Growing up means different things to different children. Some feel grown up when they are given responsibility, while others feel content when they are allowed to interact more closely with their elders. But what exactly is growing up all about? It’s a process of learning and understanding day to day life and accounting for one’s actions.
Though there is no set age to begin fasting, it becomes compulsory for every Muslim, male or female, after he or she reaches puberty. Often children as young as seven choose to fast.
Though they may not fast the entire month, this practice strengthens them mentally and spiritually.
Al Hajjaj Bin Habib is 9. He is in grade 4 at Al Hikmah Private School in Ajman. This year was his first fasting experience. He said: “I am very excited about fasting as all my classmates are fasting as well. I felt so proud of myself for having hung on till iftar time. As a means of encouragement I was given a monetary reward to save in my piggy bank and it was the ultimate treat. Last year I tried to fast, but was only able to fast half a day.”
“I’ve learnt that with intention and a strong will, desires can easily be defeated. Now I understand the pain of hunger and want to share the extra food left over with the poor at Al Ihsan Charity Centre.”
“Now I don’t take my blessings for granted. It helped me realise how much effort my parents put into the day when they fast. I now enjoy helping my mother set the table, arrange the fruits, etc, at iftar time. It doesn’t feel like a chore anymore,” said Sidra.
“In Ramadan everything and everyone is different. We visit places like parks and mosques instead of the usual routine of spending time in the malls. My parents are more relaxed, dad comes home early and we get to meet with the family and friends more often during iftar gatherings. I like that. Plus, I get to select my clothes for Eid, which is great!”
Kahkashan Kareem, a grade 4 student at the Gulf Indian High School, said, “I think fasting makes us better people. We are able to wait from suhour to iftar to eat and drink. Plus, when I’m fasting I make sure I don’t get angry at my sisters – Safoora, 6, and Darakhshan, 12. In fact, my elder sister encourages me to be punctual for my prayers. She supports me and keeps me away from the mischief of my little sister.
“I think Ramadan is exciting. The relatives get together each weekend and I like to exchange ideas with my cousins about how we fasted, what we did at school, etc. I also enjoy the iftar spread – my favourite is chocolate juice. Mummy makes this by adding milk, cream and sugar to melted chocolate ice cream. It’s really yummy and easy to make.
“But that’s not all. We even get to go to the mosque for special Tharaweeh prayers. Sometimes I even attend dars (religious lectures) with my mother and aunts. Here the teacher tells us about the simple rules to follow and it’s said like stories from the Quran or Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammad PBUH). It’s never boring.”
Mohammad Yousuf and Mohammad Khalid are cousins studying at Al Wataniya Private School. They started fasting on the first day of Ramadan. Yousuf is in grade 5.
He said, “Fasting takes a lot of patience. The first day I was miserable. I could not tolerate having my younger siblings come close to me after they had just eaten. I think my sense of smell had suddenly become stronger because I could smell what they ate or drank and it tempted me a lot.
But I was happy that I made it through the day just like my younger cousin, Khalid.”
Khalid added, “As usual we went to the grocery store that day and bought the goodies we liked, but didn’t eat them until after iftar time. Each year during Ramadan the whole family gathers at my uncle’s house to break the fast. On my first fast it felt really nice when everyone congratulated us. We have been promised a surprise gift after two weeks of fasting, I can hardly wait.
“Most of my friends in school are fasting so I don’t feel out of place during recess. I think school days are easier to go by without food and drink because there is a fixed schedule, we study, play, come home tired, rest and then ready ourselves for the evening meal with the family. But on weekends there is little to do except smell the aroma of dishes in the kitchen.”
Did you know?
Fasting is compulsory for all Muslims once they reach puberty.
However, many children, some as young as 7, also fast during Ramadan.
They may fast only a few days or a few hours.
Children can also attend prayers at the mosque and religious lectures with their family members.