Disciplining children for not praying: what does this hadith mean?

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Last Updated on 16th July 2021

Huzooraa was asked for guidance regarding a hadith of the Holy Prophetsa in which he states, “Instruct your children to observe Salat when they reach the age of seven, and when they reach the age of 10, punish them for failing to do so.” 

In a letter dated 2 February 2019, Huzooraa gave the following reply: 

“A great distinction of Islamic teachings is that it is based on moderation. That moderation is also incorporated in this instruction of the Holy Prophetsa. It means that one should emphasise on worship right from childhood as it is the foremost purpose of mankind’s creation. 

“One should admonish children to observe Salat and also show them one’s own example. If the child does not observe Salat after continuous exhortation and advice for three years, then one is instructed to chastise him/her in an appropriate manner up to a certain time. However, this punishment should not be such that it stems from any kind of animosity against the child on part of the person who is punishing. 

“One should not believe that they can definitely make the child observe prayers as a result of that punishment; one should rather administer such punishment with the view that tarbiyat or good upbringing can only be achieved by the grace of Allah the Exalted, the only true means of receiving which are supplications. 

“One should know that the path of punishment that is being adopted is, in fact, in accordance with the instruction of the Messengersa of Allah, so that the child may learn a lesson and incline towards Salat. As the child matures and develops the ability to distinguish between right and wrong after reaching the age of 12 or 13, then his or her matter should be entrusted to Allah the Exalted. From then on, one should solely adopt the approach of supplications, advice and admonishment.

“Regarding the type of punishment under discussion, the Promised Messiahas states:

‘If an individual holds self-respect, does not lose grasp of the reins of the self, is completely patient, forbearing, of tranquil temperament and of dignified comportment; he holds the right to punish and reprehend children at an appropriate circumstance and to a certain extent.’ (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 4, Edition 1984)”

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