For many young children and adults alike, the term “charity” revolves around finance. The more money you have, the more you can give; the more you give, the more you will be rewarded by Allah ﷻ. But if this were truly the case, would it be fair to those who have not been blessed with material wealth, but possess the desire to spend it in the way of Allah ﷻ? Common sense dictates that Allah ﷻ, who is the Most Just, would not discriminate based on the bounties He dispenses according to His will.
The Arabic term for charity – sadaqah – literally means “a good deed.” As such, it is not limited to monetary spending. In fact, wealth barely scratches the surface of the list of things that you can do for charity. Anything good you give or do for others counts. This includes sharing toys or food with playmates, helping a friend who’s fallen get back up, rounding-up homework from around the class for the teacher, completing your share of the chores in the house, giving presents, smiling… the list goes on and on. Try explaining it to your kids in such a way and they will be surprised to know how many acts of charity they already engage in unconsciously.
So, when should you start teaching them about charity? Should you wait until they start learning their ABCs and 123s? Or perhaps until they are older and can understand abstract concepts? Is there such a thing as the right moment?
Yes, there is, and the best way is to explain it in a series of steps that correspond to their age. For toddlers (ages: 2-3), you can emphasize sharing. Ask them to share their belongings with their siblings and cousins when they come over. Don’t just drill sharing is caring into their heads. Show them how to share so they can experience the feeling of happiness themselves. It might take longer for some kids to get the hang of it or to let go of a particularly favorite toy, but with time and patience, they’ll get there – especially once they understand that they will get it back.
For pre-school kids (ages: 4-6), work on decluttering. Ask them to separate the toys they play with regularly from the ones they don’t like as much into two separate piles. If they genuinely don’t need those toys and are clinging to them due to sentiment alone, then explain that they can give them away to those who will actually play with them. There is a good chance that some kids might throw a tantrum at the mere thought of parting with any of their belongings, but gently explain to them how happy their extra toys can make someone who doesn’t have anything to play with, and they might just understand.
Be a Good Role Model
According to the Social Learning Theory, individuals learn from the behavior they are exposed to via observation, imitating, and modeling. Children are no different. You can tell them a number of times to behave in a particular way, but until and unless they don’t see you practicing what you preach, the chances are that they won’t either. Since parents are their primary role models, they consciously and subconsciously imitate their actions. You might have noticed them copying your words and actions in the way they play or interact with their younger siblings or friends. So, make sure you present yourself perfectly, and to do this, you have to be the best possible version of yourself. Let them see you give money to those who ask, or better yet, involve them in the act as well – have them give money to the poor and the needy. Let them see you help your spouse around the house.
The best role model for Muslims is Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and the earlier you introduce your kids to his personality and way of life, the more they will try to inculcate his mannerisms in their life. Make them understand that as Muslims, they are the representatives of Islam, and as such, they have the responsibility of inviting others to Islam through their actions.
Is there any better way to capture a child’s interest than by narrating a story? Not only is it great for their cognitive development, but it is also an excellent medium for educating them. However, instead of going for storybooks that feature anthropomorphized animals giving sage advice, why not narrate tales of the Prophets and their Companions and how they spent whatever Allah ﷻ blessed them with, in His way? Not that those books are inadequate or anything, but our religion is full of extraordinary examples that can inspire even the youngest of children, so why go to other sources?
Next time you gather around for some quality family time, narrate to them the stories of how the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ (may Allah ﷻ be pleased with them) used to compete with each other in generosity and how Uthman (RA) earned the title Ghaniy (The Generous). Ask them to reflect on these real-life stories and try to come up with all the other lessons they offer. Be prepared to answer a number of questions with no relation whatsoever to the topic at hand as well!
Virtues of Giving
There are several Qur’anic verses and Ahadith that highlight the significance of charity. Recite these narrations to your kids so they can understand its importance from a religious perspective as well. Make them understand the primary objective of giving is the command of Allah ﷻ, and don’t be dogmatic in your approach. Charity is not only a means of attaining Allah’s ﷻ reward but also a means of having your sins forgiven. Allah ﷻ says in the Qur’an,
“If you loan Allah a goodly loan, He will multiply it for you and forgive you…”[64:17]
Young kids might be, understandably, initially hesitant to give because they fear that it will decrease their belongings, but let them know that Allah ﷻ is so pleased with those who share that he will not only bless them with more in ways they do not expect, but He ﷻ has promised that,
“Charity does not decrease wealth…”[Sahih Muslim, Book 45, Hadith 90]
An important point to consider is the age group of your audience. You don’t want to detail the consequences of not giving charity to a five-year-old in your misguided enthusiasm in explaining the topic to them. This will terrify them unnecessarily and have the opposite effect than that which you intended, despite your good intention.
Use “Spend, Save and Share” Jars
Now comes the practical application of what you’ve been teaching your kids. Place 3 different jars somewhere your kids have access to, and label them Spend, Save, and Share. This technique works by fixing a weekly or monthly allowance for your kids – it does not need to be a large amount, but make sure you give it to them in change notes so that they can deposit it easily into the jar. The names of the jars are self-explanatory: the “Spend” jar is for kids to spend as they please, the “Save” jar is to save up for their short-term and long-term goals, and the “Share” jar is basically the sadaqah jar. You can also give your kids advice on how to use their money wisely so that they can make the most of it.
This is one of the best visual representations of how kids can keep track of how they spend their allowance and develop their money management skills. It stays with them throughout their life; the only variable that changes as they grow is that they learn to do it in their heads.
Praise Your Children
Finally, when you see your kids giving charity or helping someone, make sure you let them know that you are proud of them and that Allah ﷻ will be pleased with them too. Don’t just tell them “Good job, buddy!”, let your body language show them too. Give them a hug, a pat on the back, or a kiss on the cheek to show your appreciation. On that note, responding with Barak Allahu Feek (may Allah ﷻ bless you) instead of a generic “Good job!” will do them more good because it is a Dua. And don’t forget to thank your Lord ﷻ for blessing your child with the opportunity to do good.
The Gift of Giving
Giving is a privilege. It is only with Allah’s ﷻ bounty that He has included us among those who can afford to give. Remind your kids to always be mindful of Allah’s ﷻ presence, and pray to Him to bless them with more, so they can spend more in His way and earn His reward in both this world and the Hereafter.
Written by: Mariam Kamran
Edited by: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog
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