Our children enjoy reading stories. Rumaysah, especially, always has her nose in a book often at the expense of other tasks. Most mornings we clear her bed of the books she has under her pillow and scattered around her room. She has been in love with books since she was a baby. Much to the disappointment of the company we hired for our house move, our home is full of books. We used to buy Rumaysah books for every occasion, a little giraffe book after her first jab, books for Eid and more books when her sister was born.
Getting our second born to take a similar interest in reading has been a struggle of sorts. As a baby and toddler she was not the type to sit still for more than a few minutes. Books were not as stimulating as turning the place upside down. Nusaybah finally started reading and enjoying books earlier this year. At night when struggled to sleep, she would sometimes pick up a book and read quietly. During the day she’d tell her sisters about the stories and characters.
We always like to double check what our girls’ are reading and whether it is suitable and age appropriate. We have always avoided stories about princesses, magic, romance and extreme bad behaviour. Instead we encouraged books about life experiences, family bonds and mysteries which would develop thinking. This was much easier when they were younger and the books were shorter. Now they are on chapter books we do not have the time to read everything.
We had hoped to recycle her sister’s book collection, but Nusaybah had different interests. We spoke to her about books she might be interested in and bought her books about animals, families and girls. Then we came across some ‘Judy Moody’ books in our local Poundworld and ended up buying the whole collection. A brief scan of the blurb on the back told us it was about a girl who didn’t like combing her hair or schoolwork. Nusaybah connected straight away and within a few weeks she was getting through the collection waiting for her next set of books.
However, over the same time we were noticing some undesirable affects in all our children’s behaviour. Sadly there was a lot of cheekiness, disobedience and answering back. This was a really stressful time as we tried to pinpoint the cause of this behaviour and figure out how to rectify it. Although not totally to blame, it was in part the books. The girls were reading the stories and then replicating Judy’s behaviour throughout the day.
Sadly there was more to Judy’s character than what we read on the blurb. Children’s books are a representation of the society we live in. We are supposed to connect with the characters, understand their issues and relate to the problems that they are facing in life. The society we live in is characterised by behavioural ideas such as freedom and individualism, devoid of accountability. This is represented in the characters of the books which then become role models for our children to emulate.
As Muslim parents, the best role models for our children should be inspirational personalities whose lives promote good values and share our viewpoint in life.
Caught up in all the excitement of encouraging our child to read we forgot something right under our noses. That which Allah (swt) described as the “Best of stories”, the stories of the Prophets’ (peace be upon them). Our stress over the kids made us realise we had to return back to the basics and take comfort in the stories of the Prophets’. In addition we realised that we needed to connect our children with these stories and the lessons within them.
We had previously discussed the stories of the Prophets’ with our children. Infact we even ran a set of workshops outlining the message of the 5 great Prophets, but the kids were younger then with limited previous information and comprehension. Now they are getting older, the stories of the Prophets’ are a great way to touch upon some of the nuances they will face growing up in a secular society.
In addition to building firm belief in the oneness of Allah the stories of the Prophets’ can be used to tackle many current issues. Pride and arrogance can be discussed in the story of the creation of Adam (as). The story of Yusuf (as) highlights the reality of jealousy between siblings. The example of the lust that the wife of the Aziz had for Yusuf (as) could be used to discuss the attraction between males and females. The story of Lut (as) can be used to describe the correct family structure, an idea which is being challenged in modern society. In addition, we have the strength of thought of Ibrahim (as), the persistence of Nuh (as), the struggle of Musa (as) with both Firawn and Bani Israel, the list is endless.
Children need to be connected to the stories of the Prophets’. These are not just stories from the past, it was these very stories that reinforced the heart and furthered the resolve of the Prophet (saw) and the companions during the early days of the dawah in Makkah. We need our children to become strong personalities that are able to withstand the strong winds that blow. The stories of the Prophets’ are one means to help build these strong personalities.
Over the coming months we will endeavour to share some angles and concepts that can be extracted from the stories of the Prophets, together with any useful learning resources.
Below are the links to “The Ladder to Jannah” which we developed a few years ago. The idea behind this was to take the children on a journey, collecting lessons from each of the Prophets’ stories on each rung. By implementing these lessons we make our way to Jannah, Insha’allah.
“We relate to you, [O Muhammad], the best of stories in what We have revealed to you of this Qur’an although you were, before it, among the unaware.” [TMQ Yusuf : 3]