Let them be Kids – Everywhere: Islamic Parenting Principles

I tend to let my daughter play with everything she wants to play with (except if it’s dangerous, is the property of someone else or will cause me unnecessarily intense amounts of cleaning – markers near a beige couch? No thank you). I don’t mind her clothes getting grimy and muddy at the park. A ripped book from her shelf at home is not the end of the world. But the moment we enter the masjid, she is suddenly expected to act like an adult.

Your child doesn’t cease to be a child when she enters the masjid (or anywhere else). The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “When I begin the prayer, I always intend to make it long; however, if I hear a baby crying, I shorten it, as I do not wish to cause his mother any distress.” Women regularly attended at the masjid in the Prophet’s time. Mothers took their babies to the masjid, and the children were welcomed. The Prophet (saw) would shorten the prayer so that the mother of the child would not be distressed – not so that he or the rest of the congregation would not be distressed. He never indicated to mothers that they should leave their children at home, or wait until their children are old enough to “sit still” to bring them to the mosque.

How common is it now to see dirty looks thrown at a mother whose child erupts in tears in the masjid? Or whose child simply acts like any child should – giggling, talking, walking around and observing…

A masjid should be a place where all members of the community feel welcomed, regardless of their age or stage of family life. Naturally, when children reach an age of understanding, they should be taught the etiquette of being in a masjid and how to be conscientious enough to not distract other worshipers. But the balance must be there – all discipline and no mercy can eventually lead to a child disliking a place of worship.

My daughter sometimes still sits on my feet or back as I make sujood. Sometimes she sits on my lap when I am reciting the tashahhud. I let her do that in reverence to and imitation of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) who extended his sujood because his grandson Al-Hassan was playing on his back. When the companions asked him why he extended his sujood for so long, he simply said: “my son made me his mount, so I did not want to hurry him until he had satisfied his wish.”

This was the attitude of the best man, Muhammad (saw), about children playing in the best of places, his masjid. He did not rush them, scold them, tell them “play somewhere else, I’m busy right now.” No. He understood that children are children no matter where they are. Children are still children in the mosque, at the park, in the grocery store, on a plane…do not expect more from your child than she is capable of. Tantrums and arguments and tears will happen no matter where you are. Laughter, merriment and enjoyment will happen no matter where you are. Don’t be ashamed of the fact that your child is just that – a child.

There will come a time when things won’t be as simple anymore, and your child’s enjoyment will become contingent on factors that are not necessarily in your control. Don’t ruin the enjoyment of your child, and do not hurry her into adulthood before she is ready. And remember, dirty looks aren’t actually that powerful. Don’t let them control you or your kids.

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