The first of his actions for which a servant of Almighty Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Most High, will be held accountable on the Day of Qiyaamah (Resurrection) will be his Salaah (Prayers). If a believer’s Salaah is sound, then all his deeds will be sound, but if it is lacking, then all his deeds will be lacking.
Salaah is the first act of worship that was made obligatory by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Most High. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and essential to one’s faith. With the world at our feet, it’s becoming more difficult for parents to keep their children grounded and instill in them knowledge and love for Islamic obligations.
Because of its extreme importance to a Muslim, Salaah should be one of the first acts of worship that parents should teach their children.
Hadhrat Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-Aas narrated that the Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaahu Alaihe WaSallam) said: “Command your children to make Salaah when they become seven years old and spank them for it (Salaah) when they become nine years old, and separate their beds (to sleep).” (Abu Daawood)
Salaah is such a great form of Ibaadah (Worship), a child must be exposed to the beauty of Salaah from a young age even when he doesn’t understand it. Many parents are under the impression that children should begin learning how to perform Salaah at the age of seven. But informal instruction in Salaah should begin much before, when they are visually aware of what takes place around them.
It is only human nature that children love to imitate their parents. In fact, this is one method that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Most High, has provided us for teaching our youth. Here are some strategies,common Muslims shared, to get their children acquainted with Salaah from a young age.
Zaheera wrote: “My strategy is encouraging them by way of example from a very young age, getting them a smaller Musallaa (Prayer Mat), beside me when I had to offer my Salaah. I always tell my sons that every time (they) offer Salaah, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Most High, fills (their) treasure box with all the things that (they) love and on the day of Qiyaamah, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) will present [it] to(them). Now and again, I remind them how big their treasure boxes are. With positive reinforcement the love for Salaah will enter their heart.”
“Leading by example is the best way but to make it easier, I made a “Salaah Book” and introduced 3 Salaah first…like Zuhr, ‘Asr andMaghrib. Making the child tick and one parent sign weekly, this at the beginning and later I introduced ‘Eshaa and Fajr and eventually it became a habit. Loads of encouragement, rather than fear is very important,” wrote Mumtaz.
Faatimah also said that leading by example was the first strategy and getting them their own Musallaa and Burqahs (Veil) was the second. “Third is to allow them to make Du’aa (Supplication) out aloud and allow them to ask for whatever they want. It’s where they learnt that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) is the only “Provider”. And now that my children are a bit older, I encourage them to offer Salaah in their own rooms on occasion so that they learn it’s part of “their own” routine and space instead of mummy’s and papa’s only.”
“I think it’s about the child watching their parent doing the things we want to teach them. The child’s first teacher is the parent he/she spends the most time with,” wrote ‘Aaliyah.
Some parents said when a child watches a parent offering Salaah they become curious and that opens the doors to explain and teach the Ahaadeeth at a level the child can understand. Another said parents performing Salaah in front of their kids taught them that it was necessary and part of life’s routine, “just like eating”.
Mu’allimah Sa’diyah agreed with these methods but said the very first step would be teaching a child how to perform Wudhoo (Muslim-specific Ablution) and that it was obligatory to wash in order to perform Salaah. “Teach them how to make Wudhoo then they look forward to perform Salaah, so this makes them feel like they’re washing their hands, feet and face for a purpose. Get them into a routine of Wudhoo first.”
The best way to implement a habit into a child is to make him constantly do it. Another good way of instilling the habit of Salaah in a child is to perform the Salaah with them.
“The best way to encourage kids to offer Salaah is by reading the virtues of Salaah to them according to their level of understanding. Relate to them a lot of incidents of Salaah. Like the story of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani. That, with Salaah everything will be possible. Talk to them about the obedience of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the fear of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the concept of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s consciousness and offer Salaah with them, even when they get older, in their adolescent years.”
Children must not just be taught how to offer Salaah and that it is obligatory, but they feel an inner urge tooffer it and not just do it out of habit. This is without doubt, the one thing that will ensure consistency even when parents are not watching over them.
Parents’ Du’aas are also very important. Muhammad Hameed suggested that they recite the following Du’aa as quoted in Holy Quraan:
رَبِّ ٱجۡعَلۡنِي مُقِيمَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةِ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِيۚ رَبَّنَا وَتَقَبَّلۡ دُعَآءِ (40)
“My Lord, make me steadfast in Salaah, and my offspring as well. And, Our Lord! Grant my Du’aa (Supplications).” (Ibrahim 14:40)
This Du’aa can be begged regularly, at any time of making Dua and after the Fardh (Obligatory) Salaah, Mu’allimah Sa’diyah also said.
Other ways of encouraging children are to let them perform Salah in Jamaa’ah(Congregation), making one of them the imam. This is also a good way to help them develop a steady pace for Salaah. Direct them towards Salaah at times of need and difficulty. By showing them that the only way to achieve and overcome things is through Salaah, you emphasize its importance. If kids miss their Salaah when they get older, parents should get them to perform the Qadhaa of the missed Salaah as soon as possible like an immediate remedy of a heavy loss. This way they realize that they will have to perform it later on anyway.
Mu’allimah Sa’diyah stressed that parents should never shout at their children to offer Salaah but it should be done softly and gently, especially when waking kids up for Fajr Salaah. “Shouting a child creates resentment – you create anger in that child towards you and instead of looking forward to Salaah, they dislike offering Salaah.”
Parents shouldn’t become despondent in reminding, advising and disciplining, even if their children neglect their Salaah repeatedly, and they shouldn’t despair of their children being rightly guided.