How to Talk to Your Kids About Salat
[Just to let you know, the text below is a transcription of what I've said in this video. So please excuse any words or phrases that don't quite look right.]
“Bilal, have you done your Salat?”
“Aisha, did you?”
“Really? I didn't see you.”
“How did you do it so quickly?”
“Did you have your wudhu?”
This is typically how a conversation begins between a parent and a child when it comes to checking on whether they did their prayer. In this video, we're going to examine just a few tips that will help you when it comes to how to engage with your children with respect to the Salat.
One of the things which I wanted to mention when it comes to engaging with our children for Salat is the fact that we as parents have that concern for our children praying almost regardless of where our own prayer is. We have this almost Abrahamic yearning, right?
<< رَبِّ اجعَلني مُقيمَ الصَّلاةِ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتي ۚ رَبَّنا وَتَقَبَّل دُعاءِ >>
rabbi jʿalnī muqīma ṣ-ṣalāti wa-min dhurriyyatī rabbanā wa-taqabbal duʿāʾ
My Lord! Make me a maintainer of the prayer, and my descendants [too]. Our Lord, accept my supplication.
My Lord, make me establish the prayer, keep up the prayer and make my children, my future generations, keep up the prayer too.
We have that concern. That's a fantastic thing!
But we have to realise that sometimes concern, when deeply felt, can be expressed in ways that actually have the opposite of the desired effect. We want our children to pray so badly, and we check up on them in very tough, harsh and strict ways. We are so concerned that they are praying, have prayed, etc. But sometimes little things that we say can actually have the opposite effect.
How to Talk About Prayer So Your Kids Listen
Before the prayer, if you are reminding your child to go and pray, or ideally gathering your children together to pray as a family, or if you're going to the Masjid and you are taking your children along with you, how we actually invite makes a big difference. It comes under this broad principle that I talk about when it comes to how to get your kids to pray, which is to make the experience natural.
So a lot of the terminology that we use when it comes to prayer is not normal for kids, given their social environment, languages they're speaking, how they're interacting, etc.
If we actually invite our kids to come and pray and if what we normally say is, "All right, everybody! Let's come and do Salat!" or "All right, everyone, let's do Namaz." or “It's time for Salat. It's time for Namaz." Now, that is not particularly inspirational.
There's nothing wrong with it, you might say, it's factual and it's true. However, it's not necessarily helping them actually understand what they're coming to because we haven't described the prayer or Salat in English.
Alternatively, something I try to do with my own children is to say, "Okay, guys, should we talk to Allah now? Do you think it's a good time to talk to Allah? I think we should come together, and maybe we can thank Allah for everything that's just happened."
Oh, that's Salat.
The kids start to understand that when we say, “Okay, let's come together and thank Allah, talk to Allah, meet with Allah,” then they understand that it is Salat.
If I'm going to, say, mention Salat explicitly, then just explain or describe it a little bit. Give them the point of it, which is this form of either to remember or thank Allah, using a form of words appropriate to the age of your children.
At least it gets them to understand it in more real terms that they can feel: "Okay, fine, I'm coming into this communication, this meeting with my Lord," which is even how we, as adults, should understand it. That's one thing I think is very important.
The Importance of Building Atmosphere Around Prayer
Another thing, in terms of actually establishing the prayer, if we're praying at home with our family, is to encourage either ourselves or one of our children, to do the adhan in the household.
The Adhan is something that builds the atmosphere and is part and parcel of the process. Importantly, it's good to also take the opportunity to explain to our children, "Well, what do these words actually mean?" Just as with the Salat, we don't want to keep saying words and not know what they mean. It's important that your children know what the Adhan means.
Interestingly, in the Adhan itself, there's a little cue to this idea of not just calling to Salat, but calling to success. It's not a coincidence:
« حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلَاةِ، حَيَّ عَلَي الْفَلَاحِ »
Hayya ‘alas-salat, Hayya ‘alal-falah
Come to prayer, come to success
So we understand that the believer who's responding and thinking about the Adhan immediately understands that Salat is success, and there's a motivation in that.
Similarly, when we are talking to our kids, we can talk about what's about to happen in a more descriptive way, in a way that's more natural to them in a more motivating way. That's something which I think we should do from the get-go, meaning we shouldn't wait for resistance to do that.
Checking Up with Kids After Prayer
Now, after the process, when we're saying, "Did you do your Salat?" We post-check with our children again. "Did you do your Salat and did you have your Wudhu?"
Again, it's the language that can align with this technical, “Did you tick the box? Did you get it done? Did you get the job done, the chore done?” mentality.
Alternatively, a better way to check on that is to ask, "Oh, how was your Salat? Did you enjoy your Salat? What did you talk to Allah about? What did you ask him for? What Surah did you recite? Or why did you recite that one?"
First of all, if your kid hasn't really prayed, it gets the point across in a more effective way. Second, it's going to the quality of the experience, to a detailed level that will make it more of a source of a natural conversation.
It's really important that the way in which we pose that question afterwards refers to the more natural component of the prayer which is, "How was your meeting with Allah?"
It’s a little bit like if they come from school and we ask, "How was school?" That's not brilliant. They don't get anything out of that. Trust me, I don't get anything out of that.
“How was school?”
They're only, seven or eight, that's all you get, right.
But if you say, "What did you learn in this particular lesson?" Even that's not the most inspiring question. But you're likely to get to something a bit more because you've gone to a point of detail in the experience. Or, "What made you happiest today?" for example.
Simply, in the context of prayer, this approach is likely to be a better approach. In principle, refer to it in more natural ways.
Perhaps the biggest secret here is that if you appreciate your Salat in that way, you're likely to talk to your kids about it in a much more natural, inspiring and connected manner. They will feel a more healthy relationship with their Salat and with their Lord, insha’Allah.