<img src="http://www.patheos.com/blogs/growmama/files/2012/01/curious-child1-201×300.jpg" alt="" title="curious-child1" width="201" height="300" class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-3727" /Ever been asked by a child why you wear that thing on your head? Seen a mother squirm and hush her child up? Wondered how much you could say without stepping on that mother’s toes? How do you react in these situations? Here are three awesome mamas responses to being asked about hijab by children of other faiths, while navigating the sticky field of faith discussion.
I have actually had this occur a number of times (where a child would point and ask what is on my head, or why is that woman wearing that?). I try to smile, and put the parent at ease. Perhaps walk by and tell them, “It’s ok, don’t worry about it, I get it all the time.” I think putting them at ease and letting them know I’m not offended is the first step – because many parents are very conscious of me hearing and thinking their child is making fun or worry that I’m going to get offended. Then I take my cues from the parent. Sometimes, I just leave it at that, and say, have a good day, and just try to show them, I’m a nice, normal, English speaking person.
In general, I try to avoid talking about religion so as not to offend – and let the parent explain however they see fit. But I might say to the child, “Well that’s a nice necklace or hat you are wearing, why do you wear that?”, and they generally say, “because I like it,” or ” because I want to,” and then I just respond, “Well, I wear this because I like it, too.” Children who are too young might not understand the concept of God and religion and modesty (beyond what they see of their own parents). So I try to avoid getting into those conversations. If a parent themselves say something, and seem to want to engage in a discussion, I’ll discuss it, but I think discussions of God and Religion should be left for parents to have with their child and explain to them.
I havent really encountered too many non-Muslim young children but I have encountered questions from non-Muslim teenagers. When it comes to hijab I basically say that it’s to protect myself from the impure thoughts, feelings and reactions of men and women, such as jelousy, lust, desire, temptation, etc. I then bring in the fact that I am only for my husband and chose to be modest not only because God commanded it but becasue I personally believe its the right thing to do.
When questioned about Salat, I discuss why we pray 5 times a day is to constantly remember God in everything we do, and constantly thank Him and Repent to Him and never forget that He is watching over us and our actions at all times. I also discuss that it is one of the 5 pillars of faith, is obligatory and is our one on one time with God throughout the day.
Our experience with young non-Muslim children has largely been with children in our building and surrounding area. We are blessed to live in an area where there are large African-American and Hispanic families. When the weather is nice, children often play in the large green space shared by the building tenants. For whatever reason many of these children enjoy coming over – opening up the refrigerator or playing with the toys. Often I feel compelled to ask them to tell their parents that they are over our house, or to remind them to go home.
During one of these visits the time for prayer came, and my husband told the two 6-year old boys over at the time that our sons will have to stop playing for a little bit because we would be praying. My husband explained that five times a day we pray to God to thank Him for what He gave us. He simplified the concept for their age level. To my surprise one of them asked if he could pray with us, and the other followed (I guess at that point he didn’t want to be the only one NOT praying). They followed the steps of prayer with us, and then continued to play afterwards. Now, whenever we call our sons in from outside to pray, we openly say we’re going to pray. It’s a familiar concept now.
I have to admit I felt a little uncomfortable this first time they prayed with us (it’s happened a few times since). Afterwards, I had a discussion with my husband expressing this discomfort – would their parents be ok with this, what would they think? He said that their parents obviously feel comfortable leaving their children at our house, and that they likely trust us because we’re Muslim. He said, “How can we tell a child not to pray with us, when he tells us that he wants to pray?” At that I said, what if our children went to their houses and the same thing happened. This was a purely theoretical discussion now because we never allow our children to go to any of their houses. At that, my wise husband said – “That’s why we don’t let our children go to their houses, but they obviously feel comfortable leaving their kids with us.” After this first prayer, the kids continued to come over – no parent ever expressed a concern over this.
Having shared this story, I realize that this approach may not be suitable for most people. We just happen to live in an area where people are trusting of the Muslim family next door. We all should, however, have our kids feeling confident enough with their non-Muslim friends to say they have to pray in a way that is matter of fact. Praying is not something strange, and certainly not something that should be hidden or done out of plain sight.
I’d like to think that these kids will grow up one day and fondly remember the house next door where they played, ate and drank – and where they prayed their first Salah.