As my daughter approaches the age of seven, my wife and I have been contemplating how to initiate her into the practice of Salah. She had already committed the words and actions of Salah to memory over a year ago, and we would occasionally prompt her to pray on special occasions like Eid and Fridays and just do a weekly review where she tells us verbally what to say in each step. However, as she nears the age designated by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ for starting children in Salah, we felt compelled to take a more deliberate approach:
مُرُوا أَوْلاَدَكُمْ بِالصَّلاَةِ وَهُمْ أَبْنَاءُ سَبْعِ سِنِينَ وَاضْرِبُوهُمْ عَلَيْهَا وَهُمْ أَبْنَاءُ عَشْرِ سِنِينَ
“Command your children to pray when they become seven years old and discipline them [for not praying] when they become ten years old.” [Sunan Abi Dawud 495]
In our quest to guide our daughter on this spiritual journey, we have implemented a strategy that appears to be yielding positive results, and I would like to share it with you in the hopes that it may prove beneficial to you as well.
We introduced a NEW RULE in our household: whenever Salah time arrives and she is awake at home, she *must* join us in congregational prayer. The entire family now gathers together to pray, setting aside any other activities at that moment. We have transformed it into a cherished family event. Surprisingly, she seems to enjoy this collective experience more than simply being instructed to pray alone in her room. We uphold this practice with the same level of dedication as her bedtime routine, meal times, and homework schedule. No excuses are accepted.
In fact, we have been mentally preparing her for this transition since she turned six, emphasizing that she should commence her regular prayers at the age of seven. This way, there were no surprises for her. While we currently exempt her from the Fajr and Isha prayers (during summer) due to her sleeping schedule, we plan to gradually introduce them in a year or two, insha’Allah.
I urge all parents to recognize that it is our utmost responsibility to instill the essence of faith, habits, and a righteous lifestyle in our children. I recall a parent once mentioning that we can effectively teach instructions and establish habits until our children reach the age of around thirteen. Beyond that, maintaining existing routines becomes more challenging, while instilling new ones becomes exceptionally difficult. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize instilling the habit of Salah as soon as possible, alongside consistently teaching them about the Prophet’s life, manners, creed, and fostering love for Allah and His religion.
As Allah states in the Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ
“O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones.” [Qur’an 66:6]
We are continuously learning and evolving in this process, realizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each child is unique and may require different approaches. As parents, it is our duty to experiment and adapt, discovering what works best for our children in their journey towards obedience to their Lord. While we can draw inspiration from the solutions offered by other parents, ultimately, we must engage in our own exploration and determine the most effective methods to guide our children towards the same destination: submission to their Creator.