Teaching Children How To Read and the Importance of Reading To A Muslim, By Murtadha Gusau
…with the overwhelming evidence, in addition to our own religion and history to back us up, we should be motivated to encourage the next generation of scholars, scientists and doctors by heading out to our local libraries and checking out books. We are raising our future, and what we leave our children with today will be something that will benefit the generations to come.
In The Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation. May Allah extol the mention of the Prophet Muhammad in the highest company of Angels and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his family, his Companions and all those who follow him exactly till the Day of Judgement.
Respected believers, know that, by reading to our children we not only teach them that learning is fun, we show them by our own example. Allah the Almighty Says:
“…Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees…” [Qur’an, 58: 11]
While it is true that the knowledge that is referenced to in the above verse is Islamic knowledge, there is no doubt that throughout Islamic history, from the time of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) until present day, there has been a common understanding that striving to learn and educate ourselves is a vital part of being a Muslim.
We know from our rich history that Muslims hold the highest ranks in scientific, medical, mathematical and astronomical discoveries – and because of that, our scholars have been envied for many years.
It is so important that we pass on our wonderful legacy of learning to our children, and one of the best ways to accomplish that is to read to them. By reading to them, we not only teach them that learning is fun, we show them by our own example. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
“Only two persons deserve to be envied, firstly, a person to whom Allah has given wealth and bestowed upon him guidance to spend in a righteous cause, and secondly, a person upon whom Allah has bestowed wisdom by which he judges and which he teaches.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Dear brothers and sisters, with reading come the benefit and the gift of knowledge – more precious to our children than anything else we could ever buy them or give them. Reading to comprehend helps them to understand their religion and therefore teach it to others. We know that reading is at the heart of all learning, but especially being able to read and understand the Qur’an and the Hadith.
Not only it is important that we teach our children English, but also Arabic to the best of our ability. In this way, they can experience the Qur’an as it is in its pure form.
It is not only important to teach our children to read, but to listen to them while they are reading. By listening to them, we can hear and correct their mistakes and encourage them to sound out new words they are unfamiliar with.
We need to get together in our communities and start reading groups for our children to encourage them to turn off the video games and televisions in the house and pick up a book. Whether it is a work of fiction screened by the mom or a biography about one of our beloved Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, it is vital that we get our children reading.
It is one of the easiest ways in which to involve yourself in their education and show them you care. Make a plan and read a book together, and then spend time to discuss it, explain it and ask questions. Ask them what they anticipate will happen next, or what they think should have happened.
Here is the 10 proactive things you can do:
1. As you read together, stop and ask your children the picture in the book and what is happening in the story.
2. Read from a variety of children’s books.
3. When reading a book where the print is large, point word by word as you read. This will help your children learn that reading goes from left to right (or right to left for Arabic books) and understand that the words they say are the words they see.
4. Read your children’s favourite books with them over and over again to build understanding and recognition.
5. For smaller children, pronounce each word clearly and a little slower than you would normally read it.
6. Read stories with your children that feature rhyming words and lines that repeat. Invite your children to join in on these parts by pointing word by word as they read along with you.
7. Discuss new words. Ask them to make a new sentence with that new word to make sure they understand the meaning.
8. Listen and watch how your children read and understand written materials.
9. If your child is old enough, assign a book every two weeks and have them write a book report for you. Get creative with book reports by making them more interactive, such as choosing a book about a country, then cooking a traditional dish from that area.
10. Find books that can be read as plays and get the whole family involved in reading their parts with different voices.
Our children intimate us in every way.
So with the overwhelming evidence, in addition to our own religion and history to back us up, we should be motivated to encourage the next generation of scholars, scientists and doctors by heading out to our local libraries and checking out books. We are raising our future, and what we leave our children with today will be something that will benefit the generations to come. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated a meaningful Hadith in which the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
“When a man dies, all his acts come to an end but three; recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him (for the deceased).” [Muslim]
Respected servants of Allah, know that, there are many benefits of reading in Islam. Education, civilisation and reciprocal partnerships rest on the ability to read. It all started with the word: “READ!”
“Read!” the voice resonated in the cave of Mount Hirah for the third time. The man called Muhammad (Peace be upon him) froze, mostly in fear and confusion in the arms of Angel Jibril. When he found his voice, he told the Angel he did not know how to read.
“Read, in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot. Read, for your Lord is most generous, who teaches by means of the pen, teaches man what they know not.” [Al-Alaq: 1-5]
The man soon to be known as Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) received the first revelation of the noble Qur’an – Islam’s noble scripture that remains untainted and unchanged until this very day. The underlying message of the Qur’an remains too – “READ.”
My beloved people, the Qur’an is the most quoted book in the world, describing Islam as the complete way of life for every Muslim to follow. It is also the most widely read, recited and memorised book in the world.
Reading comes naturally to humans when the time comes to broach education. Children as young as three are learning to read in some countries. Benefits of reading come like no other. Educators agree that reading to young babies every day ignites curiosity in reading materials and teaches children to respect and cherish books. Reading is also a catalyst for growth and development. Young, avid readers are more likely to grow into confident adults.
Our beloved Master, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) encouraged his followers to broaden their horizons by seeking knowledge – even to the depths of China (although the Hadith is weak). He enthusiastically welcomed traders from different countries to stop-by in Madinah to have his followers learn and appreciate their cultures.
Nowadays, reading materials are of abundance and they allow the plight for knowledge to be easier than ever.
The first battle Muslims fought was the battle of Badr, whereby they were attempting to salvage their rightful possessions that their Quraish brethren had hijacked and were transporting to sell off for profit. When the small number of ousted Muslims triumphed against the men of Makkah, many of their former friends and relatives were held as prisoners.
Muslims during the first years of the Islam comprised mostly of the poor and illiterate – they were mostly those who escaped undue discrimination and maltreatment of the wealthy. When these Muslims captured the people who had once tortured them in their homeland, Makkah, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) prevented unkindness towards the Quraish prisoners.
Instead, he ordered for them to be quartered amongst Muslims and to be treated with kindness. Some were allowed to buy their freedom through ransoms. Some were given the alternative: to teach 10 Muslims how to read and write. Upon doing so, they would be free.
A milestone in the development of Islam was marked during the treaty of Hudaibiyyah. The Muslims were venturing back to Makkah to perform the pilgrimage ritual. They were stopped by the Quraish – the tribe now worried that the Muslims were growing stronger. A treaty was enacted to disallow Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his followers to only perform the rite the following year. In return, the Quraish promised 10 years of peace between themselves and the Muslims. In addition to that, the Muslims were also free to spread the message of Islam.
Upon the enactment of this document, the Muslims jumped at the opportunity to teach followers of other faiths what they had learnt about their new religion. Little did they know the treaty was to be breached two years later by their enemies. They paraded into Makkah with full triumph and reclaimed the land that was rightfully theirs.
None of this would have happened should the Muslim entourage not have the ability to read and agree to the contract.
Most importantly for Muslims is the desire to read the Qur’an. Reading the Qur’an, however, also means to understand the words and to practice what is being taught. Muslims are told that the ranking of Muslims in Paradise would be determined by the number of Qur’anic verses a Muslim has learnt during his or her lifetime. Allah the Almighty says:
“Those who recite the Book of Allah, and establish the prayer, and spend of that which We have bestowed on them secretly and openly, they look forward to imperishable gain, that He will pay them their wages and increase them of His grace. Lo! He is Forgiving, Responsive.” [Fatir: 29-30]
And the Prophet (Peace be upon him) reminded:
“Those who recite the Qur’an beautifully are like the noble scribes (angels) but as for those who are struggling to read it with hardship will merit double rewards.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Dear brothers and sisters, if you can’t remember when last you picked up an intriguing book and lost yourself in a story, it’s time to read more and do so with your children, too. There is a rich legacy of libraries in Muslim lands, which highlight the need for more reading, especially in our modern time, where we are distracted by technology that prevents us from engaging with our imagination and the world around us. Here is why reading is so important for you and your family:
1. Reading Prevents Cognitive Decline
When you read, you decrease your risk of mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Protein that accumulates in the brain is directly linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that there are lower levels of these proteins in people who read, write, or play games. While you’re reading, you’re firing up your brain, learning lots of new things that keep your brain sharp.
2. Reading Decreases Depression
If you’re feeling down about life, reach for a book. Research from the University of Liverpool found that people who read are 21 per cent less likely to say they feel depressed and 10 per cent more likely to have positive self-esteem. Books transport you to other worlds and can help to distract you from what’s bothering you.
3. Reading Is Relaxing
A study by the University of Sussex found reading is an activity that eliminates stress. Researchers monitored people’s muscle tension and heart rates, finding that it takes just six minutes of reading for people to relax. In order to combat stress, Muslims can do well to turn to the Qur’an, which offers a lot of comfort in the face of stress and trauma. There are also great books about understanding the Qur’an and daily wisdom to apply to your life that can prove highly valuable.
4. Reading Can Boost Your Sleep Quality
Studies have shown that poor quality of sleep is tied to electronic use before bed, such as using tablets or smartphones. These electronics emit a blue light that stimulates the brain, and can therefore make you battle to fall asleep. Avoiding screens is important. Reading a book, in a dimly lit room, is a healthier way to encourage relaxation and sleep before bedtime, and is especially useful if your children are too energetic before bed.
5. Reading To Children Improves Their Vocabulary And Knowledge
Read wonderful books to your children to increase their vocabulary and knowledge. Benefits of regular reading time with children include getting them ready for school, teaching them to focus and concentrate on a task, teaching them new words that will enrich their language, and boosting their imagination, which can make them more creative. Studies have found that children who are read to from when they’re really young have better language development and higher language scores in school. Reading with toddlers in which you let them hold the book and turn its pages can also develop their motor skills.
6. Reading Makes You Empathetic
Essex Libraries has tackled the question: What makes a book encourage empathy in readers? Something they found is that well-rounded characters that the reader can believe in are important, as well as characters who make it easy for the reader to feel they would do the same thing if they were in the character’s shoes. Reading books to children can help them to imagine what it would be like to be in those characters in the stories, helping them take the empathy and understanding of others learnt from books and use these skills in real life.
Respected brothers and sisters, reading is one of the most powerful ways you can enrich your life and help your children grow. By dedicating to daily reading, you can boost your brain function and gain better skills, such as empathy, that will make you a better person.
May Allah Almighty accept our Ibadah (worship) and supplications, May He the Most High guide our leaders and provide us with a lasting peace in our beloved country Nigeria, ameen Ya Mujib!
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our beloved Prophet and Master, Muhammad (Peace be upon him), his family and all his Companions.
Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org or +2348038289761.
This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today Friday, Muharram 13, 1441 A. H. (September 13, 2019).