By Aqeela Naqvi
Imam-e-Zamana Foundation of North America (IZFNA) held their annual picnic and sports day this weekend in Freehold, NJ. There was face painting, nail and mehndi art, falooda and nacho/cheese stands, sports games, as well as sprints and sack races for boys and girls ages 3-14. Though the picnic provided all sorts of fun, the sports day aspect may be singled out as the most commendable part. It signals for the stressing of the importance of physical activity to the coming Muslim generation. Instead of allowing our children to fall completely into the â€˜technology crazeâ€™, we must find time to invite them towards natural pleasures, such as running, biking, hiking, swimming, etc. These practices are important because since they are group activities, and not individual ones (such as video games and television shows tend to be), they can be done as a family.
When we teach our children to appreciate the beauty of nature, and turn â€œphysical activityâ€ into â€œfamily bonding timeâ€, we are not only setting the stage for a growth in their imaginations (by teaching them to have fun creatively, instead of depending on a computer software); but we are also teaching them to see being healthy as fun, and not a chore. They will begin to associate innovative physical activity and â€˜playing games as a familyâ€™ with fond and heartwarming memories. Not only will this serve to make our future generation healthier and more creative, but it will also serve to bring families together in a fun and simple mannerâ€”a bonding process that is greatly needed, especially in our fast-paced world.
If an appreciation for simplicity, and gratitude for the beautiful natural blessings Allah (swt) has given us, is instilled in our children at a young age, it can be hoped that lasting effects will be seen as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (a.s.) has said: â€œUp to seven years of age, a child should play; for another seven years, he should be taught how to read and write; and for still another seven years, he should learn about lawful and unlawful things.â€ Thus, if we allow our children to play and grow and explore the world at a young age (such as by involving them in fun physical activities), then Inshaâ€™Allah as they grow older, they will use those imaginative and cherished family experiences as stepping stones towards: gaining an appreciation for family togetherness, trusting their parents as their guides and eventual companions, and displaying an eagerness to join their family unit on a group (rather than strictly individual) journey towards learning more about Islam.