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Can a child lead Tarawih?

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Last revised:
Thursday, 05 August 2010
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Answer

Can a child lead the Tarawih prayer?

 

Brief Answer

The answer is yes, a child is allowed to lead any prayers which are deemed optional according to Islam. This is the position of the majority of scholars in Islam.

Detailed Analysis

The reality of the situation is that scholars have differed over this issue. First, we will present the different opinions. Then, we will present the reasoning behind each one.

Opinions[1]

The Shafi’i School: Children are allowed to lead the prayer, whether it is a prescribed prayer or an optional prayer.

The Maliki and Hanbali Schools: Children are allowed to lead the prayer if it’s an optional prayer but not a prescribed one.

The Hanafi School[2]: The majority of scholars within the school said that a child is not allowed to lead adults. However, there is evidence that the two famous students of Imam Abu Hanifa, Muhammad and Abu Yusuf, allowed children to lead optional prayers like Tarawih. This is also the opinion of the Hanafi jurists of Balkh and of later jurists such as Abdul Hayy Al-Laknawi.

Reasoning

The ones who prohibited children from leading prayer argued that the position of the leader [Imam] of the prayer is a special status while a child has not attained the status of even an adult yet. This is derived from the several statements of the Prophet that mention who has priority to lead the prayer. They also used some reports that the Prophet prohibited children from leading, although the authenticity of those reports is questioned.

The ones who differentiated between the prescribed and optional prayer did so because of the consistency of intention. A child is not obliged to pray. Therefore, his prayer is voluntary. However, the adults who are praying a prescribed prayer must pray, so their intention is that of an obligatory prayer. Due to the consistency of intentions between the child leader and the adult followers in an optional prayer like Tarawih [i.e. they all intend a non-obligatory prayer], it is permissible for the child to lead.

The ones who allowed children to lead any prayer used a narration that stated that ‘Amr ibn Salamah was told to lead the prayer by some Companions [because he knew the most Qur’an] while he was about six or seven years old.[3]

 


[1] The opinions have been summarized from Al-Fiqh Al-Islami Wa Adillatuhu by Wahbah Az-Zuhalyi

[2] Taken from Al-Hidayah by Al-Marghinani.

[3] Reported in Bukhari, Abu Dawud, Nasai, Ibn Khuzaymah, and Bayhaqi.

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