Once upon many Ramadans ago, the Holy Month was a month of feasting. In many Muslim countries, one of the greatest cultures of Ramadan was the setting up of the Ramadan Bazaar, where sellers of all walks of life would showcase their cuisine, obviously for the consumption of the masses.
While this is a way to lighten the burden on those who are fasting, especially when both parents are working, it also opened the floodgates to excessiveness and over-spending. After all, you’re buying on an empty stomach – and there is elevated pressure, if you’re buying with children!
I know there were many Ramadans that I over spent, and at the end of the day, there is only so much one can eat within the short hours of nightfall.
Recently, there has been a shift away from Ramadan Bazaars, with families becoming more prudent in their spending and with a stronger focus on healthy eating, which really grows in tandem with the spirit of Ramadan. So as our family grew over the last decade, we too grew wiser and focused on the more important aspects of Ramadan and all the rewards the month had to offer.
Here are a few pointers that help with the Ramadan budget.
Make Niyyah for Purification of the Mind, Body, and Soul
In one of the most compelling Hadiths about Ramadan, Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“Allah, the Lord of Honor and glory says: All other deeds of man are for himself, but his fasting is purely for Me and I shall reward him for it. The fast is a shield. When any of you is fasting he should abstain from loose talk and noisy exchanges. Should anyone revile him or seek to pick a quarrel with him, he should respond with: I am observing a fast. By Him in Whose hands is the life of Muhammad, the breath of one who is fasting is purer in the sight of Allah than the fragrance of musk. One who fasts experiences two joys: he is joyful when he breaks his fast, and he is joyful by virtue of his fast when he meets his Lord” (Bukhari & Muslim).
Placing the virtues of the fast in this light, really gives the honor and prestige of fasting during the Holy Month. While Ramadan will be full of temptations, no less, knowing that the rewards of the fast run deeper than we can imagine, forces us to make the right intentions to please Allah, and Allah alone, no matter how difficult the fast – or Ramadan in general – becomes.
With making the intention to purify the mind, body, and soul, eating and extravagance plays second fiddle to the rewards of Ramadan, reducing the pressure on spending excessively during the month.
Think of those Less Fortunate and Give in Charity
Giving some thought and making du’a for the less fortunate is always one of the best way to put Ramadan in perspective. After all, withdrawing from food and drink for the entire day, gives us a glimpse of what it is like for those who are living in poverty. Before working on a budget for Ramadan, look into ways to provide for those who are less fortunate. It cleanses us of greed and extravagance in the Holy Month, and most importantly, helps us emulate the generosity of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
“Allah’s Messenger was the most generous of all the people and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Jibreel (angel Gabriel) met him. Jibreel used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur’an. Allah’s Messenger was the most generous person, even more generous than the fair winds.” (Bukhari)
Be Brutally Honest about Finances
Plenty of us experience financial strain, especially with expanding families and limited budgets. So it’s only natural to be careful with the financial budget – and why not be brutally honest – as it’s certainly not a grand idea to go into debt during Ramadan either.
Ideally, it would be great to stick to a “normal” month’s budget as we generally will eat “less” during the month. Perhaps, shimmying down on the normal budget is even possible, and use the excess budgets to buy treats like dates and honey.
Of course, everyone’s budget varies from one family to another. This is especially true if a family has plenty of young children who are not fasting. Children will still need their normal meals and snacks, regardless of the time of the year.
Arrange for Iftar Gatherings or Look out for Active Community Masjids
Coordinating iftars amongst the Muslim community is a great way to keep a pleasant budget. Taking turns to buy in bulk and share with a few families can translate into a great cost savings. Some Masjids have iftars within their compound, and pooling financial resources is also a good way to keep a budget intact. Better still, this is an opportunity to be around like-minded Muslims and to share the rewards of a congregational prayer, which alone can curb food-binging at iftar.
Having friends around will help cull the need to eat non-stop until Isha’ prayers, as good believers are those who remind each other to engage in all that is good.
Do not be Miserly
While it is important to keep within a good budget, and to be observant of expenditure, miserliness is strongly discouraged in the faith, and Ramadan is surely a bad time to turn into a miserly care provider for the family.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once described the difference of a miser and a generous person,
“The example of the miser and the generous is that of two men wearing iron armor from their chests to their necks. As for the generous, he does not spend but that the armor enlarges and spreads over his body until it covers even his fingertips and wipes out his tracks. As for the miser, he does not want to spend anything but that every ring of the armor sticks in its place and he tries to enlarge it but it will not expand.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
While Ramadan is not a month of extravagance, it’s certainly a month of giving in love and kindness. Special rewards or treats for children who are fasting will keep them motivated to see the month through (even if they are not fasting the full days or through the entire month), but the feeling of appreciation of family, and in turn, Ramadan, will stick with them for a very long time.
Remember that the Budget is only Part of Ramadan
At the end of the day, it’s important to strike a balance. Remember that budgeting is only a small part of Ramadan. On one hand, it’s important to keep a balanced budget to not go overboard in excessiveness and waste, when the Holy Month is all about spiritual enlightening and moderation in worldly affairs.
But on the other hand, it serves as a good reminder, that these other aspects of worship, like giving to the poor, reciting the Qur’an, the actual fast, making plenty of invocations, and generally, strengthening one’s relationship with Allah ta’ala, should take precedence over managing (or over-managing), the budget.
In short, there need not be too much energy and stress channeled to looking into the financial accounts during Ramadan, to the point that other forms of ibadah (worship) are grossly neglected. There is nothing wrong with having a hearty meal once in a while. There is nothing wrong with a special treat to keep the excitement of Ramadan going. Why not visit a Ramadan Bazaar, just to enjoy something different?
Moderation is the key, and it’s not all-wrong if everything is done in moderation. And if all other tips are being followed, or at least kept in purview, Insha’Allah, the family budget will certainly fall keenly in place.
First published: June 2013