This past week my boys began a new Islamic Studies class. The teacher assigned them the homework of saying “astaghferullah” 100 times a day.
They said to remember Allah and ask forgiveness.
I said, “But you are children, Allah doesn’t hold you accountable. So why should you do it?”
They shrugged and said they didn’t know.
I replied, “Well, one day in sha Allah you’re going to grow up and then Allah will hold you accountable, right? So, it’s very good to get in the habit of these things now to prepare you for later. Does that make sense?”
They said yes.
I then said, “There’s also another reason why doing this type of dhikr and dhikr in general is very good for you. When you can focus your mind on doing something by repeating it, it’s very good for your brain. Do you know why? Well, your brain is kind of like a muscle in that it needs exercise every day. Just like people spend hours in the gym doing “reps,” which is short for repetition, of different exercises or weightlifting because they are working out their body’s muscles, we need to also exercise our brain. Dhikr is a great way to do that. We focus on something and get very good at it and our brain gets stronger. It’s also very good for our hearts because anytime we call on Allah ﷻ’s name our physical and spiritual hearts, and our whole body actually gets healthier.”
In the digital age when an unprecedented amount of teens and youth, and even small children, are either addicted to devices, video games, television, or on very serious prescription medications for anxiety, depression, ADHD, and a variety of other mental health related issues, we need to empower our small children with ways to quiet their mind.
Dhikr is the best practice to teach mindfulness and meditation to children. If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend that every parent do the following:
1. Buy individual prayer beads for every member of the household based on everyone’s color/bead preferences. You can even get them involved and excited by taking them shopping to buy their own prayer beads at a nearby Islamic bookstore or online if you don’t have one in your community!
2. Keep the beads in a special container somewhere in the house that is easily accessible to everyone.
3. Have dhikr circles daily (if possible) after one of the prayers or even before bed time.
4. Teach your children that they can do dhikr by themselves whenever they are sad, upset, sick, tired, etc. Teach them from an early age to call on Allah ﷻ (not just mommy or daddy) when they are not feeling happy.
5. Give them clear objectives and goals based on THEIR preferences. Some children might like doing simple tasbih like “alhamdulillah, subhanAllah, and Allahu Akbar,” where other children might want to do salawat an-nabi or astaghferullah. Give them options of which dhikr THEY like most and let them pick that one to start. Guiding them to do what their hearts incline to instead of what you assign to them is a much better way to encourage them in sha Allah.
May Allah ﷻ guide and protect all of our children and always keep their hearts close to Him. Amīn. <3