There are many opportunities living as Muslims in the West, and there are challenges also. One big challenge families face is helping their kids adopt a Muslim identity, especially if there are very few Muslims around them.
Alhamdulilah, we are grateful for the Muslim community we have in our area, but we’re still the vast minority. Add in that we are the only Muslims in our family, and we have to be very intentional with how we raise our kids. We can’t lean back on the idea that they will pick up a Muslim identity based on fellow Muslim family members. We are an island.
Here are a few things we have done, and/or continue to do with our kids:
Islamic part-time school
Care Bear did a weekend school program for a couple years, and Little Miss has been going to a preschool at the masjid. If for no other benefit, it’s helpful for my kids to see other Muslims around them. Each program seems to have varying degrees of practicing families, so sometimes it can take a few tries to find a program that matches with your own family, or where you would like to see your family. Alhamdulilah, since Little Miss has started at her preschool, she’s been saying her salams and her du’a (supplications) more often!
Listen to nasheeds
It’s rare you will hear secular music in our household. If we are going to entertain our ears, it should still be something beneficial, in sha Allah. Our favorites are Hamza Yusuf, Yusuf Islam, and Dawud Wharnsby. Beyond removing ourselves from the message of modern-day music, we bring in a positive message and our Islamic identity reaches beyond praying or going to the masjid.
Qur’an is a staple
Whether it is listening to Qur’an recitation, reading it, studying tafseer, or learning vocabulary, the Qur’an should be talked about often. Think about it. It’s a manual for our lives from our Creator! Why wouldn’t we use it in some way on a daily basis? The Qur’an should be a staple in your house. When I taught a weekend class at the masjid, I told the kids often, “Your Qur’an should never be dusty!” Middle and high schoolers can learn tafseer, and young children can learn vocabulary words. Ad-Duha has some fantastic mini-tafseer books for young children (4-8+ yrs) that include key vocabulary words for each surah.
Dress like Muslims
I know I might get some kick back on this one with the whole hijab debate, but I believe there’s value in looking like a Muslim, both toward the general society, and for our kids to feel like they are closely related to someone who is obviously Muslim. Care Bear doesn’t go anywhere with me without people seeing that she at least has family that is Muslim. Care Bear has noticed some very positive feedback from strangers when we are dressed as Muslims, including when she has worn hijab. Alhamdulilah, other Muslims will greet us warmly, and people will comment on what a pretty scarf she’s wearing!
Make Eid a big deal
It takes more work and preparing, but it’s important to make Eid feel like a real holiday for our kids. We let Care Bear have the entire week off school, put up lights, decorations, make favorite foods, do special activities, and hang out with friends. For quite a few years I had a henna party at my house, and even though my house is small, it’s been quite popular. Potluck party of 30+ sisters, some with their teen daughters, getting henna a couple nights before Eid. It’s pretty great, mashaAllah.
Facilitate Muslim friendships
Sometimes the best friends for our faith aren’t the most convenient. We try to make our kids’ Muslim friends convenient, encourage sleep overs, and overall have an open door policy with our kids’ Muslim friends to make it easy to keep their friendships. We don’t discourage friends of other faiths and traditions, but we do want our kids to have like-minded friends so it’s easy to keep feeling “normal.”
Salam Aleikum, I recently came across your blog after I saw you participating in a video about homeschooling high school. My children are only 7, but I am anticipating what will come up with high school. Anyway, we are also a convert family, so I was really interested to see your blog. It is really great and a lot of good advice. Fostering an Islamic identity when the rest of our extended families are non Muslim is definitely challenging for me.
Shannen Espelien says
Walaykum assalam, So glad to have you stop by! Alhamdulilah, I’m so glad the blog could be of good use for you. It’s an every day habit to help them internalize their Muslim identity. In sha Allah we are successful! I hope to see you around again, in sha Allah!