in my post of the last year, I have mentioned again and again the importance of the practice of prayer and meditation, as tools to enter a space of inner communion with the higher self. I shared how easy it is to turn everyday life activities into meditation by adding mindful awareness to them; posted a study from the University of Harvard on the impact of meditation on the brain; let you know about the success Schools in San Francisco have by adding meditation to their curriculum; and most importantly, I shared how it is even scientifically proofed that group meditation can change the energetic field of the entire world. And of course in many of my pieces I mentioned the effectiveness of prayer to the energies of the Ascended Master Realms.
Nearly a year ago I ran into this wonderful article describing how to pass on a sense for cultivating commitment and bliss in our daily practice of prayer. While reading the piece I realized, that the author speaks with such a beautifully open heart and from such deep insides into human nature, that sharing her piece is of big value for many. The article is a very long one, that is why I choose to only use excepts and share the knowledge in a trilogy starting today! The guidance was originally written for Muslim parents looking for a way to introduce their kids to the intense commitment of five prayers the day, but they are just as valuable for every parent looking to give their children a feeling for meditation and a mindful lifestyle. I hope you enjoy her wonderful insides just as much as I did, and find profound guidance in her words.
Tomorrows post will be the second part, watch out for it!!
Love and Blessed Communions!
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Teaching our children and teenagers to perform obligatory prayers, is a delicate and often stressful matter for families. What is the divine guidance on the matter? When and how is it best done? Parenting expert Hina Khan-Mukhtar sheds some light.
“How the heck do you get a teenage boy in public high school to care about not missing his prayer?”
It is a question that I’ve been asked more than once, and there has never been a simple, easy answer to give. The quickest and most honest one is to frankly admit that all guidance is a blessing and a mercy from God and none of us are in any real control of what our children choose to take — and not take — from our teachings.
But let’s face it — we all know that’s not what parents want to hear (even if they know it’s the truth). Parents are looking for tips and advice, some kind of handbook to follow, a checklist of do’s and don’ts. For the purposes of this article, I did sit down and reflect on what has brought us to where we are now after almost 18 years of raising sons, alhamdulillah (praise be to God). I write this article with the full knowledge that we are no experts; we are no authority figures; we are no success stories. We just happen to be parents who for whatever reason are blessed with children who choose to pray…for now.I asked my kids what they think has helped make prayer a priority for them in their lives, and I informally interviewed some friends to get their insights as well. Here’s what has worked for our families so far, and we hope that our experiences may help others in turn, insha’Allah (God willing)…
1) For God’s sake (literally), leave those kids alone for the first 7 years!
You shouldn’t have any real expectations of them until after they are 7 years old. I still remember how I cringed when I once saw a well-meaning father pretty much forcing his 6-year-old daughter to join the congregational prayer. She kept running off, and he kept bringing her back, insisting that she fold her hands and stand silently by his side as he recited the Quranic verses aloud. His intentions were noble and sincere, no doubt, but the execution left much to be desired. It was painful to watch, and I remember hoping that his plans weren’t going to backfire on him one day. Another time, I heard a mother tell her son that “Allah will be mad at you if you don’t pray; the angels are writing down that you’re being a bad boy”, and it took all my willpower not to cry out loud, “Stop! Please don’t say that to your 5-year-old!”
What baffles most adults is trying to figure out how they are supposed to take the spiritual souls that have been placed under their care and then successfully prepare them for the lifelong duty of praying five times a day once their physical bodies have attained puberty.
In the early years, children should be allowed to join and leave the prayer at will, letting themselves get acclimated to the motions and the sensations of the ritual prayer at their own pace. Praying with the family should be an enjoyable experience — one that kids can partake in (or not) as much as they desire. Their association with prayer should be one of sweetness. I know one father who has all of his children share their duas (supplications) aloud one by one after the prayer is over so that everyone can join together in asking Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) to grant their siblings’ wishes. Once the duas are over, the kids often dissolve into tickling and wrestling matches while the father finishes up his supererogatory prayers on his own.
2) When the time for praying finally comes, go all out and make the initiation into prayer a celebration to remember! Treat it like an exciting honor, a real rite of passage.
When each of my boys turned 7 years old, I bought them beautiful journals which I gave to my friends and family to fill with inspiring messages about prayer. My parents and my in-laws each wrote messages to their grandsons, sharing their hopes and wishes for their futures with them. Older cousins wrote about how prayer helps them in good times and in bad; aunties and uncles gave advice on what helps them get through “prayer slumps” which — if we are truly honest — are bound to come in one’s life at some point or another. The general theme was one of encouragement and excitement. It’s been almost 10 years since I put together those gifts for my older two sons, and even now, I will sometimes catch them perusing their Prayer Books with smiles on their faces as they read the heartfelt messages to themselves.Zeeshan and I have found that slow and steady wins the race. When each of our sons turned 7 years old, we allowed them to choose one prayer that they wanted to take on as their daily commitment. The understanding was that — no matter what — the one prayer would never be neglected from that day (i.e. their 7th birthday) forward. If the boys wanted to pray any of the other prayers, that was all well and good, but it was their choice and we made it clear that we would not be monitoring them or holding them accountable.
Whether they were at a play date or in the middle of a shopping mall or at a swimming lesson, if the time for their prayer came in, they made sure to take a few minutes to complete it.We continued this routine for twelve months. When a year of praying one prayer on time had finally passed by successfully, we told the boys that they were now “qualified” to take on a second prayer. We treated it like an honor that only the most responsible could be trusted to handle! We told them that we were trying to teach them how to honor commitments, we knew that it took practice and discipline to do so, and we accepted that it was our job to slowly but surely teach them those tools for success. Using this method, all three of our boys were praying all five of their daily prayers by the time they were 9 1/2 years old, alhamdulillah. By age 10, prayer was an established routine.
During the course of writing this article, I asked my almost-16-year-old son Ameen why he prays all of his prayers on time, and he responded, “I don’t remember ever not praying, so I can’t imagine not doing it now. It’s a part of who I am.” My most fervent prayer is that he always feels that way. I am no fool; I know prayer is a gift and, if not treated with gratitude and humility, it can be lost at any moment. May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) protect us from ever experiencing such a devastating void in our lives. Aameen. (Amen.)
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