Faith, Fasting and Prayer

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? 

17 thoughts on “Faith, Fasting and Prayer

  1. sara says:

    thank you for the amazing post mama B!!!
    I can say its one of the amazing posts I have ever read! this should be published in a newspaper Lol. . seriously! people in Saudi not just in London are starting to think that being religious is old-fashioned! I really find that real sad! I’m really happy that you are teaching your kids how to pray.. الله يصلحهم ويحفظهم و يبلغك فيهم ما يسرك

  2. Karyn @ kloppenmum says:

    I loved this post! It’s so good to hear your perspective on religion…although I am not even sure what mine is! LOL
    I don’t know that I fit into any category at all; and tha’s come from loads of questioning and challenging, and that includes questioning aethism. :D

  3. aman brar says:

    I dont subscribe to any religion but do plan on passing good values to my son ( he is just one so the journey has just started). My parents were religious and prayed but never indoctrinated my brother and I. So while we got an introduction to the religion they practises ie, going to temple with them, attending religious celebrations etc , we were never forced. By high school my brother and I had done enough questioning to realise we didnt believe in the concept of a ‘high up there god’ that was judging us. Now that I have my own child I just want to teach him the difference between wrong and right, teach him to be kind and loving and respectful. He is free to make up his own mind about ‘god’ and organised religion as he grows up and does his own searching and questioning. I dont believe kids should be clones of their parents, having exactly the same set of beliefs as their parents. Where is their individual freedom to choose? With due respect what you are doing is indoctrination.

    • Mama B says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. I was sure people had this opinion and its refreshing to see you state it. And so respectfully as well.

      I appreciate that you think we are ‘indoctrinating’ our children but every parent is. Your children see you as the centre of the universe, the person who knows everything and they will learn, wether you teach them it or not, what you believe in, have faith in and are passionate about.

      It is almost impossible not to pass these on to your children and some of these beliefs you will actively try and Instil in them be they political, religious, non religious or just cultural.

      I do believe, and correct me if I’m wrong , had I been taking them to a political rally of some sort at a young age or maybe teaching them buddhism it wouldn’t be considered ‘indoctrinating’? Islam is not something we leave at the mosque it is a total way of life. And unfortunately the politics of terrorism that have highjacked my religion have now been attributed to it.

      My religion is my life. its how I eat, how I treat others, how I work. All of these things are effected by the values I have learned from it.

      My goal in the end is to raise critical thinkers who will set off on their own journey after high school and meet and live with people who have different beliefs. I can teach them what I know and why I have faith in it but I can’t make them have faith. They will grow up and make their own decisions.

      I think we cannot help but teach our kids our belief or lack there of it (although atheists have a lot of faith in what they believe in). All parents ‘indoctrinate’ their children one way or another just because you don’t put a name on it you do have a belief system and your children will learn it. Yes it doesn’t have set ways of washing or praying but it does have ideals and rules and wrongs and rights. It’s our responsibility to teach our children these things and then their choice when they grow up what to do with it. I would have failed as a parent if my children didn’t ask and question everything I teach them be it religious or political or otherwise.

      Lastly I am not a clone of my parents and neither are my sister and my children won’t be clones of myself or their father. I would be sorely disappointed, and thoroughly bored lol, if any of that were true!

  4. Tala Al-Fahad says:

    “S is helping J with her prayers” this warms up my heart..
    *In London and Saudi kaman 9ar old-fashioned to have a strong belief or a religion ! Allah la yiblana ..
    I bet S is feeling the Eid properly after his first 9yam in Ramadhan. lol .. 3eedkom mbarak & God bless you and your family.

    • Mama B says:

      Oh my God the last day of fasting you should have seen him. He was laying around the house like the world was ending because I woke him earlier than usual. That was until his cousin woke of course lol then he was full of beans!

  5. Agnes says:

    If you haven’t met any atheists who don’t argue – here I am! I am totally indifferent to what people believe, and have never even gotten into a discussion about religion/atheism with anyone. I just … don’t care. I firmly believe in freedom of choice. If someone wants to believe – awesome. If not – awesome.
    The only thing I ever mention (which I will mention to you) is that, for atheists, atheism isn’t a belief. In a laboratory, when you do experiments – be it chemical, biological, whatever – you start out with a premise. The premise has to contain something. So, for instance, you set out to prove that variable Y causes variable B. You never do an experiment to prove that something doesn’t exist. So, you never set out to prove that variable Y doesn’t exist. It’s illogical, and impossible. That something doesn’t exist can be a default stance, and you can set up a laboratory experiment to prove that something does exist. But, to prove that something doesn’t exist … it’s just never done. The burden of proof is on the believers, so to speak. So, atheists see atheism more as a default stance – we haven’t seen physical/scientific proof, so we stick to the default. If that makes sense. For us, it’s not a belief the way Christianity or Judaism or Islam is.
    I just thought I’d explain that as a lot of believers do think as you – in terms of atheism being a belief. For most of us it’s just currently the best theory around. If something changes, we’d change our minds too. Personally, I don’t really understand why people get so worked up about belief/non-belief. I’m a huge proponent of individual freedom and choice, and believe that every person’s life is their own, and none of my business, lol.

    • Mama B says:

      Thanks for the comment! It’s the best explanation of what atheism is that I have read so far! Very interesting to read! And I guess to your laboratory my religion is the theory. Ideas and assumptions we believe in and base our actions around. I also don’t get why people get all worked up about what others believe. Although, like anyone who feels strongly about anything being the ‘right’ thing I do feel that people who don’t believe what I do are missing out. Having said that you probably think the same of me lol. We can’t change human nature and what we feel but we can control our actions and be respectful of other human beings regardless if they agree with you or not. And we have to open our eyes and learn from them what we would never learn from the people who believe the same as we do.

  6. Coolred38 says:

    As a former Muslim and now atheist… I would like to comment and say if you have met angry atheist then their argument was not sufficient to convey their point of view without emotion getting in the way…which is common among believers as well. We do not have “faith” in god not existing, we just have not found or been given any evidence that there is one…yours or any other religions.

    And we do not care that believers believe…you or anyone can believe what ever you want…it’s when that belief encroaches on the will of others that do not believe as you do that gets non believers upset. Like Christians trying to make their beliefs into law in some ways in America or Muslims enforcing theirs on non Muslims…like forbidding them to eat and drink outside during Ramadan. Actually that shouldn’t even forced on Muslims as I would assume god doesn’t accept forced following of his demands but to do it willingly and without fear of punishment from some of his self proclaimed upholders of the faith. (Haya)

    While it would be nice if those with differing beliefs and views could discuss and debate with rational and controlled emotions, unfortunately, our determination to be right, whatever right is, often corrupts the dialogue before it even gets started.

  7. M says:

    I had so much to say when I read this post at first but then I never got around to writing it down. Your story echoes mine in that my parents pray five times a day and even my brother does but I find it hard to do so regularly. I have phases in which I am very regular and others when even one seems like a chore. I am worried that as I get older my spiritual connection is getting weaker, especially because I don’t live in a Muslim community. Like any thing of any value, it needs attention and commitment. I couldn’t agree more with london being a irreligious place. God is not fashionable. Religion is almost something exotic. It doesn’t help that my husband is more lacksidaisal than I am. I really worry what I will pass on to my kids and what I will teach them when I am setting such a bad example. I stand the philosophy that religion is not a one size fits all and everybody has their own ay of approaching God. But as a Muslim prayer is an integral part of that process. I need to get my act together!

  8. Reem Philby says:

    I really like this post. Religion was not discussed in my family growing up. My religion was questioned by many people bcz of my family’s history & at the age of 10 or 11 the result was being too sensitive & refusing to reveal my religious identity which I wasn’t sure if myself. The 30s & having kids changed that completely & I went through a phase that I call converting from a Muslim by birth to a Muslim by choice. My kids are young but are aware if their religion & are comfortable asking questions about it. My entire point at this age is to give them the comfort of talking about it & not feeling that it’s too personal like I did. The diversity of religions around them is increasing their interest to know the differences between them & their friends which I believe is positive and enriching. Spiritual maturity doesn’t come early but understanding one’s spiritual identity is a source of confidence that I believe is important for kids.

  9. Lavender Om Lujain says:

    I love this post! How has it taken me so long to know about it and read! I have always told people that not only was I born a Muslim il7amdlilah, I also chose to remain a Muslim, because I do believe it to be the right path. I won’t pretend to be perfect (not even close), but in our home my mom taught us, there was no forcing us as children. We went to Islamic school on Sunday (we really weren’t forced- we wanted to go), and it was fun! We enjoyed learning, and thankfully it was not one of those schools where we were taught to fear God, or that all roads lead to Hell. There was a sense of community, and especially when I lived in an area where I was the only Muslim, and the only Muslim in my class, it was nice to see others who shared my belief. But to be very honest, I have seen more spiritual Islam in Toronto, then I have seen here in Riyadh. Ramadan here (to many) has become a time to watch the musalsalat, to eat and shop all night, yet sleep the fasting day away, it is sadly here that I have seen Muslim people who do not fast or pray (I was shocked!). In Toronto we would go to the Masjid, we would pray, we would still have our usual routine but just add a whole lot more spirituality to it.

    As for the Atheist comment, I have only ever met 2, that were not ready to bash all religion the moment they knew I was Muslim, that tried there very best to make me see the light of not believing in a higher being. lol. One of my best friends is Atheist, but I think the way we work it out is, we simply don’t really discuss religion, unless she has questions and I answer it for her.

    Once again, great post Mama B!

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