Making dhikr, or engaging in the remembrance of Allah, is a virtuous act that brings magnified reward and blessings. It is a way to express our sincere devotion, hope and trust in Allah, the Most Honorable. And, Allah the Almighty greatly values this form of worship as narrated by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him:
"Allah says: 'I am as My slave thinks of me, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me within himself, I remember him within Myself; and if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a better gathering; and if he draws one span nearer to Me, I draw one cubit nearer to him; and if he draws one cubit nearer to Me, I draw a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running."
(Hadith Qudsi, Sahih al-Bukhari)
The above hadith exemplifies the beauty that lies in making dhikr and how it is considered one of the most admirable acts in the sight of Allah. Interestingly enough, unlike other virtuous acts - such as praying, fasting, giving away a portion of one's wealth, performing hajj, or even reading the Quran - engaging in dhikr is comparatively effortless and simpler to incorporate into our daily lives. For, neither does it require any prescribed timings, nor prerequisites (such as making wudu), or other binding obligations. Yet, in all its simplicity, dhikr is considered one of the most significant acts of worship and holds great importance. SubhanAllah, Glory be to Allah.
Given the immense virtue of such a simple act, engaging ourselves and our children in such an easy and rewarding practice would be wise. And therefore, as Muslim parents, we must recognize and cultivate this habit, starting from an early age.
Encouraging Early Habit Formation
Fostering the habit of making dhikr, in our children, from an early age can prove to have multiple benefits for them in the long run; spiritually and otherwise, too.
1. It can help children develop a connection with Allah and Islam from a young age.
By making dhikr, children can learn to remember and acknowledge Allah's presence in their lives, which can help foster a strong sense of faith and spirituality from the beginning. This foundation can be built upon as they grow older and learn more about Islam and its fundamental principles, leading to a more meaningful and authentic relationship with Allah.
2. It can help cultivate a sense of discipline and responsibility.
By setting aside time for dhikr, children can learn to prioritize their spiritual well-being and develop good habits of regular worship. These can prove to be beneficial as they translate into other areas of their lives, such as academic and personal goals, where discipline and responsibility are important traits to have.
3. It can positively impact children's emotional well-being.
Dhikr can be considered a form of mindfulness exercise, which can be helpful in allowing children to focus on the present moment and develop a sense of inner peace and calm. It can also serve as a way to manage stress and anxiety, especially during difficult times.
Practicing Dhikr in our Homes
There is no denying that in the simple, yet powerful act of engaging in dhikr parents can help instill important values in their children, and help them grow into strong, grounded, and spiritually connected individuals. And, in doing so, there are certain strategies that can be helpful.
1. Lead by example.
“Monkey see, monkey do.” This may seem a strange example to quote here, but it reiterates that children mimic their parents consciously as well as subconsciously. And, when they are exposed to something which is done consistently and from a tender age, it becomes second nature to them.
As role models for our future generations, we have to let our children see the goodness in practicing what we believe in so that they too are confident in reciprocating it. Just like the act of engaging in dhikr, for the sole purpose of attaining closeness to Allah.
2. Teach them the benefits.
Parents can leverage their children's natural curiosity to facilitate a deeper understanding of Allah, their Creator. One effective approach can be to introduce children to the different types of dhikr and their meanings in a way that is tailored to their age and development. It is also crucial for parents to avoid being forceful in their teaching and instead use visually appealing methods that children can easily comprehend.
For instance, using a treasure chest can help children appreciate the reward of making dhikr and the significance of pleasing Allah. As in a hadith narrated by Abu Musa, that Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"The Messenger of Allah said to me, "Shall I not guide you to a treasure from the treasures of Jannah?" I said: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!" Thereupon he said, "(Recite) 'La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah' (There is no change of a condition nor power except by Allah)."
(Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
By employing such techniques, parents can help their children incorporate dhikr into their daily routine and cultivate a meaningful connection with Allah.
3. Use positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement can be an effective strategy in helping to motivate children and engage in desirable behaviors, such as making dhikr. By praising and encouraging children even for their smallest efforts, parents can help in developing a strong association with the act. For example, when a child makes a conscious effort to remember Allah, other than offering words of encouragement, parents can provide them with small rewards such as stickers or candies to encourage the child to continue.
This approach helps to create a positive feedback loop, where children feel good about their efforts and are motivated to continue. Over time, this can help to instill positive lifelong habits and attitudes toward pleasing Allah.
4. Make it a family affair.
Consistency is the key when it comes to building a habit. As parents, we can help our children enjoin in acts that can attain Allah's pleasure, such as dhikr, by incorporating them into our daily lives and making them a specific part of our family moments.
Setting aside a specific time in the course of a day - such as at bedtime, or engaging in dhikr while on the go in the car - can help be consistent and adopt these positive habits easily.
5. Get creative.
Alongside other strategies, incorporating learning through play remains one of the most successful ways to help encourage young children to develop a new skill or a liking for it. And of course, this is in addition to keeping them purposefully engaged.
Here are some creative ideas to encourage children to make dhikr:
Dhikr Tree: Create a tree using cardboard or construction paper and cut out several leaves. Encourage your child(ren) to write or draw a different dhikr on each leaf. They can then hang the leaves on the tree as a reminder to make dhikr throughout the day.
Dhikr Jars: Decorate some jars and label them with different types of dhikr, such as "Gratitude," "Praise," and "Forgiveness." Whenever a child wants to make dhikr, they can pick a jar and recite the dhikr that corresponds to it.
Dhikr Bingo: Create a bingo board with different types of dhikr written in each square. Whenever a child recites one of the dhikr, they can mark it off on the board. Make sure to offer small rewards for completing a row or the whole board.
Dhikr Bracelets: Create bracelets with colorful beads, and have children recite a dhikr for each bead they string. They can wear the bracelets throughout the day as a reminder to make dhikr.
Dhikr Scavenger Hunt: Hide cards with different types of dhikr written on them around the house or outside, and have children search for them. Whenever they find a card, they must recite the dhikr before moving on to the next one.
Lest we forget, the goal is not to simply do or have our children think of dhikr as a task, but rather to engage in it as a means of remembrance of The One, out of love and reverence.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.