Rubayyi’ bintu Mu‘awwiz bin ‘Afraa’ (radhiyallahu ‘anhuma) mentions that Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) sent the following message to the various localities of the Ansaar on the morning of ‘Aashuraa, “Whoever began the day fasting should complete his fast, and whoever is not fasting should complete the day without eating.” Rubayyi’ (radhiyallahu ‘anha) further says, “After that (the announcement) we would ensure that we fasted on the day of ‘Aashuraa (in the years that followed) and would even make our small children fast. We would make toys out of wool for them. When one of them would cry for food, we would give him the toy to distract him until iftaar.” (Saheeh Bukhaari #1960)
A mother wishing to wean her child doesn’t introduce him to a diet of 100% solids overnight. She understands that the child’s digestive system will not cope with such a sudden, drastic change and therefore makes small, gradual adjustments to the diet. Similarly, when a child becomes mature (reaches the age of puberty), it is now obligatory for him to perform the 5 daily salaah, fast in the month of Ramadhaan, etc. If these obligatory ‘ibaadaat are introduced to the child all at once, he may find it difficult to make an “overnight” change. Therefore the Sahaabiyyaat (radhiyallahu ‘anhunna) would begin training their children to perform ‘ibaadaat long before they reached the age of puberty. In this way, they ensured that their children were not only accustomed to all the ‘ibaadaat but that the ‘ibaadaat were actually a second nature to them. Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) himself has taught us to train our children in this manner. He instructs us to make our children perform salaah at the age of 7 and to punish them for not performing salaah when they reach the age of 10 – emphasizing the importance of giving the child the correct training early in life. (Abu Dawood #494)
When a tree is a young sapling, it is easy to guide it and ensure that it grows straight. If left without guidance, however, it will grow crooked and become set in its crookedness. To adequately train the child for the duties he will face later on in life is actually kindness to the child – not cruelty. If we do not inculcate the Islamic way of behaving, dressing and speaking and the habit of ‘ibaadat into our children from a young age, thinking that they are “still too small”, what will we do when they are suddenly “too big” to heed our “too-late” guidance?