Connect with us

Development

What I Learned About Ramadan – By Not Fasting

Zeba Khan

Published

on

I missed all but five fasts last Ramadan, and if this sounds like a shocking confession, you might want to try a survey of women to see how many of them have fasts to make up.  Many young mothers struggle to make up dozens -if not hundreds- of fasts missed in the alternating cycles of pregnancy and breastfeeding.  There are also people with medical conditions that prevent them from fasting entirely, and last year I was a little bit of both.

Ramadan 2012 the fasts in Dubai were 17 hours long and the weather was a daily average of around 45C.  That’s 113 degrees in case you think in Fahrenheit, and it was sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but never anywhere below 100 degrees.  I had a five month old baby to feed and two children to care for when I got a kidney infection that was exacerbated by dehydration.  The spiritual bootstrapping that I had been looking forward to all year, every year, was brought to an end having barely begun -after just five fasts.

I felt guilty.  I felt cheated.  I felt resentful to yet again be sacrificing my personal spiritual goals to the never-ending demands of motherhood. Wasn’t it bad enough that I was struggling with Fajr and praying with one eye on the baby and less than half a heart in my duas?  I’d been to less than a dozen Jumma prayers in the previous six years, was forgetting my longer surahs, and now I couldn’t fast either?

If I wasn’t fasting, then what was I supposed do for the rest of Ramadan?

I wasn’t sure, so for lack of an alternative, I sulked.  In parallel, I put on a cheerful Momma-mask and tried to make Ramadan special for my children, but when the sun set on the last day and I realized that Ramadan was over, I cried.  I wasn’t expecting to -and I certainly wasn’t planning to- but I was mourning.

I thought it was all gone: the spiritual high, the feeling of lightness that lets you float through hunger and thirst without your feet even touching the ground.  I missed the opportunity to get close to Allah for that one month, when I had always struggled to find that closeness for the remainder of year.  The sweetness of the first date after 17 hours of hunger, the life that the first sip of water brings to the body after thirst -it was lost.  I thought my soul was a land of drought that was doomed to never again see rain.

Alhamdulillah, I was wrong. But it took me a while to realize that.  In giving me children and health challenges, Allah wasn’t taking me out of the game, He was raising the bar.  Think of it this way: it’s easy to clear a forest if you’ve got a chainsaw.  But what if Allah takes the chainsaw away? Can you still clear the forest? If you want to badly enough, yes.  Because fasting is a spiritual power tool, but it is not the only tool in the believer’s box.

If you’re not into religious metaphors for lumberjacks, then think of video games.  When you were young and single and carefree, you could wake up and pray half the night, eat suhoor and read Qur’an until the sun rose.  You could sleep after Dhuhr and spend as much time in the masjid as you wanted to because you were playing the game on easy mode.  No kids, no job, nothing to stop you from using all the big guns in the game right from day one. Congratulations, you got a high score -but that was easy mode.

Play the game again, and this time put it into “Adult” mode -you get a full-time job  so you can’t use tahajjud or long taraweeh to level up.  There are way more baddies stomping around; family, work, and peers pulling you away from Allah, and the puzzles you’re required to solve to reach the next level are even more complicated.  If you get a high score on adult mode, MashaAllah, good job. There are still harder levels, and “Mother” is one of them.

When you play Ramadan in “Mother” mode, you get one gun, one medikit, and only six bullets for the whole game. No sleep, rushed Fajr, no sitting peacefully before Iftar because you’re busy frying things.  You’re pulling double shifts: the red-eye suhoor to taraweeh schedule, in addition to the 9-5 kids & school schedule.  Try earning Ibadah points when you’re busy feeding people and struggling to get enough rest to survive another day.  Try -just try- to find the time and the quiet to take your twisted, battle-hardened nafs and strip away the armor to find the softness of repentance inside.   But try that later, because right now there are guests coming over so please make two dozen samosas.

Also, the baby is crying.

Oh, and the kids need help with their homework.

And can you please iron this? Thanks.

There’s a bright side.  The greater the challenge, the greater the reward.  In the same way that a person who struggles to read Qur’an is rewarded more than one who reads it without effort -the person who fasts with great difficulty will be rewarded more than one whose fast is easy.

If you’re a young mother and you’re frustrated with balancing maternal responsibilities and missing spiritual goals, you’re not alone.  You should not be sad, you should actually be honored.  Allah decided you’re ready to play on the next level, and your duties as a mother are not a distraction from the game, they’re actually part of the plot.

(Of course, it may also be part of the game to teach you to prioritise and downscale which Ramadan “traditions” are spiritually nourishing and which are spiritually sabotaging, but religious vs. cultural practices for Ramadan is a post for another day.)

To take it up another level, the one who fasts amidst difficulty and gets closer to Allah in Ramadan will be rewarded for their effort, but the one who Allah does not allow to fast –but achieves the same closeness- could be rewarded all the more for the greatness of that challenge.  If you are someone to whom -for whatever medical reason- the door of fasting is closed, remember that the doors of tawakkul, Qu’ran, sabr, sadaqa, ihsan, and iman are still open and they all lead to the same place -nearness to Allah.

Instead of seeing your situation as a disadvantage, try to see it as the next level and thank Allah for the opportunity to play it.  You will have to work harder, think faster, and plan better to be able to reach the same spiritual goals that everyone else is, but Allah challenges us directly in proportion to our abilities, so trust that Allah knows you’re up to it.

So, if your Ramadan game is on Hard Mode for whatever reason, here are some things you can do even if you can’t fast:

Pray more

This is a given, but Muslims have an interesting relationship with Salah.  If you’re not from among the blessed minority who love it, look forward to it, and perform it with Ihsan, then you probably do it because you should,  and you may not be enthusiastic about doing more of it than you must.  You might not be tremendously excited to hear that you should be praying more in Ramadan, but there’s a good reason for this.

 “But prostrate yourself and draw near (unto Allah)” (Surah al-Alaq:19)

In a nutshell, not wanting to pray more indicates a distance from Allah, or having a heart that is yearning in a direction away from Allah.  The solution? Pray more.  Pray harder.  Pray longer.  The more you pray, the closer you get. Dua included.

Attend religious talks and classes, even if you normally never do and might otherwise not

Allah (glorified and exalted be He) has supernumerary angels who rove about seeking out gatherings in which Allah’s name is being invoked: they sit with them and fold their wings round each other, filling that which is between them and between the lowest heaven. When [the people in the gathering] depart, [the angels] ascend and rise up to heaven…

…Then He (Allah) says: I have forgiven them and I have bestowed upon them what they have asked for, and I have granted them sanctuary from that from which they asked protection.

He (the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) said: They say: O Lord, among them is so-and-so, a much sinning servant, who was merely passing by and sat down with them. He (the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) said: And He says: And to him [too] I have given forgiveness: he who sits with such people shall not suffer.

[Related by Muslim (also by al-Bukhari, at-Tirmidhi, and an-Nasa’i)  Full version of the hadith available here: http://sunnah.com/qudsi40/14]

Share the blessings by sharing Iftar

Zaid ibn Khalid Al-Juhani reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever feeds a person who is breaking his fast will earn the same reward as his without anything being lessened from the reward of the fasting person.”

[Sunan At-Tirmidhi 807, Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to At-Tirmidhi]

Wrap yourself in mercy and surround yourself with angels by reading Qur’an in a masjid.  

Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports as part of a longer hadith, from the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that: “No people gather in a house of the houses of Allah reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves except that serenity descends upon them, mercy envelops them, the angels surround them, and Allah makes mention of them to those with Him.”

[Muslim (4867), Tirmidhi (1345), Abu Dawud (1243), Ibn Maja (221), Ahmad (7118), and others]

Replace your background noise with Qur’an.

While this is a good tip in general for reducing sins and helping detox your brain from the addiction of music, there is another benefit as well:

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has said: “The one who recites the Qur’an and the one who listens to it have an equal share in the reward.”

[Mustadrakul Wasa’il, Volume 1, Page 293]

Do Dhikr, and aim for quality over quantity

Rather than target saying a certain phrase a certain number of times and patting yourself on the back for it, pick something and say it once. Then, think about it. Understand it.  Ponder over it.  Blog about it if you must, but make sure your dhikr isn’t evaporating off your lips without ever reaching your heart.  Remember that when you make mention of Allah, he is with you, and he mentions you.  Let that sink in -if you even whisper Allah’s name to yourself, he whispers yours back.

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

Allah the Almighty said: “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.

[Related by al-Buhkari, also by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn-Majah]

There are many more ways that you can draw close to Allah during Ramadan other than fasting, in the same way that there are other tools for cutting down trees other than with a chainsaw.  So, if you really want to make the most of Ramadan, and if you really want the emptiness of your stomach to put the sweet taste of faith on your tongue, then you’re going to have to work for it.

Are you game?

 

References:

Qualities of a True Servant: Ramadan Supplication Series

Seeking Refuge from Four Things: Ramadan Supplication Series

Effectively Planning Your Dua: SuhaibWebb.com

Will You Be a Better Person After Ramadan?: Yaser Qadhi

 

Zeba Khan is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate. In addition to having a child with autism, she herself lives with Ehlers-Danlos Sydrome, Dysautonomia, Mast-Cell Activation Disorder, and a random assortment of acronyms that collectively translate to chronic illness and progressive disability.

60 Comments

60 Comments

  1. Avatar

    ummbilal

    July 12, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    Masha allah sister, I really needed that.

    • Avatar

      Nazia

      July 19, 2013 at 11:04 PM

      Jazakallah for such a good read!

  2. Avatar

    Junaid Farooqi (@junaidnx)

    July 12, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    I wonder why the husband is not helping at all in this picture? Why are you frying stuff before Iftar time? Get your family eating healthy and prep Ramadan meals before Ramadan even starts and freeze them. I feel like a lot of these hardships are self inflicted due to lack of planning and inefficient home environment and what seems like a complete lack of concern from the husband.

    Lot of these families are in this mode of developing horrible Ramadan habits. Why can’t your husband watch the baby while you pray and then he can leave for the masjid if he does go to the masjid? Why can’t the husband help while you read Quran?

    To use your video game analogy, it seems like you are using the controller with one hand when it was designed to be played by both.

    • Avatar

      Abez

      July 12, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      AssalamuAlaikum Junaid- I completely agree with you about the poor Ramadan habits that place cooking priorities over spiritual priorities for women- but social pressures to entertain Ramadan guests are heavier than you would think. If you showed up at an Iftar and were served dates and one rice dish, there’s a good chance you’d be seeing the issue a bit less kindly.

      I am very blessed to have a husband who is supportive, eats only fruit salad for iftar and oatmeal for suhoor which is prepared the night before. Some women do not, but the issue is not about unhelpful husbands- not even the most helpful husband in the world can relieve the tremendous responsibility that is motherhood.

      It’s about accepting difficulty as a challenge and an opportunity rather than sabotage. :)

      Ramadan Kareem!

      • Avatar

        amani

        May 27, 2016 at 4:12 PM

        Alhamdulilah! I’m so glad to have read your article. After reading this I have realised I am not on my own. I have missed 3 ramadans due to breastfeeding. And now the 4th ramadan is coming up but I am still nursing my 12 month old. In Sha Allah I am going to fast this year. But I am feeling sooooo scared. I have 2 very demanding mummy’s boys…1 yr old and a 3 yr old. Youngest is a very bad sleeper. Keeps me up all night both of them up at 5 6 ish in the morning. I keep thinking when will I sleep. Because my little one nurses through out the night and keeps waking several times an hour. Iv been trying to break him.from that habit but really struggling. I keep worrying about ramadan and how I’m going to do it, where will I get the energy to entertain my children and full fill all other responsibilities. Please keep me in your duas…I feel so guilty for having missed soo many but I really want to fast this year.

    • Avatar

      Maryam

      July 12, 2013 at 6:56 PM

      subhan Allah! You would analyze her life and her husband through a few included or omitted lines in an article?

      May Allah bless you sister. I really appreciated this article. jazaki Allahu khayran! I will pray for your mom inshaAllah and please pray for the guidance of my nonMuslim and those who are Muslim but don’t really know it relatives as well!

  3. Avatar

    Mayyah

    July 12, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Nice tips, and may I add keep your tongue moist with dhikr? And there are women who can’t fast when pregnant etc but I learnt that the story isn’t quite so simple here, a must read for all preg/breastfeeding muslimahs: http://ramadanfastingandpregnancy.wordpress.com

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      Good suggestion sister, and JazakAllahuKheiran for the useful link. :)

      • Avatar

        Mayyah

        July 15, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        You did mention dhikr in your lovely article but there is something about trying to make sure that all our empty moments, when our tongues are still and hearts are empty, to try fill those moments with remembering Allah. Sure, I see that it should reach our hearts too like you say. Not a wasted moment in Ramadan inshaAllah!
        That link is really helpful in decision making isn’t it? Just to say, ‘yup, I am not cut out for fasting, alhamdulillah, I’m at peace with that’, or ‘I really should at least try fast – it’s safe and that’s the minimum required of me’. Most detail I’ve found in one place.

  4. Avatar

    iMuslim

    July 12, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    I think the video game analogy is more environmentally friendly. ;)

    Jazakillah khair for the reminder sis.

  5. Avatar

    Susan

    July 12, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Jazak’allah khayr Sister, I am in tears because I haven’t been able to fast my first Ramadan and feel so sad. Alhamdulilaah, I saw your article on my News Feed… I had just asked Allah for help, alhamdulilaah He has. May Allah accept all of our efforts ameen

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      Ameen sister, Ameen. :) <<>>

  6. Avatar

    Hyde

    July 12, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    Your a mother; all is forgiven.

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      As much as I would like to believe that, I don’t think the Qur’an or Sunnah say that mothers are automatically forgiven anything. ;) We have to struggle to reach Jannah too. :)

      • Avatar

        Hyde

        July 13, 2013 at 9:12 PM

        Currently I have a tense relationship with my mother (because of possible marriage proposals) so I feel even more guilty inside because she is a mother, so naturally I assume mothers are right.

        I hold the opinion, that a women could very unkind to her husband, but because of her love to her son/daughter, the former would be overruled. What is the ruling on that ?

        • Abez

          Abez

          July 14, 2013 at 6:16 AM

          I’m not a scholar, and I know that mothers are given a special regard & respect due to their dedication to their children, but it’s not a get-out-of jail free card. If you want to believe your mother gets special sinning privileges just for having given birth to you, you might be hard-pressed to find any information from the Qur’an or Sunnah supporting that. But again, I’m not a scholar, so why not check with Islam Q & A?

          • Avatar

            Hyde

            July 14, 2013 at 11:23 AM

            Well perhaps not overruled, but I guess the measures would be given for each deed.

        • Avatar

          Anon

          July 15, 2013 at 6:41 AM

          The importance of a wife being obedient to her husband is paramount in Islam. The hadith literature is full of this – so it’s a bit of a dangerous statement to imply that a mother’s love for her children will cancel out her sin of unkindness to her husband. You seemed to have realized this later on so I won’t say more here – just thought I’d point it out,

          Abez has also mentioned that according to Qur’an and Sunnah, mothers have the same struggle as other believers – their virtue is that they are the most honoured people to their children after the Anbiya and Nabi Muhammad’s (s.a.w.s.) companions. So in other words: her virtue should be upheld by you, for in deen she is just another Muslim, and her daraja will depend on her taqwa, just like yours:-)

          However, it must be mentioned that childbirth and pregnancy, do have a special reward which are exclusive to mothers. So this may be what you’re referring to

          *Note from Comments Team: Please refrain from using “anon” and use your name to comply to our Comments Policy*

  7. Avatar

    Ahlam

    July 12, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    Jazaki Allah Khair for a well-written article. I believe that only a mother can understand such hardships. Even the most supportive husband can not nurse a baby, or soothe the cry of a baby who only wants the mother’s warmth!

    Alhamduallah, stumbled upon your article as I’m currently struggling with trying to soak up Ramadan and almost falling on my face the first day, due to the demands of motherhood and iftar.

    Alhamduallah – and may Allah smooth all of your struggles, ameen!

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:11 AM

      “Even the most supportive husband can not nurse a baby, or soothe the cry of a baby who only wants the mother’s warmth!”

      Thank you, exactly!

  8. Avatar

    asiahkelley

    July 13, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    I can definitely relate. I am so happy to see more and more of these articles talking about this issue. Being a mother can make one spiritually bereft, so much that you feel like you have lost everything. It’s not even “baby blues” although that for sure plays a role. So many things that I took for granted when I was unmarried and not a mother- like you say, reading Qur’an and going to the mosque and classes, and even meeting and befriending other Muslimahs. It’s crazy to think being a mom will affect your ability to make friends, but so it goes. These articles are a great first step; I’m glad to know I’m not alone. But I feel these problems make the issues of women inclusion in mosques and communities all the more important. Thank you so much for writing this. May Allah reward you and make your Ramadan full and fruitful.

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      You are so correct sister- being a mother basically affects your ability to do ANYTHING the way you did before- even using the bathroom can be a challenge and you have to accept either A) tiny fists banging on the other side or B) a two minute limit to your needs no matter what they are. It has taken me three kids to truly appreciate my mother, and If my own behaviour as a teenager is any indicator of what I have to look forward to, then I have a whole lot more learning to do in just a few more years. May Allah make it easy for all of us!

  9. Avatar

    Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    July 13, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 13, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      JazakAllahuKheiran Bro, this article is a gem.

  10. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    July 13, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Mash’Allah very nice, thoughtful article! I’ll work to spread this around In sha Allah to all those who can benefit.

  11. Avatar

    Fish

    July 13, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    Junayd, ‘self-inflicted’ sounds very harsh and judgmental. Not everyone has the time or resources (or storage space) to pre-prepare meals for 30 days (and that is without even considering guests). Certainly I wouldn’t have anywhere to put that much food. And, certainly, in the olden days no one did that – I suspect your family probably cooked (and cooks) fresh food every day. If you actually had experience running a household (which, from your comment, I get the feeling you do not), I suspect you would be more sympathetic and less critical.in sharing your view of homemakers’ ‘efficiency’.

    • Avatar

      Junaid Farooqi

      July 15, 2013 at 12:27 AM

      Actually prepping meals before Ramadan or at least half prepping meals is what my wife has done this Ramadan. We don’t waste time with parties and time wasting gatherings in Ramadan. And we eat small meals. We don’t eat a meal for Iftar and another for dinner. Our iftar is literally 2 or 3 dates and a small meal. We don’t like being the garlic and onion burping, fried food eating lazy people during Taraweeh.

      • Avatar

        Zonn

        July 15, 2013 at 3:59 AM

        Still harsh and judgemental. One day you will see, insyaAllah.

      • Avatar

        Here

        July 15, 2013 at 6:19 AM

        Do you have kids and does your wife also work? Not going to or hosting iftars is not something to brag about – socializing and giving iftar is recommended in Islam.

      • Avatar

        Um Abdul-Rahman

        July 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        What is best for you and your wife, Junaid, is not what is best for everyone. Please keep in mind how the Prophet (SAWS) would correct others. Yes, it is makruh to come to the mesjid with garlic and onion on the breath, and maybe there is a way to convey this message in a more gentle way. May Allah reward you and your family.

  12. Avatar

    reali-dee

    July 13, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    There needs to be more emphasis on husbands taking care of themselves and their own children so that wives (fasting or not) can dedicate more time to spiritual enrichment, and can take part in community activities during Ramadan. If not, Ramadan can feel hellish for moms. Husbands should also contribute to relieving the intense stress most wives-and-mothers deal with regarding all sorts of demands associated with Ramadan that are not even spiritually related (frying things). And I would go beyond Junayd’s suggestion that husbands watch the kids and then leave for the masjid. How about picking several nights a week or even alternating nights where one parent stays home to put the kids to bed and the other goes for taraweeh? How about alternating sehri and iftaar preparation duties between spouses? Also, how about agreeing not to make everything so fancy (less fried objects, maybe just have a fried-foods night once a week or less) and keep sehri and iftaar simple? Ramadan always feels hectic, but husbands need to pitch in more as a flip side to this story. This should be a demand across our communities. And FYI I am a wife and mother and my husband and I strive to make sure each of us gets time for spiritual enrichment during Ramadan, mashallah! None of this hubby running off to the masjid everynight for taraweeh while I clean up the fried things.

    • Avatar

      Em Hamzah

      July 14, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      IAssalamu alaikum,

      t is easy to throw the burden and responsibility on maids and husbands, with all due respect. The sister wrote this for empowering and not belittling our daily activities (like frying 100 samosas, running up and down the stairs because your husband just likes to watch you do that, whatever it is…)and remind us that we are not just doing “maid work” or just-let-someone-else-do-it. We have a good reward for obeying our husband and making the home clean and comfortable and taking care of the children. Who wants to miss out on that?

      And also, we must remember this life is not for luxury, relying on someone else and we have to work and it is hard.Just because the wives and daughters of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) did not fry foods and make 3 platters of biryani does not mean that they too did not work hard. In fact, we have evidence of this and a solution.

      Imaam al-Bukhaari narrated in his Saheeh that Faatimah (may Allaah be pleased with her), the daughter of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked him for a servant.

      He said, “Shall I not tell you of something that is better for you than that? When you go to sleep, say ‘Subhaan-Allaah (Glory be to Allaah)’ thirty three times, ‘Al-Hamdu Lillaah (praise be to Allaah)’ thirty three times, and ‘Allaahu akbar (Allaah is Most Great)’ thirty four times.”
      (Saheeh al-Bukhaari bi Sharh al-‘Asqallaani, part 9/506).

    • Avatar

      Anon

      July 15, 2013 at 6:57 AM

      I feel I must agree with Em Hamzah here – There’s an argument to be made of spouses supporting each other, always, but especially during Ramadan when time is so limited. That being said, we claim to follow Islam, so hence we should look for guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah to solve all our problems.

      Allah and his Rasul (s.a.w.s.) have delineated the roles of men and women in marriage. And even though there is a great degree of flexibility in those roles (much more than many people expect and are aware of), it is true that the best of homes are, generally speaking, those where the wife tends the home and the husband, being the public representative of the household, seeks a living outside, and represents the household when needed. So, suggestions of husbands missing out on Tarawih, sharing in duties which are in the domain of a mother, etc. so that the wife can attend, are, while Islamically allowed, a sign of a bigger issue – the desire to do away with traditional marital roles.

      Remember that the best place of prayer for a woman is her own home, and tor a man, the first saff of the masjid. It becomes an issue when we attempt a deed with a good intention (in this case, allowing the wife to attend Tarawih), but which could cause another deed to be lessened in value (the husband performing his Tarawih individually, or, not at all).

      However, I must emphasis that I agree with those who have mentioned the unnecessarily lavish food spreads which are made in this month – we cannot say that it is an obligation to offer 5-course iftars for our guests. Using the Prophet’s (s.a.w.s.) exhortations to provide someone’s iftar and the reward therein, to justify spending hours and hours preparing food for iftar and suhur is misleading and, frankly, dangerous.

      *Note from Comments Team: Please refrain from using “anon” and use your name to comply to our Comments Policy*

  13. Avatar

    Sam

    July 14, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    JazakAllah Sister :) Really helped at this phase of life.

  14. Avatar

    Ummer Farooq.

    July 14, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

    here’s a book that’ll help all mothers and families,

    http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200251h.html

    And here’s a video from Sheikh Dr Akram Nadwi (the same guy who wrote Al Muhaddithat: Women scholars in islam)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2iX46g_hrE&list=PLAB52E6EDB628A15A&index=6

    Hard mode is interesting, but halal and sunnah modes are better because God intends ease.

    Quran 2:185 translation
    The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and for you to complete the period and to glorify God for that which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

  15. Avatar

    Hanani

    July 15, 2013 at 2:03 AM

    I am not yet blessed with a child, but have been facing hardship since last Ramadan. I lost my baby (which was never alive to begin with) and had to undergo chemotherapy because of it. I went through last Ramadan while doing chemo and I managed to fast for 22 days, Alhamdulillah. Little that I know, my little stunt of pushing myself to fast during chemotherapy will affect my fasting ability severely afterwards. I am now having terrible gastritis and I couldn’t make up for another 6 days and it gets even harder come Ramadan. I just came back from my doctor with a very terrible gastric and then I found this article. Masha Allah, I cried so hard reading this. I thought I was being punished for my sins.. When instead, Allah has been raising my bar slowly even when I was so far away from Him. He stayed by my side. Not leaving me once. I needed this. Thank you so much sister for sharing this. JazakAllahu Khairan..

    • Avatar

      Um Abdul-Rahman

      July 15, 2013 at 11:52 AM

      So beautiful sister. Ma sha Allah. . I cried reading it. May Allah reward you and raise you and your family to the highest levels of Jannah. And I extend that du’a to everyone reading. Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Abez

      July 16, 2013 at 5:25 AM

      AssalamuAlaikum Sister Hanani- I know what you mean about pushing yourself and then regretting it later- but Umer Farooq who posted above was spot-on when he posted:

      Quran 2:185 translation
      The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and for you to complete the period and to glorify God for that which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

      Allah intends ease for us, not self-destruction. Given your circumstances, an exemption from fasting is a blessing that you should be thankful for, not a punishment you should feel guilty for. Allah loves you 70 times more than your own mother does, and He is putting the best option before you even if you don’t realize how good it is for you. The same applies to me- all of us really. Alhamdulillah Ala Kulli Haal, not just Alhamdulillah for the things we like.

      May Allah make it easy for you and bring you shifa, and where we meet in Jannah where I can hug you. :)

  16. Avatar

    recyclebayt

    July 15, 2013 at 3:17 AM

    Jazakallahu khair sister. seriously, the post made my day. alhamdhulillah

  17. Avatar

    Berserk Hijabi

    July 16, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    I’m young and single and carefree per se,and I feel really guilty now.Thanks(seriously,I needed this.)

  18. Avatar

    Jessi Frenzel

    July 16, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    Absolutely amazing and well-written.

    As a mother of four who used to love to attend classes and stay for ALL the rakaas of Taraweeh but now cannot, I thank you.

  19. Avatar

    Salik

    July 16, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Salams Sister,
    Great article! People rarely talk about these things… it’s almost a taboo.

    My wife has had a lot of difficulty this last couple of Ramadans with the 17 hour fasts and little time to sleep. We have 2 small hyper-active children who are at home all day with my wife, (one who still gets up every couple of hours at night for milk). The only way we’ve been able to manage is by me skipping Taraweeh Sunday-Thursday so I can help out at home. My wife always insists I go Taraweeh and sleep after work however I don’t because a) I have trouble falling asleep after work and b) when I do go to Taraweeh, (20 rakahs which end around 12:20am) and sleep after work, my wife has a very difficult time at home and is often in a state of anger, frustration and despair because she feels she’s not strong enough like the other mothers in the community who also have small children. My Monday-Thursday routine is as follows:

    7:30am-6pm: Work
    6-9pm: read Quran and watch the kids including a break for Asr at local mosque
    9:30pm-10-30pm: help clean the house and prepare the kids for bed
    10:30pm: Isha and Taraweeh at home (however many rakahs I can pray)
    11:00pm:eat a small meal
    11:30pm-3:30am: sleep
    3:30am-4:20am: suhur and fajr at home
    4:30am-7:30am: sleep

    Factoring in the time it takes me to fall asleep, I actually get around 5-6 hours of sleep. I have difficulty concentrating at work as it is so any less sleep… Allahu-alum.

    I’ve talked to other brothers with small children who do go to Taraweeh for 20 rakahs and sleep after work and basically, the wife has no choice in the matter… her life must revolve around the husband. This probably explains all the arguing I hear from their homes when I walk past them.

    • Abez

      Abez

      July 17, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Your wife is not alone, and she shouldn’t be worried about not being “as strong as some of the other mothers in the community…” I think what we all learn from the comments sections of articles like these is that young motherhood is a struggle for everyone. There is no way that it is a walk in the park, unless you have a nanny, a cook, a maid, and a driver to take over all the other roles that your wife is probably playing. Even then, I’m sure there’d be something to stress about.

      If your wife is frustrated, stressed out, and working hard nearly every minute of the day, she’s not falling behind. Congratulations, she’s falling right into place with all the rest of us. It will get easier in a few years, but for now her Jihad is to work through tiredness, find peace despite frustration and get closer to Allah despite the challenges of being a young mother.

      Brother, JazakAllahuKheiran for being supportive and understanding of your wife. May Allah put lots of blessings and love between you and make it easier for her, InshaAllah.

      • Avatar

        Salik

        July 17, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        Jazakumullah khair for taking the time out to respond. I think one of the major issues related to this topic is brothers missing salah with jamaa to help out at home. Many brothers I’ve come across say it’s impermissible considering there are very few exceptions where salah with jamaa can be missed and also since ‘heaven lies beneath the feet of the mother’, mothers must struggle like a martyr to attain it. Personally, I think this is problematic when mothers have difficulty to the extent it leads them to:

        -Excessively yell and be aggressive with the children
        -Excessively yell and argue with the husband for small things (small things is subjective)
        -hit the children
        -neglect the children (including not play with them or watch over them to prevent injury)
        -depression

        The list is relative to my experience obviously.

        One of the major consequences of opting to miss salah with jamaa for helping out at home I’ve found is harassment from ‘Super Muslims’, often times from some members of Tableegh Jamaa. Some of the things people have told me directly or indirectly are:

        -I have more small children than you but still manage to make it to the mosque every day when I’m home.
        -The sahaba or X person, community, grandparents had it way harder than you.
        -Women in the west can’t take hardship. You should’ve married someone from back home.
        -Tell your wife heaven lies beneath her feet and all your problems will be solved.
        -This life is a test, hardship is expected
        -You’re being too lenient with your wife.
        -You give in too easily.
        -There is a limit to patience.
        -From a sister: I go to work, have 4 kids, I live with the in-laws, my mother in-law is verbally abusive to me, my husband doesn’t help at home and I still manage. Tell your wife to suck it up.

        To be clear, I don’t intend to miss salah with Jamaa, I usually assess the situation, check my intention, and then make a decision accordingly. I think once both children are 4 years old, things will improve for us inshAllah.

        In regards to if my wife is working hard every minute of the day, I don’t know. I know she works hard and try’s her best but she does slip now and then like everyone else. When she does slip, I make it a point not to point it out. I also make it a point not to ask her if she’s giving it her best or even relaying some of the ‘nasihah’ some people give because I know that would trigger a negative response.

        My intention is not to stir up fitna here. I just think it’s important for people to know that we all struggle differently. Ramadan Mubarak to all. May Allah grant us patience and strength to overcome whatever challenges and difficulties we’re facing.

        • Avatar

          RCHOUDH

          July 18, 2013 at 12:35 PM

          Salaam brother Salik,
          It’s unfortunate that you’ve had Muslims giving you such advice. While there’s nothing wrong with the advice in and of itself, we Muslims nowadays don’t know how to apply anything other than a “one size fits all” approach to every problem/issue we encounter. I believe that you as the husband know your wife best and are already doing what’s best for your family. Until we Muslims learn to be more flexible with how we approach different issues and learn to understand the different circumstances facing every individual, we should withhold from giving any sort of advice!

        • Abez

          Abez

          July 18, 2013 at 2:17 PM

          AssalamuAlaikum Salik- RCHOUDH is spot on- other peoples’ situations are not your situation, and I really wish people were more eager to offer help than advice.

          Praying jamaat in the masjid is very important, but please note that praying Tarawih in Jamaat is not fardh. So perhaps reconsider (and pray at home) if you feel that being at the masjid for two hours every night is endangering your wife’s sanity or your children’s safety in any way.

          If you and your wife are committed to the same spiritual goals (Ie- helping you make it to Jamaat as often as possible) then it would be a good idea to talk about what could happen to make it easier for both of you.

          Do the kids need an earlier bed-time? Does your wife need some sane, reassuring company every now and then to help reduce frustration and help her de-stress? Does she have a sister or a best friend who can come over for tea more often? Are any of the kids old enough (and well behaved enough) to start joining you in the masjid? These are just questions to look in to. InshaAllah, the more you ask the more likely you are to come upon an answer.

          Above all, the best thing you can do in your situation is to first ask Allah for help, and then look for people in your community who can be far more helpful without being condescending.

          May Allah make it easy for both of you. Hugs to your wife.

  20. Avatar

    Lisha

    July 17, 2013 at 1:50 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum Sister, I just came across this write-up and I love it – I have already shared it on my personal Facebook page as I think many many mothers are/were in this situation and would definitely appreciate your inputs. JazakAllahu Khairan and with dua’as for you and your family…If you’re interested, I also invite you to my Facebook parenting page at http://www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach to join us for our parenting tidbits and tips – see you there!

  21. Avatar

    muqlis

    July 17, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    Good article! Thank you for sharing! Though, I learnt just as much reading through the comments that followed. These 17+ hour fasts, particularly in hot scorching weather, are just as much a challenge on the psyche of a hardworking, serious & sincere dad (though it is the psyche that fasting is supposed to make strong). Also, not all people are endowed with the same level of physical, emotional & moral strength; our needs differ also & change from time to time – a point that is often neglected by a vast majority of the over-zealous & self-appointed critics of any gender, ethnicity or faith. I am convinced that God did not intend His faith to be oppressive to His slaves – a fact that is often twisted & miss-fed, misled or misused by the critics as well as well-intentioned helpers of this faith. Remember: ‘whatever we do, we do it for our own good’, and, ‘whatever we miss doing, we do it to our own loss’. ‘God is free from all needs, including & not limited to the worship by His slaves’. ‘Neither God nor Islam is a tyrant over any soul’.

  22. Abez

    Abez

    July 18, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Excellent point muqlis- fasting is not easy for anyone, and as we are all challenged, we all benefit form the challenge. Nothing that Allah puts on us is tyranny, it’s all catalyst for growth. His Mercy dictates that it will never be more than we can bear, InshaAllah.

  23. Avatar

    Aisha

    July 19, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    Subhana Allah Sr. Abez – I feel like you have been reading my mind. Just yesterday I posted my feelings about this in my blog and basically said, Who stole my Ramadan? Allah SWT guided me to Islam in 2004. I married my husband within 1 year after converting. After ending up in the urgent care dehydrated my first 2 Ramadans, I finally succumbed to the fact that I Can’t Fast from water. So, there goes Ramadan.

    My husband comes from a very traditional family and has gloriously instilled his families Ramadan traditions into our home. However, in the US, unless you are extremely wealthy, you cannot hire someone to come in and clean everyday. So, being the only woman (1 Husband & 2 Grown Boys) in the home & maintaing a full time career, I have actually come to – dare I say – really, really NOT like Ramadan. I get very depressed and stressed out and my Imaan level goes down to about the point I was at before I converted.

    Alhamdulillah, one thing I try to do, year round, is teach my boys to help out. Because I know the anamosity that I have towards my family during Ramadan & I would never wish this feeling on my future daughter in laws.

    JAK for the wonderful ideas you listed. I have cried once while reading this & am sure when I pray again will cry for all of us who feel like this.

  24. Abez

    Abez

    July 19, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    AssalamuAlaikum Aisha- I’m sorry to hear that your experience with Ramadan hasn’t been so great. Cultural traditions aside, the only real and important things in Ramadan are closeness to Allah, self-discipline, and forgiveness. Fast and let the house be dirty. Order take-out for Iftar. Do whatever you need to in order to find joy in Ramadan, free yourself from operational dirty-work in any way you can, because you deserve to find solace, peace, and spiritual sweetness in Ramadan. At the end of the day, Jannah is more important than anything else, so put everything else on hold in the pursuit of Jannah.

    Dehydration can be debilitating, but if you’re willing to give fasting another go, I recommend trying it again in winter – once or twice a week only- and composing your suhoor of a little bit of oatmeal and a WHOLE LOTTA gatorade. Seriously. It’s worth the effort. But if you find that you really and truly can’t, then thank Allah for His Mercy and enjoy the reprieve. :) If you’re unable to fast, then Allah has decided that not fasting is better than fasting for you.

    I pray that you’re able to keep your Iman high all year round, InshaAllah, and that the rest of Ramadan is an opportunity to pursue closeness to Allah in whatever way He makes easy for you. :)

    Ma’Assalam & Hugs,
    Abez

  25. Avatar

    Paizah Yan

    July 22, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    AssalamuAlaykum sis Abez… what a beautiful eye opener article and touching comments. I may not have said my gratitude and appreciation more often enough. Your article made me realised how “comfortable” my life is. We fast about 14 hours and the temperature averaging @ 29-34C. I have no “family” committed except my 9-5 office work. And sometimes I feel I am lacking in my Ramadhan spiritual ibadah though I am in easy mode all the time but failed to utilised to the fullest. Thank you for your reminder (of other people living in Hard mode during Ramadan)

  26. Avatar

    Christine

    August 1, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Assalam alaikom sis. Wonderful article. I am a convert (2008). I also had the not liking Ramadan attitude, it was a time of complete stress and depression. I have type 2 diabetes and after one year ending in the hospital, I do not fast unless I have DR’s permission. This year I got the go ahead, only missed 1 day. Here where I live it is 16+ hours. I have 3 kids…. 12, 9 and 2 and work full time for a newspaper. It has been a struggle, I have been wondering how will I make these last few days. Praying has helped so much. The kids know to leave me be when in Salat, so I sujood for looooong periods. I am averaging about 4-5 hours of sleep a night and it is taking a toll. My husband works at the masjid from 4-midnight, best part he brings extra food home from iftar, so I rarely have to cook. On Sundays he does all the cooking :) Along with this, my mom fell and broke her hip and had surgery, so now I am helping her. My whole family is Christian so they just don’t understand that I am tired and need rest. I have to help my mom, as my dad does not drive. This article was a huge pick me up! I am not going to feel jealous over the ones that can sleep all day and have it easy. I love that Allah has challenged me. Thanks for the reminder! May you be rewarded!

  27. Avatar

    muqlis

    August 3, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    Srs. Aisha (July 19) & Christine (Aug 1) – for you being the newcomers to the faith, I am troubled by the pain/plight you suffer (& the repugnance that you express in consequence) particularly facing the summer fasts in the Western non-Islamic environment. It seems the beauty of the Ramadan experience is marred by what appears to the harshness of our faith, its fiqh/legal commands & the ethnic practices that some of us have brought over from the old countries. Upfront, I am not a scholar, so take my words very lightly/casually & research well before you agree or disagree. As I said before (July 17), which the author agreed, Islam is not a religion of duress/force by any means. Everything that we do is by our own freewill & for our own benefit out of the love & mercy of our Benefactor/Creator. In referring to the verses v183-185 in chapter 2 of Quran (which are most often repeated in prescribing the fasting) I feel we miss the words in v185 which say: “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship”. To me, then, when fasting becomes hardship it loses its sole purpose, i.e., to endure with patience & grow spiritually (morally & emotionally). I hope this helped. I would like the scholars to respond in case they are reading/watching this discourse.

  28. Avatar

    Noticias Deportivas

    September 30, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Muy buen articulo te invito a que puedas ingresar a nuestro blog deportivo.

    Saludos!

  29. Pingback: *First & Foremost* | UmmBaby - 3 baby girls, 2 hands & 1 very exhausted body.

  30. Avatar

    Shahab

    May 27, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Great read mashallah
    I have chronic kidney disease stage 4 and it’s really tough to do a full time job , let alone hold a 14 hr fast. So when I fast I am forced to take the day off But I can’t do that for the whole month So I’m planning to take a week off this year

  31. Avatar

    Xyz101

    July 2, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    Mashallah nice article. JazakAllahu khairan. May Allah accept your deeds and everyone’s. As a mother, this article really helps. Just a small note, not everyone who is young and single and childless is ‘carefree’. Not all of them have it easy. We don’t know what struggles different individuals are going through – it doesn’t help to infantilise people who don’t have children, they are adults! but with different and perhaps very challenging and difficult responsibilities that others cannot see. Maybe we think they can spend all day or night long in the mosque, but we are just assuming this without knowing. And perhaps they are facing very tough circumstances all alone without the support of a spouse or their children, be it financially, in their work, in their health, or in caring for ill relatives – for example. No one has a monopoly on hardships and tests, and no one group automatically has it easy in life! It may be that we personally remember things being a lot easier for us when we we single and without kids, living a relatively peaceful and carefree life, but not everyone has that privileged life. Alhamdulillah for all our blessings, big or small. Thank you again for the very nice article

  32. Avatar

    Karen Teodoros

    June 17, 2016 at 4:45 AM

    Salam, thank you for the nice article, may Allah Subhan Allah wa Ta’ala reward you. I personally decided to intensify the prayers, and InshAllah i am planning to give back the days of fast later InshAllah, so InshAllah i will not loose nothing.
    2:185 The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.

  33. Pingback: I am not fasting… – Amaliah

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Life

Fall Apart: Be Weak to Find Strength in Allah

Hiba Masood

Published

on

Growing up in Jeddah, every evening in Ramadan, we would pile into our car and whiz off to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers to Shoaibi Mosque and spend a few spell-bound hours under the reassuring baritones of Sheikh Abdullah Basfar. His beautiful voice became the anthem of my childhood in many ways but more than his voice, it was the building of tradition and memory that became ingrained in my system. By doing the same thing, day in, day out, year in, year out, my parents gave us a sense of stability and predictability that set the tone for our entire adolescence.

How that rhythm seeped into the very bones of who I am is something I am still discovering well into adulthood.

Last night, standing in my grandmother’s garden in Karachi, I experienced my first Taraweeh Khatam-e-Quran since leaving my parents home in Jeddah so many years ago. It is also, incidentally, my first Ramadan without both my parents, who last year seemingly decided they would much rather be together in Jannah than spend more time in this rubbish world and in quick succession, returned to their Maker, leaving me understandably grieving, awash in memories, struggling to steer my ship.

And so it was, that by the time the imam reached Surah Qadr, I was chokey. By Surah Kawthar, I had tears streaming down my face. And by the time the last three surahs, the comforting Quls, began, I was openly sobbing. Probably more openly than what is considered socially appropriate…but honestly, I was restraining myself. Because what I actually felt like doing was throwing my head back and howling up at the sky. Thankfully, I was flanked by women who knew, who understood, who with tears in their own eyes, let me be with my heaving shoulders and a chest that felt it would crack open under the weight of my emotions.

As the imam had recited surah after surah and the end of the Quran had approached, the ghosts of Ramadan Past had flooded into me and my body had remembered. It had remembered years and years of experiencing that same excitement, that same sense of weight as Sheikh Abdullah Basfar gently and methodically guided us over the course of the month through the Book of all books, that same uplifting, heartbreaking, momentous trepidation of offering something up to Him with the hope that He would bestow something shining in return.

Had this Book been revealed to a mountain, the mountain would have crumbled. You get a tiny glimpse of that weight when you complete a khatam. Here I am, Allah, here I am, in my little hole-y dinghy, with my itty bitty crumbs of ibaadah. Pliss to accept?

Back in Jeddah, after the khatam, we would pile back in the car and go for ice cream. Last night in Karachi, after the khatam, the Imam gave a short talk and in it he mentioned how we are encouraged to cry when conversing with Allah. We should beg and plead and insist and argue and tantrum with Him because He loves to be asked again and again. We live in a world of appropriateness, political correctness, carefully curated social media feeds and the necessity of putting our best, most polished face forwards at all times. How freeing then, that when we turn to our Lord, we are specifically instructed to abandon our sense of control. All the facades and the curtains are encouraged to be dropped away and we stand stripped to our souls in front of Him. In other words, He loves it when we fall apart. Which is exactly what I had just done. 

Last night, I found myself wondering what exactly had I cried so hard over. Which tears were for Him and the desperate desire for His mercy? Which were for the loveliness of the Quran, the steadying rhythm of it, not just verse to verse but also, cover to cover? Which tears were for the already achey yearning of yet another Ramadan gone past? Which were for my breaking heart that has to soon face my first Eid day and all the days of my life without my beloved Mumma and Baba? Which tears were of gratitude that I get to stand on an odd night of the best time of the year, alongside some of my dearest people, in the courtyard of a house full of childhood memories, under the vast, inky, starry sky and standing there, I get to fall apart, freely, wholly, soul-satisfyingly?

And which tears were of a searingly humbling recognition, that I am so wildly privileged to have this faith of mine – the faith that promises if we navigate the choppy dunya waters right, we will be reunited with our loved ones in a beautiful, eternal place, that if we purposely, and repeatedly crumble under the weight of our belief in Him and His plans, our future is bright?

Today, I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter why I cried. Because here is what I do know:

1. “If Allah knows good in your hearts, He will give you better than what was taken from you…” (8:70)


2. “If Allah intends good for someone, then he afflicts him with trials.” Prophet Muhammad

3. “Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks Allah and thus there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him.” Prophet Muhammad

In losing my parents, I have drawn closer to Allah. And though I miss them dizzyingly, I am so thankful that through the childhood they gave me, through the anchoring to the Quran they gifted me with, through their own tears that I witnessed during those long-ago khatams in the Shoaibi Mosque in Jeddah, they left me with the knowledge that if in losing them, I have gained even an atom’s worth more of His pleasure, then that’s a pretty great bargain.

 

As a parent of three young ones myself, I’ve spent my days teaching my children: be strong, be strong, be strong. Stand tall, stay firm, be sturdy in the face of the distracting, crashing waves of the world. But now I know something just as important to teach them: be weak, be weak, be weak.

Crumble in front of Him, fall apart, break open so that His Light may enter and be the only thing to fill you. It’s not easy but it will be essential for your survival in the face of any loss, grief, trial and despair this world throws your way. It will help you, finger to tongue, always know which way the wind is blowing and which way to steer your ship. Straight in to the sun, always. To Jannah. Because how wondrous are the affairs of us Muslims that when it comes to our sorrows and our hopes, out there on the horizon of Allah’s wise plans, it all shimmers as one – The grief of what is, the memory of what was and brighter than both, the glittering, iridescent promise of what will be.

Continue Reading

#Society

MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction

Bill Chambers

Published

on

“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide 

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within Muslim communities.

The first in this series, the Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. While white Muslims know that Islamically we are required to stand for justice, growing up in a society that is so racially unequal has meant that unless we seek to actively educate ourselves, we typically have not been provided the tools to effectively talk about and address racism.

The Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims is a tool and resource that speaks to specific needs of white Muslims who are navigating the process of deepening their understanding of racism and looking for concrete examples of how, from their specific social location, they can contribute to advancing anti-racism in Muslim communities. The Guide also addresses views and practices that inadvertently maintain the status quo of racial injustice or can actually reproduce harm, which we must tackle in ourselves and in our community in order to effectively contribute to uprooting racism.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

As white people, we are not always aware when we say or write something that reflects our often narrow analysis of racism and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of Color. My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of Color, especially women, when I had reflect better upon the privilege I experience as a white person and also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you.

Talking about racism is a hard topic and we anticipate that for many white Muslims reading the Guide, there may be a feeling of defensiveness and having difficulty learning from the examples given because you feel that the examples don’t apply to you. You may feel the need to call to attention the various forms of injustice you feel you have experienced in your life, for example where you felt like an outsider as a convert in Muslim community. Our advice is to recognize that those reactions are related to living in a society where we are very much shielded from having to deeply understand racism and examining our role in it. In the spirit of knowledge seeking, critical thinking, and the call to justice communicated to us in the Qur’an as expectations that Allah has of Muslims, we must push past those reactions and approach the subject matter in the spirit of knowledge, skill-seeking, and growth.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another (49:13).” One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” one another, build just and loving communities together, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire a deeper understanding of our unique identity as white Muslims and how to use it to advance a more just society.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

Continue Reading

#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

Published

on

High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

Continue Reading

Trending