As one of the five pillars of Islam, Salah is an essential component to the daily lives of Muslims across the globe. Praying five times a day grants us the tranquillity of worship and a quiet time between ourselves and Allah.
Introducing Salah to young children in Muslim households is proving to be more complex than expected for many families. Educating children on the importance of praying consistently can be challenging because well… they’re kids. Perhaps they would prefer watching another episode of their favourite show or believe they’ll simply do it later, only to forget eventually. This is a relatable experience for all Muslims, as we ourselves have been through it in our own childhoods. So how can we help young children begin their Salah journey in a joyful manner?
Below is a list of five top tips from Muslim women in the UK offering valuable advice on introducing Salah to children of all ages. These tips are tried and tested and can be incredibly helpful for your child(ren), younger siblings, nieces, nephews, or any mini Muslims in your life.
TIP #1: Lead by example
Mariam B. from London has five children under the age of 13 who are at varying stages of learning how to pray. Her number one tip on encouraging children to pray is, “Before you expect your children to begin to pray independently, it is vital they see with their own eyes how you begin Salah. Showing them how you perform wudhu and letting them watch you pray is a great way to familiarise them with Salah.” Let them see in practice what you are preaching.
TIP #2: Establish a pattern before and after Salah
Ayaan R. aged 22 has three younger siblings and likes to step in when they have questions about Islam which includes Salah. “One thing I’ve learned is that children tend to like routine even if they don’t admit it. My little brother and sisters aren’t old enough to pray yet but they’re already so fascinated Masha’Allah, bombarding me with questions right after I finish reciting Tasleem.”
Ayaan shares how she has developed a routine before and after Salah which she demonstrates to her siblings. “Before Salah, I wear the exact same abaya and hijab to pray in. Then after Salah, I tune in to British Muslim TV or Islam Channel to watch an episode of whatever is on which is something we can do as a family. This way, it establishes a routine which we can then stick to. Now my siblings know my routine better than I do which will help them when they begin to pray, insha’Allah.”
TIP #3: Pray together
Sumera Ali, who hails from a big family all living under one roof in Birmingham, discloses her favourite tip on introducing Salah to young children. “In our loud chaotic house, we can barely hear ourselves speak. We raise the Adhan to full volume so the sound travels and everyone knows exactly when it’s time to pray. One thing that has been instilled in our family is praying together in one room at the same time. Not a lot of families do this but it’s a great way to introduce the concept of Salah. The kids are at the back so they can just watch and copy what the adults are doing even if they don’t fully understand yet. Praying together brings unity and is Sunnah so children get to learn as they get older.”
Families that pray together, stay together.
TIP #4: Let them lead
Faduma I. aged 30 has a four year old daughter and has adopted a trick to educate her on Salah. “During Salah, my daughter loves the call to prayer and immediately stops what she is doing when she hears it, Masha’Allah. One thing we love doing is that sometimes we let her lead our Salah even though she doesn’t actually know how to pray yet. Giving a child a significant responsibility like leading the prayer makes them feel important and reinforces the notion that Salah is for everyone, not just the grownups.”
TIP #5: Use visual aids
Last but not the least, Helena M. a 41-year-old entrepreneur from Manchester reveals her favourite tip on introducing the concept of praying to young children. “I’m not going to lie, learning how to pray when I was a kid was hard. There were times I didn’t feel like doing it which is something everyone goes through but the guilt of missing a Salah would cripple me. One thing I’ve learnt from being the auntie of a sea of nieces and nephews is that children are visual learners. Telling them when it’s time to pray doesn’t do much to help them learn. My advice is to make a visual chart with the five prayers listed: Fajr, Dhudhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha. Whenever a prayer is completed, the children can mark it off like a calendar. This way, they can physically see their progress and feel the motivation to keep going. It also teaches them the name of each prayer, which one comes first, and how many Rakats each one has.”
These days, there are a variety of salah trackers available from Muslim businesses that aim to do just that, providing a convenient tool to track and encourage consistent prayer. Alternatively, you can engage the children by asking them to design and create their own personalised Salah charts, cultivating a sense of ownership and excitement about their prayer routine.
Introducing Salah to young children may be a challenge at first because it is something new that requires discipline and consistency. However, the use of visual learning, teaching by example, helping them establish a routine, praying side-by-side and giving them the chance to lead the prayer are all great ways to teach the basics until they are ready to pray independently.
Hodan Mohamed is a 25-year-old Somali freelance writer based in the West Midlands. She is currently working on an original play and a draft of a YA novel.