Obligation is a responsibility that Allah has deemed humans worthy to bear, celebrating its acceptance. For girls, this age is 9 lunar years and for boys, it’s 15 lunar years. This doesn’t mean the young are entirely free from responsibility. There are instances where Allah has given directives to teenagers, like when they should seek permission to enter their parents’ room. In general, parents should extensively aid their children in these matters. If children perform good deeds, they should be encouraged and rewarded. Proper upbringing should begin before puberty so that by the time of maturity, these practices become pleasurable and relaxing for them. Many devoted parents, right from their child’s young age, prioritize teaching them how to pray, given its significance in Islamic teachings.
In the Holy Quran, over 122 verses address prayer, underscoring its divine importance. Similarly, the narrations from the Imams (peace be upon them) affirm the value of prayer. Sometimes, prayer is likened to the head in a body, and other times, Islam is envisioned on five pillars, one of which is the prayer.
Step 1 – Parents’ Attention to Prayer
To encourage children to pray, we ourselves must realize that prayer stands at the forefront of our obligatory duties, placing it high in our list of priorities. Parents who struggle to maintain consistent prayer and do not prioritize it, cannot mold children who should consider prayer paramount in their lives and who should live through prayer.
Step 2 – Loving the Child
If we love someone in our lives, we might grow fond of everything associated with them. Conversely, if we despise someone, our disdain might extend to everything that reminds us of them.
If, through our inappropriate behaviors, we alienate our children, they might come to detest all our actions, including our prayers and devotions. However, if we love and cherish them, they’re more likely to willingly emulate our actions, striving to behave like us, and drawing closer to the practice of prayer and worship.
Step 3 – Strengthening the Sense of Responsibility
A reason some of our teenagers fall short in prayer is the absence of a developed sense of responsibility and an acquired habit of evading responsibility during their childhood. Thus, it’s advisable to consistently assign responsibilities to our children from a young age, teaching them to undertake and fulfill their obligations diligently.
Step 4 – Cultivating an Inner Love and Passion for Prayer in the Child
More important than having our young children perform their prayers is cultivating in them a love and passion for it. Consequently, our behavior should ensure they continuously savor the sweetness of prayer. We shouldn’t act excessively or overly rigorously, making them view prayer as a challenging and taxing act. Especially for parents who manage to perform the non-obligatory prayers, they should ensure that their children don’t feel pressured to keep up with them, and not to exhaust themselves with excessive prayers.
Step 5 – Relieving Psychological Pressure from the Child
At this step, it’s crucial to understand that not praying, for our young child who has not yet reached the age of religious duty, isn’t wrong. However, when they do pray, it is a commendable and beautiful act. This means that if occasionally the child skips a prayer due to childish whims, we shouldn’t view them negatively; but when they do pray, our affection for them should increase. By adhering to this principle, the child won’t feel psychologically pressured to pray and will be inclined towards it willingly and eagerly.
Step 6 – Encouraging the Child to Blossom Inner Motivations
Always encourage our children in their journey. Such encouragement should kindle their intrinsic eagerness towards prayer daily, allowing them to feel pride and self-worth in praying.
Our encouragement towards their prayers should aim to blossom their inner motivations. This means honoring them for their prayers, acknowledging their efforts, and reminding them: “Prayer is a gesture of gratitude to Allah and symbolizes our servitude to Him”.
Step 7 – Familiarizing the Child with the Philosophy of Prayer
Considering the age-appropriateness of our children, explain to them the philosophy and purpose of prayer. While using “direct methods” to encourage children is fine, employing “indirect approaches” when teaching the philosophy of prayer might be more effective.
Inform your children of the numerous blessings Allah has granted us, teaching them not to be indifferent to these gifts, and to be thankful for all His endowments.
As we find in verse 132 of Surah Taha, Allah instructs: “And enjoin prayer upon your family and be steadfast therein.”
Traditions suggest that children should be introduced to the practice of prayer from the age of seven.
The human spirit is flexible during youth, and as one grows older, it becomes less malleable.
Although prayer isn’t obligatory for young children, it is virtuous and prepares them for their youth. In traditions, we find the Imams (peace be upon them) mentioning that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) considered prayer as the light of his eyes, or likened it to a cherished companion that makes all hardships bearable.
Indeed, prayer is a beacon guiding all other actions, the standard by which all deeds are measured. And if one fails in this measure, how will their deeds be evaluated on the Day of Judgment?
What a blessing it is to perform prayer! As Jesus (peace be upon him) said: “And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving as long as I remain alive.”