Should children be allowed to fast during Ramadaan?
Even though it's not compulsory many young children fast for the full month of Ramadaan.
I remember coming home from school during Ramadaan in Grade 2, starving and thirsty. After spending the previous night begging my mother to let me fast the whole day, by 2:30pm the next afternoon I was done! She let me break my fast and then we agreed that I’d only fast till I got home from school.
Read more: Pregnant and fasting
The issue of religion
These days I’m so used to it that the hunger doesn’t even phase me. Ramadaan is a month of fasting, charity, improving your relationship with your Creator.
Children and fasting
It is not compulsory for children who have not reached adolescence to fast, although they do start practicing from around the age of 6. The reason parents let their children fast is to get them into the routine and also to help them understand why we fast.
Nabeweya Malick of the Muslim Judicial Council says: “fasting teaches children that their desires are secondary, it is submission to Allah(SWT)’s law which comes first. This is a primary lesson for a believer and would strengthen the young adult when tested with other challenges in life”.
Different families have different rules regarding this practice. Some parents only allow their kids to fast when they reach adolescence. Others help their children to slowly get used to fasting by allowing them to fast “half day” which for younger children would be 12pm or 2nd interval. For kids a bit older they would break their fast after school. Other parents let their children fast the whole day. This may be for the entire month, while others will alternate with a whole or half day.
TV watching in the fast
We all know how kids love to watch TV. It’s become a national pastime. While TV watching is not forbidden it is discouraged. Muslims are encouraged to read and learn from The Quraan during this month and anything else that can distract from this is discouraged, like mindless TV watching for hours on end.
That is not to say the TV itself cannot go on, there are Islamic channels that broadcast Ramadaan appropriate content which can be watched as this can also increase their knowledge and understanding of Islam.
This is a month where parents have more time to teach and focus on their children’s Islamic knowledge and also to build stronger bonds with them.
In Cape Town during Ramadaan neighbours often make sweet or savoury treats to exchange with each other. The idea behind this is to ensure that everyone has something to break their fast with. Children deliver these treats, which teaches them that giving is better than receiving and to care for others. It’s a tradition that many kids look forward to every year and this also builds good neighbour relations.
Children may get rewarded with little presents by their parents if they fasted the entire month for the whole day. This is a great achievement as well as a difficult one, so their parents are proud of them.
Eid-ul-Fitr, the festive day that signifies the end of Ramadaan, is also a special day for kids. When visiting family and friends on this day they will get given money. This was because they had fasted, but these days kids get it regardless if they fasted half day, whole day or not at all.
Ramadaan is a time where parents can teach their kids about their faith and help to strengthen it. It’s an important decision whether a parent allows their child to fast or not, as this can build their character in teaching them patience, empathy and understanding.
Do you think children should take part in religious fasts?
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