LAST_UPDATEMon, 25 Jun 2018 11pm

Fairy Tales And Islamic Stories: Why Both Are Equally Good For Children

“And they lived happily ever after…”

That is what the fairy tales we grew up reading have taught us, and taught our children.

The fairy tale life is one that has painted a perfect picture for most of us for decades, be it through the books we’ve read or the timeless Disney cartoons we’ve watched.

Though love and kindness dominates as the core message, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of stories that depict wicked witches and murderous elements, as well as young girls running away from home, only to be swept away by prince charming.

Some parents we queried argued these stories “lack religious and cultural values” and hence deemed fairy tales as inappropriate for their children. But does this opinion ring true to all parents?

Striking A Balance Between Fairy Tales And Islamic Stories

Pic: @thefamily.uk (From L-R Omar Mukhtar, 11, Fatimah, 4 and Ali, 2)Pic: @thefamily.uk (From L-R Omar Mukhtar, 11, Fatimah, 4 and Ali, 2)Omar Mukhlis Azizan and Nor Ashila Mahamed Ismail, the couple who wittily goes by the moniker ‘Mr Dad and Mrs Mom’ on popular Instagram account @thefamily.uk, believe that children should be exposed to a broad range of stories as it equates to a broader mind, which will be advantageous for their future.

The parents to three wonderful children; Omar Mukhtar, 11, Fatimah, four, and Ali, two, relayed there should be no reason for fairy tales to mislead one’s belief if one understands the core of the religion.

“What’s important is to discuss the stories with them, so that they fully understand the moral, follow the good and avoid the bad actions,” the 37-year-old couple conveyed to Malaysian Digest.

“There’s always a lesson to be learned from all stories (fairy tales, Islamic stories), and it’s the parents’ role to help children to understand the lessons that these stories have to offer, whilst guiding them to differentiate the good from the bad.”

Nevertheless, the pair that is currently residing in the United Kingdom admit they try to minimise exposing some fairy tales to their children, especially their daughter – as it promotes the idea that women are weak damsels in distress; they need to be beautiful; marry a handsome prince; live in a castle; and live happily ever after.

The couple noted that these ideas have immense impact on children – especially on young girls.

“Additionally, children can get easily obsessed with certain things, such as the desire to be a princess, which is why we personally think that something that leads to obsession is not good.

“Likewise, we try to limit superhero stories to Ali and Mukhtar, when he was younger, because boys tend to imitate aggressive behaviour; mirroring superheroes," the Birmingham-based couple pointed out.


A post shared by The Family UK (@thefamily.uk) on Nov 25, 2017 at 8:19pm PST

As such, aside from reading fairy tales and children’s classics to their children, the couple also share stories from the Quran, and emphasised that both have pique their beloved children’s curiosity of the unseen and unknown.

While they noticed fairy tales encourage their children to query more on fairies and magic, Islamic stories make them question about God, the devil, heaven and hell.

“We tend to ready a variety of stories for our children, we extract the lessons, and relate them back to Islamic teachings.

“We find it very important to make our children understand that whatever they read, there are many values which they can always bounce back to Islamic guidelines,” said the pair that prioritises religion as a way of life.

Though they encourage parents to expose their children to a broad range of stories, they also reminded that a strong foundation of Islam is crucial.

Pic: @thefamily.uk Pic: @thefamily.uk “When you practise Islam as a way of life, we shouldn’t be afraid of our children being misled by fairy tales as there shouldn’t be any issues of children’s beliefs being affected – even if you don’t read them the stories from the Quran daily.

“At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you teach your children to embrace Islam as their way of life,” they reiterated.

The couple’s eldest child, Omar Mukhtar, then gave us an insight to how his exposure to a wide range of reading materials from fairy tales to Islamic stories has helped nurture him.

“If I had to pick a favourite it’s ‘King Midas’ Golden Touch’ because it’s a story that shows how greed and poorly thought-out decisions can result in bad consequences, and that even the greatest of people, like kings, can make mistakes.

“Meanwhile, Quran stories increase my knowledge of the world and my religion, and Islamic tales inspire me and my character,” the 11-year-old expressed.

As Omar’s two cents served as a testament to his parents’ parenting method, the young bookworm stated that he similarly enjoys reading about the history of Islam and the Prophets, and is currently studying the 99 names of Allah SWT.

In fact, the talented blogger behind The Pawsome Lion, elaborated that doing so has enabled him to incorporate some of the Islamic stories and histories into his writing, and shared one of his favourite story is the first revelation.

“The first revelation is a story of the first word of the Quran that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, which is ‘Read’.

“Allah didn’t decide to reveal the whole Ayah or Surah (Quran verses) but revealed that singular word instead. For me, it shows that man needs to seek knowledge to understand their Lord and their religion!” the young lad shared.

Parents Must Reinforce ‘Aqidah’ Within Their Children

Pic: mysalaam.comPic: mysalaam.comSimilarly, the managing director of Qaiser Darussalam Publications, Anita Abu Bakar, strongly opined that the most important aspect is to first teach children of ‘aqidah’ (creed) prior introducing them to fairy tales – specifically the framework such as the five pillars of Islam and the six pillars of ‘iman’ (faith).

Moreover, the mother-of-two deduced that fairy tales can be used to test if children understand what has been enlightened, and subsequently to ensure that children have a strong foundation of ‘aqidah.’

“Let’s take ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ for example. In Islam it’s prohibited for an unwedded woman to live with seven men under one roof,” she underlined.

“But rather than dismissing the fairy tale completely, parents should inject Islamic values whilst going through the fairy tale with their children by explaining why Islam doesn’t permit such behaviour.”

Because some elements in fairy tales are not in line with Islam, Anita stressed that it is imperative for children to have the confidence to ask questions. And in saying which, she reminded that it is equally important for parents to answer these queries as per the Islamic context, or else, “It will encourage them to seek answers elsewhere, which subsequently welcomes a string of potential problems.”

“Based on my experience, I believe that Malaysian parents are becoming more religiously conscious of the materials they expose their children to because of the rapid increase in social problems.

“When you have children, you’d want the best for them and would want to protect them from any form of evil from this world. So they turn to religion, in hopes that their children will be immune to societal woes,” she theorised.

While Anita understands the sentiment, she conveyed that children must be aware of the good and the bad in this world, and reiterated that at the end of the day, it depends on how parents reinforce ‘aqidah’ within their children as they age.

As such, she recommended parents to also share stories of the Prophet (PBUH), His Wives, His companions, and religious figures such as the ulama (religious scholars), as these stories are what should inspire children to grow through life, while simultaneously strengthen their ‘aqidah’ as it is part of Muslim history.

Pic: mysalaam.comPic: mysalaam.com “The most prominent story would be the story of our beloved Prophet (PBUH), who fought for Islam,” she expressed with much admiration.

“The Prophet (PBUH) was tested with tremendous hardships and obstacles throughout his journey, yet his faith in Allah SWT never falter as he continued to exhibit patience.

“Beyond that, we have scholars who are admirable because they mastered knowledge and religion,” such as the father of early modern medicine, Ibn Sina, and Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, whose mathematical work in the field of algebra laid the foundation of the Islamic tradition of mathematical geography.

Aside from building a strong foundation in ‘aqidah,’ the woman who grew up reading ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, emphasised that it is equally significant to practise moderation by exposing children to both fairy tales and Islamic stories, while urging parents to also teach their children to not be judgemental.

“It’s important to teach children of the ways of Islam, just as it’s important to guide children to respect others – be it for their race, religion or difference of opinions.

“And the key to achieving this is in the way we explain things to our children. While it’s a natural process that children will eventually grow out of fairy tales, it’s always best for parents to sit down with them from a very young age,” she advised.

Fairy Tales Are Still Relevant To Create A Sense Of Wonder

Pic: Ninot AzizPic: Ninot AzizFor local author Zalina Abdul Aziz, or fondly known as Ninot, she emphasised why fairy tales remain important for children.

“The basis of fairy tales is ‘magic’, because it gives children a sense of wonder, enchantment, hence it promotes a space for creativity that boosts their imagination and encourages them to read,” she opined.

“But the best part of all is that it helps them imagine the impossible that’s made possible. This belief will serve them well when they get to school and are exposed to science and technology, as they begin to understand how things are doable.

“It will encourage them to understand that every problem is solvable, provided that we use our brain hard enough,” the avid storyteller explained and underlined that as children age, ‘magic’ is replaced with science and technology, knowledge, and the skills that they hone.

And despite the younger generation these days being influenced by what they watch on the internet and TV, aside the fairy tales they read, she reminded, “It’s important for Malaysians to be reminded of our folklores, fables, legends and myths that are steeped in cultural and moral values and they should be passed down from generation to generation.

"Otherwise, our young will constantly look for legends from other cultures to fill the void," she explained.

Pic: Ninot Aziz (Some books Ninot has written)Pic: Ninot Aziz (Some books Ninot has written)

The author who has been writing poetry and novels since she was 11, used the folklore ‘Mahsuri’ as an example, and conveyed how the tale was used to describe inappropriate behaviour frowned upon by society in the past as well as the cruelty of injustice.

Additionally, she shared that the legend of ‘Che Siti Wan Kembang’ is the perfect reminder for Malaysians that Malaysia is blessed with fairy tales, folklores, fables and legends of both heroes and heroines – with the latter championing women empowerment long before the 21st century was ushered in.

“Every civilisation and country have their own fairy tales, folklores, fables and legends that have universal values to offer.

“Reading stories from various corners of the world will inherently increase children’s knowledge, especially on how people from various parts of the world behave, and this will make children be more accepting and open-minded of others,” she communicated.

The mother-of-five who grew up reading various tales from 'Sleeping Beauty', to 'The Emperor and the Nightingale' and Arabian Nights as well as our own Hikayat like Awang Sulong Merah Muda, 'Putri Saadong', and 'Naga Tasik Chini' acknowledged that these stories have shaped her to become the woman she is today, specifically the moral values she adopted, respect for elders, and appreciating all cultures and a sense of patriotism.

“One of my favourite western fairy tales growing up was ‘The Little Mermaid’, and I’ve always regarded the tale as a tragic sacrifice. When the mermaid was asked to kill the prince to regain her tail, she instead chose to sacrifice her own life and was then rewarded for it. But like our own legends, the mermaid’s grandmother advised the young mermaid to be careful. Respect for the elderly is universal - in the West or East."

Although she acknowledges there may be some elements in fairy tales that may not sit well with some parents, she opined that storytelling is one of the best ways to showcase the bad in the world to make it seem less horrifying through the eyes of children.

Ultimately, Ninot stresses that practicing balance is key – as only with knowledge and dream, culture and religion, and  reading our own stories and of the world, children will grow up having a holistic perspective of the world.

- Malaysian Digest