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The Serenity Of Shawwal: Tips For Mothers

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How can busy mothers experience the serenity of Shawwal? Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil provides helpful tips on managing the voluntary fasts of Shawwal alongside making up Ramadan fasts.

The blessings of Shawwāl come in so many forms. There is the joy in being able to eat and drink in the daytime again. There is the excitement of being able to enjoy time with loved ones. Most of all, there is the anticipation and hope that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Most High will grant us the tremendous blessing of meeting the next Ramadan.

The past two years of a global pandemic has shown us how much we take for granted, and how much we struggle when these blessings are taken away. Being able to pray in congregation at masaajid, being able to host our loved ones in our home, or even being able to go outside without wearing a mask – these are no longer minor things to me. There is wisdom in the Divine Decree, including the trial of this pandemic.

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This Shawwāl, alhamdulillah, is different to last year’s. Where I live in Malaysia, restrictions are slowly easing, and at long last, we have been able to reunite with overseas family whom we haven’t seen in over two years. My children are delighted at going hiking and sharing meals with aunties, grand-aunties, and other relatives they haven’t seen in so long. Their lives in this dunya have been so short, and a gap of two years has been a significant marker in their young lives. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) continue to lift the tribulations of this pandemic, and make it easier for us to reunite with our loved ones.

Like many other Muslim women who have not yet hit menopause, I have to catch up my fasting days from Ramadan. Despite my longing to fast the six days of Shawwal, my obligation lies in paying back my obligatory fasts first. I have had three children close in age, and alhamdulillah, have been able to fast while pregnant and breastfeeding. My mother inspired me to do this, because for her, growing up in Singapore, it was and still is the norm for pregnant and/or breastfeeding women to fast. I am so grateful that I listened to my mother and gave it my best shot. Now that Shawwāl is here though, I aim to finish paying back my obligatory fasts first.

Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: “Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be (rewarded) as if he had fasted the entire year.” [Muslim]

There has been a misunderstanding in recent years that it is permissible to combine the intention of paying back obligatory fasts with the sunnah intention of Shawwal. Dr Tamara Gray writes about this at length here.

To summarize, Dr. Tamara Gray offers four solutions:

1: Fast qada (make-up) fasts in Shawwāl, and the follow them up with sunnah fasts so that both the make-up days and the Shawwāl days are fasted in Shawwāl. This is the optimal method.

2- Fast sunnah before farḍ in order to fast the sunnah of Shawwāl. This is not the best way because farḍ is an obligation and should be done first.

3- Fast the farḍ make-up fasts in Shawwāl, seeking the blessings of the month, while doing obligatory fasts (but without adding a second intention).

4- Fast the farḍ fasts first and then fast the six days of Shawwāl throughout the year as sunnah fasts.

As a mother of three small children, I have cautious optimism for next Ramadan. I hope to be (more or less) completely done with diapers and breastfeeding by then. I look forward to more time spent on my spiritual nourishment, and for it to be easier for me to leave the house and go to the masjid. My husband and I will divide time between caring for our young children and leaving for the masjid, so that we both get to worship in the house of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). We want to model this for my daughters and for my son, so that they can see how making space for my spiritual life matters too.

Narrated A’isha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her): Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely, and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.” [Bukhari]

If you are a breastfeeding and/or pregnant mother with days owed from Ramadan, please don’t despair. InshaAllah there is still time for you to pay back your fasts, one blessed day at a time. Shawwāl is still a month for you, even if you’re not able to fast the six days of Shawwāl.

 

Related reading:

Maqasid (Wisdoms) of the Six Fasts of Shawwal

Ar-Rayyan Membership: Fast the 6 of Shawwal

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Raidah Shah Idil was born in Singapore, grew up in Sydney, Australia, worked in Amman, Jordan and now lives in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia with her husband, three children and mother-in-law. As a university student, she began her online Islamic studies with Qibla (Sunnipath), alongside her volunteer work as a hospital chaplain for 5 years. After completing her Bachelors of Science (Psychology) and Bachelor of Arts (English) at the University of New South Wales, she completed Qibla’s Shifa Summer program on the ground in Kharabsheh, Amman. She stayed on for almost two years and studied Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Sira, Aqida, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajwid with various teachers such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Shaykha Noura Shamma, Shaykh Farid Dingle and Shaykh Qays Arthur. Raidah loves ginger tea, noodle soup and dreams of uninterrupted sleep.

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