“Oh My Lord! Open my chest. And ease my task for me. Remove the impediment from my speech so that they may understand what I say” (20:25-28)
I went to a popular Islamic bookstore in Toronto today to find a specific type of Quran for my son. The owner of the store was an old man who I occasionally spoke to every time I went, and we usually would exchange common pleasantries, but this time the conversation went something like this.
Owner- Who are you getting this Quran for?
Me- My son. I was looking for something simple with big lettering and the meanings at the bottom.
O- Why do you need the meanings?
Me- Because I want him to understand what he reads.
O- It’s going to take a very long time for him to finish the Quran this way. It’s completely wrong.
(I thought I misunderstood him and was hoping he would correct me. So I asked again.)
Me- Teaching the child Quran with meanings is wrong?!?!
O- Completely wrong. You should make your son read just the Arabic text first before he turns six. How old is he?
Me- Eight years, but I read the Arabic part with him first, then we go over the main Arabic words and discuss what he just read, he enjoys it more.
O- “No, you should not do that. You are very late. You should have done this years ago. You are going to lose his attention very soon. He will lose interest in the Quran and won’t want to read it. I have a six-year-old granddaughter who gets beaten every day if she refuses to read the Quran or say her prayers and dua’s during the day. When they get older, they will think that Islam is a very harsh religion and won’t want to follow it. I look at children who are so old and still don’t know how to recite the shortest surahs, and it saddens me. You should beat him and be angry with him until he doesn’t finish the Quran.”
I looked at my son’s face and couldn’t believe that a man could even suggest something like that. I was dumbfounded. Respecting his age, I didn’t say anything, and instead, I just asked him to pray for us and left the store with disappointment and fury. Why can’t some people hear what comes out of their mouths? He believed that a child who gets beaten to read the Quran is learning to love their religion? This delusional thinking is precisely why kids are suffering and why they misunderstand their religion.
I love my religion, and I am proud to be a Muslim. My religion is not harsh, but people have made it difficult to follow because of their own make-believe rules. Is it a race a child has to win? What do you achieve by having a child finish their Quran by six years of age? We allow children eighteen years to learn Math, English, and Science. We give them that time and patience to understand it and to use it in their lives. They go on to specialize in those subjects in University and make careers out of it. But when it comes to the Quran we give them only two years ?!?!. Eastern children in the West learn English faster because of the methods they employ in schools here. Teachers can be strict, but they can’t be harsh to a point where it hinders a child’s learning. Which method would kids want to learn more? The one in school or the one they get beaten for when they come home?
Let’s do an experiment. Please buy yourself a book that is written in a foreign language. It has to be 600 plus pages and please make time to finish it. Since you are an adult, I’m sure you will be done in less than a month. Please assign a person to beat you when you miss a day. Also, memorize parts from it and recite it day and night. Again, please authorize a person to hit you if anything is missed. Would you choose to spend that time reading something that makes no sense? Would you want to learn or recite it if you are tortured? Would you grow to love it and when reprimanded for not enjoying it enough, would continue to pursue it? If you wouldn’t then how do you expect it from a child?
A child will always associate harshness with the Quran if they have been beaten because of it. Parents misrepresent their religion if they rely on these harsh methods. Time and time again, we must use the Prophet (PBUH) as an example who was known to be fond of children and treated them kindly. Was he known to hit his children if they didn’t read the Quran? He was the Prophet (PBUH), his children had to uphold his reputation. He would have felt more pressure than us to beat his children. Why didn’t he? Because the method doesn’t work. Violence doesn’t teach you anything, it only drives you away. There is no force in Islam. Everything has to be approached from the perspective of learning, understanding, and application.
We are going to be questioned about how we shape our lives according to the Quran. Our religion is taught in the Quran and in the Hadiths, and we have a timeline for it? There is a torturing race ready for a child when he turns four? Eighteen years for a formal education and a few years for the Quran and we wonder what is happening to the Ummah? Why our children don’t want to learn or love their religion? Why they stop praying when they get older or let their Quran collect dust on a shelf in some corner of the house?
It took 23 years to complete the Quran, it came in sections and according to the situations, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was facing. The Prophet (PBUH) spent half his lifetime, learning and implementing it in his life and the lives of others. And this is the respect we give the Quran, two years or less to read it? The Prophet (PBUH) received his first revelation at forty and he died at the age of sixty-three. Allah (SWT) gave 23 years to the Prophet (PBUH) when he could have just as easily chosen the Prophet (PBUH) at the age of 4 and taught him the whole Quran all at once. Wouldn’t it have been more miraculous if he had chosen a boy who already showed signs of nobility and humility at a young age, and taught him the Quran at age four? Allah didn’t because He wanted to promote understanding, logic, and reason over pace and age.
May Allah guide us better and protect our children who go through this brutality in the name of a religion that does not believe in coercion or force. That does not enforce violence or cruelty on an innocent human or even an animal. Reading Quran is not a race to be won. It is a book of guidance for our lives. Our life is not a test of a language nor does it state that we must finish the Quran by a certain age. It is a test of what we applied from our Holy Book, and that takes a lifetime, not a few years.