Taraweeh: Child’s Play?

Tayyaba Syed

The second rakah of taraweeh prayer was almost over. This was the longest two rakah I had ever prayed. It was not because the Imam was reciting extra long verses of the Quran. I could barely concentrate. No one could actually. There was a loud, piercing, heart-wrenching cry that echoed through the prayer hall and overtook the voice of the imam, who happened to also be losing focus. (You could tell from him having to repeat himself and recite louder and louder). Everyone in that congregation must have been thinking the same thing at that point: somebody please make that baby stop crying!

When we ended the prayer, I was sweating profusely because all eyes were on me. It happened to be my little baby crying at the top of her lungs and disturbed everyone’s prayers. I wanted to crawl under a rock but did not have time to do that. Instead I nestled my daughter in my arms and quickly gathered my belongings to escape from the nearest exit before anyone could say anything. Just then, I heard an announcement that no children were allowed in the prayer hall during taraweeh. He also explained that is the child’s right to be picked up immediately by the parent. An aunty told me curtly to go down to the basement where baby-sitting (more like an untamed zoo) was offered.

I carried my now happy-go-lucky giggly baby out of the women’s prayer area without making eye contact with anyone. Nevertheless, I could still feel everyone’s stares piercing me like darts. I felt horrible and humiliated. I also made dua that Allah forgives me and still accepts the congregation’s prayers.

That was five years ago and not much has changed since then. Now with two kids, I am even more apprehensive of bringing them to taraweeh. Forget the late hours on school nights or the long duration of the prayers. My kids and I could handle that. It is the issue of feeling unwelcome by the community members in the masjid that is the hard part.

I do not blame people for feeling this way. Little ones are highly likely to disturb people’s prayers as can be seen from my personal example. So when is the right time to introduce children to the masjid?

As a mother, I know I must teach my children proper etiquette and respect for being in the masjid. I also want them to develop immense love and attachment to the masjid which needs to be introduced at a young age. Waiting until children are older and maybe more sensible might be too late. I do not want to have to drag my kids to the masjid later.

Taraweeh is one of the greatest aspects of Ramadan. It brings the masses together to listen to the beautiful words of the Holy Quran. Growing up, I did not know what taraweeh prayer was until my junior year of high school. I will never forget the first time I went and the impact that it had on my heart. It was love at first rakah. I want to expose my kids to the beauty of taraweeh and the masjid at a much younger age.

Masajid need to have better accommodations for mothers and children. Offering space for kids to run around and scream and call it “baby-sitting” is not the way. Having proper arrangements and supervised activities for the kids, so moms can pray in peace is a good start. Masjid-goers also have to be more accepting and tolerant. No mother should feel ashamed to bring her child to the masjid like I did.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used to pray in the masjid with his grandchildren playing on his back. He even allowed cats in the masjid and left space for them to crawl under his arms while he prostrated. The Beloved of Allah was patient and accepting of everyone in the masjid, and we need to follow his example instead of shunning the mothers and children out of the masjid. In this way we can make the transition from the mother’s lap as the first musallah to the masjid much smoother for our children- insha Allah.

Surviving Taraweeh with Kids 101

By Tayyaba Syed

1. Bring snacks and quiet activities such as coloring, books, and puzzles to keep the kids busy
2. Bring help with you like a family member or friend who can watch your kids while you pray
3. Make sure kids are fed and rested to avoid hyper-activity or crankiness
4. Frequent visits to the masjid outside of prayer times will help teach kids proper masjid manners.
5. Do not expect kids to be able to go everyday for taraweeh or stay for all 20 rakah. They can become overwhelmed easily.
6. Pick an area to pray that is open and breathable for the kids. Crowds may cause them to act up.
7. Encourage your kids to join you in prayer or follow the Imam along with a Quran.
8. Organize halal entertainment for the kids in a nearby room such as a story-teller, fun science experiments, and easy take-home crafts.
9. Reward good behavior. Positive reinforcement is a great way to make the kids want to keep coming back to the masjid happily.