Assalaam u Alaikum, My son will be turning 12 years old soon and he will be going to Junior High School next year. The closest masjid is about 2 miles away and he will have to miss half a day of school on Fridays to attend the Jumu'ah prayer. I am not even sure if the school will allow it. At what age does Salatul Jumu'ah become compulsory for a boy and what should be done in this situation? I will appreciate evidences from the Quran and Sunnah in the answer. Jazakallah Khair, Majid Bukhari
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
The Friday prayer is like all other religious obligations, a non-pubescent person is not obliged to perform it as the Prophet said: "The pen is lifted (stops from recording deeds) from three kinds of people: a sleeping person until he wakes up, a child until he reaches the age of puberty and an insane person until he starts reasoning." [Abu Daawood, At-Tirmithi, An-Nasaa’i and Ibn Maajah]
Therefore, your son is not obliged to perform the Friday prayer unless he reaches the age of puberty [which is the age when one starts to be held accountable for his deeds]. This age is not determined by 12 or 13 years old; rather, this age is determined by (having one of) the following three signs: which is the ejaculation of sperm, starting to have pubic hair, reaching the age of 15 lunar years old.
Hence, if your son has one of the above signs, then he has reached the age of puberty and he has to go to the Friday prayer and the studies are not a valid excuse for being absent from it. However, if he does not have any one of the above signs, then he is not held accountable for his deeds and he is not sinful for abandoning the Friday prayer. Nonetheless, despite the fact that he is not sinful for not attending the prayer, this does not mean that he should not be ordered to perform it. Rather, there is evidence in the Sunnah about the order of hitting the child –slightly, in a way which leaves no marks or scars –if he abandons the prayer when he reaches ten years of age so that he gets accustomed to it. The Prophet said: "Order your children to perform the prayer when they are seven years of age and beat them if they neglect to do so when they are ten years of age, and separate between them in beds (when they reach ten)." [Ahmad and Abu Daawood] The wisdom from this narration is to train and habituate the children to perform the prayer and when they reach the age of puberty, the prayer will not become a burden over them.
Since your son is more than ten years old, then you are religiously obliged to order him to perform it and hit him slightly if he does not do so. If the school does not allow him to go to the Friday prayer, then you should look for another school that does not prevent him (from going). We are not saying so because the Friday prayer is an obligation on him before he reaches puberty, but because allowing him not to attend it is contravening the teachings of the religion which is to order him to perform the prayer and hit him if he does not do so.
Therefore, dear brother, you will be held accountable in front of Allaah about your children. Since, you are in a non-Muslim country, you are in urgent need to teach religion to your children, especially that deviation is very easy in that country. If a child is not very related to his religion and his Lord, then he is vulnerable to deviate and lose the Hereafter. In that case, studies and anything else will be of no benefit. Therefore, the wise person is he who estimates things according to their proper value and looks to their consequences, and not put his religious matters –the most important of which is the prayer –at the end of the list of priorities; rather, he should put it at the top of it.
Allaah Knows best.
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