By Dr. Fadwa Elashi
The Qur’an is filled with examples encouraging its readers to be active thinkers that engage in intellectual and scientific thought—from Ibrahim (AS) that sought to reaffirm his faith by asking, “show me how You give life to the dead” (Quran, 2:260), to Mousa (AS) who asked Allah (SWT) to “show me Yourself that I may look at you” (Quran, 7:143).
Indeed, rather than being passive readers and listeners, Muslims are encouraged to engage in critical thinking as a means to get closer to Allah and His message (Quran, 2:170; 3:191; 7:184; 16:69; 30:8, 47:24).
The importance of critical thinking
With the abundance of information available today, it has become essential to equip our children with the tools that propel them to fearlessly ask questions and seek evidence for the information they receive (Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2016).
With these critical thinking skills, children can build a foundation for innovation, creativity, and originality. And, perhaps for that reason, critical thinking is being increasingly recognized as one of the top skills needed to succeed in the 21st century (National Education Association, 2012).
So, what can parents do to help promote their children’s critical thinking skills?
Read stories and ask inferential, rather than literal, questions (Murphy, Rowe, Ramani, & Silverman, 2014).
While literal questions help develop children’s comprehension (e.g., “What color is Asad’s shirt?”), inferential questions push the child to explore dimensions that foster perspective taking, causal inference, and source evaluation.
Below we provide a more thorough description of three inferential-type questions you can ask your child next time.
(Some of these you may already find in the Noor Kids Educational Program!)
- Perspective taking: These questions encourage the child to expand his thinking and adopt a more open-minded view by taking others’ perspectives. For instance, parents may ask: “How do you think you would feel if you ran out of badges just like Shireen?”
- Causal inferences: These questions encourage the child to determine the relationship between the cause and effect in a particular event. For instance, parents may ask: “Why do you think Haseeb ate the entire plate of lasagna without realizing?”
- Evaluating the sources: These questions encourage the child to check the source of information and evaluate its credibility. For instance, parents can ask “Where do you think Asad learned that planets rotate around the sun?” You can also follow-up any of your child’s answers with, “How did you know that?” This helps your child think about his own source of knowledge. This also fosters the understanding that the source of information is as critical as the information itself.
Lastly, do not feel the need to pressure your child to answer all the questions. Reading is supposed to be fun, and these critical thinking questions are designed to make reading much more engaging and enticing than it already is.
So, go ahead and jump into the critical thinking train to see your child’s blossoming enthusiasm for inquiry, all while learning more about our beautiful religion!
Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2016). Becoming brilliant: What science tells us about raising successful children. American Psychological Association.
Murphy, P. K., Rowe, M. L., Ramani, G., & Silverman, R. (2014). Promoting critical-analytic thinking in children and adolescents at home and in school. Educational Psychology Review, 26(4), 561–578. doi: 10.1007/s10648-014-9281-3
National Education Association. (2012). Preparing 21st-century students for a global society: An educator’s guide to the “four Cs.”. Alexandria, VA: National Education Association.
About the author:
Dr. Fadwa Elashi is an assistant professor at Arab Open University and has published several articles related to the development of critical thinking in children. She has also published research on American Muslim children’s self-perceptions in the post-9/11 era. Her current research interests include studying the relationship between critical thinking skills and parent conversations, as well as the importance of teacher perceptions and beliefs towards students’ learning. She was born and raised in the U.S. and is currently living in Amman, Jordan, with her husband and three-year-old son.