Ramadan…it’s just a game.

You may have noticed the picture of me (Selina) and my sister Nafisa on the 'About' page, I was heavily pregnant then. Alhamdulillah,  I had a baby boy, Eesa and already have a young daughter, Aishah. Ramadan has definitely changed for me since being a mother. This Ramadan I am not fasting for various reasons but the main reason is because my baby still depends heavily on me to nourish and comfort him; I breastfeed. I will however try. I wanted to share an article I stumbled across with every new mother or anyone who cannot fast this Ramadan, it helps put things into perspective.

I missed all but five fasts last Ramadan, and if this sounds like a shocking confession, you might want to try a survey of women to see how many of them have fasts to make up.  Many young mothers struggle to make up dozens -if not hundreds- of fasts missed in the alternating cycles of pregnancy and breastfeeding.  There are also people with medical conditions that prevent them from fasting entirely, and last year I was a little bit of both.

Many young mothers struggle to make up dozens -if not hundreds- of fasts missed in the alternating cycles of pregnancy and breastfeeding.  There are also people with medical conditions that prevent them from fasting entirely, and last year I was a little bit of both.

Ramadan 2012 the fasts in Dubai were 17 hours long and the weather was a daily average of around 45C.  That’s 113 degrees in case you think in Fahrenheit, and it was sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but never anywhere below 100 degrees.  I had a five month old baby to feed and two children to care for when I got a kidney infection that was exacerbated by dehydration.  The spiritual bootstrapping that I had been looking forward to all year, every year, was brought to an end having barely begun -after just five fasts.

I felt guilty.  I felt cheated.  I felt resentful to yet again be sacrificing my personal spiritual goals to the never-ending demands of motherhood.

Wasn’t it bad enough that I was struggling with Fajr and praying with one eye on the baby and less than half a heart in my duas?  I’d been to less than a dozen Jumma prayers in the previous six years, was forgetting my longer surahs, and now I couldn’t fast either?

If I wasn’t fasting, then what was I supposed do for the rest of Ramadan?

I wasn’t sure, so for lack of an alternative, I sulked.  In parallel, I put on a cheerful Momma-mask and tried to make Ramadan special for my children, but when the sun set on the last day and I realized that Ramadan was over, I cried.  I wasn’t expecting to -and I certainly wasn’t planning to- but I was mourning.

I thought it was all gone: the spiritual high, the feeling of lightness that lets you float through hunger and thirst without your feet even touching the ground.  I missed the opportunity to get close to Allah for that one month, when I had always struggled to find that closeness for the remainder of year
The sweetness of the first date after 17 hours of hunger, the life that the first sip of water brings to the body after thirst -it was lost.  I thought my soul was a land of drought that was doomed to never again see rain.

Alhamdulillah, I was wrong. But it took me a while to realize that. 

In giving me children and health challenges, Allah wasn’t taking me out of the game, He was raising the bar.  Think of it this way: it’s easy to clear a forest if you’ve got a chainsaw.  But what if Allah takes the chainsaw away? Can you still clear the forest? If you want to badly enough, yes.

  Because fasting is a spiritual power tool, but it is not the only tool in the believer’s box.

If you’re not into religious metaphors for lumberjacks, then think of video games.  When you were young and single and carefree, you could wake up and pray half the night, eat suhoor and read Qur’an until the sun rose.  You could sleep after Dhuhr and spend as much time in the masjid as you wanted to because you were playing the game on easy mode.  No kids, no job, nothing to stop you from using all the big guns in the game right from day one. Congratulations, you got a high score -but that was easy mode.

Play the game again, and this time put it into “Adult” mode -you get a full-time job  so you can’t use tahajjud or long taraweeh to level up. 

There are way more baddies stomping around; family, work, and peers pulling you away from Allah, and the puzzles you’re required to solve to reach the next level are even more complicated.  If you get a high score on adult mode, MashaAllah, good job. There are still harder levels, and “Mother” is one of them.

When you play Ramadan in “Mother” mode, you get one gun, one medikit, and only six bullets for the whole game. No sleep, rushed Fajr, no sitting peacefully before Iftar because you’re busy frying things.  

You’re pulling double shifts: the red-eye suhoor to taraweeh schedule, in addition to the 9-5 kids & school schedule.  Try earning Ibadah points when you’re busy feeding people and struggling to get enough rest to survive another day.  Try -just try- to find the time and the quiet to take your twisted, battle-hardened nafs and strip away the armor to find the softness of repentance inside.   But try that later, because right now there are guests coming over so please make two dozen samosas.

Also, the baby is crying.

Oh, and the kids need help with their homework.

And can you please iron this? Thanks.

There’s a bright side.  The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. 

In the same way that a person who struggles to read Qur’an is rewarded more than one who reads it without effort -the person who fasts with great difficulty will be rewarded more than one whose fast is easy.

In the same way that a person who struggles to read Qur’an is rewarded more than one who reads it without effort -the person who fasts with great difficulty will be rewarded more than one whose fast is easy.

In the same way that a person who struggles to read Qur’an is rewarded more than one who reads it without effort -the person who fasts with great difficulty will be rewarded more than one whose fast is easy.

If you’re a young mother and you’re frustrated with balancing maternal responsibilities and missing spiritual goals, you’re not alone.  You should not be sad, you should actually be honored.  Allah decided you’re ready to play on the next level, and your duties as a mother are not a distraction from the game, they’re actually part of the plot.

(Of course, it may also be part of the game to teach you to prioritise and downscale which Ramadan “traditions” are spiritually nourishing and which are spiritually sabotaging, but religious vs. cultural practices for Ramadan is a post for another day.)

To take it up another level, the one who fasts amidst difficulty and gets closer to Allah in Ramadan will be rewarded for their effort, but the one who Allah does not allow to fast –but achieves the same closeness- could be rewarded all the more for the greatness of that challenge.  

If you are someone to whom -for whatever medical reason- the door of fasting is closed, remember that the doors of tawakkul, Qu’ran, sabr, sadaqa, ihsan, and iman are still open and they all lead to the same place -nearness to Allah.

Instead of seeing your situation as a disadvantage, try to see it as the next level and thank Allah for the opportunity to play it. 

You will have to work harder, think faster, and plan better to be able to reach the same spiritual goals that everyone else is, but Allah challenges us directly in proportion to our abilities, so trust that Allah knows you’re up to it.

Read the rest of the article here 

References:

Qualities of a True Servant: Ramadan Supplication Series

Seeking Refuge from Four Things: Ramadan Supplication Series

Effectively Planning Your Dua: SuhaibWebb.com

Will You Be a Better Person After Ramadan?: Yaser Qadhi

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