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My First Time Fasting as a Mother

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By Sumbel Gilani

This year is my first Ramadan in four years when I am neither pregnant nor breastfeeding. Consequently, it is my first time fasting as a mother. It is also the first time my two children, aged 3 years and 2 years old, are of an age where they will notice things are different around the house, Mama and Daddy are not eating with them and (I hope) are praying more than usual.

I approached the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with excitement, combined with a little fear and apprehension. The incredibly long fasts of 18 hours a day during the hot summer months, when we can neither eat nor drink, are strenuous. Combined with the sleep deprivation from the early morning meals and late dinners, this month is hard as it is. But throw young children into the mix then the challenge seems insurmountable. As I predicted, my youngest wakes up and cries out for me exactly half an hour before I am scheduled to wake up for the pre-dawn meal. My oldest stalls bedtime and refuses to sleep so that I struggle to prepare the dusk meal, with which we break our fast. And during the day they keep up their energy, tantrums and rows so that I am run off my feet and more exhausted than usual, but cannot rely on caffeine or chocolate to keep myself going.

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However, I am also excited to be fasting during Ramadan after several years. I get to renew my faith and feel better spiritually, which helps me feel stronger physically and mentally. I can pick up the Qur’an, which was revealed in this month over 1400 years ago, and recite its melodious words. I get to share the community feeling with others who are also partaking in this physical form of worship. I am reminded to be grateful for all the luxuries I have as someone living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. To think less of myself and my children and more about others struggling in the world, who go hungry all year round.

Eid-decorationsA greater excitement is having a conversation with my children about Ramadan – to be able to explain and share the meaning of this special month to them. I want to make it interesting for them. As they are too young to fast, this does not mean they have to miss out entirely on the month. I can begin to teach them that there are people in the world who have very little food to eat and by fasting we experience some of the hunger pangs they do. We try to avoid excess food consumption and we give money in charity to help the poor. We discipline ourselves to follow the rules of fasting and ultimately do our bodies a favour by giving it a detox.

My children are, of course, too young to fully understand any of this, but just the act of having the discussion with them makes them feel more grown up. I already see the pride in their eyes as their Mama discusses more serious matters with them than what the plans for the day are or are they sure they don’t need a wee.

I want to build up the anticipation of our festival of Eid, which is celebrated when Ramadan comes to an end. To look forward to a celebration in which they can help decorate the house, wear new clothes and receive gifts, like their friends do at Christmas. I want them to see me and their father pay the specified charity payment per household member, due before the Eid prayer and understand how it is our duty to help those less fortunate than us.

For the first time I am seeing Ramadan from an entirely different perspective. I am probably seeing it for what it really is: less about me and more about the impact of my words and actions on those around me. And to me, in this period of my life, that may be the true message of Ramadan.


Sumbel is a mother to two beautiful, energetic and rowdy boys, born 15 months apart, because she likes a challenge! She also works as a lawyer in the not-for-profit sector. Her writing has appeared in the Huffington Post UK and other parenting websites. She blogs about the joys and challenges of motherhood and can be followed on her Facebook page Mama Not Dumber and Twitter.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Judy Weir

    June 28, 2016 at 4:08 PM

    I loved your statement: For the first time I am seeing Ramadan from an entirely different perspective. I am probably seeing it for what it really is: less about me and more about the impact of my words and actions on those around me. And to me, in this period of my life, that may be the true message of Ramadan.

    I think few of us realize how much we affect even strangers in our daily interaction with people.

    Though I’m not a Muslim, I have been curious about the faith and culture. A few years ago I began writing a novel. The setting is a future Middle East. Given that I had no knowledge of Islam or the life of Muslims, I went to our local mosque and had an interview with the imam. He was wonderful. I received an arm load of books and videos. I told him about my belief (raised as a Christian but developed a different view). I asked the imam what he thought about my beliefs. He told me that, among Muslims, I would be considered a small ”m’ Muslim. We laughed. The veil of distrust fell away. We had become friends.

    A few years ago I had to undergo a medical procedure wherein I was not allowed to eat for three days. Nothing, except water or clear fluids. The first day, I thought I’d never make it to the final day. The next day was easier but still frustrating. On the third day, I found I didn’t think about food very much at all. It was interesting to discover much of my eating routine was more habit than a need of my body.

    I was wondering if you have experienced a spiritual awakening or some another epiphany during Ramadan?

    Thank you for your time. Blessings

    • KB

      June 28, 2016 at 8:22 PM

      I love your comment! It’s wonderful to hear that you had such a good first experience with the Muslim community too.That novel sounds very interesting. Are you planning on publishing it?

  2. KB

    June 28, 2016 at 8:23 PM

    Subhanallah, I’m not sure I can imagine fasting Ramadan while looking after two hyperactive kids! I really admire your dedication and positive attitude.

  3. Hira Amin

    June 29, 2016 at 7:44 AM

    Great article – I think this is something that is not given enough attention. The challenges of being a young mother in Ramadhan, if you are not fasting it is difficult to get a spiritual high, but if you are fasting you are soo exhausted that any extra ibadah becomes almost impossible as children never take a break!

    Alhamdolilah, Allah does not reward us for what we do, but our intentions and our effort.

  4. Zia-e-Taiba

    October 25, 2016 at 8:15 AM

    Nice to see an article about 10 health benefits of Fasting

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