“My 4-year-old grandson is terrified to go to the mosque,” my neighbour said.
“What happened?” I asked.
“He followed his father to the mosque last week. He was running around at the back of the mosque with the other young children when suddenly a burly man appeared and yelled at them: ‘Do you think this is a playground?’ The man even raised his hand and threatened to hit my grandson and the other kids.”
“Well,” I said, “In Makkah and Madinah, it’s common to see young children tagging along after their parents and grandparents to the mosque. Young mothers would bring their newborns, placing these infants next to them the moment they started praying. It does get noisy, but how else are these kids going to learn to love the mosque?”
Yes, I do know that all that din can be distracting. But to be honest, if we find all that kids-related sounds annoying, instead of getting upset with the little ones, perhaps we should ask ourselves : Is it the kids or is it us? Is there something we can do to improve our prayers? After all, quality solat (prayer) means you and I are so focused (khushu’), we would hardly notice the sights, sounds and smells around us.
I’m not suggesting I’m so focused during my prayer that the sounds don’t affect me; far from it. But if we were to look at the long-term, every word and gesture we adults make at the mosque and observed by the kids will be seared onto their minds. It’s either, “The mosque is a nice place to be” or “The mosque is a scary place; never again.”
For the mosque to stay as the centre of the Muslim community, children need to develop a connection to it. Children who were never exposed to the mosque will likely feel disconnected from their faith and the Muslim community. Bringing them to the mosque and involving them in its activities help create a sense of belonging and pride.
The mosque is built to establish a sense of community. Many children grow up feeling isolated and disconnected from their community, particularly if they do not have Muslim friends at school. By bringing them to the mosque, we can help them to make new friends, interact with other Muslim children, and feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.
Going to the mosque can help to teach them about Islamic values and ethics. Many mosques offer educational programs for young children, which can help them to learn about the basics of Islam and develop a strong foundation in their faith. By exposing them to Islamic teachings from a young age, we can help them to develop a strong moral compass and a sense of purpose in life.
It is a fact and a shame that some mosques are not particularly welcoming to young children, causing parents to feel discouraged from bringing them along. If children don’t feel comfortable in the mosque, they are unlikely to want to return. Such uncomfortable emotions will fester in their minds, pushing them away from the mosque. By the time they’re adults, the mosque is nothing but a cold, strange place they would rather stay away from. A problem for the community.
To conclude, bringing young children to the mosque is an essential part of fostering a strong sense of community and belonging in our children. By providing a welcoming and child-friendly environment in the mosque, we can help to create a space where children feel comfortable and engaged, and where they can learn about their faith and values. As parents, elders, and mosque patrons, we have a responsibility to support families bringing young children to the mosque. The next time you hear someone yelling at little children in the mosque, feel free to speak up, so that the mosque becomes an endearing place to the young ones.
Featured image by Ebahir