Moms: Feed your soul this Ramadan
For most Muslims, Ramadan is supposed to mean much more than just abstaining from food, drink and sexual intercourse. It is an opportunity to enlighten the mind and soul. With opportunities to participate in the Taraaweeh (night prayers) prayers and Iftaar (fast-breaking) meals to enjoy with family and friends, Ramadan is the highlight of the year for many Muslims. However, many busy Muslim moms find it harder and harder to keep up with demanding jobs, families and the added responsibilities of Ramadan. So, how can moms manage all this and make time for worship, spirituality and devotion?
We know that Ramadan is a training session for Muslims. It is another opportunity for us to renew good practices and develop good habits that we aim to continue until the next Ramadan. One such practice is that of making a good intention before every action. Since making the right intention is a form of worship, this is an easy way for women to worship even during their busy working days. Whether you are washing your family's breakfast dishes or giving your son a bath after a long day, making the right intention can be the difference between completing a menial task and performing an action of worship for the sake of Allah. We should always be making and renewing intentions, but sometimes we forget. Ramadan is a great time to reawaken that practice and begin again to make proper intentions.
Prioritize or postpone responsibilities
Once we have the right intention, we can make some changes in our daily schedules to better appreciate the blessings of Ramadan. As busy, working (or working at home) moms, we must prioritize in Ramadan to determine what is more important than something else. There is only a fixed number of hours in the day, so it would be impossible to get everything done on one's list. Hence, the need to prioritize and create a short-list, at least for the month, takes precedence over trying to get absolutely everything done.
There are definitely a few tasks or responsibilities that we have during the year that we can postpone or altogether disregard during Ramadan. By eliminating something from our schedules (be it temporary), we can make time for other activities and practices that will be more beneficial for us.
During Ramadan, it is recommended to visit the Masjid, read Quran, make Thikr (remembrance of Allah), offer additional prayers, and make supplication. If the Masjid is in need, perhaps you can tidy up the mess from the activity of the previous night; you can clean up in the kitchen or sweep the floors. Remember that no deed goes overlooked and there is rarely a better time to earn additional reward than in Ramadan.
Working women too have opportunities to forego one activity for another. Feed your soul rather than your body at break time in Ramadan. The customary lunch break is the perfect time to get out of the office to focus your energy on something other than your job. If your break is long enough, you can visit a local Masjid for a few minutes of spiritual retreat. If your break is not long enough, spend some time with an Ipod or any other device at your desk to listen to a portion of a lecture or a few minutes of some Quranic recitation.
Make some Thikr with dinner
Many women notice in Ramadan that food becomes one of the most important aspects of the month. It should not be so, but Iftaars and dinners become more and more elaborate and, in some cultures, Iftaars are equivalent to a delicious prelude to an even more complex dinner.
Muslim women must make efforts to avoid falling into this trap. Ramadan is not about the food. It is about appreciating what we have and having a conscience about what others don't have. Therefore, producing and providing gourmet meals to our friends and family is not the way of observing the blessings of this holy month. Instead, perhaps we can cook simple but ample food and distribute it at the Masjid for Iftaar.
A great dinnertime habit that we can begin (or renew) in Ramadan that can be carried through all year long is making constant Thikr. Rather than humming or talking to yourself while you are cooking all that food for the Masjid, try making Thikr. Pronouncing the Names of Allah and invoking His blessings is one of the easiest ways for even the busiest of moms to make the most of her time in Ramadan. While stirring the pot, why not say: "Subhan Allah", while setting the table say: "Alhamdulillaah". Once you set your mind to it, you will notice how easy it is to make Thikr at any place and time—while you are driving, while you are standing in line at the bank, while you are waiting for your car at the carwash, etc.
Supplicate while the kids are asleep
If your husband is away for Taraaweeh and you are left putting the kids to bed, take solace in the fact that you can offer Taraaweeh independently. If your kids are too young to take to the Masjid for Taraaweeh, keep them home and offer your Taraaweeh prayer alone. Just because you have matronly duties doesn't mean that you cannot fulfill your duty to Allah.
And if you need to go to bed early, then you can rise even earlier in the morning, again while the kids are sleeping. Wake up before Fajr and take advantage of the best time of the day to offer recommended prayers. You can perform as little as two Rak'ahs or as many as twelve plus one for Witr. As you begin to appreciate the quiet pre-dawn hours, you just might make this a habit even outside of Ramadan.
One Ramadan at a time
Another way of making sure that moms can feed their souls in this blessed month is not by looking for opportunities but actually creating situations. In other words, we can make a conscious decision to do something, and then do it. For example, if you know that you have the most time to yourself during the Thuhr prayer while the kids are at school, then that is the time that you should try to read or pray or make Thikr. Of course, performing Taraaweeh is beneficial, but if that can't be done then do what you can.
Avoid feeling that if you can't do Taraaweeh at night, or you can't rise before Fajr for Tahajjud (recommended after-midnight prayer), then you have failed and can't do anything. The goal should be to adopt deeds you did not do before, and that you eventually can maintain after Ramadan. Then, even after Ramadan is long gone, the practices remain and you can compound this annually, with new acts of worship formed with each Ramadan that passes.
That’s really the whole point. If we think of Ramadan as the training session that it is, we can hone in on actions that we feel will give us the greatest reward. We can begin to perform acts of worship during this month that will enlighten us spiritually, then we should bear in mind that what we do in Ramadan can be done all yearlong. It is better to avoid that erroneous belief that Ramadan is a temporary situation and that things can `go back to normal' once it's over. Upon developing habits that are spiritually fulfilling, we should try to make the resolution to maintain them for the upcoming months and years ahead rather than desire to dump them the day after 'Eed.