of life, it has also brought new challenges into our children’s lives.

Consider this: all children aged 12 years or below have only ever lived in a time when tablets were the norm. For many, a tablet holds more interest, value and attraction than a book. The concept of researching information in an encyclopaedia, a trip to the library or surviving without a smartphone are alien and often met with disbelief.

Studies have shown that over 50% of children under the age of 5 can swipe a screen with ease. Fine motor skills and language development is delayed in many, who reach school significantly behind target due to spending too much time in front of a screen. Many children aged 5 to 12 years old spend more than 4 hours a day in front of a television, tablet, computer or games console screen.

But it’s not just the amount of screen time that is the issue – it is the content. Teenagers across the world are reporting mental health problems linked to excessive social media use. Pressures to look and behave in ways not fitting with Islām are huge and access to inappropriate content is all too easy.

But all is not lost!
Managing your child’s technological diet is important to safeguard their mental and physical health. Generating a dependency on technology can have a severe effect on your child’s understanding and concept of the world and their role and purpose within this, as well as leave them spiritually malnourished and even hugely unhappy.

If you are worried about the effects of social media, games and television on your child and their Imān, it can be tempting to be reactive and introduce a complete ban or severe reduction in allowed screen time. But be careful – this can provoke a strong reaction in your child with technology and social media addiction now recognised as real conditions.

Instead it is better to manage and take control of your child’s media consumption. After all, technology isn’t going anywhere so this is a challenge you cannot win with total abstinence.

Consider implementing these 5 steps for a fresh approach and learn how to raise a child with taqwa (God-consciousness) by using technology and media to their spiritual advantage.

1. Sit down for a talk.
There is no point lecturing your child. Managing their screen time and online access requires you have a talk with them. Sit them down and discuss. They need to understand what is important in life (it’s not posting the next selfie) and take responsibility for themselves in a mature manner. This is a central component of Islāmic faith and will encourage the deeper thinking they will need to develop for strong Imān. Obviously how you speak to them and how much responsibility they need to take will be age dependent, but no child is too young to be taught halāl from harām.

2. Set boundaries.
You will need to set boundaries and agree a schedule of when they can and cannot access computer games or the internet. Teaching discipline and adherence to routine is a skill essential to life and to Islamic behaviour and worship. Younger children should have limited access to screens or games – no more than a few hours per week. Older children may use a screen every day but will need clear rules on what time screens can go on and must go off. Monitor their social media accounts at random. Change the Wifi password regularly if you need to. But most of all – stay firm no matter how much of a tantrum they pull. If you have implemented step 1 by having a talk with them, they should be able to comply with an agreed schedule relatively easily.

3. Re-focus and re-direct.
Now you have set rules on the amount of screen time, it is time to re-direct their attention away from the glitter and glamour of social media and the mind-numbing effects of video games and focus on more beneficial content. If they are already attending a madrassah or have had some Islāmic teaching, now is the time to show them how this can be translated into technology that they can enjoy. Bring the Deen alive to them in a way that appeals – look out for and show them Islāmic forums, Islāmic Facebook groups, websites and apps which appeal to their age group. Try the Ummah Stars App, available on Apple and Android, for their tablet or phone and on web.

4. Make it relevant and interesting.
The content they consume can have a direct impact on their love and understanding of the Deen. By directing them to relevant Islāmic apps, they can begin to see Islām not as an old-fashioned or irrelevant part of their lives but instead as something timeless, effortlessly modern and very relevant to their sense of identity.

Ummah Stars uses scenarios and dilemmas that are applicable to each age group of Muslim child, teamed with timely advice for parents. Through the app they can develop a love for Islām and genuinely learn and increase their knowledge. Screen time doesn’t have to be something to worry about, instead it can be a source of spiritual benefit and reward.

5. Bring it back to the Deen every time.
It is inevitable that alongside apps such as Ummah Stars, your child will access other sites or content online or through games that challenges their thinking. First and foremost, prevent and control this by having appropriate parental controls to block inappropriate content or access on ALL devices. Ensure accounts are set to private and searches restricted. This really is parenting 1.01 for The Digital Age.

Alongside technological boundaries, providing them a strong foundation in Islām in a modern way through Islāmic apps such as Ummah Stars, will enable them to recognise harām from halāl and stand strong against making poor decisions. Discuss with them what they see and read online and bring it back to the Deen every time. This will help ground their Imān by understanding Islām as the one truth and the way of life, giving them security, a strong sense of identity, confidence, faith and better mental health.

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Spiritual Health Check Report

Is your child suffering from malnutrition?

Why safeguarding and feeding your child’s soul is essential parenting.

‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar reported: The Messenger of Allāh (sal Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master and he is responsible for it. No doubt, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” (Bukhāri)

As parents we know it is our utmost responsibility to care for, protect and fulfil the needs of our children in order to raise them to be happy, healthy and well-balanced adults. From the moment Allāh bestows upon us the gift of a child, He gives to us an amānah (trust) to take care of this brand-new soul and raise them to be the best Muslims we can help them to be.

But ask any parent – raising children is no easy feat and they certainly do not come with an Instruction Manual. Thrown in at the deep end, we all learn as we go and do our best to raise them as Muslims – and yet it doesn’t always work out the way we hope.

Why do we sometimes face unexpected struggles in keeping our children on the Deen? Why do they sometimes question faith and veer off the rails as they grow up? When did it start to go wrong and why didn’t we spot the warning signs? What can we do about it?

In this report, we will explain how to spot the warning signs of spiritual malnutrition, the obstacles and dangers to look out for and what you can do to help your child’s soul feel fulfilled, nurtured and ultimately – content.

Analysis: An epidemic amongst our children.
The pressure of modern living can mean that often parents are navigating parenthood with very little time and resources. Changing times throws obstacles at us that we ourselves did not have to contend with when we were children. Exposure to society through school and social events mean that as parents we aren’t always able to be there to protect our children from negative influences.

The result? Sooner or later, despite our efforts, our child is at risk of being neglected.
Neglect is a powerful word. It conjures up an image of the malnourished, dishevelled and hungry child in clear need of food and a warm, clean, loving home. A heartbreaking sight and one which we the vast majority of us do our utmost to prevent.

But what if not all malnutrition is so obvious? What if not all malnutrition shows itself physically? Would you know if your child was malnourished in another way? Would you know if they were spiritually malnourished?
Being able to respond to the physical needs of your child is easy for most competent parents. Knowing when your child has a fever or is weak and hungry is simple and an obvious cause for concern. Their physical health manifests itself clearly and in most cases, we respond to the signs accordingly. Spiritual malnutrition is different – like a dormant, silent illness, it can be very difficult to spot until its symptoms take over and become a real concern.
Today, there exists amongst our communities an epidemic of malnutrition that is growing in both size and influence. Many parents are struggling with pre-teens and teenagers who are drifting away from the Deen and wandering into practices of Jāhiliyah (ignorance). The warning signs begin to come in childhood around the age of 8 or 9 but often these are hard to pin down. By the time the child reaches their full-blown teenage years, Islām has become mere lip service or cultural practice that they deem irrelevant or even ‘backward’.

Possible Symptoms of Spiritual Malnutrition:
Age 7 – 10:
· Reluctance to discuss Islām and lack of interest in Islām.
· Sees Islām as something that ‘adults do’ and not applicable to children.
· Lack of gratitude more prevalent than is normal in this age group.
· Lack of empathy or understanding for others.
· Seeming embarrassed to be Muslim around friends.
· Lack of interest in prayer or Qurān – actively avoids.
· Failing to adhere to halāl/harām rules: for instance, eating harām foods when apart from family.
· An over-interest in hobbies and topics which are opposed to Islām including music, media and video games.

Age 11 – 14 +:
All of the above plus:
· Engaging in physical activities with the opposite sex.
· Interest and engagement in harām activities such as drinking or smoking.
· Rudeness, insolence and arrogance when questioned about their Deen.
· Lack of shame. Arrogance.
· Lying and refusing to abide by family rules or show respect for family.
· Resentment for Islām, Muslim culture and their ethnic culture.
· Detached from the Deen: Seeing Islām as ‘stupid’ or ‘backwards’ or ‘something my mum and dad do.’

The above symptoms can be possible signs that your child is lacking spiritual fulfilment and that their understanding and connection to Islām has become disrupted. The end result of these symptoms as your child grows up can be that they become an adult who is not at all interested in Islām, who seeks fulfilment elsewhere, lacks contentment and who ultimately strays from the Straight Path.

There can be many causes for spiritual malnutrition: this means that identifying possible risks and safeguarding against them is of key concern to the vigilant Muslim parent.
Whether you are raising your child in the Western world or within a Muslim country, there remains reasons why children can disassociate from Islām. It is very easy for each parent to assume that because they actively practice Islām, observe hijāb, have a beard and send their children to the masjid or madrassa to recite Qurān, that they are ticking all the boxes and their children will be fine in their love and understanding of the Deen.

Similarly, there are outside, negative influences within society that cannot be completely avoided but abstinence from and caution with, can help to safeguard your child’s spirituality.

Socialising and friendships: Wherever you live, your child will interact with others who do not hold the same level or belief, religiosity or understanding. They will encounter friends who are not Muslim or who may follow other faiths or who may be Atheist. Similarly, they will also make connections with Muslim families who may engage in activities which are considered mākroo or even harām.

You can’t stop your child being friends with others, nor should you. Living and interacting within a mixed and diverse community is essential for a healthy mindset and world outlook. However, being aware of who your child is friends with and discussing any differences in a healthy and respectful manner can actually strengthen your child’s love of Islām and being Muslim.

Schooling: Whether your child attends a Muslim or non-Muslim school, they will spend the majority of their time away from home and in the company of others. If your child is in a school that does not teach Islām, there may be some aspects of the curriculum which are at odds with Islām. Be sure to address these with your child and be aware of what they are learning in school. Use these instance as an opportunity to discuss the Islāmic points of view and help your child develop confidence in Islām, their beliefs and their Muslim identity.

Media – including TV, Film, Music and Video Games: Modern music videos, films, television and games are the main interests of many children and young people. They are also more often than not, filled with references to un-Islāmic practices and which glamourize un-Islāmic ways of life. This can include dating, crime, flamboyant and immodest fashions and behaviour, drinking and drug references. Much of this content may seem attractive to the young mind; fame and being fashionable, no matter the consequence, can be very tempting especially when ‘everyone is doing it.’

Be aware of the interests of your child and limit their exposure to music and screen time. Install appropriate parental controls on your internet access – including on their smartphone and other devices. Monitor and restrict their social media use and instil clear family rules with consequences. Be aware of the latest films and games that are popular – look instead at the latest Islāmic apps to maintain their interest. These actions should become standard practice for you as a parent not just protect your child’s spirituality but also to safeguard them from serious dangers such as cyber-bullying and grooming.

Despite instilling boundaries and being vigilant, sometimes the causes of spiritual malnutrition are not so obvious and despite our best efforts, we still find that our children do not have the love of Islām that we have wished for.
Consider each of these common test cases scenarios:

Test case 1:
· Parents are too busy (Work/School/financial/relationship issues): become complacent in the focus given to children.
Aisha works part-time and studies at the weekend. Her husband Ahmed runs his own business and is often away on business trips. His typical day means he leaves early in the morning and returns home late in the evening. They have 2 children, aged 7 and 10. Aisha says: One day my son (age 10) asked me, “Why do I need to be a Muslim? Why can’t I just be like a Mike or Jo in my class at school? Why can’t I just play games and have fun with my friends and why do I have to go to a weekend Islāmic school?” That moment was a sudden break moment in my life. I just paused everything and started to analyse what I had dreamed (I wanted him to be a hāfidh) and what was the reality and what was going on.

Aisha was shocked because up until that point she and Ahmed had not realised how their son was lacking spiritual fulfilment and that this was due mainly to how busy they both there. “I believe it was a bit of an advance warning of his spiritual malnutrition which made him question why he needed to be a Muslim. I didn’t see many flags and also at that time our lives were so busy… I was working longer and longer hours, my husband was away frequently trying to grow the business and I was doing my master’s at university. We thought sending him to the Islāmic school at the weekend was enough, but we were passing off the quality time we should have been spending with him and his sister, for other things that we felt took priority. Learning to recite the Qurān was not enough when not supported by us taking the time explain a love and understanding for Qurān. Our children’s spiritual and emotional needs should have remained our priority all the time, but I think we lost sight of that due to the pressures of modern living.”

Test Case 2:
· Too strict: children follow out of fear and respect for parents, rather than cultivated love of Allāh.
Muhammad and Naheeda were both brought up in cultural Muslim families where Islām was only loosely practiced. They both witnessed people around them who fell out of the Deen and embraced lifestyles which were un-Islāmic. When they became parents, they took it very seriously – to the extent that they neglected to create a two-way relationship between their children and themselves. So concerned that their children should follow the ‘right way’, they enforced rules without explanation, without teaching understanding or love for Allāh.

As their children grew up and became adults, they followed the ‘rules’ of their strict parents including wearing of hijāb from a young age, growing of a beard and reciting Qurān regularly. Restrictions were placed upon them that prevented them from experiencing other aspects of life. The consequence for mistakes was punishment and condemnation and there was no room for discussion or negotiation. Muhammad and Naheeda meant well but they placed undue pressure on their children with little mercy, such was their fear that they may fail to raise ‘good Muslim children’.

As the children grew up and gained independence, they began to drift away from Islām and their parents – losing interest and failing to keep to practices such as prayer and fasting. When asked about this, they confided that they only observed Islām as children because of the fear of their parents who was very strict and showed little mercy for questions or mistakes. As such they associated Islām with rigidity, conflict and harshness.

Test Case 3:
· Religious but not cultivated properly: With no explanation of Islām, little context and instead merely ‘going through the motions.’
‘Umar and Sarah both grew up in families where Islām was intrinsic to their culture and ethnicity. Whilst their sense of identity as Muslims was strong, they both lacked a deeper understanding of their faith. Because they grew up within their own communities, they also lacked opportunity to need to give dāwah and hence explain things like Islāmic ‘aqeedah, fiqh or answer questions.

When they married and had children of their own, ‘Umar and Sarah were able to pass on their sense of identity, culture, language and ethnicity but didn’t realise that to raise a child in Islāam in a well-balanced way, they essentially needed to give them dāwah. They had not experienced this themselves but had been raised in a time with less modern challenges. ‘Umar and Sarah’s children attended the masjid and they were proud as the children learnt to recite surah after surah, especially since Arabic was not their native tongue – however there was little emphasis placed on the need to understand the ayāts they were reading.

The girls were encouraged to wear hijāb but did so reluctantly and both sons and daughters had little understanding of the concept of hijāb of the heart. Islāmic concepts such as not free-mixing, abstaining from interest or deception and maintaining humility were adhered to only as cultural practices, at odds with modern living.

Consequently, as the children grew up, they began to move away from Islām. ‘Umar and Sarah struggled to answer questions about salāh and the need to pray. They were unable to explain adequately the spiritual benefits and significance of fasting. Issues such as going out at night, clothing, listening to music became points of contention when the parents could not justify the reasoning behind the Islāmic stance. As such, to their children who sought information, logic and reasoning for their modern lifestyles, Islām became something without substance or basis. They began to see it as both backward and irrelevant.

Nourishment for the soul: parenting solutions.
All of these situations will seem familiar to most of us. Our current generations are facing challenges in parenting that our own parents did not. Many of our children today are growing up spiritually malnourished due to the causes mentioned here and others. Perhaps the biggest cause and contributing factor though seems to be that we ourselves have become immune to spotting the signs and talking about them.
You don’t need to be an Imām any more than you need to be a Doctor, to notice the signs of spiritual malnutrition in your child. All it takes is understanding and intuitive parenting to protect and prevent your child from feeling discontent and detachment from Islām. With your prayers and a proactive approach, we can raise our children to give them a better chance to growing the love the Deen as much as we do and develop a deep bond with Allāh.

There are a number of actions that you can instil in daily life with your child in order to give them the spiritual satisfaction that they need. Don’t be shy to implement these strategies and don’t delay – it is never too late to begin healthy new habits and undo old ones, no matter their age.

Allāh loves one who tries and who seeks repentance. He also loves one who asks and He loves to be asked – so make your du’aa for success and blessings and begin your programme of spiritually fulfilled parenting.

10 Tips to raising a more spiritually content child:
1. Identify causes: The first step is to identify the factors in your child’s upbringing that may be causes for concern and draining their Islāmic connection. Make a plan as to how you will tackle these issues – be it screen time or social circles. But a word of caution: you should not cut your child off immediately or completely from all the things that they know and love – they will not thank you for it and they will only grow to resent Islām, complaining of its strictness and rigidity.
2. Open discussion: talk to your child about how much time they spend on video games, the music they are listening to or what their friends are up to. By creating a safe place to talk to you, you can broach the subject of how these things may not be a positive influence on them. When they see or hear something which is against Islām, they are much more likely to talk to you about it rather than run and hide things in secret.
3. Create an action plan and give them alternatives: if they want to go out all the time to places you are not happy with – give them alternatives. If their friends are all going to the school disco, but you don’t want them to – explain why but be sure to let them experience other more halāl social events. Cut down their social media and music interaction by limiting it to weekends or evenings only and then cut it down further from there. Introduce them to more Islāmically-inclined artists, Muslim performers and Islāmic social media apps.
4. Play an active role – make time: Parenting is the most important role you will ever have. You have been trusted with raising a child. Any parent knows how quickly time goes and that they grow up in what seems like a blink of an eye. Be sure to give your child the priority in your life that they deserve. Ask them about their day. Listen to the small stuff because to them, it is big stuff. Pay attention and they will respect and listen to you more.
5. 15 minutes every day: Identify a time in the day when you are all together. This is usually meal time for most families. Dedicate the discussion at this time to talking about an Islāamic topic. Give each person a turn at choosing a topic: stories of the Prophets, hadeeth, charity, Hajj, prayer. Make it a quiz with a prize for the winner with the most correct answers.
6. Role models: Yourself and others. Show them the best of Muslim character in yourself. Look for opportunities to show them the best examples of how to behave as a Muslim and why. Introduce them to famous Muslims through the ages – include modern day, practicing Muslim figures that they may see on television or in sport.
7. Spend time with other Muslim families: develop a sense of community within your child and let them see that they are not alone. This is especially important if they attend a non-Muslim school or Muslims are a minority in your area. Encourage fun activities and days out in each other’s company.
8. Be merciful: < strong> Allāh is Most Merciful and He is merciful on one who shows mercy to another. Your child will make mistakes in their life – just as you most likely did. They will have bad days when their attitude stinks or they simply aren’t interested. They will ask questions that may even strike you as inappropriate or rude. Entertain and tolerate them – show them mercy. They are learning. Jumping up to berate them will only alienate them from you and from Islām.
9. Clear boundaries with no contradictions: Children need security and boundaries – even teenagers. Make it clear what is acceptable and what is not. Be careful not to have double standards for boys and girls or for older and younger siblings – they will notice and they won’t forget! If you didn’t allow something one day but then relent, expect them to pick you up on it. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. And most of all, be sure to explain rules and boundaries in accordance with Islām. Do not fall foul to ‘I told you to’ or ‘because that is what we do’ – find the answers, if you do not know them.
10. Explain, teach, understand: Islām is not lip service. In it are ‘signs for men of understanding’ (Qurān 14:52). It is imperative that you explain Islām as a truth so that they may have understanding. Teach them about the miracle of the Qurān. Use logic to impart to them wisdom that feeds their belief. Speak to their fitrah with your teaching. Be sure that they hold conviction in their faith in the existence of Allāh as the Creator of All that Exists. Show them ways in simple terms, in which they can counter arguments put to them by other faiths or by Atheists. Children are often a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They also have this wonderful ability to see things as they really are, with clarity and with a perception that gets lost as we become adults.

With the ideas laid out in this report, we hope you feel confident in both identifying the causes and symptoms of spiritual malnutrition as well as what you can do about it. Ultimately, do remember that you are not alone and that every parent struggles. But with a fresh approach and some key steps, you will be able to raise young Muslims who love their religion and who in turn can impart wisdom and good example to others.

May Allāh bestow on us all His mercy and blessings so that we may fulfil our purpose in life of worship to Him and Him alone and invite others to faith through good manners and good words. Ameen.

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