Ramadhan is one of the holy months in Islam, in which Muslims young and old have been ordained to fast. Muslim children are encouraged to start fasting as young as six, or even five, starting with a few hours a day. They may 'cheat'; many of us did, when we were little, I'm sure, but parents should not make too much of it, but to encourage them on. I remember it being difficult when I started, but my parents would hear nothing of it. The most common cheat was to have something to drink and then continue fasting. But as you get older, you feel there is a sense of wastefulness in cheating that way.
The sick and the infirm can skip fasting, but the sick need to replace the days missed outside of Ramadhan. Ladies who are menstruating should also not fast, and days missed need also be replaced. The musafir, or people travelling long distances can break fast, but of course they need to replace the days missed.
Why do we fast in Ramadhan? A simplistic answer is because it has been ordained on us, by Allah's command, through Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (PBUH). However, as with all actions in Islam, it is to attain 'Allah consciousness', to get closer to Him, to reach taqwa (to me taqwa means strong belief). Fasting is also to train the self to be more resilient, patient, considerate, to understand the hardship of the poor. It is a training ground to be giving, to avoid wastefulness-- basically to be a better person.
I remember feeling really awful: tired and hungry and irritable during Ramadhan, when I was about 10 or so . I would look at pictures in my mother's recipe books and much to my dismay, instead of letting me be, my mother made me read a book or help her cook, or help my father polish our wooden floor. The best is to make oneself useful. As I got older, Ramadhan has been a time to catch up on lost time, so to speak. One of the aspects I like is not having to think about lunch.
Fasting in Ramadhan (the 9th month in the Islamic calendar) is the third pillar of Islam, after
(1) Shahadah: proclamation that Allah is God and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) His Messenger, and
(2) Solat: the five daily prayers of subuh, dhuhur, 'asr, maghrib and isha'.
After fasting in Ramadhan come
(5) Hajj: performing the pilgrimage to Makkah, only once in a lifetime for those who can afford.
Happy fasting. May this ramadhan be a blessed and memorable one.