Nurturing Love for the Prophet in Children

Among the more common challenges that Islamic school teachers face is nurturing love for the Prophet Muhammad (s) in children. Parents often raise the same concern. The issues they raise are often around:

  1. Determining what aspects of the seerah (life of the Prophet) to teach children and at what age
  2. Encouraging children to live by the example of the Prophet through his words and actions recorded in hadith (Prophetic words and actions)
  3. Nurturing an overall appreciation of the Prophet’s life and being as the exemplar for a believer

I’ve heard (and I am sure you have as well) these concerns expressed at education conferences, in social conversations and in community study circles (halaqa). Parents and teachers often raise the issue as though scholars will have a quick fix answer. Or as though they might receive a step by step process that will help nurture a sense of love.

But it’s not as prescriptive as one would think; nor is it as simple that our own responsibility as educators would not implicated.

So recently I had the opportunity to hear the same old question be raised once again in a halaqa that I was in. A concerned teacher (and parent) used the Q&A period at the end of the class to ask this particular scholar how to nurture a … (you get the idea).

I tuned out temporarily as the question was being drawn out only to be suddenly brought back to attention.

The scholar heard the question and immediately said: smile.

I was caught off guard and so I looked up becoming attentive again. He then expanded. He said, “To nurture a sense of love for the Prophet (s) among children, the beginning of such nurturing is to smile.” He continued, “Smile when you see them, spend time with them, and exemplify the character of the Prophet to them through your actions.” He didn’t stop there. He continued by being very specific saying: “Go hiking with them, biking, go bowling, play permissible games, eat with them, and be positive role models for them.”

It sounds simple – I know.

But in all my years hearing this question, I have never had a scholar saying anything other than ways to make the seerah more interesting. The usual advice I’ve heard is to 1. Be descriptive of your story telling of the seerah, emphasize salawat (praise of the Prophet), and connect the life of the Prophet to the lives of students.

But it’s all an intellectual exercise.

What I got from this scholar is an approach that makes love real. The idea of spending time with children is so powerful and yet so underestimated. In an age where “communities” only exist in virtual space, the idea of spending quality time with your students (or children) in parks connecting with nature, playing sports, and building things should not be underestimated for their ability to nurture a love for the Prophet Muhammad (s) because (as the scholar said) it is in our ‘aml (actions) that the ilm (knowledge) of the Prophetic tradition manifests.

In this Ramadan as we aspire to reconnect with the Prophetic example, may it also be a time to reflect on how we can inspire our students in the coming school year with a similar sense of embodied love.

Nadeem Memon

About Nadeem Memon

Dr. Nadeem Memon serves as Director of Education for Razi Education. He holds a Ph.D from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto on the history and philosophy of Islamic schooling. He also serves as Program Director for the Islamic Teacher Education Program, a project of Razi Education.
Click here to read more posts by Nadeem.

  1. Dr. Nadeem

    Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu wa Ramadan Kareem,

    FIrst of all I think its a beautiful topic that we must consider or rather be concerned about just as we consider how we nurture eeman in our children.

    I would like to recommend that you watch a series of lectures titled Children Around Prophet – Dr. Hesham al-Awadi on youtube and share with others.

    Basically, what I am trying to say is talk to children about his (peace and blessings be upon him)’s role with children… to create the love in them.

    Enjoy it.

    Was Salaam

  2. Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah Dr Nadeem,

    I have been struggling in determining what and how to teach the Seerah to my three year old. What an absolutely beautiful and perfect answer from this scholar, mashaAllah. It really is the perfect thing for us.

    JazakAllah khayr for sharing this.

  3. I think stories about the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam are a great way to have our children start to adore the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam. I don’t think we can instil love – that is a gift from Allah Alone. But we can lay the foundation for it – which is extreme respect, adoration, and looking up to him sal Allahu alayhi wasalam.
    When we hear the word Seerah, we think from start to finish, the whole life history, with a focus on facts and dates and names and sequence of events.
    But how about just telling about who he sal Allahu alayhi wasalam was: how nice he sal Allahu alayhi wasalam was to animals, to neighbors, to people who were mean to him sal Allahu alayhi wasalam, to his Family, alayhim assalam….how smart he was sal Allahu alayhi wasalam, and the amazing things he sal Allahu alayhi wasalam did – how the moon split for him sal Allahu alayhi wasalam and how he sal Allahu alayhi waslam travelled to Bait al Maqdis and then to the 7th Heaven in one night ….
    I mean, just the way you would tell your child about his grandfather and the things he did in his life or how he was….or the way you would tell your child stories about your childhood and the interesting things that happened to you as a child – except that you have the added element of great great respect in how you tell the story. Storytelling……it is so important. not TEACHING in the way we think of it. not studying, but storytelling. that is such a powerful force in the life of a child….
    I would also recommend song, poetry, and then family rituals that are explicitly based on following the Sunnah – from making a niyyah before we cut our nails and doing it the way the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam did it (and smiling at our children during this whole process) to the daily brushing of one’s teeth, to going out and giving charity to people in Ramadan, again, explicitly saying in whose footsteps we are following….and i prefer to say in whose footsteps rather than: The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam told us to do this – how about, let’s be like him, sal Allahu alayhi wasalam, let us copy him sal Allahu alayhi wasalam, let’s do something that, when he sal Allahu alayhi wasalam sees it in our list of deeds this Friday, he sal Allahu alayhi wasalam will be pleased and happy with us. The reason i prefer to not say: the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam said to do x y or z is that this formula, this particular phrase, is used so much with kids that they often start to tune it out; and in general, kids these days don’t like to hear orders or commands or even advice. they want to SEE something real in front of them, and by saying let’s do as he sal Allahu alayhi wasalam always did, they are seeing or imagining an actual real model sal Allahu alayhi wasalam, in front of them, inshaAllah.
    Children should also be encouraged to write their own poetry to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam and to do regular Salawat as a private connection between them and him sal Allahu alayhi wasalam.
    Finally, one of the greatest things we can do for them is to tell them stories about HOW other people loved and love the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam – so a light bulb goes on when they realize: wow, this kind of love for him sal Allahu alayhi wasalam is POSSIBLE? this is what LOVE means???
    and then we encourage in them the love for THAT Love, and the longing to feel THAT Longing….so that they realize a major realization: love is a gift – and we should ask Allah to give it to us – for it is not a matter of saying: i love the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam, and that is that. It is much deeper and it is a contest really, of who is the true lover, and who is just full of simple statements that have no tears and no longing, no sleepless nights and no sacrfiice to back them up. We are often too content to hear our children say: i love the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasalam – when in actual fact, the word love should not be thrown around so lightly- it is an entire lifetime’s journey.

  4. Rasullullah (SAS) was the educator of his community and we are the prime educators of our children and it therefore makes complete sense to nurture a love for the prophet (SAS) in our children by modelling in our action the excellent conduct our own educator showed us, and not just by trying to nurture the love for him through ‘telling’. This cannot be achieved without investing time, and creativity in the activities we have with our children.
    One important aspect in this: we might tend to prefer praying in a quiet place, away from the clattering of our children’s activities. Our Prophet (SAS) would not hesitate to leave the children around him – or in fact on his back! – while praying. It is important we model in front of our children our praying and our reading of the Quran…We can still have plenty of quality silent time while they are asleep.

  5. Assalamualikumww;
    JazakAllhukhair for this bringing this notion again into highlight,comments also have been soo inspiring.We pray Allah instills in us love n commitment obey HIM and follow Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wasalam.

  6. Assalamolikum!I have read this hadeeth (mafhoom) I am not sure about the reference. That Love your kids for 7 years, bond with them for next 7 years and train them for the next 7 years and then set them free meaning to the challneges of this globe, duniya. Excitingly in Finland, kids go to school at age 7, not before that. We have to love our kids, set an example, kids are muhc more smarter than we think. They keep picking by seeing. I always say to my peer group that the greatest investment in the “WEST” is the time that you invest in your family and kids. I exactly know why the scholar smiled. JazakALALHo khair for sharing……

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