The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar. The religion of Islam has five main pillars and Saum, or fasting, is one of them. During the holy month, practitioners of Ramadan abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. It’s a month of great religious significance and is a beloved Islamic occasion for all.
While it is not required for children who haven’t reached the age of puberty to fast, there are several ways in which you could encourage the spirit of Ramadan in your children. Here are some of the major foundations of Ramadan that you could share with your children to help them grasp the gravity of the holy month:
Self-control and discipline
Ramadan is a month in which a great amount of self-control must be exercised. Since you would be staying away from eating and drinking for long hours, your mind must be strong to stay away from temptation. As per Islam, once individuals of faith reach the age of puberty (usually 12 to 16), they are expected to fast. This transition can be done by introducing half-day fasts, as this prepares them to deal with hunger and thirst in a sustained way.
Teach your children that the point of Ramadan is not just to starve yourself but rather to make you mentally stronger. Join them in creating little quests of impulse control. Go a day without checking social media, refrain from raising your voice unnecessarily, and cut back on needless entertainment that neither you nor your kid really needs. Make it a challenge for you both, and lead by example. Don’t forget to praise them and offer encouragement for their efforts!
Zakat, or charity, is another pillar of Islam and plays a very critical role in the month of Ramadan. As per Islam, Muslims are required to pay 2.5% of their surplus wealth each year as mandatory charity. This spirit of giving is is a wonderful message to inculcate in your little ones. While they’re obviously not bound to pay Zakat – as they’re not earning yet – you could always encourage them to share their belongings and make small donations out of their pocket money to the underprivileged.
A huge part of Ramadan is its focus on family and community. In Muslim households, both the Suhoor, or the pre-dawn meal, and the Iftar, the fast-breaking meal, are eaten in the company of family and friends. Even the Tarawih prayers are done in unison with other Muslims in the neighbourhood in mosques. Invite your children to participate in Iftar preparations. Encourage them to join you in cooking, cleaning and praying. Create a cute Iftar corner for your young ones, read books about Ramadan with them, and give them little tasks and errands that will make them excited for the month and feel like they’re part of something bigger.
Ramadan doesn’t just help in regulating our impulses and having more self-discipline. It also helps us to be more empathetic. Abstaining from food and drink from dawn to dusk reminds us of hunger and puts us, albeit briefly, in the shoes of people who do not have enough to eat every day. Have honest conversations with your children about how Ramadan is a time of self-reflection and self-improvement. Reward good behaviour and try to correct bad ones. Teach your children the value of the things they possess by showing the true meaning of Ramadan, which is kindness and compassion and giving.
There are many ways to cultivate excitement and love for Ramadan in your little ones long before they start fasting. Make them active participants and stress the larger message of Ramadan rather than just the aspect of abstinence.
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