What Is The Correct Age For A Child To Start Fasting For Ramadan?
Fasting is not obligatory for young children, until they reach the age of adolescence. 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. 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. Some parents do not care about encouraging children 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.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah 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.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) 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 Allaah be pleased with them) – who are the best of this ummah – used to make their children fast when they were young.
Majmoo’ Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 19/28, 29
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked:
My young son insists on fasting Ramadaan 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 Allaah 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 Allaah 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
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) also said:
Allaah 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 Allaah 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 Allaah. 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