When Emma gave birth to her first child, Ramadan was only a few days away. For the first time, she found out what it was like not to fast during the holy month – for the whole month.
She would spend hours in her room adjusting to life with a newborn. Her cycles included nursing, napping, tending to crying baby, sleeping and waking again and again for more nursing session, diaper changing, the daily bath, and more naps.
Needless to say, the joy of having a newborn was overwhelming, but at the same time, having to trawl through Ramadan with a baby with erratic mood swings was also very tiring, and not to mention the feeling of being lonely.
While everyone else was busy with celebrating Ramadan by attending lectures, joining Qur’an circles and other worships, Emma felt she was missing out on so much worship. Even Suhur and Iftar were not part of her schedule, as life adjusted around her baby. She felt she could not even participate in the simplest worship of breaking fast, let alone fasting and performing Tarawih at night.
Emma didn’t realize that the ease of Ramadan vanished quite a bit after becoming a mother, as her daughter grew.
Emma was tasked with taking care of a nursing toddler the following year, and was also expecting another baby girl, which gave her the flexibility of not fasting during Ramadan. And as the years passed, her family multiplied, turning Ramadan into a whole different experience all together.
Many mothers go through these long phases of pregnancy, post-partum and breastfeeding, giving them leave from the worship of Ramadan.
While the flexibility is there, Ramadan really does come with a different form of “hardship”: taking care of young children who have multiple needs, and not to mention that they are always hungry, even if they’ve already past the stage of nursing. It is very tiring and a great test to patience.
You Can Still Do Your Best
While it is only forbidden to fast during post-natal periods of bleeding, expecting and nursing mothers are also exempt from worship and scholars differ in opinions as to whether the need to make up all the days that they miss or may just pay a “fine” by feeding those less fortunate.
Regardless of the opinions they follow, here are a few ways for mothers to partake in Ramadan, even if it involves different forms of worship.
1- Taking a change of mindset.
It may not be easy to go through Ramadan, while everyone is busy with worship, and you’re the only one wearing a baby around the house who needs to nurse every 20 minutes.
In fact, fasting while raising toddlers and one of them still needs to be breastfed throughout the day is not easy at all. But take heart, and take a change of mindset – as a mother to little children, or an expecting mother even – you’re on a special route of worship yourself.
Carrying your baby in your womb, gives you the automatic status of a martyr as with breastfeeding through the first few weeks. After that, Allah knows well how much you would like to fast and perform Tarawih in congregation, but may not be able to – so take heart, Allah knows and understands completely. You are worshipping Allah, just by the situation you are already in.
2- Set your reasonable goals.
Everyone is different so it is needless to compare with who is doing what during Ramadan.
If you’re able to give to charity, by all means go ahead – even if it only means promoting charitable endeavors online. If all you can manage is watching Islamic lectures on Youtube, then stock up on them while Ramadan lasts.
Download your favorite Qur’anic recitation, and listen to the Qur’an, if you’re unable to find time to read a page. Recite Dzikr every day – that is also a form of worship and a good one too – for Allah remembers those who remember Him.
3- Talk to your baby about Ramadan.
As silly as it sounds, newborns retain everything they hear from birth. In fact, they may understand more than we already know.
Talk to baby about Ramadan, and if you have older children, tell them stories about the holy month, read books together, sing nasheeds together.
Insha Allah they will grow up loving Ramadan as much as you do and will appreciate the month having spent it with their mother.
4- Prepare meals early on.
If it’s possible, buy in bulk, so you don’t have to leave the house too often. Children often need frequent snacks and set meals, cook in bulk so you don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen every single day.
Many meals can double as Iftar as well asSuhur for those who are fasting. If you have to leave the house, pack small snacks in zip lock bags or Tupperware for the children.
5- Make the best of your own Ramadan.
Remember, at the end of the day, every single person walks down his or her own path, and endures their journeys.
Such journeys are designed by the Planner of All things, and we should be grateful that we are given the chance to enjoy one whole Ramadan, even if we feel we haven’t performed to the best of our abilities.
Allah catches every tear of the believer and rewards even the smallest deeds, so, call out to Him in moments of uncertainty as this is the best way to find the calm, even during the most lonely Ramadans, filled with nappies and the frequent tantrum.
Ramadan only comes once a year and regardless of our situation. It is a special time for all Muslims, even if there seem to be so many limitations on worship because of a pregnancy, post-partum of a nursing period.
Yet, Alhamdulillah, these are special forms of worship on their own.
Ramadan is very much the perfect time to reflect upon our personal journeys in this Dunya and also to think about those who are less fortunate, possibly those in war torn countries and how they would like to participate in Ramadan but are just unable to in the same way as those who are provided with much ease.
So, take the ease in your own hardship and remember to enjoy your children while they are little.
By the following Ramadan, things may have changed, and a new set of challenges may suddenly arise. So take the month one day at a time, one segment at a time and on the long run, all will be well, as Allah accepts even the smallest of deeds with the best of intentions.
First Published: June 2014