Why is it that children have no difficulty believing in Allah and His Message, even though they cannot see Him? Why is it that a child finds it so effortless and natural to pray, to fast and to wear the hijab, oftentimes delighting in the process? Why is it that a child as young as two years old can be found praying by himself or herself, protective against any type of intrusion?
The answer to these questions is clear and simple – Allah has placed within each of us an intriguing and special gift that we would not even be aware of if not for Islam. This is the gift of the fitrah (the innate tendency to know Allah). It is one of the ways that we come to comprehend the existence of Allah (in addition to nature, revelation, and reason) and realize the purpose of our creation. It is also an important favour for parents as they strive to teach their children about Allah and the religion of Islam.
It is the foundation upon which all else is built, already present at birth. It is the seed planted within each of our children that needs to be nourished in order to produce a beautiful flowering plant. As parents, we are only required to provide the water and sunlight. With this understanding, the approach to parenting becomes more positive and hopeful.
What is Fitrah?
Fitrah is usually described as the innate and pristine nature within humans that makes humans capable of knowing Allah and accepting His religion. It is an inborn tendency toward awareness of Allah and affirmation of His existence; the knowledge that there is a Transcendent Being who created us and the world around us. This is a faculty created by Allah within humans which is engraved upon our souls. It is described in the Qur’an by Allah,
“So direct your face (meaning, yourself) toward the religion, inclining to truth. (Adhere to) the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created (all) people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know.”(Surah ar-Rum, 30 : 30)
Basically, what this means is that each person is born in a pure state in which tawhid is central. This then inclines the person to submit fully to the will of Allah and to search for ways to become closer to Him. Islam itself is called deen al-fitrah (the religion of human nature) because it is the religion that will guide a person to true faith in Allah and complete fulfilment of this potential.
The prophets were sent to remind humans of this nature and to teach them Islamic law as a comprehensive guidance for living in submission to Allah. The prophets themselves, as blessings from Allah, practiced these guidelines and were steadfast and exemplary models for humankind.
Covenant of monotheism inscribed on every soul
At the time when souls were created, each person made a covenant with Allah. Allah mentions the covenant in the following verse:
“(It will be said:) This is what you were promised – for every returner (to Allah) and keeper (of His covenant), who feared the Most Merciful unseen and came with a heart returning (in repentance).” (Surah Qaf, 50: 32-33)
In another verse, He describes this covenant,
“And (mention) when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, (saying to them): ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yes, we have testified.’ (This) lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, Indeed, we were of this unaware.” (Surah al-A’raf, 7 : 172)
Thus, one of the ways that we know about Allah is that it is within our very own souls; it is within our nature. The belief in tawheed (oneness of Allah) is inscribed in our beings. It is our covenant with Allah. Every child is born with a natural inclination to believe in and worship Allah, to be righteous and virtuous, and to have a true understanding of his or her own position in the universe. S/he who submits will naturally be a Muslim, since all humans are born as Muslims. If no changes are made in the direction that the child faces, s/he will naturally incline toward Allah and will follow His will. When s/he reaches the age of discretion, s/he will readily choose the religion of Islam over any other belief system. This is the connection with the Creator that will guide the child to an understanding of good and evil, and truth and falsehood throughout his or her lifetime.
The influence of parents
You may ask yourself, “Why then have so many people gone away from their true nature? Why have so many people chosen a religion other than Islam? Why is there so much corruption and oppression on earth?”
This can be explained by the following hadith of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam): “Every newborn child is born in a state of fitrah. Then his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Magian; just as an animal is born intact. Do you observe any among them that are mutilated?” (Muslim)
This hadith elucidates the fact that environmental influences after birth lead a person to diverge from their fitrah and the path of Allah. The divergence has nothing to do with anything innately wrong within the person, for the fitrah is pure and good. Those who reject the religion of Islam are, in effect, going against their fitrah. Left alone, without interference, a person will naturally believe in Allah, tawhid, and Islam.
As mentioned in the hadith, parents are the main environmental factor in leading a person away from his or her fitrah. It is the parents that raise the child as a Jew, a Christian, a Magian, or an adherent of any other faith, oftentimes passing on to their child the same religion that was taught to them by their own parents. Parents share their beliefs, values, morals, and ideals with their children. This is accomplished through modelling, interactions, teaching, and so forth. Research, in fact, has shown that as young people enter adulthood, they carry the same or similar values and morals that were taught to them by their parents. The effect is generally compelling and persistent.
It is important to note that while parents are the key factor in divergence from the fitrah, other environmental influences may also play a role. Schools, teachers, friends, extended family members, and the media all exert an effect on the thoughts and behaviours of a child.
The influence of Satan
Satan also plays a role in attempting to disturb the fitrah. The pressure and force of Satan and his patrons in the lives of humans are obvious. Satan will attempt to deceive us in any way that he can, and he begins to work on children the minute that they are born. We are warned in the Qur’an,
“(Satan) said: Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them (human beings) on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful (to You).” (Surah al-A’raf, 7 : 16-17)
The tools that Allah has given to the believers are designed to protect the fitrah from the schemes and traps of Satan.
The responsibility of parents in relation to Fitrah
This knowledge explicitly highlights the critical role of parents in the upbringing of their children. It is the responsibility of the parents to nurture the inborn tendency of the fitrah and to protect it from corruption. This is accomplished by teaching the child about Allah and Islam from the moment of birth.
The first words that a baby hears should be “Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar” (‘Allah is the greatest’), part of the call to prayer, which is said in the child’s ear at birth. The life of the child should be imbued with the remembrance of Allah from that moment onward.
S/he should see his or her parents pray and read the Qur’an on a daily basis and hear them say Bismillah (in the name of Allah), Alhamdulillah (all praise to Allah) and other forms of praise of Allah.
All forms of corruption should be avoided to the extent possible.
If these things are achieved, the child will develop Iman and taqwa and will strive to please Allah. The development of Islamic thought and behaviour in the child will then become an easy, almost effortless task.
The seed of fitrah is in need of the sunshine and water that parents can provide. This will allow the Iman to grow into a strong and beautiful plant. It is the responsibility of parents to be the gardeners and maintainers of this fitrah. Parents are obligated to keep their child’s face in the direction of the religion of Islam. They cannot allow environmental influences to harm this growing plant. Allah has created us in a certain fashion and He has given us the tools to complete the task. As a nurtured plant grows almost effortlessly, so too will your child’s faith. With the foundation of fitrah, nurturing of Iman is a purely natural human experience.
Taken from the book : NURTURING IMAN IN CHILDREN