Are you feeling that ramadan is slipping away too quickly? Or perhaps someone feeling tired and are struggling to keep her focus with what is left of ramadan? Do you yearn for that spiritual fulfillment which seems unattainable at this point? Or are you someone who regrets losing time in keeping up with kids activities and had little time for your own Ibadah (worship)?
Based on my interactions with sisters in my program or in the support community I noticed a recurring problem. They often mention how they wish they could do more but are simply unable to, How they wish they had more energy. Or they could be more productive with time. Underneath their statements is a person struggling to cope with an endless list of to do's. This has surprisingly surfaced even more in ramadan which should ideally be a time to slow down and reflect.
There are some of us who are genuinely overtaken with the responsibility of little children. Some have little infants who need constant care, feedings and diaper changing, some have curious toddlers that seem to leave a trail of mess wherever they go, some have preschoolers bursting with energy and creativity who demand attention and some have them all or a certain combination. Many with little children are still healing from childbirth and years of nursing. It is physically challenging to manage so many responsibilities while fasting after a break.
Then there are those of us who struggle to accept our limitations as a human being and want to do it all. We simply refuse to make intelligent decisions based on our altered reality. In the process we compromise on the more important things. We 'buy in' to every good idea. We impose unrealistic expectations on ourselves.
As a community we reinforce the supermom culture, which is wreaking havoc on the health and well being of mothers both physical and spiritual. But it doesn't end there, it hurts our children as well because they are at the receiving end of this unrealistic quest for perfection of ambitious, stressed out mothers.
Do we really need to add more work and stress, or should we encourage each other to just keep things simple and real?
There is another ramadan specific problem in our community which has become counterproductive. The latest trend to 'dress up' ramadan for kids has emerged as a new, important priority. What started as a desire to help our children build a strong identity has become a competition of some sort. The trouble is this new social pressure is competing with our precious time for ibadah (worship) in ramadan. Not to mention it has added even more pressure on the mothers.
So what should we do?
Even though ramadan ends in four days, we can make it a beginning. A fresh start for a new and improved life. Ramadan comes once a year and Allah makes it easy for us to 'reset' and reprioritize. Allah purifies us through fasting and prayer so that we may benefit from His book, His guidance. It is upto us what we take from here...
So instead of feeling disappointed perhaps we can use these last few days as a grand beginning into an amazing year where we live with wisdom and balance. Inshallah
Here are some practical tips.
1. Do not despair.
Allah knows our struggles. Allah knows that our life has been overtaken with this tremendous responsibility of raising children. He knows everything. He is Al- Muhaymin (The witness)
If we sincerely seek Him and long to do more but are unable to because of the responsibilities He has placed upon us... then we must trust that we are loved and appreciated by Him. What else could we expect from The Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem (The Entirely merciful)
And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near.I respond to those who call Me, so let them respond to Me, and believe in Me, so that they may be guided. - Surah Baqarah 186
We are in a state of worship everytime we seek to please Him, even in the most mundane of tasks. Every action can turn into worship if we remember Him and do it for His sake. Whether it is cooking for the family, changing diapers or reading to the children.
It is in doing the best in our capacity, striving to add that little extra prayer if and when we get a chance. It is in feeling bad for a missed opportunity. It's in admitting our faults and placing hope only in Him.
Allah is closer to us than we can ever imagine. Remember that our body listens to Allah before it listens to you. That includes the fingers that are typing this and the fingers which are scrolling to read this post. He is always near.
So remember Me; I will remember you. Be thankful to Me, and never ungrateful. - Surah Barqarah 152
So remove any negativity you have, just turn back to Allah in humility and admit your inabilities to Him, acknowledge your limitations in front of the one who is Al- Waasi' (the all encompassing, the boundless). Share your weakness with the One who is Al-Qadeer (The All powerful).
"Do not despair of the mercy of Allah" - Surah Az-Zumar Ayah 53
Allah knows your remorse and your disappointment for not doing enough. Allah's mercy is far greater than any 'mistakes', 'mishaps' or 'shortcomings'. Know that He is Al-Ghafoor (the exceedingly forgiving) and Al-Haleem (the most forbearing)
The importance of setting clear priorities cannot be emphasized enough. Everything cannot be at the same level of importance. It sounds simple but many a times we fail to follow through on this basic common sense idea.
I have no doubt that no mother would have trouble deciding priorities between her own prayers and putting together a cardboard masjid for the kids. Wisdom demands that we value something that is scarce.
For us mothers, time is often limited and our energy depleted so we must be decisive in how we use it. So be ruthless with all the unnecessary things on the list and only focus your efforts on a few basic priorities. You will be able to do so much more if you keep it simple.
I often have to remind myself and perhaps I should share it here, "Simple is sustainable. And success comes from sustained effort. So keep it simple"
3. Begin with ourselves:
If one of our goals this Ramadan was to help children develop a relationship with Allah, we must simply do that ourselves and the children will absorb it through observation and from their natural environment. We don't need to artificially create that environment. Whatever flows naturally will be good enough.
Children see us and see through us. A parent striving to establish sincere worship of their Lord, yearning to earn His pleasure and eager to do the smallest of good deeds can possibly teach a child much more than a stressed out parent busy creating an external display of their commitment to the faith.
I am saying this based on years of experimenting and trying to do different things for the kids to instill a love of Allah(swt). Believe me when I say this, the best ways are often the easiest and the most natural ways. Children do not care about the 'fancy attractive displays' as much as we imagine. Even if they do, it fades away very quickly. What lasts is what they witness in us.
The kindness, the selfless actions and the little gestures done for the sake of Allah last longer. If they witness that their parents are striving everyday to understand Allah's book, giving up their share for someone else, shedding tears out of gratitude for Allah, and seeking Allah's forgiveness for their wrongdoings, fearing His justice and the Day they will be accounted for their actions, They will know Allah in a more meaningful way. In ramadan we have this opportunity, for ourselves and for them. Why lose it for something inferior?
Move beyond identity, Seek certainty and belief instead.
4. Honor Your Limits:
We are all at different phases of life and our family/personal circumstances vary. What is possible for someone else may not be practical for you at all. So choose your goals keeping in mind what is feasible for 'YOU'. Seek progress over perfection. Always.
"Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear." Surah Baqarah Verse 286.
We may not be able to do the same amount of things. But we can aspire for the same 'quality'. Our sincerity can make up for the lack in number or quantity. We can all choose to do our best, which may be different for different people but Allah knows that we have tried our best given our own unique situation and capacity.
So do your very best and leave the rest to Allah(swt). Ask Allah to make up for what is lost. Ask Him to help you do better going forward. Like I said, don't treat this as the finish line. Make it a beginning.
For those of you with little children, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Things get significantly easier with time. You will not just be able to pray in peace, you will have their help too. So continue to model in front of them how to care for others, serve others for the sake of Allah and they will happily contribute when they grow up a bit. Let them sit with you and listen to tafseer, participate in discussions, pray with you and participate fully, you don't have to constantly water down everything. Let them be around and attempt based on their capacity. Just don't force or coerce. Their natural tendency is to absorb and learn from you anyways. You would be amazed with what they are capable of doing.
4. Resources are the means to an end.
Resources are means not the goal. Resources don't mean anything by themselves.
They are there to aid something. It's nice to be able to use them to achieve a purpose. So I am not saying do not decorate your home, or do not do crafts with the kids, do activities with them etc. But we must approach it the right way with clarity. The trouble begins when they somehow become the goal.
If you really like some idea for ramadan activities/Eid and if your circumstances allow it, pick only one such idea and try to pick the easiest one. Why? Because you want to prioritize your personal 'ibadah' over elaborate kids activities. And for quality worship we need physical and mental energy.
Use the easy and 'lazy' resources made available by some companies instead of trying to put together your own. There is all kinds of activity kits, books, decorations etc available in the market. This will be a nice way to support them and also save you time. Also if the kids are not keen on doing the activity (that happens!), it will be easy to abandon it.
5. Intention matters.
We often neglect how much intention and sincerity matters in all of this. Think of intention as the starting point of every deed, when it is good everything that follows will be good and blessed. If the intention is corrupt, no matter how much effort we exert, it will be a useless endeavor.
It is intention that can make something routine into a beautiful act of Ibadah (worship). So renew your intention often.
Also check your intention often. So before doing anything ask yourself why do you want to do a certain thing? Is it really for Allah's sake?
It is really okay if your ramadan does not have the 'looks' and 'feels' of what is touted as 'Ramadan with kids'. It is okay if your iftars are not too fancy, It is okay if you did bare minimum. A lack luster ramadan is more acceptable than losing the opportunity to connect back to Allah (swt). That would be the real loss. So prioritize that above everything else.
7. It's never too late.
If your ramadan has not been what you had hoped for, if you feel heaviness in your heart at the thought of leaving ramadan unfulfilled then think about this, we still have a few days and all is not lost. We can use every minute of what we have left of ramadan with sincerity, expecting full reward from Allah(swt).
"Allah says, 'I am just as My slave thinks I am, and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than them; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running. If he comes to me with sins that will fill the world without associating partners with Me, I will welcome him with pardoning as big as that.’" [Bukhari & Muslim]
Remember Allah (swt) often and be mindful of Him. Also asking Him for everything and making du'a is an act of worship and these can be done anytime of the day.
8. End strong
We are still in the last ten days of ramadan. The best part of ramadan is it's end. Allah prepares us throughout the month, Our fasting and praying purifies us and prepares us for the blessings that follow later in the month.
So all is not lost. Just think of all the opportunity that is still here. One of these few nights could be Laylatul-Qadr. A night so special that angels come down to earth. The day when the ultimate blessing was given to mankind: Quran. A night better than a thousand/s of months.
Deeds are Judged by Their Final Actions.
Don't let your shaky start slow you down now, end the ramadan strong. Blessings of ramadan do not end until the moon is sighted.
I wanted to end with a beautiful du'a which is in line with the purpose of ramadan and perhaps our life itself which is to purify ourselves. In a Hadith narrated by Aisha(ra) the Prophet (pbuh) made this beautiful dua:
Allāhumma Āti Nafsī Taqwāhā wa Zakkihā Anta Khayru man Zakkāhā Anta Waliyyuhā wa Mawlāhā
O Allah, grant my soul its piety and purify it, You are the Best to purify it, You are its Guardian and Master.
Our success according to the Allah (swt) is in purifying ourselves as mentioned in Surah Al-Aa'la
And how do we attain it? The very next ayah answers it for us.
So right there lies the formula for our ultimate success. Remembering Allah and praying. So praying with khushu and remembering Allah must be our true priority!
Allah's advice is sincere and it cannot exclude our success as parents. May He allow us to follow His beautiful guidance.May He accept and complete our imperfect worship. I pray that we all achieve purification this ramadan and remain pure. May Allah allow us to rectify our lives and meet Him in this state. Ameen
I pray that these last few days of ramadan become a new beginning for us all where we never forget who we do this for and never forget that He is indeed sufficient for us and all of our affairs.
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