Four weeks ago, I walked into that fresh classroom at Islamic Centre of Canada and began arranging desks in a frantic attempt to have everything set up before the campers at the ISNA Canada Summer Camp arrived. I had no idea what to expect; but of course how could I? Eight year old kids are nothing but surprises. I soon came to learn that although many knew about basic teachings of Islam and akhlaq, not all of them knew how to practice it in real life. However, that’s not all I noticed about my campers. I noticed that they were creative, smart, kind, and most of all they were eager to learn; and so I decided that we would spend summer camp trying to better ourselves and put our knowledge into action.
Our first week began with the theme of patience. These campers had a million amazing qualities but patience was amongst one of the rarer ones to come by. They had tons of energy, asking rapid fire streams of questions: “When will we go play sports?” “Is it time to eat yet?” “You said I could go to the washroom in a minute but it’s been three minutes!” Many of them knew the hadith and Quranic verses about sabr but were clueless of how to implement it. Through the detailed story of Prophet Ayyub (AS) they came to find out that patience was not simply to “wait” but to endure any hardship with a level head and remain faithful to our Creator. The campers also grew their own plants to practice some sabr of their own.
Moving onto week two, we turned to the themes of honesty and generosity. It seemed as though honesty really stuck with them; we even had one camper admit to doing something that resulted in consequences, even though nobody had seen him do it! When we talked about generosity, it seemed easy in theory but to actually practice it, the campers took something they wanted for themselves (candy does the trick for 8 year olds!) and gave it away to the campers in a different group. They also came to find out that generosity does not always mean giving money and that smiles and good words also count as giving! When we made sadaqa boxes, it was an astonishing sight to see that some of the campers actually collected money to bring in and donate to the masjid.
After week three (which was all about modesty) we started to see a lot more hijabs, better wudu’, more khushu’, and a lot less bragging in the classroom. Kids started to work together better and help each other. Our final week was all about respect; after learning the rules on respecting the masjid, the campers began to talk less during prayer time and tended more to praying tahiyyatul masjid. The same campers who were whispering and laughing during the first week’s prayer were now praying in the first row with the goal to earn the most rewards. Our speech competition wrapped up the week and gave campers the chance to voice what they had learned over the camp.
Four weeks ago I walked into that classroom not knowing what to expect and four weeks later I am walking out with a smile on my face. I have learned so much about implementing basic akhlaq from eight year old kids. These campers went from smart kids to smart kids who now know to act in situations with the goal of pleasing Allah SWT. Oh and don’t get me wrong; we learned a lot this month but we definitely had buckets of fun as well (we’ve got the memories to prove it)!