I came across Nilly Dahilia via the @channelmum page, Nilly was sharing her experience of Ramadan and I was absolutely fascinated. My knowledge of this part of religious calender has been very limited, other than what happens in and around the streets of Peckham, I loved getting a personal insight. The biggest insight I took from it was a new appreciation of what it must be like to look after small children whilst fasting.
Thank you Nilly for this special glimpse into your life and Eid Mubarak!
- Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar and it is when you fast from sunrise to sunset for upto 30 days. The young, elderly, sick, travelling, pregnant, breastfeeding are excused from fasting. This is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar as the Qur’an was revealed to our Prophet (peace be upon him). It’s also the most exciting for me, as I love celebrating Ramadan with my kids!
- This month is special as we use this time to reconnect with God. Alongside not eating food for daylight hours, we also cannot drink anything – yes, not even water. We use this month to encourage ourselves to pray more, be kinder, avoid swearing or lying, gentle in our character and we also are not allowed to have sex. That has to be saved till after sunset, ladies!
- As ramadan is falling in the summer months these last few years, some countries are fasting upto 22 hours! UK is fairly long as well at 19 hours this year! However, as the hours are rather long, many Muslim mothers in the UK are finding this month, although spiritual, a very lonely, tiring and long month. Some mothers are not able to complete all their prayers and they find they cannot reconnect to God the same way they did prior to being mothers. And, many mothers do feel guilty about feeling like this. But, we are encouraged to remind ourselves that it is about the quality of our prayers rather than the quantity of prayers we do.
- For suhoor (breakfast) we try to eat wholesome meals which would provide energy for the entire day so we tend to eat porridge with chia seeds, honey with lots of fruit. But, you can eat whatever your heart desires. My husband usually eats another dinner, with complex carbohydrates, vegetables and chickpeas as it keeps him fuller for longer. And, we like to drink coconut water to boost our hydration. But, it is hard to eat a full breakfast at 2am in the morning!
- Chasing after young children on an empty stomach is draining enough, and can put mothers in a low mental state, however, due to maintaining children’s bath and bedtime routine, mothers are home for the entire evening and not being able to break their fasts in a social environment with their friends like they would have done in the past makes mothers feel extremely lonely. This is something I have personally struggled with since becoming a mother, especially even more so when my husband is not home in the evenings, either. I am breaking the fast on my own entirely.
- For iftar (breaking the fast) we are encouraged to open our fasts with a date or two, as it fuels an empty body with sugar, energy and nutrients quickly as they help the body’s blood glucose levels return to normal. It also stops you from overeating, which is what most people assume we do after a day of fasting! Non-Muslims also assume we have a large feast everyday, but most people have a small meal as they have to do evening prayers and additional ramadan prayers, as overeating can leave us feel lethargic and we end up getting lazy with our prayers. I like to have watermelons, pineapples, oranges, cucumber and any other fruit or vegetables that have a high water content so hydrate my body quickly. I also enjoy having a biryani, salad and yoghurt for my meal. And, if I’m feeling naughty, I like to have some samosas, but we are discouraged from eating fried foods.
- One way I have tried to find the spirit of Ramadan again is to make it a big deal for my children. My parents never made a fuss about Ramadan or Eid. They never did decorations and didn’t make Islam fun! I always found the month to be a chore, and regretfully, I would dread Ramadan growing up.
- This is something I definitely did not want for my children. I want them to love Islam and approach it with happiness and not dread. The beautiful thing about having a young family is that you can start Ramadan/Eid traditions for you and your family to enjoy. We always put decorations up at the start of Ramadan, fill the advent calendar with small toys, sweets and a task of the day (this is mostly to keep the kids occupied and I don’t need to think too hard on activities for the day).
- I get the kids involved and excited for Ramadan by making homemade decorations, baking treats for neighbours, reading Islamic stories, preparing iftar (breaking the fast meal) together and, of course, buying lots and lots of presents! I even made a kindness calendar for my toddlers, so they had a kindness task of the day. It was a great opportunity to teach them about being kind. This is the first year, Kamil has been interested and asking questions – I’m sure it has nothing to do with his Ramadan advent calendar which has a piece of chocolate for each day!
- Some Muslims might think I am OTT with my Ramadan decorating, as they feel it takes away the essence of Ramadan, which is reconnecting with God. But, I grew up with celebrating and putting more emphasis on Christmas than a Muslim holiday, which I think is more important to do for my faith. And, this isn’t how I wanted to raise my kids. They are of dual-heritage where their grandmother on my husbands side is not Muslim. Where they celebrate Easter and Christmas. I do encourage my kids to be involved in their celebrations so they can experience other faiths. But, it can be confusing for them if they see Christmas trees everywhere except their living room. And, this is why I do decorations, activities everyday for the month, constantly talking about it for the month, so they can see that they may not celebrate Christmas like everyone else, but we have Ramadan and Eid, which is equally as exciting!
- I like to break the day up with activities and we like to do a different arts and craft activity everyday – we usually do this around 3pm when I start to lag. We’ve made cardboard mosques, Eid cards for family, Eid decorations, homemade presents and decorating sugar cookies. And, its just such a lovely way to teach them early about the faith.
- We are now at the end of the month of fasting, and to mark the end of this rewarding month, we celebrate with a major festival called Eid al-Fitr! It’s a great opportunity to see friends and exchange gifts. It’s a joyous time and there are a lot of samosas passed around! We wear new clothes/ our best clothes as we are now the best versions of ourselves after a month of soul detoxing. We mark the occasion by saying – ‘Eid Mubarak’. ‘Eid’ means ‘celebration’ and ‘mubarak’ means blessed – so you’re blessing someone’s celebration! We find out at sunset on Thursday if we will be celebrating Eid on Friday or Saturday.
- The boys go to the mosque to perform their Eid prayers first thing in the morning. They wear thobes (ankle length gown worn by men) to the mosque and this year, I have matching thobes for them, which I’m very excited to see! And, by the time they come back, I would have prepared our special Eid breakfast, which is a combination of Bangladeshi breakfast and Turkish breakfasts, as I know my husband appreciates me incorporating his culture into our routine. Bengali breakfasts are usually sweet with a vermicelli milky dessert, handesh (fried batter made from flour and date molasses) and luchi’s (puris). Whilst, traditional Turkish breakfasts consist of eggs, spicy sausages, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, jam and honey!
- After that, we exchange presents, which is definitely the highlight for us as its so lovely to see the children get excited for all their new toys. And, it’s something I didn’t do as a child so I go all out and spoil my children to make up for it. We then go out for an Eid lunch and visit friends and family until it’s time to come home for the kids bedtime.
- I always feel a little deflated once the month of Ramadan is over, but they say it takes 21 days for a habit to form and if you have been good for the last 30 days we should be able to carry on with our good behaviour once Ramadan passes, which is comforting to know. The kids are a little too young to miss Ramadan once it passes and I’m sure they don’t miss me nibbling off their plates once I can eat during the day again! But, it’s just such a beautiful month and we are really motivated to make the most of Ramadan, as we are never guaranteed to meet the next Ramadan!
- As I pack away my decorations and the children’s crafts this year, and hopefully when they look back in the years to come they can see we have always celebrated Ramadan and Eid (and their mum always went all out)…I know I did the best job I could to make it fun and memorable for my children.
- If you see someone celebrating Eid over the next few days, do smile and say Eid Mubarak. I promise, they will be so happy that you greeted them with this phrase.
Eid Mubarak, Ladies!