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Putting Charity Before the Needs of Your Family

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam.

Question: Assalamu Alaykum,

I am writing to you again for sincere help and guidance with an issue in my marriage.

My husband is too generous with his money in my opinion. He gives away so much money to his poor friends that we often run out of money before his next paycheck. We have absolutely no savings because of his actions, and so I am the one who has to compensate with my own money so we can have food and transportation.

I tell him that his family should come before his charity to others but he tells me it is the devil in me that makes me upset, and that Allah will give back his charity double so he does not care.

But also he has no problem asking me for my money, saying that our money is mutual, but I do not agree because if our money was mutual then he would consult me before he gives charity from the money we are to use for our family.

When I refused to give him money and he got very angry with me and said some disrespectful things, I stood my ground and did not say anything back to him because Allah heard him.

Am I right or wrong? I would greatly appreciate your help and guidance.

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

No, you are right not to give him money. Your money belongs to you, and he has no right to it.

This is a case of misplaced “generosity”. The wife and children are the husband’s priorities, and they take precedence over everybody else. They have a right to the husband’s money, and if he does not give or provide for them, he could be considered an oppressor (zalim). “Oppression will be manifest darknesses on the Day of Judgement,” said the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Charity begins at home, and he should fear Allah.

Fulfill rights and the blessing (baraka) and reward of charity will return to one. Otherwise it will just make life more and more difficult. Obligations take precedence over supererogatory acts. How much baraka will you have in life if you don’t pray Fajr and Zuhr, and instead, pray six units (rak’ats) in the evening?

Pray the prayer of need (salat al-hajah) daily, praying that he change his ways. [see: How Does One Perform The Prayer Of Need (salat al-haja)?] Ask Allah, for He does not reject the pleas of the oppressed.

And remember the words of the truthful one (Allah bless him and give him peace), “How wondrous is the matter of the believer, for all that happens to him is good: if good befalls him he shows gratitude, and it is best for him; and if ill befalls him he shows patience, and it is best for him.” [Muslim]

See: A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Leaving Children with Non-Muslim Grandparents

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam.

Question: My husband is a born Muslim and he practices. But my mother-in-law is a non-Muslim and has never really accepted Islam and my father-in-law and husband do not like me or anyone interfering with her beliefs.

However, I find it very difficult to leave my kids with them as I am afraid they may learn wrong things. Is that bad on my part and will I be punished for that ? I also don’t want to live with them under the same roof where there is constant shirk.

I want to preach to my father-in-law and tell him how wrong he is. I know Allah knows best and he is the best judge of whose sins are more and I am really really afraid of doing anything that would affect the next life for myself, my husband and kids. Please guide me in this matter.

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are well, insha’Allah.

You aren’t responsible for the beliefs of your mother in law. Nor are you “obliged” to convert her.

Unless she is actively preaching to them, which is unlikely, have a good opinion of her. What happens at home and the religion your children see working will have a greater impact on them. Fill their lives with love of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), sit with the righteous, attend gatherings of remembrance, embody the beautiful way of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), and keep asking Allah for steadfastness of His religion.

See: The Criteria of Enjoining The Good and Forbidding The Evil

May Allah bless and facilitate success for you and your family in this life and the next.

And Allah alone gives success.

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Advice to Single Sisters Entangled with Married Men – Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi

Advice to Single Sisters Entangled with Married Men – Ustadha Hosai Mojaddidi

The man you claim to “love” and are eagerly waiting on the sidelines for in the hopes that he’ll see you, is keeping you in the periphery for a reason. He knows perfectly well that he can go on enjoying his game on the field and you’ll still be standing there waiting around when everyone else goes home. You see, he loves the attention you give him. He relishes every minute of it. He loves the power he has over you. He loves that you are so eager to please him. Come rain or shine, he knows that you’ll always be standing there, eagerly waiting for him to just give you a glance…and no matter how difficult the game is he’s playing, unlike everything else he’s got going on, he knows you’re a sure shot. You may be the only guarantee he has in life, which is why his grasp on you is so tight.

He may say all the right things, he may go out of his way to make you feel EXTRA special. Maybe he has a nickname for you and “only” you. He has you convinced that YOU are an exception above all other women, even his wife, which is why he can’t stay away from you. If he’s really good, he’ll periodically pull the “I’m feeling guilty” card and disappear for a while. Then, in poetic fashion, he’ll reappear and tell you how “impossible” it was to forget you, how he thought of you every day and just needed to see you again!

Sounds so amazing doesn’t it? After all, what woman doesn’t want to believe that she’s irresistible? What woman doesn’t want a man to make her feel that she has a special power, above all other women in his life, to make him weak?

He’s figured out that by sticking to this solid script he can manipulate you to do pretty much anything he wants you to and believe anything he tells you.

Now, I know it’s hard for you to hear these things about the man you “love”. After all, he’s so sweet and such a good man otherwise. He has a good heart, he may even go to the masjid, help raise funds for charitable causes, and be an all-around “good guy”. How can such a man be capable of intentionally manipulating you? He’s not evil! He loves you…you know it, you feel it…he just can’t be with you because his life is so difficult. He’s sacrificing his own happiness (which is being with you) because of his family, his children, his parents…you feel so sorry for him but it makes you love him even more that he’s so noble…

Hold up…let’s rewind for just a second.

No one is saying that he’s evil. Being a man who is caught up in this toxic situation and one who is otherwise a relatively “good Muslim” are not mutually exclusive. Throughout history, even in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), men (and women) have fallen into this dangerous trap of shaitan. So, no one is denying that he has virtues. He is caught up in the addictive cycle the same as you are, just for different reasons. But that’s a whole other topic all together. We’re focusing on you right now.

Now, I want you to indulge me for just a moment and consider the possibility that what you perceive as “love” for this person is not as pretty and romantic as you think but it’s actually something else, something that is actively harming you. How many nights have you cried yourself to sleep because of the loneliness, the feelings of neglect? How many times have you beaten yourself up wondering why he’s not with you or why he didn’t choose YOU as his wife? How many times have you felt sick to your stomach over the guilt? Is that what you imagined you’d feel when you met “the one”? Or did you imagine someone who RECIPROCATED your feelings, and not just by word, but by action?

Didn’t you imagine that when you found the person you were created for that he would be loyal to you, be there for you when you needed him, take care of you when you were sick, honor your friends and family, wipe away your tears when you were down, and be proud to walk side by side with you, just as you were proud to do so with him? If you did, then you were right. That is how a man and woman who are in love behave with one another.

I’m certain you didn’t imagine that being in love meant that you would be hidden, like someone’s shameful secret. Unfortunately, despite the intensity and authenticity of your feelings for him, despite the fact that you already have and would probably continue sacrificing yourself, your principles, your reputation, your family’s honor, your spiritual health, etc., for him, he is not willing to do what it takes to be with you.

That would take honesty on his part. It would take for him to sacrifice many things that are part of the life he’s created…but he’s not willing to do that, which is why his promises to you will most likely NEVER be fulfilled. He is not willing to lose it all for you…if he was, he’d already have done it and wouldn’t be stringing you along as he has been.

Trust me when I say that a man in love will move mountains to be with the woman he loves. A man in lust, a man addicted to the attention his ego gets from such relationships, a man who cannot control his desires, will NOT. He will just continue to fulfill his desires. He will keep the addiction going as long as the supply is there and he can continue getting whatever he wants out of it. The moment his needs are no longer being met he will disappear completely. What does that mean for you? It means that the moment you stop giving in to him, the moment you stop showing up at the games, the moment he no longer sees you on the sidelines, he will dispose of you without a second thought…and unless he gets help, he’ll move on to his next conquest.

So, please my dear sister, do not be someone who lets ANYONE treat you like you are disposable. Do you realize who you are? I know this relationship has probably worn down your self-image and self-worth, but let me remind you that you have been honored by Allah (swt) to not only be a Muslim, but to be in the ummah of the Best of Creations (peace be upon him). Much of the Prophets life mission, even up until his last moments on earth, were to fight for YOUR rights as a woman, to be honored, to be cherished, to be loved, to be respected. You deserve better than this. You were not created to be used by someone and have your rights and honor stripped from you in the process. Would he ever allow someone to do this to his sister, to his daughter? Of course not! So what gives him the right to do it to you? It’s because what you risk losing is not as important as what he risks gaining from you. He does not care that you are in a state of perpetual heartache, that you cry when you are not with him, or that you have possibly missed out on so much of your life being caught up in this vicious cycle.

Please get out and seek help. There are professionals who can help you, people who will never judge you or ever expose you. They will do whatever they can to guide you out of this, inshAllah. You just have to believe that with Allah (swt) anything is possible. If you are sincere, in the blink of an eye, he can remove these feelings from your heart and set you free. Return to Him. He loves you, He loves your tears of repentance more than you can ever know. I promise you, if you surrender to Him, you can and will overcome this inshAllah. You just have to value yourself as much as He (azza wajal) has valued you and take the first step.

Allah (swt) said: “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself. And if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Hadist Qudsi: Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)

MentalHealth4Muslims

Dealing with In-Laws With a Different Islamic Perspective

Answered by Dr. Bano Murtuja

Question: I have been engaged for a year to a man who I really like. However, his father and stepmother have been a problem within our relationship. They truly dislike my family have accused us of following false Sheikhs, of engaging in Kufr because we do tasbih, or we say our dua’a out loud etc. They accuse of of bid’a and have negative opinions of Muslims unlike them. My fiance has defended us against them, but he seeks to please them and he doesn’t put his foot down hard enough. What should I do?

Answer
: Wa’laikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakathu,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

May Allah (Exalted be He) bless your union with all that is good, and make it a means to gain closeness to the All Loving and His beloved (upon him be peace and blessings).

Relationships with in laws can often be difficult to navigate, particularly if their understanding of Islam is different from one’s own.

The best example we have for dealing with those who disagree with us is in the actions of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him). He (Peace and blessings be upon him) was unfailingly noble in his treatment of those who disagreed with him. He (Peace and blessings be upon him) would increase in excellent character the more he was subjected to bad character. This beautiful trait turned many hearts towards him.

It is not necessary for your future in laws to be in agreement with your approach. InshaAllah through you demonstrating good character, they will eventually come to accept and respect that this is simply a difference of opinion. As long as their opinion does not impact your ability to perform the obligatory, the best way to approach it is not to argue, rather, wherever possible remain silent and maintain the best of etiquette with them.

With regard to communicating with your future husband, it is important that there are boundaries set as to how you are treated. That said, asking him to do so in absolute terms may in the long term do more harm. If possible, explain to him how their opinion makes you feel and the course of action you feel is best, but at the same time be open and understanding of the fact that he knows his parents best and will be able to navigate that relationship with this understanding.

Your continued patience and good character will, inshaAllah, increase you in your relationship with your future husband.

May you be granted ease and facilitation in all of your affairs.

Ma’salam

Bano

Dr. Bano Murtuja is the Managing Director of SeekersHub Toronto, unique learning foundation that connects transformative knowledge and spirituality with actionable community service and social engagement. It is open and welcoming to individuals of all ages, religious beliefs and walks of life, with equally diverse programs and activities offered at no cost.

The Muslim Household – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The Muslim Household – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Hamza Yusuf is currently visiting the Emirates. He studied there in his youth, and has maintained ties with his friends there over the years. He has been invited back many times to share his knowledge and experience with the people in the place where his journey of seeking knowledge began.

Hamza Yusuf gave a lecture after Tarawiyyah prayers on July 30th, 2012 in Sheikh Zayed’s Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It was aired on Abu Dhabi Radio.

The subject he spoke on was the Muslim household, and his remarks were based on the verses in Sura al-Ahzab (33:32-35) which address the wives of the Prophet, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, letting them know that they are not like other women because of the great honor of being married to the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him. The verses describe the wives as having seven characteristics, and Hamza Yusuf explained that every Muslim woman should model herself after them. They are as follows:

1) To have God-consciousness (taqwa), which entails adhering to the commandments of God and avoiding God’s prohibitions, inwardly and outwardly.

2) To not speak seductively, but rather to speak resolutely and forcefully with men who are not of the household in order to avoid being objects of desire for those whose hearts are diseased.

3) To stay home and not go out without good reason, as the house is the real abode of peace (dar al-Islam). It is the place where a believer can control his or her environment – hence the hadith, “What a blessed monastery is the house of a believer.”

4) To not ornament oneself with the ornaments of the Age of Ignorance (jahiliyyah) but to be modest in dress and movements when outside the home.

5) To establish the prayer and pay zakat. This is because prayer purifies the heart and zakat purifies wealth, and God has purchased from us our lives and our wealth.

6) To obey God and His Messenger, God’s peace and blessings be upon him. Even though prayer and zakat are part of obedience to God, they are mentioned before general obedience because those who pray and give zakat will find it easy to fulfill the rest of the obligations.

7) To remember God through recitation of the Qur’an and Prophetic practice.

After mentioning these seven characteristics, God reminds us that He is al-Latif; He knows the hidden matters of the house and of the heart. He is also al-Khabir; He knows the reality of everything.

The next verse describes the ten qualities that are necessary in order to have a purified household in this world as well as an eternal abode of bliss in the next world. They are as follows:

1)   Islam

2)   Faith (iman)

3)   Piety; reliance on God with humility (qunut)

4)   Truthfulness (sidq)

5)   Patience (sabr)

6)   Humility (khushu’)

7)   Charity (sadaqah)

8)   Fasting (siyam)

9)   Chastity (hifdh al-furuj)

10)  Much remembrance of God (dhikr)

In the midst of these verses, God reminds the household that the purpose of practicing these qualities is divine purification.

Hamza Yusuf concluded by suggesting that we all begin to try to inculcate these qualities during this blessed month.

 

Domestic Violence Has No Place in Islam: Importance of Rights & Conduct – Sh. Faraz Rabbani

 

 

 

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spoke on the absolute impermissibility of domestic violence, the importance of the rights of others, the grave consequences of wrongdoing, and upholding the excellence of character in his Friday Sermon at the Brampton Islamic Centre, December 09, 2011. He shows clearly how there is absolutely no place for domestic violence–nor any unjust or wrongful conduct–in the religion of Islam; and that the Prophetic way is to uphold excellence of character, as a means of seeking the acceptance and pleasure of God.

Help SeekersHub (www.seekersguidance.org) continue to provide education without barriers through your ongoing monthly support or a one-time donation: www.seekershub.org/support-us/

 

On Family – Pause for Thought with Journalist Abdul-Rehman Malik – BBC Radio 2

Pause for Thought with Journalist Abdul-Rehman Malik – BBC Radio 2

Listen: Pause for Thought- On Family – Abdul-Rehman Malik

When my son was born just over three months ago, he came into the world surrounded by an international cast of characters. His birth was made possible by a medical team with accents ranging from East End Cockney to Liverpool Scouse. There were also doctors from Italy, nurses from the Philippines, midwives from Jamaica.

As I rolled my son’s cot out of the delivery room, he was greeted by his maternal grandmother who flew from Singapore the moment she heard he was arriving a few weeks early and at least a dozen aunts, uncles and cousins who originally hail from Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Scotland – but call London home. My parents and younger siblings in Toronto were soon connected on my mobile and following all the action over the internet.

How different it was for my mother and father when I was born.

There was no family waiting outside the delivery room or at home getting the nursery ready for my arrival – they were half a world away.

Times have changed and we now travel and communicate with unusual ease.

Communication was more haphazard in those days. Even a phone call required a fair degree of coordination and expense. I remember the excitement when contact was made – my parents shouting down the phone line making sure all the essential news was communicated before the line went dead.

When we made it over to Pakistan or my grandparents came to visit, our arrivals were treated like national holidays and departures were like funerals – with everyone praying that God would give enough life and health to have the opportunity to see each other again.

But I was never bereft of family. I had uncles from Turkey, aunties from Guyana, cousins from Egypt, brothers from Hong Kong, sisters from Bosnia, grandparents from Gujrat. If it takes a village to raise a child, then I was raised by the United Nations. It was something my parents worked hard to forge.

“O people,” the Qur’an declares, “Verily, we have created you from a male and a female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Certainly the noblest of you, in the sight of God is the best in conduct.”

There is no such thing as a normal family. And neither should there be. Families are built on mercy, generosity and love – extraordinary things that I experienced in great abundance from people who I grew to cherish as much as if they were part of my own family tree.


Abdul Rehman Malik is programmes manager at The Radical Middle Way Project and contributing editor at Q-News Media.

How to Deal With a Non-Muslim Relative’s Death

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I have a question regarding the situation of my grandma. I am a recent convert and my grandma is ill. I have recited the Fatiha to her and listened to recitation of the Koran (Surat Al-Bakarah) with her and it seems to bring her comfort, but I want to know how I can best pray for her and what I should ask Allah for.

So my questions are as follows: What is the best dua to make for an elderly person who is ill and who might be nearing their end? Can I make the same dua for a non-Muslim relative? Also, what is the best verse from the Koran to recite for someone in this situation? I learned that when praying for non-Muslims we should always ask for the Prophet’s intercession. Is this correct?

Answer: Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Thank you for your question.  Firstly, I want to congratulate you on your being guided to Islam.  Truly, Allah Most High lovingly chose you out of millions to accept His guidance.  We pray that Allah makes you a light and a means for others to enter into Islam also.

I am sorry to hear about the health of your grandmother.

Allah Most High has given your grandmother a tremendous opportunity in that He has given her a granddaughter who is a Muslim, who can advise her towards Islam in her last days.

The most important thing for any human being is that they end their life in a state of submission to their Creator, commensurate to the amount of knowledge of the Truth that reached them in their lifetime.

The best prayer you can make for your grandmother is to ask Allah Most High to create faith (iman) in her heart before she dies.  The greatest gift is to believe with conviction that that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His final messenger, so naturally, you should want that for her.

This can be done in your own words and sincere entreaties.  You can always, in any prayer, approach and ask Allah for something for the sake of the love and station of His beloved Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), because Allah is the only One who can guide others and answer prayers.

Since a Muslim relative would already have faith, the nature of the prayer you make for them would be different than what you would ask for a non-Muslim relative.

Also, difficulty or pain at the time of death is something that can occur to all people, and it in itself is not bad or evil, or a punishment.  Rather, it is a natural part of the exit from this world that even the best of mankind, the prophets of God (peace be upon them all), went through.

Temporary comfort from the pangs of death in this world pales in comparison to everlasting comfort in the Hereafter, so the real concern should be for the person’s Hereafter.

The Duty to Call Others to the Truth

The best and most dutiful thing that you can do is to speak to your grandmother about Allah.  Use gentle reasoning why she should believe in only One God, how He is above having any son or partner, and how He alone should be worshiped because our eventual return is to Him.  If she agrees, you can speak to her about the prophethood.

This can be done in your own language, in loving and simple words- this is not time for complex reasoning nor proofs.  It may be awkward to open a conversation about this, but try to do it in private.  This could be your last chance with her, so throw off all inhibitions for her sake.

If she differs with any of this, at last resort, you can also tell her that this is what you believe, and that those who believe it will one day enter Heaven with God’s pleasure.  You can gently ask her to believe this also, so she can be with you in Heaven, if she loves you the way you love her.

Once you have tried your best given the situation, you have done your duty of giving the Message.  If she does not or cannot accept it, do not feel to blame.

It is not clear to me, when you said she can no longer speak, whether she can still hear and understand, and nod her head.  If she cannot, then I would personally advise still talking through the Message with her gently, because she may still be able to understand without showing signs of it.

Surah Yasin from the Qur’an is something you can listen to, or read, perhaps in translation as well, both for yourself and in her presence because it speaks about life and death.

The Fate of a Non-Muslim After Death

Finally, if she passes away in a state where it was not clear to you if she understood and accepted what you invited her to, although you cannot say she died with faith nor can you pray for her after death, it is permissible to hope that Allah created faith in her heart before she died, because this is not difficult for Allah to do.  This is what my teacher and spiritual guide taught me to do in this situation.

If a non-Muslim dies without having heard or understood the message at all, according to the Ash’ari school (one of the two main schools of Sunni belief), they are not held accountable for their faith or their actions.  This is a general amnesty due to ignorance of the message however, rather than a confirmation of their religion’s validity. [Nuh Keller, Knowing: The Validity of One’s Faith]

In the end, we can never conclusively say what a person’s fate in the Hereafter will be, rather we leave this up to Allah, but this does not excuse us from inviting others to the message of Islam and believing that the deliberate rejection of the truth leads one to eternal perdition.  For more information on the fate of non-Muslims in the afterlife, please see the links below.

Allah Guides Whom He Wills

While we are concerned for the dying person, we cannot forget our own hearts and our relationship with our Lord.

A most relevant verse at this time is not necessarily directed at the dying person, but rather, at ourselves.  It is the verse that Allah Most High revealed to His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) when his own beloved uncle, Abu Talib, died without accepting Islam at his hands.  Allah Most High said:

“Truly, you do not guide whom you love, but rather Allah guides whom He wills.  And He knows best about who is upon guidance.” [Qur’an 28:56]

Times like this are a trial, especially in the life of a convert.  It reminds us of the great bounty of faith that Allah gave to us, yet at the same time, it is a time of concern and pain to see a family member leave the world without this bounty for themselves.

It also challenges us to realize the reality of this life, and tests whether we will hold fast to Allah Most High and the truth, or allow our lower selves to dictate what should be and should’ve been.  So the best thing is to keep your relationship with Allah strong through prayer, dhikr, supplication and submission to His wisdom.

I ask that Allah Most High guides your grandmother, and keeps you strong and close to Him at this time and thereafter.

Wasalam,

Abdullah Anik Misra

Related answers on the fate of non-Muslims in the afterlife:

What is the Fate of Non-Muslims in the Afterlife?

Can We Pray for Non-Muslims Who Passed Away?

Are non-Muslims Who Lived Good Lives Condemned to Hell?

Video: Prophet Muhammad PBUH Mercy for Humanity by Sheikh Tanveer

Video: Prophet Muhammad PBUH Mercy for Humanity by Sheikh Tanveer


Here the Sheikh talks about the concept of death and how it relates to people as moral beings and then connects it with how the Prophet acted with children, women, non-Muslims to finally the adab of the shuyukh.

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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