Immediately below, please find several questions, many of which refer to our own personal family hifdh experience, which has been influenced and inspired by several significant teachers and mentors including Hafidha Rayhaanah Omar.
1) What might you do as a parent if your children are older (possibly adolescents), and you have not been actively involved in their Qur’aanic journey, ie if there is no precedent, how do you start introducing a hands-on, active approach?
There is always time, inshaa Allah. My first recommendation would be to start with your own religious practices and try to make them more inviting. Have they ever heard you recite? Have you ever shared any of your own Qur’aanic challenges with them (so they may appreciate how you also struggle in your tilawaat and in any hifdh that you might have undertaken)? Do you keep a Qur’aanic/hifdh/tilawaat journal that you might share with them? Consider putting your prayer mat in an area where they might be able to see/sit on it (without it being too imposing). Have you ever placed your prayer mat outside, on a balcony or (private) courtyard?
Furthermore, to what extent have you had an opportunity to speak about (or perhaps more appropriately, act in the manner of) Prophet Muhemmed SAW with your children, and to use his example, specifically in terms of the Qur’aan? Is his sunnah tangible, in a way that makes sense to them? Do they have an appreciation for Prophet Muhemmed SAW as a real Qur’aanic role model; do they understand the idea of a ‘living Qur’aan’, which is in essence what he embodied, and what we may also strive towards inshaa Allah in all aspects of our lives?
What about recordings? Do you listen to a qari that has a voice that might be appealing to your children? Could you ask them to help select a qari? Do you have Qur’aan playing in your home, quietly, for them to hear, when, for instance, you are preparing meals?
If your children like math, have you considered approaching the Qur’aan from this perspective, likewise for the artistically-gifted children in our midst, or the scientifically-minded? What about giving them a wall to paint in a basement or a garage or on the backside of the house, or a little spot in their room, where they might undertake a mural of their favorite ayah in the Qur’aan.
Is your spouse an equal partner? The more they see other family members joining in, the more they may wish to partake. How about for starters, 15 minutes of family tilawaat time a week, after magreb on Sunday evening? What about Qur’aanic buddies/friends to help reinforce, who might also be part of a basketball league or extra-curricular outlet?
2) We appreciate that you are trying to make Qur’aan fun, but do your children ask for hifdh or do you always introduce the subject?
With young children, we as parents initiate the hifdh activities most of the time. While, we might initiate, however, just as we might initiate an English, Math or Ethics/morality lesson, there is generally a very positive response to the activities alhumdulilah. Furthermore, there is an increasing understanding and appreciation that hifdh is actually part and parcel of our lifestyle, and an extension of our deen, i.e. learning to live and love the Qur’aan, following the example of Prophet Muhemmed SAW. For example, we are trying to show and tell that reciting Surah Yaseen is part of a morning routine that helps introduce more barakah into our day, and that reciting Ayatul Kursi together with the four Quls actually helps to protect us and keep us deen-centered as we make our way through the day.
3) Is it all fun and games or is there a routine for the children?
There are games aplenty, but there is also a loose routine. Each individual/family will establish their own based on what works, but in our case we generally take on a new (or part of a new) ayah in the morning. Thereafter, during part of our morning commute to school, we recite Surah Yaseen, Ayatul Kursi and the four Quls, which we have recently committed to memory. Suffice it to say, there is also ‘down time’ and nasheed interspersed. Generally, after school, during part of our free play time, we listen to recordings. In the evening, for 30-45 minutes, depending on the energy level, we complete review of new work and part of our older surahs and tilawaat. Before going to bed, after story time, once again, we listen to surahs. We also try to maintain a prayer schedule, in which we incorporate our new and old surahs alike in salah. On the weekend, we have one 30 minute lesson as well, with a expert hafidha and alimah, who also provides insight and feedback throughout the week. Suffice it to say, the routine invariably changes as the children develop (by the day), as we host family members, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, with changes in school schedules etc, however, we still try to maintain a general rhythm with our learning routine. How to Memorise the Holy Qur’an by Ismail Londt is also an excellent resource (Dar Ubaiy Publications, 2008).
4) Is there any time for extra-curricular activities, other than hifdh?
Yes, indeed, and it is our belief that developing the whole child, spiritually, intellectually, physically and socially (namely trying to rear the best human beings) is central to our deen. When hifdh is part and parcel of the daily routine (e.g. the morning commute, the prayer cycle, free play/background listening, as alluded to in question 3 above), the actual time spent on new lessons is actually minimal. Also when we undertake review as a full family, then it largely feels like an extension of fun, family-time, especially on the weekends.
5) Is there a method to your hifdh work, and which surahs you memorize when?
Absolutely. Although we have adopted what may seem like an unconventional approach to hifdh (including the actual sequence of surah memorization), several experts, including hafidha and alimah Rayhaanah Omar, as noted above, is guiding us through the whole process, alhumdulilah.
Other questions posed that we intend to take up in this space inshaa Allah: What is next for Ibrahim and Amna? How do you deal with the challenge of siblings? In your estimation, how important is understanding the Arabic translation of the Qur’aan, and imparting that understanding?