There are three categories of children:
The first category is those who are innocent and young- They neither understand the etiquette of the Masjid nor do they know anything about Salah. They do not have the understanding that the Masjid is a place for worshipping Allah. There is also the danger that they urinate in the Masjid or play therein and violate its sanctity. Children of five to six years fall in this category. The ruling for such children is that it is not permissible to bring them to the Masjid. It is the responsibility of the parents to see that they do not bring such children to the Masjid. If they do so and the children violate the sanctity of Allah’s D house, the parents will be sinful because the children themselves are innocent. The Masjid trustees can also prohibit such children from entering the Masjid.
There is a limit for every act in Shariah. These limits are what we call Deen and we all have to abide by these limits.
The second category is of those children who are slightly elder. They are between seven to eleven years old. Such children understand the status of a Masjid and respect it to a certain degree. However, due to lack of a complete understanding, they do not respect it fully. It is permissible to bring such children to the Masjid it but would be better not to do so. (i.e. if they are going to violate and sanctity of the Masjid by way of mischief etc.).
The third category of children is those who are close to maturity. Their ages range from twelve to fourteen. However, a fifteen-year-old child is considered mature even if he does not have any signs of puberty. The ruling for this category is that they should be brought to the Masjid in order to inculcate the habit of Salah with congregation because Salah becomes obligatory on them the moment they reach the age of puberty. It is obligatory on them to attend the Masjid for Salah with congregation. If this habit is not inculcated before puberty, it will take time after puberty as a result of which they will forgo their Salahs with congregation. Thus it is imperative to bring the youngsters to the Masjid while guiding them at home to respect the Masjid. They should be taught not to make a noise in the Masjid as it is a sanctified place where the name of Allah D is taken.
The Fuqaha (jurists) have stated that children should stand behind the adult men in Salah. But if there is only one child, he may stand in the saff of the men. It will be better to stand on the sides of the saff.
This occurs in many of the Masjids. If the child was in the first saff at the beginning of Salah, he reaches the last saff at the end of salah. This is because most people come late for Salah nowadays. Whoever enters the Masjid does this, thinking that it is not permissible to perform Salah next to children. This is completely wrong. One should free one’s mind of such thoughts. You should stand next to the child whether he is in the front saff or the rear one. You may stand on his right-hand side or his left- hand side. This does not affect the Salah of adults.
If there are children playing in the Masjid during Salah, then it will be permissible to split them up and place them on the flanks of the various Sufoof of the adults Saff meaning place some children on the right hand side in various Saff and some of them on the left hand side in the various Saff.
Discipline: We should also remember the way shown to us by Nabi H when dealing with children.
They should not be illtreated and beaten up. Nabi H said, “One who does not have mercy on our young ones and does not respect our elders is not from amongst us.”
Anas I served Nabi H for ten years but not once did Nabi H reprimand him for doing something or for not doing something. Thus it is against the Sunnah to severely reprimand or beat a child. Furthermore, a severe reprimand seldom has a lasting effect. The child may refrain temporarily from that act but will repeat it later. The child should be taught with love and affection that the Masjid is not a place for mischief and playing. The child will respect you and Insha-Allah will not repeat his mischief again.