It’s the final week of Ramathan, the month muslims fast every day from day break till sunset. And I am sad to see it go. I have fasted before outside of Saudi and it was horrible. There is a sense of community and spirituality you find in a muslim country that are all fasting together as opposed to being in London for example when the world is going on like everything is normal and you feel like a spectator for a month. I’m sure it’s not the same for the large muslim community there but when I was there it was my family and I and no one else who was fasting around us who we knew.
life does go on here but it’s adapted. People start work later so that they can sleep in an hour or two since they are fasting. Shop opening times change to accommodate the people who spend a lot of time in the mosque praying the longer ‘taraweeh’ and ‘qiyam’ prayers. Everyone is trying desperately to find good deeds to do! If someone needs something, be it money or food or clothing or just some help everyone is rushing to do it because of how great the reward is during the month of Ramathan.
I’d be lying if I said it’s a month when people are happy, patient and loving because it’s not always the case. It’s a month where people’s sleep is messed up, they are suffering withdrawal from coffee, nicotine, food in general and they are impatient and sometimes rude. But here is the beauty of it, your fast is broken or rather or tarnished if you treat people badly so even tho some people may be in bad moods they try as hard as they can to hold it all in and be as polite and patient as possible.
My 10 year old son decided he would fast this year. Since we were in the states last month my children were severely jet lagged and were not getting to bed till the wee hours. I just let them stick to that schedule since everyone else here is anyway. It goes against every parenting belief I have but he is 10 and wanting to fast and I want it to be doable so he stays up till after dawn prayer (5 am… yes…) and then sleeps in till late afternoon leaving only about 4 hours till it’s time to break his fast.
Every night (morning) as he’s falling asleep I am dreading having to fix this residual jet lag because about 1 week after Eid (the end of Ramathan) we are going on a safari when we will have to wake up at 6 am every morning… which is very close to the time he is sleeping now.
My daughter is also jet lagged but not as badly. Except for the high anxiety nights she is having. I am trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that is making her so anxious and figure out a way of easing it. I am also trying to figure out how much is real anxiety and how much is wanting attention. I know she’s not faking it but I also don’t want to be encouraging it.
None of it comes on till bed time. The the worries start. ‘What if I can’t sleep’, ‘what if S sleeps and I still haven’t slept’, ‘my leg/tummy/head hurts’, ‘I hear noises’. Once she falls asleep all is fine! But it’s the process. It could be just the messed up times!
B and Special K’s sleeping times are not too bad, they were sleeping around midnight (yes that’s not too bad now… how ironic) And not we have started waking them an hour earlier every other day so we can bring them up to 6 am waking. they should be all set way before we have to travel.
S and J, we have decided, we will shock into normal time. So in a couple of days we will wake them about 3 hours before they normally wake, suffer through a day of out of control, miserable children because of lack of sleep then (hopefully) have them sleep earlier and a few days later wake them another 3 hours earlier and etc till we are back on track!
J was focusing on learning how to pray this month. She knows the movements and most of what to say but there is a long part in the ‘sujoud’ called ‘altashahud alwal’ and ‘altashahud althani’ which is difficult to remember all at once. We have the first part down almost now and God willing will have the second down by the start of school.
S has it down already and is praying all 5 prayers a day but of course needs to be reminded. I look at my children’s relationship to prayer and compare it to my relationship to prayer at their age. I was taught how to pray at school and I saw my parents pray every day 5 times a day. But it was always very difficult for me to pray. When I first learned I was pleased and showed my mother how I did it and my father and then I kind of forgot about it as I was very young at the time, around 7 years old.
My mother would always say ‘it’s prayer time’ or ‘did you pray’ and I would say yes and she wouldn’t verify. Till one day I was older, around 9 or 10, and I had forgotten the ‘tashahud alawal’ and ‘tashahud althani’. And I was mortified. No way would I ever ask anyone what they were because I was 10! I was supposed to know them by heart. And if I wasn’t saying them every day, 5 times a day, then what was I doing when I was ‘praying’?
One day, by some miracle, someone bought a poster with the actions of prayer on it and what we are meant to say when we do the actions. And right there on the wall, behind the rocking horse, were written the ‘tashahud alwala’ and ‘tashahud althani’. I was so happy! Every day I would play on the rocking horse or around it and read them discreetly till I memorized them. Although I see my children trying to be discreet and I doubt I was fooling anyone.
Prayer continued to be difficult for me for a while and I never understood why. I would look at people around me who get up to pray without being prompted and I would wonder how it was that easy! They would never imagine missing a prayer. Eventually I started praying regularly and even tho it didn’t start out as easily as it did with others I ended up praying regularly.
Honestly that happened when I started hearing, reading and thinking of the spirituality of it. They didn’t focus on spirituality at my school. They focused on ‘do it if you don’t want to go to hell’. Which I have found was the popular way of teaching in any religious schools around the world be it a muslim, jewish or christian school. It got to the point sometimes that I would think there is no way I am making it to heaven, or out of hell so why try! This is when I was in my early teens.
Then I had an amazing teacher who taught me about how much God loves us and how easy it was to be good and do good. I had conversations with people that changed the way I think about everything. One woman I knew in London, who was odd to say the least, told me about her spiritual journey. She was born a muslim and decided she wanted to learn about other religions because she didn’t choose Islam she was born into it. I won’t go into the details of her ‘revelations’ on other religions but only on what she said of Islam. She said that it was the only religion where God knew people were prone to making mistakes. And that was ok. the whole point was to correct your mistakes. The whole point is that some sins are easy, more fun, more enjoyable and your reward is for the struggle to not give in to those sins. And if you do you can repent to Allah the most Gracious the most Merciful and he will forgive you. And if you make another mistake and repent he will forgive you again.
I remember being told that God love me more than my mother loves me. He wants me to go to heaven so why am I fighting it. Yes it’s difficult sometimes but if it was easy then what’s the point? I remember having many atheist professors at university who asked me frankly quite rude questions but I am grateful to them because they made me search for the answers and through that learn more and have more faith. They would challenge me for fasting, for praying, for not drinking and it only made me stronger. In the end I enjoyed being confronted by them and getting into heated arguments.
Side note: Why does it bother atheist so much when people have faith in religion. They have faith in there being nothing. They cannot prove to me there is nothing after we die because they never died yet they still believe it. I have had conversations with atheists who end up red faced and shouting because I won’t say they are right. Granted I have not met every atheist in the world but the ones I did meet all ended up very upset at my faith in something I cannot see.
Some of my friends are surprised by my faith and my belief. Someone once said ‘but your life is so… normal’ because apparently I can’t pray and fast and be a muslim and not have a ‘normal’ life. I feel like it is becoming increasingly ‘unfashionable’ to be religious in any sense. Or at least I felt that when I was studying in London. It was almost something people were embarrassed of.
So this post didn’t just go on a tangent it went on a 4 week long vacation and I can’t remember what it was I was saying to begin with.
Oh yes. Praying. My husband and I discussed how we were taught and expected to pray when we were children. Now where my mother would be satisfied with a ‘yes’ answer to ‘did you pray’ my husbands family actively got them to wash and pray and say what they were saying in the prayer out loud and by the time they were 10 there was no excuse to not praying. They would just have to do it. Like you brush your teeth in the morning and put your clothes on you would pray.
You may think this takes the spirituality out of it but it doesn’t. Honestly at 10 no child is sitting there thinking of spirituality. But with time and with explanations of having faith and the power of prayer and how it transforms your life the spirituality grows. I hope they will see, like I saw, the effect that prayer has on their life.
The important thing is to be open to questions an discussions but to make sure that they learn the prayers and when they start praying that they stick to it. J now prays along side me and I raise my voice when I am saying the prayers so she can hear me and hopefully remember. If I have prayed or am out then it falls to S to help her. Either by praying with her or sitting next to her and saying the words to her. No he doesn’t always enjoy this but he has to do it. The whole process literally takes 5 minutes.
I also downloaded some apps (prayer high tech!) that teach children how to pray (Ali & Sumaya is a good one although I wish they had the same all in Arabic).
This Ramathan my 2 eldest children participated and it makes me proud and hopeful that they will grow up knowing they have to pray and fast and be good muslims but as well that their faith will grow, as mine did, through leaning, reading and discussions! Questioning and thinking about everything is not a scary thing. It is how our faith grows stronger and how we know for sure that we don’t only believe because it’s what we were told to do but because we looked and read and questioned and ended up knowing without a doubt that we have faith in what is true.
Are you religious, spiritual, atheist, agnostic? If so would you be disappointed if your child believed in something else? or anything for that matter? Do you speak to your children about your religion? Do you teach them to worship like you do and expect them to follow in your beliefs?