“Sami, please”, my near-three-year old daughter requests from her car seat before my key can reach the ignition. Who is Sami? Is he a sibling, toy, or cartoon character? No, he is none other than Sami Yusuf, the world-renowned Islamic recording artist. Alongside Mesut Kurtis and Rachid Gholam, this trio comprises her best friends. They sing anasheed, or songs of Islamic prayers, prose and poetry. A car ride is incomplete without their accompaniment.
There is nothing sweeter than hearing my daughter’s pint-sized voice sing words of praise. With or without percussion, tunes of Divine oneness and prayers for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) roll of her tongue while she bops her head and attempts to snap her little fingers. When I notice her intolerance for my suggestion to play the recordings of the Qur’an, I can’t help but pause and wonder if I’m raising a nasheed junkie—one who loves the mention of God only when put to a tune or rhythm.
In a course on Islamic Parenting [http://seekersguidance.org/home/courses/GEN140], Shaykh Faraz Rabbani advised parents about the importance of music in our children’s lives. Of course, there is no place for vile, popular music in the pure heart of a young believer, but he recommended that the enjoyment of anasheed should never outweigh the beauty of Qur’an recitation. By saturating our palates with song, we lose the ability to taste the sweetness of God’s untainted revelation. Much like comparing whole foods to fast food, the two cannot compare.
To introduce the Qur’an into my child’s daily diet, I had to start with myself. How often do I freely and enjoyably recite the Qur’an? How often do I attentively listen and ponder the words of revelation? How often do I review what I’ve memorized of the Noble Book? A young child may not be moved by the depth of meanings but at least they learn to honor what we honor and love what we love by imitation. After assessing the place of Qur’an in my own life, I initiated a strategy.
I usually relegate the recitation of Qur’an to the early morning hours when the home is quiet and my daughter is sound asleep. If she stumbles sleepily into the room where I’m reciting, I no longer usher her back to bed, but allow her to lie on my lap while I continue to recite uninterrupted. She should know that the Qur’an is my early morning companion. I also started reciting Qur’an after my afternoon prayers and would find my daughter magnetically drawing nearer to me in curiosity. Soon enough, she was finishing the verses that I began.
Listening to a few short chapters of the Qur’an became a prerequisite before anasheed in our home or car. This plan was initially met with resistance but the melodic recitation of Shaykh Mishary al-Afasi [http://www.mp3quran.net/eng/afs_english.html] grew on her. If I instinctively played her beloved Sami, she would pause and remind me that we forgot to listen to the Qur’an. Soon after, I would ask my daughter to pick the portions of Qur’an we listen to and made a game of listening for the word that the chapter is named after and guessing them on her own.
The context of our connection creates a welcoming environment to share the Qur’an with her. She helps me develop the playlist of Qur’an we listen to while doing puzzles or drawing quietly together. I also know of mothers who recite Qur’an together at the playground while swinging in the park. If the Qur’an is a point of contact with a loved one, it can then be associated with the love of that person as well. We hope to nurture this connection by reading Qur’an together as a family this Ramadan.
I am certain that there are other three year-olds who have started lessons in memorizing and reciting the Qur’an. But for my own child, I want her to have a sense of how important the Qur’an is before approaching it. She has learned a few short chapters by hearing our recitation in prayer and before bedtime but I want her formal lessons to begin when she can no longer resist. When she stops peeking in from the periphery and decides to dive into the ocean of Qur’an. At times her interest waxes and wanes but I know that I’m sowing seeds in her heart and I don’t mind waiting for the harvest. For now, the most important lesson for me to convey to my little one is that I love the Qur’an and I want to foster her love for it too. One day, she will have to establish her own relationship with the majesty and mystery of God’s Book. Until then, my hope is that when she recalls her best friend, it won’t be a nasheed artist but rather the Author of her favorite Book—Allah.
This article was originally published on the altmuslim blog on Patheos.com