Give Me Back My Shoe

I am not a fuzzy-wuzzy mother.  Ask either of my daughters – I’m loving but downright tough most times.  I don’t put up with nonsense from my own girls, so far be it from me to tolerate ill-mannered children that don’t belong to me, in private or public places.

Having said that, I am of late rather bothered by numerous complaints from others, actually just other women, about being bothered by children in the masjid.  I have heard complaints about the disruption of khushu’ from children bouncing around, comparisons to the impeccable manners of church-going kids, irritation at mothers who keep insisting on coming for prayers when they can’t keep their little ones quiet, and wonderment at why Muslims alone seem to be incapable of getting toddlers to follow directions and keep their mouths shut.

All of this only reminds me repeatedly of the ahadith I’ve heard regarding our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) behavior around children.  Who hasn’t heard the story of how the Prophet (s.a.w.) delayed his sujood because his two grandsons were playing on his back as he prayed?  Or how, upon hearing the cries of an infant in the congregation, he was apt to shorten the prayers.  So we have examples of him modifying his personal prayer as well as modifying congregational prayers to respond to the needs of children.  Was there anything more dear to the Prophet (s.a.w.) than the worship of his Creator?  No.  There is no dispute about this.  But the mercy and compassion of the Prophet (s.a.w.) towards children was so great that he made concessions in his personal ‘ibaadah and the ‘ibaadah of the entire community for the ease of children.

I know it is sometimes difficult to tolerate disruptions in anything, whether prayer or a lecture, by children (mostly when they belong to other people) – I’ve been there many times. But as a mother who often struggles to stay connected to community and spirituality, and who is raising the next generation of Muslims, my heart has become softened towards mothers who don’t seem to notice their children may be disruptive to others.  Sometimes it’s because we tend to tune out sounds we are used to, but mostly because parental tolerance is higher towards children than from those who don’t have children.  What is disruptive to someone with no kids may hardly be blink-worthy to a mother.

The worst thing we can expect is for mothers and children to stay out of our masaajid and away from our events. As it is, women have little voice, presence, resources, and influence in our places of worship.  Our access to scholars is likewise limited, both because there is a dearth of female Islamic scholars and because we cannot spend time in intimate gatherings with male scholars.   To top this off, if we ask that mothers simply stay away from congregational prayers, we are shutting the final door in the face of women.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) knew this.  He did not stop women from joining prayers because they had children, sometimes who were clearly disruptive.  And it was only from his great mercy that he assured women that they would still get great rewards in their ‘ibaadah at home — not because he was discouraging them from attending the masjid, but he knew it was sometimes hard for women to do so.

And really, to be honest, I’ve never witnessed any behavior so bad that I felt like kicking a mother and child out of the masjid.  Yes, kids will run around, the babies will crawl all over, sometimes they’ll cry, they’ll play with other kids, but that’s about it.  I have yet to see any child vandalize property, fight with other children, hurt others or themselves, or take off with someone’s shoe.  Our children have a right to be in the musallah.  We shouldn’t deprive them of this right simply because they are acting upon their fitrah.

In this month of incredible mercy, even if you feel irritated because a random infant is going through your purse while you struggle to stay focused on your salaah, try a little tenderness.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said “whoever is not merciful will not be treated mercifully.” [Al-Bukhaari] and in the Quran, Allah (s.w.t.) says “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter,”  (3:159).   Imagine the reward you will gain, inshaAllah, from forgiving the little brat and his exhausted mother. Yes, the kiddie may have destroyed your khushu’, but at least he softened your heart.

Rabia Chaudry

Rabia Chaudry is the imperfect mother of two perfect girls, married to an IT wizard, is an occasional writer and pontificator, and a not-too-shabby immigration lawyer.  She recently  moved from Connecticut, where she left behind awesome friends and community, to Maryland, where she is seeking awesome friends and community.  If you want to be her awesome friend, or want to tell her what you really think of  her writing, feel free to drop a line to

  • Umma

    Wonderful essay, MashaaAllah wonderful!!! And it’s not just other mothers, but the MEN who fail to understand this as well. I intend to share this with my friends and husband. May Allah (swt) reward you sister!

  • Marwa

    Thank-you Rabia for allowing this discussion to take place. When I was single, I got really annoyed at the kiddos everywhere but always thought it would be so rude to even mention it to the parents. After I had Sumaya, I felt that I wouldn’t even enjoy going to the masjid because the single women would be annoyed, Sumaya would be annoyed, and I would be annoyed at everyone that’s annoyed. So I didn’t go. But now, my mentality has shifted- Islam is a communal religion and within community, there will be things that undoubtedly annoy us. As Haroon Moghul mentioned in a post about Ramadan, it’s easy to be a good Muslim when you are alone, but when you’re within community, it’s a whole other struggle. This reminds me of the beautiful hadith, “Do not prohibit the female slaves of Allah from masaajid Allah.” Until we get the recreation center and paid babysitting in place in every masjid, may Allah reward all the women for their tolerance- and reward the men who decide to take care of the little ones while we pray!

  • Noora

    Mash’Allah, well written article that expresses the crux of the issue. We should all have a little more mercy towards each other. May Allah (swt) put love and mercy between our hearts for one another. Ameen.

  • Masyithah

    This is a great piece, Rabia. Hope all goes well for you and family in settling down. May you gain more awesome friends in the new place.

  • UmmNRZ

    MashaAllah very well written. This is an issue that is close to my heart as I have experienced things that have put me off taking my kids to the masjid :( and I feel so guilty for depriving them. Sometimes when the community around you doesn’t show kindness and mercy towards your children, it is better to refrain until they are older than take them and create bad memories of the mosque that will put them off going their forever. May Allah make it easy for all mums, Ameen.

  • Dalal

    Rabia, thank you for such an articulate and refreshing perspective. May Allah protect us from having hard hearts and may He create mercy and harmony between us.

    On the flip-side however, I am going to echo what others commented on the FB page…there is a difference between young ones and the older kids who should know better. Also, I think parents could/should reinforce the etiquette of visiting the masjid with their children, and inshAllah with time they will practice them.

    Lastly, I think that we could use more like-minded moms who see the true value of taking children to congregational prayers to observe/learn/participate, rather than make it a social/entertaining gathering. May rabna purify our intentions and improve our condition.

    I hope to read more of your contributions to growmama!

  • UmmAdam

    Sorry, but I know plenty of women with children who are also annoyed, it is not only uncaring single women who complain. Also, quoting these ahadith is no substitute for teaching children manners. Repeatedly passing in front of someone in prayer is very disturbing and it’s not necessary.

  • Jennifer

    SubhanAllah, I just experienced this at the masjid for jumu’ah today. A little girl was being quite disruptive while I was trying to pray and I got upset. Then I remembered it is better to be gentle when correcting others. But when my daughter who just turned two is doing her best to pray along with everyone else, and there are girls twice her age playing and talking it upsets me. We should be teaching our children adab of the masjid and that jumu’ah is not the time to play. May Allah have mercy on all of us, forgive our sins and grant us tawfiq. Ameen.

  • Marwa

    Salaam, great discussion and I definitely see both sides of the coin. What I have a problem with though is not giving a mother a chance to ever attend the masjid. I think this is unfair especially given the fact that motherhood is lonely. You spend your days feeding, wiping, cleaning, tending, that sometimes the only time a mother feels part of a community is when she is at Jumua services or attending taraweeh prayers. Does that preclude mothers from the responsibility of teaching their kids proper masjid etiquette? Definitely not….but it does go a long way if she feels like she has a support system and is not in it alone. Some kids are just firecrackers and won’t be able to stand in prayer with the adults (I really respect those who do)…so where do we go from here? Is it a logistical space issue or are we just not tough enough with our children?

  • mountaineer mama

    JAK Rabia for your thoughts.

    I used to share your perspective but now I strongly disagree.

    I am a mother of young children and I understand the feelings of isolation from community, congregational salah etc. But I also understand that salah is a FARD requirement on a muslim. Bringing a disturbing child to congregational salah disrupts many individuals fard worship.Especially during Jumma when many men take off work and rush to come to jumma to CONCENTRATE, to hear some valid words of wisdom for the week, words that would benefit themselves and their families.

    Not all individuals can block out young children noises like mothers do. Who knows, that child may also be disrupting the Khateeb from delivering a very important message. Mom’s we may want a lot of good things for our children but we need to weigh the priorities and cannot be selfish in satisfying our own needs.

    If a mother is missing community than she can take her child to community lectures, dinners, sisters tea party/ masjid halaqa but NOT a fard salah. If parents want to expose young children to congregational salah at a young age then that can be accomplished at home or in the masjid for zhur/asr when the least amount of people are at risk of being disturbed.

    You mentioned a child’s fitra is to run and move a bout in a large space. I agree. So then a mother/father should take that child to the appropriate spaces to run and play. If a mother really feels the need to attend a salah in the masjid and has a child that disturbs then at least maybe she should consider watching her child during the fard salah and pray by herself when everyone is finished.

    Again JAK Rabia for initiating this thought provoking issue.

    Please forgive me, if i have offended anyone.

    Wa Allahu Alam.

  • ummossama

    AA Rabia,

    iA I hope that every masjid will soon have children’s programs, babysitting, mommy praying areas etc so everyone will have their needs met throughout the year.

    Having said that I want to say JAK for the passionate, well thought out article. I love passion and I really do understand where you are coming from and I agree with you wholeheartedly that we should all soften our hearts toward the natural fitra of children attending the masjid….but only for 11 months of the year:)………… during the month of Ramadan I feel that is the month when moms with children (of any age) need to soften their hearts…..soften their hearts toward those who wish to pray in relative peace and quiet and leave the prayer area when their children are disruptive to others.

    Another comment:

    Request for another post,please.:)

    You wrote “women have little voice, presence, resources, and influence in our places of worship” I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic as I don’t find it to be the case at all in the masjids where I live.

  • Rabia

    Salaams my sisters,

    Well wow, who knew this would be so controversial! Alhamdulillah differences of opinion are always a good thing, challenges you and makes you think outside of your own little box.

    I hope I did not make it seem, from this piece, that I am condoning six year olds holding WWF matches or children doing interpretive dance in the mussallah. I’m referring specifically to that age of children who are usually found toddling around: toddlers and infants. I am in deep awe and admiration of any two year old who will hold still for salah but I think its fair to say that is an exception and not a rule. Personal disclosure here: my older daughter, who is now 14 (yes, I am ancient, or at least feel that way), was always bambi in baby form. I could have put that child in a corner at 11 months of age, walked away, come back three hours later after a massage and mani/pedi, and found her still there contemplating her toes with her big bambi eyes. Now my second girl, who is two going on twenty-two, is either secretly administering shots of adrenaline to herself when I’m not looking, or was just born reaaaaalllly active. She simple cannot sit in one place. She doesn’t scream, fight, or otherwise act nuts, she just needs to move around and make sure she’s on top of all the action. I recognize its her fitrah and I’ll just have to work with it. As long as she’s not destructive, I have to let her bounce around.

    Aaahh, I hear it now, the folks saying “well let her bounce at home and not directly in the line of my sujood” — my answer to that is this. We can set arbitrary rules depending on our personal levels of tolerance, or we can follow the sunnah of our beloved Prophet (saw). The ahadith I related simply don’t gel with the opinion that if we can’t keep kids sitting quietly, out from the masjid they should go. If anyone can find a way to reconcile what seems to be a higher level of tolerance from the Prophet of Allah than our own community, bring it, I’m game to listen and consider.

    Now, of course there is a point in time that kids need to learn some rules and manners. My observations in the masjid are that this naturally occurs. Around 4 years and up, the boys tend to tag along with their daddies and pray with the men, while girls seem more interested in also being more grown up so they put on a pretty scarf and try to follow along in salaah. I honestly and truly have not seen children above the age of 4 or 5 wreak havoc in the masjid. If its happening in your masjid, something is awry.

    Finally, as to the reflection that women have little voice and influence in the masjid, the fact that are engaging in this conversation is evidence enough. If women were fairly represented on boards and helping to make decisions about the design and facilities of a masjid, we wouldn’t be scrunched into the fraction of space reserved for men along with our broods. It speaks volumes that women have to make the choice to stay home with kids rather than have a sufficient place for children to be watched or have space to play during salah. Imagine a masjid designed by women…yeah it would be different.

    Thanks for the feedback everyone, appreciate the comments, and duas for all of us to develop enough focus in our salah that nothing short of barnum and bailey trapeze artists distract us. Much love,


  • Tayyaba Syed

    Salaam. Great post. I have written something similar a while back. Take a look if you’d like: Child’s Play?

  • Sana K

    Assalaamu Alaykum Rabia and the super mommas here!

    JazakiAllahu khayran, this article came to me as a surprise since I was expecting it to be another one of those pieces that talked about children wreaking havoc in the masjid and how they should be banned from coming ;)

    All joking aside as new mother of two I find it very disheartening to be home during this blessed month while ustreaming Taraweeh from the local masjid (which I was very active in) and reminding my husband how jealous I am of him being able to so easily go. But at the same time I’m thankful for being home with my kids and not being thrown into 2nd floor “mother’s section” where it’s all out war between the children, you can’t hear the Imam leading Salah, and most of the sisters are socializing.

    I have learned to find peace with sitting with my toddler as we watch salah live from the masjid, trying to find Baba in the crowd, and listening to the Quran while engaging in make believe games. I wanted to thank you for showing us mothers and sisters a different perspective and reminding us of the gentleness/perfection of the Prophet (SAWS) character MashaAllah.

    Wasalaam Walaykum,

    Sana K

  • Maha

    Beautiful writing, great commentary! I can see both sides of the dilemma. I wonder once I have braved the years of raising young kids, if I won’t wish for my peace and quiet in the house of Allah. But I hope I will also remember what it was like, and have enough patience to tolerate the youngest of Allah’s servants.

    Recently we were at an event in a masjid and my two-year-old and her sisters were a little more wild than usual, but nothing terribly disruptive. A brother stood up after salah and asked that we teach our children to behave in the masjid as we would like them to behave in their own home. I wanted to walk up to him and ask, “Bro, have you ever BEEN to my house?”

  • inna

    Sa. i’m strongly agree that its important for kids to attend masjid and i support kids programm in masjid. however i got little bit dissapointed that some woman just come take a quran and read while they completly ignore their own kids and send them to stay with anybody else or just leave them in hallway.we had several cases when kids run out to street that is very close to the masjid. Its hard to be a mother and all of us need a rest sometimes, but its also our responsobility to take care after our kids even in masjid and remember that its not a playground and other sisters doesnt have to stop their prayers to help or attend somebody crying child.We have to incorage masjid to rganize more programm for kids especially in non muslim countries as its sometime only place where they get expossed to Islam .