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The Theme of Surah al-Fatihah

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By Sh Ahsan Hanif

Surah Fatiha

Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is described as the ‘Mother of the Qur’an’ and the ‘Seven oft-repeated verses’. It is recited in every unit of every prayer. It is one of the chapters of the Qur’an that we memorised as children and one of the chapters that we will teach to our children. But just what makes this chapter so important? From the 114 chapters of the Qur’an, why is this the first chapter? What makes it so special? What is the message of this chapter?

Each and every one of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an has a single theme and subject. Every topic within that chapter will then relate to that single theme. So what is the theme of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah?

Overview

The theme of this chapter covers the basic tenets of Islam, being; belief in Allah (swt), following the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and the purification of the soul and exalted character that those principles should bring about. In many ways, Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is a summary of the main themes of the Qur’an. The scholars have mentioned that the Qur’an is broadly divided into 3 main themes. A third of the Qur’an speaks about Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), a third about the Prophets and past nations, and a third about the halal and haram.

To know Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Let us analyse Sūrah al-Fātiḥah. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) dedicates the first three verses of this chapter to speaking about Himself. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions His lordship, His creation, His power, His Names and His Attributes. Allah (swt) says in the first three verses, “All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all that exists. The Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. Owner of the Day of Judgement.”

All three of these verses are dedicated to increasing our knowledge of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), because through the increase in knowledge we increase in our love, devotion and submission to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). It is human nature to learn about what we love most, and to love what we know most about. It is for this reason that we often love our parents, spouses and children most. We often love and are patriotic to our countries as they are most familiar to us. In terms of food, we often rate our own cuisine as most beloved to us as we’ve known it longest. Yet as Muslims, our love for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) should far outstrip all of the above. Indeed, this is a claim we often make, and for the most part sincerely. But in reality, and after deep thought, the question arises, what and how much do we know about Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants us to learn about Him and thereby come closer to Him. This is why Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) praises the scholars in the Qur’an, “Indeed only the scholars truly fear Allah”. This is because their knowledge of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), His names, attributes, power and abilities increases them in piety and righteousness. It is for this reason that most of the passages and chapters of the Qur’an which have added virtues relate to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Look at Āyat al-Kursī, the last two verses of Baqarah, Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, Sūrahs Falaq and Nās, all of them speak about Allah.

The pinnacle and height of that knowledge is to understand Tawḥīd; the abilities of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which make Him alone worthy of all worship, and to seek nearness to Him by knowing, understanding and living by His names and attributes. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) shows this in verse number 4 of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, “You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek assistance”.

To follow the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) then speaks about the second principle of Islam; to follow the Prophet. This too requires knowledge and learning about the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), his life, character, sacrifices and way, as only through this can we increase on our love for him. That increase in love will then spur us into emulating him and clinging to his example. For this reason, Sūrah al-Fātiḥah only consists of one duʿā’, a duʿā’ which we make at least 17 times a day, “Guide us to the Straight Path”. The straight path is the path of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his Sunnah. A third of the Qur’an reminds us of the stories of the past Prophets and nations so that we may take heed from them. It is warning to not fall into the same errors as those nations who rejected their Prophets and a glimpse into the delight awaiting those who do follow them. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the best of the Prophets, and for us the best example to follow.

Halāl and Harām

Adhering to these first two principles; love and submission to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and love and following the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) leads to a better character, a purer heart and soul and a greater example for others. These are the people who adhere to the commandments of Allah and stay away from His prohibitions, to which the third category of the Qur’an is dedicated; the ḥalāl and ḥarām. The results of doing this is attaining Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) favour, grace and blessings, whereas the results of turning away from this path is misguidance and Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wrath and anger. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the final verse of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, “The path of those whom You have favoured, not those who have earned Your anger nor those who are misguided”.

Conclusion

Thus the beauty and message of Sūrah al-Fātiḥah is the comprehensive summary of the message of the Qur’an. Each and every time we recite Sūrah al-Fātiḥah, whether in or out of the prayer, it should be a reminder of these three core principles of Islam, for which the Qur’an was revealed and the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) sent.

Shaykh Ahsan Hanif, PhD, was born and raised in Birmingham, UK. He memorised the Qur’an at a young age and at the age of 17 received a scholarship to study at the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia. As well as attaining an ijazah in the Qur’an and a diploma in Arabic, Shaykh Ahsan graduated from the Faculty of Shari’ah Studies in 2006. Upon his return to the UK he attained his PhD from the University of Birmingham. He is currently an imam at Green Lane Masjid, Birmingham as well as the head of the Qur’an & Hadith Studies Department for AlMaghrib Institute. He has spoken at Islamic conferences in various countries, published translations of Arabic works and is a presenter of IslamQA for Islam Channel.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Maisa

    December 4, 2015 at 2:23 AM

    I have very little knowledge but what I know I would like to share. In the last verse, according to Arabic grammar , it will be translated as and not among those whom anger has been shown, as maghdoob is mafool, and it will not be translated as on whom you hv shown anger. If I m wrong plz correct me.

  2. Avatar

    Kent Bayley

    December 4, 2015 at 3:46 AM

    By halal you mean the barbaric and cruel practice of killing animals. I note to apparently Allah get pretty hostile if you do the wrong thing. I have no idea how you people turn failures into heroes and darken the world. Islam is a complete program of subjugation and this poorly written offering reinforces that cult like mentality.

    • Avatar

      fatih

      December 6, 2015 at 2:29 PM

      I dunno if this is barbaric and cruel…

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dU3O5rykwe4

    • Avatar

      Tadar

      December 8, 2015 at 10:11 PM

      Read “THE SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS”? All forms of being within creation have what we call life in it. And whether one believes in a Supreme Being or not does not change the fact that all living things must eat. And what do they eat, other things that have life, or had life in them. For one to live something must die. And when done with the proper attitude one avoids getting a big head about taking life. All cells are less than 1% different in their physical makeup, and they all communicate.

      • Avatar

        Kent Bayley

        December 9, 2015 at 2:36 AM

        What on earth are you going on about. I am talking about the barbaric way Muslims butcher cattle. Its cruel and primitive. I have no idea what you are talking about but I guess you must be a Muslim. Oh dear.

    • Avatar

      Abeerah

      September 4, 2016 at 5:05 AM

      I have a question if you think that about Islam then what are you doing in a Islamic site ???!!!!

  3. Avatar

    fatih

    December 4, 2015 at 3:47 PM

    @ maisa

    I think you are right, because “your anger” would be Idafah and that is not the case.

    I remember a Video of NAK when he said that Earned anger means that they have earned anger form evebody. Like Allah, the engels, past generations, future generations.

  4. Avatar

    Aafia

    December 5, 2015 at 1:24 AM

    @Kent Bayley
    May Allah guide you. Are you a Vegetarian?
    By the Way Halal Meat are healthy than other methods of Slaughtered Meat because the blood doesn’t coagulate inside the Animal.Morever since the Carotid Artery is cut the Animal doesn’t feel much Pain as it does in other Methods.
    You need more research brother.

    • Avatar

      M.Mahmud

      December 5, 2015 at 3:54 AM

      It is stunning insults to the Messenger are allowed on this forum.

      1) Animals must be killed in a humane way-Muslims do a nice clean cut which ought to remove the pain.

      2) if the animal shakes it isnt necessarily due to pain but it can be just a normal reaction after death.

      3) stunning isnt banned by all scholars and not all Muslims have access to stun gun technology. Muslims live in poverty. It does not mean they ought to stop eating animals

      3) as for civilization, the most primitive and savage of Muslims is better then the most “civilized” of disbelievers because the former is eligble for Paradise and the latter will never enter it.

      • Avatar

        Aly Balagamwala

        December 5, 2015 at 6:26 AM

        Dear Mahmud

        It is stunning insults to the Messenger are allowed on this forum.

        They are not… just that moderators are humans and need time to get to comments that are in violation… usually it is once a day.

      • Avatar

        Kent Bayley

        December 5, 2015 at 3:57 PM

        You mean your imaginary paradise where the men get 72 virgins and the women get nothing. Is this the paradise to which you refer. Without love you will get nothing.

      • Avatar

        Mustafa

        December 6, 2015 at 10:21 PM

        (You mean your imaginary paradise where the men get 72 virgins and the women get nothing. Is this the paradise to which you refer. Without love you will get nothing.)

        Men and women will be completely satisfied. As Allah says,

        لَا يَسْمَعُونَ حَسِيسَهَا ۖ وَهُمْ فِي مَا اشْتَهَتْ أَنفُسُهُمْ خَالِدُونَ
        They will not hear its perceptible (hissing) sound, and they are eternally (abiding) in whatever their selves craved for. (Literally: lusted for) (Dr. Ghali)

        And the Muslims enjoying themselves in Paradise have eternity and wont JUST be busy with sensual pleasures 24/7. There will be family/friends fun and more. There will be plenty of other types of joy to add to it. That is for Muslims alone and no one else. Of course they have love-they are love one another and are loved in Paradise. They are the only people in the next life who are loved and have love.

        • Avatar

          Kent Bayley

          December 9, 2015 at 3:35 PM

          Oh dear……..you poor lost soul.

    • Avatar

      Maisa

      December 5, 2015 at 4:26 AM

      You must have seen some ignorant muslims who might be using barbaric methods to kill animals. But you must not have seen any muslim desregarding other religions and on top of it the Lord. What education your religion has given to you is very disappointing who is ready to degrade the lord for the animals without taking the pain to research. Actually when you see muslims doing something wrong you blame the religion , but it is simply that they havent studied their religion well. But islam is degraded. Then by seeing your mentality , it reflects the teachings of your religion who has love for the animals then the lord. Islamic method of sacrificing animals is the best method which gives least pain to the animals as compared to other religions methods who simply throw living animals in the machine or give them electric shocks . If by civilized nations you mean people humiliating God then than please change the definition of civilization.

  5. Avatar

    M.Mahmud

    December 5, 2015 at 3:49 AM

    The way you translated ulama can be a cause of confusion for Muslims
    Firstly, its possible the poor villagers who know little of Islam are the most fearful of Allah due to the knowledge of Himself He provided them

    Secondly, its possible many scholars are arrogant and self rightious and not fearing Allah.

    Allah alone judges which Muslim has more taqwa than another. Only the ones fear Allah are actually Ulama-and this can be a layman in a village or a faqih in a city.

  6. Pingback: » Why ‘The Cow’?

  7. Avatar

    shoaib

    April 2, 2016 at 5:17 PM

    @kent if you have an explanation of your denial than do provide them. and if you’re answer less in this manner than i assume its a debate between literate and illiterate. and from my point of view, you’re the one who’s showing illiteracy. as you are just denying without a valid reason. from my pont of view, you’re the lost soul. illiterate always speaks uselessly while the wise stay’s quite.

  8. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    November 12, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    Nice Article!! Everybody should also visit the link for complete online Quran Tilawat with Translation

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Heart Soothers: Fahad Niazi

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Qur’an Contemplations: Openings of Timeless Truths | Sh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

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From the outset, the Qur’an establishes a link between worshipping Allah and knowing Him. The first half of the ‘Opening Chapter’ of the Qur’an, Surat al-Fatihah, states:

.‎الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ. الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ. مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ. إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

All praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds. The All-Merciful, the Compassionate. Master of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship, and Your help alone do we seek. [Q.1:1-4]

The first three verses teach us who Allah is, so that hearts may love, hope, fear and be in awe of Him. Only then does Allah ask us to declare our singular devotion and worship of Him. It is as if the Qur’an is saying: ‘You can’t worship or adore whom you don’t know.’

Thus in the first verse, Allah describes Himself as rabb – ‘Lord’. In the Quranic language, rabb is Master, Protector, Caretaker, Provider. And just as water descends from above as blessings and rises again to the skies as steam or vapour, so to the sending down of divine blessings and gifts; they are transformed into declarations of loving thanks and praise that ascend to the Lord of the Worlds. Reflecting on Allah’s care and kindness to us, as rabb; as Lord, then, nurtures an abiding sense of love for Allah in our hearts.

Allah then reveals that He, by His very nature, is al-rahman – the All-Merciful, and by dint of His divine act is al-rahim – the Compassionate. It has been said that al-rahman is like the blue sky: serene, vast and full of light; a canopy of protective care over us and over all things. The divine name, al-rahim is like warm rays, so to speak, touching, bathing and invigorating lives, places and events with this life-giving mercy. Those who flee from this joyous warmth, and opt to cover themselves from the light, choose to live in conditions of icy darkness. Knowing Allah is al-rahman, al-rahim, invites optimism; it instils hope (raja’) in Allah’s impulse to forgive, pardon, pity, overlook and, ultimately, to accept what little we offer Him as needy, fragile and imperfect creatures.

The Prophet ﷺ and his Companions once saw a woman frantically searching for a person among the warn-out and wounded. She then found a babe, her baby. She picked it up, huddled it to her chest and gave it to feed. On seeing this, the Prophet asked if such a woman could ever throw her baby into a fire or harms way? They all resoundingly replied, no; she could never do that; her maternal instincts of mercy would never permit it! The Prophet ﷺ went on to tell them:

 لَلَّهُ أَرْحَمُ بِعِبَادِهِ مِنْ هَذِهِ بِوَلَدِهَا – ‘Allah is more merciful to His creation than that mother is to her child.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.5653]

The final name of Allah that we encounter in this surah is: Malik – Master, King, Owner of all. It is Allah as Master, as King of Judgement Day, who stands at the end of every path. All things come finally to Him to be judged, recompensed and given their final place for the beliefs that defined who they are, the deeds that defined what they stood for and the sins that stand in their way. To know Allah as Malik, therefore, is to be wary, as well as apprehensive. It is a reason for hearts to be filled with a certain sense of fear (khawf) as well as trepidation concerning the final reckoning and one’s ultimate fate.

The Prophet ﷺ once visited a young boy on his death bed and asked him how he was. The boy replied: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I am between hoping in Allah and fearing for my sins.’ To which the Prophet ﷺ said:

‎لاَ يَجْتَمِعَانِ فِي قَلْبِ عَبْدٍ فِي مِثْلِ هَذَا الْمَوْطِنِ إِلاَّ أَعْطَاهُ اللَّهُ مَا يَرْجُو وَآمَنَهُ مِمَّا يَخَافُ

‘The like of these two qualities never unite in the heart of a servant except that Allah grants him what he hopes for and protects him from what he fears.” [Al-Tirmidhi, no.983]

Only after being made aware of these four names of Allah which, in turn, instil in hearts a sense of love, fear and hope in Allah, are we led to stating: You alone do we worship, and Your help alone do we seek. In other words, the order to worship comes after the hearts having come to know Allah – the object of their loving worship, reverence and adoration.

The surah concludes by teaching us to give voice to the universal hope, by asking to be guided to the path of Allah’s people and to help steer clear of the paths of misguidance and perdition:

‎اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ. صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ. غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ

Guide us to the Straight Path; the path of those whom You have favoured; not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray. [Q.1:5-7]

Ameen!

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More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid

Zeba Khan

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Of all the challenges that your focus can face in prayer, there are few as insidious as Baby Shark.

Doo-doo-doo doo. Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo. Baby Shark.

If you are not a parent, or have the type of amnesia that parents sometimes develop once their kids grow up, then you might assume that not having kids in the masjid is actually a solution to Baby-Shark induced distraction.

The inconvenient (and often sticky) truth is that not having kids in the masjid is a serious problem, not a solution. No kids in the masjid means an entire generation of the Muslim community growing up outside of the Muslim community.

Restricting the presence of children and assigning masjid priority to fully-formed, quietly attentive, and spiritually disciplined attendees – like adults – is a bit like restricting health club membership to triathletes. You’re already fit. So can we please let someone else use the treadmill, even if they’re not using it as well as you could?

The masjid is the center of the community for all Muslims, not a sanctuary for the preservation of reverent silence.  For a more detailed discussion on this, please see this great Soundvision article, Children in the Masjid, Making Space for Our Future.

For suggestions on how to help your children enjoy the masjid without Baby-Sharking the rest of the congregation to tears, I present the following recommendations.

Come Prepared

Rather than assume your child will be entertained by nothing but the carpet and how many weird faces they can spot in the bilaterally symmetrical patterns, bring them something to play with. One way to do this is to prepare your child a special bag for the masjid.

Stock it with as many things applicable:

  • A reusable water bottle: Select a bottle that your child can drink from on their own, preferably not likely to tip or spill onto the masjid carpet. No one appreciates a soggy sujood
  • A nut-free snack: If you think it’s too much trouble to be considerate of people with life-threatening allergies, consider how much trouble it is to bury a child who dies of anaphylaxis. Children share snacks in the masjid, and that’s ok as long as no one dies.
  • A small, quiet toy: The dollar store can be tremendously helpful in keeping your inventory fresh and financially feasible. Please be aware of swallowing hazards, since your child is likely to share the toy with others. One hopes.
  • A sweater or blanket: Sitting for long periods of time in an air-conditioned building can make anyone cold.
  • Art Supplies: Pack crayons, pencils, or markers IF you feel your child can refrain from drawing on the walls, or allowing other, smaller children from doing so. Magic Erasers don’t work on the prayer rug.

Reverie in Blue – Artist Unknown

Critically- and I do mean critically- don’t let your children access the special masjid bag unless they are in the masjid. The last thing you want is for your child to be bored with its contents before they even make it to prayers. Storing this bag somewhere inaccessible to your child can help keep its contents fresh and interesting longer.

Non-parent tip: Keep allergen-free lollipops in your pocket. Reward the kids sitting nicely (with parents’ permission) and you have killed two birds with one stone.

  1. You’ve  helped a child establish a happy memory and relationship to the masjid.
  2. Kids with lollipops in their mouths make less noise.

Do not pack:

Balls: Not even small ones, not even for small children. Your child may not have the gross-motor skills to kick or throw a ball at people who are praying, but there will always be children in the masjid who do. They will take your child’s ball, and they will play ball with it, because that’s what balls are for. Consider also the potential damage to light fixtures, ceiling fans, audio/video equipment, and the goodwill of people who get hit, run down, or kicked in the shins. The masjid is just not the place to play ball, even if the floor is green and has lines on it.

Not every green thing with lines is a soccer field.

Scooters: Do not bring scooters, skateboards, heelies, or other mobility toys that would turn your child a faster-moving object than they already are. Your child’s long-term relationship with the community can be fostered by not crashing into it.

Slime: Slime and carpets do, in fact, go together. They go together so well as to be inextricable of one-another. Please, do not bring slime to the masjid.

Gum: Please, for the love of everyone’s socks, no gum.

Toy Guns, Play-weapons: It should go without saying. And yet, I have seen nerf guns, foam swords, and toy guns in masjid. Apart from the basic indoor etiquette of not sword-fighting, nor launching projectiles in a house of worship, please be sensitive. No one wants to see guns in their masjid.

Non-parent tip: If children playing near you are making “too much noise” smile and find another place to sit if possible. It is not always possible to ignore or move away from disruptions, but glaring, eye-rolling, and making tsk-tsk sounds is not likely to effect long-term change in either the child’s behavior or the parents’ strategic abilities. At best, you will embarrass the parents. At worst, you will push families away from the faith and the community while confirming the opinion that masjids are full of cranky, impatient people who wish kids didn’t exist in the masjid while criticizing Muslim youth for not being there. 

Avoid Electronics. But if you can’t…

I am prefacing this suggestion with a disclaimer. Habitually putting your child on a smartphone or tablet so that you can “enjoy” the masjid without the “hassle” of you making sure they behave properly is not good parenting. A child being physically present but mentally absent in the masjid is not a long-term strategy that any parent should get behind.

Having said that, if you do give your kids a tablet or phone in the masjid, please disable Youtube and bring over-ear headphones.

Do not rely on YouTube Kids to take responsibility for your child’s content choices either. Long after Baby Shark has sunk to the depths of the internet, there will always be loud, inappropriate, or just plainly distracting and disturbing things that your child can access on it.

Instead of relying on Youtube at all, install child-friendly apps that you know won’t have external links embedded in their ads, and won’t lead to inadvertent, inappropriate viewing in case your child – or my child sitting next to them – click out of their app and into the great wide world. I highly recommend anything from the Toca Boca suite of apps.

Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work

Non-parent tip: If you see a child on a tablet, do not lecture their parent. As a special needs parent, there are times when I too allow my autistic son onto a tablet to prevent a meltdown or try to get just 15 more minutes out of him so I can finish attending a class. Do not automatically assume laziness or incompetence on behalf of parents whose children you see on an electronic device. 

Reward for Success, in this life and the next

You show up in the masjid because you hope for a reward from Allah. As an adult, you have the ability to delay the gratification of this reward until well after you die. Your kids, however, don’t.

Motivate your kids with small rewards for small accomplishments as you remind them of the reward that Allah has for them too. You can choose to reward a child after every two rakah, or after every two days. How often you reward them, and what you choose to reward them for depends on their age and their capabilities.

Make dua for your kids when you reward them. If they get a small handful of gummy bears after a good evening at the masjid, pair it with a reminder of the bigger reward too.

“Here’s the ice cream I promised you for doing awesome in the masjid today. May Allah grant you mountains of ice cream in Jannah so big you can ski down them. Ameen.”

Non-parent tip: It’s not your job to discipline the children of others, but you can help praise them. Randomly compliment kids who are sitting nicely, sharing toys, playing quietly, or wearing cute headgear. Their parents will likely not mind.

Reinforce the rules – but define them first.

“Be Good In the Masjid” is a vastly different instruction depending on who you’re instructing. For a teenager, praying with the congregation is reasonable. For a two-year-old, not climbing the congregation is reasonable.

Define your rules and frame them in a positive context that your children can remember. Remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing rather than calling them out for what they are not. For example, no running in the masjid vs. please walk in the masjid.

Avoid saying this:

Try saying this instead:

Stay out of my purse Please use the toys in your bag
Don’t draw on the walls Crayons only on the paper
No yelling Please use your “inside” voice
No food on the carpet Please have your snack in the hallway
Don’t run off Stay where I can see you, which is from [here] to [here.]
No peeing the carpet We’re taking a potty break now, and we’ll go again after the 4th rakah’.
No hitting Hands nicely to yourself.

While it might look like semantics, putting your energy into “To-Do’s” versus the “To-Don’ts” has long-term benefits. If your child is going to hear the same thing from you a hundred times before they get it right, you can help them by telling them what the right thing is. Think of the difference between the To-Do statement “Please use a tissue,” versus the To-Don’t statement of “Don’t pick your nose.” You can tell you kid a hundred times not to pick his or her nose, but if you never tell them to use a tissue, you’re missing the opportunity to replace bad behavior with its functional alternative.

Plan for Failure

Kids don’t walk the first time they try. They won’t sit nicely the first time you ask them to either. Decide what your exact plan is in case you have to retreat & regroup for another day.

  • How much noise is too much? Do your kids know what you expect of them?
  • Where are the physical boundaries you want your kids to remain in? Do they know what those boundaries are?
  • For kids too small to recognize boundaries, how far are you ok with a little one toddling before you decide that the potential danger may not be worth it?
  • Talk to your spouse or other children and get everyone on board. Being on the same page can look like different things according to different age groups. A plan of action can be “If we lose Junior Ibn Abu, we’re taking turns in prayer,” or “If you kick the Imam again, we’re all going home.”
  • If your child is too small, too rowdy, or too grumpy to sit quietly at the masjid, please take turns with your spouse. The masjid is a sweet spiritual experience that both parents should be able to enjoy, even if that means taking turns.

Don’t Give up

If you find yourself frustrated with being unable to enjoy the masjid the way you did before your child starting sucking on prayer rugs, remember this:

Raising your children with love and patience is an act of worship, even if it’s not the act of worship you thought you were coming to the masjid for. No matter what your expectations are of them – or how far they are from meeting them – the ultimate goal is for your child to love Allah and love the House of Allah.

When they get things right, praise them and reward them, and remind them that Allah’s reward is coming too. When they get it wrong, remind them and forgive them, and don’t give up. The only way children learn to walk is by falling down over, and over, and over again.

Avoiding the masjid because your kids don’t behave correctly is like not allowing them to walk because they keep falling down. The key is to hold their hand until they get it right, and maintain close supervision until you can trust them to manage on their own, InshaAllah.

May Allah make it easy for you and bless your children with love for the masjid in this life and love for Allah that will guide them through the next. Aaaaaaaameeeeeeeeen

Children @ Taraweeh: Storm in a Teacup

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