Can a child who does not perform prayers be beaten?

The Details of the Question

A child does not perform prayers; he only performs the morning prayer (fajr) due to the pressure of his mother. His mother beats him because he does not perform prayers. Is it a sin for her to beat him?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

What the Quran deals with the most is familial responsibility and the religious education of the household. Many issues about which religious sensitivity is necessary like choosing a place to live, teaching deeds of worshipping like prayer and fasting, and supervising their practice, and migrating from a place which it is not suitable to practice the religion exist in the Quran. We will try to explain them one by one.    

Attracting Attention Primarily to Religion:

We should state first that the head of the family needs to advise “the religion” as a whole to each individual under his responsibility, attract attention to “the religion”, and tell them to arrange their life in accordance with the religion and its principles in a way that will allow them to practice the religion. Hz. Ibrahim and Hz. Ya'qub are mentioned as an example in the Quran regarding the issue:

"’Behold! His Lord said to him: ‘Submit (thy will to Me)’ He said: ‘I bow (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the universe.’ And this was the legacy that Abraham left to his sons and so did Jacob; ‘O my sons! Allah hath chosen the faith for you; then die not except in the state of submission (to Allah).’ "(1)

In the Quran, there are many verses advising religion, attracting attention to religion and ordering that the most important issue be religion for them without mentioning children. (2) We will quote some of them since they will complement our issue:

"It is He who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion: and enough is Allah for a Witness."(3)

"It is He who hath sent His Messenger with Guidance and Religion of Truth to proclaim it over all religion, even though the pagans may detest (it)."(4)

"And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do. If they refuse, be sure that Allah is your protector the Best to protect and the Best to help.”(5)

"The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His will)… But if any deny the Signs of Allah, Allah is swift in calling to account.”(6)

"If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah) never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost. (all spiritual good). How shall Allah guide those who reject Faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the Messenger was true and that clear signs had come unto them? But Allah guides not a people unjust."(7)

Hz. Prophet states the following:

"Even if you have a leader appointed to you who is an Abyssinian slave with his nose cut, listen to him and obey him, continue obeying him even if you come to a point where you have to choose either to abandon your religion or to lose your head. If you come to a point where you have to decide whether to give up Islam or to lose your head, stretch your neck to be beheaded. May you be motherless, if your religion leaves you, there will be nothing left for you of this world nor of the hereafter."(8)

Choosing the place to live:

The positive or negative effect of the environment on man is something that has been known since old ages. Ibn Khaldun expresses it as follows:  

"Man is not a child of his nature and character, but the environment and the habits he gets in this environment." (9)

In that case, the head of a family who is responsible for the education of his family needs to choose a place where he can practice his religion as a place to live. Hz. Ibrahim gives the Quranic example of it. After completing the construction of the Kaaba, Hz. Ibrahim states that he placed his son, Ismail, in Makkah with religious thoughts though it was a place "without cultivation":

"O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord that they may establish regular prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with Fruits: so that they may give thanks." (10)

While mentioning the rights of a child over his father, Hz. Prophet (pbuh) mentions "preparing a nice place for him" along with "giving him a nice name and high ethics", "feeding him with clean sustenance", “teaching ‘reading-writing’, ‘swimming’ and ‘throwing’", "marrying him off when he reaches the age of puberty" in some hadiths. (11)

Scholars understand it as a place of settlement where there are a lot of readers of the Quran and scholars and a place where it is possible to study the Quran and ilm. (12)

Doing further analysis on the issue, fiqh scholars decree that a mother cannot take a child who was born in the city to a village in case of the death of the husband or divorce since it is far away from the city in terms of education. (13)

Teaching the Creed:

What needs to be taught to the household, especially children is the principles of belief, especially the belief of “oneness”; that is, the belief that Allah is one and that He has no partners or assistants. Every child that becomes old and wise enough to learn something must be taught this belief. As a matter of fact, some narrations inform us that the Prophet (pbuh) taught oneness to a child among his relatives as soon as he started to talk and that he made the child memorize the following verse by making him read it seven times: 

“Alhamdulillahilladhi lam yattakhidh waladan walam yakun lahu sharikun fil mulki…”

"Praise be to Allah Who begets no son, and has no partner in (His) dominion..."(al-Isra, 17/111) (14)

Along with oneness, it is necessary to teach the child the evil and wrongness of polytheism, which is the opposite of oneness, and what a big oppression and crime it is to fall into polytheism. The best example given by the Quran regarding the issue is Hz. Luqman:

"Wa idh qala luqmanu ibnihi wa huwa yaizuhu ya bunayya la tushrik billahi innash-shirka la zulmun azim.”

("Behold, Luqman said to his son admonishing him: "O my son! Join not in worship (others) with Allah: for false worship is indeed the highest wrong-doing.") (15)

When teaching the creed to the child is mentioned, teaching only Allah’s existence and oneness should not be understood. Belief in Allah in the perfect sense forms when the heart knows Allah with all of His names and attributes. The Quran states in repeated verses that Allah has "beautiful names" (al-asmaul-husna). (16)

Hz. Prophet says there are ninety-nine al-asmaul-husna and lists them. (17)

Then, it is necessary to introduce Allah with His dhati (personal) and subuti (immutable) attributes (18) and to teach them to children. Belief in Allah in accordance with Islamic creed occurs like that. Belief in Allah given to the child without taking this issue into consideration can be incomplete and even non-Islamic. As a matter of fact, Christians, Jews and even polytheists believe in a deity. Latest research shows that there is nobody without faith in the world. Everybody imagines a deity peculiar to themselves. What distinguishes between them is the names and attributes associated with the deity. Giving Islamic belief in Allah to children fully depends on teaching within the framework of the names and attributes mentioned in the Quran and hadiths.  

On the other hand, the Quran states that belief in Allah is of no value without belief in prophets and that those who believe in Allah have to believe in prophets by all means:

"Those who deny Allah and His Messengers, and (those who) wish to separate Allah and His Messengers, saying: ‘We believe in some but reject others’: and (those who) wish to take a course midway.― They are in truth (equally) Unbelievers; and We have prepared for unbelievers a humiliating punishment. To those who believe in Allah and His messenger and make no distinction between any of the messenger, We shall soon give their (due) rewards: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."(19)

Belief in prophets will inevitably bring about belief in the books and angels. Then, the Quran, which mentions teaching belief in Allah, who is one, in repeated verses, orders us to teach all principles of belief to children accordingly. As a matter of fact, in the following Quranic verse, to which the Prophet (pbuh) attracts attention insistently, which advises us to read every day, states that it was taken from a treasure under the Throne and that it was given only to this ummah, all of the principles that a believer has to believe are listed:

"The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His Messengers "We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His Messengers." And they say: "We hear and we obey; (We seek) Thy forgiveness, Our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys."(20)

Teaching Worshipping:

The verse above does not only mention choosing a place where we can practice our religion at the cost of some material sacrifices but also emphasizes the importance of teaching believers to perform prayers in religious education in the form of the supplication of Hz. Ibrahim.

It will be appropriate to quote another supplication of Hz. Ibrahim regarding the issue performing prayers:

"O my Lord! Make me one who establishes regular Prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring O our Lord! and accept Thou my Prayer."(21)

The issue of prayer is also mentioned in some other verses related to children and the importance of the issue is settled in the mind. The Quran wants prayer, which is described as "pillar of the religion"(22) in hadiths, to be the pillar, that is, one of the main issues of the religion. Nothing, even meeting financial needs, should prevent prayers and teaching and practicing to perform prayers:

“Wa’mur ahlaka bissalawati wastabir alayha la nas’aluka rizqan nahnu narzuquka wal-aqibatu littaqwa.”

("Enjoin prayer on thy people, and be constant therein. We ask thee not to provide sustenance: We provide it for thee. But the (fruit of) the Hereafter is for Righteousness.") (23)

Examples related to ordering prayers to the members of the family are seen related to Hz. Luqman too. For, he ordered his son as follows along with other things: "O my son! Establish regular prayer." (24)

It is also stated in the Quran that Hz. Ismail, who is stated to have attained the consent of Allah, "used to enjoin on his people Prayer and Charity". (25)

We mentioned before that Hz. Prophet (pbuh) told us to order children to perform prayers at the age of seven and to beat them if they did not perform prayers at the age of ten. The permission of Hz. Prophet about beating children about prayers confirms the importance of teaching and practicing prayers. Acting upon this hadiths, some scholars discussed whether children could be beaten due to things that are not fard due to their laziness and negligence. (26)

As for making children start to perform prayers at a young age, children who die after the age of seven will be called to account like adults and they will not be included within the scope of the phrase “wildanun mukhalladun (youths of perpetual (freshness))” in the verse; therefore, it shows the wisdom behind the statement of the shari’ah that “children who do not start to perform prayers at the proper age can be beaten slightly”.

Scholars understand from the hadith about "ordering a child to perform prayers" at the age of seven that it is necessary to teach them all kinds of knowledge about prayer like the times of prayers, its fards, wajibs, sunnahs, the chapters and supplications to be read in prayer, tasbihat after prayer, wudu and details about cleanliness.

1- al-Baqara 2: 131- 132.
2- al-Baqara 2:193, 217; Aal-i Imran 3:19, 85; al-An’am 6:161; al-A'raf 7:29; al-Anfal 8:39; at-Tawba 9:33, 122; Yunus 10:105: an-Nur 24:2; ar-Rum 30:30, 43; az-Zumar 39:3, 11; al-Fath 48:28; al-Mumtahina 60:8, al-Bayyina 98:5.
3- al-Fath 48:28.
4- at-Tawba 9:33.
5- al-Anfal 8:39-40
6- Aal-i Imran 3:19.
7- Aal-i Imran 3:85 - 86.
8- Tabarani, Mu'jamus-Saghir 1, 152.
9- Ibnu Khaldun. Abdurrahman (d. 808), al-Muqaddima. Beirut, no date, p. 125.
10- Ibrahim 14:37.
11- See Jami'us-Saghir 3, 393-394.
12- Munawi, Faydul-Qadir 3. 394.
13- Usrushani. Ahkamus-Sighar 1, 102-103.
14- Ibnu Abi Shayba. Abu Bakr Abdullah Ibnu Muhammad (d. 253), Musannafu Ibni Abi Shayba, Hyderabad, 1966, 1, 348; Abdurrazzaq Ibnu Muhammad as-San'ani (v.211) Musannafu Abdirrazzaq, Beirut, 1970. 4. 334.
15- Luqman 31:13
16- al-A'raf 7:180; al-Isra 17:110; Ta-Ha 20:8; al-Hashr 59:24.
17- Bukhari, Da’awat 69; Muslim, Dhikr 5, 6.
18- Allah's immutable (subuti) attributes: Hayah (Life), ilm (knowledge), Sam‘ (hearing everything), basar (seeing everything), iradah (will), qudrah (having power over everything He wishes), kalam (speech, revelation), takwin (creating); Allah's personal (dhati) attributes: Wujud (existence), qidam (pre-eternity, existence without beginning), baqa (everlastingness, existence without ending), wahdaniyyah (oneness), mukhalafa lil-hawadith (non-resemblance to any creatures), qiyam bi nafsihi (self-existence, not needing any beings)
(see Dikmen. Tasavvuf ve Hikmet Işığında İslâm İlmihali, Cihan Publications, 1983, İst.)
19- an-Nisa 4:150-152
20- al-Baqara 2: 285.
21- Ibrahim 14:40.
22- Ajluni, Ismail Ibnu Muhammad (1162), Kashful-Khafa, Beirut, 1351, 2, 31.
23- Ta-Ha 20:132
24- Luqman 31:17.
25- Maryam 19:55.
26- Ibnu Hajar, Shihabud-Din Abul-Fadl Ahmad al-Asqalani (d. 852), Fathul-Bari, Egypt, 1959, 2, 489-90: Zabidi, Zaynud-Din Ahmad Ibnu Ahmad (d. 893), Tajrid-Sarih, translation: Ahmed Naim, Ankara, 1972, 2, 941; Shawkani, Muhammad Ibnu Ali (1250), Naylul-Awtar, Cairo. 1971, 1,349.

(Prof. Dr. İbrahim CANAN, Çocuk Terbiyesi)

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