بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
By Ruhaifa Adil
Storytelling is a great tool for Muslim parents to help shape their child’s personality, which is the first peg in laying the foundations of an ideal Muslim society. It helps to teach concepts, values, and lessons without sounding as though you are giving a lecture; it’s an effective means of tarbiyah (upbringing) as it helps children relate to the characters in the story without any feeling of defensiveness coming in the way. It is also a great way to fire up a child’s imagination, and transport them into times and eras that cannot be experienced in any other place than between the unfolding events of a story.
There is a plethora of books in the market, covering all kinds of topics for all ages, and at times, containing content which is unsuitable for a Muslim audience, particularly children. Some of the books contain ideas unacceptable in Islam, yet are stated so matter-of-factly that they become accepted as the norm, for example, keeping dogs as pets, peeping into someone’s house, referring to parents as outdated, and so on. One wonders then what the best stories to tell their children are. Here’s a breakdown of the best tales that one can relate to their little ones:
1. Stories from the Qur’an
Undoubtedly, the Qur’an is the greatest book on earth since it is the word of Allah. It is also one of the greatest storybooks of all times, relating to us stories starting from the creation of this world to the end of times, to teach us lessons and to give us warnings.
“There is, indeed, in their stories lessons for people endowed with understanding. It is not any invented tale, but a confirmation of what went before it, and a detailed exposition of all things, and a guide and a mercy to the people who believe.” (12:111)
The Qur’an relates to us three types of stories:
- Stories of the Prophets
- Historical stories of other people, such as the sons of Adam (as), the people of ‘Ad and Thamud and others.
- General historical stories where neither the people nor the era are identified such as the story of the two gardens.
2. Stories related by Prophet Muhammad (sa)
The Prophet (sa) related many stories that are recorded in books of ahadeeth. They tell us about people from previous nations, people whom Allah forgave, and trials faced by nations of other prophets. An example of this is the story of the man who gave water to a dog, and his sins were forgiven. These stories hold great lessons for us and our children, and are a great way to help our children get closer to the Prophet (sa).
3. Islamic history
The Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (sa), the stories of the exemplary men and women around the Messenger (sa), and those who followed them are amazing stories to tell and listen to. Islamic history is rich with stories of glory as well as stories of the downfall of Muslims. All these stories are essential to shape the Muslim child of today to learn from the experiences of previous Muslims.
4. Stories with good lessons and values
There are some really great books in the market that highlight good moral values such as honesty and truth, bravery and courage, patience and resilience. A great way to determine what books to buy is to read the synopsis at the back of the book or to check out reviews online to ascertain whether or not the story is suitable for your children.
5. Stories with undesirable elements
Sometimes to help our children realize what is unacceptable is to tell them about it. Keeping their age in mind, it might be a great idea to read certain stories to them, and help them critically analyze them to identify elements that are Islamically wrong. These books, if treated correctly, can be a great way to correct wrong concepts, attitudes and behaviours, and also teach us lessons about the consequences of our own actions and choices.
6. Improvising or creating your own stories
You can also make up stories about events or people, centering them on values and lessons you want to impart. You could also use real life events that you have experienced but disguise the participants in the story by changing names so that it isn’t backbiting or influencing your child against someone. This can be an effective way of sharing your own experiences or helping a child get over a particularly distressing incident.
Stories never grow old, but sometimes you need to change their flavour! Learn how to make stories come alive, and keep your audience rooted to their seats as you narrate stories that hold lessons and values for children!
Ruhaifa Adil is a mother of four, a practising Muslimah, an avid reader, and a passionate writer. She works primarily as a trainer for mothers and teachers, advocating a multi sensorial, learner-centred approach, which she has learnt through her work as a remedial specialist for children with dyslexia. She is also an author of English textbooks, based on the teachings of the Qur’an (currently under editing), and creative director of a Tafseer app for kids (soon to be launched Insha’Allah).
© IIPH 2015