This article comes on Day 14 of our special Altmuslim/Patheos Muslim Ramadan #30Days30Writers blog project, in which we are showcasing the voices of 30 Muslim leaders, activists, scholars, writers, youth and more (one on each day of Ramadan) as part of our commitment to own our own narratives and show how we are one Ummah, many voices. To demonstrate how our Ramadan experiences are shared yet unique to each of us.
“Sami, please!” My near-three-year old daughter makes her request 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. But when I notice her intolerance for my suggestion to play the recordings of the Quran, 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, 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 Quran 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 Quran into my child’s daily diet, I had to start with myself. How often do I freely and enjoyably recite the Quran? 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 Quran in my own life, I initiated a strategy.
I usually relegate the recitation of Quran 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 Quran is my early morning companion. I also started reciting Quran 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 Quran 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 grew on her. If I instinctively played her beloved Sami, she would pause and remind me that we forgot to listen to the Quran. Soon after, I would ask my daughter to pick the portions of Quran we listen to and made a game of listening for the word that the chapter is named after, and I would have her guess them on her own.
The context of our connection creates a welcoming environment to share the Quran with her. She helps me develop the playlist of Quran we listen to while doing puzzles or drawing quietly together. I also know of mothers who recite Quran together at the playground while swinging in the park. If the Quran 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 Quran 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 Quran. But for my own child, I want her to have a sense of how important the Quran 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 Quran.
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 Quran, 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.
Chantal Blake is a wife and mom from New York City currently living and traveling abroad. Woven through her writing are themes of spirituality, environmentalism and holistic health. Follow her on Google+ Author. She is a member of the Muslim Writer’s Collective.