“And the slaves of God are those who walk on the earth in humility and calmness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness.” (Surah Furqan: 63)
Our Prophet (sa) cautioned that a person with even a mustard seed’s worth of pride within him will not be able to enter Jannah (paradise). (Sahih Muslim) Not only do we need to search within our own hearts to banish any feelings of arrogance, we also need to address this while doing the tarbiyah (upbringing) of our children.
Children are not arrogant in the precise definition of the word. However, a sense of comparing and contrasting themselves with others begins at a very young age. A child as young as three will beam and show his toy to everyone to get oohs and aaahs of appreciation. As he grows older and moves on to school, he starts observing what his peers have, and who has a better bag or better toys. Very soon, this leads to showing off belongings and teasing those who are different or “lesser”. Feelings of I-am-better-than-them may creep in, and this should ring bells for all Muslim parents.
Inculcating humility, as well as a sense of humbleness and gratitude to Allah during childhood, helps a child’s transition into adulthood. We need to teach our children that they must not brag or show off as everything is from Allah, and they must look at those below them and not above them in terms of worldly blessings.
Since humility is a very abstract concept, it is best taught to children through activities and games which can drive the lesson home. Here are some ideas to help Muslim parents with this task!
Pride Comes Before a Fall (game)
Set up an obstacle course of soft pillows, cushions, cartons, beanbags, or any such item which won’t hurt if bumped into. Blindfold your child and ask him to make it through without bumping into objects.
Point of discussion: Pride makes us blind to our sins and faults. When we are proud, we hurt ourselves the same way we get hurt when we bump into objects. Also, observe how the obstacle course has been left in disarray. Discuss how this is akin to the effect our pride has on others.
The Missing Sense (game)
Similar to the game above, play a variety of games that remove one of our five senses.
Point of discussion: Allah gives every person different gifts and abilities; no person is better or more important than the other.
“I Can Be Humble Today…” Planner
Just like adults, children need reminders to help develop new character traits. Print a monthly planner sheet, calendar, or use an old one for this activity. Write “I can be humble today by…” on top. Help children fill in each day of the month with an act of kindness and humility. This may include things like saying Jazak Allah Khair (may Allah reward you with good) to someone who helps such as a janitor or maid, helping a classmate in a subject he/she is weak in, helping parents with chores, and so on.
Point of discussion: Discuss with your children how we should not consider any task beneath us or judge anyone else for being unable to do something.
Mr. or Miss Arrogant
Draw a stick figure or outline of a person on a large paper and label it as Mr. or Miss Arrogant. Ask children to draw on clothing or accessories that show arrogance. The child can draw clothing that trails, a crown or shirts with statements like “I’m # 1” or “I’m better than you”. Ask children to draw speech bubbles, and brainstorm dialogues that one would expect from an arrogant person
Point of discussion: This is a great activity for kids and parents to brainstorm ideas of what kind of language represents arrogance, and identify it if they use this kind of language themselves.
Identifying arrogance is as important as giving children the skill of knowing how to respond humbly to others. Practice responses with your children that help acknowledge Allah whenever they are complimented. These responses can be: “Alhamdulillah, Allah has been kind to me”, or “Jazak Allah Khairan, but it is only through Allah’s Mercy I was able to…” and so on.
Point of discussion: Discuss how all honour is from Allah, Who has created us and given us different abilities and skills. This mindset prevents one from becoming proud.
Watch out for more ideas in Part 2 of this article.