Ra­madan re­flec­tions

Dur­ing this holy month, par­ents teach their chil­dren about fast­ing and faith.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By SHEELA CHAN­DRAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

THIS Ra­madan, seven-year-old Zara Aaliyah Nazrudin is tak­ing a big step in her spir­i­tual jour­ney. For the first time, she is par­tic­i­pat­ing in her full fast, from dawn to dusk. Zara has looked for­ward to fast­ing dur­ing the holy month as it is an im­por­tant rite of pas­sage for her.

“Daddy wakes me up at 5am for sahur. Dur­ing fast­ing month, I sleep by 8.30pm so I can wake up in time for sahur. Sahur is fun be­cause I get to eat some of my favourite break­fast treats like smooth­ies, fruits and pas­tries. I feel like an adult as I get to eat with my par­ents,” says Zara, the el­dest of three sib­lings.

Zara has been do­ing par­tial fasts since she was four years old. She first started out with half day fasts, last­ing from sahur till noon. Last year, she fasted till 3pm. It’s been over a week since she started do­ing a full fast, and so far she has done well.

“It’s not as dif­fi­cult as it seems. The trick is to eat well and drink lots of wa­ter dur­ing sahur and when you break fast. Mummy has re­duced my sports ac­tiv­i­ties as she doesn’t want me to get too ex­hausted dur­ing puasa month,” says the friendly child.

Her mother, en­tre­pre­neur Sheah­nee Iman Lee, 38, says it was Zara’s de­ci­sion to com­plete a full day’s fast for the en­tire month.

“I gave her strict guide­lines on when to stop, such as if she gets dizzy or de­hy­drated. But amaz­ingly, she has man­aged to pull through. My hus­band and I are very proud of her,” says the for­mer Ntv7 news pre­sen­ter, who em­braced Is­lam af­ter mar­ry­ing fel­low TV host Nazrudin Habibur Rah­man, 39.

This Ra­madan, Sheah­nee and Nazrudin have en­cour­aged their sec­ond child, five-year-old Zakry Ai­man, to fast for half a day, from dawn till 1pm. Both chil­dren have coped well with­out any com­plaints.

“Thank­fully, they have been fast­ing pretty well. Al­though they are of­ten lethar­gic by mid-af­ter­noon, they are in good spir­its and go about their usual ac­tiv­i­ties with­out much has­sle,” says Nazrudin, adding that fast­ing isn’t merely about de­priv­ing one­self of food and wa­ter but also cleans­ing the mind and soul from neg­a­tive thoughts and emo­tions.

Sheah­nee be­lieves Zara’s pos­i­tive and driven at­ti­tude has helped her fast.

“When she sets her mind on some­thing, she re­ally strives hard to achieve it. We were ini­tially con­cerned if she could do a full day’s fast. But we noted her pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and de­cided to give her our fullest en­cour­age­ment,” says Sheah­nee, who also sends Zakry and Zara for Qu­ran classes to deepen their un­der­stand­ing of Is­lam.

Sheah­nee and Nazrudin have also given Zara and Zakry a Ra­madan jour­nal so they can keep track of their fast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­sides anec­dotes and prayers, the book con­tains ac­tiv­i­ties to mo­ti­vate chil­dren while they fast.

There are pages with smi­ley faces which chil­dren can colour if they have achieved cer­tain goals through­out the day.

“Some­thing as sim­ple as smil­ing is con­sid­ered a char­i­ta­ble act in Is­lam and it is re­warded with a smi­ley face in the jour­nal.

“We also have a trea­sure jar where the chil­dren are en­cour­aged to save money to do­nate to the less for­tu­nate,” says Nazrudin, who reads sto­ries on Mus­lim prophets and Is­lam dur­ing the fast­ing month to his chil­dren.

Sheah­nee hopes the Ra­madan jour­nal will help Zara and Zakry re­flect on the spirit and mean­ing of fast­ing, rather than on goals like break­ing fast feasts or Hari Raya fes­tiv­i­ties.

Re­li­gious foun­da­tion

Fast­ing dur­ing Ra­madan is one of the five obli­ga­tions that ev­ery Mus­lim must ful­fil. Dur­ing the holy month, Mus­lims fast from dawn to dusk and they are ex­pected to re­frain from eat­ing, drink­ing, smoking and sex­ual acts.

Those ex­empted from fast­ing are pre­pubescent chil­dren, the men­tally un­sound and the el­derly. There are also those who can post­pone their fast­ing, such as acutely ill pa­tients, and women who are men­stru­at­ing or preg­nant.

Per­tubuhan Ke­ba­jikan Is­lam Malaysia’s Us­taz Dr Sayyid Al Kaz­imi says Mus­lim chil­dren are en­cour­aged to fast from a young age to en­sure they grow up stead­fast in their faith.

“If a seven-year-old child can fast con­tin­u­ously for three days with­out any dif­fi­cul­ties, the child is con­sid­ered able to fast vol­un­tar­ily. At 10 years old, par­ents can com­pel their chil­dren to fast. If they find it dif­fi­cult, leave them be till they reach pu­berty,” ex­plains Dr Sayyid.

Dur­ing Ra­madan, Mus­lim par­ents are en­cour­aged to teach their chil­dren how to read the Qu­ran. Chil­dren are also en­cour­aged to par­tic­i­pate in Ra­madan pro­grammes and alms giv­ing.

“Mus­lim chil­dren are urged to par­tic­i­pate in ter­awih prayers and cel­e­brate if­tar with their Mus­lim and non-Mus­lim friends. They are also taught to par­take in right­eous ac­tiv­i­ties such as ziarah (vis­it­ing rel­a­tives and friends),” says Dr Sayyid.

Mother-of-four Fauziah Is­mail makes it a point to in­clude her chil­dren in re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the holy month.

Af­ter break­ing fast, Fauziah and hus­band Ameer Alphonso, 45, take their chil­dren – Aleeya An­dri­anna, 13, Alee­sha Are­anna, 10, Aleena Adreanna, seven, and Ay­den Aaqeel, five – for prayers at their neigh­bour­hood mosque, Madrasah­tur Rah­maniyah, in Kam­pung Medan, Pe­tal­ing Jaya, Se­lan­gor.

Fauziah says pray­ing in a con­gre­ga­tion helps her chil­dren strengthen their faith and deepen their un­der­stand­ing of the re­li­gion.

“At the mosque, they can lis­ten to the khut­bah (talks) and min­gle with other chil­dren who are also

there to learn more about the re­li­gion,” says the 40-year-old man­age­ment trainer.

Fauziah also helps to or­gan­ise potluck gath­er­ings to break fast, sadaqah ses­sions (the act of giv­ing char­ity to the poor, sin­gle moth­ers and the dis­abled) and even mu­ruku com­pe­ti­tions.

Her chil­dren are ac­tively in­volved in ter­awih prayers and Malam Tu­juh Likur (a Malay cus­tom in which oil lamps are lit), as well as pray­ing un­til the early hours of morn­ing on the last 10 nights hop­ing to wit­ness Lailatul Qadr (the night when the Qu­ran was re­vealed and when the an­gels de­scended).

“My chil­dren are in­volved in char­i­ta­ble acts such as giv­ing out food and dona­tions to the poor. Through these ac­tiv­i­ties, they un­der­stand their re­li­gious du­ties and the im­por­tance of acts of kind­ness dur­ing the holy month.”

Their mother has taught Aleeya and Alee­sha well about the the im­por­tance of char­ity. Dur­ing Ra­madan, the girls go the ex­tra mile to help Fauziah with house­hold chores and food prepa­ra­tion.

“For sahur, Alee­sha helps to set the table while Aleeya wakes up her younger sib­lings. We usu­ally eat a light meal, with bread, ce­re­als, eggs and por­ridge. Dates, a healthy en­ergy source, is another must have dur­ing sahur and if­tar,” she says, adding her three el­dest daugh­ters are do­ing full fasts this Ra­madan.

Eat­ing right

Dur­ing Ra­madan, it is im­por­tant for chil­dren to have a bal­anced diet with suf­fi­cient calo­ries, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als.

They also must have lots of flu­ids, es­pe­cially wa­ter, to pre­vent mus­cle break­down, sup­port phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and health and avoid de­hy­dra­tion.

“Sug­ary foods or drinks may in­crease crav­ings and cause fa­tigue while high con­sump­tion of salty foods such as pro­cessed meats, fast food and junk food may in­crease thirst,” says Tuanku Mizan Armed Forces Hospi­tal’s di­eti­tian Ma­jor Razni Shauna Ab­dul Razak.

She ad­vises train­ing chil­dren to eat smaller meals, prior to the fast­ing month, and aim for bal­anced meals with pro­tein, fi­bre, healthy fats and wa­ter.

“Make com­plex car­bo­hy­drates the ma­jor source of car­bo­hy­drate in the diet. Whole grains should make up at least half of grain in­take be­cause they are more nu­tri­tious and slow di­ges­tion,” says Ma­jor Razni.

Eat­ing fi­bre dur­ing sahur keeps chil­dren full. The best source of fi­bre are beans, whole grains and brown rice. Eat suf­fi­cient por­tions of fruit and veg­eta­bles (five to 10 serv­ings daily or half the serv­ing plate). Pro­tein de­lays hunger and pro­vides en­ergy. In­clude pro­teins such as fish, white meat, legumes and nuts, and seeds, rec­om­mends Ma­jor Razni.

“Healthy fats such as av­o­cado, nuts, nut but­ter and olives keep chil­dren full longer. Avoid ex­ces­sive fat in­take, solid fats, and food con­tain­ing trans fatty acids. In­clude low-fat dairy prod­ucts in the diet. Avoid un­healthy fats or fried food as much as pos­si­ble as it may pro­mote fa­tigue and lead to un­healthy weight gain.”

Ma­jor Razni says it may be dif­fi­cult for chil­dren to wake up early for sahur.

“Get them to sahur at 6.30am in­stead of 5.30am. En­cour­age them to fast for a few hours, then grad­u­ally ex­tend the fast­ing pe­riod. Dis­tract chil­dren with ac­tiv­i­ties such as draw­ing, writ­ing jour­nals and read­ing the Qu­ran. If they man­age to fast for a full day, re­ward them with books.”

Photo: IBRAHIM MOHTAR/The Star

Nazrudin (left) and Sheah­nee break­ing fast with their chil­dren Zakry, Zayd (cen­tre) and Zara dur­ing the fast­ing month. — Photos: IBRAHIM MOHTAR/The Star

Be­low: Zara and Zakry learn about Ra­madan with the sup­port of their par­ents.

Each day, Zara (right) and Zakry fill up their My Ra­madan Jour­nal.

Fauziah (right) and her fam­ily mem­bers hav­ing light snacks, com­pris­ing bread, ce­real and por­ridge, for sahur. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star.

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