Strengthening Bonds

Musaddique Thange, 35, hopes to bring more self-discipline and piety in his life through the fast of Ramadan. Breaking the fast with his family, while difficult at times, is one of his priorities.

In my opinion, Ramadan is not only a personal spiritual endeavor but should also be an opportunity to get closer to one’s family in a manner that enhances our commitment to work together for the pleasure of God,” emphasized Thange, of San Diego, Calif. “The dusk meal is a very special time in the day of the fasting person. Sharing it with loved ones, and making a special effort to do so, strengthens the bonds between family members.”

With the consent of his manager, Thange, a computer software engineer, starts his day early in order to reach home before the dusk meal. He sometimes takes days off from work, particularly on Fridays, to give increased attention to his spiritual growth.

Umar Ilyas, a programmer analyst from Plainsboro, N.J., follows a similar routine during Ramadan. “This enables me to break the fast with my family and get some rest before the nightly prayers. In some years, I take a few days off from work towards the end of the month [in order to] stay a little longer at the mosque in the evening,” he said.

Ilyas, 37, hopes to achieve an enhanced awareness of both his self and the society around him through the extra talks given at his local mosque in the month of Ramadan. He also focuses on better understanding the plight of the underprivileged and ways in which he can help them in Ramadan and the rest of the year.

With our children, we [also] try to inculcate a spirit of giving and developing a sense of caring for needy people,” remarked the father of three, aged between four and 10.  “We encourage them to give more of their personal money in a good cause during the month and the rest of the year.”

This year, Thange intends to teach his three-year-old son the virtues of charity as well, by having him save money which will be used toward buying food for the poor, he mentioned.

Jahaan Muhammad, a homeschooling mother, makes Ramadan special in the lives of her five children by not only celebrating it with them but using it as a springboard for their learning. First, they prepare their home by cleaning it. Then, they put up ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (‘Happy Ramadan’) signs everywhere in their home.

Once the holy month begins, she holds short study circles with her children. Along with memorizing the Quran, they discuss fasting, what it means, the fast of the Prophet, peace be upon him, among other topics. She also plans out arts and crafts projects revolving around Ramadan. In addition to making the Kaaba and designing mosques, they write their own poems and stories related to Ramadan and fasting. Card-making is also a regular activity associated with this month while TV-viewing is kept to a minimum.

I want to give them my best and I do it for the sake of God. It is a blessing when your child can tell you what Ramadan means,” Muhammad, of Madison, Wis., said. “Basically, the point is to spend time together as a family as much as possible.”

She admits that juggling everything during Ramadan is especially challenging but she manages to keep her resolutions going. “I try to plan an activity in the morning, one they can do by themselves. While they are busy with that, I am busy too with the household chores and other things. I sometimes play Islamic songs or the Quran during this time,” she commented. She finds her quiet time for personal worship once the kids are asleep.

Janet Nazif shares Muhammad’s resolutions – but at work. As principal of Noor-Ul-Iman, a full-time Islamic school in South Brunswick, N.J., she both promotes and oversees a Ramadan spirit among her students. From decorating to special Ramadan projects and from less homework to school-sponsored all-night-worship events, the entire routine at the school changes, she said.

At home, she manages family time, household chores, and her Ramadan goals. In addition to reading the Quran and Islamic books more diligently, she concentrates on incorporating a new action, even if small, into her set schedule. The constancy of repeating it over the course of a month helps her to establish it as a habit.

There are only 24 hours in a day. You spread yourself thin. I get more tired,” admitted Nazif, of Montgomery Township, N.J. “You have to let a little bit of [something] go. You take care of the day-to-day tasks and let the larger long-term projects slide during Ramadan.”

Thange and Ilyas also acknowledged the fatigue they feel as the month progresses, which makes it difficult to keep up with the resolutions they make.

Abdullah Alvarez, however, perceives the extra toll that Ramadan takes on him as an opportunity to build endurance and finds this to be a strength he can utilize in a variety of settings. “In any exercise designed to make one stronger, one has to put one’s self beyond one’s own comfort level,” he said, adding that this can give us a heightened awareness of our own thresholds.

I don’t think it is a bad thing to be too tired to bicker or find faults,” he observed. “Later, when I am not struggling, I appreciate what I do have and remember those moments I felt in Ramadan, when I took responsibility for my soul’s actions and made myself sensitive to my own whims, and rejected them for the sake of God.”

Indeed, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has stated that the fasting is a “shield” for the believers. It is not only a timeframe during which we stay away from food, drink, and carnal desires, but also a state of mind, one which goes beyond the actual fasting hours in the month of Ramadan, and hopefully, spills over to the rest of our lives.

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