A Ramadan to remember

A Ramadan to remember
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Nadia came home from school holding up a bound book proudly. "Look what I made," she said to her mother excitedly, waving her book back and forth. Her mother glimpsed the title, My Best Memory.

As her mom flipped through it, she realized it was about Ramadan. Pictures of masajid, people offering salah, and families breaking their fast filled the pages. Nadia chattered excitedly showing her mom the pictures and reading the words. “I told my class all about it,” she said happily, adding, “They thought it was so cool.”
“Ramadan was months ago,” said her mom, surprised. But as she looked at her daughter’s shining face, reliving her memories, she realized that the spirit of Ramadan was not forgotten by her 7-year old daughter.
Every year, as Ramadan approaches, families start getting ready. They stock up on food, make sure they have enough dates, and fast a couple of days to “warm up.” Everything from these early preparations to the very last rak’ah of Taraweeh is embedded in a child’s mind. The spirit of Ramadan is so strong, that months and years later, children still remember it, just as Nadia did.
And it is with the parent that the responsibility to make this month memorable lies. It is up to you to make sure that you have made this month special enough for your kids that they will always remember the feel of Ramadan. And it is also up to you to make sure that they understand what it is all about.
Ramadan is about spirituality. It is about salah and fasting and sacrifice and discipline. But to a child, it is also a month full of happiness.
Ways to make Ramadan special
There are so many ways to make your child feel that Ramadan is a special month. Each family has its own traditions, and will have specific ideas about how to spend the month. Some may wake up and have an actual meal at suhoor. Others may read the Qur’an together every morning. Some may attend Taraweeh salah every night. But here are some general things that are sure to last with your children for their entire life.
Taking your children to the masjid is always important. But in Ramadan, the effect is twice as significant. When children see such a large number of Muslims surrounding them, all there for the same purpose, they will sense that feeling of unity. It helps them understand the concept of brotherhood and sisterhood. It is a time for them to learn to worship Allah, and it can also be a time for them to have fun with other Muslim children. Parents can make deals with their children, such as having them make a few rak’ahs, and then letting them play or join the youth group activities. Obviously, this has a stronger effect in bigger communities, but even the smaller ones can make it work. And while this may be late at night, letting your children stay up past their bed time a few times a week during this month will not do much harm. Breaking the rules once in a while may actually pay off.
As I mentioned earlier, Ramadan is a time of unit. When you break your fast together, it helps to affirm this feeling in children’s minds. Some nights can be just family gatherings, while others can involve friends, or even the community as a whole. Inviting others to your home to break fast not only brings you reward, but also creates wonderful memories. Many masajid also hold community iftars a few times a week. It is always nice to show your children that we are one Ummah, and these gatherings help them understand what it means.
Encourage fasting
Even young children can be encouraged to fast. Sometimes they can fast on weekends, or fast half of the day. However you decide to do it, it helps children feel invoked, and strengthens their understanding of what this month is all about. And as they fast, explain to them why they are doing so. Let them know that you are happy with them, and more importantly, that Allah is happy with them as well.
Ramadan provides you the opportunity to teach your children about an array of different topics. You can use the time right after iftar to have a short lesson. Explain why we fast, read ayahs from the Qur’an about Ramadan, or tell them a little bit about the seerah of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. Teach them the importance of self-discipline, and hat the meaning of an Ummah is. Show them the countless blessings of Allah upon us, and what it means to be thankful. If you have a big community that offers a children’s program during Ramadan, let them attend it. These lessons will also stay with them for life, Inshallah.
You can also go to your child’s school, and tell his/her class about Ramadan. This will break the ice for your child, and may well make it easier for him/her to fast during the schooldays. It is an opportunity to show your children that they can share their religious events and holidays with others.
Muslim children need to feel the significance of Ramadan, and understand that we have events that are just as exciting as the non-Muslim events they constantly hear about. In a time when Christmas and Halloween and Easter are surrounded with such a fuss, it is imperative that we show our children that they are not left out of festivities. Islam gives them their own special events, which have meaning as well as provide wonderful memories.
What I listed above are just a few things that will enhance the memory of Ramadan in a child’s mind. Each family will follow old traditions and create new ones as the years go on. It is not so much the specifics as it is the overall atmosphere of the month. However, with children, this atmosphere needs to be created early on, so that it can be felt in their later years.

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