One of the most important questions for parents, with regards to raising children; How do we teach our kids to pray?
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We are living in times where the religion is being taken as side-lines. In an article I wrote earlier this year, I mentioned an interview that was done where some youths had to answer what are the pillars of Islam and Iman. Needless to say, their responses were disappointing.
It is absolutely devastating to see the condition of the Muslims today. I’m sure many of us have met a lot of Muslims who take the prayer for granted. In fact, some have left performing the prayer completely.
I have met people who would not pray on time because it was inconvenient to remove their makeup, or because of social events, or because of the fact that they just. Don’t. Care.
In most cases, when we look back at how a person can reach to such a stage of not caring about the most important foundations of Islam i.e. the prayer, it is usually due to the parents falling short with regards to enjoining the prayer.
Here, I will be sharing on how to teach our kids how to pray from young as taught by the Prophet (ﷺ).
Being the example
As in all cases of raising righteous children, the first advice is to be an example to our children ourselves. For example, if we want our children to pray on time when they are older, we should strive to pray on time ourselves.
Teaching in stages
From the wisdom of Islam, teaching kids to establish the prayer is with stages. This is based on the hadith;
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,
مروا أولادكم بالصلاة وهم أبناء سبع سنين، واضربوهم عليها، وهم أبناء عشر
Command your children to perform Solah (prayer) when they are seven years old, and beat them for (not offering) it when they are ten
[Riyadhus Salihin; Hadith Abu Dawud, graded Sahih by shaykh al-Albany]
Before the age of 7 years old
Before commanding our children to perform the prayer at the age of 7, we must pave the way to their success. This is done from the moment they are able to see by allowing our children to be around to see us whenever we pray.
As they get older, they will be able to imitate our movements such as standing, bowing, sitting and prostrating. We encourage them by asking them along to pray by our side.
But what if they don’t want to pray?
At times, children may not want to follow us and would prefer playing instead of standing in prayer with us. And that is okay as they are still not at an age of Taklif (burdened by the obligations of the religion).
Therefore, there is no need for us to stress over things, or scold our kids, or even punish them for not wanting to pray at such a young age.
What we should do is simply encourage them to pray in a stress-free manner so that they feel at ease and content whenever they associate with the prayer.
Our role is to get them accustomed to the concept of prayer so that they will be used to it by the time they are obliged to perform the prayer.
7 years old
Command your kids to pray
As mentioned in the hadith above, this is the age where we begin to command our children to pray. What this means is that we call our children to prayer with firmness. Being firm does not mean harsh. It simply means that we tell our children to pray in a tone and facial expression which is serious.
Teaching the proper way to pray
At 7 years old, we can begin to teach them on the proper way of performing the prayer, such as the different recitations in the prayer, and also summarize to them the pillars, the obligations, the sunnah and the nullifiers of the prayer.
Encourage and warn
We also enjoin the prayers on the children using the method of Targhib (encouragement) and Tarhib (warning). Encourage them by sharing with them the verses and hadith which talks about the virtues and rewards of those who prays, or you may even offer them an incentive from time to time when you see them diligently praying.
Warn them on the dangers of leaving off prayers and how it will be the first thing questioned on the day of judgment. You may also remove privileges from them when they become negligent in performing the prayer.
At the age of 10 years old
As mentioned in the hadith above, leaving the solah is from the things where the offender deserves to be given sanctions. By enjoining this, children will realize the seriousness of this matter.
The manner of the punishment is through beating. One extreme may say that the act of beating is abuse towards the child. However, one should note that according to some scholars (mentioned below), the beating should not even cause any pain! Another extreme may say that this kind of punishment is too lax. However, the point of punishment is not to release our anger but to teach our children.
Here are a few guidelines by the scholars of Islam when it comes to carrying out the beating;
- Beating is done without leaving any marks
- It should not cause greater harm
- Should not be smacked on sensitive areas (e.g. the face)
- Should not be done in front of others to protect the child’s dignity
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) commanded us to tell our children to pray when they are seven years old, and to smack them (lightly) if they do not pray when they are ten years old, even though they are not obliged to do that yet, so that they may be trained in doing acts of worship and obedience and may get used to them, so that it will be easy for them to do that after they grow up and it will be dear to them. The same applies to all matters that are blameworthy; young children should not get used to them even though they are not yet under any obligation, because otherwise they will get used to them when they grow up and will enjoy indulging in them. End quote.
Fataawa Noor ‘ala al-Darb, 11/386
The command implies that it is obligatory, but it is limited only to cases where smacking will be beneficial, because sometimes you smack a child but he does not benefit from being smacked, it only makes him scream and cry more and does not serve any benefit. Moreover what is meant by smacking here is smacking that is not painful, a light smack that serves the purpose and does not cause any harm. End quote.
Liqa’ al-Baab il-Maftooh, 95/18
He (may Allaah have mercy on him) also said:
It should not be a smack that causes injury, and it should not be a smack in the face for example, or a smack to a lethal site; rather he should be smacked on the shoulder or the hand and the like, which would not cause him to die. Smacking on the face is risky, because the face is the highest and noblest part of a person and if a person is smacked on the face it is more humiliating and shameful than if he were to be smacked on the back. Hence it is forbidden to smack on the face. End quote
Fataawa Noor ‘ala al-Darb, 13/2
Shaykh al-Fawzaan said:
Smacking (lightly) is one of the means of child rearing. The teacher may smack, the trainer may smack, the guardian may smack for disciplinary purposes; and the husband may smack his wife in cases of wilful defiance (nushooz).
But that must be within certain limits, and it should not be a blow that causes pain, breaks the skin or breaks the bone; rather it should be only as much as is necessary. End quote.
Ighaathat al-Mustafeed bi Sharh Kitaab al-Tawheed (282 — 284)
The wisdom of Islam
As we have read from the above, teaching kids to establish the prayer is with so much wisdom. This is done with stages. We begin by exemplifying to them the prayer from the moment they are able to see; to encouraging them to follow us as they get older; to calling them to prayer with firmness at 7; and finally carrying out the punishment at the age of 10 if they refuse.
رَبِّ ٱجۡعَلۡنِى مُقِيمَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةِ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِىۚ رَبَّنَا وَتَقَبَّلۡ دُعَآءِ
“O my Lord! Make me one who performs As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and (also) from my offspring, our Lord! And accept my invocation”
[Surah Ibrahim, verse 40]
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