Unruly Children in the Masjid (Rant)

I was reading online rihla’s lastest post and I started asking myself, what’s up with the children in masjid? It doesn’t matter if it’s Jumah or another masjid event; you will often see children running wild like someone gave them a 5 lb bag of sugar. They’re flipping up, jumping, ripping and running as if they’re on a playground. Better yet, what’s with their parents? Why do they sit there as if they don’t notice their children’s behavior? Why do they behave as if it’s someone else’s job to take control of the children?

Time and time again I’ve seen sisters sitting around talking, engaged in conversation with not even a care as to where their child or children are. (As rihla mentioned, sometimes the children may even wander outside). You know what I’m talking about! Even if, for some reason, you do not witness said children and their inattentive parents during Jumah, you have surely witnessed it during Taraweeh. Subhanallah! It’s like nothing I’ve seen in my life! A few examples:

-I went to the masjid to pray Mahgrib one time. (The sisters’ area is in the basement).There were only two other sisters waiting to pray- they were both teenagers. Meanwhile, three very young children ran around the musallah playing with a rubber ball. They were making so much noise that I asked them to be quiet several times. Once we started praying (and there was no one to tell them to keep it down) they became louder and louder. I could hardly hear the imam and I definitely could not concentrate during salaah. I kept thinking, why are these girls not saying anything to their brother and sisters? After the salaah finished I was getting ready to leave and I noticed the two teenage girls were also getting ready to leave. We all looked at each other in confusion. I thought the kids were with them and they thought the kids were with me. We asked the kids where their parents were and discovered that their father had sent them downstairs alone. (Some brothers behave as if there is free babysitting available in the sisters’ area!!!) I was appalled. I really wanted to be evil and just leave. If their father wasn’t concerned about them then why should I be? But alas, I waited with the teenagers until we could locate the children’s father.

-I went to a masjid barbeque in the park. A busy four-lane street ran alongside the area where we were sitting. Knowing that, a logical person would think one or both parents would be keeping an eye on their kids. WRONG. One little girl almost got hit by a car. Not long after that a car narrowly missed a little boy who darted out into traffic. Where were their parents? Engaged in conversations, enjoying food. Just like in the masjid…

-I was in jalsa, finishing up my salaah. Someone’s child actually came, stood in front of me and started making faces. When I did not laugh, smile or entertain him in any way, he hauled off and punched me! I AM NOT JOKING. He ran down the aisle laughing. He came back a second time- by then I had salaamed out- and tried to hit me again. I grabbed his little hands and said no in a firm voice. He started crying and ran to his mom who was SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO ME. She didn’t say one word to him she just looked at me with a blank stare on her face! WTH?

– An older sister was praying while sitting in a chair. She leaned her cane against the wall. Someone’s child took the cane and ran away with it. When the sister finished her salaah she needed her cane to walk. I was so overcome with anger that I chased down the child and snatched it from her. Only after her mom saw me reprimanding her child did she say something. (And I really got lucky because some parents want to argue with you for saying anything to their children).

-During Taraweeh, in one masjid, if a sister puts her purse down in front of her I’ve watched kids come along and rifle through it. They will empty the contents of your purse in front of everyone, carrying away whatever goodies you might have in it. One time, someone’s child took my bottle of water from my bag and started drinking it. When I finished praying I went to get it back from her. Instead of chastising her child, the mother asked me if her daughter could have the water! WTH?

-Speaking of water and Taraweeh, how about the kids who were playing in the toilet? They were dunking the containers we use for istinja into the toilet and pouring water onto the floor. Ewww…the crazy part is, the masjid has a room with toys and babysitters for the kids to go into during Taraweeh. However, some sisters have flat out refused to send their children into the room…

I grew up in Black Baptist and Pentecostal churches. The only way I could ever run up and down a church aisle was if I caught the Holy Ghost! Not only was there no running around or playing but we couldn’t even talk in church. (The one time I did my grandmother gave me a cold stare which was really a warning that she was not beyond taking me into the bathroom and giving me a swat or two). I learned early on that I was in “the Lord’s House” and I needed to respect it as such.

I wonder what kind of message some Muslim parents are sending their children. Are they being taught to respect the masjid? To respect salah? Or is the masjid a place to play and salaah a time to do as you please (even if it inconveniences other people?)

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20 responses to “Unruly Children in the Masjid (Rant)

  1. Ah, I have so many more stories to add. These are my two favorites:

    *The husband had just arrived in the US a few weeks earlier and we were going to celebrate our first Eid together. In Egypt, he always took off his glasses and set them up in front of where his head would be in sujood. Oh, not in america! Here, kids run wild up and down the aisles and stomp on aforementioned glasses. Since we were new to the masjid, we had no idea which kids it had been, nor who their parents were. We tried to find out, but no one would fess up. Our first Eid together was spent trying to find someplace that could replace his glasses asap.

    *At this same masjid, every iftar is an opportunity for the parents to chill and for their kids to run amok in the musulla. Heaven forbid someone would want to read Qur’an after iftar, and maybe spend some time in worship of Allah (swt). These kids would regularly fiddle with the expensive sound system, which could be heard all throughout the masjid, but no parents ever came to investigate. The worst, however, was when the kids were playing catch one day and got someone’s shirt stuck in a light fixture. It started a fire! I rushed to try to put it out, and a brother with 2 very young kids (much too young to have actually caused the fire) came to help. Any parents? Nope.

    I can totally relate to the “must behave in a house of worship.” In the Lutheran church, we went to the nursery until we were old enough to behave in church. My mom always packed some books that we could read if we got bored, but never never never would we think of speaking during a church service.

    I’ve spoken with the husband, and apparently this isn’t something he encountered in egypt either. His parents raised him the same way mine did. I wonder if it’s just something among american muslims, or if it’s something found in other countries as well?

  2. Salaams Sis:

    OMG! I can’t even respond to this.

    It’s the same everywhere!!!!!!!!!!

    Can you imagine what these kids do at home? Probably tear down the house!

  3. So funny sis! I think some brothers and sisters take the idea that our beloved Propher (salli allahi wa salaam) was tender to the children too FAR! I remember when I standing in the rank for prayer and suddenly I felt something chop my leg from behind. I mean it was straight up some Nancy Kerrigan type of stuff. I had been karate chopped by a boy too big to not know he was wrong.

    There is no excuse for stealing or hitting or being rude. That’s when you tell them firmly how they need to act and if they can’t handle that you take them out of the area until they calm down. I can understand why a two or three year old might be a little rambunctious-it is actually better to let them roam but big-grown kids? That’s too much!

  4. Yet another few reasons why I dislike (I know, I’m terrible) to go when there’s too many people. The kids running around are distracting, and the socializing sisters who talk loudly when you’re trying to concentrate aren’t any better either. The funny thing is, at home, these kids are probably scared stiff of their dads, so their moms let them run amok to be “soft” on them! LOL.

  5. Ummbadier AKA Brooke

    I’m scratching my head over all this…About the park, I will say that I hate when these functions are places like that. Having four kids to keep my eyes on next to a swiftly running stream or traffic is not a picnic. I always feel so stressed out, not fun.
    Maybe masjids in the US are more social clubs then overseas? When I lived overseas we socailized at home much more (everyday, which we don’t do here) and the masjids were JUST for praying in. Then we have all the cultural differences where we adults can barely be tolerant of each other, most wouldn’t say a word to each others kids. I think it is a combination of issues. I don’t know, but I’m going to start speaking up more, inshallah.

  6. as salaamu alaikum
    this has to be one of my least favorite aspects of going to the masjid. topped only by all of the grown and should know better women talking during the khutbah.
    i just don’t get it. it really discourages me from taking hmc because i don’t want her to pick up any bad habits.
    oh, and how about the parents that let their children EAT (crackers, no less) in the prayer area and then don’t even bother to clean up the crumbs until you do and then only in a half-hearted “my bad” type of way. this is definately not the way that i was reared to behave during any worship service.

  7. HijabiApprentice

    “When I did not laugh, smile or entertain him in any way, he hauled off and punched me!”

    See! What if he would have punched the wrong sister and she was not as gentle as your were? Then his mom would be mad! This burns me up!

    I was also raised in church (Pentacostal and Catholic) so I am not used to the loud kids and filth I see at some masajid! In my old church even if you had a crying baby your immediately left the main area to quiet your child down. This saddens me that we as Muslims do not take as much pride and care for our masajid in the way we should.

  8. HijabiApprentice

    “I felt something chop my leg from behind. I mean it was straight up some Nancy Kerrigan type of stuff. ”

    LOL! Not the Nancy Kerrigan chop! See I’m mean and I think I would have pinched the little hellian LOL!

  9. hehe..i wrote something similiar to this…it is a shame! Our children are a reflection of us,how we raise them.Nowadays,it seems like parenting is also taking on laxity(?)….but this momma dont play! Im old skool 😉

  10. This is a great blog. Gives me a good laugh before i hit the hay. I think that there is a tension regarding the real nature of the mosque in America ; is it a place of worship or a social club? I would like to go to the mosque to pray, to reflect upon the divine and to engage in conversation on how to raise children in love with the faith. Instead i get to make “dinner conversation” with people i am not totally enamored with and look after other people’s children while neglecting mine.

  11. I can’t believe this is so rampant!! I’ve only been a few times to the mosque and each time I have seen kids running around and making so much noise! There was one time we were all in sujood and this little girl comes up to a sisters face and just stares at her – nobody did anything…I mean I’m sure it was a distraction! Many of the children were running around our area (it was upstairs – the men were below but it is an open area) and afterwards my husband had commented about hearing the kids running around … so there you go everyone was disturbed by it.
    I was raised in the Catholic church and we would never imagine running up and down the aisles!! We even had a separate area that had soundproof glass where people will small children could go to, so that they would not disturb the other worshipers. I think because Islam regards children highly, that many parents are too ‘soft’ on them… but that is just not right, children need to be told when something is right or wrong!!

    Thanks for this post!!

  12. Salaam Alaikum,

    I wasn’t much of a church going kid, but when we did go I can remember having to “Sit still!” on the hard wooden pews for hours. You did not misbehave in church… or anywhere in public for that matter.

  13. OMG, the first time I ever went to a masjid, the kids running around blew my mind. I just wanted the snatch these kids and sit them down.

    They were running up and down the stairs. In the sisters’ room and hallways. I just don’t get it. I had never seen anything like it. Total turn off.

  14. Salaam,

    On the one hand, I like the fact that there are a lot of kids and that they feel comfortable in the masjid. The masjid I went to as a kid, it was very, very small and there were no other kids around. I had to behave in much the same way as some of the commentators had to behave at church: sit still and be quiet. But for me, the result was that I associated masjid with boooorrrrrrinng and the place where I couldn’t do anything fun. I hated to go.

    On the other hand, I absolutely agree that there has to be a line drawn somewhere. I think the mosque experience can be nice for a kid without having to turn into an absolute zoo. Prayer area absolutely does not equal play room.

    I don’t have children myself, but I think the rules have to work in kind of the same way it works with parents who take their kids to restaurants. Working with that analogy, if they can’t behave for the amount of time it takes to eat a meal (time it takes to pray), then maybe they aren’t prepared to go to a restaurant yet (or not prepared to go to the masjid); if the kids start to misbehave/disturb other people, take them out immediately like most parents do when kids misbehave in a restaurant (take them out of the prayer area).

    But of course you need parents who actually care about the misbehavior. I feel like if I had a child and he was crawling over someone who was trying to pray, I would feel mortified. But for a lot of these parents, it’s like no big deal. Wha???

  15. Depending on who the pastor/bishop/reverend is,
    during some sermons they have indirectly spoke about the disgust for it. While they didn’t mention names of th parties, there have been parents feeling guilty because they knew that the pastor was referring to them.

  16. convert sis in michigan

    Wow, you’ve had some terrible experiences. Mine haven’t been so bad although I definitely know exactly what you’re talking about. I do get annoyed with the distraction it is when we’re in the middle of prayer and there is a chorus of screaming, crying children in the back. But I don’t blame the mothers for wanting to get out of the house. They probably don’t get out often and what better place to go –for both mother and child– than the mosque? Of course, you’re talking about discipline issues, and that’s a different story. I agree with you 100%. Some churches are like this, too, though. It’s not just a masjid thang.

    One time in the mosque, I was in the bathroom washing my hands, and some boys ran into the women’s bathroom. They had been very aggressively and loudly playing in the hall, and in the middle of a chase, a few decided that running into the women’s bathroom was a good idea. And they were definitely old enough to know better. The look on their faces when they saw me (and they stopped dead like a DVD movie being paused) was hilarious, although I kept my amusement to myself.

  17. convert sis in michigan

    Also the question of whether or not this is an American thing was raised–I meant to address it. I suppose Canada isn’t entirely different from the US (both being a part of North America, after all), but one of the loudest and chaotic women and children’s area I’ve been in was in Canada.

  18. Assalamu alaikum, the “children stuff” is one reason why I don’t go to the masjid that much! I don’t think it’s as bad here (smaller community), but one time I had an experience that has made me extremely uncomfortable about going back. My husband and I had walked over to the masjid from our house, I’d thrown on an abaya and scarf over my nightgown (didn’t think anyone would notice anyway and I was just going to pray and come back home). So I just didn’t see a need to get completely dressed.

    Anyway, I was stadning in the line with a couple of the sisters, a couple children were playing behind me, one boy and one girl. To my embarrassment and extreme discomfort, the little boy lifted up the bottom of my abaya, commented on how “she has a pink dress under there” lifted that up, and put his head between my feet! I really wanted to turn around and pop him in the head and tell him what I thought, however that would have probably ruined the prayer for everyone, and by the time the prayer was over, I was so upset that I just wanted to cry.

    This boy was soemthing like 5 or 6, old enough to know better, imho. And after this, the two sisters started asking me about kids, did I want to have any, did I want to have a baby, when did I want to have one, etc., and I wanted to say, “none of your business, and btw, one of your little boys just looked up my dress why don’t you deal with that”? But these women don’t speak that much English, well, not where I felt comfortable discussing this with them. And oh yeah, every time I go, I’m continually made to recite whatever verses of the Qur’an I know, describe the steps of wudu and prayer and ghusl. As in “do you know how to pray”? “recite the parts of the Qur’an that you know”? “how did you become a Muslim”? And even if I’ve told them this 5 times, it’s like I’ve just walked into the masjid for the first time.

    And the kids running around, having no respect for the fact that this is a masjid and no one seemingly taking any control, another time a little girl was running in and out of the prayer lines and when I went to make sajda I accidentally knocked her over (didn’t realize she was so close to me), and she just started crying, I felt really bad. But she shouldn’t have been there, imho.

    Going to the masjid for me lately has just become too stressful, I like to go when there are tiher only a few, or no, sisters there, and it’s just me in the women’s area, and the men of course, they act so much better than the sisters do sometimes, and that’s really sorry to say.

    *sigh*, I just feel like I get much more spiritual benefit praying at home.

  19. Nowadays, it is unfortunate that in many masjids both brothers and sisters are annoyed at the presence of children. A cry from a baby or a roaming toddler can sometimes illicit a rude comment. As always, our best example is the prophet (saws). These hadith illustrate the prophet (saws) attitude at the presence of children in the masjid.
    The Messenger of Allah SAWS came out to us for one of the two later prayers (dhuhr or asr), carrying Hasan or Hussein. The Prophet then came to the front and put him down (next to his right foot) said takbir for the prayer and commenced praying. During the prayer, he performed a very long prostration, so I raised my head and there was the child, on the back of the Messenger of Allah , who was in prostration. I then returned to my prostration. When the Messenger of Allah had offered the prayer, the people said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! in the middle of your prayer, you performed prostration and lengthened it so much that we thought either something had happened or that you were receiving revelation!’ He said: ‘Neither was the case. Actually, my son made me his mount, and I did not want to hurry him until he had satisfied his wish.'” (Reported by Nasaa’i, Ibn Asaakir, and Haakim)
    “He (the Prophet ) was praying. When he performed sajdah, Hasan and Hussein jumped onto his back. When the people tried to stop them, he gestured them to leave the two alone. After offering his prayer, he placed them in his lap and said, ‘Whoever loves me should love these two.'” (Reported by Ibn Khuzaimah and Baihaqi)
    “The Messenger of Allah SAWS was praying and he was carrying Umama the daughter of Zainab, the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, and she was the daughter of ‘As ibn Rabi’a ibn Abdu-Shams. When he prostrated, he put her down, and when he stood, he carried her (on his neck).” (Reported by Bukhari and Muslim)
    “The Prophet said: ‘When I stand for prayer, I intend to prolong it, but on hearing the cries of a child, I cut it short, as I dislike to trouble the child’s mother.'” (Reported by Bukhari)

  20. Mahdi,

    I think you missed the point of entire post…

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