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Visiting Christmas Markets

Ustadh Salman Younas is asked about visiting Christmas Markets having promised not to celebrate Christmas.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa baraktuh.

I study in Europe and I promised by Allah that I will never celebrate Christmas. However will I keep my promise if I visit the Christmas Markets (where candles, food, and alcohol for Christmas is sold) without buying and consuming anything?

Here I never joined my peers to any gatherings therefore now I am always left alone. However I always dreamed of having international friends from all over the world. Last time some people invited me to go with them for simple shops and then later visit a Christmas Market. I really wanted to join them just to make friends. I went there and really did not enjoy the Christmas Market, rather I was happy to be with some international peers. Have I broken my promise?

If not, they again invited me for other Christmas Markets in other regions of Europe. Can I join them just for the reason of making friends? They are also not pure Christians and have no intention to engage me in their religion, they just want to spend a good time.

Thank you for your answer in advance.

If you swore an oath to never celebrate Christmas, you would be bound to this oath and breaking it would require expiation. However, the word “celebrating” is vague. Your oath would, therefore, apply to the type of celebration you intended when making it.

Generally, simply visiting a Christmas market is not considered by people as “celebrating” Christmas. Rather, celebrating Christmas involves partaking in celebratory rituals associated with this holiday, such as erecting a tree with lights or going to church for services etc.

If this is what you had in mind when you swore your oath (and not simply visiting a Christmas market or having dinner with your family on Christmas day), then your oath would be limited to these more formal celebratory aspects of Christmas.

Salman

Holidays Free of Religious Overtones – Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah

bayyah

Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah

This article was originally published on binbayyah.net
The holidays which are forbidden [for Muslims] to observe are those with religious overtones, such as Christmas and Easter, not the festive gatherings people observe due to certain events. Therefore, people are allowed to celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays or any occasion such celebrations are not related to religious holidays. It is imperative that we work to remove the confusion surrounding this misunderstanding and the doubts that have affected many people [regarding this issue].
[Because of this misunderstanding], people find hardship and difficulty in their religion. Especially when a religious-minded person holds [such non religious celebrations] to be from the major sins or rejected acts when, in fact, they are not.

Understanding an Important legal maxim [The origin of things is permissibility unless there is a text to the contrary]

The origin of things is permissibility so there is no problem with you attending such an event. The school of Imam Ahmad [Ibn Hanbal] allowed the celebration of al-’Atirah which was a sacrifice, during the month of Rajab, observed by the people who lived prior to the advent of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Although the school of Imam Malik considered it disliked, since it was a practice from those days, the school of Imam Ahmad allowed this practice since there was no text [from the Qur’an, Sunna or Consensus] that explicitly forbade it.
Thus, this practice remained upon its original ruling [as to its] permissibility. So if people gather together to sacrifice there is no objection for them to congregate, celebrate, enjoy themselves and commemorate the independence of their country. Therefore, there is no hardship in celebrating such occurrences.
With regards to the statement [of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)] that “Allah the Exalted has given you better than those (feasts): Eid al-Adha (Sacrificing) and the ‘Eid al-Fitr”, then “those feasts” were those with strict religious overtones: one a Christian holiday and the other a pagan one.
In addition, the Prophet (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) mentioned that the Islamic holidays were two: ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha. But it is not understood from this that he [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] forbade people from gathering and celebrating [other non-religious occasions].
Even if a person considered [such gatherings] disliked, there is no need for him to bother others by making things difficult that were not prohibited by the Qur’an, the Sunna, the Consensus, and where no agreement was reached within the schools of Islamic law.
This is because ease in matters [such as these where there is no prohibition and the origin is that of permissibility] is a must, and those statements that create hardship and burden [related to such matters], that are not based on explicit texts [that prohibit them], are weak. Thus, there is nothing that prohibits us from facilitating such matters for the people and giving them some breathing room because ease and facilitation are from the foundations of Islam: Allah says, “And He did not make any hardship for you in religion.” [Surah al-Hajj 78] and “Allah wants to lighten your burdens.” [Surah al-Nisa V. 28] and “Verily, with hardship there is ease. Verily with hardship there is ease.” [Surah al-Sharh V. 5-6]. The Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] said, “Facilitate [things] and do not make things difficult. Give glad tidings, and do not cause others to flee.” In closing, we reiterate that the foundation of Islam is ease and the independent interpretation of the legal sources [ijtihad of scholars] is respected but is not [equal to] texts from the Shari’ah [Qur’an and Sunna].”

Can I Participate in a Santa Event at Work?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

I work in a hospital where annually a secret santa event is held where fellow doctors buy each other gifts anonymously. Is it permissible to participate in such an event if one has the option to abstain?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

It would be permitted to participate in this event.

This is (i) a social event that involves (ii) gift-giving anonymously. Being of a purely social nature, the basis is that such an event is in itself permissible provided there is nothing impermissible occurring in it. The activity of giving gifts – whether anonymously or otherwise – is also permitted and praiseworthy in our religion.

Consequently, there is nothing wrong in taking part in such an event.

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.

Can I Attend My Nephew’s First Birthday Party When There Is Alcohol Being Served?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: My non-Muslim family often have events where alcohol is the main feature of parties and get togethers. Most recently my brother is having a first birthday party for his son with alcohol on tap.

What should I do? We are often put down for our beliefs and feel like outsiders.

Answer:Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for seeking out an answer which pleases Allah, and heal the rifts within your family.

Non-Muslim family

This is delicate situation. A gathering in which alcohol is present is not a place for a believer. However, they remain your family, and it is important to keep family ties in a manner which pleases Allah.

I would suggest that you apologise and explain that you are not comfortable being at events where alcohol is served. Instead of attending your nephew’s first birthday party, offer to take them all out for a meal, or a picnic at a park. Provide an alternative setting for them to enjoy your company. Be steadfast on this, and ask Allah to grant them understanding.

Boundaries

Boundaries are important in facilitating harmonious family ties. Make it known to them, calmly and respectfully, that you do not expect them to agree with your religious beliefs, but you do expect them to treat your Muslim family with basic respect.

If you do not stand up to them respectfully, they will continue to think it is acceptable to put all of you down. Your dignity as a believer is sacred. Be an example for your children to follow. Being assertive takes practice, and if you need to, see a counsellor, life coach or psychologist to help you.

Good character

‘Amr ibn Shu’ayb reported from his grandfather that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Shall I tell you about who among you I love the most and the one who will be seated closest to me on the Day of Rising?” The people were silent, so he repeated that two or three times. Then the people said, “Yes, Messenger of Allah.” He said, “The one among you with the best character.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]

As challenging as it can be with your non-Muslim family, try your best to have good character when you are with them. Treat them with kindness, be patient with their shortcomings and make dua for Allah to guide them. The wheel of life is constantly turning, and it is not difficult for Allah to guide your entire family, if He wills.

Be assertive when you need to be, and always follow it up with acts of love and kindness. InshaAllah, through your patience with your family, your heart is being constantly polished. May your interaction with your family grant you a heart which pleases Allah, on the Day you meet Him.

Please refer to the following links:

Is Christmas Haram? Being Muslim in a Non-Muslim Family
What Are Some Prophetic Supplications That Can Help Me Deal With Trials in My Life?
A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Joey Gannon

Should I Return a Christmas Gift?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaikum,

I have recieved at work, as a christmas gift, a 10£ gift voucher.

Can I accept it?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that this message finds you well, insha’Allah.

There is no harm in accepting such a gift as it is merely a social custom and not a specifically religious action.

Please see: Giving & Recieving Christmas Gifts

And Allah alone knows best.

wassalam,
Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Jesus: a SoulFood special with Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

jesus This year the birth of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ coincides with Christmas. That’s why we wanted to record a special episode of SoulFood. We will be focusing on the story of Lady Mary (peace be upon her) and the miraculous birth of Jesus ﷺ in the Quran.
Also in this episode, you will learn about the Family of ‘Imran, the Lady Mary ﷺ, the Birth of Jesus ﷺ, his Life and Miracles, and the relationship between Prophets Jesus and Muhammad (upon them both be peace).

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, of SoulFood is a teacher at SeekersHub. He teaches the following courses:
The Prophetic Call: Imam Haddad’s Counsel on Calling to Allah Explained
Becoming a Man: A Comprehensive Guide to the Coming of Age in Islam
Being Muslim: A Clear Introduction to Islam
Further listening:
Lessons from the Life of Prophet Jesus, by Habib Ali Al-Jifri
These courses, like all our courses, is completely free.
Registration available during term registration periods only.

Lessons from the Life of Prophet Jesus, by Habib Ali Al-Jifri

“Between me and him, there is no other prophet” – saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them both

Habib Ali al-Jifri spoke as part of the Muhammed: Master of Change campaign organised by the Radical Middle Way in the United Kingdom. Habib Ali visiting nine cities in 10 days, including St. Philip’s Centre, a Church in the city of Leicester that is well renowned for its extensive interfaith work and which is located next to a mosque names after Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. The lecture was on the lessons to be learnt from the life of the Prophet Jesus, peace and blessings be upon him, on being a good neighbor and fostering co-existence.

Translation by Sidi Wael Zubi.

Is Christmas Haram? Being Muslim in a Non-Muslim Family

Every year, the Is Christmas haram? debates happen full force. Whether you’re a convert to Islam or not, we hope you find the following resources helpful.

Is Christmas Haram? What about Thanksgiving and Other Festivals?

Friendship, Kinship and Family ties

Beliefs & Customs

Death and the Afterlife

 

Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow

by Nour Merza

A crackling fireplace. Cookies and milk on the table. A brightly-lit tree crowned with a star and surrounded by gifts. Few of us have grown up without these images of Christmas. Similarly, few of us have grown up with such warm images of Muslim holidays. In fact, in today’s environment, Muslim children are repeatedly faced with a stern, intolerant Islam that has no room for such frivolities.

This is no fertile ground in which young, believing hearts can grow.

How can we, as Muslim parents, create an environment that does? One way is through a thoughtful approach to Muslim holidays – particularly Ramadan. Below, Shaykh Walead Mosaad, SeekersGuidance teacher and scholar-in-residence at Sakina Collective, explores how we can build our children’s love for Islam through participation in this blessed month.

Fasting is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when considering participation in Ramadan. Although scholars differ on if and how children should practice fasting before puberty, Shaykh Walead said it is important to do so in a way that encourages participation in the month without making it too difficult on them.

“Do a half-day, or just one day [periodically],” said Shaykh Walead, if full-time fasting is too difficult. “At the very least you can delay their dinner, so they feel that they are participating.”

Giving fasting a social aspect also helps make it enjoyable for children who don’t have an appreciation for the higher meanings of this form of worship. Traditionally, Ramadan brought communities together – it was not practised in isolation. Many of our societies today have lost the sense of community that brings warmth and joy to the month. Taking time out of our busy schedules to plan and go to periodic gatherings with friends and family to break the fast helps make the month a memorable one for children.                              

Engaging children in activities traditionally associated with Ramadan in one’s culture is also helpful. Offering them special sweets or engaging in special dhikrs usually reserved for this month – which differ from culture to culture – highlight Ramadan as a unique time. Moreover, they help make Islam a living tradition that they can relate to, rather than a set of abstract ideas divorced from everyday life.

“Islamic practice is steeped in culture, you can’t practice Islam outside of culture,” said Shaykh Walead. “One of things that extremists try to convince you of is all that is insignificant, or it corrupts the deen. But when you leave the deen as a set of ideas that you implement any way you want, it leads to a form of extremism.”

For those living in the West, where authentic local expressions of Islam are still being formed, this is an issue that religious and community leaders must work diligently to address, said Shaykh Walead.

Some people have welcomed the moves of  stores such as Macy’s in the U.S., to do Ramadan promotions and advertisements as a way of making Ramadan an accepted part of Western culture. But in making Ramadan relevant to young Muslims, our communities must be careful about moving in the direction many other holidays – such as Christmas and Easter – have gone in the West: that of commercialization.

“Highly commercial activities are a celebration of the self, while Ramadan traditionally is a celebration of Allah,” said Shaykh Walead. Commercially-driven campaigns relating to Ramadan often promote a self-indulgence that rubs uncomfortably against the virtue of restraint that the month is all about.

Some ways of making the month enjoyable for children without the negative impacts of commercialization include engaging them in arts and crafts, such as teaching them calligraphy or making the brightly colored Ramadan lamps known as fawanees.

While striving to make the month an enjoyable one for our children, it is important to remember that, ultimately, this is a month of moving closer to God through learning self-control and self-restraint. The lamp-building activity mentioned above, for example, could be coupled with less screen time on various electronic devices. Some of the time spent normally in play could be used to begin a habit of daily interaction with the Quran.

Finally, focusing on the universal meanings of love and service to others, as exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), has great benefit during this month. Islam, when practiced properly, is ultimately an expression of good character, and making that clear to children gives them a confidence in the moral calling of this faith that nothing else can.

“Islam is not just the sum of religious practices,” said Shaykh Walead. “It is not just the five pillars – it is built on the five pillars. They are the anchors that bring out all of the beautiful things about Islam.”

Through these individual and community efforts, we as Muslim parents can teach our children to appreciate the spiritual rigors that Ramadan brings, as well as the joys it offers – helping them build a strong, healthy bond with this religion of love, mercy and light.

 

Resources for Seekers:

Raising a Muslim with Manners
Planting the seeds of prayer in our young ones

Prophetic Advice For Raising Righteous Children
Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children

Creating Ramadan Traditions

When I reflect on my childhood memories of celebrating the blessed month of Ramadan while growing up in Southern California in the 1980’s, different images flash through my mind…

Ammi playing the Holy Qur’an on the house intercom system at sahoor time. Scrambled eggs and shaami kabaabs frying before the sun came up. Abbu sitting in the upstairs hallway outside his bedroom, reciting from the Book of Allah before he left for office. Coming home tired from school only to be set to work cutting up apples and oranges and bananas for the evening fruit salad, then helping my mother fry egg rolls and grape leaves. The night before Eid prayers the girls excitedly laying out their glass bangles and freshly ironed clothes and trying to sleep without spoiling the drying henna on their hands. The long distance calls from relatives overseas who shouted to be heard, wishing us well and sending us prayers for health and happiness. We crowded around the phone, grabbing it from one another, grinning and yelling back in order to make sure they too heard how much we loved and missed them.

There were annual traditions that I fondly remember as well, including the potluck iftar parties and masjid-sponsored Eid festivals. Who can forget the one auntie who always hosted the Jumat-al-Wida (farewell Friday of Ramadan) iftar in her spacious home? The children could always be found congregating around the cold-coffee urns set up in her backyard, eagerly vying with one another to be the first to taste the whipped cream-filled-dates set out on silver trays. Another auntie-and-uncle couple opened their home every Eid-ul-Fitr for a lavish breakfast buffet which was highly anticipated the moment Eid prayers were completed at the local fairgrounds a few minutes away.

Now that I am living in Northern California in a community made up primarily of converts to Islam, I am rediscovering the power of having traditions which children can look forward to and depend upon year after year. I have been fortunate in that I have been able to benefit from the creativity in my new friends who are eager to create Ramadan traditions that will attract and hold their children (who they fear may be lured by the competing sparkle and brilliance of Christmas festivities they witness in their own non-Muslim family members’ homes).

What touched me most when I sat with my girlfriends in the early days of motherhood as we brainstormed ideas for creating memorable Ramadan traditions was the sincerity and desire to ensure a balance between the material and the spiritual. These thoughtful women were extremely wary of falling prey to Western commercialism where Ramadan might inadvertently become yet another consumer month about gifts and cash and parties in the kids’ eyes; the culture of “gimme gimme gimme” was one everyone avidly wanted to avoid.

With that being said, I wanted to share some of the traditions we have been practicing in our own home with our three boys for the past ten years now. I asked my sons to list some of their favorite memories and traditions surrounding Ramadan, and these are the ones they rattled off without a moment’s hesitation.

 

1.) Moon-sighting

moon_over_san_francisco1Back in the year 2000, four families gathered at a scenic vista point in the Berkeley Hills to try and search for the new moon signifying the beginning of Ramadan. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find that two other Muslim families had also come up with the same idea and were already comfortably settled on the platform with binoculars and thermoses of hot chocolate by their sides. We introduced ourselves and scanned the skies together for the elusive crescent to appear over the majestic San Francisco skyline. As the years went by and word spread over time about this great location, more and more families have joined us. Our last moon-sighting trip had over 70 people (including a news reporter and photographer) gathered together with baked goodies to share and cups of hot chai to pass around. The children run amongst the adults with flashlights and sparklers in hand before being called over to join the jama’ah for group prayer under the stars. The anticipation builds from the moment we sit in our family van, blasting Yusuf Islam’s upbeat “Ramadan Moon” on the entire trip up through the twisting and turning roads in the mountains. Whether we sight the moon that night or not, there is excitement in the air and it is contagious; there’s just something about community that gets your “battery” charged to face a month of fasting together.

2.) Ramadan Calendar

Khadija O’Connell is an extremely talented lady whom many affectionately refer to as “the Muslim Martha Stewart”. Everything she touches seems to blossom simply by her presence. She has brought elegance and sophistication to the most mundane of things, and the pride she puts in her work is obvious. Whether she’s teaching a sewing class to a group of eight-year-old boys or organizing her highly acclaimed “Creativity and the Spiritual Path Conferences”, her attention to detail and aesthetics is of the highest caliber. I happen to know that her personal motto in life is based on the words of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi,“Let the beauty you love be what you do,” and I often find myself reflecting on the hadith, “Verily, Allah is Beautiful and He loves beauty,” whenever I witness anything she has had a hand in. If readers want to see for themselves, they need only visit her website www.barakahlife.com to appreciate what I’m talking about.

Nearly ten years ago, Khadija came up with an idea for her family which other people immediately wanted to replicate in their own homes. Using rich textiles with vibrant colors, she sewed a Ramadan Calendar, very similar to a Christmas advent calendar. She created 30 pockets with an attractive star button stitched onto each one. Felt was cut out into the shape of 30 crescent moons and stored in an organza drawstring pouch. A section of velvet was left at the top of the calendar so that a family could have their children’s names or a “Ramadan Mubarak” message embroidered there for posterity. We hang this gorgeous calendar in our dining nook and at every iftar, after eating their dates, the kids reach into the organza pouch and pull out a felt moon to slip onto the star button of the day. Then they dig into the pocket and pull out their treat for the evening. The treat can be anything from chocolates to stickers to collectible toys to race cars. We also tuck in a paper with one of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)’s Names on it so that by the end of the month the kids can have learned at least a third of Allah’s Most Beautiful Names. Some families opt to put in a simple hadith every evening. The point is to use your own imagination and have fun while giving the kids a means to see how quickly the month is passing by. Many of us initially tried to sew these calendars on our own, but fortunately for everyone else who might be interested in taking on this tradition for their own young ones, Khadija now markets these special creations to great demand on her website.

3.) Decorating the House

It doesn’t matter that Ramadan will be arriving near the end of summer this year; you can be sure that our house will still be strung up with fairy lights (what some refer to as “Christmas lights”), insha’Allah. I bought some darling garden lanterns during the end-of-spring-season sales last year, so now we have those gold and maroon paper lanterns to string up around the living room as well. The boys are more than willing to help their father with the task of illuminating the Mukhtar home; it has become a family project where the mother directs and the men obey…and everyone enjoys the experience immensely.

Another friend decorates her house with “the Ramadan chain of kindness”. Everyone in her family goes out of their way to acknowledge a simple (or significant) deed of kindness they witness any family member performing by recording it on a strip of construction paper. They make a point of not including the name of the do-gooder in order to discourage pride and encourage humility for the sake of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala). They then curl these strips into rings and connect them to one another. When we were invited to her home for iftar one evening, we noticed this paper chain of links winding its way around the living room; each strip had a comment written on it like “helped change a diaper”, “took out the garbage”, “washed the salad”, “brought mommy water”. They also placed a homemade sign in their public street-facing window which read “So-and-So Family wishes you all a Happy Ramadan!”

4.) Baking Cookies for the Neighbors

It started out as a neighborhood outreach plan, but over the years has become something
much bigger than we ever imagined, alhamdulillah.

Soon after the tragic events of 9/11, we baked some yummy cookies at home, packaged them in plastic boxes with a “FastBreak” candy bar (get the pun?), and delivered them to our neighbors’ mailboxes along with a note explaining Ramadan and our ummah’s wish for world peace and joy in 2001. It has now become a community event with friends gathering at each other’s houses and mosques to package star and crescent shaped cookies (sprinkled with green sugar) in gold boxes with da’awah messages typed on sparkly vellum paper and shimmering organza ribbons to tie everything together. We have managed to work with the same popular local bakery for the past five years now, and the kids get a great kick out of running around the neighborhood delivering the treats. My own sons once reflected how it was the completely opposite experience of trick-or-treating — we’re here to give you a treat, not demand one for ourselves, and no one is out to “scare” or “trick” anyone. It’s a celebration of lightness, not darkness!

5.) Ramadan Food Drive

Our county’s Food Bank has come to really appreciate the month of Ramadan. They tell us their shelves are loaded during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but they have a difficult time keeping up with the needs of the poor during the rest of the ten months of the year. Since Ramadan follows the Islamic lunar calendar, it moves throughout the year and — thanks to the generosity of local Muslims — they can now anticipate full shelves once again in the month of August, insha’Allah. Our Islamic Center has found, however, that if you ask people to donate groceries or bring in necessary items on their own, good intentions often are not followed through upon with solid actions; therefore, we have taken it upon ourselves to facilitate our members’ sincerity by making it easy for them to feed the hungry.

foodbank1

Our children have a new Ramadan tradition now which requires them to gather at
the Islamic Center to bag basic pantry staples — cereal, pasta, juice, canned fruits and
vegetables — in paper sacks. It takes quite a bit of time and it is hard work, but the
children enjoy it nevertheless. These bags of groceries are then sold at Friday prayers for
$5 each. People purchase the bags in the names of their children or spouses or families
and then these sacks are placed in the Food Bank barrels which are provided by the Food
Bank with their official logo. At the end of the month, a large truck arrives from the Food Bank and the men and children from our community help load the month’s donations. There is often a news crew covering the event as well which makes for some positive media in these times when Muslims so desperately need it.

An easier way to give charity during this sacred month, however, is to have your kids decorate a glass mason jar and label it “Sadaqa Jar”. They put in their own money throughout the month and on Eid morning they donate the contents to the local masjid. I have my kids say their own special, private duas while they give charity so that they can continue to be aware of their complete reliance on Allah’s Generosity…especially when they are in a position of giving to those less fortunate. May they always have the means and the desire to help others, insha’Allah.

6.) Waking Up On Eid Morning

At some point during the night before Eid prayers, my husband and I sneak in the helium tank we rented from the local party supply store a day earlier. While the kids are sleeping, we inflate as many gold and silver balloons as we can and then attach long dangling glittery ribbons to them. We cram as many of these balloons as possible in the children’s bedroom so that, when they wake up for Fajr prayer, they are greeted with a vision of sparkle and magic. We also leave a trail of balloons leading out of their room down the stairs to the pile of gifts stacked near the dining room table. I know that after so many years the kids are on to our routine, but they humor their parents anyway by whooping it up and grabbing the balloons the moment they awaken. Believe me when I tell you that this is a tradition that gives as much to the parents as it does to the children.

balloonsky

Another friend has me baby-sit for one Ramadan afternoon so that she can go shopping in secret for her children’s Eid baskets. She exerts quite a bit of effort in elaborately decorating large wicker baskets with ribbon and paper. Then she thoughtfully chooses items that she knows her two children will treasure — a set of new oil paints for her artistic son, an embroidery kit for her creative daughter, books by their favorite authors, new hijabs and kufis and socks, high quality prayer beads, delicious chocolates — everything is carefully arranged on a mound of tissue paper. The children wake up on Eid morning and find the baskets of goodies — one pink, one blue — waiting for them at the foot of their beds.

The kids’ reward for fasting the month of Ramadan is obviously with Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), but we parents want to show our pride and pleasure in them as well, and these are such easy ways to do it. The looks of pure joy and delight on the children’s faces makes
the parents’ late night effort well-worth it!

A respected scholar once told us that he knows of people who have held onto their Islam simply because they remember experiencing wonderful, memorable Eids with their families. There really is something magnetic in the pull that Ramadan has on us. We love to telephone each other late at night and excitedly announce, “Ramadan Kareem! Yes, it’s confirmed! So-and-So sighted the moon!” We enjoy discussing our preparations for the upcoming month of fasting with one another. We desire to be part of the community that is persevering through days of hunger and nights of worship together. We feel connected to Muslims everywhere — whether they are students in school, co-workers at the office, or taxi drivers who are taking us to our destinations — through these shared daily experiences of knowing what it means to deprive the body and feed the soul.

Children especially thrive off of the routine and rhythm we offer them. I became aware of this one year when I thought I had misplaced our treasured Ramadan calendar. I reassured my boys that I would look for it later but that we would just have to “make do” for the first iftar without the calendar hanging in our dining nook as in years past; I would still be sure to provide the iftar treat that would otherwise have been discovered in the calendar. They put on cheerful faces and agreeable attitudes, reassuring me that all was well, but as he was going to his room, my eldest betrayed the feelings of his brothers by sighing, “I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t feel like Ramadan for some reason this year.” Their sense of disappointment nagged at me, so I put off my procrastinating and, once they were in bed, went searching and uncovered the calendar at the bottom of my linen cabinet. When I casually called up to them, “By the way, I did find our Ramadan calendar after all!”, I was surprised by the cheers of relief that came from their bedrooms. I don’t think any of us realized how much this tradition meant to our family until we were faced with the threat of losing it.

Now that the boys are getting older, our emphasis with them is more on the spiritual benefits of Ramadan and less on the “Santa Claus is coming to Ramadan” attitude. We encourage one another to focus on our love for our Lord and our desire to be close to Him. This month is still — as always — about being good neighbors and good Muslims, but we hope our behavior isn’t anything “new” in the eyes of our Creator and that we can continue to benefit from any little that we accomplish this month throughout the rest of the year until the next blessed Ramadan arrives…if Allah allows us to live that long, insha’Allah.

May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) reward all parents who work so diligently at teaching their children about their responsibilities to Allah and His Prophet (salallaahu alaihi wasallam). May our kids all grow up with a deep and abiding love for their deen and its duties in their hearts. And may Allah bestow His Mercy and Generosity on us all this blessed Ramadan and make it the best ever so far. Aameen. Readers are sincerely requested to please keep the writer of this article in their prayers as well. JazakAllahu khayr.

COPYRIGHT HINA KHAN-MUKHTAR 2010. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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