In the second episode of “3 Keys to Raise Quran-Loving Kids”, we invited the inventor of My Salah Mat and founder of Hajj Safe, Kamal Ali, to share his expertise and experience.
About Kamal Ali
Kamal Ali is the founder of HajjSafe and inventor of My Salah Mat, an interactive educational prayer mat for kids that are currently sold in over 24 countries and in 15 different languages.
Kamal holds a B.A. and Masters degree. He is also part of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association (PGCEA) with 10 years of experience as a high school teacher.
Combined with being the father of two amazing kids, Kamal has both the educational insights and practical experience in shaping the minds and character of children.
In this article, we summarise and share the key highlights from Kamal’s episode, “The Impact of Playful Immersion”.
What You’ll Learn in this Article
- The two prerequisites to teach your children Islam without making it a frustrating experience for you or your child.
- The four ingredients to inspire your children to love Islam, even in this day and age when parents are competing with Roblox, Fortnite, FIFA, Minecraft and other distractions.
- How inspiring children to love Islam will lead to the blessing of Allah SWT.
Author: Kamal Ali
The Two Prerequisites of Education
One of the things that I’ve learned after teaching hundreds of children as a secondary school teacher is that every child has their own learning style.
Some pick up things really fast while others take a lot longer. Some children learn by visual aids. Some children learn by actually showing them. While others learn by actually doing something. Children also display different types of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence.
It’s important for parents to realise this and make the effort to understand the best way their child learns. Do they like doing things? Do they like visual aids? You can discover this by asking them, trying out different things and observing, or asking their teachers for any insights.
Knowing how your child likes to learn is the first prerequisite to put together the resources that will help you to pass knowledge to them, including Islamic knowledge, InshaAllah. If your child is made to learn from resources that don’t suit their learning style, it becomes a very frustrating experience.
Time and time again, I’ve seen parents give up on trying to teach their children because of the frustrations that result from not knowing their learning style. This is very unfortunate because parents play a key role in educating their children.
However, by making sure you understand your child’s learning style, you can avoid many frustrations and maintain your key position to teach your child about Islam.
The Key Role of Parents in A Child’s Education
Once you’ve determined your child’s learning style, the next critical prerequisite is realising the key role you play as a parent in your child’s education.
Every single thing that parents say or do is a form of learning. Children will also pick up on their parent’s characteristics and personality traits. By understanding, appreciating, and accepting this baseline, parents can pass on to our children whatever information we want to with ease, InshaAllah.
Once you have these two critical prerequisite as the foundation, what practical steps can a parent take to inspire their children to love Islam? This is what I will explain by going through four important ingredients:
#1 Immersive Play
We live in a society where Muslim parents are trying to teach children how to pray, fast, and so on — while competing against the likes of Roblox, Fortnite, FIFA, Minecraft and a whole host of other distractions.
How can parents compete against all these other games and make Islam interesting for their kids? The first ingredient is immersive play.
Immersive play makes learning fun for children, and anything they enjoy, they will want to do over and over again. To activate immersive play, parents need to do two things:
1. Don’t make practising Islam a chore
Practising our deen should never have to feel like something difficult or boring. We should strive to make it as fun as possible, and we need to embody that in how we speak of Islam and practise it.
2. Don’t use other games as a reward for practising Islam
We should never use other games that our children enjoy playing as a reward for practising aspects of Islam. For example, we shouldn’t say, “Go and pray first, and then you can play Fortnite.” This positions Fortnite as the reward for praying. But what we actually want is for them to feel that praying itself is an enjoyable and rewarding activity.
So what should you do?
Simply put, you should leverage immersive play by incorpoating fun activities when learning about Islam.
One of the reasons why I invented the My Salah Mat was to make prayer time enjoyable. Kids can interact with prayer, push buttons, hear and see things as they learn and practice praying. By making it fun and not a chore with visual aids and other interactive components, children become excited to try out the different positions of prayer and want to pray.
Incorporating fun activities create happy memories that children will be able to remember and use as they move forward in their journey of learning Islam. For example, if you make learning how to take wudu fun by splashing water on your kids, it becomes a positive experience that they will cherish as they grow older.
So, ensure that you create a really enjoyable environment for your children when you start their journey on learning about any pillar of Islam. It’s important to keep in mind that the learning journey will happen in stages. A 3-year-old will not understand the importance of wudu but they will enjoy splashing water.
As they grow older, they can take in more information stage by stage. But they won’t be interested in learning new information if you don’t set the foundation for making it fun and enjoyable when they are young.
When your children are a little bit older and can take on more information, this is where you can start diving deeper into teaching them about Islam and inspiring them to love Islam.
It’s also important for parents to realise that it’s not just about teaching children to memorise the surah, learn the kalimahs, or learning to pray. Yes, you want to teach them all these things and more.
However, teaching takes on so many forms. It’s also about teaching them to feel confident to ask questions. And it’s about teaching them why salah is so precious and why Islam is so beautiful so they are inspired to practice it.
That’s why parents should continue to incorporate the aspect of immersive play and enjoyment through every stage. What you don’t want to do is make praying robotic or threaten them by saying Allah will not be happy with them if they don’t pray.
Even at this stage, you want to make practising Islam fun and create happy memories for your children. As an example, one of the ways we started teaching our children about Islam was by making salah a family moment that everyone anticipated to prepare for and do together.
We wouldn’t rush our kids to “get it done and over it.” Even though the routine would take 30-45 minutes, we made sure it was a moment that it was fun to do together.
The children would take out their own prayer mats and lay it out on the floor. My daughter would put on her hijab. Then my son would recite the adhan. I would start leading the prayer and they would follow. Then we would make du’a.
At the end, they wouldn’t jump up and rush off to go to something else. They enjoyed that moment of prayer so much that they wanted to stay, talk, ask questions, and maybe even share what happened during their day.
And that’s the ultimate goal we’re aiming for. We want to create such beautiful moments around practising Islam that it becomes a safe environment for them to grow.
#3 Leading by Example
Everything you do and say in front of your children will impact your children. This is why leading by example is really important.
It’s astounding how much children pick up from such a young age. If they see you pray, they’ll come onto the prayer mat and jump on top of you. As they get older, they’ll start copying you. And InshaAllah, just by us doing it, it will manifest in them.
As parents, we need to incorporate leading by example in every aspect of daily life, not just on the prayer mat. It’s saying “Bismillah ” before eating or drinking. It’s saying “Alhamdulillah” when we are grateful. It’s showing them that we love Allah, we love salah, we love Islam.
When we lead by example, we don’t just encourage them to copy us. We instil confidence and a sense of pride in them to be Muslim.
Of course, you can’t be expected to be the one that teaches them everything. You should definitely get a teacher to teach them how to recite the Quran and so on. But talking about the miracles of the Quran, or sharing inspiring stories of the Prophets, is something that is more powerful when it comes from parents at relevant times in a child’s daily life.
#4 Practice with Guidance
This last ingredient is something that I’ve learned from being a teacher. When we do a project in school, the kids will complete their assignment and sometimes we’ll get them to do a presentation.
Now, that presentation doesn’t happen without guidance. As a teacher, we will help the kids go through their presentation before they actually present it. We could review their materials and make suggestions, or simply be there as a listening audience while they practice and gain confidence.
The same thing needs to apply in the home environment, too. Let’s take learning to take wudu as an example.
First, they will watch you take wudu. Then you can watch them copy what you do. Chances are, there will be mistakes the first few times. This is where you guide them stage by stage. Don’t expect them to practice on the spot until they get it right, right now. Instead, just say that wasn’t completely right, but don’t worry — keep practising and you’ll get it right next time.
By being there to guide them through the learning process, you can correct their mistakes while instilling confidence. I’m a big believer in empowering children with confidence, and allowing them to practice with guidance is one of the key ways to instill confidence.
Let me share an example of how I used this technique to get my son to recite the adzan for prayer. First, I would recite the adzan before we pray and he would listen. We would also practice reciting it together outside of prayers.
After a few months when I was confident he knew the adzan, I suggested that he recite it before the next prayer. At first, he was hesitant and scared. So I just encouraged him to say the first part and carry on if wants to carry on.
So he did this and when he got stuck, I would just guide him on what to say next. At the end, I praised him because it was the first time he recited the adzan before prayer, and I rewarded him for the achievement.
In the next prayer, he had more confidence to recite the adzan. We continued doing this, with me there to guide him as he practiced, and he got better and better each time. After some time, he became really confident to recite it by himself, MashaAllah. This confidence eventually led him to be confident to lead the prayer during Maghrib. Alhamdulillah.
Now, I feel comfortable and happy that he prays because I know, InshaAllah, he will pray correctly for he has prayed in front of me and he has led me in prayer.
Inspiring Children to Love Islam Will Lead to the Blessing of Allah
As you apply these four ingredients in the journey to inspire your children to love Islam, sooner or later, you will see the power that comes from the blessing — the barakah — that Allah puts in what we teach them.
For example, one of the things my daughter picked up from a very young age was making du’a. It began with her wanting this or that, and we’ll encourage her to make du’a to Allah for what she wanted. I remember her earnestly putting her hands together and secretly saying in her head what she wanted.
We soon began to see the barakah that Allah placed in this, MashaAllah. Du’a became the starting point for our daughter to connect with Allah. She began asking questions about Allah and would be really interested to learn more about Allah.
I witnessed the same thing after I invented My Salah Mat to help my son, who was struggling to do sujud, learn how to pray. Alhamdulillah, today, whenever a child — Muslim or non-Muslim — sees the My Salah Mat, the first thing they want to do is sujud!
This is a blessing from Allah. As a designer, I could have never designed for that. The barakah is from Allah SWT alone and I am so grateful every day for that.
So, as a parent, do not be so focused about getting the perfect result. Know that the barakah will come from Allah SWT as you take the steps to inspire your children to love Islam.
Believe me, you will see your teaching manifest in your children in ways that you would never imagine. They will come out and they will surprise you with actions and thoughtfulness that you didn’t think could happen or didn’t even account for.
Jazakumullah khairan. Assalamualaikum warrahmatullahi wabarakutuh.
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Alhumdu-lillah very beneficial information. I am a grand parent, it will help me to guide my children how to teach their children in new immersive way
Assalamo alaikum Warahmatullah a wabarkatahu,
I am a grand parent and I very much impressed and inspired by the method of teaching which you have adopted. My grand children already use this mat.
I have started a free school for needy children with primary Arabic learning like understand Quran and salad and basic things like Dua. May Allah Guide us to teach Quran by understanding.