Developmental psychologists have shown that children are naturally attuned to believe in God.
- Deborah Kelemen’s research demonstrates that children tend to see natural objects as designed or purposeful in a way that goes beyond what their parents teach. For example, children will state that rivers exist so that we can go fishing in them.
- Research scientist Margaret Evans found that children younger than 10 prefer creationist accounts of the origins of animals over evolutionary accounts, even when their parents and teachers endorsed evolution.
- Recent research by Paul Bloom, Jesse Bering, and Emma Cohen suggests that children may also be predisposed to believe in a soul that continues beyond death.
Because the evidence points towards this innate spirituality, many psychologists urge parents, guardians, and caregivers to account for this aspect of children to achieve a holistic picture of their developmental needs. As John Bradford, in Caring for the Whole Child, puts it:
“For a human being, especially a child or young person, to have a full quality of life, spirituality in all its aspects must be nurtured and affirmed. For children or young people who have been marginalized or who have suffered deprivation in every way, the need for such nurture and affirmation in human spirituality is all the more pronounced.”
- Being religious positively affects relationships. For example, religious parents are more likely to be involved in raising their children and are less likely to have highly conflicting relationships with their teens.
- Religious beliefs and participation in religious activities and practices are predictive of other virtues, such as altruism, volunteerism, kindness, and forgiveness.
- Religious beliefs are shown to broadly contribute to the ability to cope with stressful life events. Prayer and social support from a religious community play a strong role in positive coping.
There is strong evidence that suggests children have an innate spirituality and that religious beliefs and practices contribute to overall well being. In Islam, this natural predisposition, which recognizes the oneness of God and seeks all that is good, is called the “fitra”. That’s why this religious tradition also has spiritual “prescriptions” (in the form of prayers and litanies) designed to ground people and enhance their wellbeing in the day-to-day.
In playing our part to help you nurture your child, we want to provide resources for you to build a natural connection with your little one that will account for their developmental needs while providing them love and comfort. If you practice these bedtime prayers a few times a week or even daily, it’s a great way to help your child unwind while giving them a coping mechanism for stressful times that they might use when they grow older.
But these bedtime prayers are not just for your children. You don’t need to be religious to gain a lot of the benefit of these prayers. These are not meant to be exclusive. If you’re sincere, then these prayers might heal you, too.
Evening Wird (Litany)—Time to Wrap Up for Bedtime!
A lot of Muslim scholars, spiritual teachers, and leaders prescribed specific litanies to recite in the evening. These were kind of like spiritual “supplements” or “vitamins.” You would recite these either in the morning or the evening—or both—to ground you for the day or help you unwind during the night. These words put barakah (blessings) in your morning and/or your evening and put you in a state of spiritual presence with God.
Some of these litanies (sing. wird) come directly from prayers prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Some were also inspired by spiritual teachers in the Islamic tradition. There are many different versions, prescribed by different teachers (you can search a lot of these up online). Here is a simple one that you can recite with your child as you unwind in the evenings.
It only takes a few minutes. Make it a part of your bedtime routine!
This is a collection of prayers that was inspired to the great scholar, Imam Abdallah bin Alawi al-Haddad (1044 - 1132AH). You can find a link to the Arabic as well as a translation for it, HERE. If you can’t read Arabic, just recite the words on the left margin in black italics. That’s how the words sound in Arabic!
Take it easy, and recite as much of it as you can. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to read it completely and fluently in only a few minutes tops, God-willing.
Another famous litany is called Wird al-Latif. You can find it, HERE. This is a beautiful one that scholars would read and recommend for the mornings; but you can read it at night, too.
The Safina Society has put together both in a single webpage along with a recording of each being recited. Check it out, HERE.
We recommend playing the evening litany to your child a little bit before bedtime. This way, once the recording starts playing, your child will have a gentle, aural cue to know that it’s time to wrap up for bed. Hopefully, this will get them yawning. Alternatively, have it play out loud as your child puts on their pajamas, brushes their teeth, etc.
BEDTIME PRAYERS—All Tucked in!
Once your little one is all tucked in, bright eyes fluttering, recite some simple bedtime prayers together.
It’s important to do this step together, because it builds a strong bond between you and your child while also solidifying itself as a core memory for your little one. It might very well be that this is what your child looks forward to the whole day as the last, comforting, uninterrupted moments of quality time with you before they doze off. It’s just sweet dreams after this.
Here are some of our favorite bedtime prayers:
***PS: the line on top of the “i” and the “a” signify elongated i and a sounds. So, “ī” makes more of an “ee” sound and “ā” makes the sound of two a’s stacked on top of each other (i.e., stretch the “a” sound for two beats, instead of a short “a” sound which usually just has one beat).
PRAYER (Dua’) #1
باسْمِكَ رَبِّي، وضَعْتُ جَنْبِي، وبِكَ أرْفَعُهُ. إنْ أمْسَكْتَ نَفْسِي فارْحَمْهَا، وإِنْ أرْسَلْتَهَا فَاحْفَظْهَا بِمَا تَحْفَظُ بِهِ عِبَادَكَ الصَّالِحِينَ
Bismika, Rabbī, wa da’tu jambī; wa bika, arfa’uhu. In amsakta nafsī, far-ham-hā; wa in arsaltahā, fah-fadh-hā bimā tahfadh bihi ‘ibādak al-Salihīn
“In Your name, my Lord, I lie down; and in Your name, I rise. So, if You should take my soul, then have mercy upon it; and if You should return my soul, then protect it in the manner that You do so with Your righteous servants.”
Prayer (Dua’) #2:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ خَلَقْتَ نَفْسِي
لَكَ مَمَاتُهَا وَمَحْياهَا
إِنْ أَحْيَيْتَهَا ,فَاحْفَظْهَا
وَإِنْ أَمَتَّهَا فَاغْفِرْ لَهَا
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ العَافِيَةَ
Allahumma innaka khalaqta nafsī
Wa anta tawaffāhā
Laka mamātuhā wa mahyāhā
In ah-yay-ta-hā, fah-fadh-hā
Wa in amat-tahā fagh-fir lahā
Allāhumma innī as-alukal ‘āfiya
“O Allah, verily You have created my soul and You shall take its life. To You belongs its life and death. If You should keep my soul alive, then protect it; and if You should take its life, then forgive it. O Allah, I ask You to grant me good health.”
Prayer (Dua’) #3:
اللَّهُمَّ بِاسْمِكَ أَمُوتُ وَأَحْيَاء
Allāhumma bismika amūtu wa ahyā.
“Oh, Allah—in Your Name, I die and I live.”
You might be wondering why some of these bedtime prayers sound so ominous when you’re just trying to get your little one to hit the hay.
But it’s worth normalizing the concept of death to your little one at an early age, so they’re not afraid of it. Explaining to your child that sleep is the closest experience we have to death makes the latter a lot less frightening.
As a believer, it’s important to realize that our life and death are in the hands of Allah ﷻ. As a human, these prayers are important because they remind us that death is imminent. At any point, we can go.
By reciting these prayers each night, I find that I ground myself. It forces me to ask myself: did I live today like it was my last? Did I cherish those I love? Did I seek and do good?
And also by saying these prayers, I can also forgive myself. Maybe today was not so great, but we hope that tomorrow will be better.
We hope these prayers bring you comfort and connection! Here’s to fostering the “spiritual intelligence” of our little ones and giving their hearts and minds a chance to grow in the comfort of their sweetest dreams.
Until next time,