In the mid 90’s, as a 12 year old, I remember reading an article from the iconic Trends Magazine that really struck me. The first line of the article asked a question, ‘‘If you asked your child who their hero is, what answer would you get?”
I was just a child myself and the prospect of being a mother was so far removed. Yet, this question fascinated me. I knew what the ‘right’ and ‘Islamic’ answer should be from the ‘perfect’ child but what are the chances of an ordinary Muslim child naming the Prophet Ibrahim or Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them, as their hero, instead of Spiderman or Superman?
It seemed impossible to me.
Over the years I would consider the idea on and off until one day, my then-3-year-old son said “Mama when I grow up I want to be IRON MAN!”
I had recently read in the book ‘Boys Should be Boys’ by American pediatrician Meg Meeker, that boys have an innate “boys’ code.” This is why they love all the super hero stuff; it speaks to their inner nature of being the “good guy.” This feeling, Meeker says, should be nurtured.
To me, it made perfect sense and I had an epiphany. A child’s fitra (primordial disposition) is naturally inclined towards goodness.
In a moment of (extremely rare) mothering enlightenment, I had a genius idea.
“You know Iron Man isn’t real right?” I asked my son. “I know he’s fun and exciting and he sure is a good guy, but he is in a story that somebody made up… he is not a real man who ever existed.”
My son didn’t look too convinced.
I tried a different angle – dragons and dinosaurs (another hot topic of interest!). I explained the difference between “not real and not existing” – (dragons) vs. “real but not existing any more” (dinosaurs). This seemed to clear things up and here is when I busted out my key idea.
“You know who was a real superhero, don’t you?”
I had his full attention.
I narrated the story of Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, and my son hung on to every single word. The trick was in the superhero jargon I used—that Musa had a ‘power stick’ that turned into a snake and ate all the snakes of the ‘bad guys’, and that his hand shone with the ‘power’ that Allah gave him. He used the power that Allah gave him in his power stick to part the whole sea, and save the ‘good guys’ from the bad, evil pharaoh.
My son’s eyes were shining with wonder. He now had a sudden wish to know all about the evil pharaoh. “Why was he so bad?” he asked me.
“Because he made people into slaves,” I answered, “and wanted others to worship him but we only worship Allah alone.”
Since that day, we have learned to love all the superhero prophets. Once at a restaurant, in a desperate bid to keep our son and his best friend occupied, my husband offered to tell them a story.
“What story would you like to hear?” he asked, expecting to hear “Curious George,” or “Iron Man.”
Instead, we heard an excited little voice pipe up – hands raised in air and all – “Prophet Ibrahim story! Prophet Ibrahim story!”
I thought in my heart – subhanallah, Ya Rabb, truly You are the one who can make the impossible seem possible and here we are. Our son’s immediate reply to “Who is your hero?” might not be a prophet’s name or a sahaba’s (companion of the Prophet) name but we were one step closer.
Prophet Ibrahim, apart from being super clever and tricking his people into admitting the big false idol they were worshiping could do nothing at all, also had the super power of being able to resist fire as Allah made the fire cool for him.
“Like it just tickles him,” my son will add with a little giggle.
Another favourite story is Prophet Yusuf’s story. He had the superhero power to interpret dreams. My son renamed his story: “The story of the Big Bad Brothers.”
Keeping in mind what we know of our own children (and their interests) and what we know of our prophets, parents can make these stories come alive. We love each prophet and we are excited to find out their stories – even the Prophets who were not given super powers but fought evil with goodness always. And our last Prophet – Prophet Muhammad, who was so special and kind, had characteristics that were so relatable.
When our son was ‘into’ the Ninja Turtles and green was his favorite color, we asked him, well guess who else loved the color green. When our son was learning about spiders and their webs, guess how a little spider helped a great prophet once upon time. When our son found out that honey is a ‘super food’ and the prophet’s favorite, guess who wanted a spoonful in his milk every day.
So after attending the halaqa that day, I first apologized to my son and asked him to forgive me for shouting at him when he had an ‘accident’ in the bathroom.
The sweet boy said, “Yes Mama! But I had forgotten about that already!”
Then I told him the story about the man who did wee wee in the prophet’s masjid. It was met with a shocked expression and lots of giggles but the moral of the story was so clear and so heartwarming.
Tell your kids this hadith. Toilet humor always elicits giggles with the 4-7 age group and they will see the character of the Noble Prophet ﷺ in a new light. Talk organically with your children about Allah and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as part of everyday life. There are a wealth of opportunities and examples that are relevant for the child as well as the teen and young adult. In the words of sister Hina Khan-Mukthar – or actually in the words of her teenage son whom she quotes in a Facebook post:
‘Mama I don’t know who would follow Islam if they didn’t have love for the Prophet Muhammad… I think the only way a kid could be Muslim these days is if he knew and loved the Prophet ﷺ. I don’t know how ANYONE could be Muslim and NOT know the prophet…”
The best piece of parenting advice I have ever received was from a beloved family friend: it is never too early to talk to your children about their Creator. In fact, the later you leave it, the harder it will be.
In a world and time that is increasingly adverse to religion of any kind, my prayer for my children has always been that I hope Allah makes them of the people whose faith shines through their hearts attracting others to this beautiful religion, not with their words but with their hearts and actions.
So I leave you with the question – if you asked your child who is their hero, what would their answer be?
This is an edited version. See the original article at the SeekersHub Blog.
By: Sumaya Teli