The child has a clean and pure memory which is not overloaded with problems or troubles like adults. At the same time, it is like an efficient and versatile sharp machine. The child rapidly memorizes and hardly forgets things he commits to memory at an early age. Thus, learning in childhood is faster and better preserved than at any other stage of the child's life. In order to know the best ways to utilize this talent, we ask the following question:
What should our children memorize?
Pondering on the condition of many Muslim children today, we will find many of them repeating songs and TV commercials and memorizing the names of football players. Memorizing the Quran and the Prophet's Ahadeeth (narrations) is not included in their educational programs. When we blame fathers for this deficiency, some of them say that it is difficult for children to memorize the Quran and beneficial knowledge, if doing so is added to the oversized school curriculum that the child studies. Some others do not realize the great capabilities of the child's memory; hence, they do not utilize this talent in a useful way that enrich the mind of the child. Thus, his memory only stores the nonsense he sees on TV without control or censorship. We are dealing with a jewel that our children possess at the early stages of their lives, and it is our responsibility to utilize it in ways that benefit the child in this life and in the Hereafter. To put in order the things that the child should memorize, the priorities are as follows:
1) The Noble Quran: The reward for this is not limited to the children; it extends to the parents who help their children to learn the Book of Allah The Almighty. The Prophet said: "Whoever reads the Quran, learns it and acts according to it will be made to wear on the Day of Resurrection a crown of light whose like is like the light of the sun and his parents will be made to wear two garments and the whole world is not as good as they are. They will ask, 'Why are we made to wear these?' They will be answered, "Because of your child learning the Quran." [Al-Haakim]
2) The Prophet's Hadeeth: Second to the Quran in importance are the Prophet's Ahadeeth. The father or the educator chooses the sound Ahadeeth which are short and easy to comprehend and which suit the age of childhood. For example, Rabee‘ah ibn Shaybaan said that he asked Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali what he had memorized from the Messenger of Allah . Al-Hasan replied that he memorized his saying: "Give up what is doubtful to you for that which is not doubtful to you; for verily truth is peace of mind and falsehood is doubt." [At-Tirmithi] An anecdote narrated in this regard, i.e. children's memorization of the Prophet's Hadeeth, is about the daughter of Imam Maalik who committed his Muwatta' to memory. She stood behind the door during her father's class, and when she heard one of his students erring in a Hadeeth, she would knock on the door. Then, Maalik would take note and correct the student.
3) Athkaar and supplications: Supplications, for instance, include those said upon eating, entering the bathroom, sleeping, waking up, using means of transportation as well as the Athkaar of the prayer, which are said in bowing and prostration, as well as Athkaar of the morning and evening. The best way to make children memorize the supplications and daily Athkaar is that they watch and hear adults say them continuously at the proper time and learn them directly from the adults. Ibn ‘Abbaas said, "I was in the house of my aunt Maymoonah when the Athaan was announced. The Prophet went out for prayer, saying: 'Allahumma-ij‘al Fi Qalbi Noora, waj‘al-fi Lisaani Noora, wa min Amaami Noora, waj‘al min Fawqi Noora, wamin Tahti Noora, Allahumma A‘thim li Noora. (O Allah, provide me with light in my heart, light in my tongue, light in front of me, light above me, light below me, and strengthen my light).'" [Ibn Khuzaymah]
4) Meaningful poetry and Islamic Nasheeds: The child may be allowed to memorize some meaningful poetry and short poems selected from genuine Arabic poetry. This will develop the child's eloquence and raise the spirit of enthusiasm in his soul towards religion, allegiance to Allah The Almighty, His Messenger, and the believers, and disassociation from others. The child should not be taught profligate and insolent poems as well as the cheap poetry that is prevalent in the present time. Educators may expose the children to the poetry of Imam Ash-Shaafi‘i, Mustafa Saadiq Ar-Raafi‘i, Yoosuf Al-Qaradhaawi, and other collections of old and modern well-composed poetry.
There is no harm if the child memorizes some meaningful Islamic Nasheeds (songs) which entertain the souls due to their beautiful tune. This beautiful tone cheers up the soul and purifies it. It is also one of the interesting means through which we convey a moral value or a useful piece of information to the child. A child can memorize some quotations by the righteous predecessors that contain guidance to particular etiquettes, admonition or the like, such as admonitions of Ibn Mas‘ood . He said, "Whoever is given goodness, it is Allah The Almighty Who has given him; whoever is protected from evil, it is Allah The Almighty Who has protected him," and, "Nothing on the face of the earth is more entitled to be jailed for a long time more than the tongue," and other touching and sincere words.
When can the child memorize?
Specialists say that a child can memorize at the age of three, and the golden period is from five to fifteen. The best time for memorization during the day is the early morning after Fajr Prayer, provided the child is neither hungry nor full. This will sharpen the memory to acquire and comprehend knowledge.
Reward the child for memorization
The best motivation for the child to memorize is to reward him whenever he achieves some progress. He should be morally rewarded by praising him and encouraging him to recite what he memorized in family gatherings and before his friends. Also, he should be materially rewarded by giving him gifts or money as an award for his achievement. It is said that one day Salah Ad-Deen Al-Ayyoobi (Saladin) was walking among the soldiers in the battlefield and passed by a small boy reciting the Quran in the arms of his father. Salah Ad-Deen admired his way of recitation, and thus, drew him close, assigned him a share of his special food, and allocated a piece of his garden for the child and his father. Also, the father of Ibraaheem ibn Ad-ham said to him, "O my son, learn the Prophetic Hadeeth; whenever you hear and memorize one Hadeeth, I will give you one dirham." Ibraaheem said, "This was a reason that motivated me to learn the Prophetic traditions."
Keep the child away from obstacles of memorization
Obstacles of memorization include deep fear and forms of agitation and nervous tension. Acute psychological and nervous tension constitute an obstacle to sound thinking, and high agitation has a very harmful effect on the various mental functions and processes of the brain, such as understanding, remembering and thinking. In his book Ta‘leem Al-Muta‘llim fi Tareeq At-Ta‘allum, Az-Zarnooji said that the causes of forgetfulness are misdeeds, sins, grief, sadness for worldly matters, and plenty of business and occupations.
The father has to keep his child away from all forms of sins, whether attending them, watching them, or listening to them, let alone falling into committing them. According to Ibn al-Qayyim in his book Al-Jawaab al-Kaafi, sins spoil the mind. The mind has a special light and that light will be turned off by sins. When this light is switched off, the formidability of the mind weakens and decreases.
A child should not eat excessively in a way that causes obesity, and hence, laziness, inactivity, and weak intelligence.
We should not forget to supplicate Allah The Almighty frequently that He The Exalted will grant our children the talent of memorization, understanding, knowledge, and working according to them, Aameen.