From a Child to an Adult
When children reach puberty, they become responsible for all aspects of Islam, including worship, fasting, modest dress, and other duties. However, children don't just wake up one day as adults. The exact age of puberty may vary, based on physical and mental development, but is generally reached by the age of fifteen. After this time, children enter the age of legal obligation and are considered adults under Islamic law. Children learn the responsibilities that come with adulthood through a gradual process.
In Islam, the education of children is not only to prepare them for good jobs and successful careers, but also to teach them how to function properly in life. As children reach puberty, Muslim parents are responsible for making sure their children know about the responsibilities of adulthood, running a household, and contributing to society in a positive way.
For example, Muslim children first begin praying as toddlers, imitating their parents. When the children reach age seven, parents begin more formal instruction on how to perform the prayers. By age ten, children are required to participate. The same holds true for fasting. As youngsters, many Muslim children participate in fasting because they want to feel part of the family and community. It starts out as perhaps a half day, or one day during the week, and builds up from there. Only at puberty is a Muslim child obligated to perform the entire fast. This gradual process is observed in all aspects of Islamic teaching.
In earlier centuries, children would take on both religious and worldly responsibilities at the age of puberty, including full-time work and marriage. However, most Muslims nowadays recognize that full maturity requires additional social and emotional development that may not be reached during the teenage years. Such parents encourage their children to continue their education and more fully develop before completely taking on life responsibilities.
There is no particular ritual in Islam to welcome an adolescent into adulthood; it is a long-term process of guiding and teaching. From a very young age, Muslim parents teach their children about the duties of a Muslim, such as prayer and fasting. As they grow, children learn and practice the details of these responsibilities; when they do come of age, they fully understand them and can handle them with ease.