Alhamdulillah, we are in the month of Shaaban. InsyaAllah, in matter of days we will enter the blessed month of Ramadhan. Hopefully our month of Shaaban is filled with worship, dua and taubah before Ramadhan and continues these ibadah in the month of Ramadhan. As parents and teachers , how do we teach our children to fast? Do allow me to give you some insight on how to train young children to fast in the month of Ramadhan.
Training your children fasting in the Month of Ramadhan
Ahlan wasahlan Ya Ramadhan!
When a child reached seven years of age, our Prophet (pbuh) asked us to encourage our children to start performing solat on our daily prayers. By the age of ten, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) allowed us to punish the child by canning him if he does not perform his daily five times prayers. There is no hadith that tells us when exactly should we start training our children to fast in the month of Ramadhan but by analogy to praying, many scholars encourage us to start training our children to fast at an early age of his life and get him familiar with performing it.
The generation of the sahabat started training their children fasting at an early age of five and six, there is a story that was narrated:
“In the month of Ramadhan, if our children asked for food and drink, we will give them toys instead which were made of animals’ fur for them to play so that they will forget their hunger and thirst. These children will be entertained until its time for iftar ( breaking our fast). Days passed by and the children now understand the rules of fasting which is to fast from dawn till dusk (maghrib) and they do not ask for food and drink while fasting even though they were hungry and thirsty.”
Many parents are afraid to train their children to fast at an early age fearing that it will disrupt their growth due to lack of nutrition. Training children to fast is not trying to ignore or stunt their growth; we are just shifting their mealtime later while still maintaining a well balanced nutritional meals for them.
From experience from those who succeeded training their children to fast at an early age, the most difficult time of training is during the first three to seven days of Ramadhan. If the children succeeded to fast completely in the first day, the following days are easier for them. But if they failed the first day, parents have to help and encourage them to keep trying until they succeed.
We can also train them by stages. We can encourage them to fast until Zuhr on the first day and allow them to drink if they are very thirsty. The next day we encourage them to fast until asr and the next until maghrib. We can also prepare sahur for them at a later time about forty five minutes before fajr. Be cautious though not to tell them that they may fast by stages, this will disrupt their spirit and ability to fast.
Some scholars notices that teaching children to fast at the preschool age has several advantages:
1. Encouraging team work amongst family members.
Children who cooperate and listen to their parents’ suggestions and encouragement to fast in the month of Ramadhan have better relationship with their parents to instill Islamic values and environment in their home and family life.
2. Inculcalating into their souls the spirit of submission, piety and servitude to Allah (swt).
When children abstain themselves from eating and drinking in the month of Ramadhan, their spiritual values and faith increase. They are able to control their nafs (desire) and they grow up observing Allah’s commandments, keeping themselves away from whatever Allah forbade and get closely bound to the rulings of shariah.
3. Inculcalate discipline in their lives.
Children learn to discipline themselves while fasting from dawn to dusk. Inform the children that Allah sees their every action, knows their secrets and knows what is in their heart. Thus children will develop in them the spirit of observing Allah in all their conduct and circumstances.
Allow me now to share with you some ways to train and encourage children to fast in the month of ramadhan.
1.Before the month of Ramadhan
Prepare and mind set your children for the upcoming fasting month of Ramadhan. Always talk to them that a great month is approaching and what Muslims must do during this month. Encourage discussions, questions and answers about the do’s and don’ts while fasting and always tell them the benefits of Ramadhan as stated in the Quran and hadith. When you have succeeded in getting their interest ask them “So, who will fast in this month of Ramadhan?” Parents and children should feel excited in answering this question. Tell them also some funny stories on how you started training for Ramadhan or how the older siblings started theirs. This will encourage the younger ones to follow their siblings’ footsteps.
2. During the fasting month of Ramadhan.
Prepare your children’s favourite meal and bring them to shops to but their favourite dishes. This is to make them happy and to encourage them. Do remind them though not to overspend, for Allah does not like it if food goes to waste. During iftar, eat together and congratulate each other for the days worth.
Before going to bed, remind each other to wake each other up, set the alarm and make dua so that we are able to wake up for sahur. Wake them up gently for sahur and keep an eye on the children, for they are more sleepy than hungry at this time.
Be aware not to let the younger siblings not to eat or drink in front of their older siblings who are fasting. And if your young children have started to whine and groan and looking very tired, give them your attention, entertain them, divert their attention to some games or light indoor recreation or bring them outside for a walk. The small children who succeeded to fast the whole day should be hugged, kissed, praised and rewarded and tell them the good news of Allah’s rewards that awaits them.
3. After Ramadhan
It is suggested that we buy presents for those children who completes their training in the month of Ramadhan. Explain to them what the presents a re for and if they are happy to receive these presents in this world, Allah (swt0 will give them anything they want in the hereafter. Also discuss with them how they feel and do they understand the values that parents are trying to instill in them during this training.
In conclusion from what has been mentioned above is that responsibility of faith education is important and serious as it is the source of all virtues. It is the main basis for entering a child into the domain of faith and Islam.
So parents should always refrain from seizing any chance of providing the ir children with training and guidance that consolidate belief and straightens faith.
Lastly teach your children as the Prophett (pbuh) said to Ibn Abbas:
“O young man, I shall teach you some words….”
“……Learn also that victory comes through endurance and relief comes with distress and that with hardship comes affluence.”
Until then, Wabillahitaufiq walhidayah.