The power of du’a: more Ramadan lessons

فَتَقَبَّلَهَا رَبُّهَا بِقَبُولٍ حَسَنٍ وَأَنبَتَهَا نَبَاتًا حَسَنًا وَكَفَّلَهَا زَكَرِيَّا ۖ كُلَّمَا دَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا زَكَرِيَّا الْمِحْرَابَ وَجَدَ عِندَهَا رِزْقًا ۖ قَالَ يَا مَرْيَمُ أَنَّىٰ لَكِ هَٰذَا ۖ قَالَتْ هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow in a good manner and put her in the care of Zakariyyah (Zachariah). Every time Zakariyyah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, “O Maryam (Mary), from where is this [coming] to you?” She said, “It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.”

هُنَالِكَ دَعَا زَكَرِيَّا رَبَّهُ ۖ قَالَ رَبِّ هَبْ لِي مِن لَّدُنكَ ذُرِّيَّةً طَيِّبَةً ۖ إِنَّكَ سَمِيعُ الدُّعَاءِ

At that, Zakariyyah called upon his Lord, saying, “My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.”

فَنَادَتْهُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَهُوَ قَائِمٌ يُصَلِّي فِي الْمِحْرَابِ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُبَشِّرُكَ بِيَحْيَىٰ مُصَدِّقًا بِكَلِمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَسَيِّدًا وَحَصُورًا وَنَبِيًّا مِّنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

So the angels called him while he was standing in prayer in the chamber, “Indeed, Allah gives you good tidings of Yahya (John), confirming a word from Allah and [who will be] honorable, abstaining [from women], and a prophet from among the righteous.”

قَالَ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَقَدْ بَلَغَنِيَ الْكِبَرُ وَامْرَأَتِي عَاقِرٌ ۖ قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ اللَّهُ يَفْعَلُ مَا يَشَاءُ

He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when I have reached old age and my wife is barren?” The angel said, “Such is Allah; He does what He wills.”

Aali-‘Imraan: 37-40

This passage in my daily portion of Qur’an today holds a very special place in my heart.

Before Pippin came along, I didn’t think I would be able to have children. It took two and a half years to conceive her and, in the summer of 2012, I specifically remember forcing myself out of sadness and frustration and busying myself with other things. That Ramadan I was reminded of these ayaat and renewed my focus on du’a. Allah can do anything He wishes, and everything comes from Allah. My Ramadan du’a list that year had only two du’as on it, and one of them was a du’a for Pippin. I made those du’as constantly, and alhamdulillah I found out I was expecting Pippin on the 28th day of Ramadan, and I must have actually been pregnant in the first or second week of Ramadan based on how far along I was. Best Eid gift ever.

Ever since that year my love of du’a has renewed strength during Ramadan. The power of du’a at all times of the year is amazing, but during Ramadan it’s something extraordinary. I have seen du’as from my Ramadan du’a lists granted in the most unexpected ways. Du’a is often called the weapon of the believer, and I hope that my children will be well trained on how to use it, because it truly is the only thing that gets me through the difficult parts of life.

There are many ways that I try to instill the love of du’a in my children, both within Ramadan and not. Here are just a few of them:

Focus first on who Allah is and on developing a relationship with Him — du’a will come naturally as a result

This is by far the most important point in my list. I believe that without having some sort of connection with Allah, no child (and no adult either) will be motivated to make du’a for anything. If anything, du’a would just become another chore to check off the list in order to please the parents.

I think that one of the first things a child needs to learn in life is about his/her Creator. They can’t ask Allah for something if they don’t know who He is.

One of Pippin and Merry’s favourite books is Allah Knows All About Me by Yasmin Mussa. We had other children’s Islamic books in our home library but when we added this one to the collection (when Pippin had just turned two years old), we noticed a drastic change in the types of questions Pippin asked and the way she behaved when it came to prayer and du’a, and even in other areas of life. She started clearly initiating prayer herself instead of just mimicking us when she saw us praying. She picked up a copy of Hisnul-Muslim and started calling it her own Qur’an. She started asking more about Allah: “does Allah like it if I do this?”, “does Allah know what’s in my belly button?”

More importantly in my opinion, she started asking about Allah in ways similar to how she asks about us. She often asks, “are you happy with me, amma?” or “is baba happy with me?” but now she also asks, “is Allah happy with me?” and our answer is inevitably, “Allah loves those who turn to Him and ask from Him, and if Allah is happy with you, nothing else matters.”

We try our best to make it obvious that Allah is a huge part of our lives. Allah is the one who allows everything to happen. If it rains, we say, “look Pippin! Allah is watering the plants for us!” If something breaks, we say, “oh Pippin, we can try to fix it but only if Allah helps us. If He doesn’t help us, then maybe it’s because we’ll get something better soon, or maybe He has something better for us in Jannah and we don’t need this one anymore.” If she gets a scrape, we say, “oh that must hurt! But look, Allah is already fixing it for you because He made your body in such a perfect way that it’s going to make a really cool scab to cover it up and then new skin will grow.”

And this leads perfectly into making du’a a natural part of life, because if you know innately that Allah is the one that makes all things happen, then when you want something to happen, Allah is the first one you turn to. If you do something wrong, Allah is the first one who need forgiveness from, because if Allah is upset with you then no one else’s happiness matters.

Make du’a in a language they understand, and introduce Arabic du’as slowly

The vast majority of the du’as that I say aloud to Pippin are in English. The most heartfelt du’as are the ones that come, obviously, straight from the heart. So I lead Pippin by example to make lots of du’as that are in her own language.

We do use Arabic du’as as well, and these are usually the adhkaar of daily life: before and after eating or drinking, when leaving or entering the house, when driving, etc. I try to translate these sometimes but most of the time we just say them as habit and will teach her the meaning as she gets older. These adhkaar are not really a big focus for us at this age, and other than when eating and drinking, I don’t expect her to say any of them herself. And she knows the meaning of the adhkaar before/after eating and drinking, alhamdulillah.

One thing I do emphasize to her though, is that Surah al-Faatihah and the surahs we recite to her before bedtime are actually du’as as well. Surah al-Faatihah is such an important du’a that we make multiple times during every prayer. And the last two quls are so important for her protection. (And Surah al-Ikhlaas is I guess not really a du’a, but it does say a lot about who Allah is.) So all of these surahs are very highly emphasized and I try my best to slowly teach her the meanings of them, according to her own level of understanding. She knows that when she reads Surah al-Faatihah, she’s asking Allah to show her the right way, and she knows that when she reads Surah al-Falaq and Surah an-Naas, she’s asking Allah to protect her from all sorts of bad things.

Make du’a for big things and small things

Let’s face it, to a kid, some “small things” are actually quite important, and some “big things” don’t matter at all!

We try to make du’a for anything and everything. If I plan to take Merry and Pippin out to the local Early Years Centre, on the way there I usually say out loud, “Oh Allah, let us go to the Early Years Centre today because we want to play with our friends today!” Or if Pippin wants to watch TV, but it’s not a good time or I have to say no for any reason, then I sometimes say, “not now Pippin, but maybe you can ask Allah to change my mind.” And sometimes it actually works for her.

Let children see du’a in your life as well

If you only encourage your children to make du’a, but they never see it in action, it’s not going to be very effective. Children are intelligent. They know that if you really think Allah will answer your du’a, then when you get a scratch on your car, you will ask Allah to help you fix it, and when you’re overwhelmed with work and life, you will ask Allah to give you strength and make it easier. If you instead complain about bad drivers and harsh bosses and don’t show any sign of turning to Allah, that shows them that Allah isn’t a part of your life — they will grow up thinking Allah is irrelevant.

Tell them verses and hadith about du’a

There are so many hadith and verses of Qur’an that can easily be added to your daily speech and that kids will start to incorporate into their life. A two or three year old can easily understand and act on them, which really shows just how all-inclusive du’a is — whereas many hadith and verses of the Qur’an go over kids’ heads (like the verses on divorce or trade), the ones about du’a are easily understood by anyone old enough to consciously make du’a.

Throw some wisdom into your speech:

“Your Lord said, ‘call Me, I will answer you.'” (Ghaafir: 60)

“Allah owns the treasures of the heavens and the earth.” (Many times in the Qur’an)

The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not stop making du’a, for no one who makes du’a is abandoned.” (Haakim)

The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Your Lord is Generous and Shy. If His servant raises his hands to Him, He becomes shy to return them empty.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)

“Allah is not forgetful.” (Many times in the Qur’an)

If you have other ideas that work for your family, please share them in the comments so that others can benefit!

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