Children are in no-way required to do a day-long fast, but perhaps to prove to their parents, siblings and other family members that they are capable of faithfully following faith practices, several kids in the Sultanate are taking on the challenge of fasting.
Fasting is prescribed, according to the religious scholars and the Holy Quran for adults who are sane or of sound mind, healthy and are not under lifesaving medication.
Some of these children attempt dawn-to-dusk fasting, but a few are successful. Most of them give up half way once hunger becomes unbearable.
“Kanza has been fasting since she was still very small and she still continues to fast as many days as possible,” said the child’s mother.
Kanza Jafri, a class 3 student of Pakistan School Muscat, feels that her fast will make Allah the Almighty happy and she’d get blessings for it.
“I see poor people with no food to eat or water to drink. When I felt hunger and thirst during ‘roza’ (fasting), I can feel how much hungry they must be. Also, my mother says I learnt two good qualities from roza, which are patience and tolerance,” her mother said. Kanza said that she has asked her parents to let her celebrate her Eid-ul-Fitr with the deserving kids.
Zemam al Nabhani, a class 10 student of Omani Government School, has been fasting for many years now. It is, for him, now a part of life. He doestn’t even remember when he actually started fasting in his life. He, along with his father and siblings, fast year after year and makes it a point that he doesn’t skip.
Mahferoz Nazeer, a 10-year-old-girl, who has been fasting since he was five years old, feels some sort of contentment when she is fasting.
“I generally feel good when I fast. Although sometimes I feel thirsty, the feel good factor is above everything. But having the privilege of being a fasting person makes me feel happy,” he shared.
Hoor, a 12-year-old-girl is all excited to fast for the first time in her life.
“I thought it was easy but it was difficult for me in the first few days of the month to keep up fasting for the whole day. That was additionally difficult especially when I had exams on the first week of Ramadhan. But in few days I got used to it. I don’t do any physical exercise except praying and reading Quran. But of late, things now are much better as I’m used to fasting”, she said.
Marwan, his 9-year old brother, shares the same excitement.
“Because this is my first-time fasting, I started gradually. In the first day, I fasted till noon, then till afternoon. Inshallah, I will make it till Maghrib next time. It is the thirst that is hard otherwise everything was tolerable,” Marwan said.
Raza, a 10-year-old-boy, feels too the need of being a responsible person.
As his parents shared, “Raza feels very excited seeing us fast so he also decided to fast. He was 7 when he first started fasting.”
“It was very tough for him but his excitement continued in the next year too. Later, we told him the reasons behind fasting and shared about the billion people in the world without access to clean water and
three meals a day. This motivated him,” they said.
“Now he takes his fast very seriously and even attempts to pray and avoid fighting with his younger sister. As parents, we didn’t ask him but rather constantly reminded him that he’s still young and he can take it easy as we worry that he might get dehydrated due to heat. But Alhamdulillah, since school’s off and he’s doing the right things especially eating properly in Suhoor and drinking plenty of water after Iftar, it lessens our worries.”
Raza, with full understanding of the importance of fasting, is trying his best to live up to the responsibility and encourages his friends to try out.
Although there are some days that he skips the fast, his parents are confident that in time, he will be well prepared.
According to a doctor, there is no harm in parents encouraging their children to fast. He however warned that parents have to make sure that they are not imposing fasting on the kids.
“Parents can encourage their children to practise fasting but make sure that it is not a burden for them. Also make sure that they have a free hand while fasting and they should not be compelled to fast during the day,” said Dr Imtiaz, a consultant paediatrician.
Shaykh Ismail Kamdar, a renowned Islamic scholar, says “We should lead the children by example and they should be attracted to fasting and other prayers from our actions. It should be a gradual process and we need to give them time before they can make Ramadhan fasting a part of their lives.”
He also reminds parents not to force any Ibadah on 2-4 year olds. Just introduce the concept of Ramadhan and encourage 5-6-year-old boys and girls to try fasting even for 3-4 hours, to begin with.
Parents should allow them to accept the challenge which is good for their personality formation as well.
Parents can teach 7-9-year-old children about fasting everyday while encouraging them to fast as many days as possible. Most children can fast about 15 days at this age. However, parents should teach 10 year olds about the rewards and punishments of fasting while insisting on fasting with understanding, praying regularly even Taraweeh, and reciting Quran daily.
For 12 year olds. Ramadhan and fasting should be part of their lives.
“Parents, make concerted efforts to make Suhoor and Iftar a happy memory for children and let them feel Suhoor appealing.So that they like to wake up at night to eat their favourite foods, and involve them in sharing food with neighbours and at the mosque,” Kamdar added.