We used to make toys out of dyed wool for the children and keep them with us so if the children asked us for food we would give them the toys to distract them until they completed their fast.
[Saheeh Muslim. A similar narration is also in Saheeh Al-Bukhari]
Al-Nawawi states in his commentary on Saheeh Muslim:
In this narration we are shown that children should be trained to do acts of obedience and made used to doing worship; although they are not legally bound.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz said:
Ramadan is an obligatory fast for all Muslims who have reached puberty, men and women. As for children, who have reached 7 years and higher, it is recommended for them to fast if they are able to. It is obligatory for the guardians to order their children to fast if they are able to (i.e. the children). Just as they order them to the prayer. The foundation for this opinion is His (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) Word:
O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).
Source: Tuhfat-ul-Ikhwan, p. 159-160
Question: Oh Shaykh, You find from the women those who make their child fast and the child is only two years of age. They use as a proof for this, that the Salaf used to make the young children fast. What are your comments upon this?
Answer by Shaykh Ubaid Al-Jabiri:
That which I am aware of from which the scholars have mentioned, is that the young child should be commanded to fast, if they are able to handle it. I believe that they intend by this the child who has reached the age of discretion (tamyeez) or those above that, those who are (approx.) 8 or 9 years of age because they are said to be able to handle it. The child is commanded with acts of worship when he reaches the age of discretion. This is as training and to get him accustomed to it so he may know the acts of worship like the prayer and fasting.
As for the woman making the child fast and they are two years of age then this is a mistake. I do not know any example of this from the actions of the Salaf. I hope that you convey my Salaams to them. And I advise them to fear Allah as it pertains to their children. For, verily the child who is two will suffer harm from fasting and he has no intellect to allow him to be commanded. That which is reported upon the Salaf is that the child should be commanded, and the like of him, (the two year old) will not be able to comprehend a command or prohibition. Those women making their children (the like of this age) fast are committing a monstrous mistake.
I fear that if the baby was to die, due to the mother making him fast, she caused this and no doubt she is a sinner. I hold that she caused this and she has to pay blood money and “Kafarah” expiation.
[Shaykh Ubaid Al-Jabiri: Source]
Question: Should children below the age of fifteen be ordered to fast as in the case with prayer?
Imam Muhammad ibn Saalih al-’Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah) answered: “Yes, children who have not yet reached the age of puberty should be ordered to fast if they are able to do it. This is what the Companions (radiallaahu ‘anhum) would do with their children.
The scholars have stated that a guardian should order whichever youth he possesses guardianship over to fast so that they could practice it and become attached to it, and so that the foundations of Islam could become instilled in their souls to the point that it becomes like second-nature to them.
However, they [the children] are not required to fast if doing so will be difficult on them or bring harm to them. I would like to point out here an issue that some fathers or mothers do, and that is preventing their children from fasting – in direct opposition to what the Companions used to do.
They [some parents] claim that they are preventing their children from fasting out of mercy and compassion for them. But the reality is that mercy for one’s children is in ordering them to practice the rites of Islam and to grow accustomed and attached to them. This – without a doubt – is from the best and most complete forms of raising and cultivating one’s children.
It is authentically reported that the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
Verily a man is a guardian for the members of his household and he will be questioned as to his flock.
[Reported by Al-Bukhari (no. 2409) and Muslim (no. 1829)]
That which is required for guardians with respect to those whom Allah has given them authority over, such as family members and youth, is that they fear Allah with regard to them and order them with what they were commanded to order them, such as implementing the rites of Islam.”
Source: 48 Su’aalan fis-Siyaam
What is the right age to get children accustomed to fasting?
Praise be to Allah.
Fasting is not obligatory for young children, until they reach the age of adolescence, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“The pens have been lifted from three: from one who has lost his mind until he comes back to his senses, from one who is sleeping until he wakes up, and from a child until he reaches the age of adolescence.”
[Narrated by Abu Dawood, 4399; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood]
Nevertheless, children should be told to fast so that they can get used to it, and because the good deeds that they do will be recorded for them.
The age at which parents should start to teach their children to fast is the age at which they are able to fast, which will vary according to each child’s physical makeup. Some scholars have defined this as being ten years of age.
Al-Kharqi said: When a child is ten years old and is able to fast, he should start to do so.
Ibn Qudaamah said: This means that he should be made to fast and told to do so. And he should be smacked if he does not do it, so as to train him and make him get used to it, just as he should be made to pray and told to do it. Among those who were of the view that a child should be told to fast when he becomes able to do it were ‘Ata’, al-Hasan, Ibn Sireen, al-Zuhri, Qataadah and al-Shaafa’i.
Al-Awzaa’i said: If he is able to fast for three consecutive days without interruption and without becoming weak, then he should be made to fast Ramadan.
Ishaaq said: When (a child) reaches the age of twelve I think that he should be made to fast so that he gets used to it.
The age of ten is more likely, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) enjoined smacking children for not praying at this age, and regarding fasting as being like prayer is better, because they are close to one another, and because they are both physical actions that are pillars of Islam. But fasting is harder, so attention should be paid to when the child becomes able for it, because some may be able to pray who are not yet able to fast. End quote.
This is what the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did with their children; they would tell those who were able to fast to do so, and if one of them wept because of hunger, they would give him a toy to distract him, but it is not permissible to force them to fast if it will harm them in cases of physical weakness or sickness.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:
A young child should not be forced to fast until he has reached the age of adolescence, but he may be told to fast if he is able to do it, so that he may get used to it and it will be easier for him after he reaches puberty. The Sahaabah (may Allah be pleased with them) – who are the best of this Ummah – used to make their children fast when they were young. End quote. [Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 19/28, 29]
And the Shaykh (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked: My young son insists on fasting Ramadan even though fasting is harmful for him because he is so young and his health is not good. Should I use force with him to make him break his fast?
If he is young and has not yet reached puberty, he is not obliged to fast, but if he is able to do it without hardship, then he should be told to do so. The Sahaabah (may Allah be pleased with them) used to make their children fast, and if the younger ones cried they would give them toys to distract them. But if it is proven that it is harmful to him, then he should be stopped from fasting. If Allah has forbidden us to give youngsters their wealth if there is the fear that they may abuse it, then it is more appropriate that they be stopped from doing something if there is the fear of physical harm. But that should not be done by force, because that is not appropriate in raising children. End quote. [Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 19/83]
The parents can encourage their children to fast by giving them a gift each day, or by exploiting the spirit of competition between them and their peers or those who are younger than them. They can encourage them to pray by taking them to pray in the mosques, especially if they go out with their father and pray in different mosques each day. They can also encourage them by rewarding them for that, whether that is by praising them or by taking them out on trips sometimes, or buying things that they like, etc.
Unfortunately some fathers and mothers fall far short in encouraging their children, and there are even some who stop their children doing these acts of worship. Some of these fathers and mothers think that mercy and compassion mean not making their children fast or pray. This is completely mistaken according to both the shar’i point of view and educational wisdom.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
Allah has enjoined fasting upon every Muslim who is accountable, able to do it and not travelling. As for young children who have not yet reached the age of puberty, fasting is not obligatory for them, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The pen has been lifted from three” and he mentioned young children until they reach puberty. But the child’s guardian must tell him to fast if he reaches an age where he is able to do so, because that comes under the heading of training him to implement the pillars of Islam. We see some people leaving their children alone and not telling them to pray or fast, but this is wrong, and he (the parent) will be responsible for that before Allah. They say that they do not make their children fast out of kindness and compassion towards them, but in fact the one who is truly kind and compassionate towards his child is the one who trains him to acquire good characteristics and to do righteous deeds, not the one who refrains from disciplining and training him in a beneficial manner. End quote. [Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 19/19, 20]
The parents can fill their children’s time with reading Qur’an 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.
We would like to express our appreciation for our sister’s concern about her children’s upbringing. This indicates that there is still goodness in Muslim families. But many people do not do well in bringing out their children’s intellectual and physical potential, and they become lazy and depend on others. They also do not care about encouraging them to do acts of worship such as fasting and praying, so many children grow up in this manner and their hearts are devoid of worship after they grow older, and it becomes difficult for their parents to direct them and advise them, whereas if they had paid attention to this matter from the outset, they would not have ended up regretting it in the end.
We ask Allah to help us to raise our children well, to make them love worship, and to help us to fulfill our duties towards them.
And Allah knows best.