What is Courage in Islam?
Courage enables us to face difficulty, danger or pain in a way that allows us to maintain control over a situation. We can build courage by identifying things that frighten or challenge us and thinking of strategies for coping with them. We also can build courage by remembering that nothing can harm us unless Allah wills it and nothing can benefit us unless Allah wills it.
Discussion about Courage:
Talk to your child about what it means to have courage. Sometimes, we think we don’t have courage because we feel fear. However, we do have courage to help us whenever we feel afraid. We use courage when we try new things that feel a little scary, like learning how to ride a bike. We also use courage when we stand up for what we believe is right.
Ask your child to name words they associate with courage. Then ask for actions they associate with courage. Acknowledge that there are many ways to use courage and that courage is similar to strength. Often they are used together. Stress that we all have courage, even though we sometimes think that we do not because we feel afraid.
Have your child tell you about, write about or draw a picture of a time that they used courage.
Ask your child to think of a time when they were afraid. What were they afraid of? Why? What did they do? Ask if they are still afraid.
Ask your child if they think big people are ever afraid. Have them ask big people around them to describe a time when they were afraid. Why? What did they do?
Encourage your child to talk about their fears. Try to help your child identify the differences between real and imagined fears. Make a list and further discuss.
Discuss with your child strategies for facing the above list of fears. How many strategies can he/she think of?
As your child about a time when they were brave or had courage. What caused them to be afraid? How were they brave? Have your child make (or make one for your child) a badge saying “I have Courage” and let them wear it for the day. For ease of use, instead of making a badge, I will probably have mine made into something they wear around their neck.
As your child if they have ever seen anyone else show courage or bravery. Did they ever see you be brave? Discuss when and why? This will help them think more about other people's actions and make them aware of bravery in everyday life, insha'Allah.
Discuss: As a Muslim, how should we try to approach our fears? What things can we remember to help us deal with our fears (i.e., Allah will assist us in doing what is good and no harm can come to us unless Allah wills it, etc.)
Call attention to acts of bravery, those that happen in your family, in your community and in Islamic history (when a person spoke out against injustice, when someone stood up for what they believed in, when someone protected someone else, etc.)
Discuss with your child ways in which they can improve reliance on Allah. In other words, ways in which they and other Muslims can be more brave every day.
Be a Role Model:
In your daily life, discuss when you or someone in your community stands up for what they believe in. Use it as a learning tool and discussion starter with your child.
In your daily life, help your child stand up for what they believe in and praise them when they do so. For example, if children see or hear others taunting and teasing another child, encourage them from “joining the crowd” and even better, to step up and speak against it. Peer pressure is a hard thing to stand against. Praise children when they stand firm.
Books to share:
Allah’s Best Friend (Qur’an Stories for Little Hearts) This is the story of Prophet Ibrahim (as) when he was a child. Especially focus on the fact that the people were angry because Ibrahim (as) had insulted their gods. In retaliation, they decided to burn him alive. They set a huge heap of firewood alight. However, Prophet Ibrahim (as) felt no fear as his faith in Allah was very strong and he knew that the people were wrong. When the fire was hot, they picked up Prophet Ibrahim (as) and threw him into the fire. However, Allah was with him and commanded the fire “O fire, be cool and peaceful for Ibrahim.” A miracle took place, and the fire, instead of burning Ibrahim (as), became a cool, safe place for him.
The Two Brothers (Qur’an Stories for Little Hearts) This is the story of Habil (Abel) and Qabil (Cain). I thought this story was relevant because of the way Habil responded to his brother when his brother became angry and said he would kill him. He remained calm and refused to even defend himself. I believe that instead of focusing on how Allah rewarded Habil for his bravery (other than the fact that he was rewarded for doing what was right) – I would reflect on the fact that he stood up for what was right – not fighting another believer. It is easy to react to violence or anger that is reflected towards you, but the stronger person is the one who refuses to respond to such behavior.
The Brave Boy (Qur’an Stories for Little Hearts) This is the story of Prophet Ibrahim (as) and his son Ismael (as), when Ibrahim had the dream that he was sacrificing his son as an order from Allah. When Prophet Ibrahim (as) told his son about the dream, his son was brave and was ready to obey the command of Allah. Discuss how this was a test from Allah and that both Ibrahim and Ismael (as) both remained faithful to Allah. Explain how they were rewarded by Allah for their bravery. In a excerpt from the book, it states:
“Allah was so pleased with the readiness of Ibrahim (as) to sacrifice his beloved son, that He commanded the believers to observe this day as Id al-Adha or the Feast of sacrifice. Every year Muslims sacrifice an animal in remembrance of the Prophet Ibrahim’s trust in Allah.”
The Sleepers in the Cave (Qur’an Stories for Little Hearts) This is the story that is found in Surat Al-Kahf (The Cave). I found it inspiring because these people believed so strongly about how Allah should be worshipped that they gave up everything worldly in order to keep true to Allah. I think it might be also be important to focus on the fact that while they were brave to hold fast to what they believed in, they also cried out to Allah to help them. Strength and bravery does not mean that you do not need help, but that when you need help, you know where to turn to for help (with right faith) and are not afraid to ask for it. Discuss with your child the miracle Allah caused to happen and how he protected the sleepers in the cave. Discuss the reward that the people received – because they were allowed to awaken during a time when the people were following the same religion as them. Discuss how putting your trust in Allah (like the dwellers of the cave did) is an important part of courage for a Muslim.
Tale of a Fish (Qur’an Stories for Little Hearts) – This is the story of Prophet Yunus (Jonah, as) that was swallowed by the whale. If you don’t have the story, research the story and explain it to your child. Especially focus on the Prophet’s (as) courage when within the whale. He (as) didn’t panic, but quickly realized his mistake and asked Allah for His forgiveness. When discussing what Allah did to reward him for his bravery, discuss how Allah would have kept Yunus (as) within the whale until the Day of Judgment if he didn’t ask for forgiveness. Also discuss how he was safely brought to land and provided food and drink until he could recover from his ordeal.
If you do not have these stories – do not fret, you can always read about these incidents (Qur'an / Sunnah /Seerah) and discuss the stories with your child. Some of these stories may be found online as well.
After reading the stories, come up with questions to further discuss bravery. How did the character of the story show bravery? How did their brave act prove that they had strong faith in Allah? How did Allah reward them for their bravery?
Aside from the Islamic books mentioned above (and there may be more than those listed), you can always be proactive and look at the list your child made about fears he/she has. Go to the library and find books related to those fears. There are many books available, for example, about fear of the dark. There are many titles out there. Just to name a few:
“Oh, bother! Someone’s Afraid of the Dark!” with Winnie the Pooh (Golden Books)
“Baby Fozzie is Afraid of the Dark.” By Marilyn Kaye
I believe there is also one entitled “Franklin is Afraid of the Dark” and many more – just search the library or ask the librarian.
Additional Learning Ideas:
My child was often afraid of visiting the doctor (especially shots) and also was uncertain about the dentist. Since these were things that my child was somewhat unfamiliar with (mainly the dentist) – I looked for books about going to the dentist, getting shots (why, etc.) and going to the doctor. This may also prove helpful in your situation.
As a project, perhaps you can sit down with your child and create your own short story (have your child make the drawings) based on his/her fears. If your child prefers to speak rather than have it written, just have your child use his/her imagination to create the story. Have the main character (your child) learn to deal with his/her fear and write about the outcome. Your child might really enjoy this and may be able to better visualize overcoming their fears this way.
Adam’s World: “Finding Courage”
I have not yet seen this movie and have to see if it is available to rent at our local bookstore. I know part of the movie discusses fear of spiders – but I’m not sure what else is discussed or if it is a valuable addition to this discussion or not.
Please let me know if you have any other suggestions or ideas to add to this list.
Jazak Allah Khair