Ramadan through the eyes of a child

This year is FZ’s first Ramadan of fasting as a newly-minted baligha, or one who has reached the age of responsibility, according to Islam.

Even though we had her try some half-day fasts, and even full-day practice fasts, the month of Ramadan was a whole new thing altogether. Can someone ever really be prepared for the daily fasting, change in routine and lack of sleep? How could we help our daughter get ready for the holy month, full of its spiritual benefits, while not letting her get dragged down physically?

Fortunately my husband and I surrounded FZ with positive messages about the holy month of Ramadan. The days she fasted we treated her with her favorite iftaar, or meal to break the fast. And as a mother, I prepped myself with plans and activities for the month — things to keep her busy, occupied and not focusing on food.

Plus, there are lots of great resources out there for daily activities to keep kids entertained during the holy month. Here are just a few.

Tips on helping young ones reap the rewards of Shahr Ramadan

Too often as adults we let ourselves get caught up in the physical aspects of Ramadan – i.e. the hunger, thirst, fatigue, lack of energy, etc. But in reality we are actually doing a disservice to our young ones.

There are some ways on helping our young fasters turn the physical drain into spiritual growth, and thus redirecting our attention to the positive versus solely focusing on the negative.

  1. Plan a special daily activity: It doesn’t have to be big or grand. Even something as simple as going to the library, or taking a walk outside to discover a new flower or bird can recharge a fasting child. Even take your child’s help to prepare an iftaar snack or meal.
  2. Encouraging naps: Young kids who are fasting don’t usually understand the physical limitations of fasting and often get overtired doing their regular activities. Help them wind down and relax to not burn out.
  3. Getting closer to the Holy Qur’an: There are plenty of ways to help kids get more acquainted with the Holy Qur’an. See how many animals you can find mentioned among the names of chapters? Or learn about a new prophet.
  4. Focusing on prayer and dua: We can make prayers a little sweeter during the holy month of Ramadan. Help your child remember the poor, orphans, homeless, and oppressed.
  5. Volunteering and helping others: If there are any food banks or soup kitchens near you, try to spend a few hours a week and help out. Or even at the local masjid or center, have your child get involved with serving or clean up. This will help link the holy month to worthwhile activities.

How is your kid’s spiritual health?

We let our kids believe in the tooth fairy, Easter bunny and Santa Claus without a peep, but the moment we try to get them God-conscious, all hell breaks loose.

If we care so much about our kids’ physical health, why aren’t we worried about their spiritual health? Is it because we fall victim to the propaganda that all religion is bad and pure and simple brainwashing?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen far worse brainwashing done by cable cartoon channels. So we don’t mind if our kids treat every movie like an obsession (Let it go?), but we are considered “extremists” if we try to remove the focus on material things.

I have heard this more than once from family and close friends – “You’re being too strict,” “They’re just kids,” and my all-time favorite, “If you are this hard on them, they will rebel.” I don’t think teaching my kids not to waste their time is considered “extreme parenting.”

I consider my children a trust from God. These gifts the Almighty has bestowed on me, are truly blessings. I read stories of parents losing children right after childbirth, or after an unfortunate accident, or a disease and it breaks me inside. It is right then and there that I am reminded of the beautiful blessings I have, and that I shouldn’t waste them.

Everything I am doing with my kids right now while they are still young is helping build their foundations. If I give them foam and fluff to build their foundations, their futures will be just as flimsy. But if I focus on the important things, then they will have success every step of the way.

Naturally I am not talking about sitting with my young kids and teaching them the beliefs of Tawheed (monotheism), or the philosophy behind Islam, but I do teach them that it is important to follow that which matters. I make sure they understand that the most important thing in their life is to be God-conscious. I teach them to fight the whispers of Shaitan (Satan), and to always follow those role models that have/had a vision, not a cool haircut.

This doesn’t mean I don’t let my kids be kids. They enjoy their weekends, they go out for ice cream (more often than I would like), they have friends, they run outside and get fresh air…. they’re kids, after all. But they have a purpose.

Too often I hear the sad stories of parents who were the best of the best. They provided everything to their kids – all their physical needs were met and they were loved greatly. But they lacked in spiritual grounding. Yes, you will find success in many spheres in your life, God is Just after all. But if you lack a spiritual foundation, you will see it in your life. In relationships, in your personal growth, etc.

Here are 5 ways to help connect your kids to God:

  1. Gentle reminders: We like hanging short verses/sayings around the house that remind us about being God-conscious. The kids help me make them, and we remind each other as needed.
  2. Giving importance to religious traditions: Whether it is the daily prayers, or an evening Bible recitation, it is important to treat this worship with respect. We try to pray together as a family so that we are all connected through worship.
  3. Practice what you preach: When we as parents are conscious about our words and actions, then our kids will follow suit.
  4. Keeping like-minded company: We all need friends, but when you surround yourself with friends who also share your beliefs and values, your kids will feel encouraged. Not to mention, those relationships also provide much needed support to parents.
  5. Open communication: Whether it is through stories or conversations in the car, use those moments to talk about questions and concerns regarding God and religion. Your kids should feel free to ask questions, and you should give short, simple answers. Anything you don’t know, just say you don’t know and try to find out. Never lie to your kids. (For example: Santa Claus lives on the North Pole).

Imam Jafar Sadiq, one of the great-grandsons of the Holy Prophet of Islam, likened belief in God to this situation: It is nighttime, and you are on a boat among turbulent waters. It is pitch black, your boat is rocking back and forth, and you have no earthly idea where you are or what to do. You have nothing – no phone, no GPS, no flares. But suddenly from the depths of your heart there is a yearning, a hope, a prayer for salvation…. this is God.

I am not talking about a religion, per se, but on finding a spiritual anchor in our lives. Aren’t we facing rocky waters everyday? Look at our society. We have leaders who say they believe in God, yet they are hypocritical, arrogant, and selfish. And the bigger problem is we as a society are accepting of this. If we follow a religion, we are apologetic for our “traditions.” We treat religion like a backwards concept. We are “progressive” if we are far from religion, and “mindless twits” if we live by a religion.

I certainly do not want this for my children.

If we live by the rules of a religion we are mocked, but if we live by the rules of today’s fashion, we are OK. Without rules there is anarchy – wouldn’t you rather be tethered to something that has value? And this is what I will continue to teach to my kids. Those that lived with purpose are still living today – their values hold true today. With love and compassion, and through God’s help, I will continue to guide my kids toward God and His Love and Mercy. While doing so, I pray that I will become the best mother to them. And to me, that is the best way to honor this gift of motherhood.

 

Life lessons from Imam Hussain (as)

Far away from the turmoil in Yemen, the sectarian killings in Pakistan, and from the new questions arising in North America regarding Imam Hussain’s mission, I am trying to keep Imam Hussain and Karbala alive for my children.

It really bothers me when I read about youth in the West now raising questions about whether Imam Hussain “failed” or “succeeded.” Did it ever occur to those same youth that the only reason you are able to talk about him at all is because he succeeded.

But my children are young, and I try to teach them the basic life lessons that Imam Hussain taught us while fighting Yazeed and his army in Karbala 1,400 years ago.

  1. Importance of prayer – While Imam Hussain and his army were fighting, time came for the noon prayers. Imam and his followers asked for a break in fighting to pray to Allah. Yazeed’s army did not pay heed and continued fighting. A few of Imam’s comrades guarded him and the others while the rest prayed. No matter when the going got tough, Imam Hussain taught us that remembering to show Allah gratitude is of utmost importance.
  2. Importance of faith/Tawheed (oneness of Allah) – Imam Hussain taught us to do everything purely for the sake of Allah. His mission, his stand against Yazeed, his inviting others towards good deeds and telling them to refrain from bad deeds, his traveling to Karbala – it was for Allah and all to save Islam. For this faith, he and his companions were rewarded with shahadat.
  3. Loyalty – It is said that Imam Hussain had the best companions. There is hadith that he claimed “I have the best followers, even better than the ones my grandfather, the Holy Prophet, and my father, Imam Ali, had.” The night before Ashura Imam Hussain sat with his camp and told them that by coming this far and intending to fight with him they had already been assured Paradise. But since Yazeed’s army was really after him, they could leave now and save their lives. He blew out the lanterns so as to save anyone from embarrassment. But when the lanterns were lighted again, everyone remained.
  4. Sacrifice – In their own ways, each member of the camp of Imam Hussain (as), even the women and children, sacrificed something near and dear, with the understanding that this was all for a higher purpose. If not their lives, then their peace and comfort, children, were sacrificed to keep Islam alive.
  5. Standing up for what is right, no matter what – When Qasim, nephew of Imam Hussain (as), was asked how he saw shahadat, he replied “I find it sweeter than honey.” When Hazrat Zainab (sa) faced the enemies of Imam Hussain and was asked “What do you see in how Allah treated your brother and your family?” She replied: “I saw nothing but beauty.”

I don’t have to indulge my kids in the horrific details of the Battle of Karbala. Unfortunately most of the time we mostly dwell in these issues – how Imam Hussain was killed, how Imam Hussain’s brother Hazrat Abbas was slaughtered, how the enemies shot an arrow through the 6-month-old Ali Asghar’s neck, how the tents were burned after the battle, etc.

While it is important to know about these tragic details, I like to focus more on the lessons. I like to reiterate important concepts with my children, like the importance of living with dignity and not selling away our beliefs for material gain. Or the importance of sacrifice, be it small even. Learning how to live for the higher purpose. I want them to see how the actions of those in Karbala saved Islam.

In the end, I want my children to see the same beauty that Hazrat Zainab (sa) saw on that fateful day, and be confident in their beliefs.