This Ramadan (2018) is our second “proper” Ramadan spent together. When our first Ramadan came around and we had just moved into our flat, I remember being slightly anxious at the prospect of having to cook a whole iftar for my husband. Especially because my mother in law had set the standard so high (mashaAllah!) Coming from an Algerian background, myself and many others feel the pressure to live up to standards set by our older female relatives. Several questions raced through my head like: “Will my chorba (a soup commonly eaten during Ramadan) even taste nice?” “Who’s got time to be kneading all that bread dough, though?” “Wait a minute, he prefers tuna bourek?!…Why did I even marry this guy?!” (kidding!).
I worried how I would find the time and energy to prepare all of it straight after work on top of all my other responsibilities and whilst trying to focus on self-reflection and spiritual growth. Equally, some burning questions arose for my husband too like: “What if my Ramadan breath will knock her out?..”
We both quickly realised that these things aren’t important. To worry about such trivial matters is robbing Ramadan of its significance. Ramadan is about remembering Allah, learning self-discipline, reconnecting to religion and spirituality. Ramadan is about the Quran. Ramadan is a reminder year after year to better ourselves, to take a break from greed in this life and to take a step back to analyse ourselves and where we need to improve as individuals and as an Ummah. It’s a reset button and opportunity to kickstart our imaan. And it’s beautiful to be able to share this with your lifelong partner.
Ramadan is not a walk in the park, especially whilst still getting used to living with a man (ew, lurgies!) so here are a few tips (both practical and spiritual) that we both found helpful for us during our first Ramadan.
1) Share the iftar preparations
Cook together! It’s a lovely way to spend time together and discover new things about each other and it’s a jolly good laugh too. Also, when you’re fasting and low on energy it’s very handy to have a human jar opener around…
2) Cook in large quantities
If you’re both working during the day, cook food in large quantities so that you can reheat food as and when. Even if you’re not working, this way you’ll have more time to spend on making the most of Ramadan like reading Quran or seeking knowledge. (And absolutely, most definitely not napping…)
3) for the Guys
If you haven’t seen your wife for most of the day, don’t leave straight after iftar to go and see your friends! Be sure to invest time with each other in the evenings. Making time for each other, especially in the holy month of Ramadan when rewards are multiplied is something every couple should strive for.
4) Patience is key
Be extra patient, sometimes when fasting, you can become a little short of temper (hangry) so make the extra effort not to snap, let the little things go and remember you’re both going through the same thing.
5) Make sure you pray together
Try to pray together and encourage each other to pray on time, as the purpose of Salah is to bring ourselves in touch with The Almighty; to intensify our relationship with Him and to be grateful for all His blessings. Already, there is more reward in praying together anyway, so even more so in Ramadan.
6) Wake the other up for Suhoor/Fajr
Wake each other up for suhur and try to pray Fajr together. This is much easier said than done. If one of you doesn’t want to eat at least bring them a glass of water and keep trying until they drink it, they’ll thank you for it the next day.
7) If she cooks you clean
The rule is – if she cooks, you clean! Wash the dishes or clear up the table and remember she was fasting the whole day too so now is her time to rest.
8) Increase your knowledge together as a couple.
YouTube is great for this as there are hundreds of short, iman-boosting lectures that you can watch together and discuss. You’re also less likely to get distracted by something else if you are both making an effort to concentrate. Moreover, these times provide a great opportunity for each of you to discuss your progress in terms of your Ramadan goals and to remind each other that you are both fasting for the sake of Allah.
9) Stay calm when the other is angry
Referring back to the infamous hadith about the actions of spouses,“When one is fire the other should be water.” Ramadan is not a walk in the park, the headaches, fatigue and overall physical stress that come with abstaining from food can be difficult to endure patiently and we are bound to get irritated by small things. Remind each other to be calm and that patience is the best of qualities.
All in all, the message here is don’t let worries, surrounding food and other cultural pressures distract from the true meaning of Ramadan. Yes, it is a struggle, but these struggles allow us to relate to things beyond our own selves and test the limits of our faith. Make the most of the opportunity for a spiritual boost where you can develop new habits together that will hopefully be applied long after the month is over.
Aliya is a 25-year-old British Algerian living in North London with her new husband. She has a passion for photography, travel, and all things chocolate. Follow her Photography page on Instagram for more of her brilliant work at @aliya.captures