Should we teach our children about God or wait until they grow older and decide for themselves? These days, there are people with different ideologies and beliefs. For instance, we have many people in India who worship idols. They teach their children that these stone or wooden structures are divine and sources of power. Some parents do not believe in any God and acknowledge that you should not teach your children about any deity until the children intellectually mature and decide what to believe in.
Parents Form the Preliminaries of Faith for Their Children
You, as parents, establish the preliminaries of faith and worldview in the minds of your children. Hence, it matters what you tell and teach them. If you do not form the foundation of monotheism in the minds of your children, others will put the effort to place other thoughts and beliefs in their hearts and minds.
وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَانُ لِابْنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ
When Luqman said to his son, as he advised him: ‘O my son! Do not ascribe any partners to Allah. Polytheism is indeed a great injustice.’1
Instructions of this wise father can set an example for parents in how and what to teach their children concerning faith.
When Should You Teach God to Your Children?
In the luminous words of Amiral Mu’mineen, Ali (AS), we see him saying to his son that he started transferring prominent points to him before worldly passions or troubles and tests overtook him, making him like a stubborn camel.
In the book Peak of Eloquence, we read from Ali bin Abi Talib (AS) that the heart of a child is like an uncultivated land. It accepts whatever is spread on it. Ali (AS), as a responsible father, hastened to shape his child’s heart before it hardened and his mind became busy with other thoughts.
It is often assumed that the most crucial role of a father is breadwinning for his family and their food for the soul gets marginalized and neglected.
We have designed a fantastic online course that clearly explains a man’s roles as husband and father in his family, which we highly recommend to you. It is called “An Islamic guide to man’s role in the family.”
Can Our Children Understand Concepts Such as God?
Abstract or intangible concepts are sometimes difficult to grasp by children.
The idea of God is, however, something that has its roots in the nature and soul of our children.
The Quran asserts this fact by saying,
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ۚ
So set your heart as a person of pure faith on this religion, the original nature endowed by Allah according to which He originated mankind (There is no altering Allah’s creation)2
So, your children do have a feeling about God. You just have to bring it up to the surface. At times, they ask questions about God that leave you astonished. How do such questions appear to them? It is an inner flow. It has its roots in their hearts. So do talk about God. They can understand. Hence, strive to teach your children about God from the early stages of their life. Their level of understanding is higher than their expressions of ideas through words. Do not forget that your level of teaching has to be compatible with their age.
How Messengers of God, as Fathers of Nations, Taught People About God
When you pay attention, you see that the messengers of God did not try to prove the existence of God to the people. They were mostly fighting with polytheists believing in some form of deity yet believers of idols or more than one God.
Take, for instance, the example of Noah (Nuh) when he said to his people:
أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاتَّقُوهُ وَأَطِيعُونِ
“Worship Allah and be wary of Him, and obey me.”3
Before Any Instructions, Work on Yourself as Parents
A beautiful expression says, “Words that come from the heart reach the hearts.” Before imparting any knowledge to your children, have self-development. Work on your own beliefs and try to implement your beliefs into your lifestyle and actions.
In Surah Luqman, God tells Luqman to be thankful for God’s knowledge and wisdom. Having the spirit of appreciation comes from a thoughtful and believing heart.
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ ۚ وَمَنْ يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ
Certainly, We gave Luqman wisdom, saying, ‘Give thanks to Allah; and whoever gives thanks, gives thanks only for his own sake. And whoever is ungrateful, [let him know that] Allah is indeed all-sufficient, all-laudable.’4
Do not be preachers who only pay lip service to the teachings of religion. Be a practical role model yourself.
How Can You Teach Your Kids About God?
The question is, how should you implement the concept of God and His worship in your children’s life?
Step One: Talk to Your Children About God
Mention repeatedly that
- God is present everywhere. He sees us. Even when no one else is present, and you are in a dark night. He considers the slightest good or bad that we do. He even knows what goes around in our minds and thoughts.
- God is generous, loving, and compassionate.
- God is the most essential thing in our life. That we only have to listen to Him and make Him happy. It does not matter what others think about us or say.
Have your children start all their activities with the name of God; when they want to start their day, have breakfast, read a book, get in the car, or go to bed at night.
Turn the topic into an established concept in their mind by repeating it in its proper context and in your children’s level of understanding on numerous occasions.
Step Two: Children Look Up to You, So Be a Good Role Model
The second stage involves acting mindfully and carefully as a pair of eyes follow you at all times.
In different circumstances and life scenarios, act under God’s satisfaction. Do not forget that your own beliefs about God and your behavior in life help shape your children’s beliefs and behavior. They are your mirror. The teachings at the younger years of life will be reflected in the child’s worldview and conduct later.
Step Three: Get Them Involved
The third stage is having them practice certain things. Suppose we do not encourage our children to act in a specified way. In that case, the first two stages (meaning the information we provided them) will prove ineffective. There should be no violence seen in this stage, though. You should not aggressively force them to do something. Just as we encourage and reward them for doing their homework or shining in a sports activity, we do the same for religious acts.
Let us say that we have a five-year-old child who takes his brother’s toy by force or without his permission. We inform the child that what he did is wrong, that God does not like it, and that he has to apologize. We have to lovingly encourage the child to respect other people’s rights.
I saw once a father who asked his child’s permission to eat something that belonged to the child, saying that God does not like it when people do not ask permission for things that do not belong to them. He was trying to teach the child that you have to respect other people’s rights.
Step Four: Help Your Child Enjoy the Sweetness of Being With God
Earlier, at the age of seven, we had instructed our child to pray; now, when she is ten or older, she has already had a good taste of religious practices and is eager to pray. At this level, she has come to grasp the sweetness of worship and servitude of her Lord.
Let us say she has a request, whether worldly or spiritual; we tell her to ask God for it herself. When her prayer is answered, we remind her that God fulfilled her request because He loves her, sees her, hears her, and answers her. Even if it is not immediately fulfilled, we teach her that God wants to grant her something better and that she has to be patient.
Your duty as parents is not just to provide a comfortable material life for your children and merely attend to their physical needs. Help them receive food for the soul so that in the challenges of their life, they would sense a powerful supporter such as God by their side.
- Quran 31:12 (Qarai).
- Quran 30:30 (Qarai).
- Quran 71:3 (Qarai).
- Quran, 31:12 (Qarai).