Ramadan is a chance to get our children fully immersed in Islamic values. And one of the main goals is to get them to fast when they are ready as it is from the pillars of Islam.
Though, I hope we can all agree that getting our kids to start fasting does not have to be an unpleasant experience. We don’t have to resort to force when asking them to fast because A, they are not obliged to do so. B, even if they are at the age where they are mandated to fast, they should be ready by then without the need of forcing them to do so insyaAllah.
How to get children used to fasting
In reality, getting kids to fast is not the same as asking an adult who has never fasted in their entire life. It requires a little bit more of an effort on our part. So here are some things that you can do to get them all set up for fasting this Ramadan insya’Allah!
#1 Make sure that they are physically ready to fast
Before anything else, we must ensure that they are physically ready by making sure that they are well and healthy. Also, it is important to note that every child differs. Some are ready at the age of 4, while some would only want to start at 6. It all depends and it’s up to you as a parent to evaluate what is best for your child.
#2 Get them mentally prepared
Children love to ask the “why” question. Offering them reasons as to why they must fast will be a huge motivating factor for them to pull through the whole day without eating and drinking. Also, explaining to them why we should fast as Muslims does not have to be complicated.
Here is how you can explain to your kids:
Allah commanded us to do it as He told us in the Qur’an
Open the mushaf and show them the verse, read it to them and explain its meaning
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيۡڪُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِڪُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who believe! fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al – Muttaqoon (the pious).
[Surah al-Baqarah verse 183]
Why does Allah command us to fast?
Then your child may ask, okay, but why? The answer is in the same verse.
“So that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (i.e. the people of taqwa)”
What is taqwa? As explained by scholars, from them Imam an-Nawawi said, “is to obey Allah’s commands and restrictions”
[Tahriru AlFazhil Tanbih, hal 322, source]
When we fast, we are training ourselves to be more aware that Allah is watching us. In reality, no one will know if we hide in our rooms and sneak food to eat. And we can go out again to pretend that we are fasting. But we don’t do that because we know that Allah is watching us. That is taqwa.
#3 Distract them
The companions used to make toys and brought their children along to the masjid so that they may forget about their hunger.
Khalid b. Dhakwan reported:
I asked Rubayyi’ daughter of Mu’awwidh about fasting on the day of ‘Ashura. Thereupon she said: The Messenger of Allah (may peace he upon him) sent his messenger to the villages of the Ansar, and the rest of the hadith is the same (but with this variation that one of the Companions) said:” We used to make toys out of wool and took (them to the mosque) along with us. When they (the children) asked us for food, we gave them these toys to play with, and these made them forgetful till they completed their fast.”
[Sahih Muslim 1136 b, source]
Following their examples, we must also make the effort to fill our kids’ time with activities. It can be bringing them to the masjid, playing games together, organizing playdates, reading books etc.
Adding on to that, we should not organize activities that will overwork them such as physical activities that can drain their energy fast. This might make them even thirstier and it will defeat the whole purpose.
Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen mentioned, “The parents can fill their children’s time with reading Qur’aan and memorizing a small portion each day, reading books that are suited to their level, letting them listen to tapes which combine useful content with fun, such as nasheeds, and bringing them video tapes that are useful for them. The “al-Majd for Children” channel does all of this things, and time can be set aside each day for children to watch it and benefit from it.”
[Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 19/19, 20, source]
#4 Give positive reinforcement
Encouragements and physical rewards can be a great motivation for kids. It can be preparing their favourite food for iftar, buying them something special, or simply praising them.
You can also print out a Ramadan chart like the one below, to track their progress and paste stickers for every time they have completed a day of fasting.
When they don’t make it till the end of the day, you should still acknowledge their efforts. Acknowledge and encourage instead of belittling their efforts and shaming them.
#5 Talk about the virtues of fasting and Ramadan
As adults, we already know how special Ramadan is. Kids don’t know that yet and it’s our job to tell them why so that they will get all hyped up for Ramadan. Here are some virtues of Ramadan and fasting that you can share with your kids
1. A special gate called ar-Rayyan for those who fast
It was narrated from Sahi bin Sad that the Prophet said:
“For those who fast there is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Rayyan, through which no one but they will enter. When the last of them has entered it, it will be closed. Whoever enters through it will drink, and whoever drinks will never thirst again.”
[Sunan an-Nasa’i 2236, Sahih, source]
2. Past sins being forgiven by Allah
The Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said,
“He who observes the fast of the month of Ramadhaan out of sincerity and hope for the reward from Allaah will have his past sins forgiven.”
[ Saheeh Al- Bukhaari (Arabic/English), vol. 3, 125.]
3. Allah will abundantly reward those who fast
4. Fasting is a shield from the hellfire
The Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said,
“Allaah said: All the deeds of Adam’s children belong to them, except fasting, which belongs to me and I will reward it. Fasting is a shield (against the Hell and against the commission of sins).”
[Saheeh Al – Bukhaari (Arabic/ English), vol.3, 118 and 128, and Saheeh Muslim (English trans) 2567.]
5. Fasting will plead for us on the day of Judgment
The Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said,
“Fasting and the Qur’aan intercede for the servant on the Day of Resurrection. Fasting will say : O my Lord ! I prevented him from food and desires, so accept my intercession for him ; and the Qur’aan will say : I prevented him from sleep at night, so accept my intercession for him. So their intercession will be accepted.”
[Reported by Ahmad, Al Haakim, Abu Nu’aym and others from ‘ Abdullaah ibn ‘ Amr. Its chain of narrators is hasan]
6. The gates of Jannah will be opened and the gates of hell will be closed during Ramadan
7. The Satans will be chained during Ramadan
Allah’s Apostle صلي الله عليه وسلم said, “ When the month of Ramadhaan starts, the gates of Jannah (Paradise) are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and satans are chained.”
[Saheeh Al- Bukhaari (Arabic/English), vol. 3, 123,]
#6 Eat good food for the pre-dawn meal (Sahur/Suhoor)
Make sure that your children wake up for the pre-dawn meal so that they will have the energy to last for the day. Here are some healthy recipe ideas to get you inspired!
#7 Make do’a
Finally, the most important tip is to make do’a. Our pious predecessors (i.e. the first 3 generations after the prophet’s salallahu alaihi wasalam time) used to make do’a to Allah that He aids them in carrying righteous deeds. (source) Thus, we should also do the same when it comes to training our children to fast.
Let’s make do’a that Allah will make it easy for us and our kids to make the best out of this Ramadan. Share in the comments below on how you prep your children for Ramadan!
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