Like all our behavior, acts of worship have a close association with our habits. In other words, our habits determine our behavior, and most of us give as much space to worship in our lives as our habits permit us. People of consciousness and willpower who are aware of this condition know how much of a personal effort is required in the struggle to positively rebuild themselves. More often than not, this struggle also involves resistance from close circles of relatives and friends, who are accustomed to their habits and don’t like to see them change.
A great majority of habits are acquired in the early years of life. Experts say that the period between 6 and 12 years of age is the stretch during which fundamental habits are acquired. When we take this into consideration, our Prophet’s (s.a.w.) emphasis on the importance of these early ages to train our kids in acts of worship, as well as the care that our elders used to put into kids’ iftaars, take on a new meaning.
The inhabitants of the great mansions of Istanbul would open their doors to everyone in Ramadan and dedicate some iftaars to children. On these evenings adults would serve children, and the kids, upon attaining such a high status due to their fasting, would feel prized by their elders. They would learn manners and etiquette. They would have a taste of the high station that fasting brings while still in this world.
In my own limited milieu, any fasting child would be rewarded as much as possible with a small separate table full of his/her favorite foods. We wouldn’t have to wait for birthdays, which, after all, require no effort on the child’s part, to feel important and valued. Our popularity at the end of every day we fasted as a reward for the little effort we put into it felt truly ours and well-deserved, a feeling probably missing in the inauthentic celebrations of today.