According to the Islamic calendar, the month of Ramadan—a very important month for Muslims—is just seven days away. Throughout this month, every Muslim who has reached puberty, is sane and is not sick or travelling, is required to fast from dawn till dusk as mentioned in verse 183 of the Quran, in Surah al-Baqarah.
While waiting for the blessed month, it would be good if we can do some revision on fasting itself, so that we can improve the quality of our fasting this year.
There are many things that need to be revised: (a) the meaning of fasting; (b) the legal rules of fasting; (c) the requirements for fasting to be valid; (d) the intention (niyyah) for fasting; (e) the recommended things to do during fasting; (f) things that are not recommended during fasting; (g) matters that invalidate fasting; (h) doa for breaking the fast; (i) circumstances that make a person unable to fast; and, (j) kaffarah or compensation for deliberately missing or breaking the fast. Therefore, we need to do some reading on fasting, understand them and share them with our spouse and children.
It is easy to share this knowledge with our spouses as well as our adult and adolescent children. However, the approach should be slightly different when it comes to sharing this information with children in primary school and the newbies – those who are just learning to fast.
Generally, children are trained to fast at the age of six to seven years old when they begin with half-day fasting, from dawn to lunch time. Gradually, the newbies will be persuaded to perform the full fasting especially during weekends. They are taught about the intention (niyyah) for fasting; the importance of suhoor; and, things that would invalidate the fasting. Usually, with the newbies, parents tend to take the persuasive approach in order to make them fast. Very often, parents and grandparents, offer them rewards—in cash or kind—for a successful fasting day.
For children who have been fasting successfully for the whole of Ramadan for the past year or two, the approach used is more firm. While these children are still offered a certain reward, what is more important is that they are reminded to improve the quality of their fasting. Therefore, in addition to reminding them of the intention (niyyah) for fasting; the importance of suhoor; and reminding them of the things that will invalidate their fasting; the 10–12 year old children are also reminded of the recommended things to do during fasting such as reading the Quran and doing good deeds. This is to encourage them to seize the opportunities to get as much rewards as possible from Allah SWT in order to improve the quality of their fasting.
Besides refreshing our mind regarding fasting, it is also good to reschedule our lives during this fasting month especially when we take into consideration the need for suhoor. Suhoor is the meal taken before daybreak by Muslims who intend to perform the fast.
Ali ibn Abu Talib r.a. quoted the holy Prophet as saying, “Allah, the Praised and the Exalted, and His angels send blessings unto those who take their suhoor meal and seek His forgiveness; so, let each one of you observe suhoor even by drinking some water.”
Suhoor is performed between 5am and the Subuh prayers. However, the woman of the house would wake up an hour earlier to prepare food, while the man will also wake up early to perform the sunnah prayers or help the wife in the kitchen. The beauty of Islam is that, whether you are performing the sunah prayers or preparing food for suhoor, both will be handsomely rewarded by Allah SWT.
Another thing that needs planning is the menu for the breakfast and suhoor. If during the normal days we sometimes run out of ideas of what to cook, what more during the month of Ramadan. Therefore, we need to plan a two-week menu that can be replicated for the rest of the months, while buying some food from the Ramadan bazaar, every now and then. The important point in preparing these food is moderation in variety and quantity so as to minimise wastage.
Last but not least, for the whole of Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to do other good deeds such as reading the Quran, giving charity, terawih prayers, etc. The Prophet Muhammad had said that the rewards for all these voluntary good deeds performed in the month of Ramadan are like those given for the obligatory ones in other months. Therefore, in order to seize these multiple rewards, we need to plan and make time for all these activities.
Well, that is a lot of planning to do for Ramadan. Lucky we have another seven days to go!