R'11 Day Eleven: Taraweeh Troubles and Masjid Tag

(Note: for those who reading who aren't sure what 'taraweeh' means, it's an extended prayer completed after the final obligatory prayer of the day, and is done during Ramadan. Taraweeh prayers are not obligatory but they are recommended to be completed for 'bonus points' so to speak!)

There's a growing phenomenon creeping up at most masjids and musallahs across the city, and that is unclaimed children (AKA lost ones) running amuck while men and women are trying to pray. These  kids seem to come in with parents right behind them, but then lose ownership as soon as they step into the musallah. During the course of taraweeh prayers, these lost ones are basically given free reign to do whatever their heart desires, including screaming, chasing one another down the walkway into the bathroom, running between rows of women praying and bumping into them, playing tag, and according to a couple of my homies, drinking from other people's water-bottles and stamping women's butts with a dry-board eraser they so happened to find. Each night at taraweeh has led to more fiasco on BOTH the women's and men's sides actually, to a point where the announcements asking parents to KEEP THEIR KIDS BESIDE THEM are becoming more desperate in nature. Yet as evidenced by the heightened screams and games of tag, these announcements are not making a difference.

So the point of this entry is to downright REFUTE any hypothesis that would basically support children running wild during taraweeh prayers. Here goes nothing:

Argument #1: They're just children, what do you expect?

I agree, they're just children...THAT'S WHY THEY NEED PARENTS TO TEACH THEM HOW TO BEHAVE IN VARIOUS SITUATIONS!!! I really don't think this point can be made any clearer. Children do not learn by osmosis or telepathy how to conduct themselves in various situations. They need modelling, instructions, dry-runs, positive reinforcement, etc. Yet when some mothers enter the mosque, they seem to forget that they actually gave birth to these children (awesome line Zenab, thank you!). You can't even determine who these children belong to, their mothers are actually able to zone out and NOT feel embarrassed that their kids are TERRORS. My mom had it one night recently, and stared down a little boy until he actually stopped what he was doing and walked quietly away. And that's all it took. So parents...it's your responsibility to actually parent your children until they learn how to behave.

Argument #2: Children need to learn how to pray and behave in a mosque.

I agree...BUT not when they lack basic self-regulation skills overall. And I'm willing to bet (metaphorically speaking, gambling in Islam is forbidden!) that these kids act the same way at home, and in the supermarket, and in the mall, etc etc. It's not solely a mosque problem, it's an "outta control everywhere" problem. So, you do not bring your kids to the mosque when you know they can't even sit still to listen. Learning mosque etiquette and behaviour starts at home. If a child cannot stand beside you or sit quietly and control themselves while you pray for 5 to 10 minutes, what on earth makes parents think that they can handle 45 minutes of taraweeh prayers?! And after 11pm at night nonetheless, when kids are beyond being tired and are just wired out of control, it's just NOT FAIR to them. So back to my point...teach them at home and then practice in the mosque for shorter duration during a reasonable time of the day. And really, if parents really wanted to teach their kids how to behave in a mosque, they'd actually be WATCHING over them and how they're doing rather than leaving them to their own devices.

Argument #3: If you can't focus during prayers, change which mosque you go to.

REALLY?! Does this solve the problem? And why should I have to cut my Iftar dinner shorter in order to drive five times the distance to another mosque? No no no, this argument has no basis and is basically the 'cop out' approach to parents teaching their children how to behave.

Argument #4: Both my husband and I MUST pray taraweeh at the mosque every night.

Umm, I suggest you go back and read up on exactly how obligatory taraweeh prayers at the mosque are.  There are many women, with and without children, who pray taraweeh at home. OR, parents alternate who goes to taraweeh every night while the other stays at home with the child or children. Use the opportunity to pray taraweeh at home to teach your children how to conduct themselves during prayer. Create a role playing scenario and pretend your room is a mosque and use that as a learning opportunity. Provide positive reinforcements, such as a high 5 or hug when they're done. NOTE: PLEASE don't resort to providing candy as reinforcement for standing beside you during prayer, what the heck are you equating prayer with, junk food?!

Argument #5: It's part of the struggle we're supposed to face, part of Allah's test!

This is a total cop out excuse for justifying poorly behaved children and blaming worshippers for not stepping up. Please don't quote verses from the Quran telling me that Allah tests who he loves while you allow your child to play masjid tag. ARGGGGGG!!!! We all have legitimate tests to deal with...staying focused during prayer, not falling asleep, understanding what the Imam is reciting, etc. I am fine with Allah giving me more, I just don't need parents justifying their misbehaved misbehaved children using the Quran!!

Ok, so I think I've made my point, now what do we do about this situation? We are only at Day 11 of Ramadan, and have quite a few more to go. Here are a few thoughts that have been proposed:

1. Set-up babysitting AWAY from the main prayer area so children can still play while supervised and not disturb the congregation.

2. Parents can alternate going for taraweeh, so one stays at home to pray with kids and the other goes to the mosque.

Overall, parents need to step up and take responsibility of their children both at home and in the mosque. Do you really think that churches during Sunday service have children running between pews and wreaking havoc? You've got to be kidding me. So then why are we putting up with it in our mosques?

Lastly, to further support my arguments, it's not only in mosques that kids can't control themselves. It's also in classrooms, and I see it ALL THE TIME. The larger problem remains that children these days are not being raised with the basic self-control and self-regulation skills they need to function at an optimal level. There are kids entering Kindergarten who are unable to sit still for even two minutes, and when they are directed towards doing something specific, it's like they never heard anything. Some answer back while some blatantly ignore and go A-Wall and run away. But that's a whole other blog entry!

Back to the point at hand...I really hope the community steps up and does something about this concern. It seems to be getting worse each year and so far, nothing really has been done about it. And I don't know about y'all, but I'm SO going to pull out my stern matronly look at kids tonight, and maybe even approach parents. Maybe if someone actually had the guts to stand up to parents and tell them how misbehaved their kids were, they'd feel some level of embarrassment and think long and hard about the situation at hand.

But I doubt that will happen. And in that case, I'm going to Plan B. Operation Masjid Child Round-Up! :P


  1. Well said Samera! If I have the patience to go tonight, I will for sure approach parents this time. We should wear a shash that says 'Noise Patrol' or something!

  2. I love that idea, Noise Patrol indeed!!! :) Definitely I will approach parents too, they need to be given feedback!! Inshallah will see you tonight!


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