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Ramadan Fasting – How Young Should Your Child Start?

on 08/07/2013

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and it is the holiest month in Islam. Muslims all over the world wait for this holy month for their chance to gain forgiveness from Allah, as Ramadan is a month where all sins are easily forgiven and atoned.

As one of the pillars of Islam, Muslims are required to fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset for every day in Ramadan and yet fasting is not just the restraining oneself from eating or drinking; fasting in Ramadan also includes abstaining oneself from idle talk, listening to gossips and also sexual relations.

By restraining from the worldly desires like greed, envy, hunger and lust, Muslims can come to terms in focusing on supplementing their spiritual self as fasting brings absolute humility and obedience.

Fasting can be challenging, even for adults. So this raises the question of whether it is necessary for children to fast during the holy month of Ramadan and if it is necessary, how young should a child start to fast?

Based on the Shari’ah law, parents should encourage their child to fast as young as 7 years of age provided the child is healthy and is of sound mind. If the child refuse to fast or has purposely skipped fasting by the age of 10, parents are allowed to strike the child with gentle yet firm strokes.

However, there are methods to introduce fasting to your child as the main objective in training your child to fast is for him or her to understand why Muslims have to fast. Other than asking your child to fast, it is equally important to explain the rationale behind fasting so your child will be more compelled to do it rather than fasting out of fear.

When your child first start to fast, it is not necessary for him or her to fast for the whole day (from sunrise to sunset). Allow your child to go on without food or drink for as long as they can and when they tell you that they are hungry or thirsty, you can let them break their fast. This is because children at this age still need a lot of nutrition and energy.

So to force them to complete the whole day of fasting at such a young age can prove to be dangerous. Some parents allow their child to drink to keep them hydrated but skip on the food until it’s time to break fast at sunset. Remember to always keep an eye on your child’s demeanor to make sure that he or she is not lethargic or appear sickly.

You can lengthen the time it takes for your child to break fast when he or she fasts the next day.

Since there are 30 days in Ramadan, your child can fast gradually. For instance, if he or she happens to break fast at only a quarter of the day, encourage them to try for half day the next day and the three-quarter of the day the next and so on.

You can also let your child fast for the period he or she can endure for several days. This is so that their stomach can acclimatize to not having anything to eat or drink. When they are more used to it, it is easier for them to fast for longer period further down the road.

Asking young children to fast is not a cruel act as once they have reached puberty, fasting will be obligatory for them. By learning to fast at a younger age, it will make the transition easier as the child will be used to fasting since they are small. Fasting from the age of 7 is ideal in easing the idea of fasting to your children.

Despite fasting in the month of Ramadan is required of every Muslim, parents should never force their children to fast. Instead, parents should explain to their children the importance and significance of fasting and why is it required for Muslims to fast. Being too lenient is also discouraged because otherwise the children will think of fasting as something trivial. Parents should be sensitive to their children’s condition during fasting month yet firm and assertive at the same time.

As parents, you should know your child best.

So deciding the best time for your child to fast will be up to you, as long as it is in accordance to the Shari’ah law. Fasting is not required of children who have yet to reach puberty but as Muslim parents, it is important to introduce the concept of fasting as soon as possible to your child so that he or she will grow up and understand the true purpose of fasting.