Should children fast over Ramadaan?

2009-09-07 00:00

I REMEMBER coming home from school during Ramadaan in Grade 2, starving and thirsty. After spending the previous night begging my mother to let me fast the whole day, by 2.30 pm the next afternoon I was done. She let me break my fast and then we agreed that I’d only fast until I got home from school.

These days I’m so used to it that the hunger doesn’t even phase me. Ramadaan is a month of fasting, charity and improving your relationship with the Creator.

Children and fasting

It is not compulsory for children who have not reached adolescence to fast, although they do start practising from around the age of six. The reason parents let their children fast is to get them into the routine and also to help them understand why we fast.

Nabeweya Malick of the Muslim Judicial Council says: “Fasting teaches children that their desires are secondary, it is submission to Allah (SWT)’s law which comes first. This is a primary lesson for a believer and would strengthen the young adult when tested with other challenges in life.”

Different families have different rules ­regarding this practice. Some parents only allow their children to fast when they reach adolescence. Others help their children slowly get used to fasting by allowing them to fast “half day”, which for younger children would be to noon or second interval.

For children a bit older they would break their fast after school.

Other parents let their children fast the whole day. This may be for the entire month, while others will alternate with a whole or half day.

TV watching in the fast

We all know how children love to watch TV. It’s become a national pastime. While TV watching is not forbidden, it is discouraged. Muslims are encouraged to read and learn from the Qur’an during this month and anything else that can distract from this is discouraged, like mindless TV watching for hours on end.

That is not to say the TV itself cannot go on, as there are Islamic channels that ­broadcast Ramadaan-appropriate content which can be watched, as this can also ­increase children’s knowledge and their ­understanding of ­Islam.

This is a month when parents have more time to teach and focus on their children’s Islamic knowledge and also to build stronger bonds with them.


In Cape Town during Ramadaan neighbours often make sweet or savoury treats to exchange with each other. The idea ­behind this is to ensure that everyone has something to break their fast with. Children deliver these treats, which teaches them that giving is better than receiving and to care for others. It’s a tradition that many children look forward to every year and this also builds good neighbour relations.

Children may get rewarded with little presents by their parents if they fasted the entire month for the whole day. This is a great achievement as well as a difficult one, so their parents are proud of them.

Eid-ul-Fitr, the festive day that signifies the end of Ramadaan, is also a special day for children. When visiting family and friends on this day they will get given money. This was because they had fasted, but these days children get it regardless of whether they fasted half a day, a whole day or at all.

Ramadaan is a time when parents can teach their children about their faith and help to strengthen it. It’s an important ­decision whether parents allow their ­children to fast or not, as this can build their character in teaching them patience, ­empathy and understanding.


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