I love anything and everything that encourages and inculcates the love of the Quran in kids. And many cultures have developed different methods. Among the Indian Subcontinent cultural practices is to do a “Bismillah” and an “Ameen.” The former is done to initiate young children into reading the Quran. The latter is done when a child has finished reading the Quran from cover to cover. Some people have argued that this cultural practice is “not” Islamic because it was not done by the Prophet (pbuh) or his companions. From a historical sense, yes. But if the intention is that of a customary celebration of finishing reading the Quran from cover to cover, then that is worthy of a celebration and is not a problem at all. But what I would like to examine is how “Bismillahs” and “Ameens” are turning into a “right of passage” ceremony where the child isn’t asked to engage with the Quran any more. The word, “Quran” is an Arabic words which means to recite over and over again. This cannot be achieved when the Quran is ritualized with party at the beginning and a party at the end.
Our relationship with the Quran is reflective of our relationship with God. The prophet said, “The best of you are those who learn the Quran and teaches it,” Sahih Bukhari. This hadith is general and does not focus specifically on memorization or reading. Rather it is an all encompassing merit. One should read it, memorize it, understanding it, and more importantly, practice it. Similarly, our relationship with Allah mirrors this. We should affirm our testimony, renew our faith through practice, and continuously return to the path or righteousness when we fall into sin. Therefore, what I would like is for parents to shift their focus from the extravagant parties and pomp and plan ahead for life with Quran after the Ameen. More importantly, it is detrimental when a child sees the Quran as a stage in their early upbringing and nothing more than that. I have asked parents, “When your child is doing the nazirah (reading), do you read too?” Almost all say no. Thus the kid sees the Quran as a task with a task manager (parent) disconnected from the Quran. The parent simply checks in on when and how much is completed. But what steps can we do to help encourage the process post-Ameen?
- Parents need to read, memorize and practice the Quran themselves. There is nothing more hypocritical for one to command what they do not do. Kids are very observant. If they see that you do not engage the Quran, they will finish the task begrudgingly and not engage with the Quran. It will be so meaningful if you read along with your child!
- Understanding the Quran is very important.. We already have 393 identified species of parrots. We don’t need any more. We need people to make learning the Quran a life long process. It involves learning Arabic, studying the tafsir, reading the translation. You cannot expect your kid to want to connect with the Quran after the Ameen party if they don’t know what they are reading!
- Implementing the Quran is key. If your behavior and parenting doesn’t tie back to the Quran and Sunnah, but only invoked when someone is in trouble, the Quran becomes a tool of discipline. Implement the Quran by living out your deen. Highlight good behavior which you practice your beliefs with specific verses that you hold dear. Show how the Quran is your moral compass in how you live your life.
Nevertheless, keep the bismillahs and ameens coming. But more importantly, have the “Inshallahs” – the will and perseverance to continue to engage the Quran after all the food is eaten and the gifts exchanged!