Welcome to Ramadan! Ramadan Kareem to everyone! As a Muslim parent, I find myself anxiously awaiting the holy month of Ramadan to celebrate with my children. It is such a wonderful time of the year for us. The meaning of Ramadan is what has always defined me as a person because of the positive energy around it. It is even more special for me now as a father, celebrating Ramadan as a family.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and lasts 29-30 days. The sighting of the new moon (Hilal) signals the start of this wonderful and holy month for us which commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammed (p.b.u.h).
Ramadan is a time when Muslims, if able, fast from sunrise to sunset. During this time, we focus on performing Thawab, good deeds that will be rewarded by Allah. We find strength in our physical, emotional and spiritual state during this time which we hope to carry throughout the year. It’s as if we get a spiritual boost from celebrating Ramadan.
As a parent, the change we feel during Ramadan is even more important as I share the tradition and meaning with my girls. I also share with them the joy that during this month evil is ‘put behind bars’ and we can rejoice in community, happiness and well-being. As a result, I find that my children learn many important lessons by celebrating Ramadan that I hope they will carry with them as they grow older.
6 Lessons Kids Learn Celebrating Ramadan as a Family
During Ramadan we fast from sunrise to sunset. We refrain from smoking, drinking anything (including water), eating, lying, and sinful or angry behavior. This is not easy at all. In our part of the world, where we will have temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius with Ramadan starting in June, it can be a true test of our faith and our physical abilities depending on the length of fasting. We will fast for about 13 hours, but in some countries around the world, it can be as much as 20 hours.
Ramadan is also a time when we reflect on our lives. It is a time where we aim to become as close to Allah as possible. We gather in the mosques and share this spiritual moment together.
Fasting for me, since I was 9 years old, is part of what makes me who I am because I am able to feel that I am holding onto God so much during this time. Through fasting and the reading of the entire Quran and the special prayers called Tarawih, I feel like angels come down and sit among us for the entire month.
Even my 6 year old joins me at the mosque. She was telling me just the other day that she couldn’t wait for Ramadan because she would get to go to the mosque with me again. She normally just hangs out there, but she clearly knows the intense spiritual energy that fills a mosque. This warms my heart so much. (You can also make a daily salat (prayer) chart to use with your kids).
Working together as a family to perform good deeds, refrain from anger and support those less fortunate than us is something that I feel more now as a parent than I ever did before. For my girls, simply taking their coins and offering Zakat (charity) promotes generosity. Every year, when my oldest helps me prepare the Iftar bags to give out to poor people or the packets of toiletries and sweets to give to laborers, I can see this feeling deepening within her. I now understand why my own parents ensured that we continued these traditions as we were growing up. (Don’t miss this tutorial on making a good deeds jar for Ramadan).
Ramadan, although often associated with big feasts at Iftar and Suhour (the last meal – early in the morning – before sunrise), should be a time when we become even more healthy. Teaching my own children this is important to me. Having massive amounts of food when the sun is down should not be what this is about. It is about taking small bits and enjoying the taste, the friends, the family, the laughter, the spirit that is shared in the community.
The breaking of the fast (Iftar), which is done with dates and water, is one of joy, family, happiness and friends. Being in the Middle East, our Iftar and Sohour can be wonderfully tasty times – roast chicken, vegetables, rice, berries, lamb kebabs, chick-pea rice and the amazing sweets that we choose from at the end. I definitely recommend that anyone who wants to get a taste of Ramadan come and try celebrating Ramadan with us in the Middle East.
The fun activities for children that are everywhere throughout the month make it nothing short of a miracle for me, seeing the incredible happiness that surrounds every person. The beautiful lanterns and lights that brighten up the city anywhere in the Middle East are amazing. Even when I was living in Egypt, the streets would be empty and everyone would be in their homes breaking the fast every night. Only after the evening prayers, the streets fill up with the sound of joy and laughter as celebrations go on until the small hours of the morning.
Eid al Fitr is the celebration marking the end of Ramadan where the parties and joyfulness continue but without the fasting.
Even my crazy wife (yes, she is), who is Christian, enjoys celebrating Ramadan because this is such an important part of my life. She even tries to fast with me the first day (not very successfully, but she does try). I also find that this shows tolerance that I want my girls to learn. We celebrate Christmas and Easter. We celebrate Ramadan and Eid al Fitr.
Religion is not something that should define us. It should be a way to be closer to God, to each other and to contribute to society through good deeds and being a better human being. Whoever and in whatever way we celebrate God, we should all celebrate together.
For those of you who want to celebrate or take part in Ramadan and show your children the different cultures and opportunities to learn, there are always activities celebrating Ramadan within Muslim communities, no matter which country you live in. Muslims will be more than happy to welcome you and have you take part in their festivities and joy.
When you do visit, say “Ramadan Kareem,” which is a greeting used to say “have a generous or blessed Ramadan” and can be used by anyone wanting to greet a fasting Muslim. Try it!
If anyone is interested in learning more or getting additional ideas on helping your kids with Ramadan, I’m here for you.
Ramadan Kareem to all of you. I wish you all joy and happiness.