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Parents In Ramadan: Pivot To Another Worship

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In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Grantor of Mercy.

Pivoting to Another Type of Worship

I was back in the United States on an unplanned three-year leave from the University of Madinah, translating a seminar for Dr. Salah al-Sawy. During an intermission, he asked me how my studies in Madinah were going. I told him then that my father wasn’t well, and that I had to abort my College of Hadith dreams. He gave me his radiant, grandpa smile and said, “My dear son, the time has come for another act of ‘ibādah (worship or devotion).” 

Getting accepted to the University of Madinah, then having to suddenly leave it, and as a result never being able to finish my studies there, was a challenging chapter of my life. I waited four or five years to get into the Islamic University of Madinah. I applied, then would “grind” until I unearthed “connections” to make sure my application wasn’t fumbled. Each year I was unofficially told that I had made the cut and that my name would be on the acceptance list being released soon; but my name was never on that list. Like a yo-yo, my emotions were toyed with annually. I remember the tears. I remember losing hope. In the meantime, I graduated from Brooklyn College, got married, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even blessed us with our baby Abbaad. Then it happened: calls and texts telling me I’m on the acceptance list – two years after I stopped checking. Months later, I flew into Madinah, tested out of the Arabic seminary, and jumped straight into the College of Hadith. After excelling in my first semester, I returned home for the summer break, just in time for the arrival of baby Maymuna. Then–something terrible happened. My father (may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grant him al-Firdaws) had his third stroke that summer, and a uniquely challenging three years were suddenly underway. Everyone pushed me to return to Madinah and to not forgo the opportunity, but the high maintenance nature of my father’s deterioration made that a non-option in my head. It certainly weighed heavily on me, on a daily basis, the uncertainty of whether another study opportunity of this magnitude would ever circle back around my way. It never did, walḥamdulillāh.

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But when I heard those words from Dr. Salah al-Sawy, it changed me forever. “My dear son, the time has come for another act of ‘ibādah (worship or devotion).” It became a principle that has since been forged into my personality, and one I pray never vanishes. Whatever “intrusion” comes our way in life is not from some adversarial force in the universe that thwarts God’s perfect plan for us. Rather, it is His infinite Wisdom and what He knows is best for us.

Parents in Ramadan

It is with that very reflection that I wish to welcome every parent of a young child, and every “child” of a dependent parent, to this Ramadan. Serving our families, in proportion to their needs, is certainly a duty in Islam – but this does not mean it isn’t uniquely burdensome, especially for us moderns that are often deprived of extended family help. At the same time, this duty also does not mean that it is acceptable to subject ourselves to a mental or spiritual burnout; this neither benefits you nor those you are diligently caring for. For this reason, I wish to compile here a quick-fire set of “hurdles and hacks” to help us show Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) our best face this Ramadan, and transcend some of the frustrations through “rolling with the punches,” and making the best of what’s available at this juncture in our lives. Bismillah…

  • You are unable to recite, reflect, or devote yourself ritually as you once did, and this makes you feel guilty. There is actually a treasure available in these moments; asking yourself whether you are devoting yourself to please yourself or to please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will result in you being pleased at heart, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) may sometimes suspend that sweetness to help you assess which of the two pursuits is your primary objective. As Ibn al-Qayyim raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) says, this subtlety is overlooked by many of the most well-intentioned and dedicated Muslims. Long story short, what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) obligates is more pleasing to Him and rewarding than what He recommends. As He Himself said, “And My servant does not draw closer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than what I have obligated on him. And then My servant continues drawing closer to Me with the voluntary acts until I love him…” [Al-Bukharī] So if you cannot pray as much at night, remember the wisdom of Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said, “My brother spent the night praying, and I spent the night massaging my mother’s feet [for circulation], and I would never trade my night for his.”
  • Missing out on “the full Ramadan experience” due to family duties makes me resentful and extra irritable. Well, what if I told you that this may be the very reason that this will be your greatest Ramadan ever in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)? How can that be? Well, we already covered duties being the most paramount in priority and reward, but also because your resistance to these irritants = you have not missed out on anything at all. Rather, you will be rewarded through those heroics for fasting and night prayers for the entire year! Dwell on this gift from your beloved ﷺ: “The believer may certainly reach by his good character the rank of one who regularly fasts and stands for prayer at night.” [Abū Dāwūd] A clingy child or needy elder can become intolerable, except for those fixated on the prize.
  • I lift my hands for duā’, but my kids keep fiddling with them. Ask them to play the āmeen game! I’m sure you’ve figured out what I mean already. Nothing instills certainty in our children nor the habit of speaking to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in life, than these subconscious memories. And don’t underestimate the potency of a sinless child’s prayers over our own. The early Muslims would seek out the childrens’ Qur’an circles and ask these pure youngsters for their prayers.
  • My kids won’t let me touch my Qur’an. No, Shayṭan has not authorized them to cover for him while he is gone. They are interested in what interests you, so have on hand another “Qur’an” (my toddlers think anything in Arabic is Qur’an – shhhh!) for them to read alongside you. Compared to a decade or two ago, the surge in the amount of just Ramadan-themed story books, and even activity books, is tremendous. You can find a most practical “involve them with you” write up on this here.
  • I cannot find the time to do anything. Well, ummm, would you consider your phone a thing? I know we all have knee-jerk reactions hearing about our tech addictions, but the formula is clear: “And [recall] when your Lord has declared; if You are grateful, I will increase you.” [Surah Ibrāhīm 14:7] If we don’t waste time, we find our time blessed with more productivity as well. Our fasts ending in feasts (most nights) falls under this category as well. The amount of time spent preparing for it, or driving to it, or recovering from it, is truly unbefitting of the month meant to free the spirit from the demands of the body. And if an honest pause will not happen in Ramadan about our unbridled consumerism, then when can we ever hope to sober up?
  • The moment my kids are “unplugged” from their devices, they are endlessly complaining of being bored. “Boredom has actually been found to benefit adults and children, and can lead to greater creativity. Telling kids to ‘figure out what you want to do’ when they do complain about being bored (provided it doesn’t involve a phone or a computer) will not only boost their brain power. It will also teach them that you are not the court jester of their kingdom. Part of growing up is figuring out how to wisely spend their time. Hand over this responsibility to them for at least a few days this Ramadan and watch what they do. You may be pleasantly surprised.”1https://www.soundvision.com/article/8-ways-to-handle-a-summer-ramadan-with-kids
  • My kids are always in the kitchen. Training our children to fast with us, and developing their frustration tolerance through ignoring their hunger when possible, is a prophetic practice. The Companions [ranhuma] would give their children toys until Maghrib whenever they would whine during a day of fasting (not just Ramadan). The resilience of those generations in the face of supreme adversities are grounded in these sacred practices. In addition to this, seeing mommy cooking for extra long hours in ifṭār contributes to this. Being more present in their day with activities (stories / crafts), charity (in-person and online), d’awah (Ramadan cards for neighbors), will help them be more absent from the cupboard.

Finally, I encourage mothers especially to revisit this classic, emotionally intelligent piece by Shaykh Yaser Birjas: My Dear Ramadan Stay-at-Home Mom, I Salute You.

I ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to allow us to reach the month of Ramadan, reap its incredible blessings, enlighten our hearts and minds with the Qur’an, and allow us to find His Forgiveness and Pleasure at the end of our journeys. Āmīn.

 

Related reading:

5 Tips for Surviving Ramadan. In The Summer. When You Have Small Children.

 

My Ramadan Plan For Life With A Toddler: Shifting My Mindset And Setting Humble Goals

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Graduate of English Literature; Translator for IIPH, AMJA, and Mishkah; Da'wah Director @ Muslims Giving Back; Student @ Mishkah University. More blessed than I know, and more than I deserve.

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