Ramadan is coming! It is the most wonderful time of the year, especially for Muslims! It seems unbelievable that we are about to enter Ramadan 2022. The past two years have been quite a rollercoaster filled with trials, loss, emotional turmoil, and a lot of reflection. Many of us have lost loved ones or jobs, others have battled illnesses and/or injustices, and as a community, we have been reminded that Allah is indeed in control of everything. As always, this blessed month of fasting, mercy, and forgiveness provides us with an annual chance to reset. However, before we begin our rituals of fasting, prayer, Quran recitation, and remembrance, we should prepare accordingly.
Preparation not only involves us, but also our families, including the youngest members. Ramadan should feel like a special time for them. Children thrive with routines, so transitioning into this busy month should go as smoothly as possible. If they see the adults around them stressed and unprepared, they will also feel disoriented. Even if you are a procrastinator by nature or chance, fret not, there is still time to set the stage for our children. Start with identifying the basic necessities to get organized.
Here are a dozen ways to start Ramadan off right:
1. Make the intention to enter Ramadan wholeheartedly.
When it comes to the obligatory fast during the month of Ramadan, it is important to make the intention to participate before it begins. Get your children into the habit of doing this before every act of worship or good deed. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Whoever does not have the intention of fasting before the dawn, there is no fast for him.”
Clearing your mind of everything else to make your purehearted intention to fast also helps you focus on this essential act of worship. This is a great way to teach your children about mindfulness and the importance of having good intentions. Older children especially can benefit from taking a step back to relax and readjust to prepare for the month ahead. They may feel just as overwhelmed with school and managing relationships as adults, so make pre-Ramadan preparation easy for them.
If you are not fasting due to illness or pregnancy, that does not mean Ramadan is just another month. The same applies for children who are too young to fast. Make the intention to observe Ramadan while striving in other forms of veneration like prayer, reading the Quran and reflecting on its meaning, supplication, and dhikr. Incorporate these lessons into your child’s playtime by having audio of the Quran playing, reading stories of the Prophets together, building a masjid out of building blocks, making dhikr while counting, etc.
2. Make a list and check it twice.
The world does not stop when Ramadan begins. As much as we would love to give ourselves completely to worship and celebration, we still have to attend to our families, chores, work, and/or go to school. Ramadan can feel like a balancing act when we add fasting, extra late prayers, and study to our normal routines. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, planning ahead of time is essential.
Gather your family and write down personal and collective goals you want to achieve. Be sure to make it realistic – keeping any limitations like work or school schedules in mind. Writing them out helps make them real and a priority. Maybe you or your child would like to memorize a hadith, a surah, or even just one ayah. Perhaps you would like to read the whole Quran during the month or feed the homeless every weekend with your family.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.”
3. Begin with a clean conscience.
Fights and grudges weigh heavily on our shoulders, and sometimes hinder us from concentrating on our worship. Letting go of any ill feelings is a great way to start the month of Ramadan on the right foot. Likewise, if we have wronged anyone, we should seek forgiveness from them and from Allah. Children are prone to argumentation and bickering with siblings and peers. Sit them down and explain why we should avoid quarreling inside and outside Ramadan. Allah has made it clear in the Quran that we should never fight with our brothers and sisters in Islam. He says,
“And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage, and your strength departs and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As‑Sabiroon (the patient).” (Surah Al-Anfal, 8:46)
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, also advised his followers against holding grudges. It was narrated that Abu Darda, may Allah be pleased with him, said: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Shall I not tell you something that is better than the status of (voluntary) fasting, prayer and charity?” His companions said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “Reconciling in a case of discord, for the evil of discord is the shaver.” (Abu Dawud)
Imam Al-Tirmidhi added that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “It is the shaver, and I do not say that it shaves hair, but that it shaves (i.e., destroys) religious commitment.”
Go over these important Quranic verses and ahadith with your family, so they understand the consequences of conflict and resentment.
4. Minimize distractions.
Let your children know that the entire family - children and parents alike - will try to minimize distractions and make an effort to stay away from mindless activities. Try your best to disconnect from these weapons of mass distraction:
- The television - Limit or stop watching shows or movies completely during Ramadan. Compromise by allowing only series or movies that have Islamic and/or educational content.
- The computer - Computer time should only be for work, studying, or for a Ramadan-related or Islamic-themed project.
- Handheld devices or video games - The same rules apply for these devices as for the computer. Unless the games are Islamic, it’s best to leave them to encourage other beneficial activities. Perhaps you can promise a special arcade day after Eid to get the children excited and compliant.
- All forms of social media - We all know the ill-effects of social media, particularly on young children. Unfortunately, even some elementary school kids already have smartphones with apps like Tiktok, Snapchat, and Instagram. Any individual, young or old, can spend hours just scrolling mindlessly through these platforms. Make Ramadan the excuse to build better habits and take control of your time.
Instead, strive to reconnect with the Quran and charge those imaan batteries throughout the month and beyond. Optimistically it will become a routine beyond just Ramadan.
5. Read the Quran everyday.
Hopefully your copy of the Quran is not sitting on a shelf collecting dust, but if it is, grab it and brush it off. Plan to read every day even if it is a little. If it is difficult for you to read one juz a day, then read one page or even one ayah. Start small and work your way to two, three, four, or more pages a day. Make it a family affair and sit together to take turns reading. Even if you do not read Arabic, you can pick up your translation of choice and read the meaning.
If you are a busy parent, caregiver, or educator, read aloud to your children. That will give you a double reward insha’Allah and will surely benefit the listeners. You can also read other Islamic books and children’s books on the life of the prophets, companions, Islamic history, aqeedah, or any other topic of interest.
6. Gather your prayer rugs.
Prepare to hit the prayer rug or mat as often as possible. If you are working outside of your home for most of the day during Ramadan, take a prayer rug with you. Encourage your children of praying age to do the same. There are plenty of portable prayer rug options available for purchase that can fit in a pocket, purse, or bookbag. A more comfortable and inconspicuous alternative is an exercise mat. While a clean surface may be enough to pray, laying a mat down can set the mood and help you concentrate solely on prayer. It may also be a good conversation starter for coworkers or classmates. If your child does not have a designated space to pray at school, call or send a note to the school counselor to see if they can make arrangements.
7. Establish a place to pray.
More important than a prayer rug is a place to pray. Make the intention to go to the masjid as much as you can, but also identify an appropriate place in your home and place of work. Separate a special prayer space for yourself either inside or outside your home like in an office, bedroom, the backyard, patio, garage, shed, etc. Decorate the area if you would like, but do not stress about it if you are unable to do so. Just having a clean space, with little distractions, where you can concentrate and connect with Allah is more than enough.
You may want to arrange for your younger children to have their own special prayer area. Make them excited about praying by building a mini masjid out of a cardboard box or oversized building bricks. Or simply give them their own prayer rug and throw some cushions and stuffies on the floor for them to feel like they have their own little nook. Invite them to join you in worship and make it a bonding time.
8. Make a duaa list.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Supplication is the essence of worship.”
It is important to remember to increase our duaas during Ramadan. Amid everything else we are doing over the course of the month, we may forget to call upon Allah. Find a dua book like Fortress of the Muslim or print out a list of Prophetic duaas from the Quran and the Sunnah. In addition, write down the supplications you would like to offer throughout the month. Encourage your child or children to do the same. Use a journal, white board, post-it notes, or bulletin board and keep them in a place where you can see it to remind yourselves every day.
9. Dress for the occasion.
Wouldn’t it be great to have all your laundry washed, dried, folded, and put away before the start of Ramadan? For someone with a big family, it may be an impossible feat, but if you are able, then go for it! At the very least, dust off your best thobe, qamees, suit, abaya, and hijabs and dress to impress Allah. Have the kids pick out their favorite outfits and tell them about the importance of dressing up for prayer. Did you know that Allah asks that we dress well when we are engaged in worship? He says in the Quran,
“O children of Adam! Beautify yourselves for every act of worship.”
(Surah Al-A’raf, 7:31)
Dressing and smelling nice also keeps us feeling confident and refreshed. Your children will enjoy this festivity and it will create good habits that they can emulate into adulthood and with their own families, inshaAllah. Additionally, it gives others outside our faith a good impression about Muslims.
10. Plan simple menus.
Ramadan is about fasting not feasting! Stock up on dates but do not worry too much about the rest. Keep meals simple and wholesome – not every iftar has to be a five-course meal. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, never binged on food and he discouraged his followers from overeating. He said,
“The son of Adam cannot fill a vessel worse than his stomach, as it is enough for him to take a few bites to straighten his back. If he cannot do it, then he may fill it with a third of his food, a third of his drink, and a third of his breath.”
Overeating can make a person sluggish, gassy, and uncomfortable, and that is not a good combination if they hope to make tarawih prayers an hour later. Similarly, the suhur, or pre-dawn meal, should be nutritious and not overcomplicated.
Prepare meals ahead of time and get the whole family involved. They may even want to write a menu of foods they would like for suhur and iftar. If you are lucky enough to have a young chef at home, they may even offer to cook or help with food preparation.
11. Gather a support network.
Gather your friends and family members and have them join you in fasting, extra worship, and breaking fast. Go over the above steps with them so you are all on the same page. If you want to host an iftar, then identify a day and send out invitations ahead of time. Encourage non-Muslim family and coworkers or classmates to fast with you even if for a day or part of a day. You may be surprised at how willing they are to partake in the fasting.
12. Share information about Ramadan.
Send out letters to employers, school districts, and teachers about Ramadan so they are aware about its rituals and regulations. When others are informed about our celebrations, they can better understand and appreciate our way of life. See another Sound Vision article Share Information about Ramadan with your Child's School for a sample letter.
It is also nice to provide the same details and perhaps small treats or special foods with your non-Muslim neighbors. Many are curious about our practice but may not know if we are open to questions. A nice brochure produced by Why Islam? that is easy to print from home and can also be useful can be found online.
It is often said that failing to plan is planning to fail, however, preparing for Ramadan should be a straightforward task. When it comes to planning, we should remember that this is a month of mercy and forgiveness. We should not overburden ourselves by exceeding our limits. In this day and age of Pinterest and Instagram, I have seen exhausted mothers struggling to decorate their homes with elaborate ornaments and overzealous uncles sharing tips on how to finish the Quran in ten days. While it is commendable to have lofty goals, never feel pressured to overdo it. Otherwise, we may find ourselves burned out after the first week of fasting. That is not the look we want when we are trying to set the best example for our children.
In the following verse, Allah mentions that He wants to keep things easy for us,
“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So, whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:185).
Hopefully with these tips, your family can enter the month of Ramadan with a peaceful mind and heart and reap its enormous benefits. May Allah allow us to reach Ramadan and accept our fasting, prayers, and supplications. Ameen.
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.