Ramadan for kids
The way to help your kids understand their first Ramadan Discuss this article
For western expats in the Gulf one of the most foreign times of the year is Ramadan, especially if you’re new to the country. Regardless of your personal faith, though, it’s a great time to connect with those in your community, both Muslim and non-Muslim. ‘Ramadan is a celebration of the month during which the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) received the revelations brought to him through the Angel Gabriel,’ says Amna Baltaji, a native of northern California who converted to Islam 30 years ago and has lived in the UAE for the last 20. ‘These revelations are considered to be the word of Allah and they form the Muslim holy book called the Koran.’
The most noticeable element of Ramadan is fasting; people who are fasting do not allow anything – food, drink, gum, cigarettes – to pass their lips during daylight hours. A greater disruption for children, however, will be the shortened school day. While older children will have to pay attention to dressing more conservatively.
So how can non-Muslim children, both younger kids and teens, show respect for Muslims during this special time? ‘Showing appreciation and admiration for their efforts,’ says Baltaji, who has been studying and sharing her understanding of Islam since her days at university. ‘If you see your friend is tired or hungry, noticing and cheering them on is a great expression of peace and a step towards understanding. My son was so touched when a non-Muslim classmate told him, “Good luck, I guess you’ll feel better at dinner!” and gave him a smile. You don’t have to be Muslim to be supportive and compassionate.’
All children should be encouraged to be more polite, generous and kind during Ramadan. Muslim children will be trying extra hard not to be naughty, deceitful or angry, and non-Muslim children should try not to lead them astray as a sure sign of respect.
Even better than encouraging words is your adherence to the rules of fasting, at least in public. Young children are not expected to observe the fast, but parents can do their part to keep their kids’ public eating and drinking to a minimum. Law requires that adults observe the fast in public during Ramadan; whether or not your teen is considered to be an adult is up for debate. The age a Muslim child will attempt to fast can vary. Though younger children are not required to fast, they may be allowed to go on ‘half fast’ (Asr/mid-afternoon to Maghreb/sunset) for practice, or to stop them from feeling left out. Most are fully fasting by about age 12.
If you were to flout the fasting law, you or your child probably wouldn’t go to jail, but the point of the law is more about respect. No matter what your personal views are, if you’ve chosen to leave your home country and live in a predominately Muslim culture, it’s only fair to show the proper respect, and the holy month of Ramadan is a prime example.
Baltaji suggests other ways to help educate children about the holy month. ‘Ask one of your Muslim friends if you can come to Iftar to break the fast with him or her one day. I always try to encourage my children to invite their non-Muslim friends and teachers over for Iftar. Ramadan is a month of community, and anybody of any age is welcome to ask questions.’
Time Out Bahrain,
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