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Islamizing the taleem ….. – 12 (Child and perception)

28 Oct

(The writing that follows is my dialogue through email with a group on the Topic: Islamizing the Taleem and Tarbiyah of our children. I am maintaining the email format for ease of understanding as well as for maintaining originality of this dialogue.)

(A query from a sister)
Walaikum Assalam Br Abid,

We are indeed very fortunate to have you on our forum Alhamdulillah. May Allah help us benefit from your research work on education in light of Islamic perspective. I have always been a very quiet student in class but sometimes I do have a few questions and this time I would like you to help me reach satisfactory answers to.

1) When does perception development start? The world view we have today, do circumstances in “Aalam -e-Arwah” have an effect on it? We also know a child’s sense of hearing and memory becomes receptive in its embryonic stage. What can expectant mothers do to contribute towards developing correct Islamic perception in children before and after their birth?

2) Most of us parents are a product of western secular education sprinkled with Qur’anic quotes and Ahadith combined with a stagnant Islamic studies curriculum repeatedly taught every year for the entire school life. We now understand the importance of having an Islamic world view from young age for which we are striving hard to the best of our capacities. How do we “undo” what we’ve gathered over the years – the clutter in our minds about this world and the Next.

For example, the secular primary school science divides everything into two – living things and non-living things. I don’t exactly remember but there are some attributes like growth, movement, sensitivity, need for food, reproduction etc which define a living thing. But Quran gives us a different view altogether. In Qur’anic world view, everything that Allah has created praises Allah, submits to Allah, prostrates before Allah and follows His Grand Design.

Seest thou not that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth,- the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number among mankind? But a great number are (also) such as are fit for Punishment: and such as Allah shall disgrace,- None can raise to honour: for Allah carries out all that He wills. (22:18)

It’s interesting to note that we are made up of the same elements (Carbon, hydrogen, calcium, phosphorous, sodium, magnesium, etc) which also make up a so called “non-living thing” but Allah has blessed us with a unique existence, granted us authority over all creation and equipped us with free will which makes us accountable in this life and in the Aakhirah. We don’t study this in theour O level biology nor are we taught the reality of Creation in O/A level Physics. Our learning resources, whether we home-school our children or send them to schools, are contaminated with evolution and big bang theories and many more which we are not even aware of but have done a great deal of damage to our relationship with and understanding of our Creator. How do we deal with this dilemma?

3) How much do we need to know the stages of a child’s mental development to transfer useful information to them about realities of the world. When children start asking questions about this world and the next, it becomes very challenging to decipher how much to tell and what to tell. I usually tell my 4 yr old daughter everything like I would reply to an adult, leaving the outcome to Allah as to what she will decode and retain. Is that a correct approach? Like when she says, “When I say salam to my grandmother in the grave, that means she’s listening and replying, then why do u say she’s returned to Allah, when she’s right here underground?” Do I introduce her to the concepts of “rooh”, “jism”, “nafs” now?

4) We don’t live in isolation. The data that will make up our children’s worldview will come from people, places and situations surrounding them. The children in the earlier generation of Muslims were surrounded by a homogeneous society. In this age, what precisely do we need to do to make sure the “useless” doesn’t dominate over the “useful” knowledge?

JazakAllah khair,

(My response)
Assalamu Alaikum sister,

Jazaki’Allah for the questions, and I feel they are very relevant and important in our discussions. Allow me not to attend to them all at once. I have to care for the size of the mail as well. I am being reminded by the sisters to keep my mail easy and small. Insha’Allah I will try to write accordingly.

In fact the first question I was planning to discuss a little later after making other sisters and brothers realize the importance of the faculty of perception and the important role that perception plays in each individual’s life. One interesting fictional incident I will like you all to imagine: from among a very pious and godly family a small child is kidnapped by a family of crooks involved in all indecencies. That child is recovered after twenty years, when he is in his twenties. Does anyone of you believe he will easily be adjusted and get accommodated by his old family? He may take years or may be never if the child is not willing, right. What has caused this difference of attitudes or behavior? It is the outlook of the world around. What we call perception or worldview, or thought structure. And definitely the perception/worldview/thought structure is not easy to change once they are well developed and structured.

Attending to sister’s question: perceptional development, I believe, starts as soon as a child’s brain starts functioning and starts registering external signals. As per research conducted in west, and which is amazing, a fetus of 5 months have been trained and known to retain memory of music or sounds which the child could recollect much later after birth. From my observations, mothers who made their child in their womb to often listen to Qur’anic recitations, found their children later more attentive and comfortable towards such recitations. I have a video of my grandchild over same. As soon as the recitation stops the child starts to cry. A fetus is also nervous about loud voices. Another important factor is mother’s psychological status during her pregnancy. I do not go any deeper and keep the discussion to education. One other aspect is whether a child retains anything from its experience of Alam e Arwah as the sister has asked: as per my practical observation, definitely yes. As I have mentioned earlier there are two sides to any young child: the mature and the immature. The mature side, which is amazing and is manifested in many things, for example the strong ego which a child carries, no child likes to be cheated or disrespected, a child’s different behavior with different age groups of people. With a small child it is different and similarly with an old person. My 15 months old granddaughter is so respectful towards my old mother and if by mistake she snubs my mother over something, as soon as she realizes she gives a very sweet apologetic smile. The mothers in the group must have noticed this. Astonishingly a child has an established value system, a fitrah.

The immature side is the ways of how we do things in this world and our external communication system. This, a child is continuously trying to learn so as to be able to communicate to the outer world. And that a child learns very fast. Insha’Allah during the course of our discussions these aspects will be revisited.

I should end this mail here to keep this mail to a decent size, I hope?

Br. Abid.