By Romina Afghan
Life is all about connections. The connection we have with ourselves, with our purpose; the connection we have with our loved ones; the connections we make between our experiences and what they mean to us and for us.
Connections exist in every facet of our existence in this world, and the most successful people are those who make the most meaningful connections, those who are able to connect their connections, and weave a web of interconnected relationships, actions, and meaning which keep them linked to their highest purpose and values at all times.
One of the ways we can all create a more connected existence is by structuring our lives around the things most important to us and making them a central feature. This is particularly useful and beautiful when it comes to the sacred times that Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala has made special, and in which our deeds hold more significance and value; times where we need to live in a way which is intimately and strongly bound to the entire reason for our existence so that the rewards are not lost, and our connection to our Creator becomes stronger than ever.
Creating the right connections and structures around those times will help us to make the most of that time, to build in new habits and create our own personal rituals and connections which set up anchors in our life in this world. These will then create anchors in our children and families and help to make the sanctified times as Allaah has revealed them, a reality in our lives. This is really impotent for those of us who have not grown up with Islamic upbringing, or rituals and customs that have become embedded in our psyche, and who may even have other rituals from opposing ideologies embedded in our psyches instead.
We need to replace the old attachments to Christmas trees, singing carols or Easter eggs if we have those, or create new attachments, with something that aligns to our new identity, our new values and new choices.
We all have anchors in our life – those things that keep us afloat in storms, that keep us grounded in a certain state, a certain mood, emotion and way of thinking. An anchor is just a trigger, which sets off an chain of emotions, thoughts or feelings in us, which will then influence which action we take. A lot of the anchors we have in our lives are “accidental” in that we didn’t intend to create these anchors. It might be a scent – the smell of saffron always takes me back to my youth when my mum would make delicious “Gulab Jamun” for Eid – I think in reality, she only did it a couple of times, but the fact that the association in my mind is so intense that it immediately takes me back to Ramadan as a child, shows the power of these associations, (and maybe just my greed and affection for all things sugar as a child!).
But it also shows us that if we harness that power in ourselves, own children, we can help ebaadah ( worship) become so beloved, so ingrained and so habitual for us and them at these times, that we set them (and ourselves) up for a process of automated success, with the help of Allaah. That means that we can choose to make certain things in our environment, triggers for a resourceful state where we feel automatically close to Allah and therefore motivated and even instinctually called to follow through on good deeds.
1. We can do this by sound: we can have a special playlist of Quran, and a specific shaikh that we only listen to at specific times like Ramadan and Thul-Hijjah, or specific surahs that we love and play loudly more often in the house at these times. By keeping these for these special days, your mind will automatically link the two together, and you can then go on to forge more links and habits attached to this, going forward.
In the first 10 days of Thul-hijjah, and the days of Eid that follow it, we can have the takbeeraat playing around the house to remind everyone to make Takbeer ( sating “Allahu akbar”) and the other thikr of Allaah. It can remind us of Hajj, if we have been in the past, or you could play a video of Hajj to remind you of the importance of this month and the spiritual journey we are all making to Allaah – whether or not we are physically making that journey to Makkah now.
2. We can have anchors in food ( like I did) and keep certain foods for special times, which builds an excitement and a strong association of that time with something pleasurable. It builds your own personal traditions of the sacred within your home and daily life, and especially because our associations with food and pleasure and emotion are so strong, this can be really important and powerful for children and adults alike. Having special meals to savour, special drinks, cakes and desserts which you keep specific to the sacred time builds your connection to each other and can signify a “coming home” feeling around this time that brings you together as a family and as individuals, all together in your journey to Allaah.
3. Special Practices
My mum used to cover the TV with a cloth in the months of Ramadan and Moharram when we were very young, and only my dad was brave enough to take it off to watch the 9 o’clock news! That habit has set a lifelong association in my mind that it is “wrong” to watch TV in the month of Ramadan, and until this day, I am a little shocked when I see people openly watching TV while they are fasting. Her ritual of covering the TV set a standard in me and my siblings, from a very young age, that we should use Ramadan for worship, and that Ramadan was a markedly different time from any other month of the year. It was a physical anchor and reminder that this month, this time, was not to be treated like any other time of the year. This month was serious, so while you might play about your life at other times, playing about in this time would not be tolerated.
I realise that may be hard in the times we are living in– and that you may not even want to, since there is good spiritual programming available during this time on certain Islamic channels, and maybe you can set your rituals around those instead – you can all watch an Islamic series of talks and reminders. You may find that the theme or opening credits for those programmes become like many anchors for you and themselves, serving to remind you of Ramadan or Thul-Hijjah whenever you hear them playing.
What we must understand and take on board is the fact that the standard you set for your kids, your family and yourself will have an effect on your future behaviour – your standards and behaviour right now will likely be the ones that your children come back to again and again for themselves, so set habits of thikr, of listening to Quran, of not wasting time on entertainment as much as possible; of staying away from anything which distracts you from your purpose of worshipping Allah and preparing your heart to meet Him at this special time.
4. Furnishings and decorations
Have special musallas or sajjadahs (prayer mats), and scent them with bukhoor ( incense) or perfume that you keep especially for this time. The olfactory sense, like food and taste, is very closely linked to our memories and so emotional links with these can be really strong. Imagine creating an anchor that had you feeling like you were standing in front of Allaah at the Ka’bah in Makkah, simply by smelling the scent of the perfume and seeing the sight of your musallah? Imagine how that feeling would impact how you pray that prayer! How it could make your duaa so heartfelt and emotional? How it could improve your connection and link to Allah, and all by simply utilising our environment to create stronger connections to those things we value.
Make or print off thikr and duaa posters that come out at Ramadan or Thul-Hijjah, to remind you of the importance of making thikr, and that keep you making duaa as much as possible during this sanctified period of time. For young children, special decorations and lights help to keep this time embedded in their memory as something unique and dreamy and ethereal – reminding them that this life is not all there is, that there is something else we strive for in this life.
This list is by no means exhaustive – it is just meant as a starting point for every one of us to create our own unique anchors, associations and traditions going forward, so that we embed the sacred into our daily lives and have it a the centre, even during the most mundane tasks, thereby lifting our existence and consciousness at these times, especially, enabling us to make the most of what Allaah has blessed and allowed us to witness. Let us know in the comments what you do to “create the sacred” within your home, and what has helped you connect to this month.
About the author:
Romina is a happy mother to four children, a Master NLP-practitioner in training, part-time teacher, coach and passionate believer in unlocking the wonderful potential of each and every soul by connecting them to Allaah and His Book. She has been blessed to be a part of Solace for some years now, and loves connecting with sisters and children everywhere! You can connect with her on Instagram at @connectedcoachingbyrom and listen to her podcast “Grounded in Guidance” at https://anchor.fm/groundedinguidance or on Spotify.