[Just noticed this post from a year ago languishing in my "drafts" folder. Better late than never.]
For me as a Muslim parent living far from a sizable Muslim community, it's so nice to bring a small child to a decent-sized Muslim gathering, plop her down in the middle of a big room and have her surrounded by a bobbing forest of people doing namaaz. Such exposure to communal religious life is so important for children, and so easily neglected when you spend much of your time racing rats.
And zikr circles have an interesting practical benefit that I never thought of before becoming a parent: They're like huge force fields keeping the little tyke in safe territory, far from plates, utensils, vases and the like even if you're totally distracted. It's brilliant. If only all communal activities were done in circles. Raihana (who's nearly two now) [Update: She's now 3.] really gets down during zikrs. We've got a little whirling dervish on our hands.
Some of my fondest early memories are of groups of Muslim family friends praying
in homes and yards in Boston during the 1970s and 1980s. (One of my earliest religious memories involves the sight of a stooped, elderly gentleman during Eid celebrations one year in the late 1970s all but doing an Olympic-quality back flip to escape a jet of mysterious brown liquid that was suddenly squirted out of a recently slaughtered sheep's intestines as they fell to the ground during his processing of the carcass.)
Maybe this is just
a selective memory, but a strangely high percentage of these
recollections involve me leaving prayers prematurely, red faced, due to a…err…technical difficulty. Each time, the same thing would happen: I'd turn to head to the wash room and an adult would seize my shoulder with a grip of steel, barring my path until I whispered 3 magic words. "I broke
wind!" Instantly, I'd be free as a bird, if an embarrassed one. And I hated having to re-do the wudu and namaaz in those situations. As if the embarrassment wasn't enough.
Thankfully, that phase passed long ago. (No pun intended.) For a while, though, it seemed like I couldn't keep my wudu for more than 5 minutes.
Anyone else have this problem as a kid?