My daughter is 9 years old and has no problem with ḥijāb and fasting in the Month of Ramaḍān but she has become increasingly resistant to praying. As her parents we feel a lot of pressure and responsibility to guide her and ensure she keeps up with her prayers, but at times it feels almost forced because of her resistance and I feel it’s made her resent praying. But if we don’t insist she wouldn’t do them at all. We have tried encouragement and praying together and are always mindful of our own prayers so she can see how integral it is in our lives. How can we strike a balance and how can we let her miss a prayer when we are also accountable?
A hurting heart
Dear Hurting Heart,
The pain of seeing your child having difficulties on the path to Allah (swt) is never easy and can cause an ache in our heart that does not dissipate.
Three main points that may help with this transitional time of her life include:
- Talk to Your Daughter
Becoming bāligh, or reaching the age of maturity, is a time of change, growth, and increased responsibilities. Your daughter may have all sorts of thoughts and emotions around this. It is important to have a candid conversation with her about how she is feeling, the difficulties she may be facing in meeting these responsibilities, and how to best work together to help her feel at ease and confident about this new stage in her life. Highlighting the importance of understanding when establishing the practice of prayer, Imām ʿAlī has said: “When a child can perceive [things] he is ordered to pray […] if he is capable.” [Biḥār al-Anwār, Vol. 88, P. 133, Ḥadīth #5]
- Prayer: A Tool for Personal Discipline
In the aforementioned conversation you have with your daughter you can use it as an opportunity to gently remind her that this life is a place of tests to help us grow and develop into stronger people for the pleasure of Allah (swt), and that every act He has asked us to perform is only a way to come closer to Him in the way that He knows is best for us. In the Noble Qurʾān, Allah reminds us, “He is the One Who created death and life in order to test which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Almighty, All-Forgiving.” [Qurʾān, Sūrah al-Mulk (67), Verse 2]
Agha Ali Reza Panahian in his book, “How to Pray a Good Prayer”, mentions an anecdote where he is playing soccer with his son and the time of prayer comes around. His son says he doesn’t want to pray because playing is so much more fun, and Agha Panahian responds telling his son, “It is hard for me too! Playing is enjoyable for me too! [I will not] become a real human being [if I] do not do the things that are hard [for me]. I want to become a real [human being].” (pg. 42-43)
He explains that the philosophy behind praying, especially at a young age, is to do so out of a sense of respect and politeness towards God as Allah (swt) says, “being polite means that even if [My servant] is not in the mood for loving Me, showing affection, and are bored, they should still show their respect [and pray their ṣalāh].” (pg 95-96)
Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) said: “Teach your young children [how to perform the ritual] prayer and make them accountable for it when they reach puberty.” [Ghurar al-Ḥikam, Ḥadīth #5211]
Establishing the habit of prayer is a parent’s duty and can be challenging at times, so we have to be creative, patient, and take the child’s personality into consideration as we do so. There will be times when the child is more receptive to hearing about the importance of prayer and times when they are not. It may help to have these discussions when the child is calm, receptive, and in a ‘good mood’. At other times the conversation may go best ‘in the moment’, using methods similar to what Agha Ali Reza Panahian suggested.
The last crucial point Agha makes, “is to think that the Adhān, the Call to Prayer, is specifically for you. The call to prayer is a private announcement. Whenever the Call to Prayer [is announced], stop whatever you are doing and go pray. Because the time for prayer for each person is [when they are] in a special situation or condition that God has designed for him before the Call to Prayer. When a person is in that situation, God calls the angels and tells them, ‘Say the Call to Prayer, if this servant of mine gets up to go pray now, he will become a good person’.” (pg. 123)
- Ṣabr (Patience) and Duʿāʾ (Supplication)
After your numerous efforts, the greatest thing you can do is pray for your daughter. Imām Sajjād’s Duʿāʾ#25, the Duʿāʾ for Children, is a beautiful supplication that will put your heart at ease. A few lines for this duʿā may ease your heart,
“My God, make long their lives for me, increase their terms, bring up the smallest for me, strengthen the weakest for me, rectify for me their bodies, their religious dedication, and their moral traits, make them well in their souls, their limbs, and everything that concerns me of their affair, and pour out for me and upon my hand their provisions!”
As you read the duʿā may you allow and accept that the results of your efforts are in Allah’s Hands alone. Remember that this part of your daughter’s life will pass, she will grow, she will learn, she will mature, and she will move forward into another stage of her life.
Imām as-Sajjād (ʿa) said: “A child’s right is to be kind to him when educating him, forgiving him, covering his mistake, acting moderately towards him and helping him…” [Man lā Yaḥḍuruhu al-Faqīh, Vol. 2, P. 625, Ḥadīth #3214]