Let The Stars Show You The Way!

Image Credit: kamuelaboy (Morguefile.com)

Assalaamu’alaikum dear readers!

Hope everyone had a fun, wonderful Eid with your loved ones :). I know we’re all missing Ramadan dearly, so may Allah ‘azza wa jall grant us the patience and persistence to continue doing the good deeds we did during Ramadan.

Alhamdulillah, after quite a long break, Gems for Juniors is now back with our precious (and I hope long-awaited!) Quranic gems.

Before we get into our Quranic gem, let me ask you this: does your family like traveling? Well, mine certainly does!

I don’t know about you, but I think part of the fun when traveling is searching for directions – figuring out where we are, learning about the route we’re taking, and knowing the exact location of our destination (and, well…maybe getting lost along the way, once in a while, hehe). My eldest child has always been interested in maps, signboards and finding directions too.

Nowadays, technology has made finding direction to your destination a breeze. Even our small children know how GPS technology works. But next time you and your family go on a trip, ask your children this: have they ever thought about how people in the past, many many centuries ago, find their direction? Or, what if they got lost in the dark? Not only there was no GPS, there was no compass and probably no maps to guide them either!

Now, this brings us to our first post-Ramadan gem! 🙂

It is He Who has made the stars for you, that you may guide yourselves, with their help, through the dark spaces of land and sea. We detail Our signs for people who think.” (Al-An’aam:97)

SubhaanAllah. Isn’t that just cool?

Long, long ago, travelers on land and on sea relied on stars to know where they were and where they were going, by using certain measurement techniques. That was how they avoided getting lost in the huge desert or in the middle of the ocean. This method is known as “celestial navigation”. It was mostly used by sailors.

A “constellation” is a group of stars that appear to form a certain pattern in the sky. Recognizing these patterns make it easier to spot the stars and use them for navigation. One star that is often used as a reference point is Polaris, also known as the North Star.

You will find a link below that you and your children can refer to for further reading on this topic. It’s pretty interesting, mashaAllah.

Now after learning about this, spend a brief moment with your children to ponder and reflect. Tell them that the amazing beauty they see in the sky is none other than Allah’s brilliant design. Allah is the One that gives the shape and beauty in His creation.

Activities:

  • Encourage your children to develop a habit of saying “Subhaanallah” to express their awe when looking at Allah’s creation.
  • Learn about one of the beautiful Names of Allah, Al-Musawwir. Find out what it means and the lessons that we can learn from this particular name of Allah. Relate it with what your children have previously learned about stars and other objects in the sky.
  • Choose a night to do star gazing with your family. Let you children observe the sky and see it moving! You don’t even need expensive stargazing equipment to do this.
  • Print a sky map (available at http://www.kidsastronomy.com/astroskymap/constellations.htm) and put it up on the wall in your children’s room or the study.
  • Explore the history of navigation in detail here. The page details the background of navigation, starting from the earliest method used until the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS). I would recommend this reading for older kids.

Even with the advanced technology that is available today, I would say it’s definitely a lot more fun to navigate using the stars, don’t you think? Happy star-gazing! 🙂

You Don’t Want To Miss This

As we were eating our suhoor meal today morning, I realized how fast time flies. We’re on the 22nd day of Ramadan already. Subhaanallah.

Anyway, I hope the Ramadan mood is still alive and strong in our homes and among our families, inshaAllah :).

With all the hype and excitement about the Eid celebration and preparation, it’s easy to overlook the importance of these last days of Ramadan. If you find that you and your family are caught in the “Eid hype” too, don’t worry, there is more than a week left of Ramadan for us to cherish! And in these last 10 days, there’s one very, very special night that you really don’t want to miss.

It’s the Night of Qadr, or Laylatul Qadr.

Verily, We have sent it (the Quran) down in the Night of Decree. And what will make you know what the Night of Decree is? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. Therein descend the angels and the Ruh (Jibreel) by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees. Peace! Until the appearance of dawn.” (Al-Qadr: 1-5)

A night that is better than a thousand months (yes, that’s more than 83 years!). What does this mean? Well, imagine, if we are blessed to perform ‘ibaadah on this night, the value is as if we’ve been engaged in that ‘ibaadah for 83 years!

If last Ramadan (and the previous ones, perhaps), we focused mainly on our own good deeds and ‘ibaadah (which is awesome mashaAllah) why not make it a little different this year? Why not, in addition to increasing our ‘ibaadah and good deeds, we invite our kids to share the excitement about Laylatul Qadr too?

I have explained Laylatul Qadr to my son since the beginning of Ramadan, so that he’s aware of how special it is, and that there’s something that we all look forward to every time Ramadan comes (in fact, just knowing how special Laylatul Qadr is, I wish my 2-year-old daughter understands it too!). Just as children are often excited that Eid is coming up, wouldn’t it be even better if they’re excited about this particular night too?

Just because our children can’t stay up all night doing ‘ibaadah (and realistically, we can’t expect them to), it doesn’t mean that we can’t make them understand the significance of this night and why Laylatul Qadr is something nobody would want to miss.

They’ll be thrilled just knowing that the angels are all around!

So, how do we know when is Laylatul Qadr?

Aisha r.a narrated: “Rasulullah SAW used to practice I’tikaaf in the last ten nights and say ‘Seek out Laylatul Qadr in the (odd nights) of the last ten days of Ramadhan’.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Tell your kids that Laylatul Qadr is a really cool mystery! But we have a little clue on when it’s going to happen, based on what Rasulullah SAW told us in the above hadith. However, the most important thing is to make sure that we increase our good deeds every night of these last ten nights.

Build up the excitement around Laylatul Qadr during these last ten nights of Ramadan with the following activities:

  • Teach our children the following du’a: “Allaahumma innaka afuwwun, tuhibbul ‘afwa, fa’fu ‘annee” (Translation: Ya Allah, You are Forgiving and You love forgiveness, so forgive me). This is the supplication that Rasulullah SAW taught us to recite on Laylatul Qadr. Therefore we should recite this du’a especially during the last ten nights of Ramadan.
  • Memorize and read the tafseer of Surah Al-Qadr
  • Du’a List – Ask your children to make their own du’a list for these last 10 nights. Also, encourage them to make du’a for others. Let them list down the people that they want to make du’a for. Remember, one of the greatest things we can do is making sincere du’a for other people in their absence, and when we do, the angel will say “Ameen, may it be for you too.” How AWESOME is that!
  • I’tikaf@Home – Put up an indoor tent for the kids to “camp” in. This is a good way to introduce the concept of i’tikaf to our children. You can let them read the Quran and also keep books, their du’a list, blankets and snacks in the tent. Make it something exciting! InshaAllah, they will remember this experience when they grow up and are old enough to perform actual i’tikaf :).

May we all find this precious night of al-Qadr, may Allah grant us the opportunity to perform ‘ibaadah to our best capacity on this special night and may He forgive all of our sins, past and present. Ameen!

Give, and Get Much, Much More

I was just having a conversation with my 6-year-old earlier today about generosity and the act of giving to others.  He knows basically what giving sadaqah (charity) means, but I thought that since it’s Ramadan, and giving sadaqah is one of the greatest ‘ibaadah (act of worship) that we’re encouraged to do in this blessed month, it was a perfect time to discuss more about it with him.

Sadaqah is probably one of the simplest ‘ibaadah that we can explain and demonstrate to our children. They would usually understand when we tell them that we help the poor because they are in need of money, food, clothing etc.

But really, sadaqah would mean so much more to our children if they know that not only would they help others and make them happy, but Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala has promised bountiful rewards to those who give to others.

The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to who He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.

(Al- Baqarah: 261)

Read the above verse and its translation with your children and do a little math together :).

1 x 7 x 100 = 700!

Yes! That’s a 700 times reward for whatever you spend in the way of Allah. Allahu Akbar!

How do we give sadaqah?

O you who believe, you shall give to charity from the good things you earn, and from what we have produced for you from the earth. Do not pick out the bad therein to give away, when you yourselves do not accept it unless your eyes are closed.You should know that Allah is Rich, Praiseworthy.

(Al-Baqarah: 267)

The above verse contains a very important lesson for children.

We shouldn’t give others things are already bad, worn out, broken, or have any defects that we wouldn’t want to have for ourselves. Our children need to be taught this as well. So if they have toys to give away, for instance, ask them to choose the ones that are still good. If they want to give away some of their books, ask them to make sure the pages aren’t dirty, smudgy or torn. The same goes with clothes, blankets and others.

Remind them that the more beloved something is to them, the better it is when they can make other people happy by giving it away.

Who give to charity during ease and hardship, and who restrain anger and pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.

(Ali-Imran: 134)

This is what I tried to emphasize to my son – that we don’t only give to others when we “have a lot of money” (because one time he said something like, “So when we have lots and lots of money we can help people!”). What and how much we give to others is based on what we can afford. Contrary to what many people think, we don’t have to be rich and wealthy to help others. Even when we ourselves are in a hard condition, there always has to be a way to give charity, no matter what it is and how small the amount.

Also, don’t forget to highlight the fact that Allah loves people who do good, as clearly mentioned in the above verse of Surah Ali-Imran.

Okay, how do we start? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sadaqah Jar/Box: Make a sadaqah jar or box at home and decorate it to make it look extra special. You can either make one for the entire family or let your child have their own sadaqah jar or box for them to put some cash or loose change inside. For Ramadan, maybe you can ask them to put in money each day and make it a goal to give as much sadaqa as they can. Check out this post to learn how to make an easy DIY Sadaqa Jar.
  • Choose one day to be a “Sadaqah Day”. You can do this weekly, bi-weekly, or as regular as you want, but let them consider that particular day a special day. On this day, you can take your children out to give donations to poor and homeless people, orphanages or even travelers if you meet them. These are the people to whom we are encouraged to give charity to. You can distribute water, dates, food, desserts – the list is endless!
  • “A Smile is Sadaqah” poster – When we talk about Sadaqah, our children would normally think about giving money and other material things to help people. We shouldn’t forget to teach them that Rasulullaah salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam told us that smiling is considered sadaqah too! So you can ask your children to make a poster that they can put up on the wall to remind them that smiling is sadaqah. Let them use their own creativity.
  • Read this hadith together:

Abu Dhar reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“Your smile to your brother is a sadaqah (charitable act) for you. Your commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is a sadaqah.  Your guiding a man in the land of misguidance is a sadaqah for you. Your seeing (showing the way) for a man with bad eyesight is a sadaqah for you. Your removing a stone or thorn or bone from the road is a sadaqah for you. Your emptying your bucket of water into your brother’s (empty) bucket is a sadaqah for you.”  

[Tirmidhi]

This hadith helps to make it clear to our children that sadaqah is not just limited to giving money to help people, but can also be done in other ways.

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Don’t forget to make lots and lots of du’a that our children will be among those who love to help people, and inshaAllah, they will realize that a small act of kindness goes a long way. May Allah accept their sadaqah as well as ours, ameen!