(9) Protection and discipline of children during Haj or Umrah

Protection and discipline of children  during Haj or Umrah

Protection and discipline of children during Haj or Umrah

By:  Shaik Kadir

Now that Eid ul-Fitri is over, people who are going for the Haj are now feeling the excitement and expectation of the great event in Mecca, such as pursuing Haj courses and reading up on the do’s and don’ts while in the Holy Land.  Eid ul-Adha is on 15 October and by early October our “Jemaah Haji” would be leaving for Mecca to accomplish the Fifth Pillar of Islam.

The Haj is the most significant and visible manifestation of the Islamic faith in the world, one by which Muslims of all races, colours and cultures do their ibadah (worship of Allah) at one location on the globe in unity.  A once in a lifetime duty, the Haj is a remarkable spiritual gathering of nearly four million Muslims from all over the world in the Holy City of Mecca to follow and enact the various rituals that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) carried out during his last pilgrimage.  The Haj is an instruction from Allah as revealed in the Quran.

A couple of months after the Haj season, many other Muslims would be heading to the Holy Land to perform the Umrah (minor pilgrimage) at any time until the next Haj season, the cycle of performing the Haj and Umrah going on every year since the time the Haj was instituted as a pillar of Islam during our Prophet’s time.

For the Haj or Umrah, some parents even take their little children along with them.

Is it advisable to take little children along with them to the Holy Land?

In the website, AmericanBedu, two ladies commented that people should not bring children when going to the Holy Land to perform their Haj or Umrah.

One woman said: “Most people return from Haj or Umrah extremely sick from all the germs that they get from people who are sick.  It’s for the protection of the children that parents should not take their little children along.”

Another woman commented: “I love kids truly, but everything has its place.  A child should be at home, safe from the heat, the germs, and the crowds that would upset their sensibilities…”

On UmmahForum, a reader said:  “There is no point taking children to Umrah in the first place, because it won’t be of much benefit to them.  It will be better to take them when they are older and have a better understanding of Umrah. Just leave them behind with close relatives.”

Another reader of TripAdvisor, said:  “I don’t think young children should be taken on Umrah. They are too young to understand it, and the trouble they cause makes it very difficult for the parents to have a spiritual time.”

Nowadays, the crowd in Mecca is overwhelming even for the Umrah.  Little children are more vulnerable to the extreme weather conditions there and exposure to people who may not take hygiene seriously.  Diseases and cough can spread easily.  The huge crowd can frighten little children. Even adults, especially the older folks, can easily lose their way and become panicky.

During my Umrah less than two years ago, a (not so elderly) woman in our group lost her way after performing our tawaf wada (farewell tawaf) together.  We waited for her in the coach for an hour and when she did not turn up, the coach had to leave for Madinah without her.  One of the two tour staff stayed behind to search for her.  Eventually she was located and she and the staff had to go to Madinah by taxi.  She told us that she simply could not remember the way out of Masjidil Haram in the overwhelming crowd although we were there for a few days already before leaving for our ziarah in Madinah.

It is common to see children yelling and playing and becoming a nuisance to other worshippers near them.

For those who have no choice but to take their children with them, aside from health protection of their children there, how could they prepare their children for the trip?

During my recent Umrah, I noticed a small girl in our group behaving very well.   She is Nur Kharissa, the 6-year-old daughter of Mohd Faisal Ithnin and Hairani Buang.

Kharissa’s parents later told me that they had been guiding Nur before the Umrah and during the Umrah as well, especially to ensure that she does not become a nuisance to fellow-pilgrims.  “People have come to perform an important ibadah which could only be done there and nowhere else, so they need the opportunity and peace to concentrate,” Nur’s mother, Cik Hairani, said.

Cik Hairani felt that it was a big challenge to bring an active child like Kharissa to the Holy Land.  “Children of her age can be playful and naughty.  They cannot remain still and their movement can disturb the other pilgrims during the long wait for prayers and during prayers and when performing other ibadah.”

A fellow-pilgrim said that, while the pilgrims were praying, he became aware of a child suddenly dash away out of his position in the saf (row) and ran between the rows of worshippers and accidentally stepped on the spectacles of a worshipper who had placed his eye-glasses in front of him, breaking them.

So, how could parents who bring children as old as Kharissa manage the discipline of their ward?

Cik Hairani said she fully prepared her daughter for the Umrah in a number of ways such as:

  • Take her child to her weekly Umrah course to make her aware that Umrah is not a holiday tour but that it is a holy trip;
  • Told her that there would be many people performing prayers in Masjidil Haram and Masjid Nabawi, and showed pictures of these mosques with the crowd of worshippers;
  • Explained the importance of each of these two mosques so that she would be respectful of the worshippers;
  • Explained what tawaf and sa’i are, and how pilgrims perform them, and showed pictures of the crowd performing the tawaf and the sa’i and she will have to perform these rituals too;
  • Informed her that she should remain next to her at all time and not run around, play or shout as this would disturb the other worshippers, and that such behaviour would not only annoy the pilgrims but would also displease Allah;
  • Told her that she should not wander away from her otherwise she could easy get lost in the huge crowd;
  • Informed her that she will have to wake up early (about 4 am) to go for the suboh prayers in the mosque.  If she does not want to wake up to go to the mosque, that means she is depriving her parents from going to the mosque and that is not good;
  • Informed her that Islamic discipline means that a child should not throw tantrum or show laziness but do the various ibadahs with the parents;
  • Advised her to behave well as she is a “guest of Allah” in the Holy Land.  As a “guest” she ought not to be naughty and playful but be a good girl;
  • Told her that she must behave and conduct herself well to be a good Muslimah so that the other pilgrims will take her as an example of a well-behaved child;
  • Told her that if she behaves well, she would get a gift from the parents when they return home as an added incentive, and
  • Told her that, most important, Allah will love her immensely for being good always.

Cik Hairani said that all these information and advice need to be repeated again and again at appropriate time and occasion as a child would not absorb all of them if done once.  She said she asked her daughter to nod in response to indicate that she  understood what was told to her.

Little Kharissa’s Umrah went very well; she returned from the trip happy.  Her mother realised that her daughter had managed to:

  • pray  right in front of the Ka’aba, behind Maqam Ibrahim,
  • perform tawaf
  • perform sa’i
  • perform two Umrahs.
  • perform two Qiyamulai sessions without fuss in Masjidil Haram, waking up at about 2 am so as to be ready for the long prayers conducted by our ustaz,
  • celebrate her 6th birthday in the Holy Land,
  • receive praises for being so well-behaved from not only members of our group but also from some pilgrims from other countries.

Cik Hairani was happy at the accomplishments of her daughter.  “Alhamdullillah!  Kharissa did not miss any of the prayers at the mosque, and other ibadahs,” she said.  “Kharissa did not fall sick as we made sure that she had enough sleep and proper food.  I thank Allah for making our efforts in guiding her successful.”

As more and more pilgrims from all over the world are going for the Haj and Umrah, the Saudi government is expanding many of the facilities for their convenience.  Hence, massive construction works are being carried out at the Grand Mosque and around it.

Parents who take their children along with them for the Haj or Umrah would be wise to be aware of the hazard and inconveniences posed by these expansion and redevelopment projects, and be well prepared to face these challenges.

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