Inspiring our Children to Pray


Compiled by Reem Rahman

A couple months ago, Imam Suhaib posted a question on Facebook asking how to encourage one’s child to pray. Alhamdullilah (praise be to God), there were many great responses. We wanted to share some of the wonderful advice and stories shared by fellow readers. May our hearts always be open to beneficial advice.

*Responses abridged and edited for grammar; all of the full responses are available on Facebook.

QUESTION

“My son is 7! What do you think would be a wise way to approach him about praying?”

RESPONSES

Faiza Isaaq: Be subtle. Kids love imitating their parents/role models. Just ask him to join you whenever you pray, focusing on one prayer and then building on that gradually.

Ghada Othmani: Mum’s famous prayer tree was awesome! It was a tree with 5 big leaves (one for each prayer) that she used to draw on a paper and hang on the wall of my room. I had to color each leaf: in green if the prayer was done on time; in yellow if it was done but not on time; and in brown if it was not done…

She used to tell me that green means Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) is happy and proud of you because you showed gratitude to Him for all what He has given to you. Yellow means He is less proud. Brown, be careful! He could take away His love and protection from you!

I still remember the joy everytime it was full green!! And believe me, until now, it still works. It has become a neural association. Everytime I do something wrong, the first thing that comes to my mind is the brown leaf. Same for deeds.

Khudake Liye: There was a story I heard about someone who told to his son: “Come, I will give you something that nobody ever can take away from you. Your deen.”

Aadhil Shiraz: Let him pray with you. Make sure it’s a pleasurable thing to do, instead of a chore, which is basically what salah (prayer) is supposed to be. If you nag him too much and turn it into a chore then he won’t feel the pain of missing salah.

Mike Swies: I would tell him that now he is going to be man of the house if anything happens to you, and you want to give him the honor of knowing how to lead the family in prayer. :)

AishaLadon AbdulRahman Dixon: My youngest loves that he is in charge of calling us to prayer. He feels this is his job and we depend on him to do it, and that we really need him as a part of our prayer team.

Tricia Pe: I think prayer should be gradually introduced well before 7, through praying occasionally with mom and dad, discussing aspects of salah, rather than suddenly rolling up on a 7-year-old saying, “Now your salat is due.” I took your situation as hypothetical, of course.

Fadwa Silmi: When one of the Mauritanian shuyukh (scholars) (Shaykh Khatri) came to California, one of the things he thought was so strange (and there were many) was that we didn’t make wudu’ (ablution) and pray around our children. He was like, “Why do you guys go lock yourselves in the bathroom to make wudu’ and then hide in your room to pray instead of having your children see you so that they become accustomed to prayer as a part of their lives?”

I would call him to do wudu’ with you and then to pray with you whenever you pray. You can also gift him a prayer rug and kufi (prayer cap) for him to use when he prays. I also like the idea of gifting one prayer at a time until they are praying all five. Tawfiq insha’ Allah (success, God willing) and Happy Birthday to your boy!

Ayesha Nicole: via Dr. Farhat Hashmi: I was exposed to such an environment from the very beginning and was told that prayer is an awesome thing to do. It was portrayed in a “cool” way to me. So obviously I was eager to pray, alhamdulillah. After 6 months I was given yet another gift and that was of `isha’ (the night prayer). Then every 6 months I was given a gift: of dhuhr (the afternoon prayer), then of `asr (the late afternoon prayer) and then finally of fajr (the pre-dawn prayer). Both my mother and father have been very consistent and firm regarding prayer with me so that no way on earth would you be able to convince them to let me off the hook for even a day. I love them for that. But it’s every man for himself. You will be accountable for your actions individually.

Hussam Kubtan: Share with him some of the hadeeth (records of the sayings or actions of the Prophet ﷺ) that talk about the takleef (mandate) at the age of 7, what it means to be a young adult, and that 7 is the first step towards being a young man.

Beenish Akhtar: I remember a talk you once gave where you spoke about teaching children how to pray as not just some random duty, but you said something about reminding them that they are in the company of the One (swt). This is their time to speak directly to their Creator (swt), and take great solace with Him or run to Him when they feel thankful. It changed my perspective on the subject because I grew up with the “pray or you’re going to get it” rule.

Dawud Israel: Just tell your son about Allah (swt) and His characteristics. Kids are naturally inclined to pray since they are ma’sum (innocent).

Vardha Ismail: Hmm… Tell him that he is now old enough to speak to Allah (swt) through prayer and this is a great honour. It will be difficult to pray all the time but remember that each time you pray Allah (swt) will draw closer to you, and if you have any worries, problems or wishes that you want to share with Allah (swt)—this is the perfect way to do it. And if there is anyone who we want to be close to—even more than our parents, it is Allah (swt). Life is like the seasons outside, sometimes its good sometimes it can be difficult, and prayer is the anchoring force in our lives through all the ups and downs. It’s a big responsibility but I’m sure he will be able to maintain his salah insha’ Allah, and with good examples it can only help. May Allah (swt) help us all to maintain our salah! God bless you and your family.

Jinan Yousef: I guess the way I would tell a 7-year-old is that when the time comes to pray, it is Allah (swt) calling us to talk to Him. Imagine, Allah (swt) wants to talk to you! You are that special. And then reminding him that all the good in his life, all that, is from Allah (swt).

Nancy Shehata: Even way before age seven we taught by example, always making sure they see us make wudu’ and pray, applauding their efforts when they first start imitating us. My husband would take our son out of school on Fridays to go to the prayer, which insha’ Allah we’ll be able to do again soon. It’s all about making it a priority—if we get off the computer, stop watching TV, turn off the iPod, and pray promptly upon hearing the adhan (the call to prayer), then they will be accustomed to the rhythm of prayer in the household and it will be totally natural for them to join in. Take five minutes after each prayer you pray at home to help the kids memorize parts of the prayer, like what we say in ruku` (the bowing), the tashahhud, etc. They are like sponges and will pick it up quickly, insha’ Allah!

Sara M Amin: I think it would be great if you were to ask him his thoughts on why daddy and mummy pray and then encourage him to pose questions about it to make him curious and interested. Usually kids love to try and learn new things especially when they learn it from family, so keep him around you while you are praying. Ask him to hand you the prayer mat for example and then kiss and hug him to give him that sense of “Wow, I’ve done something good.” Or when the call to prayer resonates throughout the streets, take him out to the balcony and ask him to listen like it’s a special father-son time. I think if that sense of beauty is added before the actual rituals of prayer are learnt, then the rest just comes naturally. Hope I was of some benefit. :) May Allah (swt) bless him.

Reshma Hyder: When they are 7, this is what you may try: “Now that you are seven, I’ll share a secret with you that makes me strong from the inside. All that I buy and provide (cook yummy food, toys, etc. in my case) for you is actually from Allah (swt) and I have been personally thanking him 5 times a day for all that He has given me including a 7-year-old like you! Let me teach you how to personally thank Allah (swt) as He listens to 7-year-olds when they pray to Him. Let’s begin praying together and we both thank Allah (swt) and pray for all that we have. I began praying with my parents when I was seven and look how Allah (swt) kept rewarding me and gave me beautiful family and children. Alhamdulillah.”

Shaykh, forgive me if I said something wrong. I tried this with my now-grown-up kids back when they were 7. It worked till they turned 14—rebellious age—then I switched to, “You have your own book of deeds. I am no longer reminding (nagging) you to pray, but life is short, and you need to be thankful everyday lest your own janazah prayer (prayer after a person dies) is prayed. It’ll be too late to make up missed prayers then (motherly scare tactics).” Now my current 7-year-old is going through the same process although it is easier when they see older siblings pray. As a parent I now pray to Allah (swt) to keep kids praying and on the straight path. It’s a tough world out there for them.

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13 Comments

  1. Seth says:

    Isn’t it amazing how different brothers and sisters can be within a family. So, I sometimes need a different approach with some of the grandchildren.

    In short, thanks for the advice and ideas.

  2. Mariam says:

    Our family always prayed together as a family. We never were “forced to pray.” We followed our parent’s example and wanted to be a part of the family during prayer, an integral part of every day. In this way, we learned how to pray before we were 7 years old. We didn’t have birthday parties, but my mom threw us “Prayer Parties” at ages 7 and 10. We invited our friends, played fun games like “Pin the Crescent on the Masjid,” and Islamic question Bingo. Of course we ate pizza and had ice cream. Then it was my turn to lead the prayer for my friends. Before the event, I had practiced my Surahs and perfecting the motions. I had received new prayer clothes (which I still have now!). Leading the prayer was an experience that truly made me feel it was honor to lead prayer, and to pray in general. It is an experience I will never forget, it felt very special.

  3. umm yusuf says:

    Subhan’Allah this couldnt have been more perfect timing. My daughter also turned seven a few months ago when it was winter -the salah times were easy. Now as the days get longer-she wants to stay awake for ‘ishaa but we feel it is too late. We already let her pray her fajr when she wakes up rather than the actual time (which is about 4.30am).

    I just wondered what other parents did to get around the longer days but keep the momentum going. Alhamdulillah at the moment -she does want to stay up but it is us (as her parents) who feel it is too late for her as she is waking up very tired. Any tips anyone? Barak’Allahu feek in advance.

    Also at what age did people start to let their children stay awake for ‘ishaa and wake them up early for fajr?

  4. absatou says:

    Aww! the tree is an excellent idea! could even help me sometimes :p this is an amazing idea!
    the way children understand faith is so amazing, Allah Azawadjal made it ease to attract them to the act of worship. parents should take advantage of the young age and unlimited creativity to instill eeman into their children’s heart.
    I was not as lucky. Although I am very grateful for learning the Quran from an early age, knowing arabic and knowing how to pray, me and my brothers had to memorize rather than learn acts of worship. it’s only now that I truly started learning and understanding the importance of Islam.

  5. Umm Omar says:

    as Salamu alaykum Brothers and Sisters,

    My first son is almost 3 and he prays full when he goes to pray with his dad. He doesn’t leave to play or get distracted (1 or 2 ties yes he has left the prayer!!) Mostly he bows down with them and ends prayer completely. Cos of his consistency the Imam of our Masjid allows him to pray in the first row also. He knows full adhan, gives occassionally at masjid. Alhamthulillah.

    How this was done, it is Wholly willed by Allah and secondly I used to take him for every Salah when he was as little as 4 months old. I used to put him in front of the praying women…during the initial times I had put a pacifier in his mouth, cos he thought everyone vanished suddenly when they went for sujood. That’s when he will cry. Then slowly he picked up. Alhamthulillah, I took him with me in all taraweeh, even when I wasnot praying I would jus turn his car seat towards the praying brothers and sisters. And when he started walking on his own, I encouraged him to pray beside me and after I am done I corrected him, mostly letting it as fun, not strict. Now, Alhamthulillah he has given us comfort. I am sorry if it sounded like bragging or boasting na’oodhubillah. I jus wanted to share my input, start as early as possible to make it look like a daily routine. When you introduce to him later of time, he has lots of options then, and can even go to choose ‘no’. I hope u understand. Reward him, capture him in videos and let others also encourage him. Insha Allah it will be easier then. I plan insha Allah to make it regular for him around 4 / 5 and try to make him understand that all 5 times he need to pray. slowly, but steadily you can do it, insha Allah. Hope my two cents are worth it!!

    wa salam,

  6. Umm Omar says:

    Another idea that am using now at home is to use the adhan from islamic finder org. It gives you adhan all 5 times and you can hurry up, finish all your chores and show your children how important it is to pray in t first hours. I use it to keep myself regular and consistent in praying in t initial hours. So, he will understand that when the time comes, u have to hurry and make salah. Hope this helps :)

  7. Somaya says:

    salaama alaikum
    Mashalaah very good tips. However no one mentions a child which has no interst in prayer even though the parents pray. How do entice a child to leave his play time, and pray …after some time they do become bored of it.

    Any tips on encouraging a child who is not interested in prayer….and finds it a chore

  8. Tawakalt says:

    am glad am here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!i pray Allah whld help me to be d best mum,av ever wanted to be,in sha allahu.
    Lookin forward to be a mum soon.i need ur prayers my sister nd brothers in islam.
    love u all for the sake of Allah.

  9. Judy says:

    From my own experience, I would have to agree that starting at an early age is the way to go. And it is never too early!! Like others have mentioned, even when they are months old, make sure they hear and see the sound and look of prayer. When they are old enough to walk, they will want to do what mommy and daddy do and will stand by you in prayer. Encourage this with smiles and praise (and try to get friends to encourage your children too, that always helps the child feel special and like they are doing something really great). Basically, try to develop a love for prayer in their hearts at a young age and continue to work on that until they are well mature. In response to Somaya, if they are distracted with toys, etc., it depends on the age but perhaps then you should talk to them about prayer in another way. Mention that Allah (SWT) will be upset with those who do not pray, and that He wants to hear from them, thanking Him for their toys and other blessings. I do not have children so I cannot say that I have tried this, but I feel this may be a good way (wAllahu a’alam). May Allah (SWT) forgive us if we have wronged and given incorrect advice, and may He reward us for our helpful advice and efforts, ameen. I pray that He make us, as well as our children and all future progeny, amongst those who are steadfast and sincere in their prayers. Ameeen ya rab!

  10. Wazir Abdul-Karim Muttalib says:

    Please take a census within your communities by asking these questions. How many Muslim family homes are classified as single parent family homes where the mother is at the head of the household yet there are young male members between the ages of 7-18 years old? Then ask this next question… do our Muslim Ummah have solid history or current records as evidence that would support family unity or prove that these young men are exemplified because they are leading the salah in their homes or maybe they are taught to properly lead their families’ in daily Muslim prayers/ Salah?

    Do we have Jr. Imam Programs especially for single parent Muslim family homes?
    Please help me, Allah be glorified, to preserve the Muslim family structure, let us help to save the Muslim family by teaching our youth to establish the Salah in their homes first and then in their schools.

  11. Maria says:

    Amazing..just amazing!
    Alhamdulillah…and thank you! :)

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