One of the highlights of Ramadan is the special sunnah night prayer of Taraweeh. Particularly in the middle east and the west, we all look forward to the congregational Taraweeh in the mosque, listening to the beautiful recitation of our favourite qaree. The women have been encouraged to pray in the mosque especially if they feel unmotivated at home and if they feel they can benefit from the short lectures that are often delivered during the prayer at the masjid.
The problem is when you have young children who will not pray but will accompany you to the mosque. Essentially, it should not be a problem at all. Children attended the prayer with their mothers in the mosque of Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) when he used to lead the prayer. And he (peace be upon him), the one with softest and kindest of hearts, used to shorten he prayer if he heard a child crying “lest I cause hardship to his mother” In contrast, nowadays the crying of the child is considered a hardship for everybody else and is sure to earn the poor mother death stares from everyone around.
The problem has increased ever so much these days when the beautiful grand mosques are not allowing children into their halls. At least they used to allow ladies with children into a separate area in the mosque but some have now even stopped that. And some have allocated a nondescript area of the mosque for the same purpose. I have had to pray in a small hall climbing up with the children through a huge flight of stairs or even in a part of the mosque which is partly under construction. Even then people tend to give a good piece of their mind to the mothers with the noisiest children. I have also heard of people threatening to call the police if they come with their noisy or troublesome children again!
If this is the case with you, then the best approach is to not cause any more trouble and discord among the people and pray the taraweeh at home, which in principle is better for women in the first place. The biggest problem with that is consistency and of course the matter of keeping children occupied and safe while you are at it. Here are a few practical tips I have compiled from from my own experience and from my fellow sisters who are in the same boat.
- Start right away.
Procrastination is a big problem when you are doing anything by yourself. So as soon as it’s time for Isha start right away. Prepare everything and as soon as your husband / other people in the house leave to the mosque begin your prayer then. If you wait for them to come back and hand over the kids before you begin, it gets late, you get tired and may not be able to keep consistency in the time you start everyday. You can aim to pray Isha and complete half of the taraweeh and if it gets too much handling the kids, then you can wait till help arrives.
2. Prepare the kids.
- You can expect more civil behavior and less tantrums if the children are satiated. So set your routine and aim to finish the meal time battles before so that they are well fed and full when you start.
- If your kids are slightly older and may join you for a part of the prayer. Let them make wudu and stand beside you. Also keep handy a few coloring or reading books which they can turn to once they are done with their participation in Salah which will be sooner rather than later.
- For toddlers, keep them around with their favorite toys and also include some new toys to keep their attention. The best way to do is toy rotation. Keep some specifically for taraweeh time. This age group also want the most attention from mama so even if they are busy with their toys, make sure to give them a cuddle and a quick conversation about their play in between units of prayers so this way they wont feel you have been occupied for ever.
- For infants, I find the best thing to do if they are awake is to place them on a play mat next to your prayer mat so they can see you as you pray.
3. Make it bed time.
Most likely it will be bed time for your kids when you are praying taraweeh. If its not the usual time try to tweak the routine a bit. Get them ready for bed with their usual routine and pray in their room so you can instruct them to lie down as you pray. Dimming the lights can help curtail them from running around and also for you to focus.
4. The prayer.
- Consistency and quality is better than quantity. If you expect to be disturbed and if you will be inevitably tired from taking care of the kids and all the housework, aim for less / shorter raka’at. This way you can be consistent. If you go head long into praying 20 rakaa’t with long qiyaam everyday you maybe on the fastest route to burn out and may give up all together.
- If you have not memorized a large part of the Quran, the best way is to read from the Mushaf so you can try and read one juz everyday as most people aim for and so you have a consistent schedule. Reading a page or two in every raka’a is a good idea to complete the juz. If you have some part left over, complete it during the fajr prayer. If you can afford it on some days read some extra so you dont feel burdened or pressed for time in the last ten days.
- If reading a juz from the mushaf is difficult then read from the longer surahs you have memorized or better try to memorize and read from the longer surahs so you are making an effort and not mechanically reading like you do everyday.
5. Preserve you other ibadaat.
- The taraweeh is a superrerogatory prayer but of course with a huge reward. Before anything you have to make sure that your fard prayers are spot on.
- Do not miss the rawaatib ( 12 sunnah prayers in the day ) during Ramadan. It will be a good habit to strengthen or renew during Ramadaan.
- Preserve the morning and evening azkaar. Read them immediately after Asr and Fajr so you don’t get busy and miss them. Reflect on the meanings and make sincere Dua’ for blessing in your ibadaat.
Indeed, It’s not an easy job for a mother of young children. Make lots of Dua’a and ask Allah for help. Remember that whatever you are doing for the kids is going to be rewarded and don’t beat yourself up over shortcomings because of your responsibilities. May Allah make it easy for us and accept all our worship. Ameen.
Special thanks my mother who I have seen praying taraweeh diligently at home all through my life, who took us to the mosque sparingly and also raised a haafiz who leads taraweeh. Also thanks to Umm Ibrahim, a dear friend of mine with two tiny tots who has given some of her tips and Umm Affaan, an inspiring mum of 5 who also pitched in with her tried and tested strategies.