The fondest memories of my childhood are the times when I would fall asleep to the sound of my mother’s or father’s voice, reading to me a simple, happy bedtime story. These would range from a massive pink book filled with 365 stories, one for each night of the year, to the classic tale of Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs. My mum or dad would always tuck me into bed, remind me to recite my Kalimah before I sleep and make the du’a we should say before sleeping. Every night I would do this until it became almost second nature to recite these words before I closed my eyes. My parents were great believers in sleeping early and almost every single night I would argue with them and beg to stay awake a little longer. But they would never budge and I would always go to bed early and wake up early, just as they wanted. However, nighttimes were always special to me as they always made sure that, just before I slept, someone would read a bedtime story to me. I still treasure those experiences, so many years later.
Maybe your parents read poems to you before you slept or simply just gave you a kiss on your forehead. Maybe your grandma, uncle, aunt or sibling put you to bed. Whatever your routine was you probably miss being a child going to bed at a reasonable time, just closing your eyes and dreaming of clouds as marshmallows and being a prince or princess. Bedtime is just one of those sacred things that we probably all remember as being so special.
Most of us will have heard the tales of Snow White and The Princess and the Pea as we lay in our beds. Many of our parents may have read Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella to us, but these stories, although they are entertaining, are not enough for raising Muslim children. I remember my parents also reading to me the story of Prophet Musa (AS) and the story of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) before I went to sleep at night. The best books were the ones with pictures, of course, of camels and deserts and fires. However, there were no images of people in these books, abiding by Islam’s rules. These books would always be slightly more special to me than the other bedtime stories, mainly because they were so colourful and vibrant, but also because the stories were so much more fascinating. When I was told they were true stories, these stories inspired me more than Cinderella ever could. My parents always told me that these were Allah’s prophets and that made them my role models in life. Instead of looking up to a girl who stays out till midnight and dances with a prince, I looked up to men who fought and suffered for their religion and men who were so close to Allah (SWT) that He gave them Jannah without a second thought. I heard stories of people who were pious and generous and giving; always giving money and belongings to those less fortunate and always giving time and dedication to Allah (SWT).
I believe that Muslim children are in need of these words. They are in need of time from their parents, reading to them at night. They need their parents to read them books that are well-written and have important morals within them. Our society becomes more and more difficult to live in every day, but if the home is a beautiful sanctuary then our children will insha Allah be able to face the outside world. And how can we make our homes such a place? By treating each other with love and care and by having time for each other, including time to read together.
Some of my favourite Islamic books as a child were I Can Wear Hijab Anywhere by Yasmin Ibrahim and the collection of the Stories of the Prophets in the Stem Series which includes six books, each on a different prophet of Allah. These books not only helped me wind down ready to sleep at night, but they also gave me something to talk to my mummy about. We’d often have conversations about the hijab that made me feel like a grown up girl and it’s all thanks to those few moments that she spent reading to me. That time may seem insignificant, but it was extremely valuable.
Reading and storytelling are important activities for all of us. For children, it is a beneficial part of the nighttime routine and a fun way to learn about the pious role models we have. If you didn’t experience this, allow your children, grandchildren or nephews and nieces to. For me, bedtime stories were a beautiful experience – they inspired, informed and also motivated me. And of course, got me to bed early, just like mum and dad wanted!
Zuleikha is an aspiring entrepreneur with a great passion for reading, writing and all things literature. When she’s not writing, she’s eating, studying and maybe some more eating. She is also the co-founder of Mission Jannah, an organisation which spreads Islam through the use of social media.