“It comes in an authentic ḥadīth that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “Command your children to pray at the age of seven and physically reprimand them at the age of ten.” So this shows you that raising children upon acts of worship begins at the age of discretion (the age of seven). Once he is able to discern affairs of worship, he knows right from wrong, he knows good from bad, he has this discernment, then he is commanded to carry out acts of worship.“
سؤال وجواب – عربي – ٤:٠٩ دقائق
Question and Answer – English [5:02]
Shaykh, may Allāh bless you, at what age should we encourage our children to fast and how do we respond to those who say that making children who are under 12 fast is a form of extremism and that they are too young to handle it?
This is not correct. Our Prophet Muḥammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) showed us how to raise our children and directed us with regards to how we raise our children. And it was said about the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم),
﴾وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ ٱلْهَوَىٰٓ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْىٌ يُوحَىٰ﴿
“Nor does he speak of (his own) desires. It is only Revelation revealed.” [Sūrah al-Najm 53:3-4]
And what did the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) say about raising our children? It comes in an authentic ḥadīth that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “Command your children to pray at the age of seven and physically reprimand them at the age of ten.” So this shows you that raising children upon acts of worship begins at the age of discretion (the age of seven). Once he is able to discern affairs of worship, he knows right from wrong, he knows good from bad, he has this discernment, then he is commanded to carry out acts of worship.
And the Companions followed this example. They would encourage their children to fast while their children were still young and if their children became hungry or thirsty, they would give them toys made out of cotton to play with so as to distract them. Thus, the Ṣaḥābah knew the importance of raising their children and accustoming them to acts of worship.
Also, when you cultivate your children upon something and you raise them upon something, it is like the inscription on a stone or a rock, as it was said in some lines of poetry [the meaning of which is] that the young person amongst us is raised and he is upon that which his father accustomed him to.
So the intent of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) behind commanding the child to pray at the age of seven (the age of discernment) and punishing him for leaving it at the age of ten, the rationale behind this is so that he will become accustomed to these acts of worship.
We see many men who, Fajr prayer in the masjid is very difficult for them, why? Because they were oppressed as children by their fathers so now that they are grown men the prayer in Jamāʿah in the masjid is heavy upon them as they got older because they did not get used to it in their youth.
Likewise, fasting is heavy upon men and many of the teenagers today, and many of them do not even fast because they are victims of the child-rearing practices of their fathers. Their fathers did not raise them upon fasting and thus as they got older, it became heavy and burdensome upon them, so they do not fast.
Thus, what is benefited here is that the age wherein one begins to command his children with the acts of worship is the age of discernment (seven) and he punishes him for not doing it at the age of ten. This is the action of the Companions, and the Companions learned from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). And this is what rectified the first generations of the Ṣaḥābah and the Tābiʿīn, as their fathers raised them upon this while they were still young. They raised them upon worship to such an extent that some of them would even bring them to the gatherings of knowledge while they were young so that they would become accustomed to this and become accustomed to seeing the gatherings of knowledge and it would cultivate in them a love for seeking knowledge and worship.