Presence of Young Boys in a Congregational Prayer

Q. During a congregational prayer recently, a boy of about 8 years of age was standing next to me. A man then pulled him back so as to stand behind the lines of the worshippers. At the end, the man told me that if the boy continued to stand with us, our prayer would not be proper. Please comment.

A. To say that the congregational prayer will be improper if a child of 7 or 8 is standing alongside adults is wrong. We are instructed by the Prophet (peace be upon him) to tell our children to pray when they are 7. How can we teach them to pray unless we actually train them. Part of such training is to attend congregational prayers. If there are several children in the congregation, then it is better if they form a line of their own behind the men’s rows. If there is one or two, they can stand wherever is appropriate. If the child is younger, then it is better that the child stands next to his father or mother. The Prophet said: “At times I intend to make my prayer long, but then I hear a child crying, and I would cut my prayer short as a gesture for its mother’s sake.” Needless to say, this is a case of a very young child, perhaps not more than 3 years of age. Such children should stay close to their parents. Otherwise, they may wander around and their parents would be worried about them.

Some people object to such young children being brought into the mosque. This is wrong. The Prophet’s grandchildren came into the mosque when they were very young. On one occasion, one of them climbed over the Prophet’s back when he was in prostration, and the Prophet stayed long in that position until the child came down of its own accord. People were worried that something might have happened to the Prophet. When they finished, they asked him about the reason for his long prostration, and he said: “My son was on my back, and I did not like to hurry him.” On another occasion, the Prophet’s granddaughter, Umamah, was close to him, and he carried her as he led the prayer. When he prostrated himself, he would put her down, but when he stood up, he would carry her.

To conclude, if there are several children who can pray properly, i.e. aged 7 and over, they should preferably form a line behind the adults. If the number is no more than one or two, there is no harm in them standing among the adults in their rows. Younger children stand with their parents.