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This Is Not The Ramadan I Expected!

Questioner

Claudia

Reply Date

Jun 07, 2017

Question

As-Salamu alaykum. I hope you can help me with my question. I am a new Muslim. I had been studying Islam for around two years till I took the step. I am also a new wife, and that is why I am living in Egypt with my Egyptian husband. It is also my first Ramadan with my husband, his family, in Egypt and with me being a Muslim. My problem is that it was not at all what I expected. My husband is a good Muslim. Yet, we are facing problems practicing our Ramadan without offending his family. They always expect us to attend their heavy meal iftars and to invite them to some. They also insist on having us attend with them the Ramadan urban secular entertainment tent, which to me is really something very offensive; wasting Ramadan just like that. They have so many cultural habits, which they mingle with religion and sometimes I – as a new Muslim – get confused. As a new Muslim, I feel I have already wasted a big portion of my life in vanity, till I reached the shores of faith. I do not want to waste more. I was waiting for Ramadan to seize the moment. How can I maintain my true Islam and serene Ramadan without offending them?

Consultant

Answer


Ramadan Expected

Salam Dear Claudia,

Welcome to Islam and welcome to Egypt. Also thank you so much for contacting us with your question.

You have three situations to adjust to – new religion, new marriage, and new country. May Allah help you and guide you.

What I recommend is that you try hard to develop your relationship with Allah. He will help you in all areas. And keep things in perspective. The things of this transient life are really not worth getting upset about unless they are hindering you in developing your spiritual life.

It seems to me that you have two problems: how to distinguish Islamic practices from cultural practices and traditions, and how to deal with in-laws. Let me address the easier one first.

If you have studied Islam for two years, you probably do have a fairly good idea of what is and is not Islamic.

But whenever you are not sure of something – especially when someone says that something is halal or haram – ask them to show you the proof: a verse in the Quran, a hadith, or seek a fatwa from a qualified scholar (who should likewise be based on such proofs or ijtihad based on analogy and your situation, etc.).

Here we can help through AboutIslam.net’s Fatwa Section.

Each society in the Muslim world has developed its own traditions over the centuries. For example, each community has certain favorite foods that are served in Ramadan or on `Ashura‘ (the 10th day of the month of Muharram).

While, to my knowledge, there is no basis in the Sunnah for such foods, except dates to break the fast. There is nothing wrong with such customs as long as you do not eat to excess and you do not get upset when a certain traditional dish is missing or unattainable. 

Yet you will find other customs that are not based on Islamic traditions. These include the Egyptian Sham an-Naseem (a spring festival dating from Pharaonic times); Mawlid an-Nabi (the prophet’s birthday), which appears to be in imitation of Christmas, and so on.

It is easy for Muslims, especially reverts, to ignore such holidays and customs when they are living in the West, well away from in-laws and extended families. However, when you are here and surrounded by your husband’s family, you probably will be expected to attend family gatherings on such days.

They will argue that it is an Islamic duty to keep family ties. You can discuss this with your husband, for he will know exactly what traditions his family follows on such days.

If his family’s gatherings do not include blunt un-Islamic practices, then you should compromise and attend, but do not participate in such practices (For me, I always leave the room then – silently without much attention).

Now for the bigger problem of in-laws. It is not clear to me from your question where your husband stands on this issue. You say, “We are facing problems,” not “I am facing problems.” If he feels the same as you, half the battle is already won. Talk to him about it.

As for the heavy iftars, attend them if you must, but do not overeat. Try to excuse yourselves shortly after the meal to pray `Isha’ and Qiyam Al-Layl (Night Vigil Prayer). If that is not possible, try to sit in a quiet room (most likely a bedroom) away from the TV and pray or read Quran.

When you must entertain your in-laws, try to cook your own simple American style meals and serve fewer dishes (but larger amounts of each, if need be). You should not have to spend Ramadan in the kitchen. It should be spent in prayer and reading Quran. So, try to limit the invitations to once or twice in Ramadan.

As for the Ramadan pleasure tents, these should be absolutely out of the question. These tents are for smoking shisha, eating and drinking (I do not know if they serve alcohol or not), singing, and perhaps dancing till the wee hours. Such atmosphere and activities are to be avoided at all times, not only in Ramadan.

You say your in-laws keep insisting, but I am not clear from your words if your husband gives in to them or not. My own experience is that it is very hard for Egyptians to say “no” to their parents.

If your husband agrees with your view, the two of you can say “no” – indirectly – by saying you’d rather stay home or go to the mosque to pray, or that you are tired and need to rest. If they keep insisting, then you two should keep insisting – politely – on your view.

Remember that in a situation like this, your duty is to please Allah, not your in-laws.

Allah says what means:

{And We have enjoined on man [to be dutiful and good] to his parents […] But if they [both] strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do.} (Luqman 31:14-15)

My main advice is to be patient with your in-laws. Try hard not to get into arguments with them. It is very difficult for you to change their ideas and attitudes remind them that you are also changing many things in your life. But insha’ Allah, in time they will come to accept your attitudes, even if they still disagree with them.

May Allah grant you a blessed your first Ramadan and may you have many more. Keep working on developing spiritually, not only in Ramadan, but throughout the whole year.

Consider this situation with your in-laws as a test from Allah, and learn from it to deal patiently with them and with the new culture in which you are living.

If you have more questions, please do not hesitate to write to us again.

Salam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

When Reverts Marry – Battling the Culture Clash

Islam is One Thing, Culture is Another

Ramadan: Time for Becoming Better Muslims




About AElfwine Mischler

AElfwine Mischler is an American convert to Islam. She has undergraduate degrees in physics and English, and a master's degree in linguistics and teaching English as a foreign language.

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