By Amina Salau
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
My oldest child is going to be three years old, Insha’Allah, and since giving birth to her, I have not attended a single taraweeh prayer (in congregation).
As a parent, the fear that my child is going to let out a shrill right in the middle of salah, or climb onto strangers’ backs, has kept me from attending congregational prayers in the Masjid (mosque). I know too well how noise made by kids during salah usually receives a lot of complaints from other people in the Masjid, to the extent that some Masajid either have a babysitting area or restrict parents from bringing children of a certain age for prayers.
Allowing children to be in the Masjid is a Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sa), and this is one of the reasons why I believe it is a good idea to try and observe the taraweeh prayers with our children. Another major reason is that the earlier kids are introduced to salah, the easier it becomes for them to learn about it and perform it.
In the quest to be well-prepared for this Ramadan and to encourage my kids to participate, I interacted with other parents and we came up with a few tips that can help us enjoy taraweeh in congregation with our children, Insha’Allah.
Educate the Child(ren)
It is important to educate children well before Ramadan on its importance as well as the benefits of fasting and participating in taraweeh (depending on the age). You can do this by:
- Explain the significance of Ramadan, citing verses of the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sa).
- Make sure the child understand the importance of seeking rewards from Allah (st) through fasting and prayers.
- Educate them about Masjid etiquettes. This can include learning how to behave appropriately during congregational salah, being polite and considerate of fellow Masjid-goers, sitting in silence when the Qur’an is being recited or a sermon is going on, keeping their items in the right places, and not making a mess.
- Be a role model. Children also learn from what they observe, so for young children and teens capable of comprehending others’ behaviour, make sure that you are also practising all the above.
Have a Plan
Do you want to observe all the units of taraweeh (including the preceding Isha’) with the kids? It may be a good idea to introduce them to taraweeh in small doses. It will be a stretch to have my three-year-old in the Masjid for two hours straight in the beginning. She might get cranky, hungry, distracted, or tired. Depending on the age of the child(ren), you may start off with a few units and gradually increase it as Ramadan progresses.
Go with Reinforcements
Even if the plan is to not stay for all the prayers, it is a good idea to take along things that can keep the child occupied or comfortable. You may need things like:
- Light snacks that do not have crumbs or cannot make a mess. Carrots are a good example. Keep water/fruit juice in tight-lid, spill-proof bottles.
- Noiseless toys to keep them occupied during salah, for instance, building blocks and balls.
- Islamic books or puzzles for kids, or colouring book and crayons for scribblers.
- A favourite toy or blanket that can keep them company. Ideally, it should be something they love and that can hold their attention for some time.
Pick a Comfortable Spot
If the Masjid has a dedicated room for babysitting, or for mothers and their kids, it makes things easier. Otherwise, a parent with young kids may need to consider strategic sitting arrangements like:
- Sitting close to a wall so that you can place a baby or an infant beside you without them disrupting the salah row. If the kids are older, sitting beside the wall will give them something to lean on when they get tired, or lie against when they want to sleep.
- Staying close to the exit door in case a child needs to visit the toilet, feed, or go home. This way, you won’t disturb other people.
If you managed to get the kids involved in taraweeh, you may consider “rewarding” them for their participation and good behaviour. This should inspire them and also motivate them to want to do more. I will suggest a star for every taraweeh attended, or whatever you desire.
Attending taraweeh with kids should be fun and educational for the family as long as you are well prepared and organised for the experience.
Amina Salau is a freelance writer who is passionate about women’s issues in Islam
© IIPH 2015