You are probably not the only one looking forward to Ramadan this year. Given the level of Islamophobia that has been unleashed by Republican presidential candidates, particularly Donald Trump, since last Ramadan, we are all in need of a serious spiritual boost.
The desire to turn to God and focus inward is natural. Ramadan is a time when Muslims rebuild their faith individually. But this year, we must also focus more on our families.
Why? Our children are suffering the most from the Islamophobia. A recent report related distressing incidents of Islamophobia Muslim children are experiencing in schools. Some of the anecdotes include these examples:
A teacher said, “A child of Indian heritage introduced himself to me, all in a single breath, ‘Hi, I’m Fharid but I’m not a terrorist,'” a teacher wrote. “He was six.”
“All Muslims are bad,” one first-grader told his teacher.
“We had a fifth grade student tell a Muslim student that he was supporting Donald Trump because he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he became president,” one teacher wrote.
Muslim parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members, must be on the front line this Ramadan, healing and soothing our youth with the sweet taste of mercy and spiritual upliftment. We cannot ignore what our children are experiencing, even if they choose not to share it with us.
This is why we must urgently plan for Ramadan 2016. Here are some ways to do that.
1. Make time for Ramadan
Starting today, send requests for a schedule change at work, whether that is coming in earlier and leaving earlier or coming in later and leaving later. This way, you can adjust for sleep and productivity on the job. You will also ensure that you are home for Iftar with the family.
If you or your children are planning to take classes during Ramadan, choose those that begin later in the morning to better catch some sleep after Suhoor and allow for enough time to get home and prepare Iftar.
If you are the parent of younger children, schedule camps and activities around Suhoor and Iftar, as well as naptime.
2. Cook less, worship together more
Spend a weekend or two before Ramadan meal planning for the month. Cook some food together that can be frozen on busy days for Iftar or Suhoor. Make sure to squeeze in some one dollar a day meals too.
3. Complete all Eid gift and clothing shopping before Ramadan begins
Buy all of your Eid gifts now, a few weeks before Ramadan. Do the same for clothes shopping. Getting these things out of the way will allow you not only more time for spirituality in Ramadan, but it will give you the benefit of choosing more thoughtful gifts.
4. Get time off of work and cancel all activities in the last 10 days of Ramadan
In Ramadan, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him used to practice Itekaf, where he and other Muslims would remain focused on worship in the Masjid for the last 10 days of the blessed month. If possible, take the last 10 days off from work, and plan no camps, classes or other activities for the kids so that they can spend more time in the Masjid and together with the family.
5. Start saving up and encouraging kids to save money to give more charity in Ramadan
Start a Ramadan savings box and place it in the kitchen or family room. Encourage all family members to anonymously drop their donations into the fund. Once Ramadan starts, give it generously over the blessed month.
You can also set a specific fundraising goal for a particular cause. For example, you can aim to raise enough to sponsor an orphan for a year or to fund a well in a part of the world where drinking water is at a premium.
6. Tax season just ended, but start saving up enough to pay Zakat
Many Muslims choose to pay their Zakat in Ramadan as a way to get more Barakah for their buck. If you’re one of those people, start planning now by completing all the calculations and setting aside the amount you need to pay. This will free parents up from the last minute stress of doing so at the end of the blessed month.
Also, if your kids are older, sit down with them and show them the process of calculating Zakat, as well as why it’s important, and how you decide where it should be spent.
7. Parents: Don’t be a distracted parent. Put away the phone
Dr. Sherry Turkle, author of the 2015 book "Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age" found in her research that today's children are being deprived of important conversations with their parents due to the disruptions of technology. Too many parents are constantly checking phones instead of focusing on talking with their kids.
Such behavior also runs contrary to the Sunnah. The Prophet would give someone talking to him his full attention, looking directly at them when they spoke. Let’s revive this Sunnah this Ramadan. Our kids deserrve a listening ear. And if we don’t give it to them, they will turn to someone else who will.
8. Have the entire family pitch in and deep clean the house a week or two before Ramadan begins
Chores need to be revived in families. Having to help with household maintenance teaches all members that they are part of a team and that they have responsibilities. Nobody gets a free ride and you’re all in it together.
The added bonus is that the house will just need basic upkeep throughout Ramadan and won’t require a time-consuming, pre-Eid cleanup.
9. Set a day and time for family volunteerism
Book a date with a homeless shelter, food pantry, or any other volunteer project you would like the family to participate in during Ramadan. This is not only an excellent way to boost your spirits and spirituality, but it is also an ideal method to instill a sense of service in kids. According to United Way, adults who began volunteering as youth are twice as likely to volunteer as those who did not volunteer when they were younger.
10. Plan Iftar parties for your kids
There are two benefits to this activity. The first is that your kids can have fun while building spirituality. The second is that they can share Ramadan with other Muslim kids whose families may not be fasting, or with friends who are not Muslim.
Depending on the ages of your children, here are some ideas
For ages six and under:
a post-dinner party, with snacks, games, and ending with Iftar. Lootbags can be doled out, and for entertainment, they can watch Adam World’s Ramadan Mubarak
For ages 8 to 12:
Many kids are fasting or trying to practice fasting at this age. This deserves a more celebratory event. It should include a fun feast, prizes for the fasters and for the winners of a Ramadan trivia game, along with praying Maghrib, and if possible, Taraweeh together.
- A party with the sleepover option would work well. The condition though would be that at least some of the night needs to be spent in worship. Taraweeh should be highly encouraged, and if a movie is desired, it has to be something clean with an Islamic theme. Also encourage them to bring a non-perishable item to the party to give to a food shelter.
- If Iftar is too difficult for this age, consider a Suhoor party at a 24-hour restaurant, followed by Fajr at a beach or scenic lookout.