In New Jersey, Ramadan 2016 has proven to be one of the most challenging fasts in my fasting lifetime. Fajr* is typically around 3:50 am while Maghreb* is at 8:30 pm. That leaves Isha* prayer at 10:10 pm. After breaking my fast that late, I am in a food coma and busy getting myself in order to stay awake for Isha. So far (it’s day 14 as I write this), I haven’t been able to do many extra prayers after Isha.
I am a single mother to a 4-year-old, and this Ramadan we are completely on our own in our apartment for the first time. The challenges I face are different than anything I had experienced before.
Last year, the first Ramadan after my separation, we were temporarily living at my parent’s house. Boy was that a blessing! I was able to always leave my bundle of joy sleeping while I went to the gym early in the morning. I was able to take a nap right after work until iftar* and every night I would leave to the masjid (mosque) to perform taraweeh*. I had the perfect mind, body and soul balance throughout the whole blessed month thanks to my live-in nannies (3 siblings and 2 healthy parents may Allah give them a long life). Ramadan has always been a month I would look forward to resetting my Imaan and getting a spiritual cleanse and I would push myself to new limits every year.
This year however, my daughter needs to be in bed by 8 pm so that she is not tired at school the next day. That means I need to be at home well before then to get her ready, get my iftar ready and make sure she is asleep before it’s time to break my fast.
For the first time in 30 years, I sat alone to eat my only two meals of the day, suhoor and iftar. I consider this a challenge because it’s my first Ramadan alone, and as a very social, family oriented person it felt odd to sit alone. During my iftar on the third day, the guilt of not visiting the masjid began to creep up on me. Without those extra prayers in congregation with old friends and family standing shoulder to shoulder, praising the Most High, asking for forgiveness and mercy; I felt I was not gaining the entirety of the infinite blessings of this holy month.
I became agitated and reminded myself that I can live stream the prayer or perform it on my own. But it just wasn’t the same as being there in person, feeling the words of the Holy Quran overwhelm your heart with emotion. To stand with your hands raised open to the skies reciting supplication after the Imam, asking God to forgive your sins, to accept your repentance, to allow you to enter Jannah (heaven) as you weep genuinely from the overpowering emotions; is a feeling I look forward to year after year during this holy month.
I had a very hard time realizing that I could not attend this prayer that started at 10:30 pm because I couldn’t drag my daughter there that late or ask a family member to come watch her. Even if I were to pray at home while she slept, I could not stay up past 11 pm because I would need to wake up at 3 am for suhoor, and again at 6:30 am to get us ready for school and work.
Then as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, the perfect post appeared. A friend of mine seemed to be going through something similar and she posted:
“There is a time and place for everything in life, and that’s OK…”
As much as I’d love to be at the masjid right now praying taraweeh with the congregation and listening to the beautiful recitation of the Qu’ran, my TIME is with my young child and my PLACE is at home with her. That’s motherhood, and that’s OK. And if it has to be like this for some time, that’s OK too. Alhamdulilah.
….May Allah accept all our forms of worship, however we do it, whenever and wherever we can, ameen.
It was like God had reached out to me through her and reminded me that motherhood is a form of worship. It is always a constant struggle between wishing you can carry out your worship like you did before children, freely and full of energy, versus now when your children are your priority and every bit of energy is saved for them. To put my daughter to bed at 8 pm so she can physically and mentally rest and prepare for the next day at school is a form of worship that is more rewarding to me now than to abandon her and spend the late nights at the mosque. To get that extra little bit of sleep so that I am fully awake and attentive to her needs the next day while I am fasting carries a special reward in this life and the next.
As someone else who commented put it,
“Taraweeh is Sunnah*, our childrens’ rights over us is a fard*. No parent should ever feel guilty over having to make this decision.”
Relieved of the guilt and able to see many parents commenting on that status expressing their feelings around the guilt, put me at ease. This year, I will give God a new kind of supplication and renewed devotion. I plan to make supplication at home after Isha, break during the day and give extra Sunnah prayers, and spend valuable time with my daughter. This year I will refrain from wasting my time on trivial activities and concentrate on my relationship with my daughter. I planned activities and story time to help her connect with the faith even more and teach her the benefits of this holy month. I will practice patience when dealing with her and be 100% attentive to all her needs during the two and a half hours I spend with her after work before bedtime.
Allah has made it very clear in the Quran how important parents, especially mothers, are in Islam. We find that Allah tells us to worship Him, and to respect our parents in the same sentence.
“Worship God and join not any partners with Him; and be kind to your parents…” [4:36]
To mention parents so many times after telling us to worship Him shows how important parents are.
Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility and say, “My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood. [17:23-24]
Motherhood is a form of worship when done with the intention of raising righteous, God fearing, conscious, children. The reward in raising young Muslims that will pray for you when you are deceased is tremendous in Islam. To understand this duty as a mother puts into perspective the worship we do day in and day out. Waking up early to pack your child’s lunch, spending long nights with a feverish child, carrying the child in your womb, sacrificing some of your worldly goals to be present for your child, playing a game, reading with your child, teaching them Quran – are all amazing forms of worship.
So go on Mommy, release that feeling of guilt with me and remember that all that you do is a form of worship. You don’t need to stand in the masjid all night when you are by your child’s side. May Allah reward you and I for all we do according to the intentions we have.
*Fajr – first prayer of 5 daily prayers offered by Muslims (right before sunrise)
*Maghreb – fourth daily prayer offered by Muslims at Sunset (breaking of the fast occurs at this time)
*Isha – fifth daily prayer offered by Muslims
*Taraweeh – Prayers offered after 5th prayer at night during the month of Ramadan. Not obligatory, but adds to the spirituality boost one seeks in Ramadan.
*Iftar – Name of the meal had at the break of fast
*Sunnah – (in this context) means an act of worship given out of option, not obligation