Every Ramadan, I go to the first taraweeh prayer in the masjid with full force excitement.
It’s the time of year where you feel that sense of community in the Ummah again. Smiling faces surround you as you reunite with friends you haven’t seen in a while, reminding you of what a special place the masjid is. The place the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, called the most beloved place on earth to Allah.
So why are children not welcome here?
There’s no doubt that taraweeh prayer can get a bit uncomfortable. With the crowding and the heat, and standing for what feels like an eternity, it can sometimes be exhausting. For some people, however, children seem like the worst nuisance of all. I’ve seen children at the masjid scolded for running or playing or, well, simply acting like children. Mothers are often pushed to the back rows to stay near their children. Some masjids even make it clear that no children are allowed in the masjid.
There are some that claim women shouldn’t even go to the mosque, because they are not obliged. However, they forget that this was not the Prophet’s masjid. There are many beautiful hadiths that testify to the loving and generous character of the Prophet when it came to women and children.
Al-Nasaa’i (1141) narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Shaddaad that his father said:
“The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came out to us for one of the evening prayers, carrying Hasan or Husayn. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came forward, put the child down and said Takbeer to start the prayer. Then he prostrated during the prayer and his prostration lasted for a long time.
My father said: I raised my head and saw the child on the back of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), so I went back to my prostration. When the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) finished praying, the people said to him: ‘O Messenger of Allaah, during your prayer you prostrated and it took a long time, until we thought that something had happened, or that you were receiving Revelation.’ He said, ‘Nothing happened, but my son was riding on my back and I did not want to hurry him up until he had had enough.’”
This hadith perfectly describes the patience of the Prophet towards children when it came to prayer. Not only did he allow his young son to climb on his back, he actually elongated the prayer particularly for his son’s amusement. Another thing to note is that the child was with the Prophet. Rarely do we see children where the men pray, let alone climbing the Imam’s back. Today, it is almost like a ruling that all children remain on the women’s side and must stay with their mothers.
The Prophet was also sensitive to mothers when leading prayer. He said, “I rise up to pray, with the intention to elongate my prayer, thereupon I hear the cry of a child which makes me shorten my prayer disliking to make it hard on his/her mother.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet never chastised mothers for bringing their children to the mosque. Rather, he went out of his way to make prayer easier for them. He understood the blessings of congregational prayer in the masjid, and went out of his way to make those blessings attainable for all members of his ummah, including women and children.
Yet today, we don’t follow in his footsteps. In Surah Al-Ahzab (33:21), God says, “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad SAW) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.”
Our beloved Prophet is the best example for humanity to follow, in character and actions alike.
By turning away young children, we are also turning away their mothers, and taking away their chances for more reward, especially in the blessed month of Ramadan. We are also shaping our children’s attitudes towards the masjid. A child who is scolded will remember that forever, and will see the masjid as an unwelcoming, and let’s face it, boring place.
Trust me, I still remember that one sister who yanked me as a kid and reprimanded me for playing. On the other hand, by encouraging our children to go to the masjid, they will remember it as a house of community and love.
Children are more likely to listen to an adult who smiles at them and speaks softly than one with furrowed brows and a pointing finger. We should welcome children in our masjids as there are benefits and value in attending prayer.
If our youth grow up distanced from the mosque, it is because they were turned away as children.
We’ve heard it a million times before, children are the future. However, it lies in how we treat them which determines what that future will be. And for the sake of our Ummah, we must show patience and compassion to our children.
Written by Nour Saudi.