How to establish the habit of congregational Prayers in my children?
Ayaz-ul-Haq, Silicon Valley
To be successful in anything, usually the best practice is: setting a goal, making a plan of action, and then taking the appropriate steps towards achieving that goal. Without doubt, the goal for all Ahmadi parents is to witness and experience the acceptance of the following prayer in the Holy Qur’an:“Our Lord, Grant us of our spouses and children the delight of our eyes, and make us a model for the righteous.” (The Holy Qur’an, chapter 25, verse 75)
One of the foremost and necessary actions needed for realizing this goal is giving due consideration to Salat (Prayer). As Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (may Allah be his helper) has repeatedly reminded us in various sermons and addresses that care must be given to “adorn” one’s Salat. As Salat is fundamental to belief without which one cannot become a Momin (true believer). Huzoor has also reminded us that our Salat is refined and enhanced when it is said in congregation; as, according to the Hadith (Bukhari and Muslim), offering Salat in congregation is twenty-seven times more meritorious than offering it alone. (Friday Sermon of April 14, 2006).
The following are a few practical ways in which the habit of offering congregational Salat may be established in our children—based on Huzoor’s recent Friday Sermons, various recommendations, pieces of advice, and actual experience of Jama’at members):
Parents (this should usually be the father as head of household, but when he is not there, then the mother) should be prompt and regular in offering their own Salat and in making arrangements to offer Salat in congregation together with their children. This should ideally be done by visiting the mosque and offering Salt in congregation there, but if the mosque is too far, then offering congregational Salat in the house. Huzoor has said, “Salat should be offered in congregation, should be offered regularly, and should be offered on time.” (Friday Sermon at Bait-ur-Rehman mosque, June 22, 2012). Huzoor also exhorted us, “Many people are occupied at work during the daytime, however, Fajr, Maghrib, and Isha Prayers can be offered at the mosque. Many Ahmadis living in the Western countries live 15-20 miles from the mosque, but still make the effort to go to the mosque to offer Salat in congregation… Wherever it is not possible to go to the mosque, a few Ahmadis living close by should organize to get together in one home to offer Prayers in congregation. And those Ahmadis living in isolated areas should make arrangements within the household to offer Prayers in congregation with family members. Children will also learn the importance of Salat in this manner.” (Friday Sermon June 22, 2012)
If one lives more than 15 to 20 minutes’ driving distance away from the mosque, then parents should identify a Salat center near their house and in the absence of one, consider creating a Salat center in their own house. As one Ahmadi brother remarked: “I grew up in a home which served as a Salat center. I know the remuneration in terms of blessings from that Salat center was innumerable for me. With that experience in my mind, when the Salat center was discussed, I expressed my strong desire to offer my home as one of the 200 Salat centers and Alhamdulillah, the Jama’at accepted my request.”
Children should be taught to recite Adhan (call to Prayer) as well as Niyyat (intention) before Salat. In particular, the meaning of the words of the Adhan “Hayya ‘alas-Salah; Hayya ‘alal-Falah” (come to Prayer, come to Prosperity) as well as the words from Fajr Adhan, “Prayer is better than sleep” should be taught and their significance reminded to children.
Whether at the mosque or at the house, at a young age, children should be encouraged to take on “tasks” associated with the practice of offering of Salat in congregation—for example, taking turns to give Adhan, laying and clearing up the Prayer mat(s), etc. It may be that children are initially hesitant to take on these tasks of their own accord, in which case these tasks may be assigned to them in a positive, confidence-building, and appreciative manner (most young children are eager to take on responsibility or be entrusted with a particular task especially when it means “helping” their parent). In those houses where a Salat center has been established, the children of that household may be entrusted with the responsibility of the congregational Salat arrangements such as opening the door for Salat center attendees, being present themselves in the place or room where the congregational Salat is being offered at the appointed time and ideally before the arrival of other Salat center attendees, etc. As Huzoor mentioned with regard to congregational Salat arrangements, “such arrangements will also safeguard the children from getting involved in other activities outside the home” (Friday Sermon, June 22, 2012).
Parents should take upon themselves the responsibility of explaining to their children the distinction and merits of congregational Prayer with reference to the Holy Qur’an, the Hadith, the writings of the Promised Messiah and Huzoor’s sermons. Examples that children can understand should be provided, such as, explaining the distinction of congregational Prayer with reference to the writings of the Promised Messiah. Huzoor said “it inculcates unity and harmony; maintaining of straight rows signify that the spirituality of one person may infuse in the next.” (Friday Sermon, April 14, 2006).
As in most cases, if one is striving to inculcate a habit, there should be regularity (i.e., consistency) and discipline in efforts to offer congregational Salat, as well as in trying to observe the above practices. This regularity and discipline on the part of parents has a positive reinforcement effect on children; it will potentially become a trait that will, Insha’allah, stay with them not only through their own lifetime, but also potentially will be something that is passed on to their children and future generations. As Huzoor reminds us, “Again, discipline in offering Prayers will also require children to go to bed early at night and therefore staying up late will become obsolete in such households.” Huzoor said that the youth who spend a lot of time surfing the Internet should make every endeavor to browse the beneficial information but maintain a balance, which is necessary in everything in life. Huzoor also said that it is extremely detrimental for one to gain worldly pleasures at the cost of not offering Prayers.” (Friday Sermon, June 22, 2012) One of our Ahmadi brothers, sharing his personal experience says with respect to offering congregational Salat, “I now drive to work 3 hours round trip every day, and it is very much a struggle. But I started waking up at 4:30 a.m. every morning and going to the mosque for Fajr daily. I commute to work from the mosque most days. In just a few months, my whole life has changed. I am more spiritually attuned, balanced and disciplined. I maximize the use of my time, sleep early and watch less television and spend less time on the Internet. My wife and son are both much happier. The mosque is about 20 minutes away from my house, but I still drive there to gain that additional blessing. I cannott quite describe to you in words how much offering daily Salat at the mosque has transformed my life.”
The consistency and diligence referred to above requires vigilance as well as self-reflection. Parents should be vigilant in maintaining a high standard of implementing their faith in practice as this is something that will leave a lasting impression on their children and also influence their children. In this context, Huzoor recently reminded us of a Hadith that relates that those who come to the mosque with the fervor to worship God day and night will be given hospitality of God. “The time between one Salat and the next should be spent as if one is guarding a border, guarding oneself against Satan, and one should go to the mosque with the raiment of taqwa. It is the responsibility of each Ahmadi to establish this standard in this materialistic world. If we understand this reality, we will be the recipient of God’s grace more than ever.” (Friday Sermon, October 25, 2013).
Parents should try and exercise moderation in their diet as well as that of their children, and in other extravagances as overindulgence can take one away from one’s attention to faith matters. Huzoor recently said, “Overeating makes one lazy and indolent and overindulgence at dinner time can result in not waking up for Fajr Salat. In another place, the Holy Qur’an says that nonbelievers only think of food and drink as animals do, while the objective of a believer is higher. Food and drink has been made for man but merely consuming it should not be the aim, rather pleasure of God should be sought.” (Friday Sermon, October 26, 2013). On the desirability of exercising moderation and maintaining a balance, Huzoor also said that it is extremely detrimental for one to gain worldly pleasures at the cost of not offering Prayers (Friday Sermon, June 22, 2012).
Families should endeavor to offer congregational Salat even on their leisure trips and recreational outings. Huzoor says, “On weekends, families have plans for outings but if they do not have such plans, then they should plan to go to the mosque, together, as a family. Without Salat, a Muslim cannot earn the privilege of being called a Muslim. By the time a person reaches adulthood, his or her habit of offering Salat should have progressed to the point where it becomes well-founded and firm.” Huzoor said that families who offer Prayers in congregation on their leisure outdoor trips also become a source of doing Tabligh by offering a good example to those who are around them. The popular belief is that only terrorists offer Prayers, but when other Muslims who are dressed in western attire, etc., offer Salat, then these misconceptions are removed.” (Friday Sermon June 22 2012)
In a letter sent in connection with the inauguration of Bait-us-Sami mosque in Houston, Huzoor explained that “To gain victory and to gain blessings from Khilafat, the first condition is to establish Salat in congregation.”
May Almighty Allah enable us to establish this first condition and by doing so, Insha’allah, help us realize our goal of our spouses and children being the delight of our eyes, and all of us being a model for the righteous. Amin.