by Sumaya Bezrati
Today I read someone’s status message that was criticizing children’s misbehavior in the mosque (albeit jokingly) but it still struck a nerve with me. This would be the 4th status message about this very topic that I have read this Ramadan.
When did the Ummah become this intolerant of children in the mosque?
I love going to the mosque. It brings a sense of ease and peace over me that no matter how I hard try I can never replicate by praying at home. But I have stopped going. In fact, except for three times, I haven’t been in over two years. Because I’m tired. I don’t want to see people rolling their eyes at my daughter. I don’t want to hear lectures from ladies who “couldn’t concentrate on their prayers.” So I continue to pray at home and I long for the day when I will be able to return to the mosque, child in tow.
Most mosques in America today have special rooms dedicated for mothers with children. However, I truly believe that the creation of these “special” rooms is actually a disservice to both our mothers and children. These rooms have taught our children that going to the mosque is about running around with your friends and screaming at the top of their lungs. I truely believe that if children are allowed into the main musella from a young age they will learn the proper behavior in a mosque. Furthermore, most of these rooms are not wired for sound or video and therefore the mothers have no idea when the prayer is starting, finishing, or in session. Therefore, we end up just praying by ourselves and don’t learn anything from sermons (because we can’t hear them!)
When I ask the parents of the most well-behaved children in the mosque for tips and tricks, their answer is always the same. That they brought their children weekly since their children were babies, and so overtime their children got used to the mosque and behaved accordingly. You can not expect to wait until your child is at an age when they are old enough to sit still for the whole sermon to suddenly bring them to the mosque. If we do wait, by that age we may have already lost our children. We need to instill a love of Islam and the masjid in the hearts of our children from an early age.
I once read a suggestion from a well-meaning sister who asked, “Why don’t mothers leave their children with other family members or take turns with other mothers watching the group of kids.” Firstly, it is a mistake to assume that ANY mother has the support of family. Some people are isolated from family and good friends. Some people are single mothers. Additionally, where does one meet good Muslim friends, who they can perhaps work out a babysitting schedule with? Why, at the mosque, of course!
Bringing our children to the mosque is also important for raising our children according to the Sunnah. The Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) often prayed with his granddaughter Umamah on his shoulders. His attitude towards children was always kind and merciful. In fact, one time while the Prophet was leading prayers in the mosque, he heard a child crying and so he shortened the prayer simply on the grounds that he knew that the cries of the child would make the mother nervous. So to keep the mother from growing anxious, he ended the prayers promptly. Furthermore, we all cherish the hadith that the Prophet used to let his grandchildren play on his back as he prayed. Yet, we still want to be hard-hearted towards children and claim that they upset our concentration in prayer.
“None of you is truly a believer until you wish for your brother what you wish for yourself” A great quote by our beloved Prophet Muhammad. Don’t we want all of our brothers and sisters to have what we have? And that something is something so simple. Accessability in the mosque so that we can increase our faith, without being criticized. I will never forget the time while praying in Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, Palestine a mother was there with her three year old daughter for the asr prayer during Ramadan. The child was singing to herself and dancing as the prayer ensued. Afterwards, another lady came and yelled at the mother so much, saying why would she bring her small daughter and she couldn’t concentrate, to the point that the lady left in tears. Will she be coming back to the mosque any time soon? In fact, I have seen this same scene play out a few different times throughout my life, and once that mother who left in tears, was me.
This is a plea from a mother who is trying to raise the next generation of Muslims. Please, I implore you, for the sake of God, have patience. For God tells us in the Qur’an: “God is with those who are patient.”