The Beating of Children Who Stop Praying
… When he (a boy) becomes ten years old, then beat him for prayer. (Sunan Abu-Dawud, Prayer, 494)
Worship is something done willingly and fervently as an expression of love of God; it is not imposed by coercion. It seems from this false hadith that a child can be compelled to pray before he even reaches the age of 10. What possible benefit can there be in imposing an obligation on a child who is not yet acquainted with God, who is unaware of the purpose of his existence in this world and who is ignorant of the Creator and the secrets of creation? What you need to do in order to make a child religious is not to force him to worship, but to show him evidence of the existence and oneness of God and to make him understand and love God and the faith. Once he understands these things, a child will realize that he is an entity with a responsibility to God, and then he will be grateful and will start worshiping Him with enthusiasm. In that case, worship will be performed sincerely, with great love and zeal.
However, if a child who is as yet unacquainted with God is forced to perform the obligations of a religion whose wisdom he does not yet know, and if he is then beaten for not doing so, that child will in all probability harbor a secret loathing of that religion and its acts of worship for the rest of his life. Since he may spend the rest of his life with that terrible prejudice, he will be wrongly acquainted with God and will not try to see and understand the true pronouncements. Beating a child whose mind still has difficulty in comprehending so much and forcing him to observe acts of worship, instead of bringing him closer to God with love and beauty, will only make an opponent of Islam out of this child and this will harm the Islamic world. Yet fanatics who have turned their backs on the Qur’an fail to see this.
This hatred we have described is also manifested in practice. The children of some scholars who live their lives totally dedicated to fanaticism either become hostile to religion later in life or sink into a kind of degeneration that is rarely seen in society. They will mock or express detestation of Islam in almost all they say. Even many atheists have a respect for religion, but they have no such respect and are filled with anger. The main reason for this is that the idea of “compelling people to worship,” which appears nowhere in the Qur’an, is imposed on the child in the name of “Islam” from a very early age.