Honoring Each Other's Religious Rights | SoundVision.com

Honoring Each Other's Religious Rights

During Ramadan, individuals strive to grow spiritually in an attempt to nurture and rekindle their relationship with Allah, as well as to reap magnified rewards through the blessings of this sacred month. For this, one relies on increased acts of worship such as prayer, Quranic recitation, and demonstrating increased intentionality and altruism. However, there are many factors which inhibit individuals from maximizing worship to their potential. These can be addressed in a gender-specific manner, generally, since men and women face unique challenges and circumstances that impact their ability to engage in spiritual practices fully. Although circumstances vary from one household to another, from a general perspective, it is crucial to approach this topic with sensitivity and understanding.

Understanding Gender Roles

Men: For many men, particularly husbands and fathers, Ramadan represents a delicate balancing act between various obligations. On one hand, they are tasked with fulfilling their work responsibilities to provide for their families financially. This may involve long hours at the office or job sites, especially when deadlines loom or projects demand attention. Conversely, they are anticipated to engage in overseeing certain household duties and aiding in childcare responsibilities. All this would be in addition to fulfilling their religious activities such as fasting, attending prayers, and engaging in spiritual reflection, during this month. 

Consider a father who works a demanding nine-to-five job to support his family. During Ramadan, he may find himself navigating challenging schedules, juggling work commitments with the demands of fasting and taraweeh or nightly prayers. He might wake up early for Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, then rush to work, only to return home just in time for Iftar, the breaking of the fast. Amidst this hustle, finding moments for spiritual reflection and Quranic recitation can become a struggle, especially when coupled with familial responsibilities such as helping with household chores or attending to the needs of children.

Moreover, societal expectations and cultural norms can further complicate matters for men during Ramadan. In some communities, there may be pressure to maintain a certain level of productivity at work despite the physical challenges of fasting. Additionally, cultural norms may dictate that men prioritize providing for their families over personal spiritual pursuits, leading to feelings of guilt or inadequacy if they cannot devote as much time to worship as desired.

Women: Contrary to men, women, particularly wives and mothers, often face a different set of challenges during Ramadan, primarily related to their roles within the family and community. In many households, women are traditionally responsible for preparing elaborate meals for Suhoor and Iftar. This can involve waking up early to cook before the family begins their fast and spending significant time and effort planning and preparing nutritious meals that meet everyone's dietary needs. Also, women may find themselves managing the bulk of household chores, including cleaning, laundry, and other tasks that are essential for maintaining a comfortable home environment. 

Navigating the responsibilities of parenthood and work is already challenging for women, but during Ramadan, these challenges can intensify. And, more so for working mothers. As families strive to uphold a spiritually uplifting atmosphere amidst their daily routines, working mothers find themselves juggling multiple demands. Often, they shoulder the primary responsibility for caring for children or elderly relatives, which becomes even more demanding during Ramadan due to the fasting period's potential impact on energy levels and mood. This increased caregiving burden can test their patience and require additional attention. Compounding these challenges are cultural expectations and traditional gender roles, which often place the responsibility on women to prioritize family needs over their own spiritual practices. Consequently, many women experience feelings of guilt as they struggle to find time for personal worship amidst their caregiving duties and household responsibilities.

Working Towards Addressing the Challenges

Ultimately, the solution lies in fostering mutual respect and understanding between genders and acknowledging and addressing the diverse needs and experiences, for both. By promoting inclusivity and equality, we can create a supportive environment where everyone can fully observe and benefit from the spiritual significance of the holy month. Here is how you can delicately approach this.

Open Dialogue

Encourage honest conversations about each other's experiences and challenges during Ramadan. As a family, share perspectives on balancing religious obligations with other responsibilities and discuss ways to support each other. For example, a family might set aside time each week during Ramadan for a group discussion where everyone can openly share their experiences and challenges. During these conversations, family members can talk about how they are balancing their religious obligations with work, school, or other commitments. For instance, a father might discuss how he feels torn between attending Taraweeh prayers at the mosque and spending quality time with his children. Similarly, a mother might express her struggle to find time for personal worship amidst her household responsibilities. By encouraging these honest conversations, family members can gain a better understanding of each other's perspectives and work together to find solutions that support everyone's spiritual and practical needs during Ramadan.

Share Responsibilities

Divide household tasks and caregiving duties equitably, considering each other's strengths, preferences, and availability. Both partners should contribute to tasks like meal preparation, childcare, cleaning, and running errands. The key lies in also identifying essential tasks that must be completed and those that can be temporarily set aside during Ramadan. Let go of non-essential activities or tasks that can be postponed to reduce unnecessary stress and allow more time for spiritual practices.

Stay Flexible

Challenge traditional gender roles and expectations by embracing flexibility. Show empathy and understanding towards each other's challenges and limitations. Recognize that each individual's circumstances may differ and be supportive of finding solutions that accommodate everyone's needs. Working together as a family to prepare for Iftar can be a wonderful way to share responsibilities and support each other during Ramadan. For instance, while the wife focuses on preparing the main meal, the husband and children can assist by setting the table, arranging dates, fruit, and drinks for breaking the fast, or helping to prepare side dishes or snacks like sandwiches. This collaborative effort not only lightens the load for the wife but also allows the entire family to actively participate in the Ramadan preparations and bond over shared tasks, fostering a sense of unity and togetherness during this sacred month.

Utilize Community Support

Creating a supportive community environment during Ramadan is essential for fostering a sense of unity and providing mutual assistance. For instance, a mosque or community center could take the initiative to organize communal iftar gatherings where families can come together to break their fasts in a shared space, while minding their respectful etiquette. These gatherings not only provide a sense of community but also offer practical benefits such as sharing cooking responsibilities and ensuring that everyone has access to nutritious meals during Ramadan, including the less fortunate.

Similarly, childcare cooperatives can be established within the community to support families with young children or the elderly. Individuals can take turns watching each other's children during Taraweeh prayers or other religious activities, allowing everyone to participate in worship without feeling anxious or guilty. Particularly, women or young girls who are going through their menses can use this as an opportunity to help support while parents engage in religious obligations. This can aid in earning additional blessings and rewards. Such cooperative arrangements not only ease the burden on individual families but also strengthen bonds within the community as parents come together to support each other.

Furthermore, support groups can be formed to provide emotional support and encouragement during Ramadan. These groups can offer a safe space for individuals to share their experiences, seek advice, and offer support to one another. For example, a support group for converts to Islam or individuals experiencing personal struggles during Ramadan can provide a valuable source of comfort and guidance.

By acknowledging and addressing these differences with empathy and understanding, men and women can work together to create a more inclusive and supportive environment at home and within the community, where everyone can observe their religious duties with dignity and ease.

Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Add new comment