Children’s Sense of Time and Death
To be a child is, in one sense, to not be bound by time the way many adults are.
Children are fully alive and present in each moment. The Islamic spiritual tradition praises this idea; Arabic spiritual literature often encouraged each spiritual seeker to be a “son of the moment” (ibn al-waqt).
Yet, despite the timeless nature of childhood, our children become naturally interested in both time and life after death as young as age three. This is even truer if a family member or close friend of the family has passed away.
Coping with death is an important part of how all human beings, including children, learn more about Allah and grow nearer to Him.
Noor Kids wanted to make sure that children are given the opportunity to read, think through, and talk about these more abstract concepts of death and the hereafter. We developed the book Happily Ever Hereafter for Muslim kids to help both parents and children talk about death in Islam.
Death in Islam Through the Eyes of a Child
A Muslim child’s understanding of death in Islam is first tempered by his or her own utter being in the present.
Children think thoughtfully and compassionately about those who have died, often bringing solace to the adults around them.
However, making sense of where exactly a loved one has gone can often be difficult for a child, as it continues to be for some adults.
Despite this, the confidence and certainty of many Muslim children about Jannah and God’s caring love make them gifts to the adults around them. Somehow children themselves become powerful sources and solaces for us as parents when we attempt to teach them about life after death in Islam.
Even Muslim kids with basic knowledge of the hereafter in Islam may articulate with surprising accuracy their dreams of Jannah. They may also have a sense of how the souls of passed family members somehow dwell in an intermediary realm (barzakh).
Praying with Your Child For a Lost Loved One
Whether our Muslim children are confident about the concept of life after death, or afraid and unsure about death in Islam, one of the most powerful tools we can use to help them process the death of a loved one is prayer (dua).
In our efforts to emphasize salah or formal obligatory prayer as parents we sometimes forget to share with our children the sweet, sacred act of making dua.
The Prophet said, “Dua is the act of worship,” teaching us that it is the wellspring of all religious life! There is life in dua which makes it a powerful coping mechanism for working through death.
Parents can take time to make dua with their children for a loved one who has passed away as a way of honoring the deceased person and also as a teaching tool.
To start, find a cozy spot on a prayer rug with your child after salah or stay with them right before they go to sleep. Be sure to model for your child how you hold your hands cupped and raised toward the Most High.
Lead your child in prayer in whatever language you are most comfortable in. This is an important part of teaching your child to talk to Allah (God) in a familiar way.
Your prayer can include thanking Allah for the memories of the loved one, or asking Allah to bless that person in any way that your child feels is right.
Then, give your child a chance to lead. Pay close attention to the words and sentiments your child expresses, as they are important indicators that reveal how your child understands the concept of life after death in Islam.
A Special Way to Have Conversations about Death and Dying
For a Muslim adult, making dua is a crucial part of coping with death. Children can be encouraged to engage in the same process, and may even pray with more insight.
Dua helps all of us remember that losing a grandparent, or experiencing the death of a parent or any other loved, one is a natural part of life.
Making dua along with your child can be a subtle, spiritual way of having conversations about death and dying. Dua can start healing conversations that involve a parent, child, Creator, and the deceased.