As Muslims, we have always known the importance of Ramadan ever since we were young children. Even before the days when we were expected to observe sawm, which is not obligatory before the age of puberty, our parents introduced us to the traditions of our faith and why we do this – all to bring ourselves closer to Allah (SWT).
Whether we are parents or are around young children at this time of year, we have a duty to continue to pass on the word of Allah (SWT) just as the angel Jibril did to the Prophet (PBUH) in the year 610 AD (and over the course of the next 23 years). As we pass this on to our children, they, too, will pass it onto theirs and thus the traditions of Ramadan will carry on long after we have left this world.
If we teach children from a young age the importance and significance of Ramadan and the fast, the more likely they are to understand it when it comes to their time to fully appreciate the practice.
While children are not observing sawm, at least not full-time (as some parents like to encourage the little ones to fast for either a full day here and there or for a short period of the day), they can still partake in other traditions. This includes increasing the number of times they pray to Allah (SWT) during the day and reciting the Qur’an.
As well as this, children can still take part in other aspects of the fast that do not include abstaining from food and drink – this includes more behavioural aspects such as refraining from foul language and feelings of anger. Of course, this is an example that we try to teach our children no matter what time of year it may be, but teaching them the significance of placing extra emphasis on self-discipline during Ramadan is a good way to introduce them to this auspicious month.
When it comes to Ramadan for kids, especially young children, there is no better way to teach them than by having fun whilst learning. Engaging them in activities that feed their interests means that they are far likelier to retain information. One such way is by encouraging children to make their own decorations ahead of the Eid celebration that comes after Ramadan has finished.
Alternatively, families can also invest in more child-friendly adaptions of the Qur’an that re-tell the message of Allah (SWT) in a way that young children can better relate to. This will help your children as they recite the Qur’an to learn to appreciate the teachings of Allah (SWT), helping them to become a better Muslim in the process.
As well as teaching children the traditions of Ramadan, you should also take the time to explain the facts of this month, too. Most notably, why the month of Ramadan never falls on the same dates – at least not in the Gregorian calendar. As Muslims’ prayer timetables are in accordance with the Islamic calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle, the month of Ramadan starts roughly 10 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar.
Children should also be taught why some Muslims may not observe sawm, as it is impolite to ask why someone is not fasting. Such reasons include:
While anyone who meets the above criteria does not have to observe sawm, they are expected to pay Fidya to appease Allah (SWT). Teaching children that those who are not fasting for whatever reason are likely still adhering to their religious obligations is important, helping them to understand that there may well be a perfectly innocent reason why someone is not fasting in Ramadan.
Sawm is one of the five pillars of Islam and understanding the meaning behind why Muslims fast is important for anyone who is part of the Islamic community. The reason that we observe sawm is because the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would spend much of his time in isolation, meditating in a cave in Mount Hira, located near Mecca, which is where the angel Jibril revealed the first passages of what would become known as the Holy Qur’an.
The first revelations are believed to have happened on the 27th night of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is why Ramadan is the ninth month and the 27th night (although disputed by some) is Laylat al-Qadr (also known as the Night of Power). Sawm is a spiritual discipline and is a time of contemplation of a Muslim’s relationship with Allah (SWT).
Of course, this may be a lot for young children to take in, but you can still relay why Muslims observe sawm and its meaning through various activities. Asking children to list some of the reasons why we fast, as well as some of the traditions that come with Ramadan, is just one way of encouraging children to learn and undertake their own research about this spiritual month.
One tradition that we have not mentioned until now is that of Fitrana, or Zakat ul-Fitr, which is a charitable obligation that all Muslims are expected to pay. The head of the household is responsible for making this payment on behalf of all members of the family unable to donate, but this still presents a good opportunity to teach children of its importance.
Children, especially those that are given pocket money, should be asked to make this donation out of their allowance. Although this payment is still effectively paid by the head of the household, this will teach the child(ren) of its value and the possibilities of this payment.
You can choose to donate Fitrana for you and on behalf of your children through Muslim Aid’s donation page here.