By Shaykha Fatima Barkatulla

If you suffer from the ‘post-Ramadan Blues’, where the kids seem to have missed the point and your mind is filled with regret as the realisation of the opportunity you’ve just squandered hits you, then it’s time for change. If memories of past Ramadans are of overindulgence and excess: where irresistible samosas and three course meals are polished off within minutes of iftar and Tarawih is traded for a snooze on the sofa – then this Ramadan is the time to ‘up our game’ and take action. It can be hard with little ones. But remember, your commitment to them is also an act of worship if you do it with the right intention.

Ramadan benefits our Dunya (this life) and Akhirah (life hereafter). How so? One day, dear sisters, we will be lying in our graves, no longer able to benefit ourselves one iota. This life is our opportunity to serve Allah and invest in all that will benefit us for the life to come. In the short lives we have, Allah has made Ramadan a treasure-trove of blessings and reward, with multiplied rewards and the Night of Power multiplying our deeds as though we had done them for a thousand months! We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.

In this life, it helps us develop the quality which we need to succeed in every sphere, whether it be in our life-goals, worship, marriage or parenthood: Sabr. It literally strengthens our ‘Sabr muscle’. In one Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ, it has been narrated that he said:

“Fasting is half of Sabr.

{Tirmidhi}

In fact fasting mindfully, helps us to practise the three types of Sabr (patient perseverance) that scholars of Islam mention:

  • Steadfastness in obeying Allah
  • Abstinence from what Allah has forbidden
  • Patience during tests, decreed by Allah

The Three Rs of Qur’an Connection

Try to think back to a Ramadan that really stood out for you. One in which you felt really connected to Allah and savoured the Iman rush that came with it. Chances are that what was so special about it was that in that particular Ramadan, you were more attached to the Qur’an – whether through reading it, experiencing the Taraweeh prayers in which it was recited, or pondering and reflecting over it – the words of your Creator brought your heart to life.

Our hectic lives can distract us away from the Qur’an - the demands of our families, projects and responsibilities leaving seemingly little time to devote to the Book of Allah. But Ramadan is the month of Qur’an and in it we can schedule and carve out time to re-establish our connecting with it and with our Creator.

When hearts have become hard, the Qur’an softens them. When we are drowning in our own sins and feel our faith slump, the Qur’an increases our Iman and strength. When we are ill, physically or through spiritual diseases, the Qur’an is a protection and a cure. It is the greatest form of Dhikr of Allah. When we feel our hearts are spiritually dead, consumed by worrying about the past and anxiety about the future, the Qur’an is the light and the spring rain that brings hearts to life.

There are three key ways in which we can really feel the power of the Qur’an during Ramadan. I call them the Three Rs:

READING: (Qira’ah) Actually reading from the mus-haf. A great time to do this is at Fajr time in particular or even for a few minutes after every obligatory prayer. Did you know that if you read four and a half pages of Qur’an after each of your 5 prayers, you could complete the whole Qur’an in Ramadan? If you are breast-feeding, you can keep a little mus-haf next to your feeding spot and spend some of that time feeding time, reading. Baby will benefit from it too!

REFLECTING: (Tadabbur) Experiencing the words of Allah with their direct message and beauty, requires understanding the words. So, whether you know Arabic, or you rely on a translation, spend time reading the explanation a verse and pondering and reflecting upon it. It will have a profound effect on the heart. A Qur’anic Reflection Journal is a simple way to do Tadabbur and jot down some of your reflections about verses you have been reading. Write down how you could start applying those verses to your life.

RECITING in Qiyam: Reciting the Qur’an in prayer, whether at home or in Taraweeh prayers at the masjid, is highly rewardable in Ramadan. The Prophet ﷺ told us that, “Whoever stands in prayer during Ramadan due to faith and seeking reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

The scholars explain that even if after Isha prayer, one prays two rak’at of extra prayers every night, then this hadith will apply to them. So if it is too difficult to get out of the house, at least pray two rak’at after Isha, in which you recite some Qur’an. Don’t worry if you have your menses. If you began and fully intended to pray every night and your menses comes – then In sha Allah you will still be rewarded for that because your monthly cycle is from Allah, and He is the One who told us not to make Salah during that time. So out of His mercy and justice, insha Allah we will be rewarded for deeds we would have done normally and intended to do, if we didn’t have our menses.

Tips for success

  • Have a family meeting or Halaqah, prior to Ramadan to remind, motivate and plan your goals and routine together. When everyone, including your kids are on board – things will go smoother. Let them feel the special nature of the month ahead.
  • Make life easier during Ramadan: offload the shopping by buying groceries online and minimise the socialising, freeing yourself up to be able to do the thing that matters most: fast and support your family members to fast. Don’t take on extra, unnecessary responsibilities and focus on your home and your own worship going smoothly.
  • Give a little sadaqah daily online. We can give charity with the tap of a few buttons now! Isn’t that a blessing for us busy mothers?
  • Give a little charity every day, distributing to different cause and hence spreading out your ‘Sadaqah portfolio’!
  • Plan Week 1 meticulously: your routine, menu plans for iftar, daily ‘Ibadah goals. Prepare a Tarawih bag and a personal ‘Ibadah space in your home just for you to retreat to (with or without the kids!). That way you can hit the ground running from the first night of Ramadan.
  • Turn your ‘adah into ‘ibadah. Turn your everyday habits into acts of worship, by making beautiful intentions for everything you do in Ramadan. So if you are going to feed your children – make lofty intentions: that you are feeding the future believers and leaders of the Ummah! Small deeds become enormous – due to intention.
  • Perfection is not the aim, improvement is. If you can improve on your last Ramadan in terms of worship and focus, you will have made progress. Stop comparing yourself to others, especially to those who don’t have the responsibilities of motherhood on their shoulders.
  • Always do a Ramadan debrief: where you write down what went well and what you could have done better, this will help you next year when you start preparing for Ramadan.
  • Aim to do at least 3 Daily Ibadat daily in Ramadan, that you wouldn’t normally do. As a minimum, I’d suggest: fast without losing your temper (easier said than done with kids I know!), pray two rak’at of extra night prayer after Isha, read and reflect on a portion of the Qur’an daily.
  • Ease off materialism and excessive consumer culture this Ramadan. Let kids value the love and company of family, more than individual gifts. And yes, you can all wear the beautiful clothes you already have, from last Eid.
  • If your young adult kids are fasting during exam time, you will need to be extra alert and help them wake up for suhoor to have at least water and sleep enough before their exams. May Allah grant them success. Ameen.

Steadily aim for a ‘Level 3 Ramadan’

According to the great twelfth century scholar Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi, there are three levels of fasting:

  1. The most basic level of fasting: Refraining from food, drink and sexual relations during the daytime. This is of course what the minimum requirement for our fast is.
  2. A higher level of fasting: to fulfill the first level and lower our gaze and prevent our tongues, hands, feet, hearing, eyes and the rest of our body parts from committing sinful acts.
  3. The highest level of fasting: when we fulfil the requirements of the first and second level, but on top of that, we strive to pull our hearts away from yearning after the world and its affairs and all the thoughts that distance us away from Allah. This also means not overfilling ourselves with food during the night and eating moderately. We all know that overeating leads to lethargy in our worships and defeats one of the aims of fasting – which is to detach ourselves from this dunya – this world, with its glitter and glamour and indulgences (however yummy they may be.)

So come on sisters! Let’s aspire to a Ramadan where we can feel we improved on last year. Let us aim for a higher level Ramadan every year, by striving and yes – making extra effort during these 30-odd days. After all – the Prophet ﷺ taught us to aim high – and to ask for nothing less than Firdaws – the highest level of Paradise.

May Allah unite us there together, one fine day. Ameen.

Shaykha Fatima Barkatulla is an ‘Alimah, presenter of the IlmFeed Podcast, and author of ‘Khadijah, Mother of History’s Greatest Nation’ published by Learning Roots. Find her on Twitter: @fatimabarkatula