Teaching our children tawhid, the oneness of Allah, and how we are a part of Allah’s creation isn’t something to start when they reach high school. It is something we begin teaching when they are quite small.
Toddlers and preschoolers learn about animals. They learn about those that have eyes and ears like them. They learn the sounds they make to ‘talk’. They learn they need to eat and breathe and drink water. It’s the beginning of teaching them how they are part of a giant world, part of creation. Sit with them at the park and feel the breeze. Play with them in the snow. Talk to them about Allah’s creation, - how He made us each so different, - how He made us so similar. Add it to the conversation a little bit here and there.
A rule of thumb is to make the lesson no longer than one minute for every year of the child’s age. So a three minute discussion with a three year old is enough. Don’t insist on more. Add a bit if the child expresses more interest or just let the topic lay for a while.
Preschool children want to know what Allah made and what man made. Mention the distinction to them. Allah made the materials we use to build a toy car and a ramp. He made the rules about friction and gravity. We learn these rules when we make experiments and learn how to make the car roll faster and not fall off the ramp. Subhanallah! How wonderful Allah is! He made a logical world we can understand by working and thinking. And He made us responsible for this world, to take care of it. So we have to know about it.
Science lessons for children are easily adapted to an appreciation of Allah and His greatness and His wisdom. Subhanallah! Look how Allah created it! Mashallah! Allah made it that way. Add this when you and your child watch a cat play or you pick mint together in the garden. Watch a seed grow or a thunderstorm roll in across the sky. What does your child observe?
Quran tells us that Adam was special because Allah taught him the names of things. When we can name things we describe them, we have knowledge about them. This is something special we do with information that makes us different from other animals. Science is part of this. The word for science and the word for knowledge come from the same root in Arabic. As our children learn language, share this with them, this gift from Allah that makes us special in our relationship to Him and to our world.
Young children are very concrete in their thinking. A child will assume that Mickey Mouse and Barney are real unless we explain these things to them. It is important not to fill their minds with false tales, however pretty, and let them think they are true. How often parents fail to teach their children about Allah but they teach them about ghosts, fairies, Santa Claus, and wild stories about jinn and cute girl angels with wings. Jinn and angels do exist but we know very little about them.
There is a place for fantasy, for fun, but we need to oversee that it doesn’t overwhelm the truth and the spiritual development of our children. Think about this point deeply and discuss it with others. How much fun fantasy is your child involved with? How much time does your child spend with nature, with the people around, learning about our world and how we fit into it, how we are responsible for it?
A common way to explain Allah to the young concrete thinker is to compare Him to the air. It’s all around us, we don’t always feel it but sometimes it is very strong, on a windy day. We can’t see it. But Allah is greater than the wind. For an older child, in elementary school, we can also refer to the stars in the sky. How many are there? Try to count them with your child. Allah created all of them. He is much greater than all the stars in the endless sky. It is said frequently that the concept of zero and the Arabic numerals, algebra and trigonometry were the great contributions of Muslim mathematicians to the world. But the concept of infinity is perhaps even more important. It comes out of our contemplation of Allah. How else might you describe Allah to a child?
Modern science has discovered many new facts about our world, our universe. For our older children we can incorporate some of these new understandings when we teach them about Allah, how all creation is one created by one All Intelligent Creative Creator. These concepts can be understood by middle school age, and help the child to appreciate learning science in school, as well as appreciating Allah more.
Several billion years ago, in the arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, a super nova, a gigantic star, exploded at tremendous heat, blasting millions of tons of atoms, particles, space dust, out into empty space around it. Over time, about 5 billion years ago, some of that dust slowly pulled together, spinning around, and formed our solar system. Everything in the solar system, every atom, was created in some exploding star and any atom greater in mass than iron can only have been made by a supernova.
(See http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/teachers/calcium/got_calcium_litho.pdf and http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/teachers/elements/elements.html.)
So the atoms that make up our planet and everything in and on it, including us, come from star dust. Subhanallah!
Chemists have studied atoms and made a chart of their structure. Add another proton to the nucleus and you get a new atom. Subhanallah, this is the stuff we are made of.
Then there are 4 molecules, (adenine, A, guanine, G, cytosine, C, and thymine, T). Like neutrons, protons, and electrons are essential for the atom, these are essential for DNA, the code of life. DNA is far more complicated than atoms. We share DNA with all living things.
Mashallah, how Allah created such infinite variety in life from this code!
There is unity in all things in our universe, and among all living things on our planet. We can see the fingerprints of the Creator who made everything from a few simple things.
How do you share this appreciation with your children? On picnics in the park? While watching the moon from a window?