Q:) Some of the people who pray with us in the Masjid bring their children with them, children who are (too young and) unable to distinguish (between right and wrong). They are unable to pray correctly and they line up in our (front) rows, and some of them are fidgeting and playing around and therefore disturbing those around them…so what is the ruling on all that?
And what is your advice to those who are the Guardians of these youngsters?
A:) My opinion concerning these young children who come to the mosque and disturb those who are praying, is that it is not permissible, because of the annoyance it causes to the Muslims who are trying to fulfil their obligation (of salah) from the obligations of Allah, and the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) once heard some of the companions praying and reciting loudly, so he (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do not raise your voices over one another in the recitation.”
And in another hadeeth, “Do not annoy one another”, and so therefore everything that causes some harm or grievance to those who are praying, then it is not permissible for those responsible to do that.
So my advice to these Guardians is to not bring them (children) to the Masjid and that they should seek guidance by what the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) has guided us to, when he said, “Instruct your children to pray when they are seven, and smack them (if they don’t pray) when they are ten”.
Just as I advise the people who frequent the Masjid to be easy on those youth for whom it is legislated to come to the mosque, and to not make things difficult for them and not to stand in their places (in the row) when they have preceded you to it (in the row). For whoever precedes the other to that space, is more deserving of it whether he is from the youth or grown up.
Ejecting these youth from their places in the row will:
1. Be contravening their rights, for whoever precedes someone to that which has not been claimed by the Muslims, then he is most deserving to it
2. Create an aversion to the mosque and keep them away
3. Create a sense of resentment and hatred to those who have taken their places
4. Help the youth to gather up into groups (in the back rows) which will lead them to play around even more and disturb the people in the mosque more so than if they were standing in-between grown men (in the front rows)
As for what is mentioned by some of the People of Knowledge that the youth should take their positions at the end of the rows or the last row in the masjid, using as evidence the statement of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), “Let the wise people of experience and understanding be close to me”, then this a weak opinion, contradicting the statement of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) “When one precedes another to that which has not been claimed, he (the first one) is more deserving of it.”
Using as evidence the statement of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) “Let the wise people of experience and understanding be close to me”, is not fully correct because the meaning of this hadeeth is to encourage those people of wisdom, intellect and experience to be near to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) because they are more likely to have deep understanding (fiqh) than those who are young, and they are more accurate in recording what they see from the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and what they hear from him. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) did not say ‘Let none of you be close to me except the wise people of experience and understanding’ and if he had said that, it would then have been fitting to remove the youth from the front rows. But the context of this hadeeth is to command those who have deep understanding, intellect and wisdom to come forward and become close to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam).
(Fataawa Islamiyyah 2/8)
Answered by Shaykh Al-Uthaymeen (rahimahullah)