Originally published in May 2007
The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said, “Order your children to pray at seven and hit1 them [for not praying] at the age of ten.”
In a recent comparative law class this hadith (narration) was addressed by one of our professors. He writes that the order here is not actually for the child, as a child is not mukalaf (charged with the responsibility to worship), but the order is in fact directed towards the guardian of the child. I pondered on that for some time and thought I would share where my thoughts led me:
Many of us have entered our thirties and found that our twenties went by like a flash. Now our little babies have suddenly grown up into little boys and girls before our very eyes. The thirties is really a strange period and, at times, reminds me of the time right after my high school graduation. What next? What are my plans? However, instead of thinking about my next academic move, financial responsibilities began to haunt me. The rising cost of living, insurance for the family, paying the high price for Islamic Education and future college costs are constantly replayed in my mind. And then, there is that massive demon known as home ownership. We get caught up, careers get tiring and we begin to drown in the sea of just plain survival. Then there is the reality that in a few short years we will be hitting our 50’s and preparing to retire and eventually meet Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).
The soul takes a hit in the thirties. We become busy and, in many ways, we feel that we’re not respected. If the thirties were a child it would have to be the middle one. Not quite old enough to handle things and not too small to be absolved of responsibility. Thus, and I’ve found this in my own person, taking advice and humbling one’s self is not easy. “I’m thirty not twenty!” I have that one gray hair there on the front of my beard give me some respect.
A Gift for Parents and the Hadith above
Allah (swt) has made dhikr (remembrance) one of the important keys to the believer’s survival. However, during the twenties and thirties it is hard, at times, to take the reminder from others. At twenty, man you’re on top of the globe, and at thirty, you think you understand it. Thus, Allah (swt) in His wisdom and mercy orders us to order our children to pray. This is significant because the order is not directed to the child but to the mother, father or caretaker. Thus, while encouraging our children to pray we might stop and reflect on the following:
- Hey, I don’t even pray
- My prayer is not good
- My relationship with Allah is down the tubes
Ahhhh what mercy! The shot is given and the patient feels nothing. Allah’s love is so great, so powerful and so intense that He knows that at this age we are not trying to hear anything from anybody. Thus, a sweet breeze comes and makes the patient the doctor. Sit, think and ask yourself while advising your little ones to pray, “Who is the order for?” Then remember the verse, “Why do you say what you don’t do?” The order is a gift, for you akhi and ukhti (brother and sister)! However. Allah is so cautious, so concerned with you, that He reminds you by ordering you to remind your little ones. Thus, the speaker is the one spoken to. Really, one has to be awed at this divine wisdom, the mercy and love of Allah (swt).
Thus, Dear Brothers and Sisters
This is a reminder for those of us struggling to swim in the deep sea known as the thirties to come back to Allah (swt). Truly, Allah has blessed our children to be a light for us. If we remind them now we are reminding ourselves and, inshallah (God willing), when we are older they will remind us again.
Some ideas on tying your children’s hearts to the Throne of Allah through prayers:
- Mothers & Fathers take your (one is better) kids to the masjid. Have a competition between them:
Monday is Fatimah’s night
Tuesday is Ahmed’s
Then offer a prize to the one who prayed the best and acted the best in the masjid at the end of the week.
- A Sheikh once told me that whenever his father would take him to the mosque he would give him some sweets after prayer if the boy did good. He told me, and this Sheikh still has a sweet tooth, that after that he associated the masjid with something sweet and nice. Thus, when he grew older he was attached to the masjid and those wonderful memories.
May Allah give us wisdom and patience to be noble parents. May Allah protect our children and make them the next ‘Umar or Aiesha.
Your brother Suhaib
- It should be noted that hitting here, as defined by Islamic Law, means a mere, at the most, spanking. However, if the spanking leaves a mark or a bruise, then it is a prohibited act and denounced by Islam. Thus, from a tap to a light spanking is permitted. [↩]
Just wanted to thank you and say Jazak Allahu khair for the wonderful reminders and insightful pearls. Please continue in your efforts.
Wonderfully put jazakum Allah khairun Sheikh Suhaib.
jazaks for this.
As a 31 year old with two kids, this was chillingly relevant, really nice reflection on that hadeeth, a GEM by all measures! Barakallaahufikum
amin thuma amin thuma amin !!
Jazakum Allahu Khairan( May Allah Reward you with good), ameen. I too am in my late thirties with four children aged 12, 11, 8 and 6. Alhumdolillah, I found that in getting my kids to pray I came to the realisation that, as per another hadith of the prophet (pbuh) I could not order my kids to pray unless I prayed, and hence, a reminder and incentive for me to ensure I made all my prayers as a result. It is indeed amazing wisdom, and as you say a timly beacon of light for us all. Thanks for sharing ways in which we may get our kids excited about attending mosque and offering their prayers, my main issue is my two boys get up to mischief in the mosque and I have to literally keep them close on either side of me. I hope to see you more often on the islamQA on islamChannel.
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Please sign at the link below, forward email it to your friends, post it in forums you visit and promote this on your site/blog.
Barakallahu Feek. We pray for you and your family.
It’s a good remider but a lot of this assumes you’re in your 30s with children and what about us the ones in their 30’s who are not married yet and who have hard time getting married because of all the msiconceptions in our muslim culture (not islam) that you reached your 30’s you’re an expired merchandise for muslim men, and that you have to try to convert a non-muslim who doesn’t have that sick mentality to start your family life too, that’s the other challenge women in their 30’s have to face and that’s fogotten in our societies. I woul like the Imams and Sheikhs like you to discuss these issues becasue trying to convert a non-muslim can be a dangerous road sometimes.
May Allah bless your family and make them righteous
this is a few years later now but you have to think that in the medinah at the time of the prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam it was normal for people to marry at age 30 if they were a woman and people had more than one wife aswell. Nowadays people have different ideas about marriage but if there is a man that you like and he is muslim and good etc then you can propose to him there is no problem…but if you wait for someone to propose to you then maybe you should tell people ie friends or family that you want them to help you find someone.
a good point by the sister above. unfortunately i am 30 now and still no sign of marraige. well there is but things just dont seem to work out. i think sheikhs should address this problem.
This is true….while I don’t have kids and no sign of marriage yet (as Sister says and as s malik said)….I feel like the 30s are this ultimatum….supposedly the best years of your life, but I keep thinking “Yo. I was 20 like yesterday and these ten years just evaporated like a puddle on a summer day”, so I might blink and 40 will be here! subhanallah…I think Shuyookh address the marriage issue a lot….we still need them to do that but more than that, I think we need to keep begging Allah. I was just reflecting the other day (random thought) about what a huge blessing it is to marry someone good…not just to get married, but to get married to someone solid in their Iman….it’s a miracle and a blessing and those who have it need to let us unmarried ones that it is possible and it does exist….for the most part the children I see in most of my acquaintances’ circles are children of disaster marriages with hardly a family to speak of…
May Allah protect them and us…Jazaka Allahu kheiran for this touching reminder…it struck a chord.
As-salamu alaikum Imam Suhaib,
MashaAllah super-beneficial words. I don’t have any kids, but this is definetely valuable advice to hold onto for the future! May Allah preserve you and your family, and bless your children. 🙂
Your advice reminds me of my grandfather. My grandfather has, for as long as I can remember, always carried sweets with him in his pocket. Although he has a sweet tooth himself, he never fails to take his supply with him to the mosque and distribute them to the young children at the mosque after salat. Whenever I go with him (I’m now in my thirties!), I’m never surprised to see a group of expectant children waiting till he has finished his prayers for their reward of a boiled sweet or chocalate eclair. Sometimes even teenagers who were toddlers when he started doing this when he first came to the UK hang around to say salam and get a sweet! I can’t help thinking all mosques need a grandfather figure like that.
Jazakallah Khairun. May Allah reward you greatly!
Wow! As I head speedily towards age 35, trying to keep two youngsters on the straight and narrow (aged 4 and 6), this piece really hit home! JazakAllahu khayran for such a direct and relevant reminder. I think the argument is pertinent whether one is married or not, with kids or without. This is because the mentality of ‘I’m in my thirties now’ affects us all who are in that decade, whatever one’s family situation. And this is where the danger lies – ie, thinking one has reached some ‘stage’ of sagehood or solidity – really, it’s all an illusion, because the soul of the believer ‘is between the fingers of the All-Merciful’.
Sometimes, though, when you see younger people arguing all over the place about minor issues, you do feel a hundred years old 🙂
when I take my son to the masjid, on the way back we stop at the halal meat store close by and get him ice ceam! Always a pleasure for him.
And that reminds me…I still remember when my father used to take us for ice cream when my brothers and I were 10/11 years old right after tarawih prayer. It was a small reward for attending the prayer even when it ended at midnite during those hot Ramadan summer months 20+ years ago! I agree with the sheikh’s comment that the masjid to this very day still carries its sweetness to me.
Nice reminder, mashaAllah. I am pleased to read that there are parents out there who discipline their children when they come to the Masjid. At my Masjid, the parents don’t seem to care and let their children run wild as soon as they enter the musallah area. Sad, but true. How are the children supposed to learn to pray and treat the Masjid if their parents don’t tell them right from wrong?
Just found this post in the archives… GREAT insight!
Considerable research has shown that extrinsic rewards can decrease motivation to do something. For a brief intro to this research, see http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/10/how-rewards-can-backfire-and-reduce-motivation.php
Jazakallah khair for this great post! May Allah (swt) bless us all with pious Muslim children!
Jazakallahu khair. I like the idea of encouraging kids to go to masjid for salah, as opposed to taking them for taraweeh and leaving them in the baby sitting. Baby sitting makes them feel that Ramadhan is enjoying cartoons, etc. They are then not given the love of Qiraat, from early on. Jazakallahu khair for the beautiful thoughts.
Thank you Imam Webb,
Your insightful khutbahs and articles always leave me thinking and inspired. I am also an American Muslim convert in my thirties and although we don’t have children yet, someday insh’Allah, I appreciate your moderate views on this topic while taking the points that apply to me (i.e. being more disciplined about my praying) as well as practicing what I preach into consideration.
I attended the Friday prayer on 12712 and left feeling rejuvenated. I sincerely appreciate your insight and contribution to the community.
You do *not* have to be in your 30s and/or married to benefit from this piece! It put tears in my eyes; I never viewed the above hadith in such a manner.
Jazakum Allahu khairan!
I don’t understand. The hadith is not saying to hit them at ten if they do not pray but to hit who?
Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
I think the way he said it was somewhat confusing. The order to get children to pray wasn’t “oh children, pray” but instead “get your children to pray.”
I think that is what he is saying…
I though the term ” hit them ” did not mean a light spanking, I thought it meant be forceful so that the child knows the importance of praying and won’t take it lightly if he/ she misses it. With our kid, if they fail to come to pray they are not spanked but they are withheld from playing games or watching tv or their DS is confiscated!
There was a teenage girl who complained o the British authorities that her parents were hitting her for not praying, so the girl was put into social care until they thought that the girl would not be mistreated for not praying. This also goes to show that we can only do so much for our kids, at the end of the day it’s Allah who guides our kids and us.
I also know of muslim parents who were not praying, but learnt from their son who became Islamic from the friends he kept, so with Allahs mercy, he taught his parents to pray regularly.
this is a good article.
through my life, i think children who did not discipline to pray during their childhood, would not feel solah is important. and there is tendency for them to pray only if they want.
further divide the years in life, the first seven years, not to hit the child. next seven years, taught them with discipline. hit if not pray. hitting not to harm them. hit in a way to teach them. the last seven years, treat a child like a friend.
may allah keep you for your family and for us but itstill to oblige the children to pray a problem especially when they feel that we follow them during the five prayers