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Watching my daughter learn to make daily prayer a habit has inspired my to think about the power of soft deadlines and makeups. If you’re familiar with Islamic prayer habits, skip the first section. If not, then read the first section for context.
Praying 5 times a day is a pillar of Islamic worship, and each prayer has a range of times at which it should be done to be “on time”, but if you miss that time, you can make it up at the next prayer, or next day, or next year. Kids should begin to learn to pray at age 7, become habitual at practicing prayer at age 10, and then they’re “required” as soon as they hit puberty (become adults). A wise person once told me it is difficult for a teenager to listen to what their parents say, so starting early such that it becomes a habit around age 10 makes all the difference.
Connecting Prayer to Deadlines and Makeups
I saw how motivating it was for my daughter to realize there were soft deadlines an makeups for prayer.
The soft deadline is when the call for prayers comes. This is the ideal time to get up and pray, but there is no problem to wait until the last minute of the range of time you can pray (usually up until the next prayer comes).
The hard deadline is just before the next prayer is called, and after that, you have “missed praying on time”.
However, there is an opportunity to “make up” a prayer you missed praying on time. You just pray it with the next prayer. It’s not the same as praying it on time but it is better than missing it altogether.
Amazingly, if you miss that, you can always pray it the next day by doubling up on the prayer that happens at the same time as the one you missed the previous day. Or previous week, or year or whenever.
There’s more. If you miss a prayer because you were asleep or forgot (not that you intentionally didn’t pray it on time) you can make it up as soon as you remember it.
Apart from the spiritual lesson in all of this , I want to focus on the impact this had on my daughter as she learned to pray. The moment she realized she could make up a missed prayer, this helped her decide to try to accomplish 5 prayers a day. Beforehand, when she thought there were soft and hard deadlines but no makeups, she would give up as soon as she knew she missed one. She was never going to make it to 5/5 prayers a day. But as soon as she knew she could make it up, a lightbulb went on, and she now so it as achievable, within her reach, something she could do every single day.
For our students struggling with hard deadlines, soft deadlines can make a huge difference, ones where you lose nothing when you submit within a range, because people have different circumstances. And making up helps them feel like they can succeed even if they had trouble at some point in the semester. They won’t feel like failures. And I think that is worth it.
Don’t tell me about life’s hard deadlines. Those are few and far between and life is usually more forgiving in most fields, as long as it is not a life and death situation. And our students are learning. They need our kindness more than they need our strictness, and soft deadlines still give structures for those who need it, and many do. And makeups still signal lateness and imperfection, but that we accept their humanity and imperfection. Wouldn’t we want the same to be done to us?
Featured image: Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay