Teaching our children to live as Muslims is an OK task... but teaching them to love Islam and practice its teachings are big tasks. A task which each parent is responsible for.
Friday prayers is the latest 'syllabus' that we are instilling in Al Fateh, for him to do it routinely (and as sincerely as possible). It's hard for him to go with a smile. Hey, I don't blame him, it is his weekend, he just came back from his tennis practice, his other siblings are happily at home, enjoying the swirling fan on the ceiling while he has to endure the stunning heat and glare outside. It's a big task for him to do it sincerely and without a hint of resentment. But as parents, we believe that we have to train them when they are ready and Islam has clearly suggested that at the age of 7 the children should be taught how to pray.
Friday sermons in Malaysia is not as children (or adults) friendly as the sermons we have attended in the UK or Australia. They are pre-suggested speech and the imaams have limited authority to change them. As a result, many enjoy these sermons as naptime story...
I remembered those teaching days in Australia, in a class full with Year 2 boys, I asked them as soon as they came back into the classroom after the Friday prayers, "What did you learn from the Friday sermons?" Each student had to write one on the whiteboard as they entered the classroom.
During the first few weeks, these 7-8 year old boys found it difficult to write. So I asked those who could not suggest anything to recite their istighfar 10 times outside the classroom, then they were allowed to enter the class. They did not like this punishment. However, after a few weeks, all would come into the class after Jumaah prayers and confidently wrote something on the board.
One particular scene is still fresh in my mind when Sheikh Yusuf Parker (the imam of the area) came into the class with my boys, then loudly exclaimed a long 'Aaahhhhh, now I understand why..' (after looking on the huge title on my whiteboard - WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN FRIDAY SERMONS?)
He then reported to me that one of my students, Abdul Qani, an energetic Somalian boy, raised up his hand during the Friday prayers and asked him questions. He boldly told the Sheikh that he didn't understand what he was saying and he needs to understand them because, "Sr Azza will ask us what we learn in the sermons". The Sheikh told me the congregation were impressed with his boldness and said their 'Takbir!'.
(Sheikh Yusuf Parker then re-told them the sermons using easier words, that's what the kids told me!)
In this simple event, I learned alot of things...
- The imaam has a huge role in educating. They should learn to accommodate his congregation, old AND young (and whatever political background they have!).
- Kids need to have a purpose in doing something - as parents, we need to set them. This will ensure that they are not doing things blindly, without any purpose (which also will mean wasting their time!)
- When the kids understand that they have an objective to fill, the activity will be more meaningful (but please remind your children not to ask any question during Friday sermons! It was embarrassing for me!)
- Never underestimate the power of reciting 'istighfar' loudly and publicly! hahah.. I thought it was a simple penalty, but it digs deep!