Alhamdulillah… All praises and thanks are due to Allah, Who has given us children as blessings, test and responsibility. May His Peace and Blessings be upon the best person who ever raised children righteously; Habibi Muhammad, his household, his companions, and all those who follow his guided path.
The First Time…
My son was asked by one of the Jama’ah (congregation) in the mosque, to leave the first row and stand behind (in the second row). Honestly, on that morning I failed to focus in my Solat, although I was the Imam. After reflection, I eventually calmed myself down; and said to myself, that it might had happened because the man had his own reasons, which he couldn’t make known.. That was about one and a half years ago.
The Second Time…
Yesterday (17/8/2013), my son and I stood in the first row for Asr prayers, in a mosque, somewhere in Geylang (in Singaprore). I was shocked that the Imam, was the one who asked my son to step behind and leave the first row. I showed him some respect but my son didn’t go to the second row. We moved to the far left, of the first row.
Again, upon reflection, I realized, that this seems to be a phenomenon. The perception is that, children are not supposed to be in first rows; in our mosques.
The Reason I’m Reacting
I’m reacting because, as I try to understand the problem, a lot of questions pop up in my mind:
Where do we position our children when we go to cinemas?
Where do we position our children when we go to social functions?
Where do we position our children when we are in marketplaces?
Where do we position our children when we dine?
I’ve never, in my young life, so far, heard any Imam advising parents to keep their children next to them during prayers. As a result, anyone who is frequent to our mosques will agree that our children turn the mosques into playgrounds. We know that, but unfortunately, rarely do we care to do something about it.
Just three weeks ago, in Ramadhan (2013), I observed that, while we were praying Fajr prayers, the ‘children’ grouped themselves at the back of the mosque chit-chatting and disturbing. As the prayer was about to end, they formed their own row and pretended to be praying. Strangely, they finished with the Imam, while some adults in front of them (who came late) couldn’t finish with the Imam. Don’t be surprised if I say, that this incident involved children who are in Primary 4, Primary 5, Primary 6 and Secondary 1!
Had each one of these “big kids” stood beside his father or beside an adult, not only that they would have prayed properly or at least have learnt to pray and maintain peace in the mosque, they would have also learnt discipline and how to portray good manners while in the Masjids.
Why do Imams ask Children to Stay away from First Rows?
I would like to emphasize here, that this article is not about my personal right, nor the right of my poor child to be in first row. It’s rather about the impression and principles we instill in our children as we strive to raise them, righteously.
At the same time, I’m still wondering; why would an Imam ask a child not to pray in a first row? I don’t think it’s because the 7 years old boy would leave the row and be start running around in the mosque, when prayer starts. I don’t think it’s also because the child doesn’t know how to pray. I also don’t think he assumes the child was not matured enough to be in a first row.
Perhaps, he thinks the child is unclean. “Unclean” here means the child might have not cleaned himself properly for the prayer. If this assumption is true, he may have also thought, that if the child happen to be unclean the connection of the row will be broken, as all the congregation in the (first) row are clean.
If that’s really the assumption of the Imam, then I have a big question mark here. The presence of an unclean person in a row doesn’t invalidate the prayer of those in the row. An unclean person can be a child, as well as he can also be a grown-up. Only Allah knows how many grown-ups clean ourselves properly (as it should be) before we stand for prayers.
Let’s assume that a child is asked to step back to a second row. He has complied. What should adults do, when they join the prayer, after it has started? A child or children are in the second row because they are children. Should the grown-ups start their own new row behind the children? Or should they push the children behind, to the third row, for them (the adults) to be in the second row?
Practically, a child can lead in obligatory prayers as am Imam, in the school of thought of Imam Al-Shafiee, provided he knows the rules of Solat and can recite well. This opinion is based on the fact, that a six (6) years old boy by the name Amr Ibn Salamah (radhiya Allahu ‘anhu) used to lead his people in prayers, in the time of the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alaihi wasallam.
The schools of thought of Malikiyyah and Hanbaliyyah allows a child to lead, but only in Nawafil, such as Taraweeh and Witr.
If children can lead in prayers; where everyone will stand behind them, why can’t they stand in first row?
One of the things that actually encourage children to be in first rows is that, when the Iqamah is said, many people delay joining the rows until the Imam is about to start the prayers. This lack of enthusiasm (I choose to call it) gives negative impressions to our children about our commitment towards Solat.
Why Children should be Encouraged to be in First Rows
Allah says in Al-Baqarah, 2:148:
It means, “Race to righteousness”
I don’t know if there’s any righteous we can compete to, more than congregational prayers.
The Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu ‘alaihi wasallam, said in a Hadeeth narrated by Sayyidina Abi Hurairah, radhiya Allahu ‘anhu, and authenticated by Imam Al-Bukhari:
لَوْ يَعْلَمُ النَّاسُ مَا فِي النِّدَاءِ وَالصَّفِّ الأَوَّلِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَجِدُوا إِلاَّ أَنْ يَسْتَهِمُّوا عَلَيْهِ لاَسْتَهَمُّوا
It means, “If people know what is there in Azan and the first row, and they couldn’t reach it except through balloting, they would have balloted.”
In order to avoid balloting, one should put in his possible effort and make it to the first rows on time. Once he’s there, he has the right to be there, regardless of his age.
However, children should not stand immediately behind the Imam, unless all behind the Imam are children. The immediate three people behind the Imam should be more knowledgeable people. This because, the Prophet, salla Allahu ‘alaihi wasallam, said in a Hadeeth, narrated by Sayyidina Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, and reported by Imam Muslim, that:
لِيَلِيَنِي مِنْكُمْ أُولُو الأَحْلامِ وَالنُّهَى، ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُم، ثُمَّ الَذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ
It means, let the matured and adults amongst you stand behind me, followed by those below them and then those below them.
The reason why only matured should be behind the Imam is to assist him in case he forgets or needs replacement. This means not any matured person should stand behind the Imam, but rather those who are more knowledgeable about Solat and can read Qur’an well.
Suggestion and Conclusion
The idea of keeping kids away from first rows should be authentically convincing. Until then, any child has the right to be in first rows, in our mosques.
It will also be wise, and a good initiative, for adults in the mosques, to invite children who come to the mosques without their parents, to stand beside them. This will further encourage children to look forward to come to the mosques, to pray; not to play. It will also instill in them kindness towards the younger ones, when they grow up.
If this happens, and it’s easily achievable, mosques will, certainly, no longer be playgrounds for children under the age of seven years.
Where do you use to keep your child when he joins you to the mosque? Do you mind sharing with us your experiences when you brought your child to the mosque? I would love to hear from you.
Allah knows best.
Allahu Hafiz 🙂