بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
As a pre-teen, I was extremely fascinated with the different incidents in the lives of the prophets. I had several books which narrated these stories in varying ways, and I never tired of reading and re-reading them.
Naturally, when my son reached the age when he would sit down with books and want to hear stories, I felt I should introduce him to the stories of the prophets. However, I felt uncertain. I wasn’t sure how to tell him stories which seemed to contain concepts he wouldn’t understand – idol worship, for one.
I bought several books for him but was rather taken aback by the fact that even though the books were aimed at young children, they contained terminology which I, as a mother, didn’t feel very comfortable relating to my five-year-old. Such phrases in the story of Prophet Loot (as), for example, made me put away the books and contemplate some other way of introducing the prophets to my son.
If the above scenario sounds familiar to you as a parent, then my humble suggestion would be to follow these five steps, which I have found extremely useful as well as practical.
1. Know the stories yourself
It goes without saying that the very first step in the quest to familiarize your children with the stories of the prophets is to know – in detail – the different incidents yourself. Learning more about the life and times of various prophets will give you an insight into where to begin (see Point # 2). It will also help you answer your children’s inevitable queries.
2. Begin with what your child is familiar with
Every child has his or her unique interests. Some children may be fascinated with water, so you can use the story of Prophet Nooh (as) as a starting point for them. My five-year-old is extremely interested in camels, and hence, the first story he took an active interest in was that of Prophet Salih (as).
3. Simplify the concept of ‘idol worship’
Yes, it is difficult to explain to very young children exactly what it was that people were doing ‘wrong’. Why did Allah (swt) send a prophet to them? What did the prophet instruct them to do? Again, the key is to draw on the concepts that the child is already familiar with. My son, for instance, was familiar with statues and with Dua. Using these concepts as a basis, I explained to him that people had started to make statues, and then they made Dua to them. They thought the statues could listen to their Duas – but can a statue do that? Who do we make Dua to? Who listens to our Dua? Allah (swt) does! So this is what the prophet told them to do – make Dua to Allah (swt) only, and obey Him. As the child grows older, you can explain further, Insha’Allah, but as a starting point for toddlers, this pretty much gets the message across.
4. Take help from the Internet – with caution
On the Internet, there are some very helpful videos that make the stories of prophets come alive in ways that really capture the attention of children. However, it is best to sift through the many videos to choose the ones which are age-appropriate. Watch these videos together as a family, and once finished, have a discussion on what you have watched. This will not only help the little ones clarify their understanding, it will also give you, as a parent, more insight into whether or not they have comprehended what they just watched.
5. Emphasize Allah’s mercy
I noticed that after listening to the stories of Prophets Nooh and Salih, my five-year-old started talking about Allah’s punishment with alarming frequency. “Allah will punish you if you do so-and-so,” became his regular statement. This then necessitated a discussion about Allah’s mercy. Moreover, I had to inject a regular dose of “Allah is your friend”, “Allah helps you”, and “Allah is happy with you” into our conversations. I would suggest introducing only one of these stories (emphasizing Allah’s punishment) at a time, and balancing it out with another focusing on Allah’s mercy – for instance, the story of Prophet Yoonus or Prophet Ayyoob.
Insha’Allah, with Allah’s help, loads of supplications, and an active interest on your part as a parent, children will eventually take a keen interest in the lives of the prophets. May Allah (swt) enable our young ones to take the prophets as their role models! Ameen.