Monday 8 July 2013

Ramadan 2013 and Simplicity

Tomorrow or the day after will see the start of Ramadan insh'Allah.  As with every year I am looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with my faith and with my Creator, refresh my iman (faith), work on improving the quality of my ibadah (worship) and coming out the other side of this special month with new or improved habits and lots of inspiration to be a better Muslimah insh’Allah.

At the same time I am more than a little intimidated by the long days of fasting, the demands of a household of eight people all with slightly different routines to co-ordinate (four kids, me, hubby and my mum- and dad-in-law), work and trying to keep up with my writing, Arabic studies and business.

I shared my worries with my husband and we agreed that the focus for this Ramadan would be on simplicity.  No elaborate iftar meals, no bulk cooking and freezing, no massive shops for all sorts of ingredients we don’t normally have in the kitchen.  This is a good time for us to do our bodies a favour and stick to healthy, cleansing foods.  So we will be having dates and big bowls of fruit salad for iftar along with big jugs of water and my mum-in-laws amazing home-made lemonade.  Then after the evening prayer a sensible meal of wholemeal chapatti and a healthy chicken, lentil or vegetable curry which is what we normally eat anyway (I think I will have a concession of Friday or Saturday night for fry-ups with the usual fried samosa’s or pakora’s which everyone loves so much during Ramadan).

The other thing I am worried about is being able to engage in sufficient ibadah during this blessed month.  I find myself tired a lot of the time and struggling to concentrate.  I don’t get enough sleep at the moment because of the long day and early and late prayers. I worry about having enough concentration in my prayers.  At the same time I have been having problems with painful feet and so struggle to stand for a long time in salaat (prayer), so I am quite intimidated about the idea for standing for taraweeh prayers but at the same time upset at the thought of missing out on them.  This is also the time of day that Darling wants my attention the most and I struggle to get her to settle down (this has been the time she was most alert and playful since I was pregnant), so I will have to get her into a calmer routine around my prayer times insh’Allah.  I am accepting that I may not be able to fit in as much worship as many other people, but I am also determined to improve the quality and make it count for more.  I hope to really lose myself in the depths of salah, in my conversation with Allah (SWT) and open to my heart fully to the words and actions of my worship ins’Allah.

Then I have to accept that everyone has different skills and different paths.  I may not be the best at concentrating at salah, but I have lots of energy.  I can earn more reward in other ways such as serving others or sharing iftar meals or spending more time in dhikr as I move around the house, clean or perform my duties insh’Allah.

I came across an interesting quote in a newsletter from Tracey Lee Jones based on a book called The Power of a Positive No by William Ury:

"So when we say "no" to something or someone, it's actually saying a deeper "yes" to something in our life."

That means in order to commit fully to some things I am going have to do less of certain things and let others go.  I plan to read less non-Islamic material, take more days off of work, spend less time on the internet and we have agreed the children and in-laws will have to wait till after Ramadan for any more trips or outings.  I will probably have to put my jewellery-making on hold till after Eid (unless I get time to make simple Eid gifts for my daughter and her cousin and best friend).

Every Ramadan I pick one habit to instil that I can maintain on a permanent basis after Ramadan, this year I hope to set one simple goal that I can stick to until it is habit and that makes the most impact in the hereafter – any suggestions as to what is the best worship for a busy, tired mum with poor concentration?

What are you doing to make the most of this Ramadan?  What changes do you feel reap the most dividends?  Which ibadah would you recommend for the maximum reward?  Best of all any nuggets of advice to help me improve my concentration and devotion within salah would be so welcome insh’Allah.

I found this food for thought in the latest  Young Muslims weekly Friday Nasihah newsletter:

"The month of Ramadan ought to be a school enabling the Muslim conscience to return to what is essential in the message, its objectives, and the questionings necessary to grasp higher goals. For a month, believers take a break from their usual lives to return to meaning and essentials, breaking with their habits of consumption, the rhythms of everyday life, and the deep-seated ideas about competing to acquire and possess material things. Beyond the act of worship and its spiritual dimension, the fundamental teaching of this exercise consists of understanding that the way we relate to wealth and consumption should be questioned in the light of the goals human beings set for themselves.
The ethical goals of fasting, clearly stated in the texts or put together by inference, requires us to question our choices in life, development, and individual and collective growth. Yet, an appalling perversion can be observed: this month, which ought to "produce meaning," has been taken over - like so many ecological and humanitarian projects - by the logic of an imperialistic economy based on growth and productivity. Rather than being a month for awareness of goals by questioning development models and consumerist ways of life, that month, and its nights in particular, turn into an increasingly neglectful fair encouraging consumption, even in poorer societies. This is deep, almost complete alienation. The point was to consume less, to consume better in terms of conscience and quality, and we end up consuming less during the day to consume without moderation and with total abandon at night. This is yet another example of formalist perversion: norm and form are maintained while the religious practice's ethical goals are lost."
Compiled From:
"Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation" - Tariq Ramadan, p. 239


  1. How do you work out breastfeeding and fasting? Since you are working, I am guessing baby has to be bottle-fed at least during those hours. I just wonder, because I did a one-day fast last year, and it cut my milk supply in half.

  2. Ramadan Kareem to you and family. :)

  3. Being eight months pregnant this year and planning on fasting while at the same time having to work fulltime, I know I cannot keep up all the ibadah I would like to. So, I made a plan and discussed it with my husband, so we can both agree on what is possible.

    My main focus will be my health and the health of the baby, so enough sleep and rest combined with proper nutrition and enough drinking during the times we are allowed to eat and drink will be 'my ibadah'. Inchallah this will be accepted by Him. I plan on reading the Quran completely during Ramadan, but only if I can rest enough, sleep enough and eat and drink properly.

    Though I have found it difficult to do, I have managed to change my expectations in the previous months so they are more suitable for this season in my life. I would be delighted to pray taraweeh in the mosque for instance, but I know that it is right now not the best thing to do. Inchallah, taking good care of yourself (and in my case my unborn child) and others around you is also a way of ibadah.

  4. Dear UmmSalihah,
    I have been following your blog for quite a long time now, and I just wanted to let you know that I have so much respect for what you are doing! Taking care of your children, going to work, study Arabic and all, I do not know how you do it!!
    Keeping Ramadan simple, this is what I want to do this year, too, healthy iftar meals, lots of fruit and salad. I need to get back into readin the Quran, I have lost track of everything. Getting back on track, this might be my focus. Please take good care of you, try to get enough sleep, take a nap whenever possible. Best wishes from Germany, Gabi