Teach your kids about #Gaza. Now.

From the ash-covered streets of Gaza, to the smoldering walls of Iraq, to the hollow mosques of China, the month of Ramadan has been challenging. The screams from Gaza, however, penetrate deeper, because of the role that we – as Westerners – play, through our government.

While no shortage of scholarly and journalistic articles have been published regarding this issue, there is a lack of articles focused on a specific demographic: kids. What do we tell our kids?

Our discussion is in four parts: (a) a rationale for telling children about Gaza, (b) a historical narrative to teach, (c) key topics to discuss, and (d) immediate action items.

Tell Your Kids about Gaza

The foremost question a parent should ask him or herself is, “Why should I tell my child about Gaza?” There are three primary reasons to share this narrative with your children:

(a) Forbidding Evil

Whether on the playground at the hands of a bully or in Gaza at the hands of a violent oppressor, injustice exists. In such situations, it is our duty to forbid evil. As Superman says, “All that's necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.” The Qur’an agrees, stating that the best of people are those that enjoin in good and forbid evil (3:110).

(b) Inculcate Justice

As a trait, justice – the fair and equitable treatment of others – is perhaps the most noble of all traits. According to the Holy Qur’an, justice is the purpose of divine revelation (57:25). The Gaza narrative is an excellent story to help teach the concept of justice to our children.

(c) The Power of Prayers

Allah (SWT) promises, “Call on me, and I will answer you” (40:60). Prayers are the weapon of believers. Though we, as parents, may sometimes take prayers for granted, it is essential that we teach children this lesson, especially at a young age.

Historical Narrative

Our goal is to communicate the primary injustice which has occurred to the Palestinians. We do not seek to teach children every detail of the conflict because of the associated complexity.

Engage your children first with an analogy: Imagine that you shared your room with a friend, David, who was unfortunately homeless. The Mayor noticed that you got along well with David. After some time, the Mayor decided to give more than half of your room (along with your toys) to David. And further, every year, David takes away more and more of your toys. You try asking for the toys back, but now David claims that the toys belong to him. This is similar to what is happening in Palestine.

Below are key talking points:

+ Muslims lived in an area called Palestine for hundreds of years. We call them Palestinians.
+ About 70 years ago, there was another group of people, Jews, who were treated very, very, very badly. The Jews moved to Palestine because it was safe.
+ The world (i.e. “UN”) gave the Jews a big portion of Palestine, calling it a new country, Israel. The world did not ask permission from the Palestinians before giving away their land.
+ The Palestinians, and many of their friends were upset at this. They fought against the Israelis. The Palestinians ended up losing even more. More than 75% (8 out of every 10 toys) of Palestinian land was taken away.
+ Over the last twenty years, Israel has continued to take more of the land from the Palestinians.
If you would like to expand further, this video is the best resource we have discovered. Watch it with your child, pausing every minute or so, to explain the details. 
Important notes: (1) Do not make Jews the “enemy.” This would be a profoundly unfortunate teaching to inculcate within your children. As Muslims, we have a special level of respect for those that are Ahlul Kitab, followers of the divine books. Further, many Jews do not support the actions of Israel. (2) Do not show children pictures or provide graphic details of the current events. This can likely lead to future desensitizationAgain, remember the intention; we are  sharing the story of Gaza to teach lessons, not to frighten them or to develop stereotypes

Dealing with a Bully

The notion of an oppressor is perhaps difficult for a child to bear. The notion of a bully, however, is more easily understood. Additionally, providing lessons on how to deal with a bully is more applicable for children. Therefore, we use the allegory of a bully to teach children lessons from the current situation in Gaza.

Engage children with the following discussions:

1. How do you feel when you see someone being bullied?

As humans, we are predisposed to a feeling of compassion. It is a part of our nature, or fitra. By engaging children with this question, we seek to support the God-given nature to oppose injustice and oppression.

In addition to the primary question listed above, ask your child to, “put yourself in the shoes of the bullied.” The practice of empathy supports our capacity for compassion and mercy. As parents, it is necessary to also role model compassion.

2. Why does somebody bully?

At face value, this can seem like a difficult question. But upon analysis, it is simple: worldliness.

As mentioned previously, oppression goes against our fitra. How did a bully overcome this nature? When one becomes fixated to possession, status, and other worldly desires, the compassionate disposition is gradually suppressed.

Ask your children to recall a situation in which they witnessed bullying. What did the bully achieve? Generally, the answers range from gaining property (i.e. toys) to gaining status (i.e. laughs). Use this as a teachable moment to say possessions and power – at the expense of others – is unjust and wrong.

The most significant source from which a child gains a worldly disposition is through us, parents. The next time we backbite or hurt somebody, remember children are learning from our example.

3. What happens if nobody stands up to a bully?

Martin Luther King Jr. famously says, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If injustice is not stopped, it will spread. If the bully hurt Asad yesterday, and Amira the day before, what guarantee is there that he will not hurt you tomorrow? There isn’t. Therefore, it is our role to take a stand.

It is part of our religion to help those in need. Prophet Mohammed (SAW) says, “One who hears somebody say, ‘O Muslims! Come to my help,’ and does not assist him, is not a Muslim.” The concept of helping those in need is not limited to Muslims, but it includes all of creation. In a narration Prophet Mohammed (SAW) describes a wicked woman who had seen a dog panting of thirst; she fed the dog water and was forgiven for her sins as a result.

As Muslims, we must take action when we see injustice.

4. How should we stand up to bullies?

Try to facilitate change on your own. If that does not work, then speak to others for help. And finally, one should pray with his or her heart. As the Prophet says, “If one of you sees something evil, he should change it with his hand. If he cannot, he should speak out against it, and if he cannot do even that, he should at least detest it in his heart, this being the weakest form of faith.”

Step 1: Communication. As a bystander, we should speak to the bully. The Prophet once said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.” People asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”
Step 2: Get Help. If the bully does not stop, it is necessary for one to get help. This means getting help from a responsible adult – either a parent or teacher. Through seeking assistance from an adult, the conflict can be mediated. Additionally, the second part of this is to tell others about the oppression such that collectively the oppression can be ended.
Step 3: Remaining Patient. Allah (SWT) promises, “I shall take revenge on the oppressor in this world and the next. I shall take revenge on someone who saw the person being oppressed and was able to help him but did not” (Hadith Qudsi). This promise affirms the justice of Allah (SWT), as described in Surah al-Zalzalah, that each atom of good and each atom of evil will be compensated.
In order to showcase this promise of Allah (SWT), parents can reference both (a) Islamic and (b) recent examples of oppressors being toppled. With regards to Islamic oppressors, one can cite the story of Prophet Yusuf (SAW) achieving victory over his brothers and the story of Prophet Musa (SAW) and Firaun. With regards to recent oppressors, one can cite the stories of famous evil-doers meeting their end: Hitler, Osama bin Ladin, Pol Pot, Saddam, or others. The goal is to ensure children leave the discussion with confidence in God’s promise.
Note: Islam does allow for self-defense. However, for the purposes of this dialogue, we affirm that the pen is mightier than the sword. As a parent, you can decide whether or not to teach children that self-defense is a viable last resort.

5. What role do prayers play?

“Call on me and I will answer you,” guarantees Allah (SWT) in the Qu’ran (40:60). In order to ensure children believe in this message, pre-requisites exist. As parents, we must ensure children (a) understand the unlimited capability of Allah (SWT) and (b) appreciate how Allah (SWT) responds to prayers. These lessons are detailed in our latest book, The Power of Prayers

Important note: many narrations speak to the incredible power in the prayer of people who are oppressed. Hassan ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed (SAW) was asked, “What is the distance between the heaven and the earth?” He responded, “The cry of an oppressed person in dua.”

Take a Stand Today

Practice the lessons you’ve learned by taking action. This activity will serve as a powerful example to your children that as Muslims, we are responsible for helping the oppressed around the world.

1. Duas: During Iftar for the remaining nights of the Month of Ramadan, participate in dua with your children. Specifically, ask for the safety and liberation of Palestine. The Prophet says, “Not a single prayer made by a fasting person at the time of breaking fast is rejected.”
2. Citizenship: Have your child write a letter or draw a picture and send it to your local congressman and to John Kerry. At a young age, it is absolutely essential that we teach children to be citizens and participate in government. To find the details for your local congressmen, click here. To find scripts to write these officials, click here.
3. Give Charity: Give and ask your children to give, even a little, for the humanitarian efforts in Gaza. Allah (SWT) says that we will not reach righteousness until we give out of what we love the most (3:92). Begin a tradition of giving with your children. The United Nations Relief and Work Agency is a great organization to give to. 
4. Spread the Word: Instruct your children to tell their friends at the mosque about what is going on. Additionally, if you are active on social media, take pictures of the activity which you are doing with your children to help build awareness for the atrocities in Gaza.

 

We have authored seven books and over twenty articles. This article, however, was a most challenging undertaking. A child’s mind is where the revolution begins. If there is hope for peace, it is with our children. May Allah (SWT) guide us towards success. Additionally, if you have any additional thoughts, advice, or coaching for parents, please comment below. 


About Noor Kids
Noor Kids is a Harvard-supported educational program designed to build confidence in the religious identity of little Muslims. Each month, families receive a new title designed by our team of creative, educational, and scholarly experts. Our titles have now entered into over 25,000 homes across 25 countries!   To check out a free sample, click here .

15 comments

Dec 22, 2014 • Posted by Zimbaweeb

Well put, sir, well put. I’ll ceratinly make note of that.

Dec 18, 2014 • Posted by Ayeman

Now we know who the seilnbse one is here. Great post!

Jul 23, 2014 • Posted by Noor

Subhanallah ! May Allah grant U goodness in thus world and the Hereafter for this excellent article. Amin Allahumma Amin!

Jul 23, 2014 • Posted by Alaa barghouti

Mashallah! I am very pleased and beyond impressed with your work! May Allah reward you greatly and grant you the highest levels of paradise for such amazing efforts! Our children are our future and if left to the mainstream media they will surely be our ummah’s main enemies

Jul 23, 2014 • Posted by Safiyyah Khan

Shukran, this page really helped wid explaining to my daughter abt the corruption happening in Gaza

Jul 23, 2014 • Posted by bazm Rabbani

Should we also tell them about boycotting the products?

Jul 23, 2014 • Posted by Atiya Sumar

Thank you Amin for this extremely relevant and practical article. Was much needed.

Jul 23, 2014 • Posted by Rukhsana hasham

Mashallah amazing effort put into this!! May you carry on doing this grand work with the grace of the almighty ALLAH SWT
AMEEN YA RAB

Jul 23, 2014 • Posted by Rukhsana hasham

Mashallah amazing effort put into this!! May you carry on doing this grand work with the grace of the almighty ALLAH SWT
AMEEN YA RAB

Jul 23, 2014 • Posted by Nur Fitrah Teng

Salam Admin of Noorkids. Jazakallah khair for your effort in sharing this. I have been wanting to tell my kids about what is going on in Gaza, as part of lesson while we read the stories of Quran. This whole article and information is just brilliant. Nurturing our children because they are trust to us from Allah. So its never too late for them to learn history and current affairs.
Bless you all for your effort and we will support your publications ever more!

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