by Asiila Imani
As I begin my 32nd Ramadan, I praise Allah for bringing me full circle. My first Ramadan, in 1979, was also in August. I was 22 and lived in the Pacific Northwest where the sun, literally, did not set until close to 9:30pm. I’ve not only experienced Ramadan in every month of the Gregorian calendar, I’ve come from a time of constantly having to explain why I wasn’t eating until night, and that the word ‘Ramadan’ did not refer to a Latino dance; to a new century where, thanks to 911 and the subsequent media focus on Islam, the president extends Ramadan wishes, and the Post Office issues Eid stamps. Only God knows if I will be blessed to again fast ‘around the calendar’ and see Ramadan in August 2043. Insha’Allah, I will be 86. My youngest child will be 46, and my oldest will be 58–older than I am now, Insha’Allah.
The thought boggles my mind.
But even more mind-boggling is the realization that there is no other time on the planet more holy and blessed than Ramadan. Allah says it is His month, and we–mere humans– are his special guests! Do you realize what being a special guest of God means? For starters, when we fast, pray and do our best spiritually and socially, we will receive unimaginable, uncountable rewards, in this life and the next. Even for the smallest of unintentional, mundane things. I mean, when else are sleep and bad breath counted as good deeds?
God urges us to take advantage of every day and night of this month, whether fasting or not. How? Sunnah prayers, tahajjud, special duas, giving money, clothes, food—everyday if you can– praising and thanking Allah as much as you can. Fill your mind with the remembrance of God by dhikring and reciting newly memorized ayahs of Quran. Truly, these 29-30 days are so worth losing sleep over.
The Purpose of Ramadan
In a sentence, the purpose of Ramadan is to raise ourselves to a spiritual level fully devoted to God. Ramadan sets the stage to continue this devotion for the rest of the year. Supposedly, it takes between 21-66 days to inculcate a new habit. What better habits are there than developing empathy for the hungry and thirsty, giving charity on a regular basis, praying more, reading Quran daily, remembering Allah more often, and turning to Him with more sincerity for all concerns?
On top of that, God makes it easy.
Shaitan is on lock down, and close to ONE BILLION other Muslims are doing the same thing. When else is there that much spiritual energy focused on the same goal?
Ramadan Kareem, for real!
God says he loves the young believer. Allow even your youngest children to fast if they wish; a half-day or skipping a meal. Make a big deal out of Ramadan. Whatever works for your family: decorate the house, read/talk about daily Quranic/Islamic history stories, give money or clothes/toys to people who need it throughout the month, make Eid gifts for family, friends and the poor. There are a number of sites and magazine that have plenty of ideas. Reiterate how special and important this month is and let the kids help and participate in all the spiritual and charitable acts you do. Children can be incredibly generous and will come up with some great ideas. Follow their lead. Keep suhur and iftar meals simple. Fasting is not an excuse to gorge ourselves (or eat all night).
Kill the TV, video games and movies. Why waste a minute on Madinsane avenue, distracting madness? Perhaps a few Islamic movies and videos are fine, but again, lessen the exposure to media. I collect all my teens and tweens’ comics, anime and adventure books and have them pick at least two Islamic books (the Sirah of Prophet Muhammad (saw), the rules of fasting, history, spiritual discourse are great topics) from our library to read. It was slow going at first, but i found that instituting a daily reading hour (or two) where we all sit in one room and read the Quranic juz out loud (taking turns) and/or read our current Islamic book quietly helped them get more involved. Make the discussions about Quran relevant to their lives.
Don’t forget to discuss and commemorate the historical and spiritual significance of events that occurred in Ramadan. It was during Ramadan the Sahifa was revealed to Prophet Ibraheem (as); the Taurah was revealed to Prophet Musa (as), and the Injeel to Prophet Issa (as).
On the 17th of Ramadan, the Muslims beat the Quraysh in the Battle of Badr. The “day of brotherhood” between the Muhajireen and Ansar in Medina was on the 11th of Ramadan. On the 20th of Ramadan the Muslims conquered Mecca. Sadly, it was the 7th of Ramadan when Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib died, just three days before the Prophet’s love of his life, Khadijah, passed away.
Most importantly, Ramadan contains the night the Holy Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw), the significance of which cannot be overstated or overestimated. Lailatul Qadr, otherwise known as The Night of Power is, as Allah says, “a night better than 1000 months.” That’s one night equal to 30,000.
It is the night, wherein every devotion is counted 30,000 times. It is the night when millions of Angels descend to Earth to pray with and for us. It is the night when Allah may grant all our prayers, and forgive all our sins. How gracious our Host is!!!
Make searching for Lailatul Qadr a family affair. Sacrificing sleep is a small price to pay for such an auspicious time.
Eid: The Day of Festivity
The word Eid appears in Sura al-Maida, chapter 5 of the Quran. The root word is ‘aa-da’ meaning ‘he or it returned.’ Literally, it means “the time of return of joy and of grief,” and signifies a gathering to commemorate or celebrate.
The disciples of Jesus (as) requested him to pray to Allah and send down a table of food to satisfy their hearts, and to witness the miracle (Q 5:115-6). Jesus (as) prayed: “O Our Lord! Send us a Table Spread with festive food, that there may be for us, for the first and last of us – Eid, a solemn festival and a Sign from You; and provide for our sustenance, for You are the Best Sustainer.” (Q 5:117)
Although Eid is mentioned in relation to Jesus (as), it is not, contrary to the obvious similarities to Christmas, a “Muslim Christmas. “ Nor is it true that “Muslims have two Christmases, y’all only have one,” as I’ve heard some young Muslims exclaim to their Christian friends.
Christmas has been co-opted by the popular party culture and big business. It has become more secular than religious. Christmas time is when retailers all over the world make most of that year’s profits. Hallmark cards makes billions. Even atheists celebrate Christmas!
‘Buy/get/give’ is the mantra over and above the celebration of the birth of Jesus (as). Of course, most practicing Christians haven’t forgotten ‘the reason for the season,’ but they believe that Jesus (as) is the literal son of God, or God himself in the flesh. This is diametrically opposed to the Islamic aversion of confusing God with man.
Looking forward to Eid can’t be helped. We’re supposed to celebrate the completion of the fasts and be full of hope for God’s promised rewards. New clothes, hugs and kisses of congratulations, the food and the gifts of Eid are fine. However, all this joy must be tempered with the solemnity of the ‘reason for our season’: the habits we, Insha’Allah, formed during Ramadan. Our stomachs have shrunk, accustomed to eating and drinking less. Our want of things and distractions, hopefully, has shrunk too. The truth is, the Prayer and giving zakah/sadaqah are the most important aspects of Eid, not the new clothes and eating until we are past full. Consider giving most or all of the money earmarked for gifts, and much of the mounds of food to the poor on Eid.
This year that very thing may end up happening with our small group of women and girls who prepare dinner for a women’s homeless shelter every other month. This month’s dinner was accidentally scheduled to, more than likely, fall on Eid. After the initial horror of having to cook two meals and being pulled away from the yearly mega feast with our jamah, we realized Allah blessed us with the perfect opportunity to celebrate Eid by giving sadaqah and a bit of dawah at the same time; to practice what we preach. Masha’Allah.
Care to join us?
Asiila Imani is a doula/midwife middle aged mama of two manly homeschooled boys. She is also my auntie:-)