Child refers to someone who has not yet reached puberty.
The permissibility of a child leading another child in ṣalāh is agreed upon.
As for a child leading an adult, the fuqahā (jurists) have differed in their opinions.
According to the Ḥanafī’s, Malikī’s, and the preferred opinion of the Ḥanbalī’s, the ṣalāh of a person performing an obligatory ṣalāh, is not valid behind a person performing a non-obligatory ṣalāh.
According to the Shafīʿīs and one narration of the Ḥanbalī’s, it is valid with certain conditions.
On this basis, according to the Ḥanafī’s, Malikī’s, and the preferred opinion of the Ḥanbalī’s, the obligatory ṣalāh of an adult behind a child, will be invalid (as children are not legally responsible, and so any prayers they do pray are counted as nafl (non-obligatory) prayers).
According to the Shafīʿīs and one narration of the Ḥanbalī’s, the obligatory ṣalāh of an adult behind a child, who has reached the age of understanding, will be valid.
As for the ruling of non-obligatory ṣalāh, like tarāwīḥ, then according to the preferred opinion of the Ḥanafī’s, and one narration of the Malikī’s and Ḥanbalī’s, the ṣalāh of an adult behind a child is still considered invalid.
On the other hand, according to the Shafīʿīs, the imāmat of a child who has reached the age of understanding in tarāwīḥ and non-obligatory ṣalāh is all the more permissible as the imāmat of a child is valid in obligatory ṣalāh.
Similarly, according to the mainstream view of the Malikī’s, one narration of the Ḥanbalī’s, and some Ḥanafī’s, a child who has reached the age of understanding may lead an adult in tarāwīḥ.
The more authoritative and mainstream view of the Ḥanafī’s with regards to a child leading an adult in tarāwīḥ is of it being invalid. The majority of Ḥanafī scholars have taken this stance.
However, the Ḥanafī scholars of the Khorāsān and Balkh region, permit a child leading an adult in tarāwīḥ.
If due to a genuine need (like the unavailability of a Hafiz who can recite correctly or fear of a Hafiz child forgetting the Qur’an), then in my opinion (Muftī Muhammad Riḍwan), an adult may follow a child in tarāwīḥ who has reached the age of understanding (meaning understanding the prerequisites of purity and ṣalāh). This is on the condition that the followers are content, like a child leading at home and it will not cause any disarray.
Disclaimer: The above view is of the respected Muftī Muhammad Riḍwan. Laymen should consult local scholars.
Despite the above situation and genuine need, some Ḥanafī scholars still give preference to performing behind a non-Hafiz adult or performing alone.
One should also note that, according to the Ḥanafī’s, a child cannot reach the age of puberty before the age of 11 solar years and 7 months. Although, if after 11 solar years and 7 months, a child shows signs of puberty, they will be considered to have reached puberty.
If a child does not show signs of puberty, they will legally be considered to have reached the age of puberty after 14 solar years and 6 months.
(Adapted from Tarāwīḥ ke Aham Masā’il by Muftī Muhammad Riḍwan. Published by Kutub Khāna Idāra Gufrān, Rawalpindi.)
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