Hasan was excited. It was going to be his best Ramadan ever. Nana (grandfather) would be spending Ramadan at his home this year.
That meant listening to lots of funny stories of Nana when he was young, living in the village in India.
However, Hasan knew that he and Nana would not be able to sit on the balcony for their mid-morning snack of sour green apples sprinkled with salt as they both were fasting.
Oh no, not this time, thought Hasan, but Nana once told him that in Ramadan Muslim should make sacrifices of things he loves the most. And they both loved sour green apples sprinkled with salt!
That evening Hasan went with Dad to pick up Nana who greeted him with his usual cheery smile. He held Nana’s hand as he climbed down the few steps to the car with his rickety stick. He couldn’t help but notice that Nana seemed more shaky than usual or was it just due to excitement that Ramadan was here, he wondered?
When they reached home, he took Nana to his room and made him comfortable.
At Suhur time, it was only Dad and himself eating quietly.
Hasan noticed that Nana wasn’t there; he was sitting in the rocking chair making Dhikr instead.
Mom wasn’t eating as well; she’d eaten earlier because she wanted to make some extra `ibadah (worship) before Fajr prayer. Nana must’ve eaten with Mom too, he thought dismally.
It wasn’t the Suhur ‘party’ Hasan had envisioned.
Feeling sleepy, he rushed off to make Fajr and hopped into bed. Thankfully it was Saturday and he could sleep late.
The morning seemed to drag on. It was Hasan’s second Ramadan fasting full days, as he was seven years old now.
At Dhuhr time, Hasan heard his tummy grumble. He felt terribly hungry. Mom always told him to think of the poor children across the world and remain grateful to Allah that he could have three meals every day.
After Dhuhr, Hasan would ask Nana to tell him some village stories – surely that would take his mind off food. He rushed to find Nana somewhere but a shocking scene was waiting for him…
He saw a glimpse of Nana at the stove.
“What?” he said to himself, stopping suddenly in his tracks. He quietly walked back to the kitchen door and peeked inside to make sure. Nana was dishing food from the pot and very quickly gobbling it up.
Was Nana really eating in Ramadan when he should be fasting? Something’s not right here, Hasan thought.
He didn’t know what to think. Maybe Nana was hungry like he was and couldn’t resist. So while everyone was praying Nana felt a bit sneaky and decided to eat just a bit, thinking no-one would see him. But surely Allah sees him, thought Hasan who was very confused.
Hasan promised himself he wouldn’t tell anyone and would ask Allah to forgive Nana – after all it wasn’t easy being old and having to fast plus having to walk with a stick.
So many challenges, thought Hasan, surely Allah would forgive Nana for having just a bit of food!
Later, when it was ‘Asr prayer, Hasan passed by the kitchen on his way to his bedroom and once again, he couldn’t believe his eyes. There was Nana at the biscuit tin this time, gobbling biscuits.
Hasan stared, mouth open, totally dumbfounded. What was going on with Nana, he wondered to himself in astonishment? Not once, but twice!
“This is getting out of hand,” whispered Hasan to himself. He would have to keep an eye on his sneaky Nana.
Throughout the rest of the day, Nana didn’t do anything unusual. Hasan tried not to make it obvious that he had any suspicions.
Just before Iftar, everyone sat in the prayer room to make some Dhikr. Nana made an excuse to leave the room.
Without anyone seeing, Hasan slipped out of the room and went after Nana, hiding behind the flower pots just in case Nana decided to look behind him.
Hasan felt like some sort of spy – this was now a serious affair.
Nana quickly wobbled to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and drank a few sips of water from a glass.
Ah! Thought Hasan; “I’ve caught you once again.” Three times! Surely that’s far too many times in one day!
Hasan felt disappointed in Nana – he would have to tell Mom.
Later, when Hasan came home from Tarawih prayer, Hasan couldn’t hide it any longer. He went straight to Mom and found her on her prayer mat.
“Mom,” whispered Hasan, “Nana is in big trouble.”
“In trouble?” she asked.
“With Allah,” he answered.
“Really?” asked Mom
“You will not believe what I found Nana doing today,” said Hasan with disbelief.
“What – what did he do?”
“You won’t believe it Mom but Nana ate some food from the pot at Dhuhr and at ‘Asr, he took some biscuits from the biscuit tin, then just before Maghrib, Nana sipped some water from the refrigerator. Three times Mom, three times I caught Nana breaking his fast!”
Mom just sat there staring at him. Then, her face broke into a smile. She started giggling a little and suddenly she broke into raucous laughter.
She laughed and laughed so much that Hasan just sat there staring at her, very confused. He certainly didn’t think it was funny!
“Let me explain,” said Mom at last.
“Nana’s been exempted from fasting because he’s too frail to fast. He needs to take medication with some food so that he can remain strong. He was only eating to sustain himself, not because he wanted to.”
Hasan sighed with relief.
“You see, my son, we worship a very Merciful Lord who wishes ease for His servants. There are some people like the sick, the traveler and the expecting woman who are exempted from fasting. Isn’t Allah Merciful?”
Hasan thought about how he had behaved through the day – following his grandfather so sneakily – trying to ‘catch Nana’; and he too burst into laughter at the whole misunderstanding.
At least it got Hasan through the day!