Q. What are your thoughts on children fasting in Ramadan before they reach the age of puberty?

A. (by #DrZakirNaik): As I mentioned earlier it is not compulsory for a person who has not reached the age of puberty to fast. He/she is exempted as our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said, “The pen has been lifted up from three categories of people –  a child until he reaches puberty, a sleeping person until he wakes up and a person who is insane until he becomes of sound mind”. But It is good to encourage our children to fast as early as possible though it is not compulsory and there is a hadith which is mentioned in  Sahih Al-Bukhari which says, “Prophet sends a message to Ansar… those who are fasting they should continue fasting, those who are not fasting should fast till the end of the day”. After that the sahaaba they fasted and even asked their children to fast and took them to the Masajids and if they cried they gave them toys of wool so to keep them busy till the time of iftaar. That means how sahaabas encouraged their children to fast at an early age though it was not compulsory. And this is a good habit but nowadays we see parents discourage their children to fast even if the child is enthusiastic  and says that I want to fast many parents say “At this young age?, it is not required, don’t fast!”. They fail to realize fasting at a young age will not cause them any harm in fact it will give them a training to fast when they will reach puberty. And Allah says in Quran in Surah Al-Tahreem Ch.  66 V. 6, “O you who believe save yourselves and your families from the torment of hell fire whose fuel is men and stones”. Allah is reminding the people don’t only save yourselves but even your children from the hell fire whose fuel is men and stones. So it is good to encourage our children to fast at an early age. And that’s what we do in our school that we are running the International Islamic School, we encourage them to fast at an early age even when they are in Jr. KG.  or senior KG.  at the age of 4,5 & 6 we encourage them. And at this age we say a person who fast the maximum in the class will get a gift, will get a reward and that encourages them,  and when they reach standard 1st i.e. when they are of approx age 6 Alhamdulillah most of the children fast the full month. And by the time they reach the standard 3rd i.e. approx. 7-8 yrs almost all of them fast the month of Ramadan though it is not compulsory so Alhamdulillah when they see other children fasting, imagine when most of parents tell the children ,”oh it is not required” but the children they force because they have a competition because of seeing their friends all of them fasting so if they don’t fast they feel ashamed, though it is not fardh on them but what atmosphere you create, we don’t tell them it is fardh to fast but the atmosphere of competition, the atmosphere of loving each other and loving the religion, loving Allah and his Rasool.  So in this way like it is said in a hadith ,”when a child reached the age of 7 we should teach him offer salaah and at the age of 10 you can even use force”. So scholars say you can do the same thing even for fasting.  We use gifts, love and rewards and alhumdullilah it has a tremendous effect on the children.

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