The Noble Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan (may Allah preserve him) stated:
It is known that obligations are not (mandated) upon the child who hasn’t reached puberty–not the prayer or other than it until he (or she) reaches puberty. The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) stated:
The pen is lifted from three (people). The one sleeping until he awakes. The child until he has a wet dream (i.e reaches puberty). And from the insane person until he comes to his senses.
However the child is commanded with making it. Therefore his guardian commands him with the prayer when he reaches the age of seven and he has with him (the ability to) distinguish (between matters) and he knows what is said to him and that which he is commanded with. Therefore he is to be commanded with the prayer, not because it is obligatory upon him, he is only commanded with it as an exercise for him. Meaning as a means of getting him accustomed to the prayer until he becomes trained upon making it and he knows its importance. And as a result he grows up upon that so when he reaches puberty he is accustomed to the prayer.
He is also to learn the purification of the prayer and learn how perform it. This has in it a means of cultivation for him upon making the prayer. This also indicates the importance of the prayer and that it is the first commandment that the children are commanded with. So the prayer for him is a supererogatory deed. As for him being commanded with it from the angle of his guardian, this is an obligation upon the guardian and it is obligatory upon his guardian to command him with it because the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) commanded the guardian with that:
Command your children with pray when they are children of seven years of age and discipline them for it when they are children of ten years of age. And separate between them in the beds.
In this is the showing of concern for the cultivation (of the children), especially the cultivation of the children upon making the prayers and having good character. As for neglecting the children and leaving them as some of the people do today or many from among the people, they do not have concern for the affair of their children from a religious angle and the angle of the character. Nothing concerns them excepts that they provide for them food, drink, and clothing. As for being concerned from religious angle, they do not have concern for their cultivation. Just as it is obligatory upon them that they command the children with the prayer, it is also obligatory upon them that they keep the children away from that which has a (negative) effect upon their religion and their character from that which is spread through visible and audible mass media from singing, musical instruments, acting (movies) and other than that. It is obligatory upon the guardians of the children to keep them away from these (evil) affairs because they become imprinted in their minds and as a result they come to love it. This is what the enemies of Islam and the enemies of the Muslims want (for them) that which is in these destructive means (of mass media). The responsibility concerning the children which is upon the parent is a tremendous responsibility from the time they reach the age of discernment and their responsibility is upon their parents. If they cultivate them upon good, they will grow up upon it and they will become righteous children. And if the parents neglect them and bring about for them the means of evil, they will become evil children and their sin is upon their parents (for not raising them correctly). Also the parents will be prevented from their (the children’s) religious benefit and their supplication for them (the parents). The righteous child benefits his parents whether they are alive or dead. And (it is stated) in the Hadeeth: “…Or a righteous child who supplicates for him.”
Its a must that there be cultivation for uprightness. Its a must that there be the carrying out of the means (in order to attain the goals). Its (upright cultivation) means are that which the Messenger directed (the people) to here in his statement:
Command your children to pray when they are children of the age of seven and discipline then for it when they are children of the age of ten. And separate between them in the bed.
When the child reaches the age of ten, indeed he has become near to puberty or he has reached puberty. If he leaves off the prayer (at this age), it’s not enough to just command him with it, indeed he must be disciplined in order that he taste the bad consequences of his action in order that he refrains from abandoning the prayer. Therefore the disciplining (of the child) is a means from the means of cultivation when there’s a need for it.
As for the disbelieving westernized cultivation and those who propagate it and say: “This (disciplining of children) is from domestic violence” even to the point where the teacher should not discipline his students when they misbehave–they consider this to be from violence. As a result of that a generation of youth grow up harmful to the society in regards to its character and religion. Therefore it is a must that the children are cultivated by commanding them firstly, then disciplining them secondly. And the third matter which is also from the angle of their character, as comes in his (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) statement: “And separate between in the beds.” When they reach the (age of) ten, do not leave them to sleep in the same bed and under the same cover. That’s because the matter of desire pervades into them. This is what Islam has directed (the people) to regarding the children.
And this command is directed towards the fathers and mothers. And the mother has her role which is upon her (to fulfill) regarding the cultivation of the children, especially the (cultivating of the) daughters. She is to cultivate her daughters upon making the prayer. She is to cultivate them upon the (proper Islamic) covering and having shyness. She should not be lackadaisical with her daughters regarding the (Islamic) dress. She should not dress with the dress of the west. Rather she should dress with the modest Muslim woman dress. She should not say these are little girls, rather she should cultivate them upon (wearing) clothing that covers (them according to Islam).
There’s no doubt that the children are a responsibility upon the parents. Allah has placed upon them their responsibility. Therefore it is obligatory to have patience and have with them the seeking of reward (from Allah). It is obligatory upon them to fulfill the obligation towards the children. As for the father being busy with his worldly affairs, panting behind the money, not knowing whether his children are righteous or corrupted, (this is not befitting). Likewise the mother (chasing behind) the job and entrusting a foreign woman over her children to cultivate them taking her place (this is not befitting). The matter of the children does not concern her, she is a hired worker (who is concerned about getting paid) and it’s possible she maybe corrupt. Or (the case may be) that the children are thrown into childcare while the father is busy with his wealth and the mother is busy with her work. It’s obligatory to be mindful of this matter.
Then the Shaykh commented on the Hadeeth: “Command your children to pray…” He said:
This is a tremendous narration regarding the matter of cultivation. We do not seek to import the matter of cultivation from the cultivation of the west and from the books of the westerners. Rather we take it from the speech of our Lord, from the Sunnah of our Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and from the life of our righteous predecessors. This is the cultivation of us Muslims. As for our children going to study cultivation in the schools of the west and colleges of the west, this is the opposite of the important matter which is required from the Muslims. Also in this narration (we have the benefit) that the matter of cultivation is done in stages, little by little. The first matter is to command without disciplining. Then secondly, the disciplining after the command. Then there’s the separation between them in the beds.
Source: al-Ikhtisaar Fee Ta’leeq Alaa Muntaqaa al-Akhbaar, p. 392-394
Translated by Abu Yusuf Khaleefah
23rd of Safar, 1437 H (12-07-2015)
Masjid Nur Allah, Queens, NYC