A week ago we were blessed to travel to Birmingham to attend the “Hereafter” conference at Masjid As-Sunnah An-Nabawiyah. Alhamdulillah, it was very beneficial (may Allah bless the speakers, organisers and everybody that helped in it).Incidentally, it also delivered an important lesson to me about what I can and cannot do and about accepting the – few and moderate – restrictions that pregnancy is imposing on me. In other words, we couldn’t stay until the end but we are slowly catching up on the talks we missed (click the image to listen to the recordings:)
The environment at the conference was lovely masha’Allah and it really felt like a blessed sitting, but one thing stuck with me. When I took a break for some fresh air (during one of the talks… erm… see what I said above about restrictions…) I noticed there were a lot of children of various age groups playing and generally hanging out outside. It felt strange to see the sisters trying their best to keep babies quiet and toddlers entertained during the lessons, while some older children and teenagers were outside, not benefitting. I am sad when during jumu’ah or ‘Eid prayers I see sisters coming in and immediately “settling” their children – from toddlers to teenagers (some of whom look not far if at all from the age of accountability) handing out iphones, tablets and other gadgetry. Children should be taught from their very first visit to a masjid or a lesson how they should behave in that environment. Of course, they might take a while to learn, but the effort from the parent needs to be there. Encouraging them to “kill time” does not teach them to sit quietly while the khateeb is talking, not to run around during salah and not to chat with their friends but to try to listen and benefit from what is being said. If we read the biographies of some of the major scholars, we will find that they were accustomed to sit in the gathering of knowledge of adults from an early age. And they sure weren’t handed an ipad to play some “educational” game on. Let’s try not to short change our children and to have the highest possible expectation that is appropriate to have for their age.
Of course I did not expect Bilal (who is 4) to listen to the talks at the conference, but I expected him to sit still, entertain himself quietly (with colouring, tracing, stickers, washi tapes and a little notebook, books, etc. which are not the same as giving him my phone to play on, because these are real, creative, tangible, beneficial activities), to whisper if he needs to tell me something and not to bother me (and others) with continuous requests for snacks/drinks/more entertainment/unreasonably frequent trips to the toilet (I’m sure anyone who has kids can tell when they don’t actually need it, right?), because Ummi needs to take notes.
My 7 year old sits with the men (at shorter events, such as jumu’ah, the little one does too). I don’t only expect him to sit quietly and not to be a nuisance but I expect him also to listen and benefit as much as he can, to start learning how to be a member of that congregation. Now, I know he needs help with listening and following, so I gave him a “word search” to do, with a lot more spaces to tick every time he hears one of those words in the talks. Also a couple of lists to compile (the major signs of the Day of Judgement – which he missed – and some of the different names of the Day of Judgement, which he did very well masha’Allah).
Alhamdulillah, we are always very excited to take part in these events, both boys have been delivering lectures since *smile* they have been Abu Fulan and Abu Fulan, they talked about whose beard was longer (masha’Allah) and how their beards will look Insha’Allah. Yusef reads out parts of the matn of “al-Waajibaat” (by shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhaab) in Arabic and English, and he expects me to take notes (“Where is your notebook Ummi?… you can make a spider diagram if you want…”). Well, Ummi needs to take notes, doesn’t she?