Muslim children are not required to fast for Ramadhan until they reach the age of puberty. However, it is required from parents to prepare them for fasting when they reach the age of seven. It is common for young children to fast for part of a day or for one day in the weekend. This gives them the “grown-up” feeling that they are participating in the special events of the family and community, and also become accustomed to the full fasting later.
Zemam al Nabhani, an 11-year-old child, started fasting when he was in Grade 2. In his first year of fasting, his mother used to allow him to drink water and eat something at midday until he got used to it and was able to fast the whole day by the following year.
Zemam’s mother, Khalsa, says that he has ample time for sleeping during the day as the fasting hours are too long and families are often up late in the evenings for meals and special prayers. She says children may go to bed at a later bedtime than usual during the month.
His parents make sure that Zemam attends all the five prayers in the mosque especially the “Taraweeh” and stays in the mosque to read Holy Quran after the prayers.
Zemam’s mother says that they try to teach Zemam that Ramadhan is not only refraining from eating and drinking, but it also is a period to spend in community gatherings, family visits, reading Quran and in prayer at the mosque.
“It is necessary that Zemam learns the values of Ramadhan and I am expecting him to teach his siblings the same,” Khalsa said.
“He is the oldest among his siblings and we try really hard to teach him everything related to Ramadhan and its values because his siblings will follow his steps,” she added.
Aside from the daily fast, Zemam’s mother encourages him to gather some money to donate to the needy, and to help her cook meals for breaking the day’s fast, or watering the plants. He is also given time to play in the afternoon.
“My mother insists that I have “suhur” to help me complete my fast the whole day. I eat fruits, dates and drink water before the Fajr prayer,” Zemam said.
“Suhur needs to be completed to provide enough energy to last during the long hours of fasting. It is important that the food we consume keeps us hydrated and banana is very good for suhur,” Khalsa explained.