“Picture a little child, just born into the world; his new, soft organs prepared in a gentle, watery place, ready to be formed and finished by whatever he encounters in the first few years of his life. Every little child is a picture of perfect openness, joy and trust. He's at one with the world, full of love for it and he trusts everyone and everything. He is permeated with 'natural piety'.”
A Sense of Wonder By Amanda Bell
Piety means 'devotion', which includes 'humility' and also 'wonder'. A prerequisite for all of these is that we accept the existence of something greater than ourselves and that a feeling of awe arises in us when we stand before it.
Most people would still accept that piety, or reverence, is quite natural in small children.
We, adults, set about eliminating that piety in our children as soon as we possibly can. Sometimes, we are not even aware of it. When a child says 'look at the lovely rainbow!', we reply 'yes ! And do you know that it's the rays of light from the sun being bent by the little drops of rain that makes those colors?' The child says 'The moon is shining!' and we say 'Actually, the moon doesn't shine, it only reflects the light from the sun'.
No magic there then.
We are trying to tell the truth to someone who has no understanding of such abstract concepts.
We think it is cute when children say grown up things, but actually the child did not digest all of this knowledge.
We think that by demystifying the world we will save him the trouble of finding out for himself, so he will be ahead of his classmates. Actually, we are teaching them that there is nothing greater that man himself if man knows everything.
We marvel as new discoveries are made, but what we really admire is how man is clever enough to discover all this.
We think that the child is a blank page on which we must write everything we think he should know.
We are so eager to load them with what we want for them to have that we forget that they are already having amazing and joyful experiences through the things we take for granted.
And that’s enough for now!
They are fascinated with the everyday world, and we are not.
They don't need microscopes and telescopes to find amazing things, just take them for a walk in the next park or in the street.
The world they live in is good and beautiful and they are very much part of it. When we rationalize things for them, they start looking at the world as a chaotic, arbitrary and frightening place, a place where they do not want to be part of.
How can they be open and trusting when there are 'bad people' anywhere hurting others and especially children?
We are teaching them not to trust their own experience of the world or senses. We are teaching them to lose their innocence.
If a child has really learned to do this before age nine, he will find hard to approach things with an open mind. He will not be able to look at the stars or the moon as a poetic or enchanting vision, but as a crude realistic thing. He will not experience this second sense of wonder when he will discover a new way at seeing the world. He will not open his mouth in awe when the teacher will unveil the physical laws of life if he has not imagined it first to be different. He will not accept that Allah has made the earth beautiful for human beings to live in harmony; he might not even be interested in God because he will rationalize everything. He might not be able to dream pure dreams anymore!
When he will think of the sun, he will think, 'Oh yes, it's ninety million miles away and one day it's going to explode - I know all about it.' Then he may stop listening and will not accept anything new.
If children are not open to being surprised, intrigued, moved or amused by what they learn, if their feelings cannot be touched in some way they will have lost their ability to love and admire the world.
Children are taught through pictures and stories so that what they learn lives in their imagination and can grow with them. They reach layers of deeper understanding slowly as they grow up. What they learn should be age appropriate!
Children should be first invited to observe and become aware of what they see, hear, smell, feel or taste.
Between 9 and 12, children are more skeptics; they are eager to find things out, to look at things in a new angle. If we bear in mind the age of the child and what he is ready to receive, and we present it in a way that can really move him, that is more likely to foster interest in the world, in the mystery of the world and feelings of love for Allah, for a being they are slowly learning more about.
Their world is full of magic and religion is also a magic world where everything can happen and where we never feel alone. Children feel trusting in this world and confident. If they do not have time to form this world in them, they will probably feel fearful, confused, even aggressive and resentful about what surrounds them.
One should not wound the feelings of a child and let him be disappointed with life and feel bored with it. If a child is taught that there is nothing wonderful about the world, it will feel childish and humiliating to be amazed.
Children who watch TV too much have this feeling of being able to explain everything and they refuse to try to discover by themselves since it is all offered to them done.
However, there is hope. Children are children and it is almost impossible to kill completely their sense of wonder because there are so many things they have not experienced yet.
It is impossible for adults to experience everything either. Who wants to keep his sense of wonder throughout his entire life should be careful to leave his senses open. One should listen careful to what is around him like the birds’ songs, languages, etc., and be ready to learn something new every time he hears them: ‘O! This little bird was here yesterday I recognize his singing’, or ‘I do not understand what these people are saying bur they sound so beautiful and, listen, they seem to be talking about this or that.’
One should appreciate his food, savor it, smell it, also take time to prepare it and experience new ingredients. One should look at the world in a way he concentrates more on what impression this world makes on him.
Thinking of others as ‘me’ is one of the greatest discoveries children make. Maybe adults tend to forget that others are like them, feel like them, desire maybe the same things and are moved by the same things, and hurt, and love. Adults tend to put people in category without preliminary research: ‘this person is bad because he belongs to this or that group’, ‘I do not want to have anything to do with people of such or such a race, of such or such background because only bad comes from meeting them’, etc Think of blacks (for whites)-whites (for the black community), Muslims (for the non-Muslims)-Kafirs (for the Muslims), rich (for not rich people)-low income (for the richer), etc. All depends from which group we look. We are not giving the other people a chance because we made too many generalizations and assumptions and we close our mind.
Think of this poem, “Everyone is a me”:
Everyone is a “me” __
Each person In my family is a “me.”
Every one of my friends is a “me.”
Of course, all those “me’s” are people.
So they are all alike in many ways.
All people have human bodies.
All people come into the world in the same way.
All people have someone, or a few very special people, they love.
All people laugh and cry, feel happy and sad and angry and afraid, do good things and bad things and brave things and kind things
(Everyone Is a Me by Sophia Etsweiler, Vantage Press, Incorporated)
It is important to teach children what they feel, other people fell it too, in order to foster feelings of compassion and altruistic behaviors. They should learn that:
- People are alike in many ways.
- They are so because we are human beings
- Human beings have feelings
- Feelings means they can laugh, cry, feel happy or sad, angry or afraid
- Good things produce pleasant feelings like happiness, joy, love, etc., while bad things produce unpleasant feelings
- Parents, brothers and sisters, teachers, presidents, etc., are also human beings as well as prophets (may Allah be pleased with them all) and people of faith
- We can relate even to people in the noble Qur’an, what they experienced and what their feelings were, and we take advice still from the Qur’an and Sunnah, old from the Middle Ages.
- The Noble Qur’an is first of all a book about humans, about people
- Islam was spread by people who followed the Qur’an. Even kings were impressed by it and decided to follow it.
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