I’ll start with an apology and a disclaimer. This is not a spiritual guide to Ramadan in any way, but there is a reason for that. A couple of experiences I’ve had during Ramadan as a busy working mother have changed my perspective. As mothers we support not only ourselves through Ramadan, but also our husband and children, possibly while working as well. A couple of years ago, when I had not taken into account the full implications of this, I became weak and ill during Ramadan, and was in fact, too ill to fast or engage in any extra acts of worship for a whole two weeks. Another time I awoke from falling asleep while looking after my children to find my three year old perched in the window frame about to leap onto the flat roof to rescue a toy car that had found its way there!
These incidents made me realise that we should not underestimate our responsibilities, which do not disappear in Ramadan. When I first became Muslim the days of fasting were short, and I had no one to look after but myself. Alhamdulillah an easy start. But now it’s a perfect storm. The longest days of fasting, a full time job, two young children, and a husband who, with the responsibility of leading tarawih prayers in the mosque, in absent from his usual household duties.
And so, to create a foundation for being able to survive, and with the will of Allah, experience the sweetness of Ramadan, I now follow some rules, which I have listed below in the hope that they may be of benefit inshaaAllah:
1. Nothing beats good planning – make a plan prior to Ramadan, which prioritises sufficient sleep for everyone in the family. I find that as soon as I lack enough sleep, everything starts to unravel. Get adults and older children on board with the plan, and enlist extra help where possible. Can younger children go to nursery for a couple of extra sessions? Can extended family help out at all? Can you take some annual leave from work to work shorter days?
2. Set realistic goals – Ramadan is precious, so we shouldn’t let it pass with nothing but hunger pangs. But we should also be realistic in setting out to do extra acts of worship, and take into account the baraka in supporting a family through this time. Therefore, we need to set goals which we can realistically maintain for the entire month:
The Prophet (saws) said, “Know that the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is performed regularly even if it is small.” (Bukhari and Muslim hadith).
Plan when you can set aside a little extra time, even if it’s just half an hour, for extra prayers or Quran reading. At the very least, do some extra dhikr while walking or driving.
3. Minimise distractions – before I got married Ramadan was a very social month for me, and there is certainly blessing in feeding others and sharing food. But I’ve also learnt the joy of minimising social and other activities, and focusing solely on this special time. I am now quite protective of my time during Ramadan, and will postpone many unnecessary events until afterwards.
4. Younger children – with older children we support them while fasting, but we also want our younger children to experience something of Ramadan. However, we need to make sure we don’t set our goals too high, and overburden ourselves. We have a couple of children’s books about Ramadan which we start to read regularly in the run up to Ramadan, which gets them excited. Then during Ramadan we have a very short daily activity, to remind them it is a special month. One year we hung a string, and attached tiny envelopes to it with tiny pegs.
In every envelope was a simple task e.g. ‘fast 2 hours’, or ‘take food to a neighbour’. There was one for each day of Ramadan and the children loved the surprise of opening them.
5. Try to attend iftar and prayers in the masjid at least once a week if possible. Although it can seem like an effort, especially with small children, meeting with other women can be very energising, and children love the excitement of going to the mosque late at night to eat!
6. Make sure you are getting enough nutrition – I find my appetite gradually decreases throughout Ramadan until I can barely eat at Iftar, but it’s essential to keep your energy up. Work out what you feel able to eat and make sure you have a reasonable amount of food in the hours of darkness. Pick at fruit and salad throughout the evening, which is both nutritious and hydrating.
7. Finally, and importantly, it’s OK to be glad when it’s over! I can’t tell you how many times I have sat quietly, and guiltily, while sisters around me discuss how sad they are that the month of Ramadan is coming to an end. I thought there was something wrong with me, that despite being aware of how many blessings are available to us in this special month, I was relieved at the thought of resuming a normal routine, and making a coffee when I arrived at work! Then I heard a talk by Nouman Ali Khan, who reminded his listeners that Allah has given us Ramadan, but He has also given us Eid. He has given us a month of obligatory fasting, and he has given us 11 months with no obligatory fasting, out of his wisdom. Therefore, we can feel glad when Ramadan ends, just as we feel excited when it starts.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once asked a companion: “(Is it true) that you fast all day and stand in prayer all night?” The companion replied that the report was indeed true. The Prophet then said: “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave (it) at other times. Stand up for prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” (Bukhari Hadith)
I pray for us all to have a blessed Ramadan, and for Allah to make it easy for us.
About the author:
Fatima-Minna lives and works in the UK. She has two lively little boys who keep her very busy, and strives to increase in nearness to Allah.