Influencing Children to Perform Salah By Fahmida Mehreen
Good practices start at home. Be it talking kindly without using inappropriate words and gestures to performing religious conducts – all starts at home through the keen guidance and mentoring of the guardians. We all have children at home and around us. They can be our own children, our nephews and nieces, our cousins, our grandchildren, or even our own siblings or neighbors. We must acknowledge that we all play a vital part in their character building because we are a part of their environment, they are growing up in. Even though parents have the fundamental role in guiding them towards the right path, we as their guardians should also showcase ideal practices before them so that they can see to learn.
Children are like clay; they will shape in the form as we, the guardians, or more specifically the parents, mould them into. Performing Salah i.e. the performing the five daily prayers, is the second pillar of Islam. Therefore, our children should be taught from the time they learn to understand that Salah is a part of our lifestyle for Muslims. It is not a choice but a command of Allah that we all must follow in order to please Allah and attain His bountiful mercy in this world and in the Hereafter.
Now, children are delicate as flowers. In order to incept something in their thought process and make it live in their lifestyle can be a very critical job. We cannot expect to sternly order our children that they must start praying by the age of seven years and make it a habit by the age of ten and just send them to a local Imam or Arabic teacher to learn all the supplications and Surahs needed for praying. This firmness and irrationality will impact the psychology of a child negatively, and instead of coming on the path of Allah the child may feel reluctant and go astray from the path of the righteous.
As parents, we should start to enlighten them about Salah by going easy on them. Before lecturing them, we must set examples ourselves. We must ensure to perform Salah regularly before our children so that they learn and comprehend by watching. It is said in the Holy Qur’an that “Lead by examples”.
“Believers, why do you say what you do not do? It is most offensive in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do!” (Al Qur’an; 61:2-3)
Once the children see the adults of the house praying, their inquisitive mind will want to know more about it and even start to practice the actions side by side. That is good enough for a start.
We need to communicate to our children why we pray and why it is essential that they as Muslims follow this command of Allah along with other commandments. We can explain with simple examples like just the way we eat three big meals and several snacks during the day to keep our body energized and healthy, our mind and soul also needs food, and Salah is a food for soul. We need to emphasize to the children that Salah is an act of showing thankfulness towards Allah, who has created us and the entire universe. It is a way of showing our commitment towards Allah, the Supreme and, most importantly, it helps us to keep in mind that this worldly life is temporary and we must strive to succeed in our afterlife, if Allah wills.
As a challenging starter, we should encourage them to pray with us. Boys can start to pray with their fathers, elder brothers, grandfathers, or any other person they feel comfortable standing next to. Similar applies for girls. In a hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“Instruct your children to pray when they are seven years old, and (lightly) smack them if they do not do it when they are ten, and separate them in their beds.” (Saheeh Abu Dawood and Ahmad)”
This teaches us that we should introduce the concept of Salah to the children during their early years and inspire them to start practicing it. With gentle words, they must be repeatedly reminded that they are expected to pray five times a day by the age of ten years. These alerts will enable them to prepare themselves mentally to start praying regularly in due time. Regarding “smacking children”, it definitely cannot be abusive! We must ensure that we are being firm to them but cannot cause them severe bodily pain. Violence is never permissible in Islam, and is definitely an offence.
In order to motivate them, we may ask the children to perform Salah before us. After they have completed their Salah, we can offer a small token of appreciation like a candy or a small toy to reassure them that they have done a good job. We must always show positive appreciation that will boost them to do better. We should praise them and pat on their backs and hug them. Show them that we are proud of them. This not only nurtures them morally but also teaches the action of appreciation and generosity to them. As the Prophet of Allah (PBUH) said:
“Anyone who does not show mercy to our young ones and respect to our old ones is not one of us.” (Sahih Tirmidhi)
Politeness is a basic value of Islam and we must speak to our children in a caring manner. There should always be a fine line between firmness and kindness.
In order to make them habituated, we have to make prayers look easy to them just like playing and other activities they enjoy doing. Instead of pushing them to pray Sunnah prayers at the beginning, introduce the obligatory rakahs first. If at times, they are not willing to pray in front of anyone, allow them the space. We should let them know that it is more rewarding to pray together, but we must not be too strict about it. It is essential to be lenient at times so that they do not feel burdened.
Every child has unique personalities and diverse ways of thinking. We, as parents and guardians, should cater to their unique needs and answer their uncountable questions with patience. If they are finding Salah hard, we should listen to their reasons and try finding a solution around it. We cannot give a deaf ear to their challenges. Some children are quick learners while some need more time. We have to act accordingly and not be harsh on them or compare them with other kids. This harms their self-esteem and does more damage than good.
Besides everything, as their guardians we should always make special supplications for them so that they are on the right track and make Salah an everyday thing of their lives. We must keep in mind that Allah has promised us with unimaginable rewards for keeping patience with our children and for performing our responsibilities the right way in bringing them up. So, we must never stop praying for them and lose faith in the Almighty.
May Allah gift us with children who will become a source of Sadqa-E-Zariah for us.