Worshipping and Praying within Sight of our Children
There should be a place and time for performing our prayers at home. We should either perform our prayers at home in congregation, if possible, or we should take our children to the mosque, holding their hands on the way. The latter option is actually more practical, especially if the mother cannot perform the prayers on certain days*. As she does not pray on these days, the children might think: “I guess worship and prayer are optional.” That is why it would be a good idea to take our children to mosque particularly on these days. Yet, there is another way to eliminate such misunderstandings: On the days when women are not responsible for prayers, the mother may just perform ablution as usual, sit on the prayer rug, open her hands to the Almighty and pray to Him. If she does this, she gains the merit of having performed the prayer as well as saving her children from possible misunderstandings. In Islamic reference books, this kind of behavior is also recommended. This is of essential importance in bringing up a child. When we act in this way, what the child sees around him or her will be prostrating heads, weeping eyes and hands open for praying. Your child will always be conscious of a servanthood full recognized.
There will come a time when the adhan (call to prayer)is heard, and even if you do not hear the adhan, your child will warn you like an alarm clock, saying “Dad/Mum, it’s time to pray!” You will thus reap the fruits of your labor.
In addition, you should spare time each day to pray to the Lord. At this time, a time previously determined, you should offer your prayers to the Almighty, invoking Him, thus practically demonstrating that the Exalted Creator can always be taken refuge in. It is better to pray aloud, openly. The companions of God’s Messenger (pbuh) learned the supplications he recited while he prayed. Most of these were reported by his wife Aisha, but there are also similar reports from Ali, Hasan and Husayn.
This clearly indicates that in order to teach your children how to pray, you should make your prayers heard by your children. If you wish your children to be sensitive people who tremble when Allah is mentioned, you, above everyone else, should present a practical example for them.
In my life, I have witnessed such scenes that I cannot help but tremble when I recollect them. The sight of my grandmother’s devotion to the Lord had a great influence on me. When she passed away I was just a small child, but I still remember how she used to tremble as my father recited verses from the Qur’an or started talking about Islam. She was so sensitive about these matters that if you enthusiastically said ‘Allah‘ (may His glory be exalted) near her, she would immediately turn pale, and would remain thus the whole day. Her behavior had a great influence on me. In spite of being illiterate, with a poor level of knowledge, her sincere prayers and genuine tears greatly influenced me. I have heard learned people preaching enthusiastically, but none of them have affected me the way my grandmother has. It seems to me that I owe my being a Muslim to the sincerity of my parents and my grandmother.
So, parents should be careful of their acts in the home. As mentioned above, even the slightest pouring out of your worries to the Almighty, or moaning in supplication at His door, or praying openly in full submission to the Exalted Creator will affect your child more deeply than anything else. The memory of the efforts you made to ensure your afterlife, which is your greatest concern, will be imprinted on your child’s mind and he or she will always remember you praying in hopeful awe. In fact, you must pray as if you see the Almighty, as if you are always in awareness of being in His presence. The way you stand, bow, prostrate and sit during the prayers should all recall Him. Your condition before Him can be pictured like this: Imagine yourself as if you were meeting Allah, as if He says: “My servant! Stand up and account for your deeds in the world!” and thus we stand submissively and respectively, in expectation of His Mercy. Such a state of praying, in which we feel His Sublimity and fully recognize our pettiness, is a genuine stimulant to all the people in the household, including ourselves. In a hadith (Prophetic saying) -although we are not sure of its authenticity- Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) stated: “I have such a moment with Allah that, at that very moment neither the angels of the highest rank nor any other creature can come close to me.” So, should we have such a time, such an illuminated moment, and our children will be inspired from that moment of ours for their own prayers, when the time comes. In the future, whenever our children come up against a danger that may corrupt their faith and their worship, the memory of you praying will come to their rescue, like a guide to show them the way.
I assure you that it will work this way, since in sura Yusuf, the Qur’an alludes to such a psychological fact. We know that the Prophet Yusuf was not a person to be tempted by a woman. However, the Qur’an states the following: “… if it were not for a sign from his Lord.”
Although a disputed fact, according to some of the greatest scholars who have expounded the Qur’an, the sign Yusuf saw was the image of his father Prophet Yaqub, who put his hand over his mouth and called out “Yusuf!” in astonishment. This event brought Yusuf to his senses, Yusuf who was a paragon of chastity, making him exclaim: “Allah forbid!” Your tearful eyes and sincere refuge in the Lord will play a vital role in your child’s future life to help prevent a possible downfall. These will become such vivid pictures in the child’s subconscious that your image will virtually be saying: “My dear child, what are you doing!” when they meet any kind of temptation, serving as a guide leading them away from various dangers.
By M. Fethullah Gulen