Performing prayers in childhood: ‘Dad’s beating teaches me discipline’

Dear Editor,

THIS is refering to an article titled “Parents obliged to hit children who refuse to pray, says lecturer” published in The Brunei Times on January 9, 2014.

Dr. Abdul Munir Ismail

Dr. Abdul Munir Ismail

I agree a hundred per cent with of Dr Abdul Munir Ismail, senior lecturer at the Malaysia’s Universiti Pendidikan Islam Sultan Idris (UPSI) who said that Muslim parents should hit their children if they refuse to perform prayers after they reached the age of 10. Speaking at the 3rd Usuluddin Education Seminar at the Seri Begawan Religious Teachers University College (KUPU SB), the speaker said: “We are allowed to hit our children if they still refuse to pray given that they had reached the age of 10.”

child father-and-sonUnfortunately, The Brunei Times did not quote the hadith which is the basis of ‘the corporal punishment’ for the ‘lazy children’ to pray at the age of 10. Understandable, it maybe due to the lack of space.

The hadith was narrated by Imam Abu Dawud and Imam Ahmad from ‘Amr ibn Shu’ayb, from his father from his grandfather, he said,

“The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, ‘Command your children to perform Solat (prayer) when they are seven years old, and beat them (for not offering it) when they are ten.’”

child fatherMeanwhile, Muslim scholar Ibn Qudamah said in his book Al-Mughni (1/357): “Order and this teaching applies to children in order that they used to perform prayer, and not leave it as they have reached puberty period.”

However, Dr Ismail warned parents that they should give “initial warnings” beforehand and only do ‘the corporal punishment’ as the last resort. “Parents should not do it in a harsh manner or forcefully; they should also hold their children’s hand as a sign of affection, because we hit to teach not to hurt,” he said.

His statement “we hit to teach not to hurt” reminds me of children doing exercises of Kung Fu martials arts in Shaolin Temples as shown in Hong Kong films in early 1970s (One of my favourites was The Prodigal Boxer starred by young actor Meng Fei, 1972).

Meng Fei in 'The Prodigal Boxer'.

Meng Fei

The children in the temples also received ‘corporal punishment’ if they make mistakes. So, did the guru/trainer do these ‘corporal punishments’ as a form of hatred against the children or as a form of education to teach them discipline?

Frankly speaking, during my childhood, I also got such a ‘corporal punishment’ from my father when I was lazy or hesitate to pray. He did not only ‘hit’ me (with any hard objects) but also put me in the bathtub when he found it hard to wake me up for Subuh prayer.

To be honest, I felt the benefit of his ‘hard lesson’ when I became an adult and away from home. Thank God it is the ‘punishment’ that has made me to have a higher sense of discipline, especially about Solat, until today.

For me, the lesson from my father’s ‘corporal punishment’ was aimed at teaching discipline to his children, not only about doing prayers but also in wider aspects of life, including the discipline in our daily life and in working. I thanked him for having educated me with ‘hard lesson’ during my childhood.

But, when I became a father I did not do as my father did. The harshest action I ever took on my children was just banging on their bedrooms to wake them up for Subuh prayer.

The childhood period is the right time to instil religious and moral values in children. It’s the proper time to start teaching them about right and wrong, good and bad, safety and danger, etc.

As the Malay proverb says Melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya it is easier to guide or mould a child in his/her early years’. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said: “Each baby was born on his/her pure character. It is his/her parent who mould him into a Jew, Christian, or Majusi.” (Sahih Muslim)

So, before the ‘difficult time’ comes for parents to teach or guide their children, it’s better to teach them discipline in performing prayers in their early childhood.

Arek Gadong

The Brunei Times
Saturday, February 22, 2014

child prayer.transformed

children accompany their father to attend a mass prayer session Tarawih which marks the beginning of the holy fasting


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